On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures
by Charles Babbage
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159. This enumeration, which is far from complete, of the arts in which copying is the foundation, may be terminated with an example which has long been under the eye of the reader; although few, perhaps, are aware of the number of repeated copyings of which these very pages are the subject.

1. They are copies, by printing, from stereotype plates.

2. These stereotype plates are copied, by the art of casting, from moulds formed of plaster of Paris.

3. These moulds are themselves copied by casting the plaster in a liquid state upon the moveable types set up by the compositor.

[It is here that the union of the intellectual and the mechanical departments takes place. The mysteries, however, of an author's copying, form no part of our enquiry, although it may be fairly remarked, that, in numerous instances, the mental far eclipses the mechanical copyist.]

4. These moveable types, the obedient messengers of the most opposite thoughts, the most conflicting theories, are themselves copies by casting from moulds of copper called matrices.

5. The lower part of those matrices, bearing the impressions of the letters or characters, are copies, by punching, from steel punches on which the same characters exist in relief.

6. These steel punches are not themselves entirely exempted from the great principle of art. Many of the cavities which exist in them, such as those in the middle of the punches for the letters a, b, d, e, g, etc., are produced from other steel punches in which these parts are in relief.

We have thus traced through six successive stages of copying the mechanical art of printing from stereotype plates: the principle of copying contributing in this, as in every other department of manufacture, to the uniformity and the cheapness of the work produced.


1. The late Mr Lowry.

2. I posses a lithographic reprint of a page of a table, which appears, from the from of the type, to have been several years old.

3. The construction of the engraving becomes evident on examining it with a lens of sufficient power to show the continuity of the lines.

4. The Phalaena pardilla, which feeds on the Prunus padus.

5. Some of these weights and measures are calculated from a statement in the Report of the Committee of the House of Commons on Printed Cotton Goods; and the widths of the pieces there given are presumed to be the real widths, not those by which they are called in the retail shops.

Chapter 12

On the Method of Observing Manufacturies

160. Having now reviewed the mechanical principles which regulate the successful application of mechanical science to great establishments for the production of manufactured goods, it remains for us to suggest a few enquiries, and to offer a few observations, to those whom an enlightened curiosity may lead to examine the factories of this or of other countries.

The remark—that it is important to commit to writing all information as soon as possible after it is received, especially when numbers are concerned—applies to almost all enquiries. It is frequently impossible to do this at the time of visiting an establishment, although not the slightest jealousy may exist; the mere act of writing information as it is communicated orally, is a great interruption to the examination of machinery. In such cases, therefore, it is advisable to have prepared beforehand the questions to be asked, and to leave blanks for the answers, which may be quickly inserted, as, in a multitude of cases, they are merely numbers. Those who have not tried this plan will be surprised at the quantity of information which may, through its means, be acquired, even by a short examination. Each manufacture requires its own list of questions, which will be better drawn up after the first visit. The following outline, which is very generally applicable, may suffice for an illustration; and to save time, it may be convenient to have it printed; and to bind up, in the form of a pocket-book, a hundred copies of the skeleton forms for processes, with about twenty of the general enquiries.


Outlines of a description of any of the mechanical arts ought to contain information on the following points

Brief sketch of its history, particularly the date of its invention, and of its introduction into England.

Short reference to the previous states through which the material employed has passed: the places whence it is procured: the price of a given quantity.

[The various processes must now be described successively according to the plan which will be given in (161); after which the following information should be given.]

Are various kinds of the same article made in one establishment, or at different ones, and are there differences in the processes?

To what defects are the goods liable?

What substitutes or adulterations are used?

What waste is allowed by the master?

What tests are there of the goodness of the manufactured articles?

The weight of a given quantity, or number, and a comparison with that of the raw material?

The wholesale price at the manufactory? (L s. d.) per ( )

The usual retail price? (L s. d.)

Who provide tools? Master, or men? Who repair tools? Master, or men?

What is the expense of the machinery?

What is the annual wear and tear, and what its duration?

Is there any particular trade for making it? Where?

Is it made and repaired at the manufactory?

In any manufactory visited, state the number ( ) of processes; and of the persons employed in each process; and the quantity of manufactured produce.

What quantity is made annually in Great Britain?

Is the capital invested in manufactories large or small?

Mention the principal seats of this manufacture in England; and if it flourishes abroad, the places where it is established.

The duty, excise. or bounty, if any, should be stated, and any alterations in past years; and also the amount exported or imported for a series of years.

Whether the same article, but of superior, equal, or inferior make, is imported?

Does the manufacturer export, or sell, to a middleman, who supplies the merchant?

To what countries is it chiefly sent? and in what goods are the returns made?

161. Each process requires a separate skeleton, and the following outline will be sufficient for many different manufactories:

Process ( ) Manufacture ( ) Place ( ) Name ( ) date 183

The mode of executing it, with sketches of the tools or machine if necessary.

The number of persons necessary to attend the machine. Are the operatives men. ( ) women, ( ) or children? ( ) If mixed, what are the proportions?

What is the pay of each? (s. d.) (s. d. ) (s. d.) per ( )

What number ( ) of hours do they work per day?

Is it usual, or necessary, to work night and day without stopping? Is the labour performed by piece—or by day-work?

Who provide tools? Master, or men? Who repair tools? Master, or men? What degree of skill is required, and how many years' ( ) apprenticeship?

The number of times ( ) the operation is repeated per day or per hour?

The number of failures ( ) in a thousand?

Whether the workmen or the master loses by the broken or damaged articles?

What is done with them?

If the same process is repeated several times, state the diminution or increase of measure, and the loss, if any, at each repetition.

162. In this skeleton, the answers to the questions are in some cases printed, as "Who repair the tools?—Masters, Men"; in order that the proper answer may be underlined with a pencil. In filling up the answers which require numbers, some care should be taken: for instance, if the observer stands with his watch in his hand before a person heading a pin, the workman will almost certainly increase his speed, and the estimate will be too large. A much better average will result from enquiring what quantity is considered a fair day's work. When this cannot be ascertained, the number of operations performed in a given time may frequently be counted when the workman is quite unconscious that any person is observing him. Thus the sound made by the motion of a loom may enable the observer to count the number of strokes per minute, even though he is outside the building in which it is contained. M. Coulomb, who had great experience in making such observations, cautions those who may repeat his experiments against being deceived by such circumstances: 'Je prie' (says he) 'ceux qui voudront les repeter, s'ils n'ont pas le temps de mesurer les resultats apres plusiers jours d'un travail continu, d'observer les ouvriers a differentes reprises dans la journee, sans qu'ils sachent qu'ils sont observes. L'on ne peut trop avertir combien l'on risque de se tromper en calculant, soit la vitesse, soit le temps effectif du travail, d'apres une observation de quelques minutes.' Memoires de l'Institut. vol. II, p. 247. It frequently happens, that in a series of answers to such questions, there are some which, although given directly, may also be deduced by a short calculation from others that are given or known; and advantage should always be taken of these verifications, in order to confirm the accuracy of the statements; or, in case they are discordant, to correct the apparent anomalies. In putting lists of questions into the hands of a person undertaking to give information upon any subject, it is in some cases desirable to have an estimate of the soundness of his judgement. The questions can frequently be so shaped, that some of them may indirectly depend on others; and one or two may be inserted whose answers can be obtained by other methods: nor is this process without its advantages in enabling us to determine the value of our own judgement. The habit of forming an estimate of the magnitude of any object or the frequency of any occurrence, immediately previous to our applying to it measure or number, tends materially to fix the attention and to improve the judgement.

Section II

On the domestic and political economy of manufactures

Chapter 13

Distinction Between Making and Manufacturing

163. The economical principles which regulate the application of machinery, and which govern the interior of all our great factories, are quite as essential to the prosperity of a great commercial country, as are those mechanical principles, the operation of which has been illustrated in the preceding section.

The first object of every person who attempts to make any article of consumption, is, or ought to be, to produce it in a perfect form; but in order to secure to himself the greatest and most permanent profit, he must endeavour, by every means in his power, to render the new luxury or want which he has created, cheap to those who consume it. The larger number of purchasers thus obtained will, in some measure, secure him from the caprices of fashion, whilst it furnishes a far greater amount of profit, although the contribution of each individual is diminished. The importance of collecting data, for the purpose of enabling the manufacturer to ascertain how many additional customers he will acquire by a given reduction in the price of the article he makes, cannot be too strongly pressed upon the attention of those who employ themselves in statistical enquiries. In some ranks of society, no diminution of price can bring forward a great additional number of customers; whilst, amongst other classes, a very small reduction will so enlarge the sale, as to yield a considerable increase of profit. Materials calculated to assist in forming a table of the numbers of persons who possess incomes of different amount, occur in the 14th Report of the Commissioners of Revenue Inquiry, which includes a statement of the amount of personal property proved at the legacy office during one year; the number of the various classes of testators; and an account of the number of persons receiving dividends from funded property, distributed into classes. Such a table, formed even approximately, and exhibited in the form of a curve, might be of service.

