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THE SILK TRADE 1826 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume IV - Essays on Economics and Society Part I 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume IV - Essays on Economics and Society Part I, ed. John M. Robson, Introduction by Lord Robbins (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1967).
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THE SILK TRADE
Westminster Review, V (Jan., 1826), 136-49. Unsigned; not republished. Original heading: “Art. VI. Rise and Progress of the Silk Trade in England, from the earliest period to the present time. Founded on Official Documents. By César Moreau. Treuttel and Würtz. 1826.” Running head: “The Silk Trade.” Not mentioned in JSM’s bibliography or Autobiography. Identified as his in the Mills’ copy, Somerville College, which contains, as well as the identification, two pencilled corrections in JSM’s hand (see 134a-a and b-b below). The cancelled original conclusion of the article is found on f.8v of the holograph MS of JSM’s “Speech on the Church” (British Library of Political and Economic Science, Mill-Taylor Collection, Add. Mat. II, M463). The three variants below (138c-c, d-d, 139e-e) give the full final readings of this MS fragment, in which c-c is interposed between the other two passages. The identification of this article as JSM’s removes the discrepancy between his bibliography and Autobiography: in the former he lists twelve articles contributed from the second to the eighteenth numbers of the Westminster; in the latter he says he contributed thirteen.
The apparent anomaly of JSM’s referring in the “January” number of the Westminster to a speech of Huskisson’s delivered on 23 February (see 139 below) is resolved by the announcement of the publication of this number in the Morning Chronicle for 4 April.
The Silk Trade
our readers are aware that, by an Act passed in the year 1824,[*] the existing prohibition against the importation of wrought silks is to expire in July next. This measure did not pass without considerable opposition, and strenuous efforts are now making to obtain its reversal.
It might have been thought that a measure of reform, which had passed the ordeal of the two Houses of Parliament, could stand in need of no further evidence to shew that it was imperiously called for by the spirit of the age. With whatsoever faults those two assemblies may be charged, they can hardly be accused of a propensity to rash innovation; and when the public beheld the novel spectacle of ministers and Parliaments legislating upon a general principle, only fifty years after all thinking men had recognised it as a self-evident truth, they held up their hands in astonishment, and imagined that the millennium was at hand.
The commercial embarrassments, however, which became so unhappily general, as the period fixed for the expiration of the monopoly drew near, have afforded great advantages to the discontented of all classes, in practising upon the public mind. A period of distress is a period of easy excitement. There is no one so irritable as he who is smarting under pecuniary loss; and the disappointed speculator is eager to lay the blame of his ruin upon government, or competitors—upon anything, in short, except his own folly. The monopolists have also been indebted to the late distresses for the support of a sort of persons, who, under the denomination of practical men, regard with dread every deviation from routine; and who, while they treat all attempts at generalization with disdain, under the appellation of theory, do not think it at all theoretical to generalize on the single fact, that about a year and a half after the passing of the act, distress in the silk trade ensued.
The existence of distress, unhappily, is not to be questioned; and there are many unthinking persons, who, having the evidence of their senses for this fact, take all the rest of the argument for granted. These are the persons to whom we now address ourselves, and whom we hope to convince that distress may exist, and may yet be owing to other causes than the new measure; and that, though it were owing to the new measure, that measure might be a very good one notwithstanding.
