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On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures by Charles Babbage

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327. The arts of contriving, of drawing, and of executing, do
not usually reside in their greatest perfection in one
individual; and in this, as in other arts, the division of labour
must be applied. The best advice which can be offered to a
projector of any mechanical invention, is to employ a respectable
draughtsman; who, if he has had a large experience in his
profession, will assist in finding out whether the contrivance is
new, and can then make working drawings of it. The first step,
however, the ascertaining whether the contrivance has the merit
of novelty, is most important; for it is a maxim equally just in
all the arts, and in every science, that the man who aspires to
fortune or to fame by new discoveries, must be content to examine
with care the knowledge of his contemporaries, or to exhaust his
efforts in inventing again, what he will most probably find has
been better executed before.

328. This, nevertheless, is a subject upon which even
ingenious men are often singularly negligent. There is, perhaps,
no trade or profession existing in which there is so much
quackery, so much ignorance of the scientific principles, and of
the history of their own art, with respect to its resources and
extent, as are to be met with amongst mechanical projectors. The
self-constituted engineer, dazzled with the beauty of some,
perhaps, really original contrivance, assumes his new profession
with as little suspicion that previous instruction, that thought
and painful labour, are necessary to its successful exercise, as
does the statesman or the senator. Much of this false confidence
arises from the improper estimate which is entertained of the
difficulty of invention in mechanics. It is, therefore, of great
importance to the individuals and to the families of those who
are too often led away from more suitable pursuits, the dupes of
their own ingenuity and of the popular voice, to convince both
them and the public that the power of making new mechanical
combinations is a possession common to a multitude of minds, and
that the talents which it requires are by no means of the highest
order. It is still more important that they should be impressed
with the conviction that the great merit, and the great success
of those who have attained to eminence in such matters, was
almost entirely due to the unremitted perseverance with which
they concentrated upon their successful inventions the skill and
knowledge which years of study had matured.

Chapter 28

Proper Circumstances for the Application of Machinery

329. The first object of machinery, the chief cause of its
extensive utility, is the perfection and the cheap production of
the articles which it is intended to make. Whenever it is
required to produce a great multitude of things, all of exactly
the same kind, the proper time has arrived for the construction
of tools or machines by which they may be manufactured. If only a
few pairs of cotton stockings should be required, it would be an
absurd waste of time, and of capital, to construct a
stocking-frame to weave them, when, for a few pence, four steel
wires can be procured by which they may be knit. If, on the other
hand, many thousand pairs were wanted, the time employed, and the
expense incurred in constructing a stocking-frame, would be more
than repaid by the saving of time in making that large number of
stockings. The same principle is applicable to the copying of
letters: if three or four copies only are required, the pen and
the human hand furnish the cheapest means of obtaining them; if
hundreds are called for, lithography may be brought to our
assistance; but if hundreds of thousands are wanted, the
machinery of a printing establishment supplies the most
economical method of accomplishing the object.

330. There are, however, many cases in which machines or
tools must be made, in which economical production is not the
most important object. Whenever it is required to produce a few
articles parts of machinery, for instance, which must be executed
with the most rigid accuracy or be perfectly alike--it is nearly
impossible to fulfil this condition, even with the aid of the
most skilful hands: and it becomes necessary to make tools
expressly for the purpose, although those tools should, as
frequently happens, cost more in constructing than the things
they are destined to make.

331. Another instance of the just application of machinery,
even at an increased expense, arises where the shortness of time
in which the article is produced, has an important influence on
its value. In the publication of our daily newspapers, it
frequently happens that the debates in the Houses of Parliament
are carried on to three and four o'clock in the morning, that is.
to within a very few hours of the time for the publication of the
paper. The speeches must be taken down by reporters, conveyed by
them to the establishment of the newspaper, perhaps at the
distance of one or two miles, transcribed by them in the office,
set up by the compositor, the press corrected, and the paper be
printed off and distributed, before the public can read them.
Some of these journals have a circulation of from five to ten
thousand daily. Supposing four thousand to be wanted, and that
they could be printed only at the rate of five hundred per hour
upon one side of the paper, (which was the greatest number two
journeymen and a boy could take off by the old hand presses),
sixteen hours would be required for printing the complete
edition; and the news conveyed to the purchasers of the latest
portion of the impression, would be out of date before they could
receive it. To obviate this difficulty, it was often necessary to
set up the paper in duplicate, and sometimes, when late, in
triplicate: but the improvements in the printing machines have
been so great, that four thousand copies are now printed on one
side in an hour.

332. The establishment of 'The Times' newspaper is an
example, on a large scale, of a manufactory in which the division
of labour, both mental and bodily, is admirably illustrated, and
in which also the effect of domestic economy is well exemplified.
It is scarcely imagined by the thousands who read that paper in
various quarters of the globe, what a scene of organized activity
the factory presents during the whole night, or what a quantity
of talent and mechanical skill is put in action for their
amusement and information. (1*) Nearly a hundred persons are
employed in this establishment; and, during the session of
Parliament, at least twelve reporters are constantly attending
the Houses of Commons and Lords; each in his turn retiring, after
about an hour's work, to translate into ordinary writing, the
speech he has just heard and noted in shorthand. In the meantime
fifty compositors are constantly at work, some of whom have
already set up the beginning, whilst others are committing to
type the yet undried manuscript of the continuation of a speech,
whose middle portion is travelling to the office in the pocket of
the hasty reporter, and whose eloquent conclusion is, perhaps, at
that very moment, making the walls of St Stephen's vibrate with
the applause of its hearers. These congregated types, as fast as
they are composed, are passed in portions to other hands; till at
last the scattered fragments of the debate, forming, when united
with the ordinary matter, eight-and-forty columns, reappear in
regular order on the platform of the printing-press. The hand of
man is now too slow for the demands of his curiosity, but the
power of steam comes to his assistance. Ink is rapidly supplied
to the moving types, by the most perfect mechanism; four
attendants incessantly introduce the edges of large sheets of
white paper to the junction of two great rollers, which seem to
devour them with unsated appetite; other rollers convey them to
the type already inked, and having brought them into rapid and
successive contact, redeliver them to four other assistants,
completely printed by the almost momentary touch. Thus, in one
hour, four thousand sheets of paper are printed on one side; and
an impression of twelve thousand copies, from above three hundred
thousand moveable pieces of metal, is produced for the public in
six hours.

333. The effect of machinery in printing other periodical
publications, and of due economy in distributing them, is so
important for the interests of knowledge, that it is worth
examining by what means it is possible to produce them at the
small price at which they are sold. 'Chambers' Journal', which is
published at Edinburgh, and sold at three halfpence a number,
will furnish an example. Soon after its commencement in 1832, the
sale in Scotland reached 30,000, and in order to supply the
demand in London it was reprinted; but on account of the expense
of 'composition' it was found that this plan would not produce
any profit, and the London edition was about to be given up, when
it occurred to the proprietor to stereotype it at Edinburgh, and
cast two copies of the plates. This is now done about three weeks
before the day of publication--one set of plates being sent up
to London by the mail, an impression is printed off by steam: the
London agent has then time to send packages by the cheapest
conveyances to several of the large towns, and other copies go
through the booksellers' parcels to all the smaller towns. Thus a
great saving is effected in the outlay of capital, and 20,000
copies are conveyed from London, as a centre, to all parts of
England, whilst there is no difficulty in completing imperfect
sets, nor any waste from printing more than the public demand.