164. A considerable difference exists between the terms making and manufacturing. The former refers to the production of a small, the latter to that of a very large number of individuals; and the difference is well illustrated in the evidence, given before the Committee of the House of Commons, on the Export of Tools and Machinery. On that occasion Mr Maudslay stated, that he had been applied to by the Navy Board to make iron tanks for ships, and that he was rather unwilling to do so, as he considered it to be out of his line of business; however, he undertook to make one as a trial. The holes for the rivets were punched by hand-punching with presses, and the 1680 holes which each tank required cost seven shillings. The Navy Board, who required a large number, proposed that he should supply forty tanks a week for many months. The magnitude of the order made it worth his while to commence manufacture, and to make tools for the express business. Mr Maudslay therefore offered, if the Board would give him an order for two thousand tanks, to supply them at the rate of eighty per week. The order was given: he made tools, by which the expense of punching the rivet-holes of each tank was reduced from seven shillings to ninepence; he supplied ninety-eight tanks a week for six months, and the price charged for each was reduced from seventeen pounds to fifteen.

165. If, therefore, the maker of an article wish to become a manufacturer, in the more extended sense of the term, he must attend to other principles besides those mechanical ones on which the successful execution of his work depends; and he must carefully arrange the whole system of his factory in such a manner, that the article he sells to the public may be produced at as small a cost as possible. Should he not be actuated at first by motives so remote, he will, in every highly civilized country, be compelled, by the powerful stimulus of competition, to attend to the principles of the domestic economy of manufactures. At every reduction in price of the commodity he makes, he will be driven to seek compensation in a saving of expense in some of the processes; and his ingenuity will be sharpened in this enquiry by the hope of being able in his turn to undersell his rivals. The benefit of the improvements thus engendered is, for a short time, confined to those from whose ingenuity they derive their origin; but when a sufficient experience has proved their value, they become generally adopted, until in their turn they are superseded by other more economical methods.

Chapter 14

Of Money as a Medium of Exchange

166. In the earlier stages of societies the interchange of the few commodities required was conducted by barter, but as soon as their wants became more varied and extensive, the necessity of having some common measure of the value of all commodities— itself capable of subdivision—became apparent: thus money was introduced. In some countries shells have been employed for this purpose; but civilized nations have, by common consent, adopted the precious metals.(1*) The sovereign power has, in most countries, assumed the right of coining; or, in other words, the right of stamping with distinguishing marks, pieces of metal having certain forms and weights and a certain degree of fineness: the marks becoming a guarantee, to the people amongst whom the money circulates, that each piece is of the required weight and quality.

The expense of manufacturing gold into coin, and that of the loss arising from wear, as well as of interest on the capital invested in it, must either be defrayed by the State, or be compensated by a small reduction in its weight, and is a far less cost to the nation than the loss of time and inconvenience which would arise from a system of exchange or barter.

167. These coins are liable to two inconveniences: they may be manufactured privately by individuals, of the same quality, and similarly stamped; or imitations may be made of inferior metal, or of diminished weight. The first of these inconveniences would be easily remedied by making the current value of the coin nearly equal to that of the same weight of the metal; and the second would be obviated by the caution of individuals in examining the external characters of each coin, and partly by the punishment inflicted by the State on the perpetrators of such frauds.

168. The subdivisions of money vary in different countries, and much time may be lost by an inconvenient system of division. The effect is felt in keeping extensive accounts, and particularly in calculating the interest on loans, or the discount upon bills of exchange. The decimal system is the best adapted to facilitate all such calculations; and it becomes an interesting question to consider whether our own currency might not be converted into one decimally divided. The great step, that of abolishing the guinea, has already been taken without any inconvenience, and but little is now required to render the change complete.

169. If, whenever it becomes necessary to call in the half-crowns, a new coin of the value of two shillings were issued, which should be called by some name implying a unit (a prince, for instance), we should have the tenth part of a sovereign. A few years after, when the public were familiar with this coin, it might be divided into one hundred instead of ninety-six farthings; and it would then consist of twenty-five pence, each of which would be four per cent. less in value than the former penny. The shillings and six-pences being then withdrawn from circulation, their place might be supplied with silver coins each worth five of the new pence, and by others of ten-pence, and of twopence halfpenny; the latter coin, having a distinct name, would be the tenth part of a prince.

170. The various manufactured commodities, and the various property possessed by the inhabitants of a country, all become measured by the standard thus introduced. But it must be observed that the value of gold is itself variable; and that, like all other commodities, its price depends on the extent of the demand compared with that of the supply.

171. As transactions multiply, and the sums to be paid become large, the actual transfer of the precious metals from one individual to another is attended with inconvenience and difficulty, and it is found more convenient to substitute written promises to pay on demand specified quantities of gold. These promises are called bank-notes; and when the person or body issuing them is known to be able to fulfil the pledge, the note will circulate for a long time before it gets into the hands of any person who may wish to make use of the gold it represents. These paper representatives supply the place of a certain quantity of gold; and, being much cheaper, a large portion of the expense of a metallic circulation is saved by their employment.

172. As commercial transactions increase, the transfer of bank-notes is, to a considerable extent, superseded by shorter processes. Banks are established, into which all monies are paid, and out of which all payments are made, through written orders called checks, drawn by those who keep accounts with them. In a large capital, each bank receives, through its numerous customers, checks payable by every other; and if clerks were sent round to receive the amount in banknotes due from each, it would occupy much time, and be attended with some risk and inconvenience.

173. Clearing house. In London this is avoided, by making all checks paid in to bankers pass through what is technically called The Clearing House. In a large room in Lombard Street, about thirty clerks from the several London bankers take their stations, in alphabetical order, at desks placed round the room; each having a small open box by his side, and the name of the firm to which he belongs in large characters on the wall above his head. From time to time other clerks from every house enter the room, and, passing along, drop into the box the checks due by that firm to the house from which this distributor is sent. The clerk at the table enters the amount of the several checks in a book previously prepared, under the name of the bank to which they are respectively due.

Four o'clock in the afternoon is the latest hour to which the boxes are open to receive checks; and at a few minutes before that time, some signs of increased activity begin to appear in this previously quiet and business-like scene. Numerous clerks then arrive, anxious to distribute, up to the latest possible moment, the checks which have been paid into the houses of their employers.

At four o'clock all the boxes are removed, and each clerk adds up the amount of the checks put into his box and payable by his own to other houses. He also receives another book from his own house, containing the amounts of the checks which their distributing clerk has put into the box of every other banker. Having compared these, he writes out the balances due to or from his own house, opposite the name of each of the other banks; and having verified this statement by a comparison with the similar list made by the clerks of those houses, he sends to his own bank the general balance resulting from this sheet, the amount of which, if it is due from that to other houses, is sent back in bank-notes.

At five o'clock the Inspector takes his seat; when each clerk, who has upon the result of all the transactions a balance to pay to various other houses, pays it to the inspector, who gives a ticket for the amount. The clerks of those houses to whom money is due, then receive the several sums from the inspector, who takes from them a ticket for the amount. Thus the whole of these payments are made by a double system of balance, a very small amount of bank-notes passing from hand to hand, and scarcely any coin.

174. It is difficult to form a satisfactory estimate of the sums which daily pass through this operation: they fluctuate from two millions to perhaps fifteen. About two millions and a half may possibly be considered as something like an average, requiring for its adjustment, perhaps, L200,000 in bank notes and L20 in specie. By an agreement between the different bankers, all checks which have the name of any firm written across them must pass through the clearing house: consequently, if any such check should be lost, the firm on which it is drawn would refuse to pay it at the counter; a circumstance which adds greatly to the convenience of commerce.

The advantage of this system is such, that two meetings a day have been recently established—one at twelve, the other at three o'clock; but the payment of balances takes place once only, at five o'clock.

If all the private banks kept accounts with the Bank of England, it would be possible to carry on the whole of these transactions with a still smaller quantity of circulating medium.

175. In reflecting on the facility with which these vast transactions are accomplished—supposing, for the sake of argument, that they form only the fourth part of the daily transactions of the whole community—it is impossible not to be struck with the importance of interfering as little as possible with their natural adjustment. Each payment indicates a transfer of property made for the benefit of both parties; and if it were possible, which it is not, to place, by legal or other means, some impediment in the way which only amounted to one-eighth per cent, such a species of friction would produce a useless expenditure of nearly four millions annually: a circumstance which is deserving the attention of those who doubt the good policy of the expense incurred by using the precious metals for one portion of the currency of the country.

176. One of the most obvious differences between a metallic and a paper circulation is, that the coin can never, by any panic or national danger, be reduced below the value of bullion in other civilized countries; whilst a paper currency may, from the action of such causes, totally lose its value. Both metallic and paper money, it is true, may be depreciated, but with very different effects.

1. Depreciation of coin. The state may issue coin of the same nominal value, but containing only half the original quantity of gold, mixed with some cheap alloy; but every piece so issued bears about with it internal evidence of the amount of the depreciation: it is not necessary that every successive proprietor should analyse the new coin; but a few having done so, its intrinsic worth becomes publicly known. Of course the coin previously in circulation is now more valuable as bullion, and quickly disappears. All future purchases adjust themselves to the new standard, and prices are quickly doubled; but all past contracts also are vitiated, and all persons to whom money is owing, if compelled to receive payment in the new coin, are robbed of one-half of their debt, which is confiscated for the benefit of the debtor.

