On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures
by Charles Babbage
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7
Home - Random Browse

Total embroidery, wages and profits 1,525,825 Ultimate total value 3,417,700

From this it appears, that in the operations of this trade, which had no existence twenty years ago, L120,000 original cost of cotton becomes, when manufactured, of the ultimate value of L3,242,700 sterling.

As to weekly wages paid, I hazard the following as the judgement of those conversant with the respective branches, viz.

In fine spinning and doubling, adults 25s.; children 7s.: work twelve hours per day.

In bobbin net making; men working machines, 18s.; apprentices, youths of fifteen or more, 10s.; by power, fifteen hours; by hand, eight to twelve hours, according to width.

In mending; children 4s.; women 8s.; work nine to fourteen hours ad libitum.

In winding, threading, etc., children and young women, 5s.: irregular work, according to the progress of machines.

In embroidery; children seven years old and upwards, 1s. to 3s.; work ten to twelve hours; women, if regularly at work, 5s. to 7s. 6d.; twelve to fourteen hours.

As an example of the effect of the wages of lace embroidery, etc., it may be observed, it is often the case that a stocking weaver in a country village will earn only 7s. a week, and his wife and children 7s. to 14s. more at the embroidery frame.

430. The principal part of the hand-machines employed in the bobbin net manufacture are worked in shops, forming part of, or attached to, private houses. The subjoined list will show the kinds of machinery employed, and classes of persons to whom it belongs.

Bobbin net machinery now at work in the Kingdom

Hand levers 6 quarter 500 Hand circulars 6 quarter 100 7 quarter 200 7 quarter 300 8 quarter 300 8 quarter 400 10 quarter 300 9 quarter 100 12 quarter 30 10 quarter 300 16 quarter 20 12 quarter 100 20 quarter 1 Hand transverse, pusher, Hand rotary 10 quarter 50 straight bolt, etc. averaging 5 quarters 750 12 quarter 50 2050 1451

Total hand machines 3501

Power 6 quarter 100 7 quarter 40 8 quarter 350 10 quarter 270 12 quarter 220 16 quarter 20 Total power machines 1000

Total number of machines 4501

700 persons own 1 machine, 700 machines. 226 2 452 181 3 543 96 4 384 40 5 200 21 6 126 17 7 119 19 8 152 17 9 153 12 10 120 8 11 88 6 12 72 5 13 65 5 14 70 4 16 64 25 own respectively 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 32, 33, 35, 36, 37, 50, 60, 68, 70, 75, 95, 105, 206 1192

Number of owners of machines—1382 Holding together 4500 machines.

The hand workmen consist of the above-named owners 1000 And of journeymen and apprentices 4000 5000

These machines are distributed as follows Nottingham 1240 New Radford 140 Old Radford and Bloomsgrove 240 Ison Green 160 Beeston and Chilwell 130 New and Old Snenton 180 Derby and its vicinity 185 Loughborough and its vicinity 385 Leicester 95 Mansfield 85 Tiverton 220 Barnstable l80 Chard 190 Isle of Wight 80 In sundry other places 990


Of the above owners, one thousand work in their own machines, and enter into the class of journeymen as well as that of masters in operating on the rate of wages. If they reduce the price of their goods in the market, they reduce their own wages first; and, of course, eventually the rate of wages throughout the trade. It is a very lamentable fact, that one-half, or more, of the one thousand one hundred persons specified in the list as owning one, two, and three machines, have been compelled to mortgage their machines for more than their worth in the market, and are in many cases totally insolvent. Their machines are principally narrow and making short pieces, while the absurd system of bleaching at so much a piece goods of all lengths and widths, and dressing at so much all widths, has caused the new machines to be all wide, and capable of producing long pieces; of course to the serious disadvantage, if not utter ruin, of the small owner of narrow machines.

It has been observed above, that wages have been reduced, say 25 per cent in the last two years, or from 24s. to 18s. a week. Machines have increased in the same time one-eighth in number, or from four thousand to four thousand five hundred, and one-sixth in capacity of production. It is deserving the serious notice of all proprietors of existing machines, that machines are now introducing into the trade of such power of production as must still more than ever depreciate (in the absence of an immensely increased demand) the value of their property.

431. From this abstract, we may form some judgement of the importance of the bobbin net trade. But the extent to which it bids fair to be carried in future, when the eastern markets shall be more open to our industry, may be conjectured from the fact which Mr Felkin subsequently states that 'We can export a durable and elegant article in cotton bobbin net, at 4d. per square yard, proper for certain useful and ornamental purposes, as curtains, etc.; and another article used for many purposes in female dress at 6d. the square yard.'

432. Of patents. In order to encourage the invention, the improvement, or the importation of machines, and of discoveries relating to manufactures, it has been the practice in many countries, to grant to the inventors or first introducers, an exclusive privilege for a term of years. Such monopolies are termed patents; and they are granted, on the payment of certain fees, for different periods, from five to twenty years.

The following table, compiled from the Report of the Committee of the House of Commons on Patents, 1829, shows the expense and duration of patents in various countries:

Countries; Expense (L s. d.); Term of years; Number granted in six years, ending in 1826.(Rep. p. 243.)