If the silk trade were the only trade to which the distress extended, there might be some colour for attributing it to the anticipation of the effect which the admission of foreign silks may have on the market. But distress prevails to an equal extent in the cotton, woollen, and many other branches of manufacture and trade, in none of which any apprehension is entertained of foreign competition. Even of the silk manufacture it is not pretended that all the branches will be affected by the change of system; yet which of them is there that is not distressed? In what branch is the depression greater than among the bombazeen manufacturers at Norwich? Yet nobody dreams that we can be rivalled in this article by nations not possessing the advantage of our wool.*
It is acknowledged that during the last year, speculation and overtrading were carried to an almost unexampled height. It is a fact that all the branches of trade which participated in the mania are now participating in its deplorable consequences: of these branches the silk trade was one. When we have here one perfectly sufficient cause of the distress, need we go to look for another? Are the silk manufacturers alone, in the commercial world, to be permitted to charge the consequences of their own madness upon the government? Mr. Canning characterised their conduct in proper terms, in his speech of the 13th of February:—“By the employment of a great multitude of labourers, and by large purchases of raw material, they had accumulated both raw material and manufactured stock to double their previous amount, and then, when the re-action came, they raised a cry, and upon the obstacles to the measure, which they themselves had created, they founded an argument for further time.”[*]
The silk trade, in fact, was never brisker than it was during the first year subsequent to the passing of the act of 1824. The quantities produced exceeded all former example. Although new mills had been erected for throwing silk, the manufacturers were obliged to wait for months, before they could get silk from the throwsters; and in the year 1825, as compared with the preceding year, the importation of thrown silk was nearly trebled.† Still the goods were sold as fast as they came out of the loom; and wages not only did not fall, as was predicted after the abolition of what was called the Spitalfields act,[†] but such was the demand, that in some instances they actually rose. This demand continued unabated (except by the change of season) till the very day when a number of manufacturers held a meeting at the London Tavern, and put forth a declaration, that the French could undersell them 60 per cent, a notion which they have ever since been sedulously endeavouring to progagate.* We do not think it very much to be wondered at, that the public should have taken them at their word.
The distress, therefore, in whatever way we may explain it, has no bearing whatever upon the question.
In the claim of the monopolists, two things are implied:—that they cannot support themselves under a free trade; and that, if they cannot support themselves, they ought to be supported by the nation. If they would say any thing in point, they must prove both these assertions; that they have hitherto been content with assuming them, it requires very little consideration to perceive.
Two sorts of persons have on this occasion entered the lists in favour of the monopoly: they take their stand on very different grounds, and must be met by very different arguments. One set profess themselves enemies to political economy, and favourable to the old system of restrictions upon trade. Their doctrine, if they can be said to have any, seems to be, that we ought to produce every thing for ourselves, the production of which, with our soil and climate, is not physically impossible; or at least, that every manufacture which has ever existed in this country ought to be upheld, no matter at what cost to the community. Others, on the contrary, are ambitious to be thought proficients in political economy, at the same time that they are striking directly against its first principles. These profess the utmost reverence for the abstract principles of free trade, and acknowledge that a manufacture, which cannot stand against competition, ought to fall. This, however, they contend, is by no means their case, or, at least, would not be, if ministers had begun at the right end, and commenced their operations by abolishing the corn monopoly. This it is which disables them from competing with foreigners, and while this subsists, to deprive them of their monopoly, is, according to them, a cruel injustice.
We shall reply to these two classes of opponents in their order, and we begin with the first.
If we were looking out for a reason why foreign silks should be admitted, we do not know what better reason it would be possible to give, than the very reason which is given by these persons for not admitting them, namely, that they are cheaper than those we have. This, however, is a reason which is any thing but satisfactory to “practical men.” To the understandings of practical men, particularly of silk manufacturers, the dearness of their goods presents itself as a conclusive reason for forcing the public to buy them. And so much pains do they take to inform us that we can purchase our goods cheaper elsewhere, that one would imagine they thought that there was something particularly attractive to buyers, in the idea of buying at a high price.
The sort of opponents against whom we are now contending, are perfectly willing that we should be permitted to purchase of foreigners, whatever we can buy cheaper at home. They have no sort of objection to foreign commerce, provided they can by any means guard themselves against the misfortune of not having to pay enough for their goods; but so soon as commerce threatens to be productive of any such fatal consequence as cheap commodities, they tremble at the thoughts of it, and yet, it is only by affording cheap commodities, that foreign trade contributes to the national wealth.
The utility of trade does not consist in the large fortunes which are made by merchants. The gains of merchants (except in the narrow case of an exclusive company) do not exceed the ordinary profits of stock: and the same capitals would, for anything that appears, have afforded the same profits, if foreign commerce had never been heard of. Still less do the exports add any thing to the national wealth. Were we to export without importing, or to import nothing but money, we should not be enriched but impoverished. It is only by our being enabled to import goods, at a less cost than we could afford to produce them at home, that our national wealth derives any sort of advantage from the existence of foreign trade; and every prohibition, therefore, on importation, operates pro tanto to render commerce useless. There is nothing more characteristic of a weak mind, than an incapacity of discerning inconsistencies; and it belongs to the same mind to boast of “British commerce,” as the grand source of our national prosperity, and to uphold that system which, if consistently acted upon, would not long leave us any commerce to boast of.