2. Depreciation of paper. The depreciation of paper money follows a different course. If, by any act of the Government paper is ordained to be a legal tender for debts, and, at the same time, ceases to be exchangeable for coin, those who have occasion to purchase of foreigners, who are not compelled to take the notes, will make some of their payments in gold; and if the issue of paper, unchecked by the power of demanding the gold it represents, be continued, the whole of the coin will soon disappear. But the public, who are obliged to take the notes, are unable, by any internal evidence, to detect the extent of their depreciation; it varies with the amount in circulation, and may go on till the notes shall be worth little more than the paper on which they are printed. During the whole of this time every creditor is suffering to an extent which he cannot measure; and every bargain is rendered uncertain in its advantage, by the continually changing value of the medium through which it is conducted. This calamitous course has actually been run in several countries: in France, it reached nearly its extreme limit during the existence of assignats. We have ourselves experienced some portion of the misery it creates; but by a return to sounder principles, have happily escaped the destruction and ruin which always attends the completion of that career.

177. Every person in a civilized country requires, according to his station in life, the use of a certain quantity of money, to make the ordinary purchases of the articles which he consumes. The same individual pieces of coin, it is true, circulate again and again, in the same district: the identical piece of silver, received by the workman on Saturday night, passing through the hands of the butcher, the baker, and the small tradesman, is, perhaps, given by the latter to the manufacturer in exchange for his check, and is again paid into the hands of the workman at the end of the succeeding week. Any deficiency in this supply of money is attended with considerable inconvenience to all parties. If it be only in the smaller coins, the first effect is a difficulty in procuring small change; then a disposition in the shopkeepers to refuse change unless a purchase to a certain amount be made; and, finally, a premium in money will be given for changing the larger denominations of coin.

Thus money itself varies in price, when measured by other money in larger masses: and this effect takes place whether the circulating medium is metallic or of paper. These effects have constantly occurred, and particularly during the late war; and, in order to relieve it, silver tokens for various sums were issued by the Bank of England.

The inconvenience and loss arising from a deficiency of small money fall with greatest weight on the classes whose means are least; for the wealthier buyers can readily procure credit for their small purchases, until their bill amounts to one of the larger coins.

178. As money, when kept in a drawer, produces nothing, few people, in any situation of life, will keep, either in coin or in notes, more than is immediately necessary for their use; when, therefore, there are no profitable modes of employing money, a superabundance of paper will return to the source from whence it issued, and an excess of coin will be converted into bullion and exported.

179. Since the worth of all property is measured by money, it is obviously conducive to the general welfare of the community, that fluctuations in its value should be rendered as small and as gradual as possible.

The evils which result from sudden changes in the value of money will perhaps become more sensible, if we trace their effects in particular instances. Assuming, as we are quite at liberty to do, an extreme case, let us suppose three persons, each possessing a hundred pounds: one of these, a widow advanced in years, and who, by the advice of her friends, purchases with that sum an annuity of twenty pounds a year during her life: and let the two others be workmen, who, by industry and economy, have each saved a hundred pounds out of their wages; both these latter persons proposing to procure machines for calendering, and to commence that business. One of these invests his money in a savings' bank; intending to make his own calendering machine, and calculating that he shall expend twenty pounds in materials, and the remaining eighty in supporting himself and in paying the workmen who assist him in constructing it. The other workman, meeting with a machine which he can buy for two hundred pounds, agrees to pay for it a hundred pounds immediately, and the remainder at the end of a twelvemonth. Let us now imagine some alteration to take place in the currency, by which it is depreciated one-half: prices soon adjust themselves to the new circumstances, and the annuity of the widow, though nominally of the same amount, will, in reality, purchase only half the quantity of the necessaries of life which it did before. The workman who had placed his money in the savings' bank, having perhaps purchased ten pounds' worth of materials, and expended ten pounds in labour applied to them, now finds himself, by this alteration in the currency, possessed nominally of eighty pounds, but in reality of a sum which will purchase only half the labour and materials required to finish his machine; and he can neither complete it, from want of capital, nor dispose of what he has already done in its unfinished state for the price it has cost him. In the meantime, the other workman, who had incurred a debt of a hundred pounds in order to complete the purchase of his calendering machine, finds that the payments he receives for calendering, have, like all other prices, doubled, in consequence of the depreciation of the currency; and he has therefore, in fact, obtained his machine for one hundred and fifty pounds. Thus, without any fault or imprudence, and owing to circumstances over which they have no control, the widow is reduced almost to starve; one workman is obliged to renounce, for several years, his hope of becoming a master; and another, without any superior industry or skill, but in fact, from having made, with reference to his circumstances, rather an imprudent bargain, finds himself unexpectedly relieved from half his debt, and the possessor of a valuable source of profit; whilst the former owner of the machine, if he also has invested the money arising from its sale in the savings' bank, finds his property suddenly reduced one-half.

180. These evils, to a greater or less extent, attend every change in the value of the currency; and the importance of preserving it as far as possible unaltered in value, cannot be too strongly impressed upon all classes of the community.


1. In Russia platinum has been employed for coin; and it possesses a peculiarity which deserves notice. Platinum cannot be melted in our furnaces, and is chiefly valuable in commerce when in the shape of ingots, from which it may be forged into useful forms. But when a piece of platinum is cut into two parts, it cannot easily be reunited except by means of a chemical process, in which both parts are dissolved in an acid. Hence, when platinum coin is too abundant, it cannot, like gold, be reduced into masses by melting, but must pass through an expensive process to render it useful.

Chapter 15

On the Influence of Verification on Price

181. The money price of an article at any given period is usually stated to depend upon the proportion between the supply and the demand. The average price of the same article during a long period, is said to depend, ultimately, on the power of producing and selling it with the ordinary profits of capital. But these principles, although true in their general sense, are yet so often modified by the influence of others, that it becomes necessary to examine a little into the disturbing forces.

182. With respect to the first of these propositions, it may be observed, that the cost of any article to the purchaser includes, besides the ratio of the supply to the demand, another element, which, though often of little importance, is, in many cases, of great consequence. The cost, to the purchaser, is the price he pays for any article, added to the cost of verifying the fact of its having that degree of goodness for which he contracts. In some cases the goodness of the article is evident on mere inspection: and in those cases there is not much difference of price at different shops. The goodness of loaf sugar, for instance, can be discerned almost at a glance; and the consequence is, that the price is so uniform, and the profit upon it so small, that no grocer is at all anxious to sell it; whilst, on the other hand, tea, of which it is exceedingly difficult to judge, and which can be adulterated by mixture so as to deceive the skill even of a practised eye, has a great variety of different prices, and is that article which every grocer is most anxious to sell to his customers.

The difficulty and expense of verification are, in some instances, so great, as to justify the deviation from well-established principles. Thus it is a general maxim that Government can purchase any article at a cheaper rate than that at which they can manufacture it themselves. But it has nevertheless been considered more economical to build extensive flour-mills (such are those at Deptford), and to grind their own corn, than to verify each sack of purchased flour, and to employ persons in devising methods of detecting the new modes of adulteration which might be continually resorted to.

183. Some years since, a mode of preparing old clover and trefoil seeds by a process called doctoring, became so prevalent as to excite the attention of the House of Commons. It appeared in evidence before a committee, that the old seed of the white clover was doctored by first wetting it slightly, and then drying it with the fumes of burning sulphur, and that the red clover seed had its colour improved by shaking it in a sack with a small quantity of indigo; but this being detected after a time, the doctors then used a preparation of logwood, fined by a little copperas, and sometimes by verdigris; thus at once improving the appearance of the old seed, and diminishing, if not destroying, its vegetative power already enfeebled by age. Supposing no injury had resulted to good seed so prepared, it was proved that from the improved appearance, the market price would be enhanced by this process from five to twenty-five shillings a hundred weight. But the greatest evil arose from the circumstance of these processes rendering old and worthless seed equal in appearance to the best. One witness had tried some doctored seed, and found that not above one grain in a hundred grew, and that those which did vegetate died away afterwards; whilst about eighty or ninety per cent of good seed usually grows. The seed so treated was sold to retail dealers in the country, who of course endeavoured to purchase at the cheapest rate, and from them it got into the hands of the farmers; neither of these classes being capable of distinguishing the fraudulent from the genuine seed. Many cultivators, in consequence, diminished their consumption of the article; and others were obliged to pay a higher price to those who had skill to distinguish the mixed seed, and who had integrity and character to prevent them from dealing in it.

184. In the Irish flax trade, a similar example of the high price paid for verification occurs. It is stated in the report of the committee, "That the natural excellent quality of Irish flax, as contrasted with foreign or British, has been admitted." Yet from the evidence before that committee it appears that Irish flax sells, in the market, from 1d. to 2d. per pound less than other flax of equal or inferior quality. Part of this difference of price arises from negligence in its preparation, but a part also from the expense of ascertaining that each parcel is free from useless matter to add to its weight: this appears from the evidence of Mr J. Corry, who was, during twenty-seven years, Secretary to the Irish Linen-Board:—

"The owners of the flax, who are almost always people in the lower classes of life, believe that they can best advance their own interests by imposing on the buyers. Flax being sold by weight, various expedients are used to increase it; and every expedient is injurious, particularly the damping of it; a very common practice, which makes the flax afterwards heat. The inside of every bundle (and the bundles all vary in bulk) is often full of pebbles, or dirt of various kinds, to increase the weight. In this state it is purchased, and exported to Great Britain. The natural quality of Irish flax is admitted to be not inferior to that produced by any foreign country; and yet the flax of every foreign country, imported into Great Britain, obtains a preference amongst the purchasers, because the foreign flax is brought to the British market in a cleaner and more regular state. The extent and value of the sales of foreign flax in Great Britain can be seen by reference to the public accounts; and I am induced to believe, that Ireland, by an adequate extension of her flax tillage, and having her flax markets brought under good regulations, could, without encroaching in the least degree upon the quantity necessary for her home consumption, supply the whole of the demand of the British market, to the exclusion of the foreigners."