334. The conveyance of letters is another case, in which the
importance of saving time would allow of great expense in any new
machinery for its accomplishment. There is a natural limit to the
speed of horses, which even the greatest improvements in the
breed, aided by an increased perfection in our roads, can never
surpass; and from which, perhaps, we are at present not very
remote. When we reflect upon the great expense of time and money
which the last refinements of a theory or an art usually require,
it is not unreasonable to suppose that the period has arrived in
which the substitution of machinery for such purposes ought to be

335. The post bag despatched every evening by the mail to one
of our largest cities, Bristol, usually weighs less than a
hundred pounds. Now, the first reflection which naturally
presents itself is, that, in order to transport these letters a
hundred and twenty miles, a coach and apparatus, weighing above
thirty hundredweight, are put in motion, and also conveyed over
the same space. (2*)

It is obvious that, amongst the conditions of machinery for
accomplishing such an object, it would be desirable to reduce the
weight of matter to be conveyed along with the letters: it would
also be desirable to reduce the velocity of the animal power
employed; because the faster a horse is driven, the less weight
he can draw. Amongst the variety of contrivances which might be
imagined for this purpose, we will mention one, which, although
by no means free from objections, fulfils some of the prescribed
conditions; and it is not a purely theoretical speculation, since
some few experiments have been made upon it, though on an
extremely limited scale.

336. Let us imagine a series of high pillars erected at
frequent intervals, perhaps every hundred feet, and as nearly as
possible in a straight line between two post towns. An iron or
steel wire must be stretched over proper supports, fixed on each
of these pillars, and terminating at the end of every three or
five miles, as may be found expedient, in a very strong support,
by which it may be stretched. At each of these latter points a
man ought to reside in a small stationhouse. A narrow cylindrical
tin case, to contain the letters, might be suspended by two
wheels rolling upon this wire; the cases being so constructed as
to enable the wheels to pass unimpeded by the fixed supports of
the wire. An endless wire of much smaller size must pass over two
drums, one at each end of the station. This wire should be
supported on rollers, fixed to the supports of the great wire,
and at a short distance below it. There would thus be two
branches of the smaller wire always accompanying the larger one;
and the attendant at either station, by turning the drum, might
cause them to move with great velocity in opposite directions. In
order to convey the cylinder which contains the letters, it would
only be necessary to attach it by a string, or by a catch, to
either of the branches of the endless wire. Thus it would be
conveyed speedily to the next station, where it would be removed
by the attendant to the commencement of the next wire, and so
forwarded. It is unnecessary to enter into the details which
this, or any similar plan, would require. The difficulties are
obvious; but if: these could be overcome, it would present many
advantages besides velocity; for if an attendant resided at each
station, the additional expense of having two or three deliveries
of letters every day, and even of sending expresses at any
moment, would be comparatively trifling; nor is it impossible
that the stretched wire might itself be available for a species
of telegraphic communication yet more rapid.

Perhaps if the steeples of churches, properly selected, were
made use of, connecting them by a few intermediate stations with
some great central building, as, for instance, with the top of St
Paul's; and if a similar apparatus were placed on the top of each
steeple, with a man to work it during the day, it might be
possible to diminish the expense of the two-penny post, and make
deliveries every half hour over the greater part of the

337. The power of steam, however, bids fair almost to rival
the velocity of these contrivances; and the fitness of its
application to the purposes of conveyance, particularly where
great rapidity is required, begins now to be generally admitted.
The following extract from the Report of the Committee of the
House of Commons on steamcarriages, explains clearly its various

Perhaps one of the principal advantages resulting from the use of
steam, will be, that it may be employed as cheaply at a quick as
at a slow rate; 'this is one of the advantages over horse labour.
which becomes more and more expensive as the speed is increased.
There is every reason to expect, that in the end the rate of
travelling by steam will be much quicker than the utmost speed of
travelling by horses; in short, the safety to travellers will
become the limit to speed.' In horse-draught the opposite result
takes place; 'in all cases horses lose power of draught in a much
greater proportion than they gain speed, and hence the work they
do becomes more expensive as they go quicker.'

Without increase of cost, then, we shall obtain a power which
will insure a rapidity of internal communication far beyond the
utmost speed of horses in draught; and although the performance
of these carriages may not have hitherto attained this point,
when once it has been established, that at equal speed we can use
steam more cheaply in draught than horses, we may fairly
anticipate that every day's increased experience in the
management of the engines, will induce greater skill, greater
confidence, and greater speed.

The cheapness of the conveyance will probably be, for some
time, a secondary consideration. If, at present, it can be used
as cheaply as horse power, the competition with the former modes
of conveyance will first take place as to speed. When once the
superiority of steam-carriages shall have been fully established,
competition will induce economy in the cost of working them. The
evidence, however, of Mr Macneill, shewing the greater
efficiency, with diminished expenditure of fuel, by locomotive
engines on railwavs, convinces the committee, that experience
will soon teach a better construction of the engines, and a less
costly mode of generating the requisite supply of steam.

Nor are the advantages of steam-power confined to the greater
velocitv attained, or to its greater cheapness than
horse-draught. In the latter, danger is increased, in as large a
proportion as expense, by greater speed. In steam-power, on the
contrary, 'there is no danger of being run away with, and that of
being overturned is greatly diminished. It is difficult to
control four such horses as can draw a heavy carriage ten miles
per hour, in case they are frightened, or choose to run away; and
for quick travelling they must be kept in that state of courage,
that they are always inclined for running away, particularly down
hills, and at sharp turns of the road. In steam, however, there
is little corresponding danger, being perfectly controllable, and
capable of exerting its power in reverse in going down hills.,
Every witness examined has given the fullest and most
satisfactory evidence of the perfect control which the conductor
has over the movement of the carriage. With the slightest
exertion it can be stopped or turned, under circumstances where
horses would be totally unmanageable.

338. Another instance may be mentioned in which the object to
be obtained is so important, that although it might be rarely
wanted, yet machinery for that purpose would justify considerable
expense. A vessel to contain men, and to be navigated at some
distance below the surface of the sea, would, in many
circumstances, be almost invaluable. Such a vessel, evidently,
could not be propelled by any engine requiring the aid of fire.
If, however, by condensing air into a liquid, and carrying it in
that state, a propelling power could be procured sufficient for
moving the vessel through a considerable space, the expense would
scarcely render its occasional employment impossible.(3*)

339. Slide of Alpnach. Amongst the forests which flank many
of the lofty mountains of Switzerland, some of the finest timber
is found in positions almost inaccessible. The expense of roads,
even if it were possible to make them in such situations, would
prevent the inhabitants from deriving any advantages from these
almost inexhaustible supplies. Placed by nature at a considerable
elevation above the spot at which they can be made use of, they
are precisely in fit circumstances for the application of
machinery to their removal; and the inhabitants avail themselves
of the force of gravity to relieve them from some portion of this
labour. The inclined planes which they have established in
various forests, by which the timber has been sent down to the
water courses, have excited the admiration of every traveller;
and in addition to the merit of simplicity, the construction
these slides requires scarcely anything beyond the material which
grows upon the spot.

Of all these specimens of carpentry, the Slide of Alpnach was
the most considerable, from its great length, and from the almost
inaccessible position from which it descended. The following
account of it is taken from Gilbert's Annalen, 1819, which is
translated in the second volume of Brewster's Journal:

For many centuries, the rugged flanks and the deep gorges of
Mount Pilatus were covered with impenetrable forests; which were
permitted to grow and to perish, without being of the least
utility to man, till a foreigner, who had been conducted into
their wild recesses in the pursuit of the chamois, directed the
attention of several Swiss gentlemen to the extent and
superiority of the timber. The most skilful individuals, however,
considered it quite impracticable to avail themselves of such
inaccessible stores. It was not till the end of 1816, that M.
Rupp, and three Swiss gentlemen, entertaining more sanguine
hopes, purchased a certain extent of the forests, and began the
construction of the slide, which was completed in the spring of

The Slide of Alpnach is formed entirely of about 25,000 large
pine trees, deprived of their bark, and united together in a very
ingenious manner, without the aid of iron. It occupied about 160
workmen during eighteen months, and cost nearly 100,000 francs,
or L4,250. It is about three leagues, or 44,000 English feet
long, and terminates in the Lake of Lucerne. It has the form of a
trough, about six feet broad, and from three to six feet deep.
Its bottom is formed of three trees, the middle one of which has
a groove cut out in the direction of its length, for receiving
small rills of water, which are conducted into it from various
places, for the purpose of diminishing the friction. The whole of
the slide is sustained by about 2,000 supports; and in many
places it is attached, in a very ingenious manner, to the rugged
precipices of granite.

