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As a box actually came from England, which was directed to Mr. Slater, and as there was a correspondence with the officers of the customs, relative to the detention of the box; with some remaining jealousies at that time towards old England, it was no wonder under all the circumstances of the case, that such an evil surmise should have arisen, and spread as a true report.
The public are assured that I have the fullest authority for the above explanation. The tailor's bill of these very clothes is now in possession of the family, and some of the buttons of the coat. The tailor, at Belper, occupied a store of Mr. Slater's, which was given him by his father, and these clothes were sent to pay the rent.
As it has been observed, Mr. Slater started his cards in the water-wheel belonging to the clothier's shop, which was so exposed that it was frozen every night. He could get none to expose themselves to break the ice, in order to start the wheel in the morning. Those who can well remember the fact, informed me, that he spent two or three hours breaking the ice, before breakfast, till he was wet and cold, and his limbs benumbed, which affected him very much. This exposure laid the foundation of those chronic disorders, from which he suffered so much in the latter part of his life.
He took care to have his water-wheel, when he built his first mill, under cover, having experienced the bad effects of a frozen wheel. The first winter he spun on his frames, he endured great hardships: and when he had produced an excellent yarn, there was but little sale for it.
He had to instruct the boys who assisted in the mill, and commence the factory regulations; as nothing of the kind was known here." The following is his first account of time and wages with his workpeople.
* The wise and active conquer difficulties,
The factory system in England takes its rise from the period of the trial concerning the validity of the patent, by Arkwright, in 1785. Hitherto the cotton manufacture had been carried on almost entirely in the houses of the workmen, the hand or stock cards, the spinning wheel, and the loom, required no larger apartment than that of a cottage. A spinning jenny of small size might also be used in a cottage, and in many instances was so used; when the number of spindles was considerably increased, adjacent work-shops were used. But the water-frame, the carding engine, and the other machines which Arkwright brought out in a finished state, required both more space than could be found in a cottage, and more power than could be applied by the human arm. Their weight also rendered it necessary to place them in strongly built mills, and they could not be advantageously turned by any power then known, but that of water. The use of machinery was accompanied by a greater division of labour than existed in the primitive state of the manufacture; the material went through many more processes, and of course, the loss of time, and the risk of waste, would have been much increased, if its removal from house to house at every stage of the manufacture, had been necessary. It became obvious that there were several important advantages in carrying on the numerous operations of an extensive manufacture in the same building. Where water power was required, it was economy to build one mill, and put up one water-wheel, rather than several. This arrangement also enabled the master spinner himself to superintend every stage of the manufacture; it gave him a greater security against the wasteful or fraudulent consumption of the material—it saved time in the transference of the work from hand to hand, and it prevented the extreme inconvenience which would have resulted from the failure of one class of workmen to perform their part, when several other classes of workmen were dependent upon them. Another circumstance which made it advantageous to have a large number of machines in one manufactory, was, that mechanics must be employed on the spot, to construct and repair the machinery, and that their time could not be fully occupied with only a few machines. All these considerations drove the cotton spinners to that important change in the economy of English manufactures— the introduction of the factory system; and when that system had once been adopted, such were its pecuniary advantages, that mercantile competition would have rendered it impossible, even had it been desirable, to abandon it. The enquiry into the moral and social effects of the factory system, will deserve our attention. Though Arkwright, by his series of machines, was the means of giving the most wonderful extension to the system, yet he did not absolutely originate it. Mills for the throwing of silk had existed in England, though not in any great number, from the time of Sir Thomas Lombe, who in 1719 erected a mill on the river Derwent, at Derby, on the model of those he had seen in Italy. Wyatt's first machines, at Birmingham, were turned by asses, and his establishment at Northampton by water; so Arkwright's first mill, at Nottingham, was moved by horses; his second, at Cromford, by water. During a period of ten or fifteen years after Mr. Arkwright's first mill was built (in 1771) at Cromford, all the principal works were erected on the falls of considerable rivers; no other power than water having then been found practically useful.