England; 120 0 0; 14; 914 Ireland; 125 0 0; 14; Scotland; 100 0 0; 14; America; 6 15 0; 14; France; 12 0 0; 5; 32 0 0; 10; 60 0 0; 15; 1091 Netherlands; L6 to L30; 5, 10. 15 Austria; 42 10 0; 15; 1099 Spain(3*) Inventor; 20 9 4; 15; Improver; 12 5 7; 10; Importer; 10 4 8; 6;

433. It is clearly of importance to preserve to each inventor the sole use of his invention, until he shall have been amply repaid for the risk and expense to which he has been exposed, as well as for the talent he has exerted in completing it. But, the degrees of merit are so various, and the difficulties of legislating upon the subject so great, that it has been found almost impossible to frame a law which shall not, practically, be open to the most serious objections.

The difficulty of defending an English patent in any judicial trial, is very great; and the number of instances on record in which the defence has succeeded, are comparatively few. This circumstance has induced some manufacturers, no longer to regard a patent as a privilege by which a monopoly price may be secured: but they sell the patent article at such a price, as will merely produce the ordinary profits of capital; and thus secure to themselves the fabrication of it, because no competitors can derive a profit from invading a patent so exercised.

434. The law of copyright, is, in some measure, allied to that of patents; and it is curious to observe, that those species of property which require the highest talent, and the greatest cultivation—which are, more than any other, the pure creations of mind—should have been the latest to be recognized by the State. Fortunately, the means of deciding on an infringement of property in regard to a literary production, are not verv difficult; but the present laws are, in some cases, productive of considerable hardship, as well as of impediment to the advancement of knowledge.

435. Whilst discussing the general expediency of limitations and restrictions, it may be desirable to point out one which seems to promise advantage, though by no means free from grave objections. The question of permitting by law, the existence of partnerships in which the responsibility of one or more of the partners is limited in amount, is peculiarly important in a manufacturing, as well as a commercial point of view. In the former light, it appears calculated to aid that division of labour, which we have already proved to be as advantageous in mental as it is in bodily operations; and it might possibly give rise to a more advantageous distribution of talent, and its combinations, than at present exists. There are in this country, many persons possessed of moderate capital, who do not themselves enjoy the power of invention in the mechanical and chemical arts, but who are tolerable judges of such inventions, and excellent judges of human character. Such persons might, with great success, employ themselves in finding out inventive workmen, whose want of capital prevents them from realizing their projects. If they could enter into a limited partnership with persons so circumstanced, they might restrain within proper bounds the imagination of the inventor, and by supplying capital to judicious schemes, render a service to the country, and secure a profit for themselves.

436. Amongst the restrictions intended for the general benefit of our manufacturers, there existed a few years ago one by which workmen were forbidden to go out of the country. A law so completely at variance with everv principle of liberty, ought never to have been enacted. It was not, however, until experience had convinced the legislature of its inefficiency, that it was repealed. * When, after the last war, the renewed intercourse between England and the Continent became extensive, it was soon found that it was impossible to discover the various disguises which the workmen could assume; and the effect of the law was rather, by the fear of punishment, to deter those who had left the country from returning, than to check their disposition to migrate.

436. (4*) The principle, that government Ought to interfere as little as possible between workmen and their employers, is so well established, that it is important to guard against its misapplication. It is not inconsistent with this principle to insist on the workmen being paid in money—for this is merely to protect them from being deceived; and still less is it a deviation from it to limit the number of hours during which children shall work in factories, or the age at which they shall commence that species of labour—for they are not free agents, nor are they capable of judging, if they were; and both policy and humanity concur in demanding for them some legislative protection. In both cases it is as right and politic to protect the weaker party from fraud or force, as it would be impolitic and unjust to interfere with the amount of the wages of either.


1. Twenty eight shillings per cwt for the finer, twenty one shillings per cwt for the coarser papers.

2. I cannot omit the opportunity of expressing my hope that this example will be followed in other trades. We should thus obtain a body of information equally important to the workman, the capitalist, the philosopher, and the stateman.

3. The expense of a patent in Spain is stated in the report to be respecitivly 2000, 1200 and 1000 reals. If these are reals of vellon, in which accounts are usually kept at Madrid, the above sums are correct; but if they are reals of plate, the above sums ought to be nearly doubled.

4. In the year 1824 the law against workmen going abroad, as well as the laws preventing them from combining, were repealed, after the fullest enquiry by a Committee of the House of Commons. In 1825 an attempt to re-enact some of the most objectionable was made, but it failed.

Chapter 34

On the Exportation of Machinery

437. A few years only have elapsed, since our workmen were not merely prohibited by Act of Parliament from transporting themselves to countries in which their industry would produce for them higher wages, but were forbidden to export the greater part of the machinery which they were employed to manufacture at home. The reason assigned for this prohibition was, the apprehension that foreigners might av ail themselves of our improved machinery, and thus compete with our manufacturers. It was, in fact, a sacrifice of the interests of one class of persons, the makers of machinery, for the imagined benefit of another class, those who use it. Now, independently of the impolicy of interfering, without necessity, between these two classes, it may be observed, that the first class, or the makers of machinery, are, as a body, far more intelligent than those who only use it; and though, at present, they are not nearly so numerous, yet, when the removal of the prohibition which cramps their ingenuity shall have had time to operate, there appears good reason to believe, that their number will be greatly increased, and may, in time, even surpass that of those who use machinery.

438. The advocates of these prohibitions in England seem to rely greatly upon the possibility of preventing the knowledge of new contrivances from being conveyed to other countries; and they take much too limited a view of the possible, and even probable, improvements in mechanics.