The direction of the slide is sometimes straight, and
sometimes zig-zag, with an inclination of from 10 degrees to 18
degrees. It is often carried along the sides of hills and the
flanks of precipitous rocks, and sometimes passes over their
summits. Occasionally it goes under ground, and at other times it
is conducted over the deep gorges by scaffoldings 120 feet in

The boldness which characterizes this work, the sagacity and
skill displayed in all its arrangements, have excited the wonder
of every person who has seen it. Before any step could be taken
in its erection, it was necessary to cut several thousand trees
to obtain a passage through the impenetrable thickets. All these
difficulties, however, were surmounted, and the engineer had at
last the satisfaction of seeing the trees descend from the
mountain with the rapidity of lightning. The larger pines, which
were about a hundred feet long, and ten inches thick at their
smaller extremity, ran through the space of three leagues, or
nearly nine miles, in two minutes and a half, and during their
descent, they appeared to be only a few feet in length.

The arrangements for this part of the operation were
extremely simple. From the lower end of the slide to the upper
end, where the trees were introduced, workmen were posted at
regular distances, and as soon as everything was ready, the
workman at the lower end of the slide cried out to the one above
him, 'Lachez' (let go). The cry was repeated from one to another.
and reached the top of the slide in three minutes. The workmen at
the top of the slide then cried out to the one below him, 'Il
vient' (it comes), and the tree was instantly launched down the
slide, preceded by the cry which was repeated from post to post.
As soon as the tree had reached thebottom, and plunged into the
lake, the cry of lachez was repeated as before, and a new tree
was launched in a similar manner. By these means a tree descended
every five or six minutes, provided no accident happened to the
slide, which sometimes took place, but which was instantly
repaired when it did.

In order to shew the enormous force which the trees acquired
from the great velocity of their descent, M. Rupp made
arrangements for causing some of the trees to spring from the
slide. They penetrated by their thickest extremities no less than
from eighteen to twenty-four feet into the earth; and one of the
trees having by accident struck against another, it instantly
cleft it through its whole length, as if it had been struck by

After the trees had descended the slide, they were collected
into rafts upon the lake, and conducted to Lucerne. From thence
they descended the Reuss, then the Aar to near Brugg, afterwards
to Waldshut by the Rhine, then to Basle, and even to the sea when
it was necessary.

It is to be regretted that this magnificent structure no
longer exists, and that scarcely a trace of it is to be seen upon
the flanks of Mount Pilatus. Political circumstances having taken
away the principal source of demand for the timber, and no other
market having been found, the operation of cutting and
transporting the trees necessarily ceased.(4*)

Professor Playfair, who visited this singular work, states,
that six minutes was the usual time occupied in the descent of a
tree; but that in wet weather, it reached the lake in three


1. The author of these pages, with one of his friends, was
recently induced to visit this most interesting establishment,
after midnight, during the progress of a very important debate.
The place was illuminated with gas, and was light as the day:
there was neither noise nor bustle; and the visitors were
received with such calm and polite attention, that they did not,
until afterwards, become sensible of the inconvenience which such
intruders, at a moment of the greatest pressure, must occasion,
nor reflect tha the tranquility which they admired, was the
result of intense and regulated occupation. But the effect of
such checks in the current of business will appear on
recollecting that, as four thousand newspapers are printed off on
one side within the hour, every minute is attended with a loss of
sixty-six impressions. The quarter of an hour, therefore, which
the stranger may think it not unreasonable to claim for the
gratification of his curiosity (and to him this time is but a
moment), may cause a failure in the delivery of a thousand
copies, and disappoint a proportionate number of expectant
readers, in some of our distant towns, to which the morning
papers are dispatched by the earliest and most rapid conveyances
of each day.

This note is inserted with the further and more general
purpose of calling the attention of those, especially foreigners,
who are desirous of inspecting our larger manufactories, to the
chief cause of the difficulty which frequently attends their
introduction. When the establishment is very extensive, and its
departments skilfully arranged, the exclusion of visitors arises,
not from any illiberal jealousy, nor, generally, from any desire
of concealment, which would, in most cases, be absurd, but from
the substantial inconvenience and loss of time, throughout an
entire series of well-combined operations, which must be
occasioned even by short and causual interruptions.

2. It is true that the transport of letters is not the only
object which this apparatus answers; but the transport of
passengers, which is a secondary object, does in fact put a limit
to the velocity of that of the letters, which is the primary one.

3. A proposal for such a vessel, and description of its
construction, by the author of this volume, may be found in the
Encyclopaedia Metropolitana, Art. Diving Bell.

4. The mines of Bolanos in Mexico are supplied with timber from
the adjacent mountains by a slide similar to that of Alpnach. It
was constructed by M. Floresi, a gentleman well acquainted with

Chapter 29

On the Duration of Machinery

340. The time during which a machine will continue to perform
its work effectually, will depend chiefly upon the perfection
with which it was originally constructed upon the care taken to
keep it in proper repair, particularly to correct every shake or
looseness in the axes--and upon the smallness of the mass and of
the velocity of its moving parts. Everything approaching to a
blow, all sudden change of direction, is injurious. Engines for
producing power, such as windmills, water-mills, and
steam-engines, usually last a long time.(1*)

341. Many of the improvements which have taken place in
steamengines, have arisen from an improved construction of the
boiler or the fireplace. The following table of the work done by
steam-engines in Cornwall, whilst it proves the importance of
constantly measuring the effects of machinery, shows also the
gradual advance which has been made in the art of constructing
and managing those engines.

A table of the duty performed by steam-engines in Cornwall,
shewing the average of the whole for each year, and also the
average duty of the best engine in each monthly report

Years; Approximate number of engines reported; Average duty of
the whole; Average duty of the best engines

1813; 24; 19,456,000; 26,400,000
1814; 29; 20.534,232; 32,000,000
1815; 35; 20.526,160; 28,700,000
1816; 32; 22,907,110; 32,400,000
1817; 31; 26,502,259; 41,600,000
1818; 32; 25,433,783; 39,300,000
1819; 37; 26,252,620; 40,000,000
1820; 37; 28,736,398; 41,300,000
1821; 39; 28,223,382; 42,800,000
1822; 45; 28,887,216; 42,500.000
1823; 45; 28,156,162; 42,122,000
1824; 45; 28,326,140; 43,500,000
1825; 50; 32,000,741; 45,400,000
1826; 48; 30,486,630; 45,200,000
1827; 47; 32,100,000; 59,700,000
1828; 54; 37,100,000; 76,763,000
1829; 52; 41,220,000; 76,234,307
1830; 55; 43,350,000; 75,885,519
1831; 55(2*); 44,700,000; 74,911,365
1832; 60; 44,400,000; 79,294,114
1833; 58; 46,000,000; 83,306,092

342. The advantage arising from registering the duty done by
steamengines in Cornwall has been so great that the proprietors
of one of the largest mines, on which there are several engines,
find it good economy to employ a man to measure the duty they
perform every day. This daily report is fixed up at a particular
hour, and the enginemen are always in waiting, anxious to know
the state of their engines. As the general reports are made
monthly, if accident should cause a partial stoppage in the flue
of any of the boilers, it might without this daily check continue
two or three weeks before it could be discovered by a falling off
of the duty of the engine. In several of the mines a certain
amount of duty is assigned to each engine; and if it does more,
the proprietors give a premium to the engineers according to its
amount. This is called million money, and is a great stimulus to
economy in working the engine.

343. Machinery for producing any commodity in great demand,
seldom actually wears out; new improvements, by which the same
operations can be executed either more quickly or better,
generally superseding it long before that period arrives: indeed,
to make such an improved machine profitable, it is usually
reckoned that in five years it ought to have paid itself, and in
ten to be superseded by a better.

