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leet committee; and the motion led The statements made by those to a debate, which, by adjourn- engaged in another branch, the ment, continued during two even- broad silk manufacturers, were; it ings. The mover disclaimed every was argued, if true, equally conidea of being an opponent of the clusive; and to have an opportuprinciples of free trade, to the in- nity of ascertaining their truth or troduction of which he himself had falsehood, was the only object of lent his assistance; but, in their the motion. They positively stated, application, an error had been com- that the additional expense to the mitted in beginning at the wrong manufacturer here, over that of place. The currency ought to the French manufacturer, was have been rectified, steadiness of equal to from fifty to sixty per prices ought to have been secured cent. The protecting duty of by a revision of the Corn-laws, and thirty per cent, established by the the price of labour diminished by act of 1824, could afford no adea reduction of taxation, before ven- quate protection. That duty had turing on an interference with any been fixed principally upon the particular manufacture. Even as evidence of two American gentlethe matter now stood, he did not men, given before the committee argue that the allegations of the of the House of Lords, to the effect petitioners should be taken for that French silks were produced granted ; but he certainly thought, at about from twenty-five to that, when made so distinctly, and thirty per cent cheaper than those of so much importance, if they of England. This was now averred were true, they were most proper to be altogether incorrect, and it subjects of investigation for a com- was only right to ascertain whemittee. The throwsters, one essen- ther or not it was so.
What rential department of the manufac- dered such inquiry doubly necesture, while they fairly allowed that, sary was, the fact, that one great knowing the state of machinery motive in passing the bill of 1824, on the continent, they felt no appre- had been the prospect and the inhensions from competition on this tention of encouraging the export head, yet firmly asserted, that the of home-made silk. But the result quantity of human labour required, had been the contrary. At the last independent of machinery, was so sale at the India-house, the prices great, and the price of that labour, of Chinese silks were, as marked when compared with its value in in the bills, damask furniture silk, continental countries, was so high, from 5s. to 6s. 6d. per yard, and that, under the protecting duty the duty on this article was from only, it would be impossible for 2s. to 1s. 6d. per yard, making them to continue the trade : that the whole cost to be from seven to their establishments must be aban- eight shillings. But no English doned, their capital withdrawn, manufacturer could produce the and their numerous apprentices be same article at double that price. sent upon the parish. These were Increased exportation, therefore, , allegations deliberately made by was out of the question, and, in men who practically knew their point of fact, none had taken place; business; and it was right, in all the English manufacture could not events, that their truth should be find its way into foreign markets, so investigated.
long as the silks of other countries
could be procured upon terms so machinery. The number of looms much more favourable.
employed at Coventry in weaving The third class of persons inter- ribbands was 9,700, but they were, ested in this trade were the silk for the most part, of the very worst dyers. The manufacturers put construction. From information forth the high charges of the dyers collected on the spot, with all the as one insuperable obstacle to a means of obtaining accurate insuccessful competition with foreign- formation, it appeared that the ers; and the dyers put forward the loom now used in France would heavy duties upon the articles used throw off, in a given time, five in their occupation as inevitably times as much as that which was occasioning these high charges. employed in England; at least Not only did the dyers acknow- when such practical allegations ledge that they apprehended no- were made, it was right they should thing from the machinery or skill be inquired into; for, if true, then of the foreign competitor, but this branch of the trade would be voluntarily stated that, instead of involved in ruin, unless farther having any thing to learn from, time were allowed for the introthey had been able to give useful duction of improved machinery. instruction to, certain foreign dyers Though much knowledge had who had lately been introduced. lately been obtained of theimproved Still, , however, they maintained machinery of France, no attempt that machinery and skill would be had been made to build a loom unsuccessful, unless the native upon these principles, in consewere placed on more nearly the quence of the approaching importsame level with the foreign manu- ation of foreign silks in July, for facturer in regard to the price of the manufacturers were unwilling labour, and the cost of the mate- to expend capital in improved marials employed in his trade. All chinery, which, after all, might be the various ashes, dying stuffs, and useless. soap, were burthened with heavy Such, it was argued, were the duties; and that on barilla had, positive and deliberate allegations not long ago, been even increased. of the different branches of the