439. For the purpose of examining this question, let us consider the case of two manufacturers of the same article, one situated in a country in which labour is very cheap, the machinery bad, and the modes of transport slow and expensive; the other engaged in manufacturing in a country in which the price of labour is very high, the machinery excellent, and the means of transport expeditious and economical. Let them both send their produce to the same market, and let each receive such a price as shall give to him the profit ordinarily produced by capital in his own country. It is almost certain that in such circumstances the first improvement in machinery will occur in the country which is most advanced in civilization; because, even admitting that the ingenuity to contrive were the same in the two countries, the means of execution are very different. The effect of improved machinery in the rich country will be perceived in the common market, by a small fall in the price of the manufactured article. This will be the first intimation to the manufacturer of the poor country, who will endeavour to meet the diminution in the selling price of his article by increased industry and economy in his factory, but he will soon find that this remedy is temporary, and that the market-price continues to fall. He will thus be induced to examine the rival fabric, in order to detect, from its structure, any improved mode of making it. If, as would most usually happen, he should be unsuccessful in this attempt, he must endeavour to contrive improvements in his own machinery, or to acquire information respecting those which have been made in the factories of the richer country. Perhaps after an ineffectual attempt to obtain by letters the information he requires, he sets out to visit in person the factories of his competitors. To a foreigner and rival manufacturer such establishments are not easily accessible, and the more recent the improvements, the less likely he will be to gain access to them. His next step, therefore, will be to obtain the knowledge he is in search of from the workmen employed in using or making the machines. Without drawings, or an examination of the machines themselves, this process will be slow and tedious; and he will be liable, after all, to be deceived by artful and designing workmen, and be exposed to many chances of failure. But suppose he returns to his own country with perfect drawings and instructions, he must then begin to construct his improved machines: and these he cannot execute either so cheaply or so well as his rivals in the richer countries. But after the lapse of some time, we shall suppose the machines thus laboriously improved, to be at last completed, and in working order.

440. Let us now consider what will have occurred to the manufacturer in the rich country. He will, in the first instance, have realized a profit by supplying the home market, at the usual price, with an article which it costs him less to produce; he will then reduce the price both in the home and foreign market, in order to produce a more extended sale. It is in this stage that the manufacturer in the poor country first feels the effect of the competition; and if we suppose only two or three years to elapse between the first application of the new improvement in the rich country, and the commencement of its employment in the poor country, yet will the manufacturer who contrived the improvement (even supposing that during the whole of this time he has made only one step) have realized so large a portion of the outlay which it required, that he can afford to make a much greater reduction in the price of his produce, and thus to render the gains of his rivals quite inferior to his own.

441. It is contended that by admitting the exportation of machinery, foreign manufacturers will be supplied with machines equal to our own. The first answer which presents itself to this argument is supplied by almost the whole of the present volume; That in order to succeed in a manufacture, it is necessary not merely to possess good machinery, but that the domestic economy of the factory should be most carefully regulated.

The truth, as well as the importance of this principle, is so well established in the Report of a Committee of the House of Commons 'On the Export of Tools and Machinery', that I shall avail myself of the opinions and evidence there stated, before I offer any observations of my own:

Supposing, indeed, that the same machinery which is used in England could be obtained on the Continent, it is the opinion of some of the most intelligent of the witnesses that a want of arrangement in foreign manufactories, of division of labour in their work, of skill and perseverance in their workmen, and of enterprise in the masters, together with the comparatively low estimation in which the master manufacturers are held on the Continent, and with the comparative want of capital, and of many other advantageous circumstances detailed in the evidence, would prevent foreigners from interfering in any great degree by competition with our principal manufacturers; on which subject the Committee submit the following evidence as worthy the attention of the House:

I would ask whether, upon the whole, you consider any danger likely to arise to our manufactures from competition, even if the French were supplied with machinery equally good and cheap as our own? They will always be behind us until their general habits approximate to ours; and they must be behind us for many reasons that I have before given.

Why must they be behind us? One other reason is, that a cotton manufacturer who left Manchester seven years ago, would be driven out of the market by the men who are now living in it, provided his knowledge had not kept pace with those who have been during that time constantly profiting by the progressive improvements that have taken place in that period: this progressive knowledge and experience is our great power and advantage.

It should also be observed, that the constant, nay, almost daily, improvements which take place in our machinery itself, as well as in the mode of its application, require that all those means and advantages alluded to above should be in constant operation: and that, in the opinion of several of the witnesses, although Europe were possessed of every tool now used in the United Kingdom, along with the assistance of English artisans, which she may have in any number, yet, from the natural and acquired advantages possessed by this country, the manufacturers of the United Kingdom would for ages continue to retain the superiority they now enjoy. It is indeed the opinion of many, that if the exportation of machinery were permitted, the exportation would often consist of those tools and machines, which, although already superseded by new inventions, still continue to be employed, from want of opportunity to get rid of them: to the detriment, in many instances, of the trade and manufactures of the country: and it is matter worthy of consideration, and fully borne out by the evidence, that by such increased foreign demand for machinery, the ingenuity and skill of our workmen would have greater scope; and that, important as the improvements in machinery have lately been, they might, under such circumstances, be fairly expected to increase to a degree beyond all precedent.

