Wednesday, 23 November 2016

23rd November 1816: 'A Manufacturer' replies to 'Observator' in the argument about technology in the Leeds Mercury

MR. EDITOR,—I would not have troubled you with this, had I not felt much disappointment, on perusing your paper of Saturday last, to find but one reply to OBSERVATOR, on taxing Machinery, and that one so very leading lenient and mild. I am not in the habit of writing for the press; I am but a manufacturer, at the head of a considerable number of workmen, and therefore I must crave indulgence from the Critic, both for my grammar and composition. I should answer Observator, first, by stating a few facts which cannot be controverted, and secondly, by asking him a few plain questions.

First, then, a demand for goods has created all the manufactories in this country, and immense sums have been invested in building, machinery, and the capital necessary to make them answer.

Secondly, this property is rateable to the poor and to every other parochial tax, and pays a far greater proportion according to its real value, than the property of the gentleman of landed interest.

Thirdly, pauperism has not increased with Machinery.

Fourthly, the wages, arising from labour without Machinery, will not enable the population to purchase the produce of the land, and other articles of support, which yield a tax, besides relieving the landed interest.

Fifthly, neither the number nor the industry of the inhabitants of this country have diminished, and they never will to any great extent, either starvation or emigration

Sixthly, the morals of the population employed in manufactories are improved in a far greater degree than in any other class of labourers in the country.

I would now ask—has not the gentleman of landed interest had a hand in the increase of Machinery? Has he ever complained until now, that he too begins to feel the pressure of the times? Has he not been the principal supporter of unjust and unnecessary wars? Has not all his influence been directed to their promotion, in order that he might increase his rent-roll? Have not pauperism and the poor-rates risen and fallen exactly with the price of provisions? And has not the price of provisions been enhanced by the wars of the Ministers of the gentleman of landed interest, the paper-money system, and that horrible and engulphing system of corruption which pervades every department in the State? Is it not this which has left the mechant without orders, the manufactories without employ, and the operative class without bread? And lastly, has not the gentleman of landed interest been, for the last twenty-five years, enriching himself by supporting war, which, he says, has increased trade, and machinery, and population, to eat his dear corn?

I would now observe, that Observator must be very ill informed indeed, if he thinks that the present population will go back to the dressing, scribbling, carding and spinning of wool, by hand-labour, as they did forty years ago. Let him but propose such a thing to the few there are yet left, and they would laugh in his face.

He must be equally ignorant of the present state of information which the operative classes have attained, to suppose they will either starve or emigrate—no, they are too numerous and too enlightened to suffer or to do this, and he may depend upon it, that if employment be not found in the usual way, they will still find the means to live. Yes, the inhabitants born upon the soil will not leave it, and they will live upon it too. God in nature teach them this, and congregated in factories they have learned to feel themselves men, and are no longer the same ignorant and stupid beings they were previous to the introductions of Machinery. The light of truth is diffused over the land, and the hand-maid of truth is virtue, and its offspring is liberty. Factories have proved schools in which inquiry has been awakened, and the social feelings improved, by which the mists of delusion have melted before the rising sun of truth, and the midnight hags of ignorance and superstition can no longer bind the people by their spells.

Here this Observator, and read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest, before it is too late. It is the voice of a Manufacturer, who considers himself as only a foreman to several hundreds of human beings, his brethren in calamity, and in the eyes of God and nature—equal.


This was published in the Leeds Mercury of 23rd November 1816.

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