The last branch of the trade, silk trade, regarding their own cathe narrow-trade, or that which pabilities, and the consequences of consisted in the manufacture of foreign competition, under a proribbands, was in a different situa- tecting duty of thirty per cent. tion from the former, and stood If, upon investigation, they turned still more in need of additional out to be true, the House ought protection. The throwsters, the to pause; and, assuredly, what broad-trade manufacturers, and the had taken place during the two dyers, admitted their superiority years, since 1824, allowed to prein machinery, and at least their pare for the change, did not justify equality in skill to foreigners, and precipitation. In 1825, said Mr. complained only of the price of John Williams, who seconded the labour, and of their materials. motion, 20,000 people were emBut the ribband manufacturers, ployed in the trade in Maccleswhile equally subjected to the lat- field; within half a year, 8,731 of ter disadvantages, were likewise them have lost their occupation, absolutely inferior in regard of and 1,600 families are supported
by voluntary contributions. In prohibition, were preferable. It 1825, the broad-silk manufacturers was admitted on all hands, that had at work 10,688 looms in the silk was an article easily smuggled ; same place; now they had only and whoever would take the 4,111. Neither, it was further trouble to inquire at the Admiurged by Mr. A. Baring, could ralty, would soon learn, if he was the inquiry, and possible retarda- still ignorant of the fact, that the tion of the measure of 1824, which coast-guard and the custom-house were called for, be regarded as could not prevent it from being hostile to the principles on which smuggled, to any extent. There we had begun to remove commer- could, moreover, be only one cial restrictions, and prohibitory opinion, that, not only would the duties. All that he contended for raising of the duty not diminish was, that the principle of free trade smuggling, but that, with the ought not to exclude any adapta- augmentation of the duty, smuga tion, which, under particular cir- gling would increase. The quescumstances of particular articles, tion then narrowed itself to this, it might be necessary to have re- in what degree is smuggling precourse to. There could be no rule vented by a protecting duty, and without exceptions: exceptions, in- in what degree by an absolute prodeed, ought never to be multi- hibition ? Now, a prohibition is plied ; but the country was full of just the highest conceivable duty, them, and one of the most important and, therefore, presents the incitewas, the greatly higher price of ments to smuggling in their greata food amongst ourselves than on est degree of influence. Nay, it the continent. It was possible for offers to the purchaser a motive the greatest men to commit great which would not otherwise act mistakes in arguments of this upon him. Many a man would kind. Though there might be not seek to evade a duty himself, less of what was striking, there or, give encouragement to those was much more of merit in at- who wish to do so, and yet would tempting to reconcile the claims of not scruple to obtain, and to use, long-existing inconveniencies with articles, the use of which was enthe demands of liberal opinions, tirely prohibited to him. The than in boldly, under all circum- quantity of smuggled goods seized stances, sacrificing the former, does not amount, one year with however much they might be another, to 5,0001., and who will entitled to public favour; and the pretend that that is the value of most brilliant theories often proved all the foreign silks consumed injurious in their application, annually in the kingdom? The in consequence of not being suf- East India Company sells annually ficiently chastened by practical from eight hundred thousand to a experience.
million of Bandana handkerchiefs. The motion was opposed by Mr. What becomes of that quantity ? Huskisson, Mr. Canning, and Mr. Everyone knows that they are C. Grant. The question, it was shipped off to Antwerp, Rotterobserved, under whatever variety dam, Guernsey, and other places, of aspect it might be discussed, and are then smuggled back to be always returned to this, whether sold in this country; and assuredly, a protecting duty, or an absolute in this country, there is no scarcity
of them. The prohibition, there- While it was admitted that the fore, so far from protecting the silk trade was, at present, heavily manufacture, necessarily subjects it depressed, it was answered that to a most fraudulent competition. nothing could be more illogical or Since, then, competition did exist, unjust than to ascribe that depresand absolute prohibition did not sion to the measure of 1824, which, exelude foreign manufactures, the in so far as it removed prohibition, question was simply as to the nature had not yet even come into operaof the competition which ought to tion: why should a particular cause be adopted, whether a competition be sought for to explain, in the conducted fairly, honourably, and silk trade, a stagnation which profitably, under the protection of equally existed in every other government, or one conducted branch of industry, in branches fraudulently at the expense of which had not yet been touched every principle of honesty, under- by the new principles of commermining the whole system of our cial policy, cotton, for instance, manufacturing interests, and the timber, tallow, and Irish provisions. more dangerous because it was The truth was that, in the silk unseen, and opposed the chicanery manufactures, as in other trades, and deception of smuggling to the the evil had arisen from unadvised open emulation of honourable in- over-trading. The bill, containing dustry. The practical effect of the provision now complained of, smuggling, as a mode of compe- had passed in the spring of 1824, tition had been proved before a and, during the whole of that