The many important facilities for the construction of machines and the manufacturing of commodities which we possess, are enjoyed by no other country; nor is it likely that any country can enjoy them to an equal extent for an indefinite period. It is admitted by everyone, that our skill is unrivalled; the industry and power of our people unequalled; their ingenuity, as displayed in the continuol improvement in machinery, and production of commodities, without parallel; and apparently, without limit. The freedom which, under our government, every man has, to use his capital, his labour, and his talents, in the manner most conducive to his interests, is an inestimable advantage; canals are cut, and railroads constructed, by the voluntary association of persons whose local knowledge enables them to place them in the most desirable situations; and these great advantages cannot exist under less free governments. These circumstances, when taken together, give such a decided superiority to our people, that no injurious rivalry, either in the construction of machinery or the manufacture of commodities, can reasonably be anticipated.

442. But, even if it were desirable to prevent the exportation of a certain class of machinery, it is abdundantly evident, that, whilst the exportation of other classes is allowed, it is impossible to prevent the forbidden one from being smuggled out; and that, in point of fact, the additional risk has been well calculated by the smuggler.

443. It would appear, also, from various circumstances, that the immediate exportation of improved machinery is not quite so certain as has been assumed; and that the powerful principle of self-interest will urge the makers of it, rather to push the sale in a different direction. When a great maker of machinery has contrived a new machine for any particular process, or has made some great improvement upon those in common use, to whom will he naturally apply for the purpose of selling his new machines? Undoubtedly, in by far the majority of cases, to his nearest and best customers, those to whom he has immediate and personal access, and whose capability to fulfil any contract is best known to him. With these, he will communicate and offer to take their orders for the new machine; nor will he think of writing to foreign customers, so long as he finds the home demand sufficient to employ the whole force of his establishment. Thus, therefore, the machine-maker is himself interested in giving the first advantage of any new improvement to his own countrymen.

444. In point of fact, the machine-makers in London greatly prefer home orders, and do usually charge an additional price to their foreign customers. Even the measure of this preference may be found in the evidence before the Committee on the Export of Machinery. It is differently estimated by various engineers; but appears to vary from five up to twenty-five per cent on the amount of the order. The reasons are: 1. If the machinery be complicated, one of the best workmen, well accustomed to the mode of work in the factory, must be sent out to put it up; and there is always a considerable chance of his having offers that will induce him to remain abroad. 2. If the work be of a more simple kind, and can be put up without the help of an English workman, yet for the credit of the house which supplies it, and to prevent the accidents likely to occur from the want of sufficient instruction in those who use it, the parts are frequently made stronger, and examined more attentively, than they would be for an English purchaser. Any defect or accident also would be attended with more expense to repair, if it occurred abroad, than in England.

445. The class of workmen who make machinery, possess much more skill, and are paid much more highly than that class who merely use it; and, if a free exportation were allowed, the more valuable class would, undoubtedly, be greatly increased; for, notwithstanding the high rate of wages, there is no country in whichit can at this moment be made, either so well or so cheaply as in England. We might, therefore, supply the whole world with machinery, at an evident advantage, both to ourselves and our customers. In Manchester, and the surrounding district, many thousand men are wholly occupied in making the machinery, which gives employment to many hundred thousands who use it; but the period is not very remote, when the whole number of those who used machines, was not greater than the number of those who at present manufacture them. Hence, then, if England should ever become a great exporter of machinery, she would necessarily contain a large class of workmen, to whom skill would be indispensable, and, consequently, to whom high wages would be paid; and although her manufacturers might probably be comparatively fewer in number, yet they would undoubtedly have the advantage of being the first to derive profit from improvement. Under such circumstances, any diminution in the demand for machinery, would, in the first instance, be felt by a class much better able to meet it, than that which now suffers upon every check in the consumption of manufactured goods; and the resulting misery would therefore assume a mitigated character.

446. It has been feared, that when other countries have purchased our machines, they will cease to demand new ones: but the statement which has been given of the usual progress in the improvement of the machinery employed in any manufacture, and of the average time which elapses before it is superseded by such improvements, is a complete reply to this objection. If our customers abroad did not adopt the new machinery contrived by us as soon as they could procure it, then our manufacturers would extend their establishments, and undersell their rivals in their own markets.

447. It may also be urged, that in each kind of machinery a maximum of perfection may be imagined, beyond which it is impossible to advance; and certainly the last advances are usually the smallest when compared with those which precede them: but it should be observed, that these advances are generally made when the number of machines in employment is already large; and when, consequently, their effects on the power of producing are very considerable. But though it should be admitted that any one species of machinery may, after a long period, arrive at a degree of perfection which would render further improvement nearly hopeless, yet it is impossible to suppose that this can be the case with respect to all kinds of mechanism. In fact the limit of improvement is rarely approached, except in extensive branches of national manufactures; and the number of such branches is, even at present, very small.

448. Another argument in favour of the exportation of machinery, is, that it would facilitate the transfer of capital to any more advantageous mode of employment which might present itself. If the exportation of machinery were permitted, there would doubtless arise a new and increased demand; and, supposing any particular branch of our manufactures to cease to produce the average rate of profit, the loss to the capitalist would be much less, if a market were open for the sale of his machinery to customers more favourably circumstanced for its employment. If, on the other hand, new improvements in machinery should be imagined, the manufacturer would be more readily enabled to carry them into effect, by having the foreign market opened where he could sell his old machines. The fact, that England can, notwithstanding her taxation and her high rate of wages, actually undersell other nations, seems to be well established: and it appears to depend on the superior goodness and cheapness of those raw materials of machinery the metals—on the excellence of the tools—and on the admirable arrangements of the domestic economy of our factories.