If what is lost to the consumer by the exclusion of foreign manufactures, were gained by the producer, something more might be said for its wisdom. But what is lost to the consumer, is not gained by the producer; it is wholly swallowed up by the expenses of production. Manufacturers do not derive the same advantage from restrictions upon trade that landlords do. The landlord really derives an addition to his income, though we think a very small one, from the operation of the corn monopoly. Not so the manufacturer: he, under a restricted trade, receives no more than the ordinary profits of stock: which he would equally have received had he embarked his capital in any other employment. The tax which the consumer pays, nobody receives; it is a dead loss to the country.
But what! say the silk manufacturers: is all the capital which we have invested in the manufacture, and all the hands that are invested in it, to be sacrificed to a theory?
To a theory, no: if by a theory be meant the mere pleasure of trying an experiment. But it is not necessary that they should be sacrificed at all; not that, if proved to be conducive to the general good, this or any other sacrifice ought to be grudged. But we are of opinion, first, that the silk manufacturers will not be called upon for any sacrifice, except that which must always attend a temporary disturbance of prices; and secondly, that if the sacrifice were ever so great, instead of clamouring for the renewal of a restriction which does them no good, and the public great harm, they ought to make an estimate of the amount of their loss, and prefer a claim to compensation.
We will first suppose, that they cannot stand the competition, and we will then give our reasons for believing that they can.
As it is certain that, by abandoning their business, the silk manufacturers would not lose the whole of their capital, they could not justly claim to be indemnified for the whole. The capital of a manufacturer consists of the materials of the manufacture; the stock in hand, the buildings, and machinery. The buildings, whether warehouses or manufactories, would be available for a hundred other purposes. As for the machinery, if our absurd laws against the exportation of it were removed, it would easily find a market in Italy or France. There remains the material, and the stock in hand. The former could be re-exported: the Bengal and China silk without any loss, the Italian with the loss of the cost of carriage. The stock in hand could be disposed of, though at a reduced price; and the amount of the indemnification necessary to cover the loss, could be more easily estimated than indemnifications usually can. We thus see how small a compensation would cover the losses of the silk manufacturers, even if their apprehensions were realized; and how little, at best, their argumentum ad misericordiam is worth: as for the journeymen, they are a very numerous body, and their interests deserve a proportional degree of attention. Their temporary distress is greatly to be lamented; and whatever can be done for its relief, consistently with what is due to the rest of the community, ought to be done. A weaver, however, can easily change his employment. It is not, perhaps, generally known, that the silk manufacture at Manchester is carried on chiefly by persons who were originally cotton-weavers, and at Norwich by woollen-weavers: so easy is the transition from one of these kindred branches of manufacture to another, and in some parts of Devonshire the lace manufacture has in the same manner superseded the woollen. All these lines, it will be said, are over stocked with hands. This may be true; but if we were to import our silks, additional hands would be required to produce the cotton, woollen, or other goods, by the export of which we should pay for them.
We shall now state the grounds which there are for supposing that, notwithstanding competition, the silk manufacture will continue to prosper. We wish to keep this question perfectly distinct from the more general one, whether foreign competition ought to be admitted; because there is really no connection between the two questions, and because it is the grand artifice of the monopolists to mix them together. If the French silks are not either cheaper or better than the English, nobody will buy them; and if they are, we have already observed, that it is not a reason for keeping them out but for letting them in. If foreign silks cannot profitably be imported, to take off a restriction which prevents them from being imported may do no harm, but it will do as little good. It would be of as much use to abolish a prohibition against carrying coals to Newcastle, as against importing an article which we can make cheapest at home. How can we expect other nations to believe us sincere in our newly adopted liberality, if they see us taking as much pains to keep out foreign goods when we are taking off restrictions, as we could do if we were laying them on? Mr. Huskisson has been nearly as much sneered at, for his doctrine of free trade, in France and America, as he has in this country, though for an opposite reason: our monopolists cry out that foreign competition will ruin them; foreigners say that our pretence of admitting competition is hypocrisy, that we know our own interests too well, that we take good care to keep the door shut against all foreign productions, except those which we know will never come, and that the sole purpose of our sham liberality is to delude other nations into commercial concessions. We hope that they will be undeceived by the operation of the act of 1824. We hope, therefore, that, in some articles at least, their silk manufacturers may be able to undersell ours. In a few fancy articles we believe they will; but in no others.
