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CONTENTS or No. XCI.
Art. I. 1. Article “ Cotton Manufacture,” in the Supplement
to the Encyclopædia Britannica. 2. A Compendious History of the Cotton Manufacture. By
RICHARD GUEST. 4to. pp. 70. Manchester. 1823. 3. History, Gazetteer, Directory, fc. of Lancashire. By Ed
WARD BAINES. 2 vols. 8vo. pp. 1404. Liverpool. 1825.
The rapid growth and prodigious magnitude of the cotton
1 manufacture of Great Britain, are, beyond all question, the most extraordinary phenomena in the history of industry. Our command of the finest wool, and of inexhaustible supplies of iron-ore and coal, naturally attracted our attention to the woollen manufacture, and paved the way for that superiority in it, to which we have long since attained. But when we undertook the cotton manufacture, we had comparatively few facilities for its prosecution, and had to struggle with the greatest difficulties. The raw material was produced at an immense distance from our shores; and in Hindostan and China, where the manufacture had been carried on from the remotest antiquity, the inhabitants had attained to such perfection in the arts of spinning and weaving, that the lightness and delicacy of their finest cloths emulated the web of the gossamer, and seemed to set competition at defiance. Such, however, has been the ascendancy we have derived from the stupendous discoveries and inventions of Hargraves, Arkwright, Crompton, Cartwright, and others, that we have overcome all these difficulties—that neither the extreme cheapness of labour in Hindostan, nor the perfection to which the natives had previously attained, has enabled them to withstand the competition
VOL. XLVI. NO. 9).
of those who buy their cotton, and who, after carrying it five thousand miles to be manufactured, carry back the goods to them. This is the greatest triumph of mechanical genius. And what, perhaps, is most extraordinary, our superiority is not the late result of a long series of successive discoveries and inventions. On the contrary, it has been accomplished in a very few years. Little more than half a century has elapsed since the British cotton manufacture was in its infancy: and it now forms the principal support and bulwark of the country, affording an advantageous field for the accumulation and employment of millions upon millions of capital, and of thousands upon thousands of workmen! The skill and genius by which these astonishing results have been achieved, have been one of the main sources of our power. They have contributed, in no common degree, to raise the British nation to the high and conspicuous place she now occupies. Nor is it too much to say that it was the wealth and energy derived from the cotton manufacture, that bore us triumphantly through the late dreadful contest; at the same time that it gives us strength to sustain burdens that would have crushed our fathers, and could not be supported by any other people.
Under these circumstances, it may justly excite our astonishment, that so few attempts have been made to trace the rise and progress of this great branch of industry—to mark the successive steps in its advancement, the solidity of the foundations on which it rests, and the influence which it has already had, and must continue to have, on the number and condition of the people. To enter fully into the discussion of these topics, would, we are aware, infinitely exceed the limits within which we must confine ourselves; but we hope to be excused for briefly touching on a few of those that seem most important.
The precise period when the cotton manufacture was introduced into England is not known; but it is most probable that it was sometime in the early part of the 17th century. The first authentic mention is made of it by Lewis Roberts, in his “ Treasure of Traffic,” published in 1641, where it is stated, “ The town of Manchester, in Lancashire, must be also herein remembered, and worthily for their encouragement commended, who buy the yarne of the Irish in great quantity, and weaving it, returne the same again into Ireland to sell : Neither doth their industry rest here, for they buy cotton wool in London, that comes first from Cyprus and Smyrna, and at home worke the same, and perfect it into fustians, vermillions, dimities, and other such stuffes, and then return it to London, where the same is vented and sold, and not seldom sent into