year, committee of the House, appointed the trade had been carried on with in consequence of the low state of unparalleled success. In 1825, the silk trade in 1816. On that there was a degree of excitement, occasion, not only did a public and an extent of speculation, meeting of merchants and manu- greater than had.ever been known facturers connected with the trade before ; for it was then that so avow that the vacant looms had many new mills were erected, and been thrown out of employment so many new looms set to work, by smuggling, but likewise the The manufacturers built, imported, interested parties examined before and speculated, to an extent which the committee distinctly stated the had never been equalled in the same opinion. One extensive ma- most flourishing state of this, nufacturer said, that he was not of any other manufacture. In then paying above five pounds a 1825, the importation of silk had week to workmen, instead of four increased 50 per cent, of cotton or five thousand, as he had done 38 per cent, and of tallow 80 per for many years before. The de- cent. This excessive excitement pression - he attributed to two led to a complete glut of these causes, the heavy duty on the raw articles; the consequences to the material, and the prevalence of dealers were, a depression of prices, smuggling. The duty on the raw and unavoidable difficulties; and material was now greatly reduced; why should silk be governed by but, unless a protection were to be different principles, in this respect, substituted for prohibition, the from cotton or tallow? In the competition of smuggling would year ending 5th January, 1825, still remain.
the importation of raw silk
amounted to 3,135,000 lbs., and, notions, or theoretical reasonings, during the following three quarters they had availed themselves of the of that year, ending on 10th Oc- best attainable evidence on the tober, to no less than 3,431,122 lbs., subject. Foreign merchants, who being more than the importation had both gone to France, and conne of the whole preceding year. The to this country to purchase goods, importation again, for the year and who, of course, were only inending 5th January, 1824, had terested to procure them on the been only 2,512,164 lbs. Nay, so best terms, declared, that the far was this spirit carried, that, in difference of price between goods February, 1825, there appeared in of equal quality, bought in France a Macclesfield newspaper, an ada and England, was not more than vertisement to the following effect: 20, or 25 per cent. Others had “ To the overseers of the poor, stated that the difference did not and to families desirous of settling exceed 20 per cent, and, in articles in Macclesfield. Wanted between of silk hosiery, they would give 4,000 and 5,000 persons, between the preference to the English ma
ages of seven and twenty-one nufacture both in quality and years. Thus the manufacturers cheapness. On that occasion, the themselves held out the assurance manufacturers themselves had exof the trade being about to become pressed their conviction, that, with so prosperous, as to suggest a fa-proper guards, they could compete vourable opportunity for families successfully against the continent; to settle, and for the overseers of and those guards they explained the poor to put out parish ap- to be, a reduction of the duty on prentices. After such efforts to the raw material, and a protecting induce so many young persons to duty of 15 per cent. The former flock into Macclesfield, was it measure had been adopted ; and in wonderful that it should have been regard to the latter, the protecting soon found out that all this was duty had been fixed, not at 15 per extravagant, and most imprudent cent, but at 30 per cent.
The maspeculation, which speedily led to nufacturers had gotten more than its usual consequences ? or that the they asked, and no clamour could silk manufacture should not have be more unjust or contradictory been found to be an exception to than that which was now raised. the re-action and difficulty which In regard to the alleged infehad been felt so severely by every riority of England to France, in other branch of trade.
some parts of the requisite maIt was true that the bill of 1824 chinery, the fact, if it existed, proceeded upon the idea that a was a new proof of the necessity duty of 30 per cent on foreign silks of never returning to the system would afford sufficient protection of entire prohibition. From what to the home manufacturer; and it cause could that inferiority arise was likewise true that this idea in a country like this, in which
The committee of every other branch of machinery the House of Lords had not pro- had been carried to the highest ceeded without the most cautious perfection? It could only be acinvestigation; instead of acting counted for by that system of proprecipitately, or founding their hibition, which, if it did not prerecommendations on pre-conceived vent, certainly did not encourage