'A cotton manufacturer,' says one of the witnesses before a
Committee of the House of Commons, 'who left Manchester seven
years ago, would be driven out of the market by the men who are
now living in it, provided his knowledge had not kept pace with
those who have been, during that time, constantly profiting by
the progressive improvements that have taken place in that

344. The effect of improvements in machinery, seems
incidentally to increase production, through a cause which may be
thus explained. A manufacturer making the usual profit upon his
capital, invested in looms or other machines in perfect
condition, the market price of making each of which is a hundred
pounds, invents some improvement. But this is of such a nature,
that it cannot be adapted to his present engines. He finds upon
calculation, that at the rate at which he can dispose of his
manufactured produce, each new engine would repay the cost of its
making, together with the ordinary profit of capital, in three
years: he also concludes from his experience of the trade, that
the improvement he is about to make, will not be generally
adopted by other manufacturers before that time. On these
considerations, it is clearly his interest to sell his present
engines, even at half-price, and construct new ones on the
improved principle. But the purchaser who gives only fifty pounds
for the old engines, has not so large a fixed capital invested in
his factory, as the person from whom he purchased them; and as he
produces the same quantity of the manufactured article, his
profits will be larger. Hence, the price of the commodity will
fall, not only in consequence of the cheaper production by the
new machines, but also by the more profitable working of the old,
thus purchased at a reduced price. This change, however, can be
only transient; for a time will arrive when the old machinery,
although in good repair, must become worthless. The improvement
which took place not long ago in frames for making patent-net was
so great, that a machine, in good repair, which had cost L1200,
sold a few years after for L60. During the great speculations in
that trade, the improvements succeeded each other so rapidly,
that machines which had never been finished were abandoned in the
hands of their makers, because new improvements had superseded
their utility.

345. The durability of watches, when well made, is very
remarkable. One was produced, in going order, before a committee
of the House of Commons to enquire into the watch trade, which
was made in the year 1660; and there are many of ancient date, in
the possession of the Clockmaker's Company, which are still
actually kept going. The number of watches manufactured for home
consumption was, in the year 1798, about 50,000 annually. If this
supply was for Great Britain only, it was consumed by about ten
and a half millions of persons.

346. Machines are, in some trades, let out to hire, and a
certain sum is paid for their use; in the manner of rent. This is
the case amongst the framework knitters: and Mr Henson, in
speaking of the rate of payment for the use of their frames,
states, that the proprietor receives such a rent that, besides
paying the full interest for his capital, he clears the value of
his frame in nine years. When the rapidity with which
improvements succeed each other is considered, this rent does not
appear exorbitant. Some of these frames have been worked for
thirteen years with little or no repair. But circumstances
occasionally arise which throw them out of employment, either
temporarily or permanently. Some years since, an article was
introduced called cut-up work, by which the price of
stocking-frames was greatly deteriorated. From the evidence of Mr
J. Rawson, it appears that, in consequence of this change in the
nature of the work, each frame could do the work of two, and many
stocking frames were thrown out of employment, and their value
reduced full threefourths.(3*)

This information is of great importance, if the numbers here
given are nearly correct, and if no other causes intervened to
diminish the price of frames; for it shews the numerical
connection between the increased production of those machines and
their diminished value.

347. The great importance of simplifying all transactions
between masters and workmen, and of dispassionately discussing
with the latter the influence of any proposed regulations
connected with their trade, is well examplified by a mistake into
which both parties unintentionally fell, and which was productive
of very great misery in the lace trade. Its history is so well
told by William Allen, a framework knitter, who was a party to
it, that an extract from his evidence, as given before the
Framework Knitters' Committee of 1812, will best explain it.

"I beg to say a few words respecting the frame rent; the rent
paid for lace frames, until the year 1805, was 1s. 6d. a frame
per week; there then was not any very great inducement for
persons to buy frames and let them out by the hire, who did not
belong to the trade; at that time an attempt was made, by one or
two houses, to reduce the prices paid to the workmen, in
consequence of a dispute between these two houses and another
great house: some little difference being paid in the price
amongst the respective houses, I was one chosen by the workmen to
try if we could not remedy the impending evil: we consulted the
respective parties, and found them inflexible; these two houses
that were about to reduce the prices, said that they would either
immediately reduce the price of making net, or they would
increase the frame rent: the difference to the workmen was
considerable, between the one and the other; they would suffer
less, in the immediate operation of the thing, by having the rent
advanced, than the price of making net reduced. They chose at
that time, as they thought, the lesser evil, but it has turned
out to be otherwise; for, immediately as the rent was raised upon
the percentage laid out in frames, it induced almost every
person, who had got a little money, to lay it out in the purchase
of frames; these frames were placed in the hands of men who could
get work for them at the warehouses; they were generally
constrained to pay an enormous rent, and then they were
compelled, most likely, to buy of the persons that let them the
frames, their butcher's meat, their grocery, or their clothing:
the encumbrance of these frames became entailed upon them: if any
deadness took place in the work they must take it at a very
reduced price, for fear of the consequences that would fall upon
them from the person who bought the frame: thus the evil has been
daily increasing, till, in conjunction with the other evils crept
into the trade, they have almost crushed it to atoms."

348. The evil of not assigning fairly to each tool, or each
article produced, its proportionate value, or even of not having
a perfectly distinct, simple, and definite agreement between a
master and his workmen, is very considerable. Workmen find it
difficult in such cases to know the probable produce of their
labour; and both parties are often led to adopt arrangements,
which, had they been well examined, would have been rejected as
equally at variance in the results with the true interests of

349. At Birmingham, stamps and dies, and presses for a great
variety of articles, are let out: they are generally made by men
possessing small capital, and are rented by workmen. Power also
is rented at the same place. Steam-engines are erected in large
buildings containing a variety of rooms, in which each person may
hire one, two, or any other amount of horsepower, as his
occupation may require. If any mode could be discovered of
transmitting power, without much loss from friction, to
considerable distances, and at the same time of registering the
quantity made use of at any particular point, a considerable
change would probably take place in many departments of the
present system of manufacturing. A few central engines to produce
power, might then be erected in our great towns, and each
workman, hiring a quantity of power sufficient for his purpose,
might have it conveyed into his own house; and thus a transition
might in some instances be effected, if it should be found more
profitable, back again from the system of great factories to that
of domestic manufacture.

350. The transmission of water through a series of pipes,
might be employed for the distribution of power, but the friction
would consume a considerable portion. Another method has been
employed in some instances, and is practised at the Mint. It
consists in exhausting the air from a large vessel by means of a
steam-engine. This vessel is connected by pipes, with a small
piston which drives each coining press; and, on opening a valve,
the pressure of the external air forces in the piston. This air
is then admitted to the general reservoir, and pumped out by the
engine. The condensation of air might be employed for the same
purpose; but there are some unexplained facts relating to elastic
fluids, which require further observations and experiment before
they can be used for the conveyance of power to any considerable
distance. It has been found, for instance, in attempting to blow
a furnace by means of a powerful water-wheel driving air through
a cast-iron pipe of above a mile in length, that scarcely any
sensible effect was produced at the opposite extremity. In one
instance, some accidental obstruction being suspected, a cat put
in at one end found its way out without injury at the other, thus
proving that the phenomenon did not depend on interruption within
the pipe.