If they have any advantage in the material, it must be either in the article of raw, or of thrown silk. Raw silk is obtained from Bengal, China, and Italy.* Bengal and China silk foreigners purchase from us. The Italian can be obtained by the English and by the French manufacturers on the same terms, as is sufficiently evident from a comparison of the cost of freight and profits of capital; and it is besides confirmed by the evidence of Mr. Davison, a wholesale silk dealer, before the lords committee on foreign trade in the year 1821. Being questioned concerning the price of raw silk in France, he answered, “I believe the price of raw silk, exclusive of the duty, is pretty much the same as it is here: the land carriage costs them pretty much the same as our carriage by sea.”[*] And the duty in this country is now a mere trifle.
The duty on thrown silk, though greatly reduced, is still much higher than in France. With the exception of this difference of duty, which may and ought to be got rid of, the foreigner has no advantage in this article over our own manufacturer. However much the interests of our throwsters might be affected by a still further reduction of the duty, their monopoly ought not to stand in the way of so salutary a measure: but the following extract from the evidence of Mr. Hale, of Spitalfields, shows, that if they sustained any injury from the reduction, it would be their own fault. “I inspected,” says he, “the machinery at Turin, and was very much surprised to find they were so backward, in proportion to what they were in the north of England; the old silk mills at Derby that were working perhaps fifty years back, were on much the same construction as the mills now are at Turin; the mills I saw working organzine were on a construction which has been long exploded by the best manufacturers of organzine in the kingdom. The same remark might hold good in the silk manufactory at Lyons, but I saw no organzining in any part of France, and I did not hear of there being a single mill to throw organzine in that country.”[†] Well might the committee before whom the above evidence was delivered express surprise in their Report, “that, though the manufacture of organzine is one almost entirely carried on by machinery, and requiring, in great part, only the labour of women and children, yet that it cannot be made here at less than double the price for which it is thrown in Italy;”[‡] but the reason assigned by the committee, the recent introduction of this branch of the manufacture, seems scarcely adequate to account for so great an anomaly, were it not for the absence of that stimulus to ingenuity and skill which would be the natural effect of free competition. With that stimulus and the advantage of British machinery, unless our throwsters be an inferior race to the rest of mankind, they may hope to supply not only our market, but perhaps even that of France. Surely if they cannot, there needs no better proof that throwing is a business not suited to this country: that the foreign manufacturer has as little advantage over ours in machinery, or other contrivances for abridging labour, as he has in material, is notorious, and admitted by the monopolists themselves.* In the various articles used in dyeing and preparing the silk, if he enjoys any advantage, he owes it to our absurd taxes on barilla, tallow, soap, ashes, cochineal, madder, &c. which might either be abolished or greatly reduced with a very inconsiderable (if any) loss of revenue. But this branch of the subject we leave in the hands of the manufacturers themselves. When they are tired of clamouring for the privilege of alevyinga a tax upon the public, they may perhaps think of praying to be relieved from taxes, the burthen of which is shared between the public and them.
It is in the article of wages that the supposed advantage of the foreign manufacturer exclusively consists, and this brings us into contact with the less bigotted bpartsb of the opponents of the new measure; with those who admit the propriety of taking off the prohibition, but who urge that parliament ought first to have taken measures for lowering wages, by abrogating the corn laws.
Now were we to affirm that the low rate of general wages in France does not afford any advantage to the French manufacturer, we should affirm that which could not be maintained, since it unquestionably gives him higher profits.
This, however, may be maintained, and maintained correctly, that the low rate of wages in France does not induce the French manufacturer to sell his goods one sou cheaper, either in his own country or in ours, than if the wages he had to pay were as high as in England, and consequently does not induce him to undersell the British manufacturer.
