Page images
PDF
EPUB

mills is 410 feet long, 76 wide, has six storeys, a power of 150 horses, and will run 126,000 spindles." Mr. Horner's statement, therefore, is corroborative of the extension and improvement visible in the cotton trade.

Such are the accumulations of skill and labour; and if there be a logical deduction which can fairly be extracted from the foregoing premises, it is the welcome fact that ingenious inventions, scientific discoveries, and valuable machines, have been in the cotton trade, creative of, and not destructive of, human labour! But above all, these elements have been creative of human comforts, which now exist to an extent previously unknown! Such, then, are the results of industry. And such, therefore, are the increasing and improving agencies which make the exotic product of cotton the foundation of the most extraordinary trade of this country and of the civilised world.

Having rapidly reviewed the past and present position of the cotton trade, its future existence may engage our anxious solicitude. As a raw material, cotton has been proved to be an important element of national industry, of confined supply, of increasing consumption, and dangerously limited to chiefly one source whence it is obtained. Whether this confined supply shall be perpetuated, the direction given to the colonial possessions of this country will determine. Not that the governing authorities should become cotton growers or cultivators of the soil, but obstacles should be removed, just laws impartially and unannoyingly administered, land afforded and secured on easy terms, and unshackled freedom given for the exercise of the industry and energy of the emigrant, who ought to feel his interest identified with pursuits in British colonies rather than in foreign countries. A judicious government will promote, by its fair and equitable administration, the natural development of the treasures of its territory, leaving to individual enterprise the production of cotton or corn as selfinterest may dictate. That Great Britain has ceased to possess exclusive knowledge and skill in the art of manufacturing cotton, as in other branches of industry, is a fact established by the comparison with the manufactured products of all other countries in the Great Exhibition of last year; and that the great cotton-growing country, the United States, has become a great manufacturing country, is not the least alarming symptom. Hence, with the present contined supply of cotton, may be anticipated the adilitional difficulties arising from increased competation. The contemplation of these difficulties may be of signal benefit to those especially who desire to maintain and increase the industrial celebrity of Great Britain; for with the knowledge of approximating and rival skill, the exercise of a cool and sober judgment will prompt the necessity of perfecting mechanical agents, of increased intelligence and attention in the workmen, and on the part of master manufacturers of a complete theoretical and practical acquaintance with the principles on which sound manufacturing operations are founded, together with the most economical and best engineering arrangements for conducting with success the large concerns embarked in manufactures. With raw material abundantly supplied with mechanical and moral progress-with intelligence, skill, industry, and probity, combined, and these high qualifications discreetly directed in our sea-girt land, free and unfettered, ages yet to come may witness the growing greatness of honest labour's dignity; and the future historian may record that even more has been achieved than was "dreamt of in our philosophy,"? still leaving unexplored fields for science, art, and industry to subdue, for the benefit of the human Tave! On examining the department in the Exhibition of 1851, in which were displayed the contributions illustrative of the cotton manufacturing proficiency of Great Britain and of the world at large, it was evident that high merit and skill have been attained by every country from which specimens appeared. It was most remarkable that the general features of all the contributions, except those from the East, seemed to have a common origin; and the various productions might, from the absence of any very striking nationalities, have been taken from the stores of some great warehouse which had been filled from the same locality. Samples of raw cotton were exhibited, among which, as usual, the United States took the highest, and the British East Indies the lowest rank. Perhaps, in the whole Exhibition, no machines for productive purposes were shown to possess greater intrinsic merit than those sent to illustrate the spinning and manufacturing operations ordinarily performed in cotton mills. Cotton machinery was most extensively contributed by British makers, and of very superior and improved construction. To some extent, in anticipation of the rival display then about to be made, the machinemakers stimulated improvements; and in all their contributions they evinced great practical skill and perfection; and it may be safely asserted that no existing manufacturing concern contains at the present time a combination and concentration of all the ingenious mechanical applications, with their highly-finished workmanship, as there displayed. The cleaning, carding, drawing, roving, and spinning machines were generally of a very superior class, and the self-acting mules in particular were very excellent. In the construction of the power-loom, with its recent appliances, great and economical progress was most evident; and the extending usefulness of the jacquard, as now connected with every class of loom, is exceedingly gratifying. The impulse given to the development of improvement, in connection with the cotton trade, may truly be

[graphic]

stated to be most advantageous, machine makers laaving, in the first place, from a desire to display machinery of the most perfect and improved construction, been induced to exert themselves to send contributions altogether of a higher order than had ordinarily been previously produced; and, in the second place, rivals being ignorant of their competitors' recent improvements and workmanship, the results of the combination of these improvements conld only be subsequently known; but they will be lastingly beneficial. New principles were scarcely to le expected; but in the finer department of cotton spinning an important improvement will be effected from the combing of fine cotton, instead of carding it, as formerly, and a method for accomplishing which was then exposed to public view. This combing principle did not originate with the Exhibition, but its accelerated application has resulted from it, and a most valuable acquisition it may be regarded, as more perfect lace and finer muslin will hereafter be produced by its aid. Of machine-makers, it may be observed, that they are continually applying mechanical elements used in one branch of industry to another, as the combing machine, hitherto confined to sheep's wool, may be hereafter applied to cotton; da some parts of cotton machines are already used in the construction of improved agricultural machines; and as authors are accused of making new books as apothecaries make new medicines by pouring out of one into another,--so do machinists, by new arrangements, give new characters and uses to mechanical agents of the same common origin: hence we infer, that if the space for invention be diminished, there still may be a vast extension of new and useful combinations, and which the Exhibition will have greatly promoted. Some very excellent machines of foreign construction also appeared in the Exhibition, but not of the practical value which characterised the British contributions.

[graphic]

To detail manufacturing processes, and to attempt to describe mechanical functions at the present moment, would probably be unwise, and after the working of the machinery of the Exhibition, may be unnecessary.

Of the actual manufactures found in the cotton department of the Exhibition, many articles were of great merit, but as a whole it would be difficult to determine from what precise country the most meritorious product was derived, though it may be assumed, from good evidence, that in many fancy fabrics, where beauty of design, and of colour, and of refined taste appeared, the French and other continental manufacturers took deservedly the highest position; whilst in useful goods, adapted rather for comfort than ornament, British manufactures were pre-eminent, especially if the qualities of the latter be associated with their cheapness. Here, however, a word of advice or of admonition may be offered to both British manufacturers and merchants; there is unquestionably a cheapening tendency pursued by them which, with its consequent deterioration, must inevitably lead to an ultimate diminution of business, and which it is feared is already damaging our national character, and giving to foreign rivals, for their superior productions, fame and profit exceeding our own. Cotton yarns and thread of British and foreign production, from the coarsest to the finest, were shown, establishing great equality of merit, though the actually finest counts were spun in Manchester. Fustians, sheetings, shirtings, calicoes, ginghams, cambrics, muslins, laces, quiltings, and bed

and table covers, were exhibited in great variety; but of the improved in this class, figured laces take the highest stand, and bed quilts and table covers may be placed next. Printed muslins, cambrics, and calicoes, for dresses, of great excellence and beauty, were displayed, as also were furniture prints; but for perfection in colours, and good taste in

« EelmineJätka »