351. The most portable form in which power can be condensed
is, perhaps, by the liquefaction of the gases. It is known that,
under considerable pressure, several of these become liquid at
ordinary temperatures; carbonic acid, for example, is reduced to
a liquid state by a pressure of sixty atmospheres. One of the
advantages attending the use of these fluids, would be that the
pressure exerted by them would remain constant until the last
drop of liquid had assumed the form of gas. If either of the
elements of common air should be found to be capable of reduction
to a liquid state before it unites into a corrosive fluid with
the other ingredient, then we shall possess a ready means of
conveying power in any quantity and to any distance. Hydrogen
probably will require the strongest compressing force to render
it liquid, and may, therefore, possibly be applied where still
greater condensation of power is wanted. In all these cases the
condensed gases may be looked upon as springs of enormous force,
which have been wound up by the exertion of power, and which will
deliver the whole of it back again when required. These springs
of nature differ in some respects from the steel springs formed
by our art; for in the compression of the natural springs a vast
quantity of latent heat is forced out, and in their return to the
state of gas an equal quantity is absorbed. May not this very
property be employed with advantage in their application?

Part of the mechanical difficulty to be overcome in
constructing apparatus connected with liquefied gases, will
consist in the structure of the valves and packing necessary to
retain the fluids under the great pressure to which they must be
submitted. The effect of heat on these gases has not yet been
sufficiently tried, to lead us to any very precise notions of the
additional power which its application to them will supply.

The elasticity of air is sometimes employed as a spring,
instead of steel: in one of the large printing-machines in London
the momentum of a considerable mass of matter is destroyed by
making it condense the air included in a cylinder, by means of a
piston against which it impinges.

352. The effect of competition in cheapening articles of
manufacture sometimes operates in rendering them less durable.
When such articles are conveyed to a distance for consumption, if
they are broken, it often happens, from the price of labour being
higher where they are used than where they were made, that it is
more expensive to mend the old article, than to purchase a new.
Such is usually the case, in great cities, with some of the
commoner locks, with hinges, and with a variety of articles of


1. The amount of obstructions arising from the casual fixing of
trees in the bottom of the river, may be estimated from the
proportion of steamboats destroyed by running upon them, The
subjoined statement is taken from the American Almanack for 1832:

'Between the years 1811 and 1831, three hundred and
forty-eight steamboats were built on the Mississippi and its
tributary streams During that period a hundred and fifty were
lost or worn out,
'Of this hundred and fifty:
worn out 63
lost by snags 36
burnt 14
lost by collision 3
by accidents
not ascertained 34
Thirty-six, or nearly one fourth, being destroyed by accidental

Snag is the name given in America to trees which stand nearly
upright in the stream, with their roots fixed at the bottom.

It is usual to divide off at the bow of the steamboats a
watertight chamber, in order that when a hole is made in it by
running against the snags, the water may not enter the rest of
the vessel and sink it instantly.

2. This passage is not printed in italics in the original, but it
has been thus marked in the above extract, from its importance,
and from the conviction that the most extended discussion will
afford additional evidence of its truth.

3. Report from the Committee of the House of Commons on the
Framework Knitter's Petition, April, 1819.

Chapter 30

On Combinations Amongst Masters or Workmen against Each Other

353. There exist amongst the workmen of almost all classes,
certain rules or laws which govern their actions towards each
other, and towards their employers. But, besides these general
principles, there are frequently others peculiar to each factory,
which have derived their origin, in many instances, from the
mutual convenience of the parties engaged in them. Such rules are
little known except to those actually pursuing the several
trades; and, as it is of importance that their advantages and
disadvantages should be canvassed, we shall offer a few remarks
upon some of them.

354. The principles by which such laws should be tried are,

First. That they conduce to the general benefit of all the
persons employed.

Secondly. That they prevent fraud.

Thirdly. That they interfere as little as possible with the
free agency of each individual.

355. It is usual in many workshops, that, on the first
entrance of a new journeyman, he shall pay a small fine to the
rest of the men. It is clearly unjust to insist upon this
payment; and when it is spent in drinking, which is,
unfortunately, too often the case, it is injurious. The reason
assigned for the demand is, that the newcomer will require some
instruction in the habits of the shop, and in the places of the
different tools, and will thus waste the time of some of his
companions until he is instructed. If this fine were added to a
fund, managed by the workmen themselves, and either divided at
given periods, or reserved for their relief in sickness, it would
be less objectionable, since its tendency would be to check the
too frequent change of men from one shop to another. But it
ought, at all events, not to be compulsory, and the advantages to
be derived from the fund to which the workman is invited to
subscribe, ought to be his sole inducement to contribute.

356. In many workshops, the workmen, although employed on
totally different parts of the objects manufactured, are yet
dependent, in some measure, upon each other. Thus a single smith
may be able to forge, in one day, work enough to keep four or
five turners employed during the next. If, from idleness or
intemperance, the smith neglects his work, and does not furnish
the usual supply, the turners (supposing them to be paid by the
piece), will have their time partly unoccupied, and their gains
consequently diminished. It is reasonable, in such circumstances,
that a fine should be levied on the delinquent; but it is
desirable that the master should have concurred with his workmen
in establishing such a rule, and that it should be shown to each
individual previously to his engagement; and it is very desirable
that such fine should not be spent in drinking.

357. In some establishments, it is customary for the master
to give a small gratuity whenever any workman has exercised a
remarkable degree of skill, or has economized the material
employed. Thus, in splitting horn into layers for lanterns, one
horn usually furnishes from five to eight layers; but if a
workman split the horn into ten layers or more, he receives a
pint of ale from the master. These premiums should not be too
high, lest the material should be wasted in unsuccessful
attempts: but such regulations, when judiciously made, are
beneficial, as they tend to produce skill amongst the workmen,
profit to the masters, and diminished cost to the consumers.

358. In some few factories, in which the men are paid by the
piece, it is usual, when any portion of work, delivered in by a
workman, is rejected by the master on account of its being badly
executed, to fine the delinquent. Such a practice tends to remedy
one of the evils attendant upon that mode of payment, and greatly
assists the master, since his own judgement is thus supported by
competent and unprejudiced judges.

359. Societies exist amongst some of the larger bodies of
workmen, and others have been formed by the masters engaged in
the same branches of trade. These associations have different
objects in view; but it is very desirable that their effects
should be well understood by the individuals who compose them;
and that the advantages arising from them, which are certainly
great, should be separated as much as possible from the evils
which they have, unfortunately, too frequently introduced.
Associations of workmen and of masters may, with advantage, agree
upon rules to be observed by both parties, in estimating the
proportionate value of different kinds of work executed in their
trade, in order that time may be saved, and disputes be
prevented. They may also be most usefully employed in acquiring
accurate information as to the number of persons working in the
various departments of any manufacture, their rate of wages, the
number of machines in use, and other statistical details.
Information of this nature is highly valuable, both for the
guidance of the parties who are themselves most interested, and
to enable them, upon any application to government for
assistance, or with a view to legislative enactments, to supply
those details, without which the propriety of any proposed
measure cannot be duly estimated. Such details may be collected
by men actually engaged in any branch of trade, at a much smaller
expense of time, than by persons less acquainted with, and less
interested in it.

360. One of the most legitimate and most important objects of
such associations as we have just mentioned, is to agree upon
ready and certain modes of measuring the quantity of work done by
the workmen. For a long time a difficulty upon this point existed
in the lace trade, which was justly complained of by the men as a
serious grievance; but the introduction of the rack, which counts
the number of holes in the length of the piece, has entirely put
an end to the most fertile cause of disputes. This invention was
adverted to by the Committee of 1812, and a hope was expressed,
in their report, that the same contrivance would be applied to
stocking-frames. It would, indeed, be of great mutual advantage
to the industrious workman, and to the master manufacturer in
every trade, if the machines employed in it could register the
quantity of work which they perform, in the same manner as a
steam-engine does the number of strokes it makes. The
introduction of such contrivances gives a greater stimulus to
honest industry than can readily be imagined, and removes one of
the sources of disagreement between parties, whose real interests
must always suffer by any estrangement between them.

