Wednesday, 30 November 2016

30th November 1816: Another correspondent writes to the Leeds Mercury in the debate about shearing frames vs hand-cropping

MR PRINTER,—In your paper of the 23d inst. I observed a comparison between the dressing of cloth by manual labour and machinery. Now, though I cannot doubt the veracity of your correspondent, who asserts that more men are employed in the latter mode of dressing it; yet, being an old man, whose ideas perhaps may have been narrowed and contracted by age, I cannot give full credit to this assertion without some explanation, and such an explanation as may be comprehended by other old men, whose intellectual powers may be rendered equally callous and obtuse. I have, for more than forty-five years, had the government of trading concerns, have viewed improvements with pleasure, and have, in some degree, shared in the benefits thereof; and experience has convinced me, that the use of a certain degree of Machinery has benefited the labouring classes; but I am free to knowledge that I am not able to see, to my satisfaction, that dressing cloth by Machinery can produce to the poor shear-men any real advantage, because when in the dressing-mills I have seen that one man can well manage four pair of shears. If your correspondent, who has made the assertion, will be so good as give the A. B. C. thereof, in your paper, he will oblige me with many more of your readers.

It has been hinted to me, that if the croppers would lower their wages, say, be content to earn 20s. a week, instead of 30s.—that then the dressing-mill would not be employed. This may be worthy the consideration of the shear-men; but I admit that it is difficult to persuade men, that 20s. a week constant, is better for them than 30s. though liable to interruptions.

This was published in the Leeds Mercury of 30th November 1816.

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