185. The lace trade affords other examples; and, in enquiring into the complaints made to the House of Commons by the framework knitters, the committee observe, that, "It is singular that the grievance most complained of one hundred and fifty years ago, should, in the present improved state of the trade, be the same grievance which is now most complained of: for it appears, by the evidence given before your committee, that all the witnesses attribute the decay of the trade more to the making of fraudulent and bad articles, than to the war, or to any other cause." And it is shewn by the evidence, that a kind of lace called "single-press" was manufactured, which, although good to the eye, became nearly spoiled in washing by the slipping of the threads; that not one person in a thousand could distinguish the difference between "single-press" and "double-press" lace; and that, even workmen and manufacturers were obliged to employ a magnifying glass for that purpose; and that, in another similar article, called "warp lace," such aid was essential. It was also stated by one witness, that

"The trade had not yet ceased, excepting in those places where the fraud had been discovered; and from those places no orders are now sent for any sort of Nottingham lace, the credit being totally ruined."

186. In the stocking trade similar frauds have been practised. It appeared in evidence, that stockings were made of uniform width from the knee down to the ankle, and being wetted and stretched on frames at the calf, they retained their shape when dry, but that the purchaser could not discover the fraud until, after the first washing, the stockings hung like bags about his ankles.

187. In the watch trade the practice of deceit, in forging the marks and names of respectable makers, has been carried to a great extent both by natives and foreigners; and the effect upon our export trade has been most injurious, as the following extract from the evidence before a committee of the House of Commons will prove:—

"Question. How long have you been in the trade? Answer. Nearly thirty years. Question. The trade is at present much depressed? Answer. Yes, sadly. Question. What is your opinion of the cause of that distress? Answer. I think it is owing to a number of watches that have been made so exceedingly bad that they will hardly look at them in the foreign markets; all with a handsome outside show, and the works hardly fit for anything. Question. Do you mean to say, that all the watches made in this country are of that description? Answer. No; only a number which are made up by some of the Jews, and other low manufacturers. I recollect something of the sort years ago, of a falloff of the East India work, owing to there being a number of handsome-looking watches sent out, for instance, with hands on and figures, as if they shewed seconds, and had not any work regular to shew the seconds: the hand went round, but it was not regular. Question. They had no perfect movements? Answer. No, they had not; that was a long time since, and we had not any East India work for a long time afterwards."

In the home market, inferior but showy watches are made at a cheap rate, which are not warranted by the maker to go above half an hour; about the time occupied by the Jew pedlar in deluding his country customer.

188. The practice, in retail linen-drapers' shops, of calling certain articles yard wide when the real width is perhaps, only seven-eighths or three-quarters, arose at first from fraud, which being detected, custom was pleaded in its defence: but the result is, that the vender is constantly obliged to measure the width of his goods in the customer's presence. In all these instances the object of the seller is to get a higher price than his goods would really produce if their quality were known; and the purchaser, if not himself a skilful judge (which rarely happens to be the case), must pay some person, in the shape of an additional money price, who has skill to distinguish, and integrity to furnish, articles of the quality agreed on. But as the confidence of persons in their own judgement is usually great, large numbers will always flock to the cheap dealer, who thus, attracting many customers from the honest tradesman, obliges him to charge a higher price for his judgement and character than, without such competition, he could afford to do.

189. There are few things which the public are less able to judge of than the quality of drugs; and when these are compounded into medicines it is scarcely possible, even for medical men, to decide whether pure or adulterated ingredients have been employed. This circumstance, concurring with the present injudicious mode of paying for medical assistance, has produced a curious effect on the price of medicines. Apothecaries, instead of being paid for their services and skill, are remunerated by being allowed to place a high charge upon their medicines, which are confessedly of very small pecuniary value. The effect of such a system is an inducement to prescribe more medicine than is necessary; and in fact, even with the present charges, the apothecary, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, cannot be fairly remunerated unless the patient either takes, or pays for, more physic than he really requires. The apparent extravagance of the charge of eighteen pence for a two-ounce phial(1*) of medicine, is obvious to many who do not reflect on the fact that a great part of the charge is, in reality, payment for the exercise of professional skill. As the same charge is made by the apothecary, whether he attends the patient or merely prepares the prescription of a physician, the chemist and druggist soon offered to furnish the same commodity at a greatly diminished price. But the eighteen pence charged by the apothecary might have been fairly divided into two parts, three pence for medicine and bottle, and fifteen pence for attendance. The chemist, therefore, who never attends his customers, if he charges only a shilling for the same medicine, realizes a profit of 200 or 300 per cent upon its value. This enormous profit has called into existence a multitude of competitors; and in this instance the impossibility of verifying has, in a great measure, counteracted the beneficial effects of competition. The general adulteration of drugs, even at the extremely high price at which they are retailed as medicine, enables those who are supposed to sell them in an unadulterated state to make large profits, whilst the same evil frequently disappoints the expectation, and defeats the skill, of the most eminent physician.

It is difficult to point out a remedy for this evil without suggesting an almost total change in the system of medical practice. If the apothecary were to charge for his visits, and to reduce his medicines to one-fourth or one-fifth of their present price, he would still have an interest in procuring the best drugs, for the sake of his own reputation or skill. Or if the medical attendant, who is paid more highly for his time, were to have several pupils, he might himself supply the medicines without a specific charge, and his pupils would derive improvement from compounding them, as well as from examining the purity of the drugs he would purchase. The public would gain several advantages by this arrangement. In the first place, it would be greatly for the interest of the medical practitioner to have the best drugs; it would be in his interest also not to give more physic than needful; and it would enable him, through some of his more advanced pupils, to watch more frequently the changes of any malady.

190. There are many articles of hardware which it is impossible for the purchaser to verify at the time of purchase, or even afterwards, without defacing them. Plated harness and coach furniture may be adduced as examples: these are usually of wrought iron covered with silver, owing their strength to the one and a certain degree of permanent beauty to the other metal. Both qualities are, occasionally, much impaired by substituting cast- for wrought-iron, and by plating with soft solder (tin and lead) instead of with hard solder (silver and brass). The loss of strength is the greatest evil in this case; for cast iron, though made for this purpose more tough than usual by careful annealing, is still much weaker than wrought-iron, and serious accidents often arise from harness giving way. In plating with soft solder, a very thin plate of silver is made to cover the iron, but it is easily detached, particularly by a low degree of heat. Hard soldering gives a better coat of silver, which is very firmly attached, and is not easily injured unless by a very high degree of heat. The inferior can be made to look nearly as well as the better article, and the purchaser can scarcely discover the difference without cutting into it.

191. The principle that price, at any moment, is dependent on the relation of the supply to the demand, is true to the full extent only when the whole supply is in the hands of a very large number of small holders, and the demand is caused by the wants of another set of persons, each of whom requires only a very small quantity. And the reason appears to be, that it is only in such circumstances that a uniform average can be struck between the feelings, the passions, the prejudices, the opinions, and the knowledge, of both parties. If the supply, or present stock in hand, be entirely in the possession of one person, he will naturally endeavour to put such a price upon it as shall produce by its sale the greatest quantity of money; but he will be guided in this estimate of the price at which he will sell, both by the knowledge that increased price will cause a diminished consumption, and by the desire to realize his profit before a new supply shall reach the market from some other quarter. If, however, the same stock is in the hands of several dealers, there will be an immediate competition between them, arising partly from their different views of the duration of the present state of supply, and partly from their own peculiar circumstances with respect to the employment of their capital.

192. The expense of ascertaining that the price charged is that which is legally due is sometimes considerable. The inconvenience which this verification produces in the case of parcels sent by coaches is very great. The time lost in recovering an overcharge generally amounts to so many times the value of the sum recovered, that it is but rarely resorted to. It seems worthy of consideration whether it would not be a convenience to the public if government were to undertake the general conveyance of parcels somewhat on the same system with that on which the post is now conducted. The certainty of their delivery, and the absence of all attempt at overcharge, would render the prohibition of rival carriers unnecessary. Perhaps an experiment might be made on this subject by enlarging the weight allowed to be sent by the two-penny post, and by conveying works in sheets by the general post.

This latter suggestion would be of great importance to literature, and consequently to the circulation of knowledge. As the post-office regulations stand at present, it constantly happens that persons who have an extensive reputation for science, receive by post, from foreign countries, works, or parts of works, for which they are obliged to pay a most extravagant rate of postage, or else refuse to take in some interesting communication. In France and Germany, printed sheets of paper are forwarded by post at a very moderate expense, and it is fit that the science and literature of England should be equally favoured.

193. It is important, if possible, always to connect the name of the workman with the work he has executed: this secures for him the credit or the blame he may justly deserve; and diminishes, in some cases, the necessity of verification. The extent to which this is carried in literary works, published in America, is remarkable. In the translation of the Mecanique Celeste by Mr Bowditch, not merely the name of the printer, but also those of the compositors, are mentioned in the work.