Thus much is no doubt true, that if he were content to sell his silks at the bare cost of production, and did not care what profit he made, or whether he made any profit at all, the price at which he would be able to sell his article without loss would be low just in proportion as wages were low.
It is however certain that he will not choose to undersell the British manufacturer, unless by so doing he can realize the ordinary profits which are yielded by other capitals in his own country.
If, therefore, profits are higher in France than in England, and higher exactly in proportion as wages are lower, the lowness of wages will not enable the French manufacturer, consistently with his own interest, to undersell the English manufacturer.
That the profits of stock really are higher in France than in England is an undisputed fact, supported by incontestable evidence, and it is, besides, a necessary consequence from the comparative lowness of wages.
If wages were lower in one employment only, prices would also be lower in that employment. But wages are lower in all employments; and the supposition of general low prices, except from some cause affecting the circulating medium, is absurd.
The advantage of low wages is shared by all French capitalists, and it cannot be supposed that the French silk-manufacturers will give an advantage to the consumers which in any other employment they might keep to themselves.
The conclusion, therefore, is manifest, that the high rate of wages occasioned by our corn laws, though highly prejudicial to all classes of capitalists, by lowering the general rate of profit, is not more prejudicial to those who are exposed to foreign competition than to those who are not; and that nothing, therefore, can be more utterly unwarranted than the claim of the silk manufacturers to peculiar protection on account of it.
Were it necessary, we might remark how greatly the silk manufacturers have exaggerated the difference of wages in the two countries. The rate of wages (our readers will be surprised to hear) in an article (gros de Naples) on which more hands are employed than on any other, and which may therefore be considered a near approximation to an average of the whole, is almost exactly the same at Manchester and at Lyons. In Spitalfields indeed it is 60 per cent higher. It is evident that so great a difference of wages in the same employment cannot continue. The attempts of the weavers to keep their wages above the average level can only tend, if persevered in, to drive the manufacture altogether into the country.
It was only a week or two ago that a complaint was made at the Worship Street Police Office, by a master whose property had been injured in the loom, and the windows of the weaver’s house broken, because his daughter, rather than apply for a part of His Majesty’s bounty, agreed to work under the old price, though she would still have obtained 25 per cent more than is paid in the country.
Another instance has come to our knowledge in which a man refused to work for 22d. per yard, the regular rate being two shillings, although the same article is made forty miles from London, at 16d.
We might, if it were worth while, urge a very powerful argumentum ad hominem. Allowing for a moment that the effect of the corn laws upon wages laid our manufacturers under a disadvantage, as compared with their foreign competitors; we might show that the protecting duty which they still enjoy is much more than a compensation for this disadvantage. Judging from the data with which we presented our readers in an article in our sixth Number, on the corn laws,[*] it is allowing very much to the effect of these enactments, if we suppose them to raise the price of corn 24 per cent. The weavers may be supposed, one with another, to expend about half their wages in agricultural produce. An addition, therefore, of 12 per cent to the wages which they would otherwise have had, indemnifies them completely for the whole effect of the corn laws. Assuming, then, that the silk manufacturer expends half his capital in materials, machinery, &c. and the remaining half in the payment of labour, it is evident that a protecting duty of 6 per cent would be an ample equivalent for any addition to his expenses, which can be justly ascribed to the corn laws. Instead, however, of 6 per cent he has 30, or suppose that it were 20 per cent. It is obvious, therefore, even on their own principles, how lame a case that portion of the monopolists can make out, who rest their claims to monopoly upon the existence of the corn laws.
In maintaining that the low rate of general wages in France does not enable the French manufacturer to undersell ours, we, of course, do not mean to deny the advantage which he may have from the comparative cheapness of a particular sort of labour. Such an advantage in the production of fancy articles it is well known that he has. From the comparative rarity of the sort of skill and taste which are indispensable in that branch of the manufacture, the price paid in this country for these attainments, is, compared with the ordinary remuneration for labour, remarkably high. At first, therefore, it is not probable that our manufacturers could compete with foreigners, in the production of this class of articles. Eventually, it is probable that the stimulus which will be given to the exertions of our manufacturers will, with the advantage of mechanics’ institutions as schools of design, enable them, even in this branch, to maintain a successful competition. If so, it would be an entire branch of trade gained to our manufacturers, in consequence of that competition which they dread.
