« PreviousContinue »
interests : they insure their property from losses by fire, storm, and water ; they have established banks, invested in canals, mines, and railways, and contributed to the formation of public works in foreign countries; but by a singular omission they have not insured against the contingencies and fatalities of their present position. How small a portion of the excessive amount of the losses already sustained by the cotton trade, would have been sufficient to have averted those losses, and to have retained in occupation the mills, and in comfort the multitudes of the most deserving workpeople any country ever possessed.
Still, capitalists in connection with the cotton trade have cvinced wonderful confidence in the restoration of prosperity, as in the three years which have elapsed since the convulsion in the States of America occurred, a considerable increase in its extent has been effected in its power to consume cotton. Old and inferior machines have been displaced, and new mills and manufactories have been constructed, thus perceptibly preparing for a very palpable augmentation in the consumption of cotton, but without provision for its enlarged supply.
In 1860, the cotton trade had attained practically its available maximum extent, the average weekly consumption of cotton having been of the growth of The United States
41,094 bags, or 85 per cent. Egyptian and other foreign 3,968
8 East India, with a little West India 3,461
7 Total weekly
48,523 bags, that year's consumption having been 2,523,200 bags.
But the year 1860 closed its consumption with a great increase upon its commencement, and therefore the average 'consumption of the year was below the actual extent which it attained, and which could not be less than 50,000 bags per week. The extensions since that time would doubtless require, if the American supply of cotton could be obtained, as many as 55,000 bags weekly, or probably a supply of nearly three millions of bags for the year. This increase in the power of consuming cotton has been rendered doubly nugatory, first in the vast deficiency in the supply, and secondly, from the great substitution of East India cotton for the lost supply of the American. Should the
production of Indian cotton be abundant, but undergo no improvement in quality, and the American continue to be withheld, the increase in the cotton-spinning machinery would only compensate for the diminished yield of yarn and cloth from the inferior cotton of India ; consequently with a power to consume 55,000 bags weekly, but with a consumption of only 50,000 bags weekly, the difference would represent the loss of energy, capital, and labour, resulting from the imperfection of the substituted low class of the raw material.
This current year, 1863, will have been supplied with cotton for the whole trade to the extent of the average of a full half-year's consumption ; that is, instead of 50,000 bags of chiefly Indian cotton being worked up, the weekly quantity used will be only 25,000 bags during the entire year, or half time for the labourers, their employers, and the occupation of the mills and machinery, in accordance with the calculations of statists known to be well informed upon the subject. A revolution will have taken place in the sources of supply, and the consumption of cotton will be, as nearly as conjecture can venture to estimate, for this passing year, of American
2,000 bags per week, or 67 per cent.
3 East Indian... 15,500
25,000 bags weekly for the whole year. At the present particular moment (November, 1863) it is possible that the trade is consuming 30,000 bags per week, viz., of American
2,500 bags, or 84 per cent. Egyptian
10 West Indian
3 East Indian...
30,000 bags. But as the supply is not equal to the continuance of this rate of consumption, a relapse must ensue temporarily, and the estimated average of 25,000 bags for the year may not be exceeded.
American difficulties do not appear to be approaching a termination; and whether future large supplies of cotton will be obtained from the old fields of cultivation, is a serious question to be solved. Free trade is entitled to the productions of free labour; but justice and humanity proclaim that the chain of the slave shall not hold in perpetual bondage the sons of Africa, or of any other portion of the family of a beneficent Creator; and therefore a wise policy will prepare for the growth of cotton where freedom for toil and just rewards for labour prevail. Having seen the precarious tenure of slave supplies of cotton, and the disastrous results to the artizans of Great Britain, a duty devolves upon the governing and mercantile classes to encourage the cultivation of cotton in every country where it can be produced.