194. Again, if the commodity itself is of a perishable nature, such, for example, as a cargo of ice imported into the port of London from Norway a few summers since, then time will supply the place of competition; and, whether the article is in the possession of one or of many persons, it will scarcely reach a monopoly price. The history of cajeput oil during the last few months, offers a curious illustration of the effect of opinion upon price. In July of last year, 1831, cajeput oil was sold, exclusive of duty, at 7 d. per ounce. The disease which had ravaged the East was then supposed to be approaching our shores, and its proximity created alarm. At this period, the oil in question began to be much talked of, as a powerful remedy in that dreadful disorder; and in September it rose to the price of 3s. and 4s. the ounce. In October there were few or no sales: but in the early part of November, the speculations in this substance reached their height, and between the 1st and the 15th it realized the following prices: 3s. 9d., 5s., 6s. 6d., 7s. 6d., 8s., 9s., 10s., 10s. 6d., 11s. After 15 November, the holders of cajeput oil were anxious to sell at much lower rates; and in December a fresh arrival was offered by public sale at 5s., and withdrawn, being sold afterwards, as it was understood, by private contract, at 4s. or 4s. 6d. per oz. Since that time, 1s. 6d. and 1s. have been realized; and a fresh arrival, which is daily expected (March, 1832) will probably reduce it below the price of July. Now it is important to notice, that in November, the time of greatest speculation, the quantity in the market was held by few persons, and that it frequently changed hands, each holder being desirous to realize his profit. The quantity imported since that time has also been considerable.(2*)

195. The effect of the equalization of price by an increased number of dealers, may be observed in the price of the various securities sold at the Stock Exchange. The number of persons who deal in the 3 per cent stock being large, any one desirous of selling can always dispose of his stock at one-eighth per cent under the market price; but those who wish to dispose of bank stock, or of any other securities of more limited circulation, are obliged to make a sacrifice of eight or ten times this amount upon each hundred pounds value.

196. The frequent speculations in oil, tallow, and other commodities, which must occur to the memory of most of my readers, were always founded on the principle of purchasing up all the stock on hand, and agreeing for the purchase of the expected arrivals; thus proving the opinion of capitalists to be, that a larger average price may be procured by the stock being held by few persons.


1. Apothecaries frequently purchase these phials at the old bottle warehouses at ten shillings per gross; so that when their servant has washed them, the cost of the phial is nearly one penny.

2. I have understood that the price of camphor, at the same time, suffered similar changes.

Chapter 16

On the Influence of Durability on Price

197. Having now considered the circumstances that modify what may be called the momentary amount of price, we must next examine a principle which seems to have an effect on its permanent average. The durability of any commodity influences its cost in a permanent manner. We have already stated that what may be called the momentary price of any commodity depends upon the proportion existing between the supply and demand, and also upon the cost of verification. The average price, during a long period, will depend upon the labour required for producing and bringing it to market, as well as upon the average supply and demand; but it will also be influenced by the durability of the article manufactured.

Many things in common use are substantially consumed in using: a phosphorus match, articles of food, and a cigar, are examples of this description. Some things after use become inapplicable to their former purposes, as paper which has been printed upon: but it is yet available for the cheesemonger or the trunk-maker. Some articles, as pens, are quickly worn out by use; and some are still valuable after a long continued wear. There are others, few perhaps in number, which never wear out; the harder precious stones, when well cut and polished, are of this later class: the fashion of the gold or silver mounting in which they are set may vary with the taste of the age, and such ornaments are constantly exposed for sale as second-hand, but the gems themselves, when removed from their supports, are never so considered. A brilliant which has successively graced the necks of a hundred beauties, or glittered for a century upon patrician brows, is weighed by the diamond merchant in the same scale with another which has just escaped from the wheel of the lapidary, and will be purchased or sold by him at the same price per carat. The great mass of commodities is intermediate in its character between these two extremes, and the periods of respective duration are very various. It is evident that the average price of those things which are consumed in the act of using them, can never be less than that of the labour of bringing them to market. They may for a short time be sold for less, but under such circumstances their production must soon cease altogether. On the other hand, if an article never wears out, its price may continue permanently below the cost of the labour expended in producing it; and the only consequence will be, that no further production will take place: its price will continue to be regulated by the relation of the supply to the demand; and should that at any aftertime rise, for a considerable period, above the cost of production, it will be again produced.

198. Articles become old from actual decay, or the wearing out of their parts; from improved modes of constructing them; or from changes in their form and fashion, required by the varying taste of the age. In the two latter cases, their utility is but little diminished; and, being less sought after by those who have hitherto employed them, they are sold at a reduced price to a class of society rather below that of their former possessors. Many articles of furniture, such as well-made tables and chairs, are thus found in the rooms of those who would have been quite unable to have purchased them when new; and we find constantly, even in the houses of the more opulent, large looking-glasses which have passed successively through the hands of several possessors, changing only the fashion of their frames; and in some instances even this alteration is omitted, an additional coat of gilding saving them from the character of being second-hand. Thus a taste for luxuries is propagated downwards in society', and, after a short period, the numbers who have acquired new wants become sufficient to excite the ingenuity of the manufacturer to reduce the cost of supplying them, whilst he is himself benefited by the extended scale of demand.

199. There is a peculiarity in looking-glasses with reference to the principle just mentioned. The most frequent occasion of injury to them arises from accidental violence; and the peculiarity is, that, unlike most other articles, when broken they are still of some value. If a large mirror is accidentally cracked, it is immediately cut into two or more smaller ones, each of which may be perfect. If the degree of violence is so great as to break it into many fragments, these smaller pieces may be cut into squares for dressing-glasses; and if the silvering is injured, it can either be resilvered or used as plate-glass for glazing windows. The addition from our manufactories to the stock of plate-glass in the country is annually about two hundred and fifty thousand square feet. It would be very difficult to estimate the quantity annually destroyed or exported, but it is probably small; and the effect of these continual additions is seen in the diminished price and increased consumption of the article. Almost all the better order of shop fronts are now glazed with it. If it were quite indestructible, the price would continually diminish; and unless an increased demand arose from new uses, or from a greater number of customers, a single manufactory, unchecked by competition, would ultimately be compelled to shut up, driven out of the market by the permanance of its own productions.

200. The metals are in some degree permanent, although several of them are employed in such forms that they are ultimately lost.

Copper is a metal of which a great proportion returns to use: a part of that employed in sheathing ships and covering houses is lost from corrosion; but the rest is generally remelted. Some is lost in small brass articles, and some is consumed in the formation of salts, Roman vitriol (sulphate of copper), verdigris (acetate of copper), and verditer.

Gold is wasted in gilding and in embroidering; but a portion of this is recovered by burning the old articles. Some portion is lost by the wear of gold, but, upon the whole, it possesses considerable permanence.

Iron. A proportion of this metal is wasted by oxidation, in small nails, in fine wire; by the wear of tools, and of the tire of wheels, and by the formation of some dyes: but much, both of cast- and of wrought-iron, returns to use.

Lead is wasted in great quantities. Some portion of that which is used in pipes and in sheets for covering roofs returns to the melting-pot; but large quantities are consumed in the form of small shot, or sometimes in that of musket balls, litharge, and red lead, for white and red paints, for glass-making, for glazing pottery, and for sugar of lead (acetate of lead).

Silver is rather a permanent metal. Some portion is consumed in the wear of coin, in that of silver plate, and a portion in silvering and embroidering.

Tin. The chief waste of this metal arises from tinned iron; some is lost in solder and in solutions for the dyers.

Chapter 17

Of Price as Measured by Money

201. The money price at which an article sells furnishes us with comparatively little information respecting its value, if we compare distant intervals of time and different countries; for gold and silver, in which price is usually measured, are themselves subject, like all other commodities, to changes in value; nor is there any standard to which these variations can be referred. The average price of a certain quality of different manufactured articles, or of raw produce, has been suggested as a standard; but a new difficulty then presents itself; for the improved methods of producing such articles render their money price extremely variable within very limited periods. The annexed table will afford a striking instance of this kind of change within a period of only twelve years.

Prices of the following articles at Birmingham, in the undermentioned years

Description 1818 1824 1828 1830 s. d. s. d. s. d. s. d. Anvils cwt 25 0 20 0 16 0 13 0 Awls, polished, Liverpool gross 2 6 2 0 1 6 1 2 Bed-screws, 6 inches long gross 18 0 15 0 6 0 5 0 Bits, tinned. for bridles doz. 5 0 5 0 3 3 2 6 Bolts for doors, 6 inches doz. 6 0 5 0 2 3 1 6 Braces for carpenters, with 12 bits set 9 0 4 0 4 2 3 5 Buttons, for coats gross 4 6 6 3 3 0 2 2 Buttons, small, for waistcoats gross 2 6 2 0 1 2 0 8 Candlesticks, 6 in., brass pair 2 1 1 2 0 1 7 1 2 Curry-combs, six barred doz. 2 9 2 6 1 5 0 1 1 Frying-pans cwt 25 0 21 0 18 0 16 0 Gun-locks, single roller each 6 0 5 2 1 10 1 6 Hammers. shoe, No. 0 doz. 6 9 3 9 3 0 2 9

Description 1818 1824 1828 1830 s. d. s. d. s. d. s. d. Hinges, cast-butts, 1 inch doz. 0 10 0 71/2 0 31/4 0 21/4 Knobs, brass, 2 inches for commodes doz. 4 0 3 6 1 6 1 2 Latches for doors, bright thumb doz. 2 3 2 2 1 0 0 9 Locks for doors, iron rim, 6 inches doz. 38 0 32 0 15 0 13 6 Sad-irons and other castings cwt 22 6 20 0 14 0 11 6 Shovel and tongs, fire-irons pair 1 0 1 0 0 9 0 6 Spoons, tinned table gross 17 6 15 0 10 0 7 0 Stirrups, plated pair 4 6 3 9 1 6 1 1 Trace-chains cwt 28 0 25 0 19 6 16 6 Trays, japanned tea, 30 inches each 4 6 3 0 2 0 1 5 Vices for blacksmiths cwt 30 0 28 0 22 0 19 6 Wire, brass lb. 1 10 1 4 1 0 0 9 —, iron, No. 6 bund. 16 0 13 0 9 0 7 0

202. I have taken some pains to assure myself of the accuracy of the above table: at different periods of the years quoted the prices may have varied; but I believe it may be considered as a fair approximation. In the course of my enquiries I have been favoured with another list, in which many of the same articles occur, but in this last instance the prices quoted are separated by an interval of twenty years. It is extracted from the books of a highly respectable house at Birmingham; and the prices confirm the accuracy of the former table, so far as they relate to the articles which are found in that list.

