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THOMAS BAZLEY, ESQ., M.P.
[Delivered before the Society of Arts, London, in connection with the
Exhibition of 1851;
THOUGH I am presuming to offer a lecture upon the industry in which I am interested and engaged, I feel that I shall require both for myself and my subject the indulgence of my audience. Permit me, therefore, to crave that kind attention which I believe is never withheld on any such occasion as the present, and to remark in extenuation of many omissions, which will be apparent, that I have left in the wide field in which I have gleaned, materials for numerous lectures upon every section and department of the cotton trade; having selected only the bost graphic facts for your consideration, my practical purpose being to bring prominently before you—"Cotton as an element of Industry; its confined Supply, and its extending Consumption from increasing and improving Agencies.”'
By the Great Exhibition of 1851, an epoch has been attained whence may be surveyed the diffienlties attending the first progress of inventions, the application of art and science to the developing industry of ages, and the solid possession of accumulated manufacturing skill and knowledge; and from the same point or eminence may be contemplated those possible improvements in every sphere of usefulness which the experience of the past warrants the rational mind in conjecturing, even to a speculative extent; for, surely, the wonders of the world's physical and moral progress are neither completed nor wholly anticipated, but there doubtless remain for the toiling sons of genius and of labour, rewards rich in discoveries and beneficial in application, to the maturing and reasonable wants of accountable and intellectual man.
In considering cotton wool as one of the most important raw materials that now occupies the labour of a large portion of the inhabitants of Great Britain, France, of other parts of Europe, and of Africa, Asia, and America, in the manufacturing and mercantile operations of which great capital is invested, we may refer with advantage to our subject to its origin and history.
Probably the cotton-tree, or plant, is indigenous in every tropical climate. Cotton appears to have been first recognised in the East Indies, and was known to exist there more than 500 years before the Christian era. In ancient Egypt it seems to have been unknown, and there are no records to prove that the Greeks or Romans were practically acquainted with it. On examining the manufactured fubrics afforded by the existence of the mummies of Egypt, no trace of cotton, as a material or as a cloth, is ever found; flax alone having supplied the cere and other wrappers used in embalming the dead. Whether the Asiatics in remote ages manufactured cotton into fine fabrics, is exceedingly doubtful, but historic evidence does prove that it had coarse and useful applications, which might, with the combination of experience and skill, lead to those productions of the loom famed for their exquisite delicacy,—"India muslins" having had the reputation of possessing beauty with an almost invisible exis. tence. From the first century of the Christian dispensation to the early part of the eighteenth, there existed an extensive domestic manufacture of cotton, extending in the latter period from Hindostan to Persia, Syria, Turkey, the Levant, England, and to many parts of the continent of Europe. This domestic trade was of necessity exceedingly limited, for the production of cotton itself made evidently slove progress, and the distaff and spindle were implements incapable of establishing, by mere personal labour, a trade which could sustain a comparison with modern traflic, the result of scientific and intelligent perseverance. But in the East there has been froin the earliest ages to the present moment a great consumption of cotton wool, for the Hindoo not only with his dexterous hand spins the yarn and weares his garments of it, but to give the latter the advantage of increased warmth and substance, he employs raw cotton as a wadding material, and for many other kindred purposes, such as the stuffing of cushions and saddles. Besides an extensive home consumption in India, merchants have always carried the manufactures of that country to the remotest regions of the earth, whilst for many ages the Chinese have been buyers and consumers of its cotton wool; hence data exist for assuming that in time past there has been in the East a great and growing trade in the very raw material which appears destined to minister to the comforts of mankind in every land, and where the elements of mechanical power, coal and iron, exist to afford profitable labour to those who toil and spin.
The cultivation of cotton in its extending growth has pursued a track from east to west; and still in the United States of America, the direction in which new fields are cultivated for its increased production is westward.
The East India Company were steady importers of cotton manufactures to the close of the eighteenth century. Chintzes, muslins, and calicoes, were brought from the East Indies; and that useful fabric known as nankeen, was imported directly and indirectly from China to a large extent. Manufactured goods had, however, begun to be so rapidly produced in Great Britain at this period, and at rates so greatly below the prices of foreign manufactures, that the latter ceased to be profitable imports, and consequently were discontinued. Perhaps the earliest efforts in manipulating cotton in this country originated in the simple conversion of raw cotton into candle-wicks : and this first manufactured cotion wool would probably be obtained from Turkey, the Levant, or Italy. Now, because a manufacture begins its career in a comparatively rude application, it does not follow that its early or distant development should be regarded as unimportant, as, indeed the results of the industry exerted upon cotton have taught this country and the world at large. No law has been more amply vindicated than that which controls supply and demand. Wants arise, interest prompts exertion and industry, and products of capital, skill, and labour, relieve the indicated necessities of society where unshackled and intelligent efforts can be employed. Persecution under the Duke of Alva became to England a manufacturing monitor. Artisans and weavers were expelled from their abodes in Flanders, and were welcomed here by the wise, energetic, and reigning sovereign, Elizabeth, whose peaceful triumphs have been more enduring and profitable to the nation than were her achievements in war. Here, then, were the expatriated' sons of industry-their country's true wealth-received, hospitably cherished, and located. May the industrious and oppressed ever find a refuge here! Aided by the Flemings, the manufactures of England rapidly extended; flax
an sheep's wool were home-spun in insufficient quantities to meet the demand of the weavers, and the latter could not adequately supply the growing Consumption of a people increasing in civilisation and in intelligence also. Linen yarn was imported from Germany to be made into warps, the woof for which was generally of sheep's wool, hence came the old household stuff, “linsey woolsey;" but those materials were inadequate to supply the weavers' and consumers' wants, and the distaff and spindle, In more actively employed, found in cotton the Deans of giving a new yarn and a new trade to a rising manufacturing country. Skins had become less wom as clothing; sheep's wool was not yielded by oar flocks in sufficient quantities to employ our then increasing artisans, nor was flax grown and spun to meet their demands; silk was only beginning to be known; and thus cotton almost became the peoples' and their country's necessity. Hitherto the want of cotton wool had been irregular, and its supply precarious; but the time had evidently arrived when it should be procured in considerable quantity and of good quality. Especially in the infaat trade of any manufacture is it requisite that the raw material should be excellent and well-suited by every perfection to prevent obstacles in manipulating it; the cotton, therefore, which was produced ther, as now, in the East Indies, being exceedingly short in fibre, and of very inferior quality in other respects, it became alike the duty and the interest of the young manufacturer to secure himself from interruption and annoyance, and he consequently availed himself of the long stapled and more perfect cotton of the Levant.
For all useful purposes the real data of the origin of the cotton trade in Great Britain may commence with the eighteenth century. An intelligent and ttiring Anglo-Saxon race had attained a position without parallel in the history of nations. Science