361. The effects arising from combinations amongst the
workmen, are almost always injurious to the parties themselves.
There are numerous instances, in which the public suffer by
increased price at the moment, but are ultimately gainers from
the permanent reduction which results; whilst, on the other hand,
the improvements which are often made in machinery in consequence
of 'a strike' amongst the workmen, most frequently do injury, of
greater or less duration, to that particular class which gave
rise to them. As the injury to the men and to their families is
almost always more serious than that which affects their
employers, it is of the utmost importance to the comfort and
happiness of the former class, that they should themselves
entertain sound views upon this question. For this purpose a few
illustrations of the principle which is here maintained, will
probably have greater weight than any reasoning of a more general
nature, though drawn from admitted principles of political
economy. Such instances will, moreover, present the advantage of
appealing to facts known to many individuals of those classes for
whose benefit these reflections are intended.

362. There is a process in the manufacture of gun barrels for
making what, in the language of the trade, are called skelps. The
skelp is a piece or bar of iron, about three feet long, and four
inches wide, but thicker and broader at one end than at the
other; and the barrel of a musket is formed by forging out such
pieces to the proper dimensions, and then folding or bending them
into a cylindrical form, until the edges overlap, so that they
can be welded together.

About twenty years ago, the workmen, employed at a very
extensive factory in forging these skelps out of bar-iron,
'struck' for an advance of wages; and as their demands were very
exorbitant, they were not immediately complied with. In the
meantime, the superintendent of the establishment directed his
attention to the subject; and it occurred to him, that if the
circumference of the rollers, between which the bar-iron was
rolled, were to be made equal to the length of a skelp, or of a
musket barrel, and if also the groove in which the iron was
compressed, instead of being of the same width and depth
throughout, were cut gradually deeper and wider from a point on
the rollers, until it returned to the same point, then the
bar-iron passing between such rollers, instead of being uniform
in width and thickness, would have the form of a skelp. On making
the trial, it was found to succeed perfectly; a great reduction
of human labour was effected by the process, and the workmen who
had acquired peculiar skill in performing it ceased to derive any
advantage from their dexterity.

363. It is somewhat singular that another and a still more
remarkable instance of the effect of combination amongst workmen,
should have occurred but a few years since in the very same
trade. The process of welding the skelps, so as to convert them
into gun barrels, required much skill, and after the termination
of the war, the demand for muskets having greatly diminished, the
number of persons employed in making them was very much reduced.
This circumstance rendered combination more easy; and upon one
occasion, when a contract had been entered into for a
considerable supply to be delivered on a fixed day, the men all
struck for such an advance of wages as would have caused the
completion of the contract to be attended with a very heavy loss.

In this difficulty, the contractors resorted to a mode of
welding the gun barrel, for which a patent had been taken out by
one of themselves some years before this event. The plan had not
then succeeded so well as to come into general use, in
consequence of the cheapness of the usual mode of welding by hand
labour, combined with some other difficulties with which the
patentee had to contend. But the stimulus produced by the
combination of the workmen, induced him to make new trials, and
he was enabled to introduce such a facility in welding gun
barrels by rollers, and such perfection in the work itself, that,
in all probability, very few will in future be welded by hand

This new process consisted in folding a bar of iron, about a
foot long, into the form of a cylinder, with the edges a little
overlapping. It was then placed in a furnace, and being taken out
when raised to a welding heat, a triblet, or cylinder of iron,
was placed in it, and the whole was passed quickly through a pair
of rollers. The effect of this was, that the welding was
performed at a single heating, and the remainder of the
elongation necessary for extending the skelps to the length of
the musket barrel, was performed in a similar manner, but at a
lower temperature. The workmen who had combined were, of course,
no longer wanted, and instead of benefiting themselves by their
combination, they were reduced permanently, by this improvement
in the art, to a considerably lower rate of wages: for as the
process of welding gun barrels by hand required peculiar skill
and considerable experience, they had hitherto been in the habit
of earning much higher wages than other workmen of their class.
On the other hand, the new method of welding was far less
injurious to the texture of the iron, which was now exposed only
once, instead of three or four times, to the welding heat, so
that the public derived advantage from the superiority, as well
as from the economy of the process. Another process has
subsequently been invented, applicable to the manufacture of a
lighter kind of iron tubes, which can thus be made at a price
which renders their employment very general. They are now to be
found in the shops of all our larger ironmongers, of various
lengths and diameters, with screws cut at each end; and are in
constant use for the conveyance of gas for lighting, or of water
for warming, our houses. 364. Similar examples must have
presented themselves to all those who are familiar with the
details of our manufactories, but these are sufficient to
illustrate one of the results of combinations. It would not,
however, be fair to push the conclusion deduced from these
instances to its extreme limit. Although it is very apparent,
that in the two cases which have been stated, the effects of
combination were permanently injurious to the workman, by almost
immediately placing him in a lower class (with respect to his
wages) than he occupied before; yet they do not prove that all
such combinations have this effect. It is quite evident that they
have all this tendency, it is also certain that considerable
stimulus must be applied to induce a man to contrive a new and
expensive process; and that in both these cases, unless the fear
of pecuniary loss had acted powerfully, the improvement would not
have been made. If, therefore, the workmen had in either case
combined for only a small advance of wages, they would, in all
probability, have been successful, and the public would have been
deprived, for many years, of the inventions to which these
combinations gave rise. It must, however, be observed, that the
same skill which enabled the men to obtain, after long practice,
higher wages than the rest of their class, would prevent many of
them from being permanently thrown back into the class of
ordinary workmen. Their diminished wages will continue only until
they have acquired, by practice, a facility of execution in some
other of the more difficult operations: but a diminution of
wages, even for a year or two, is still a very serious
inconvenience to any person who lives by his daily exertion. The
consequence of combination has then, in these instances, been, to
the workmen who combined--reduction of wages; to the public -
reduction of price; and to the manufacturer increased sale of his
commodity, resulting from that reduction.

365. It is, however, important to consider the effects of
combination in another and less obvious point of view. The fear
of combination amongst the men whom he employs, will have a
tendency to induce the manufacturer to conceal from his workmen
the extent of the orders he may at any time have received; and,
consequently, they will always be less acquainted with the extent
of the demand for their labour than they otherwise might be. This
is injurious to their interests; for instead of foreseeing, by
the gradual falling-off in the orders, the approach of a time
when they must be unemployed, and preparing accordingly, they are
liable to much more sudden changes than those to which they would
otherwise be exposed.

In the evidence given by Mr Galloway, the engineer, he
remarks, that,

"When employers are competent to show their men that their
business is steady and certain, and when men find that they are
likely to have permanent employment, they have always better
habits, and more settled notions, which will make them better
men, and better workmen, and will produce great benefits to all
who are interested in their employment."

366. As the manufacturer, when he makes a contract, has no
security that a combination may not arise amongst the workmen,
which may render that contract a loss instead of a benefit;
besides taking precautions to prevent them from becoming
acquainted with it, he must also add to the price at which he
could otherwise sell the article, some small increase to cover
the risk of such an occurrence. If an establishment consist of
several branches which can only be carried on jointly, as, for
instance, of iron mines, blast furnaces, and a colliery, in which
there are distinct classes of workmen, it becomes necessary to
keep on hand a larger stock of materials than would be required,
if it were certain that no combinations would arise.

Suppose, for instance, the colliers were to 'strike' for an
advance of wages--unless there was a stock of coal above ground,
the furnaces must be stopped, and the miners also would be thrown
out of employ. Now the cost of keeping a stock of iron ore, or of
coals above ground, is just the same as that of keeping in a
drawer, unemployed, its value in money, (except, indeed, that the
coal suffers a small deterioration by exposure to the elements).
The interest of this sum must, therefore, be considered as the
price of an insurance against the risk of combination amongst the
workmen; and it must, so far as it goes, increase the price of
the manufactured article, and, consequently, limit the demand
which would otherwise exist for it. But every circumstance which
tends to limit the demand, is injurious to the workmen; because
the wider the demand, the less it is exposed to fluctuation.