Much of the recent increase of the silk trade has been owing to patterns copied from France. The silk trade, previously to the discussions in Parliament, was really a disgrace to the country. In taste, ingenuity, and enterprise, the French left our manufacturers far behind, and the old imperfect looms continued to be used in this country many years after Lyons had improved hers.
The manufacture of artificial flowers presents a striking illustration of the stimulus afforded by a free trade. This article having somehow been omitted in the catalogue of prohibited commodities, the manufacture, it was supposed, could not survive the peace, as indeed it could not, had not the producers, by the importation of French workmen, and of some of the raw materials, which could not be, or were not, made in this country, and by great exertions for the improvement of the manufacture, succeeded in supplying so much cheaper and better an article, than had ever before been produced in this country, that instead of falling off, the business greatly increased, and now employs a much greater number of hands than it did at any period during the war.
There is one of the statements put forth by the silk manufacturers, which, as much stress has by some of them been laid upon it, requires some notice. This is, that the East India company is in the habit of selling India wrought silks at the same price per pound as the raw material. The inference to be drawn is, that when the prohibition on the sale of India wrought silks for home consumption expires, the company will drive the manufacturer out of the market. This has afforded an opportunity to some of the silk dealers, for animated invectives against monopoly; though they might have remembered, that, so far as concerns the Indian trade, the East India company has no monopoly; and that much of the raw silk, and by far the greater portion of the wrought silks, sold at the company’s sales in the last seven years, have been the bonâ fide property of private traders.
The allegation, however, that raw and wrought silks may be purchased of the company weight for weight at the same price, is contrary to fact. In Bengal, there are two modes of winding the raw silk from the cocoon; one is the old native mode, which produces the raw silk known by the name of country-wound; the other, which is the European mode, has been introduced by the company, and produces the superior kind of silk termed filature. This is produced chiefly for exportation to Europe. The raw material of which the Bengal wrought silks are made, still continues to be wound after the old manner. Now we are enabled to state, that Indian Bandannoes (to which article the importation of Bengal silk manufactures is almost entirely confined) have, on the average of every year, for the last seven years, obtained at the company’s sales a price greatly above the price of an equal weight of country-wound silk, the material of which they are made. In the last year (1825) in particular, it was nearly double. Filature silk, a much better sort of material, did, in the year 1819, obtain a higher price, weight for weight, than the manufactured article; but in no subsequent year has the same circumstance, or any thing approaching to it, occurred. So much for the diatribes of monopolists against monopoly.
Being desirous to confine the reader’s attention to the main question, we have not touched upon many collateral arguments of great weight. One of these is the prevalence of smuggling, against which no prohibitions can afford “protection,” and which our preventive service, with all its expense, has hitherto proved inadequate even to obstruct.* We might ask what becomes of the Bandannoes which are annually sold in Leadenhall-street? or what market it is imagined they are intended for—France, where they are scarcely worn at all, or England, where they are worn by every body? And whether it is not well known that they are exported to France for the purpose of being clandestinely re-imported into England? The facilities of smuggling French silks are still greater from the utter impossibility of distinguishing the French and the English manufacture from one another; insomuch that a few months ago, when the warehouse of an eminent silk-dealer was csearched by the Custom-house officers, a quantity of silks were seized as French, which were afterwards positively proved to have been made in England.c Freedom of importation at a duty not exceeding the expense of smuggling, would put an entire stop to all this evil; to the great benefit of the revenue and of the public morals, and to the detriment of nobody.
