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BOO K in proportion to its quality; owing, it was said,
to a considerable rise in the price of the mate.
But the reduction will appear much more fen. fible and undeniable, if we compare the price of this manufacture in the present times with what it was in a much remoter period, towards the end of the fifteenth century, when the labour was probably much less subdivided, and the ma. chinery employed much more imperfect, than it is at present.
In 1487, being the 4th of Henry VII., it was enacted, that “ whosoever shall sell by retail a “ broad yard of the finest scarlet grained, or of “ other grained cloth of the finest making, “ above fixteen shillings, shall forfeit forty thil. “ lings for every yard fo fold.” Sixteen fhil. lings, therefore,. containing about the fame quantity of silver as four-and-twenty shillings of our present money, was, at that time, reckoned
not an unreasonable price for a yard of the finest c H A P. cloth; and as this is a fumptuary law, such cloth, it is probable, had usually been fold somewhat dearer. A guinea may be reckoned the highest price in the present times. Even though the quality of the cloths, therefore, should be supposed equal, and that of the present times is most probably much superior, yet, even upon this supposition, the money price of the finest cloth appears to have been considerably reduced since the end of the fifteenth century. But its real price has been much more reduced. Six Shillings and eight-pence was then, and long afterwards, reckoned the average price of a quarter of wheat. Sixteen shillings, therefore, was the price of two quarters and more than three bushels of wheat. Valuing a quarter of wheat in the present times at eight-and-twenty shillings, the real price of a yard of fine cloth must, in those times, have been equal to at least three pounds fix shillings and fixpence of our present money. The man who bought it must have parted with the command of a quantity of labour and subsistence equal to what that sum would purchase in the present times.
The reduction in the real price of the coarse manufacture, though confiderable, has not been so great as in that of the fine.
In 1463, being the 3d of Edward IV., it enacted, that “ no servant in husbandry, nor « common labourer, nor servant to any artificer
inhabiting out of a city or burgh, shall use or u wear in their clothing any cloth above two
BOOK“ shillings the broad yard.” In the 3d of I.
Edward IV. two shillings contained very nearly the same quantity of filver as four of our present money. But the Yorkshire cloth which is now fold at four shillings the yard, is probably much fuperior to any that was then made for the wearing of the very pooreft order of common fervants. Even the money price of their clothing, therefore, may, in proportion to the quality, be somewhat cheaper in the present than it was in those ancient times. The real price is certainly a good deal cheaper. Ten-pence was then reckoned what is called the moderate and reasonable price of a bushel of wheat. Two fhillings, therefore, was the price of two bushels and near two pecks of wheat, which in the present times, at three shillings and fixpence the bushel, would be worth eight fhillings and nine-pence. For a yard of this cloth the poor servant must have parted with the power of purchafing a quantity of fubfiftence equal to what eight shillings and nine-pence would purchase in the present times. This is a fumptuary law too, restraining the luxury and extravagance of the poor. Their clothing, therefore, had commonly been much more expenfive.
The same order of people are, by the fame law, prohibited from wearing hose, of which the price should exceed fourteen-pence the pair, equal to about eight-and-twenty pence of out present money. But fourteen-pence was in those times the price of a bufhel and near two pecks of wheat; which, in the present times, at three and
fixpence the bushel, would cost five shillings and C HA P. three-pence. We should in the present times consider this as a very high price for a pair of stockings to a servant of the poorest and lowest order. He must, however, in those times have paid what was really equivalent to this price for them.
In the time of Edward IV. the art of knitting stockings was probably not known in any part of Europe. Their hose were made of common cloth, which may have been one of the causes of their dearness. The first person that wore stockings in England is said to have been Queen Elizabeth, She received them as a present from the Spanish ambassador.
Both in the coarse and in the fine woollen manufacture, the machinery employed was much more imperfect in those ancient, than it is in the present times. It has since received three very capital improvements, besides, probably, many smaller ones of which it may be difficult to ascertain either the number or the importance. The three capital improvements are: first, The exchange of the rock and spindle for the spinning-wheel, which, with the same quantity of labour, will perform more than double the quan, tity of work. Secondly, the use of several very ingenious machines which facilitate and abridge in a still greater proportion the winding of the worsted and woollen yarn, or the proper arrangement of the warp and woof before they are put into the loom; an operation which, pre
BOOK vious to the invention of those machines, must
have been extremely tedious and troublesome. Thirdly, The employment of the fulling mill for thickening the cloth, instead of treading it
in water, Neither wind nor water mills of any , kind were known in England fo early as the
beginning of the fixteenth century, nor, fo far as I know, in any other part of Europe north of the Alps. They had been introduced into Italy some time before.
The confideration of these circumstances may, perhaps, in some measure explain to us why the real price both of the coarse and of the fine manufacture, was so much higher in those ancient, than it is in the present times. It cost a greater quantity of labour to bring the goods to market. When they were brought thither, therefore, they must have purchased or exchanged for the price of a greater quantity.
The coarse manufacture probably was, in those ancient times, carried on in England, in the same manner as it always has been in coun. tries where arts and manufactures are in their infancy. It was probably a houshold manufacture, in which every different part of the work was occasionally performed by all the different mem. bers of almost every private family; but so as to be their work only when they had nothing else to do, and not to be the principal business from which any of them derived the greater part of their fubfiftence. The work which is performed in this manner, it has already been observed,