The effect to which we have alluded, is by no means a
theoretical conclusion; the proprietors of one establishment in
the iron trade, within the author's knowledge, think it expedient
always to keep above ground a supply of coal for six months,
which is, in that instance, equal in value to about L10,000. When
we reflect that the quantity of capital throughout the country
thus kept unemployed merely from the fear of combinations amongst
the workmen, might, under other circumstances, be used for
keeping a larger number at work, the importance of introducing a
system in which there should exist no inducement to combine
becomes additionally evident.

367. That combinations are, while they last, productive of
serious inconveniences to the workmen themselves, is admitted by
all parties; and it is equally true, that, in most cases, a
successful result does not leave them in so good a condition as
they were in before 'the strike'. The little capital they
possessed, which ought to have been hoarded with care for days of
illness or distress, is exhausted; and frequently, in order to
gratify a pride, at the existence of which we cannot but rejoice,
even whilst we regret its misdirected energy, they will undergo
the severest privations rather than return to work at their
former wages. With many of the workmen, unfortunately, during
such periods, bad habits are formed which it is very difficult to
eradicate; and, in all those engaged in such transactions, the
kinder feelings of the heart are chilled, and passions are called
into action which are permanently injurious to the happiness of
the individual, and destructive of those sentiments of confidence
which it is equally the interest of the master manufacturer and
of his workman to maintain. If any of the trade refuse to join in
the strike, the majority too frequently forget, in the excitement
of their feelings, the dictates of justice, and endeavour to
exert a species of tyranny, which can never be permitted to exist
in a free country. In conceding therefore to the working classes,
that they have a right, if they consider it expedient, to combine
for the purpose of procuring higher wages (provided always, that
they have completed all their existing contracts), it ought ever
to be kept before their attention, that the same freedom which
they claim for themselves they are bound to allow to others, who
may have different views of the advantages of combination. Every
effort which reason and kindness can dictate, should be made, not
merely to remove their grievances, but to satisfy their own
reason and feelings, and to show them the consequences which will
probably result from their conduct: but the strong arm of the
law, backed, as in such cases it will always be, by public
opinion, should be instantly and unhesitatingly applied, to
prevent them from violating the liberty of a portion of their
own, or of any other class of society.

368. Amongst the evils which ultimately fall heavy on the
working classes themselves, when, through mistaken views, they
attempt to interfere with their employers in the mode of carrying
on their business, may be mentioned the removal of factories to
other situations, where the proprietors may be free from the
improper control of their men. The removal of a considerable
number of lace frames to the western counties, which took place,
in consequence of the combinations in Nottinghamshire, has
already been mentioned. Other instances have occurred, where
still greater injury has been produced by the removal of a
portion of the skill and capital of the country to a foreign
land. Such was the case at Glasgow, as stated in the fifth
Parliamentary Report respecting Artizans and Machinery. One of
the partners in an extensive cotton factory, disgusted by the
unprincipled conduct of the workmen, removed to the state of New
Y ork, where he re-established his machinery, and thus afforded,
to rivals already formidable to our trade, at once a pattern of
our best machinery, and an example of the most economical methods
of employing it.

369. When the nature of the work is such that it is not
possible to remove it, as happens with regard to mines, the
proprietors are more exposed to injury from combinations amongst
the workmen: but as the owners are generally possessed of a
larger capital, they generally succeed, if the reduction of wages
which they propose is really founded on the necessity of the

An extensive combination lately existed amongst the colliers
in the north of England, which unfortunately led, in several
instances, to acts of violence. The proprietors of the coalmines
were consequently obliged to procure the aid of miners from other
parts of England who were willing to work at the wages they could
afford to give; and the aid of the civil, and in some cases of
the military, power, was requisite for their protection. This
course was persisted in during several months, and the question
being, which party could support itself longest on the diminished
gains, as it might have readily been foreseen, the proprietors
ultimately succeeded.

370. One of the remedies employed by the masters against the
occurrence of combinations, is to make engagements with their men
for long periods and to arrange them in such a manner, that these
contracts shall not all terminate together. This has been done in
some cases at Sheffield, and in other places. It is attended with
the inconvenience to the masters that, during periods when the
demand for their produce is reduced, they are still obliged to
employ the same number of workmen. This circumstance, however,
frequently obliges the proprietors to direct their attention to
improvements in their works: and in one such instance, within the
author's knowledge, a large reservoir was deepened, thus
affording a more constant supply to the water-wheel, whilst, at
the same time, the mud from the bottom gave permanent fertility
to a piece of land previously almost barren. In this case, not
merely was the supply of produce checked, when a glut existed.
but the labour was, in fact, applied more profitably than it
would have been in the usual course.

371. A mode of paying the wages of workmen in articles which
they consume, has been introduced into some of our manufacturing
districts, which has been called the truck system. As in many
instances this has nearly the effect of a combination of the
masters against the men, it is a fit subject for discussion in
the present chapter: but it should be carefully distinguished
from another system of a very different tendency, which will be
first described.

372. The principal necessaries for the support of a workman
and his family are few in number, and are usually purchased by
him in small quantities weekly. Upon such quantities, sold by the
retail dealer, a large profit is generally made; and if the
article is one whose quality, like that of tea, is not readily
estimated, then a great additional gain is made by the retail
dealer selling an inferior article.

Where the number of workmen living on the same spot is large,
it may be thought desirable that they should unite together and
have an agent, to purchase by wholesale those articles which are
most in demand, as tea, suger, bacon, etc., and to retail them at
prices, which will just repay the wholesale cost, together with
the expense of the agent who conducts their sale. If this be
managed wholly by a committee of workmen, aided perhaps by advice
from the master, and if the agent is paid in such a manner as to
have himself an interest in procuring good and reasonable
articles, it may be a benefit to the workmen: and if the plan
succeed in reducing the cost of articles of necessity to the men,
it is clearly the interest of the master to encourage it. The
master may indeed be enabled to afford them facilities in making
their wholesale purchases; but he ought never to have the least
interest in, or any connection with, the profit made by the
articles sold. The men, on the other hand, who subscribe to set
up the shop, ought not, in the slightest degree, to be compelled
to make their purchases there: the goodness and cheapness of the
article ought to be their sole inducements.

It may perhaps be objected, that this plan is only employing
a portion of the capital belonging to the workmen in a retail
trade; and that, without it, competition amongst small
shopkeepers will reduce the articles to nearly the same price.
This objection would be valid if the objects of consumption
required no verification; but combining what has been already
stated on that subject(1*) with the present argument, the plan
seems liable to no serious objections.

373. The truck system is entirely different in its effects.
The master manufacturer keeps a retail shop for articles required
by his men, and either pays their wages in goods, or compels them
by express agreement, or less directly, by unfair means, to
expend the whole or a certain part of their wages at his shop. If
the manufacturer kept this shop merely for the purpose of
securing good articles, at fair prices, to his workmen, and if he
offered no inducement to them to purchase at his shop, except the
superior cheapness of his articles, it would certainly be
advantageous to the men. But, unfortunately, this is not always
the case; and the temptation to the master, in times of
depression, to reduce in effect the wages which he pays (by
increasing the price of articles at his shop), without altering
the nominal rate of payment, is frequently too great to be
withstood. If the object be solely to procure for his workmen
better articles, it will be more effectually accomplished by the
master confining himself to supplying a small capital, at a
moderate rate of interest; leaving the details to be conducted by
a committee of workmen, in conjunction with his own agent, and
the books of the shop to be audited periodically by the men

374. Wherever the workmen are paid in goods, or are compelled
to purchase at the master's shop, much injustice is done to them,
and great misery results from it. Whatever may have been the
intentions of the master in such cases, the real effect is, to
deceive the workman as to the amount he receives in exchange for
his labour. Now, the principles on which the happiness of that
class of society depends, are difficult enough to be understood,
even by those who are blessed with far better opportunities of
investigating them: and the importance of their being well
acquainted with those principles which relate to themselves, is
of more vital consequence to workmen, than to many other classes.
It is therefore highly desirable to assist them in comprehending
the position in which they are placed, by rendering all the
relations in which they stand to each other, and to their
employers, as simple as possible. Workmen should be paid entirely
in money; their work should be measured by some unbiassed, some
unerring piece of mechanism; the time during which they are
employed should be defined, and punctually adhered to. The
payments they make to their benefit societies should be fixed on
such just principles, as not to require extraordinary
contributions. In short, the object of all who wish to promote
their happiness should be, to give them, in the simplest form,
the means of knowing beforehand, the sum they are likely to
acquire by their labour, and the money they will be obliged to
expend for their support: thus putting before them, in the
clearest light, the certain result of persevering industry.