For the current year (1863) the supplies of cotton to the extent of its present limited consumption, and irrespective of speculative operations, are secured, but the stocks in port and in spinners hands at the close of the year are likely to be alarmingly small. The persevering and unceasing "labours of the Cotton Supply Association during several years, have, without the stimulant of the present high prices of cotton, rendered important service in promoting its cultivation in every part of the world capable of yielding it, and to a great and satisfactory extent those labours have been successful, though too often unacknowledged. John Cheetham, Esq., and Edmund Ashworth, Esq., the energetic and indefatigable chairman and vice-chairman of the Association, differ a little in their estimates of supplies, but the latter has computed that there will be an increased supply of cotton for the next year from Turkey
200,000 bags; Italy, &c.
10,000 East Indies
810,000 and after deducting for extra export
200,000 there will be left an available increase of 610,000 bags, or equal to an addition weekly of 11,700 bags for the increased consumption of Great Britain for next year, making the whole supply, according to his estimate, adequate to
four and a half days' employment of the workers per week'; but if with this increase the quality of the supply be somewhat improved, and taking into consideration the augmented extent of machinery, the entire supply may moderately be estimated at four days' consumption per week for the whole of next year. Messrs. Whitworth Brothers, of Manchester, have issued a much more sanguine view than this of the supply of cotton for the approaching year, and by their estimate the supply for the consumption of this country alone will be equal to 43,000 bags per week, which would afford five days work per week, and this ratio of increase being extended to the following year, would then, without American aid, lead to the resumption of full time. They place their calculations in this form : January 1, 1864. Stock in Liverpool and London Markets
250,000 bags. Import from East Indies 1,650,000 Egypt
3,165,000 Deduct for export
624,000 Net supply
2,541,000 Consumption 43,000 weekly
2,236,000, Left in stock at theend of the year 305,000 bags. These gentlemen also record their conviction that the existing prices of cotton are dangerously high, and must recede with the probable increase of coming supplies,
Shrinking from over-cheering anticipations, and supposing the American struggle to be prolonged, it is encouraging to contemplate, upon the lowest and least favourable estimates, that for 1864 there will be independent supplies of cotton for four days' consumption-in 1865 for five days and in the following year, 1866, the increased growth in India, and in the new fields of cultivation, will enable the whole extended cotton trade to obtain adequate supplies of raw material for working full time, supplied from sources uncontaminated and undegraded by slavery'a consummation devoutly to be wished."
Of the power of British India to supply cotton of an excellent and satisfactory quality, there are abundant proofs, but the imperfections in the administrative system of that dependency, and the indisposition of the mercantile middle men to pay a fair price for an improved class of cotton, greatly retarded its improved and extended growth. Justice, however, requires the gratifying fact to be recorded, that from a consumption in the United Kingdom of little more than 3,000 bags per week of Indian cotton in 1860, it
ssible that it is now at the end of this year (1863) nearly 20,000, bags per week. The weather for the Indian crop of the lasi season was unpropitious, or a much larger supply would have been obtained ; and from efforts now making in India, the most favourable anticipations of an enlarged yield inay be entertained : but to prevent future disappointment to the Cotton Ryots of India, it is indispensable that a higher quality should be grown, and that they should be amply compensated for that higher quality by being paid a correspondingly higher price.
In the passing year there has been happily an amelioration in the condition of the labourers in the cotton trade, and especially in the Lancashire district. The Central Committee for the relief of the distressed operatives state that the total number of persons receiving relief from all the funds administeringlaid to the distressed, was in January last 456,786, whilst in the month of October the number was reduced to 168,170, thus proving a gradual diminution in the extent of distress and suffering.
“Rocks are still ahead." Presuming that India and the British colonies, which truly possess the greatest proportion of the soil of the world that can yield a vastly enlarged supply of cotton, do send the requisite increase, how is labour to be obtained for the extended spinning and manufacturing concerns lately called into existence? Hitherto Ireland has largely contributed to the labour and prosperity of the cotton trade, but the prolonged exodus from that portion of the empire precludes the possibility of any great extent of surplus labour being thence immediately obtained. The prevailing prosperity of the country, and the activity in the trades which now rival the manufactures of cotton, will not return much of the migrated labour, and therefore little additional labour can