449. The different degrees of facility with which capital can be transferred from one mode of employment to another, has an important effect on the rate of profits in different trades and in different countries. Supposing all the other causes which influence the rate of profit at any period, to act equally on capital employed in different occupations, yet the real rates of profit would soon alter, on account of the different degrees of loss incurred by removing the capital from one mode of investment to another, or of any variation in the action of those causes.

450. This principle will appear more clearly by taking an example. Let two capitalists have embarked L10,000 each, in two trades: A in supplying a district with water, by means of a steam-engine and iron pipes; B in manufacturing bobbin net. The capital of A will be expended in building a house and erecting a steam-engine, which costs, we shall suppose, L3000; and in laying down iron pipes to supply his customers, costing L7000. The greatest part of this latter expense is payment for labour, and if the pipes were to be taken up, the damage arising from that operation would render them of little value, except as old metal; whilst the expense of their removal would be considerable. Let us, therefore, suppose, that if A were obliged to give up his trade, he could realize only L4000 by the sale of his stock. Let us suppose again that B, by the sale of his bobbin net factory and machinery, could realize L8000 and let the usual profit on the capital employed by each party be the same, say 20 per cent: then we have

Capital invested; Money which would arise from sale of machinery; Annual rate of profit per cent; Income

L L L L Water works 10,000 4000 20 2000 Bobbin net Factory 10,000 8000 20 2000

Now, if, from competition, or any other cause, the rate of profit arising from water-works should fall to 20 per cent, that circumstance would not cause a transfer of capital from the water-works to bobbin net making; because the reduced income from the water-works, L1000 per annum, would still be greater than that produced by investing L4000, (the whole sum arising from the sale of the materials of the water-works), in a bobbin net factory, which sum, at 20 per cent, would yield only L800 per annum. In fact, the rate of profit, arising from the water-works, must fall to less than 8 per cent before the proprietor could increase his income by removing his capital into the bobbin net trade.

451. In any enquiry into the probability of the injury arising to our manufacturers from the competition of foreign countries, particular regard should be had to the facilities of transport, and to the existence in our own country of a mass of capital in roads, canals, machinery, etc., the greater portion of which may fairly be considered as having repaid the expense of its outlay, and also to the cheap rate at which the abundance of our fuel enables us to produce iron, the basis of almost all machinery. It has been justly remarked by M. de Villefosse, in the memoir before alluded to, that Ce que l'on nomme en France, la question du prix des fers, est, a proprement parler, la question du prix des bois, et la question, des moyens de communications interieures par les routes, fleuves, rivieres et canaux.

The price of iron in various countries in Europe has been stated in section 215 of the present volume; and it appears, that in England it is produced at the least expense, and in France at the greatest. The length of the roads which cover England and Wales may be estimated roughly at twenty thousand miles of turnpike, and one hundred thousand miles of road not turnpike. The internal water communication of England and France, as far as I have been able to collect information on the subject, may be stated as follows:

In France

Miles in length

Navigable rivers 4668 Navigable canals 915.5 Navigable canals in progress of execution (1824) 1388

6971.5 (1*)

But, if we reduce these numbers in the proportion of 3.7 to 1, which is the relative area of France as compared with England and Wales, then we shall have the following comparison:

Portion of France equal in size to England and Wales

England(2*) Miles Miles

Navigable rivers 1275.5 1261.6 Tidal navigation(3*) 545.9 Canals, direct 2023.5 Canals, branch 150.6

2174.1 2174.1 247.4 Canals commenced —- 375.1

Total 3995.5 1884.1

Population in 1831 13,894,500 8,608,500

This comparison, between the internal communications of the two countries, is not offered as complete; nor is it a fair view, to contrast the wealthiest portion of one country with the whole of the other: but it is inserted with the hope of inducing those who possess more extensive information on the subject, to supply the facts on which a better comparison may be instituted. The information to be added, would consist of the number of miles in each country, of seacoast, of public roads, of railroads, of railroads on which locomotive engines are used.

452. One point of view, in which rapid modes of conveyance increase the power of a country, deserves attention. On the Manchester Railroad, for example, above half a million of persons travel annually; and supposing each person to save only one hour in the time of transit, between Manchester and Liverpool, a saving of five hundred thousand hours, or of fifty thousand working days, of ten hours each, is effected. Now this is equivalent to an addition to the actual power of the country of one hundred and sixty-seven men, without increasing the quantity of food consumed; and it should also be remarked, that the time of the class of men thus supplied, is far more valuable than that of mere labourers.


1. This table is extracted and reduced from one of Ravinet, Dictionnaire Hydrographique. 2 vols. 8vo. Paris. 1824.

2. I am indebted to F. Page. Esq. of Speen, for that portion of this table which relates to the internal navigation of England. Those only who have themselves collected statistical details can be aware of the expense of time and labour, of which the few lines it contains are the result.

3. The tidal navigation includes: the Thames, from the mouth of the Medway; the Severn, from the Holmes: the Trent, from Trent Falls in the Humber; the Mersey from Runcorn Gap.