Those who have not taken the trouble to witness, or to enquire into, the process by which they are surrounded with the conveniences and comforts of civilised life, can have no idea of the infinite variety of ways in which invention is at work to lessen the cost of production. The people of India, who spin their cotton wholly by hand, and weave their cloth in a rude loom, would doubtless be astonished when they first saw the effects of machinery in the calico which is returned to their own shores, made from the material brought from their own shores, cheaper than they themselves could make it. But their indolent habits would not permit them to enquire how machinery produced this wonder. There are many amongst us who only know that the wool grows on the sheep's back, and that it is converted into a coat by labour and machinery. They do not estimate the prodigious power of thought—the patient labour—the unceasing watchfulness—the frequent disappointment—the uncertain profit—which many have had to encounter in bringing this machinery to perfection. How few, even of the best informed, know that in the cotton manufacture, which from its immense annount, possesses the means of rewarding the smallest improvement, invention has been at work, and most successfully, to make machines that make the cotton thread. There is a part of the machinery used in cotton-spinning called a reed. It consists of a number of pieces of wire, set side by side in a frame, resembling, as far as such things admit of comparison, a comb with two backs. These reeds are of various lengths and degrees of fineness, but they all consist of cross pieces of wire, fastened at regular intervals between longitudinal pieces of split cane, into which they are tied with waxed thread, and the machine cuts the wire, places each small piece with unfailing regularity between the canes, twists the thread round the cane with a knot that cannot slip, every time a piece of wire is put in, and does several yards of this extraordinary work in almost as little time as it takes to read this description.
The most marked traits in the character of Arkwright were his wonderful ardour, energy, and perseverance. He commonly laboured in his multifarious concerns, from five o'clock in the morning till nine at night; and when considerably more than fifty years of age, feeling that the defects of his education placed him under great difficulty and inconvenience in conducting his correspondence, and in the general management of his business, he encroached upon his sleep, in order to gain an hour each day to learn English grammar, and another hour to improve his writing and orthography. He was impatient of whatever interfered with his favourite pursuits; and the fact is too strikingly characteristic not to be mentioned, that he separated from his wife not many years after their marriage, because she, convinced that he would starve his family by scheming when he should have been shaving, broke some of his experimental models of machinery. Arkwright was a severe economist of time, and, that he might not waste a moment, he generally traveled with four horses, and at a very rapid speed. His concerns in Derbyshire, Lancashire, and Scotland, were so extensive and numerous, as to show at once his astonishing power of transacting business, and his all-grasping spirit. In many of these he had partners, but he generally managed in such a way, that, whoever lost, he himself was a gainer. So unbounded was his confidence in the success of his machinery, and in the national wealth to be produced by it, that he would make light of discussions on taxation, and say that he would pay the national debt His speculative schemes were vast and daring; he contemplated entering into the most extensive mercantile transactions, and buying up all the cotton in the world, in order to make an enormous profit by the monopoly; and from the extravagance of some of these designs, his judicious friends were of opinion, that if he had lived to put them in practice, he might have overset the whole fabric of his prosperity. Moses Brown introduced Mr. Slater to Oziel Wilkinson of Pawtucket, R. I., as a suitable place for him to board; as the stranger came into the house, the two daughters, as is not uncommon, ran out of sight; but Hannah lingered with curiosity, and looked through an opening in the door: Samuel saw her eyes, and was interested in her favour. He loved at first sight, but it was sincere, it was permanent, nothing but death could have severed the ties which endeared him to Hannah Wilkinson. He was happy in fixing his affections so soon on one who loved him, and on one so worthy; that loadstone served to bind him to Pawtucket, when every thing else appeared dreary and discouraging. The parents of Hannah being Friends, they could not consistently give consent to her marriage out of the society, and talked of sending her away some distance to school; which occasioned Mr. Slater to say, “You may send her where you please, but I will follow her to the ends of the earth.” Though absorbed in perplexing business, his hours of relaxation were cheering; he spent them in telling Hannah and her sister the story of his early life, the tales of his home, of his family connections, and of his father-land. This introduction was one of the favourable circumstances that