Prices of 1812 and 1832 Reduction per cent in price of Description 1812 1832 1812 s. d. s. d.

Anvils cwt 25 0 14 0 44 Awls, Liverpool blades gross 3 6 1 0 71 Candlesticks, iron, plain 3 103/4 2 31/2 41 screwed 6 41/2 3 9 41 Bed screws, 6 inch square head gross 7 6 4 6 40 flat head gross 8 6 4 8 45 Curry-combs, 6 barred dozen 4 01/2 1 0 75

Reduction per cent in price of Description 1812 1832 1812 s. d. s. d.

Curry-combs, 8 barred dozen 5 51/2 1 5 74 patent, 6 barred dozen 7 11/2 1 5 80 8 barred dozen 8 63/4 1 10 79 Fire-irons, iron head, No. 1. 1 41/2 0 73/4 53 No. 2 1 6 0 81/2 53 No. 3 1 81/4 0 91/2 53 No. 4 1 101/2 0 101/2 53 Gun-locks, single roller each 7 21/2 1 11 73 Locks, 1 1/4 brass, port. pad 16 0 2 6 85 2 1/2 inch 3 keyed till-locks each 2 2 0 9 65 Shoe tacks gross 5 0 2 0 60 Spoons, tinned, iron table gross 22 6 7 0 69 Stirrups. com. tinned, 2 bar dozen 7 0 2 9 61 Trace-chains, iron cwt 46 91/2 15 0 68

Prices of the principal materials, used in mines in Cornwall, at different periods [I am indebited to Mr John Taylor for this interesting table]


Description 1800 1810 1820 1830 1832 s. d. s. d. s. d. s. d. s. d. Coals wey 81 7 85 5 53 4 51 0 40 0 Timber (balk) foot 2 0 4 0 1 5 1 0 0 10 (oak) foot 3 31/2 3 0 3 6 3 3 Ropes cwt 66 0 84 0 48 6 40 0 40 0 Iron (common bar) cwt 20 6 14 6 11 0 7 0 6 6 Common castings cwt 16 0 15 0 8 0 6 6 Pumps cwt 16s. & 17s. 17s. & 18s. 12s. & 15s. 6 6 6 10 Gunpowder 100 lbs. 114 2 117 6 68 0 52 6 49 0 Candles 9 3 10 0 8 9 5 11 4 10 Tallow cwt 72 0 84 0 65 8 52 6 43 0 Leather lb. 2 4 2 3 24 22 21 Blistered steel cwt 50 0 44 0 38 0 2s. nails cwt 32 0 28 6 22 0 17 0 16 6

203. I cannot omit availing myself of this opportunity of calling the attention of the manufacturers, merchants, and factors, in all our manufacturing and commercial towns, to the great importance, both for their own interests, and for that of the population to which their capital gives employment, of collecting with care such averages from the actual sales registered in their books. Nor, perhaps, would it be without its use to suggest, that such averages would be still more valuable if collected from as many different quarters as possible; that the quantity of the goods from which they are deduced, together with the greatest deviations from the mean, ought to be given; and that if a small committee were to undertake the task, it would give great additional weight to the information. Political economists have been reproached with too small a use of facts, and too large an employment of theory. If facts are wanting, let it be remembered that the closet-philosopher is unfortunately too little acquainted with the admirable arrangements of the factory, and that no class of persons can supply so readily, and with so little sacrifice of time, the data on which all the reasonings of political economists are founded, as the merchant and manufacturer; and, unquestionably, to no class are the deductions to which they give rise so important. Nor let it be feared that erroneous deductions may be made from such recorded facts: the errors which arise from the absence of facts are far more numerous and more durable than those which result from unsound reasoning respecting true data.

204. The great diminution in price of the articles here enumerated may have arisen from several causes: 1. The alteration in the value of the currency. 2. The increased value of gold in consequence of the increased demand for coin. The first of these causes may have had some influence, and the second may have had a very small effect upon the two first quotations of prices, but none at all upon the two latter ones. 3. The diminished rate of profit produced by capital however employed. This may be estimated by the average price of three per cents at the periods stated. 4. The diminished price of the raw materials out of which these articles were manufactured. The raw material is principally brass and iron, and the reduction upon it may, in some measure, be estimated by the diminished price of iron and brass wire, in the cost of which articles, the labour bears a less proportion than it does in many of the others. 5. The smaller quantity of raw material employed, and perhaps, in some instances, an inferior, quality of workmanship. 6. The improved means by which the same effect was produced by diminished labour.

205. In order to afford the means of estimating the influence of these several causes, the following table is subjoined:

1812 1818 1824 1828 1830 1832 Average Price of L s d. L s. d. L s d L s. d L s d L s. d Gold. per oz 4 15 6 4 0 3 17 61/2 3 17 7 3 17 91/2 3 17 10 1/2 Value of currency. per cent 79 5 3 97 6 10 100 100 100 100 Price of 3 per cent consols 591/4 781/4 935/8 86 893/4 821/2 Wheat per quarter 6 5 0 4 1 0 3 2 l 3 1 1 10 3 14 6 2 19 3

English pig iron at Birmingham 7 l0 0 6 7 6 6 l0 0 5 10 0 4 l0 0

English bar iron at Birmingham 10 10 0 9 10 0 7 15 0 6 0 0 5 0 0 Swedish bar iron in London, excluding duty of from L4 to L6 10s per ton 16 10 0 17 10 0 14 0 0 14 10 0 13 15 0 13 2 0

As this table, if unaccompanied by any explanation, might possibly lead to erroneous conclusions, I subjoin the following observations, for which I am indebted to the kindness of Mr Tooke, who may yet, I hope, be induced to continue his valuable work on High and Low Prices, through the important period which has elapsed since its publication.

'The table commences with 1812, and exhibits a great falling off in the price of wheat and iron coincidently with a fall in the price of gold, and leading to the inference of cause and effect. Now, as regards wheat, it so happened that in 1812 it reached its highest price in consequence of a series of bad harvests, when relief by importation was difficult and enormously expensive. In December, 1813, whilst the price of gold had risen to L5, the price of wheat had fallen to 73s., or 50 per cent under what it had been in the spring of 1812; proving clearly that the two articles were under the influence of opposite causes.

'Again, in 1812, the freight and insurance on Swedish iron were so much higher than at present as to account for nearly the whole of the difference of price: and in 1818 there had been an extensive speculation which had raised the price of all iron, so that a part of the subsequent decline was a mere reaction from a previously unfounded elevation. More recently, in 1825, there was a great speculative rise in the article, which served as a strong stimulus to increased production: this, aided by improved power of machinery, has proceeded to such an extent as fully to account for the fall of price.'

To these reflections I will only add, that the result of my own observation leads me to believe that by far the most influential of these causes has been the invention of cheaper modes of manufacturing. The extent to which this can be carried, while a profit can yet be realized at the reduced price, is truly astonishing, as the following fact, which rests on good authority, will prove. Twenty years since, a brass knob for the locks of doors was made at Birmingham; the price, at that time, being 13s. 4d. per dozen. The same article is now manufactured, having the same weight of metal, and an equal, or in fact a slightly superior finish, at 1s. 9 1/4d. per dozen. One circumstance which has produced this economy in the manufacture is, that the lathe on which these knobs are finished is now turned by a steam-engine; so that the workman, relieved from that labour, can make them twenty times as fast as he did formerly.

206. The difference of price of the same article, when of various dimensions at different periods in the same country—and in different countries—is curiously contrasted in the annexed table.

Comparative price of plate glass, at the manufactories of London, Paris, Berlin, and Petersburg

DIMENSIONS LONDON PARIS BERLIN PETERSBURG Height Breadth 1771 1794 1832 1825 1835 1828 1825 in inches in inches L s d L s d L s d L s d L s d L s d L s d 16 16 0103 0101 0176 087 076 081 0410 30 20 146 232 2610 11610 1710 0106 1210 50 30 24 2 4 11 5 0 6 12 10 9 0 5 5 0 3 8 13 0 5 15 0 60 40 67 14 10 27 0 0 13 9 6 22 7 5 10 4 3 21 18 0 12 9 0 76 40 43 6 0 19 2 9 36 4 5 14 17 5 35 2 11 17 5 0 90 50 84 8 0 34 12 9 71 3 8 28 13 4 33 18 7 100 75 275 0 0 74 5 10 210 13 3 70 9 7 120 75 97 15 9 354 3 2 98 3 10

The price of silvering these plates is twenty per cent on the cost price for English glass; ten per cent on the cost price for Paris plates; and twelve and a half on those of Berlin.