Chapter 35

On the Future Prospects of Manufactures, as Connected with Science

453. In reviewing the various processes offered as illustrations of those general principles which it has been the main object of the present volume to support and establish, it is impossible not to perceive that the arts and manufactures of the country are intimately connected with the progress of the severer sciences; and that, as we advance in the career of improvement, every step requires, for its success, that this connection should be rendered more intimate.

The applied sciences derive their facts from experiment; but the reasonings, on which their chief utility depends, are the province of what is called abstract science. It has been shown, that the division of labour is no less applicable to mental productions than to those in which material bodies are concerned; and it follows, that the efforts for the improvement of its manufactures which any country can make with the greatest probability of success, must arise from the combined exertions of all those most skilled in the theory, as well as in the practice of the arts; each labouring in that department for which his natural capacity and acquired habits have rendered him most fit.

454. The profit arising from the successful application to practice of theoretical principles, will, in most cases, amply reward, in a pecuniary sense, those by whom they are first employed; yet even here, what has been stated with respect to patents, will prove that there is room for considerable amendment in our legislative enactments: but the discovery of the great principles of nature demands a mind almost exclusively devoted to such investigations; and these, in the present state of science, frequently require costly apparatus, and exact an expense of time quite incompatible with professional avocations. It becomes, therefore, a fit subject for consideration, whether it would not be politic in the State to compensate for some of those privations, to which the cultivators of the higher departments of science are exposed; and the best mode of effecting this compensation, is a question which interests both the philosopher and the statesman. Such considerations appear to have had their just influence in other countries, where the pursuit of science is regarded as a profession, and where those who are successful in its cultivation are not shut out from almost every object of honourable ambition to which their fellow countrymen may aspire. Having, however, already expressed some opinion upon these subjects in another publication,(1*) I shall here content myself with referring to that work.

455. There was, indeed, in our own country, one single position to which science, when concurring with independent fortune, might aspire, as conferring rank and station, an office deriving, in the estimation of the public, more than half its value from the commanding knowledge of its possessor; and it is extraordinary, that even that solitary dignity—that barony by tenure in the world of British science—the chair of the Royal Society, should have been coveted for adventitious rank. It is more extraordinary, that a Prince, distinguished by the liberal views he has invariably taken of public affairs—and eminent for his patronage of every institution calculated to alleviate those miseries from which, by his rank, he is himself exempted—who is stated by his friends to be the warm admirer of knowledge, and most anxious for its advancement, should have been so imperfectly informed by those friends, as to have wrested from the head of science, the only civic wreath which could adorn its brow.(2*)

In the meanwhile the President may learn, through the only medium by which his elevated station admits approach, that those evils which were anticipated from his election, have not proved to be imaginary, and that the advantages by some expected to result from it, have not yet become apparent. It may be right also to state, that whilst many of the inconveniences, which have been experienced by the President of the Royal Society, have resulted from the conduct of his own supporters, those who were compelled to differ from him, have subsequently offered no vexatious opposition: they wait in patience, convinced that the force of truth must ultimately work its certain, though silent course; not doubting that when His Royal Highness is correctly informed, he will himself be amongst the first to be influenced by its power.

456. But younger institutions have arisen to supply the deficiencies of the old; and very recently a new combination, differing entirely from the older societies, promises to give additional steadiness to the future march of science. The British Association for the Advancement of Science, which held its first meeting at York(3*) in the year 1831, would have acted as a powerful ally, even if the Royal Society were all that it might be: but in the present state of that body such an association is almost necessary for the purposes of science. The periodical assemblage of persons, pursuing the same or different branches of knowledge, always produces an excitement which is favourable to the development of new ideas; whilst the long period of repose which succeeds, is advantageous for the prosecution of the reasonings or the experiments then suggested; and the recurrence of the meeting in the succeeding year, will stimulate the activity of the enquirer, by the hope of being then enabled to produce the successful result of his labours. Another advantage is, that such meetings bring together a much larger number of persons actively engaged in science, or placed in positions in which they can contribute to it, than can ever be found at the ordinary meetings of other institutions, even in the most populous capitals; and combined effort towards any particular object can thus be more easily arranged.

457. But perhaps the greatest benefit which will accrue from these assemblies, is the intercourse which they cannot fail to promote between the different classes of society. The man of science will derive practical information from the great manufacturers the chemist will be indebted to the same source for substances which exist in such minute quantity, as only to become visible in most extensive operations—and persons of wealth and property, resident in each neighbourhood visited by these migratory assemblies, will derive greater advantages than either of those classes, from the real instruction they may procure respecting the produce and manufactures of their country, and the enlightened gratification which is ever attendant on the acquisition of knowledge.(4*)

458. Thus it may be hoped that public opinion shall be brought to bear upon the world of science; and that by this intercourse light will be thrown upon the characters of men, and the pretender and the charlatan be driven into merited obscurity. Without the action of public opinion, any administration, however anxious to countenance the pursuits of science, and however ready toreward, by wealth or honours, those whom they might think most eminent, would run the risk of acting like the blind man recently couched, who, having no mode of estimating degrees of distance, mistook the nearest and most insignificant for the largest objects in nature: it becomes, therefore, doubly important, that the man of science should mix with the world.