dWe might also ask of the silk manufacturers (who consider themselves to have been so ill treated by the government), whom they have to thank for the bounty of £500,000, which was granted them under the name of a reimbursement on the reduction of the duties on the raw material? The real object of this bonus will be evident, when we say, that no part of it was given to the retail dealers; who would yet have sustained, if the price had fallen, the same proportional loss as the wholesale dealers and manufacturers, and who were far less able to bear it, but whose influence in the legislature was not, it seems, equally formidable. Temporary circumstances, fortunately, prevented the fall from taking place, till a considerable time afterwards: and the consequence was, that the manufacturers and wholesale dealers received their indemnification twice over; once under that name, and again in the price of their goods.d
Since the above article was written, we have read Mr. Huskisson’s speech in the House of Commons, in defence of his commercial policy, a speech which, while it has raised him higher than ever in our estimation, has convinced us more than ever, that it is the duty of all lovers of their country to raise their voices at this crisis in his support.[*] With the exception of Turgot, the history of the world does not, perhaps, afford another example of a minister steadfastly adhering to general principles in defiance of the clamours of the timid and the interested of all parties: and if the people are not true to him—if they do not show as much zeal for their own interests as the monopolists of all sorts are showing for theirs—they will deserve that defeat which they will most assuredly sustain; and long will it be before they find another minister who will encounter obloquy from his oldest supporters, and brave the displeasure of almost all the powerful classes, in the vain hope of benefitting them.
[[*] ]5 George IV, c. 21.
[* ]Though the exportation of our wool is not now prohibited, the freight on so bulky a commodity must always subject the foreign purchaser to a great comparative disadvantage.
[[*] ]See Morning Chronicle, 14 Feb., 1826, p. 4.
[† ]In the year 1824 it amounted to 1,323 bales; in 1825, it was 3,716.
[[†] ]13 George III, c. 68; repealed by 5 George IV, c. 95.
[* ]The exaggerated statements of some of these gentlemen are almost laughable. At a meeting held at Taunton on the 31st of January, a Mr. Henry Smith is reported to have declared, that a duty of 100 per cent. would not protect the British manufacturer.—Morning Chronicle, 6th February [p. 3].
[* ]It is stated in the fourth report (just published) of the committee of silk manufacturers, that the French grow three fourths of their consumption; and this is supposed by some to give them an advantage. It is, however, evident, that so long as they import a single bale, the price of that bale governs the price of all which is grown at home: the advantage therefore cannot be in the price. As to quality, it is said they can make some of the better kind of fancy articles from native silk, much superior to any thing we can make from Italian or China. If this be true, the people of England ought to have them, and they will have them in spite of prohibitions.
[[*] ]Parliamentary Papers, 1821, VII, p. 453.
[[†] ]Ibid., 437.
[[‡] ]Ibid., p. 425.
[* ]A writer in the Morning Chronicle under the signature of T. G., who espouses very warmly the cause of the silk monopoly, says, “I pledge myself for the correctness of the assertion, that after the most anxious investigation into the manufacture of broad silks, conducted without regard to cost or time, the nations of Europe do not perform more work with less labour; that they do not expedite the process by any application of machinery unknown or unused at home, and that unless the climate of the South of Europe be better fitted for spinning a thread of silk, or that it be injured during the conveyance to this country, there does not exist a single advantage or improvement in the whole routine of the manufacture which the English have yet to learn.”—Morning Chronicle of 28th January last [p. 3].
[a-a]26 buying [corrected in JSM’s hand in Somerville College copy of Westminster Review]
[b-b]26 parties [ibid.]
[[*] ]Mill, J. S. “The Corn Laws,” Westminster Review, III (Apr., 1825), pp. 394-420; i.e., that printed at pp. 47-70 above.
[* ]We have good authority for asserting, that the introduction of the preventive service has not even raised the rate of insurance on smuggled goods.
[c-c]MS searched by order of the [sic] for French silks, & a quantity were seized as such, which were afterwards proved by the most unexceptionable evidence to have been made in England.
[d-d]MS We might also have remarked that the silk manufacturers, far from having reason to complain of Govt, have to thank them for a bounty of £500,000, nearly the whole of which went into their own pockets. It was given to them when the duty on raw & thrown silk was reduced, under the name of a compensation for the duty which they had already paid upon their stock in hand, but really (it is evident) as a sop to keep them quiet: for no part of the compensation was given to the retail dealers: consequently if the fall of price had taken place immediately, as was expected, the whole body of the retailers would have sustained, without compensation, the loss of part of the value of their stocks. Luckily the fall did not take place till some time afterwards, & the manufacturers & wholesale dealers received the amount of the duty a second time in the price, after having received it once from the government.
[e-e]MS But without insisting upon these minor topics we may now leave the question, as between the public & the silk manufacturers, in the hands of the impartial reader.
[[*] ]See Hansard, 23 February, 1826, cols. 763-809.