The following table shews the dimensions and price, when silvered, of the largest plates of glass ever made by the British Plate Glass Company, which are now at their warehouse in London:

Height Breadth Price when silvered Inches Inches L s. d.

132 84 200 8 0 146 81 220 7 0 149 84 239 1 6 131 83 239 10 7 160 80 246 15 4

The prices of the largest glass in the Paris lists when silvered, and reduced to English measure, were:

Year Inches Inches Price when silvered L s. d. 1825 128 80 629 12 0 1835 128 80 136 19 0

207. If we wish to compare the value of any article at different periods of time, it is clear that neither any one substance, nor even the combination of all manufactured goods, can furnish us with an invariable unit by which to form our scale of estimation. Mr Malthus has proposed for this purpose to consider a day's labour of an agricultural labourer, as the unit to which all value should be referred. Thus, if we wish to compare the value of twenty yards of broad cloth in Saxony at the present time, with that of the same kind and quantity of cloth fabricated in England two centuries ago, we must find the number of days' labour the cloth would have purchased in England at the time mentioned, and compare it with the number of days' labour which the same quantity of cloth will now purchase in Saxony. Agricultural labour appears to have been selected, because it exists in all countries, and employs a large number of persons, and also because it requires a very small degree of previous instruction. It seems, in fact, to be merely the exertion of a man's physical force; and its value above that of a machine of equal power arises from its portability, and from the facility of directing its efforts to arbitrary and continually fluctuating purposes. It may perhaps be worthy of enquiry, whether a more constant average might not be deduced from combining with this species of labour those trades which require but a moderate exertion of skill and which likewise exist in all civilized countries, such as those of the blacksmith and carpenter, etc.(1*) In all such comparisons there is, however, another element, which, though not essentially necessary, will yet add much to our means of judging.

It is an estimate of the quantity of that food on which the labourer usually subsists, which is necessary for his daily support, compared with the quantity which his daily wages will purchase.

208. The existence of a class of middlemen, between small producers and merchants, is frequently advantageous to both parties; and there are certain periods in the history of several manufactures which naturally call that class of traders into existence. There are also times when the advantage ceasing, the custom of employing them also terminates; the middlemen, especially when numerous, as they sometimes are in retail trades, enhancing the price without equivalent good. Thus, in the recent examination by the House of Commons into the state of the coal trade, it appears that five-sixths of the London public is supplied by a class of middlemen who are called in the trade Brass plate coal merchants: these consist principally of merchants' clerks, gentlemen's servants, and others, who have no wharfs of their own, but merely give their orders to some true coal merchant, who sends in the coals from his wharf: the brass plate coal merchants, of course, receiving a commission for his agency.

209. In Italy this system is carried to a great extent amongst the voituriers, or persons who undertake to convey travellers. There are some possessed of greater fluency and a more persuasive manner who frequent the inns where the English resort, and who, as soon as they have made a bargain for the conveyance of a traveller, go out amongst their countrymen and procure some other voiturier to do the job for a considerably smaller sum, themselves pocketing the difference. A short time before the day of starting, the contractor appears before his customer in great distress, regretting his inability to perform the journey on account of the dangerous illness of a mother or some relative, and requesting to have his cousin or brother substituted for him. The English traveller rarely fails to acquiesce in this change, and often praises the filial piety of the rogue who has deceived him.


1. Much information for such an enquiry is to be found, for the particular period to which it refers, in the Report of the Committee of the House of Commons on Manufacturers' Employment, 2 July, 1830.

Chapter 18

Of Raw Materials

210. Although the cost of any article may be reduced in its ultimate analysis to the quantity of labour by which it was produced; yet it is usual, in a certain state of the manufacture of most substances, to call them by the term raw material. Thus iron, when reduced from the ore and rendered malleable, is in a state fitted for application to a multitude of useful purposes, and is the raw material out of which most of our tools are made. In this stage of its manufacture, but a moderate quantity of labour has been expended on the substance; and it becomes an interesting subject to trace the various proportions in which raw material, in this sense of the term, and labour unite to constitute the value of many of the productions of the arts.

211. Gold leaf consists of a portion of the metal beaten out to so great a degree of thinness, as to allow a greenish-blue light to be transmitted through its pores. About 400 square inches of this are sold, in the form of a small book containing 25 leaves of gold, for 1s. 6d. In this case, the raw material, or gold, is worth rather less than two-thirds of the manufactured article. In the case of silver leaf, the labour considerably exceeds the value of the material. A book of fifty leaves, which would cover above 1000 square inches, is sold for 1s. 3d.

212. We may trace the relative influence of the two causes above referred to, in the prices of fine gold chains made at Venice. The sizes of these chains are known by numbers, the smallest having been (in 1828) No. 1, and the numbers 2, 3, 4, etc., progressively increasing in size. The following table shews the numbers and the prices of those made at that time.(1*) The first column gives the number by which the chain is known; the second expresses the weight in grains of one inch in length of each chain; the third column the number of links in the same length; and the last expresses the price, in francs worth tenpence each, of a Venetian braccio, or about two English feet of each chain.

Venetian gold chains Price of a Venetian Braccio, equal to Weight of Number of links two feet 1/8 inch No. one inch, in grains in one inch English 0.44 98 to 100 60 francs 1.56 92 40 1 1/2.77 88 26 2.99 84 20 3 1.46 72 20 4 1.61 64 21 5 2.09 64 23 6 2.61 60 24 7 3.36 56 27 8 3.65 56 29 9 3.72 56 32 10 5.35 50 34 24 9.71 32 60

Amongst these chains, that numbered 0 and that numbered 24 are exactly of the same price, although the quantity of gold in the latter is twenty-two times as much as in the former. The difficulty of making the smallest chain is so great, that the women who make it cannot work above two hours at a time. As we advance from the smaller chain, the proportionate value of the work to the worth of the material becomes less and less, until at the numbers 2 and 3, these two elements of cost balance each other: after which, the difficulty of the work decreases, and the value of the material increases.

213. The quantity of labour expended on these chains is, however, incomparably less than that which is applied in some of the manufactures of iron. In the case of the smallest Venetian chain the value of the labour is not above thirty times that of the gold. The pendulum spring of a watch, which governs the vibrations of the balance, costs at the retail price two pence, and weighs fifteen one-hundredths of a grain, whilst the retail price of a pound of the best iron, the raw material out of which fifty thousand such springs are made, is exactly the same sum of two pence.

214. The comparative price of labour and of raw material entering into the manufactures of France, has been ascertained with so much care, in a memoir of M. A. M. Heron de Villefosse, Recherches statistiques, sur les Metaux de France.(2*) that we shall give an abstract of his results reduced to English measures. The facts respecting the metals relate to the year 1825.

In France the quantity of raw material which can be purchased for L1, when manufactured into

Silk goods is worth L2.37 Broad cloth and woollens 2.15 Hemp and cables 3.94 Linen comprising thread laces 5.00 Cotton goods 2.44

The price of pig-lead was L1 1s. per cwt; and lead of the value of L1 sterling, became worth, when manufactured into

Sheets or pipes of moderate dimensions L 1. 25 White lead 2.60 Ordinary printing characters 4.90 The smallest type 28.30

The price of copper was L5 2s. per cwt. Copper worth L1 became when manufactured into

Copper sheeting L1.26 Household utensils 4.77 Common brass pins tinned 2.34 Rolled into plates covered with 1/20 silver 3.56 Woven into metallic cloth, each square inch of which contains 10,000 meshes 52.23

The price of tin was L4 12s. per cwt. Tin worth L1 when manufactured into

Leaves for silvering glass became L1.73 Household utensils 1.85

Quicksilver cost L10 16s. per cwt. Quicksilver worth L1 when manufactured into

Vermilion of average quality became L1.81

Metallic arsenic cost L1 4s. per cwt. Arsenic worth L1 when manufactured into

White oxide of arsenic became L1.83 Sulphuret (orpiment) 4.26

The price of cast-iron was 8s. per cwt. Cast-iron worth L1 when manufactured into

Household utensils became L2.00 Machinery 4.00 Ornamental. as buckles. etc 45.00 Bracelets. figures, buttons. etc. 147.00

8ar-iron cost L1 6s. per cwt. Bar-iron worth L1 when manufactured into

Agricultural instruments became L3.57 Barrels, musket 9. 10 Barrels of double-barrel guns. twisted and damasked 238.08 Blades of penknives 657.14 razor. cast steel 53.57 sabre, for cavalry. infantry, and artillery. etc. from 9.25 to 16.07 of table knives 35.70 Buckles of polished steel, used as jewellery 896.66 Clothiers' pins 8.03 Door-latches and bolts from 4.85 to 8.50 Files, common 2.55 flat, cast steel 20.44 Horseshoes 2.55 Iron, small slit, for nails 1. 10 Metallic cloth, iron wire, No. 80 96.71 Needles of various sizes from 17.33 to 70.85 Reeds for weaving 3-4ths calico 21.87 Saws (frame) of steel 5. 12 for wood 14.28 Scissors, finest kind 446.94 Steel, cast 4.28 cast, in sheets 6.25 cemented 2.41 natural 1.42 Sword handles, polished steel 972.82 Tinned iron from 2.04 to 2.34 Wire, iron from 2. 14 to 10.71

215. The following is stated by M. de Villefosse to be the price of bar-iron at the forges of various countries, in January, 1825.

per ton L s. d. France 26 10 0 Belgium and Germany 16 14 0 Sweden and Russia, at Stockholm and St Petersburg 13 13 0 England, at Cardiff 10 1 0

The price of the article in 1832 was 5 0 0

M. De Villefosse states, that in France bar-iron, made as it usually is with charcoal, costs three times the price of the cast-iron out of which it is made; whilst in England, where it is usually made with coke, the cost is only twice the price of cast-iron.