459. It is highly probable that in the next generation, the race of scientific men in England will spring from a class of persons altogether different from that which has hitherto scantily supplied them. Requiring, for the success of their pursuits, previous education, leisure, and fortune, few are so likely to unite these essentials as the sons of our wealthy manufacturers, who, having been enriched by their own exertions, in a field connected with science, will be ambitious of having their children distinguished in its ranks. It must, however, be admitted, that this desire in the parents would acquire great additional intensity, if worldly honours occasionally followed successful efforts; and that the country would thus gain for science, talents which are frequently rendered useless by the unsuitable situations in which they are placed.

460. The discoverers of iodine and bromine, two substances hitherto undecompounded, were both amongst the class of manufacturers, one being a maker of saltpetre at Paris, the other a manufacturing chemist at Marseilles; and the inventor of balloons filled with rarefied air, was a paper manufacturer near Lyons. The descendants of Mongolfier, the first aerial traveller, still carry onthe establishment of their progenitor, and combine great scientific knowledge with skill in various departments of the arts, to which the different branches of the family have applied themselves.

461. Chemical science may, in many instances, be of great importance to the manufacturer, as well as to the merchant. The quantity of Peruvian bark which is imported into Europe is very considerable; but chemistry has recently proved that a large portion of the bark itself is useless. The alkali Quinia which has been extracted from it, possesses all the properties for which the bark is valuable, and only forty ounces of this substance, when in combination with sulphuric acid, can be extracted from a hundred pounds of the bark. In this instance then, with every ton of useful matter, thirty-nine tons of rubbish are transported across the Atlantic.

The greatest part of the sulphate of quinia now used in this country is imported from France, where the low price of the alcohol, by which it is extracted from the bark, renders the process cheap; but it cannot be doubted, that when more settled forms of government shall have given security to capital, and when advancing civilization shall have spread itself over the states of Southern America, the alkaline medicine will be extracted from the woody matter by which its efficacy is impaired, and that it will be exported in its most condensed form.

462. The aid of chemistry, in extracting and in concentrating substances used for human food, is of great use in distant voyages, where the space occupied by the stores must be economized with the greatest care. Thus the essential oils supply the voyager with flavour; the concentrated and crystallized vegetable acids preserve his health; and alcohol, when sufficiently diluted, supplies the spirit necessary for his daily consumption.

463. When we reflect on the very small number of species of plants, compared with the multitude that are known to exist, which have hitherto been cultivated, and rendered useful to man; and when we apply the same observation to the animal world, and even to the mineral kingdom, the field that natural science opens to our view seems to be indeed unlimited. These productions of nature, varied and innumerable as they are, may each, in some future day, become the basis of extensive manufactures, and give life, employment, and wealth, to millions of human beings. But the crude treasures perpetually exposed before our eyes, contain within them other and more valuable principles. All these, likewise, in their numberless combinations, which ages of labour and research can never exhaust, may be destined to furnish, in perpetual succession, new sources of our wealth and of our happiness. Science and knowledge are subject, in their extension and increase, to laws quite opposite to those which regulate the material world. Unlike the forces of molecular attraction, which cease at sensible distances; or that of gravity, which decreases rapidly with the increasing distance from the point of its origin; the further we advance from the origin of our knowledge, the larger it becomes, and the greater power it bestows upon its cultivators, to add new fields to its dominions. Yet, does this continually and rapidly increasing power, instead of giving us any reason to anticipate the exhaustion of so fertile a field, place us at each advance, on some higher eminence, from which the mind contemplates the past, and feels irresistibly convinced, that the whole, already gained, bears a constantly diminishing ratio to that which is contained within the still more rapidly expanding horizon of our knowledge.

464. But, if the knowledge of the chemical and physical properties of the bodies which surround us, as well as our imperfect acquaintance with the less tangible elements, light, electricity, and heat, which mysteriously modify or change their combinations, concur to convince us of the same fact; we must remember that another and a higher science, itself still more boundless, is also advancing with a giant's stride, and having grasped the mightier masses of the universe, and reduced their wanderings to laws, has given to us in its own condensed language, expressions, which are to the past as history, to the future as prophecy. It is the same science which is now preparing its fetters for the minutest atoms that nature has created: already it has nearly chained the ethereal fluid, and bound in one harmonious system all the intricate and splendid phenomena of light. It is the science of calculation—which becomes continually more necessary at each step of our progress, and which must ultimately govern the whole of the applications of science to the arts of life.

465. But perhaps a doubt may arise in the mind, whilst contemplating the continually increasing field of human knowledge, that the weak arm of man may want the physical force required to render that knowledge available. The experience of the past, has stamped with the indelible character of truth, the maxim, that knowledge is power. It not merely gives to its votaries control over the mental faculties of their species, but is itself the generator of physical force. The discovery of the expansive power of steam, its condensation, and the doctrine of latent heat, has already added to the population of this small island, millions of hands. But the source of this power is not without limit, and the coal-mines of the world may ultimately be exhausted. Without adverting to the theory, that new deposits of that mineral are not accumulating under the sea, at the estuaries of some of our larger rivers; without anticipating the application of other fluids requiring a less supply of caloric than water—we may remark that the sea itself offers a perennial source of power hitherto almost unapplied. The tides, twice in each day, raise a vast mass of water, which might be made available for driving machinery. But supposing heat still to remain necessary, when the exhausted state of our coal fields renders it expensive: long before that period arrives, other methods will probably have been invented for producing it. In some districts, there are springs of hot water, which have flowed for centuries unchanged in temperature. In many parts of the island of Ischia, by deepening the sources of the hot springs only a few feet, the water boils; and there can be little doubt that, by boring a short distance, steam of high pressure would issue from the orifice.(5*)

In Iceland, the sources of heat are still more plentiful; and their proximity to large masses of ice, seems almost to point out the future destiny of that island. The ice of its glaciers may enable its inhabitants to liquefy the gases with the least expenditure of mechanical force; and the heat of its volcanoes may supply the power necessary for their condensation. Thus, in a future age, power may become the staple commodity of the Icelanders, and of the inhabitants of other volcanic districts;(6*) and possibly the very process by which they will procure this article of exchange for the luxuries of happier climates may, in some measure, tame the tremendous element which occasionally devastates their provinces.