216. The present price (1832) of lead in England is L13 per ton, and the worth of L1 of it manufactured into

Milled sheet lead becomes Ll.08

The present price of cake copper is L84 per ton, and the worth of L1 of it manufactured into

Sheet copper becomes L1.11


1. A still finer chain is now manufactured (1832).

2. Memoires de l'Institut. 1826

Chapter 19

On the Division of Labour

217. Perhaps the most important principle on which the economy of a manufacture depends, is the division of labour amongst the persons who perform the work. The first application of this principle must have been made in a very early stage of society, for it must soon have been apparent, that a larger number of comforts and conveniences could be acquired by each individual, if one man restricted his occupation to the art of making bows, another to that of building houses, a third boats, and so on. This division of labour into trades was not, however, the result of an opinion that the general riches of the community would be increased by such an arrangement; but it must have arisen from the circumstance of each individual so employed discovering that he himself could thus make a greater profit of his labour than by pursuing more varied occupations. Society must have made considerable advances before this principle could have been carried into the workshop; for it is only in countries which have attained a high degree of civilization, and in articles in which there is a great competition amongst the producers, that the most perfect system of the division of labour is to be observed. The various principles on which the advantages of this system depend, have been much the subject of discussion amongst writers on political economy; but the relative importance of their influence does not appear, in all cases, to have been estimated with sufficient precision. It is my intention, in the first instance, to state shortly those principles, and then to point out what appears to me to have been omitted by those who have previously treated the subject.

218. 1. Of the time required for learning. It will readily be admitted, that the portion of time occupied in the acquisition of any art will depend on the difficulty of its execution; and that the greater the number of distinct processes, the longer will be the time which the apprentice must employ in acquiring it. Five or seven years have been adopted, in a great many trades, as the time considered requisite for a lad to acquire a sufficient knowledge of his art, and to enable him to repay by his labour, during the latter portion of his time, the expense incurred by his master at its commencement. If, however, instead of learning all the different processes for making a needle, for instance, his attention be confined to one operation, the portion of time consumed unprofitably at the commencement of his apprenticeship will be small, and all the rest of it will be beneficial to his master: and, consequently, if there be any competition amongst the masters, the apprentice will be able to make better terms, and diminish the period of his servitude. Again, the facility of acquiring skill in a single process, and the early period of life at which it can be made a source of profit, will induce a greater number of parents to bring up their children to it; and from this circumstance also, the number of workmen being increased, the wages will soon fall.

219. 2. Of waste of materials in learning. A certain quantity of material will, in all cases, be consumed unprofitably, or spoiled by every person who learns an art; and as he applies himself to each new process, he will waste some of the raw material, or of the partly manufactured commodity. But if each man commit this waste in acquiring successively every process, the quantity of waste will be much greater than if each person confine his attention to one process; in this view of the subject, therefore, the division of labour will diminish the price of production.

220. 3. Another advantage resulting from the division of labour is, the saving of that portion of time which is always lost in changing from one occupation to another. When the human hand, or the human head, has been for some time occupied in any kind of work, it cannot instantly change its employment with full effect. The muscles of the limbs employed have acquired a flexibility during their exertion, and those not in action a stiffness during rest, which renders every change slow and unequal in the commencement. Long habit also produces in the muscles exercised a capacity for enduring fatigue to a much greater degree than they could support under other circumstances. A similar result seems to take place in any change of mental exertion; the attention bestowed on the new subject not being so perfect at first as it becomes after some exercise.

221. 4. Change of tools. The employment of different tools in the successive processes is another cause of the loss of time in changing from one operation to another. If these tools are simple, and the change is not frequent, the loss of time is not considerable; but in many processes of the arts the tools are of great delicacy, requiring accurate adjustment every time they are used; and in many cases the time employed in adjusting bears a large proportion to that employed in using the tool. The sliding-rest, the dividing and the drilling-engine, are of this kind; and hence, in manufactories of sufficient extent, it is found to be good economy to keep one machine constantly employed in one kind of work: one lathe, for example, having a screw motion to its sliding-rest along the whole length of its bed, is kept constantly making cylinders; another, having a motion for equalizing the velocity of the work at the point at which it passes the tool, is kept for facing surfaces; whilst a third is constantly employed in cutting wheels.

222. 5. Skill acquired by frequent repetition of the same processes. The constant repetition of the same process necessarily produces in the workman a degree of excellence and rapidity in his particular department, which is never possessed by a person who is obliged to execute many different processes. This rapidity is still further increased from the circumstance that most of the operations in factories, where the division of labour is carried to a considerable extent, are paid for as piece-work. It is difficult to estimate in numbers the effect of this cause upon production. In nail-making, Adam Smith has stated, that it is almost three to one; for, he observes, that a smith accustomed to make nails, but whose whole business has not been that of a nailer, can make only from eight hundred to a thousand per day; whilst a lad who had never exercised any other trade, can make upwards of two thousand three hundred a day.

223. In different trades, the economy of production arising from the last-mentioned cause will necessarily be different. The case of nail-making is, perhaps, rather an extreme one. It must, however, be observed, that, in one sense, this is not a permanent source of advantage; for, though it acts at the commencement of an establishment, yet every month adds to the skill of the workmen; and at the end of three or four years they will not be very far behind those who have never practised any other branch of their art. Upon an occasion when a large issue of bank-notes was required, a clerk at the Bank of England signed his name, consisting of seven letters, including the initial of his Christian name, five thousand three hundred times during eleven working hours, besides arranging the notes he had signed in parcels of fifty each.

224. 6. The division of labour suggests the contrivance of tools and machinery to execute its processes. When each processes, by which any article is produced, is the sole occupation of one individual, his whole attention being devoted to a very limited and simple operation, improvements in the form of his tools, or in the mode of using them, are much more likely to occur to his mind, than if it were distracted by a greater variety of circumstances. Such an improvement in the tool is generally the first step towards a machine. If a piece of metal is to be cut in a lathe, for example, there is one particular angle at which the cutting-tool must be held to insure the cleanest cut; and it is quite natural that the idea of fixing the tool at that angle should present itself to an intelligent workman. The necessity of moving the tool slowly, and in a direction parallel to itself, would suggest the use of a screw, and thus arises the sliding-rest. It was probably the idea of mounting a chisel in a frame, to prevent its cutting too deeply, which gave rise to the common carpenter's plane. In cases where a blow from a hammer is employed, experience teaches the proper force required. The transition from the hammer held in the hand to one mounted upon an axis, and lifted regularly to a certain height by some mechanical contrivance, requires perhaps a greater degree of invention than those just instanced; yet it is not difficult to perceive, that, if the hammer always falls from the same height, its effect must be always the same.

225. When each process has been reduced to the use of some simple tool, the union of all these tools, actuated by one moving power, constitutes a machine. In contriving tools and simplifying processes, the operative workmen are, perhaps, most successful; but it requires far other habits to combine into one machine these scattered arts. A previous education as a workman in the peculiar trade, is undoubtedly a valuable preliminary; but in order to make such combinations with any reasonable expectation of success, an extensive knowledge of machinery, and the power of making mechanical drawings, are essentially requisite. These accomplishments are now much more common than they were formerly, and their absence was, perhaps, one of the causes of the multitude of failures in the early history of many of our manufactures.

226. Such are the principles usually assigned as the causes of the advantage resulting from the division of labour. As in the view I have taken of the question, the most important and influential cause has been altogether unnoticed, I shall restate those principles in the words of Adam Smith:

"The great increase in the quantity of work, which, in consequence of the division of labour, the same number of people are capable of performing, is owing to three different circumstances: first, to the increase of dexterity in every particular workman; secondly, to the saving of time, which is commonly lost in passing from one species of work to another; and, lastly, to the invention of a great number of machines which facilitate and abridge labour, and enable one man to do the work of many."

Now, although all these are important causes, and each has its influence on the result; yet it appears to me, that any explanation of the cheapness of manufactured articles, as consequent upon the division of labour, would be incomplete if the following principle were omitted to be stated.

That the master manufacturer, by dividing the work to be executed into different processes, each requiring different degrees of skill or of force, can purchase exactly that precise quantity of both which is necessary for each process; whereas, if the whole work were executed by one workman, that person must possess sufficient skill to perform the most difficult, and sufficient strength to execute the most laborious, of the operations into which the art is divided.(1*)

227. As the clear apprehension of this principle, upon which a great part of the economy arising from the division of labour depends, is of considerable importance, it may be desirable to point out its precise and numerical application in some specific manufacture. The art of making needles is, perhaps, that which I should have selected for this illustration, as comprehending a very large number of processes remarkably different in their nature; but the less difficult art of pinmaking, has some claim to attention, from its having been used by Adam Smith; and I am confirmed in the choice of it, by the circumstance of our possessing a very accurate and minute description of that art, as practised in France above half a century ago.

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