466. Perhaps to the sober eye of inductive philosophy, these anticipations of the future may appear too faintly connected with the history of the past. When time shall have revealed the future progress of our race, those laws which are now obscurely indicated, will then become distinctly apparent; and it may possibly be found that the dominion of mind over the material world advances with an everaccelerating force.

Even now, the imprisoned winds which the earliest poet made the Grecian warrior bear for the protection of his fragile bark; or those which, in more modern times, the Lapland wizards sold to the deluded sailors—these, the unreal creations of fancy or of fraud, called at the command of science, from their shadowy existence, obey a holier spell: and the unruly masters of the poet and the seer become the obedient slaves of civilized man.

Nor have the wild imaginings of the satirist been quite unrivalled by the realities of after years: as if in mockery of the College of Laputa, light almost solar has been extracted from the refuse of fish; fire has been sifted by the lamp of Davy, and machinery has been taught arithmetic instead of poetry.

467. In whatever light we examine the triumphs and achievements of our species over the creation submitted to its power, we explore new sources of wonder. But if science has called into real existence the visions of the poet—if the accumulating knowledge of ages has blunted the sharpest and distanced the loftiest of the shafts of the satirist, the philosopher has conferred on the moralist an obligation of surpassing weight. In unveiling to him the living miracles which teem in rich exuberance around the minutest atom, as well as throughout the largest masses of ever-active matter, he has placed before him resistless evidence of immeasurable design. Surrounded by every form of animate and inanimate existence, the sun of science has yet penetrated but through the outer fold of nature's majestic robe; but if the philosopher were required to separate, from amongst those countless evidences of creative power, one being, the masterpiece of its skill; and from that being to select one gift, the choicest of all the attributes of life; turning within his own breast, and conscious of those powers which have subjugated to his race the external world, and of those higher powers by which he has subjugated to himself that creative faculty which aids his faltering conceptions of a deity, the humble worshipper at the altar of truth would pronounce that being, man; that endowment, human reason.

But however large the interval that separates the lowest from the highest of those sentient beings which inhabit our planet, all the results of observation, enlightened by all the reasonings of the philosopher, combine to render it probable that, in the vast extent of creation, the proudest attribute of our race is but, perchance, the lowest step in the gradation of intellectual existence. For, since every portion of our own material globe, and every animated being it supports, afford, on more scrutinizing enquiry, more perfect evidence of design, it would indeed be most unphilosophical to believe that those sister spheres, obedient to the same law, and glowing with light and heat radiant from the same central source—and that the members of those kindred systems, almost lost in the remoteness of space, and perceptible only from the countless multitude of their congregated globes should each be no more than a floating chaos of unformed matter; or, being all the work of the same Almighty Architect, that no living eye should be gladdened by their forms of beauty, that no intellectual being should expand its faculties in decyphering their laws.


1. Reflections on the Decline of Science in England, and on some of its Causes. 8vo. 1830. Fellowes.

2. The Duke of Sussex was proposed as President of the Royal Society in opposition to the wish of the Council in opposition to the public declaration of a body of Fellows, comprising the largest portion of those by whose labours the character of English science had been maintained The aristocracy of rank and of power, aided by such allies as it can always command, set itself in array against the prouder aristocracy of science. Out of about seven hundred members, only two hundred and thirty balloted; and the Duke of Sussex had a majority of eight. Under such circumstances, it was indeed extraordinary, that His Royal Highness should have condescended to accept the fruits of that doubtful and inauspicious victory.

The circumstances preceding and attending this singular contest have been most ably detailed in a pamphlet entitled A Statement of the Circumstances connected with the late Election for the, Presidency of the Royal Society, 1831, printed by R. Taylor, Red Lion Court, Fleet Street. The whole tone of the tract is strikingly contrasted with that of the productions of some of those persons by whom it was His Royal Highness's misfortune to be supported.

3. The second meeting took place at Oxford in June, 1932, and surpassed even the sanguine anticipations of its friends. The third annual meeting will take place at Cambridge in June 1833.

4 The advantages likely to arise from such an association, have been so clearly stated in the address delivered by the Rev. Mr Vernon Harcourt, at its first meeting, that I would strongly recommend its perusal by all those who feel interested in the success of English science. Vide First Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, York. 1832.

5 In 1828, the author of these pages visited Ischia, with a committee of the Royal Academy of Naples, deputed to examine the temperature and chrmical constitution of the springs in that island. During the few first days, several springs which had been represented in the instructions as under the boiling temperature, were found, on deepening the excavations, to rise to the boiling point.

6 See section 351.


Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7
Home - Random Browse