375. The cruelty which is inflicted on the workman by the
payment of his wages in goods, is often very severe. The little
purchases necessary for the comfort of his wife and children,
perhaps the medicines he occasionally requires for them in
illness, must all be made through the medium of barter; and he is
obliged to waste his time in arranging an exchange, in which the
goods which he has been compelled to accept for his labour are
invariably taken at a lower price than that at which his master
charged them to him. The father of a family perhaps, writhing
under the agonies of the toothache, is obliged to make his hasty
bargain with the village surgeon, before he will remove the cause
of his pain; or the disconsolate mother is compelled to sacrifice
her depreciated goods in exchange for the last receptacle of her
departed offspring. The subjoined evidence from the Report of the
Committee of the House of Commons on Framework Knitters'
Petitions, shows that these are not exaggerated statements.

It has been so common in our town to pay goods instead of
money, that a number of my neighbours have been obliged to pay
articles for articles, to pay sugar for drugs out of the
druggist's shop; and others have been obliged to pay sugar for
drapery goods, and such things, and exchange in that way numbers
of times. I was credibly informed, that one person paid half a
pound of tenpenny sugar and a penny to have a tooth drawn; and
there is a credible neighbour of mine told me, that he had heard
that the sexton had been paid for digging a grave with sugar and
tea: and before I came off, knowing I had to give evidence upon
these things, I asked this friend to enquire ofthe sexton,
whether this was a fact: the sexton hesitated for a little time,
on account of bringing into discredit the person who paid these
goods: however, he said at last, 'I have received these articles
repeatedly--I know these things have been paid to a great extent
in this way.'


1. See Chapter XV, p. 87

Chapter 31

On Combinations of Masters against the public

376. A species of combination occasionally takes place
amongst manufacturers against persons having patents: and these
combinations are always injurious to the public, as well as
unjust to the inventors. Some years since, a gentleman invented a
machine, by which modellings and carvings were cut in mahogany,
and other fine woods. The machine resembled, in some measure, the
drilling apparatus employed in ornamental lathes; it produced
beautiful work at a very moderate expense: but the cabinetmakers
met together, and combined against it, and the patent has
consequently never been worked. A similar fate awaited a machine
for cutting veneers by means of a species of knife. In this
instance, the wood could be cut thinner than by the circular saw,
and no waste was incurred; but 'the trade' set themselves against
it, and after a heavy expense, it was given up.

The excuse alleged for this kind of combination, was the fear
entertained by the cabinetmakers that when the public became
acquainted with the article, the patentee would raise the price.

Similar examples of combination seem not to be unfrequent, as
appears by the Report of the Committee of the House of Commons on
Patents for Inventions, June, 1829. See the evidence of Mr

377. There occurs another kind of combination against the
public, with which it is difficult to deal. It usually ends in a
monopoly, and the public are then left to the discretion of the
monopolists not to charge them above the growling point--that
is, not to make them pay so much as to induce them actually to
combine against the imposition. This occurs when two companies
supply water or gas to consumers by means of pipes laid down
under the pavement in the street of cities: it may possibly occur
also in docks, canals, railroads, etc., and in other cases where
the capital required is very large, and the competition very
limited. If water or gas companies combine, the public
immediately loses all the advantage of competition, and it has
generally happened, that at the end of a period during which they
have undersold each other, the several companies have agreed to
divide the whole district supplied, into two or more parts, each
company then removing its pipes from all the streets except those
in its own portion. This removal causes great injury to the
pavement, and when the pressure of increased rates induces a new
company to start, the same inconvenience is again produced.
Perhaps one remedy against evils of this kind might be, when a
charter is granted to such companies, to restrict, to a certain
amount, the rate of profit on the shares, and to direct that any
profits beyond, shall accumulate for the repayment of the
original capital. This has been done in several late Acts of
Parliament establishing companies. The maximum rate of profit
allowed ought to be liberal, to compensate for the risk; the
public ought to have auditors on their part, and the accounts
should be annually published, for the purpose of preventing the
limitations from being exceeded. It must however be admitted,
that this would be an interference with capital, which, if
allowed, should, in the present state of our knowledge, be.
examined with great circumspection in each individual case, until
some general principle is established on well-admitted grounds.

378. An instrument called a gas-meter, which ascertains the
quantity of gas used by each consumer, has been introduced, and
furnishes a satisfactory mode of determining the payments to be
made by individuals to the gas companies. A contrivance somewhat
similar in its nature, might be used for the sale of water; but
in that case some public inconvenience might be apprehended, from
the diminished quantity which would then run to waste: the
streams of water running through the sewers in London, are
largely supplied from this source; and if this supply were
diminished, the drainage of the metropolis might be injuriously

379. In the north of England a powerful combination has long
existed among the coal-owners, by which the public has suffered
in the payment of increased price. The late examination of
evidence before a Committee of the House of Commons, has
explained its mode of operation, and the Committee have
recommended, that for the present the sale of coal should be left
to the competition of other districts.

380. A combination, of another kind, exists at this moment to
a great extent, and operates upon the price of the very pages
which are now communicating information respecting it. A subject
so interesting to every reader, and still more so to every
manufacturer ofthe article which the reader consumes, deserves an
attentive examination.

We have shown in Chapter XXI, p. 144, the component parts of
the expense of each copy of the present work; and we have seen
that the total amount of the cost of its production, exclusive of
any payment to the author for his labour, is 2s. 3d.(1*)

Another fact, with which the reader is more practically
familiar, is that he has paid, or is to pay, to his bookseller,
six shillings for the volume. Let us now examine into the
distribution of these six shillings, and then, having the facts
ofthe case before us, we shall be better able to judgeofthe
meritsofthe combinationjust mentioned, andtoexplainits effects.

Distribution of the profits on a six shilling book

Buys at; Sells at; Profit on capital expended
s. d.; s. d.

No. I--The publisher who accounts to the author for every copy
received; 3 10; 4 2; 10 per cent
No. II--The bookseller who retails to the public; 4 2; 6 0; 44
Or, 4 6; 6 0; 33 1/3

No. I, the publisher, is a bookseller; he is, in fact, the
author's agent. His duties are, to receive and take charge of the
stock, for which he supplies warehouse room; to advise the author
about the times and methods of advertising; and to insert the
advertisements. As he publishes other books, he will advertise
lists of those sold by himself; and thus, by combining many in
one advertisement, diminish the expense to each of his
principals. He pays the author only for the books actually sold;
consequently, he makes no outlav of capital, except that which he
pays for advertisements: but he is answerable for any bad debts
he may contract in disposing of them. His charge is usually ten
per cent on the returns.

No. II is the bookseller who retails the work to the public.
On the publication of a new book, the publisher sends round to
the trade, to receive 'subscriptions' from them for any number of
copies not less than two These copies are usually charged to the
'subscribers', on an average, at about four or five per cent less
than the wholesale price of the book: in the present case the
subscription price is 4s. 2d. for each copy. After the day of
publication, the price charged by the publisher to the
booksellers is 4s. 6d. With some works it is the custom to
deliver twentyfive copies to those who order twenty-four, thus
allowing a reduction of about four per cent. Such was the case
with the present volume. Different publishers offer different
terms to the subscribers; and it is usual, after intervals of
about six months, for the publisher again to open a subscription
list, so that if the work be one for which there is a steady
sale, the trade avail themselves of these opportunities
ofpurchasing, at the reduced rate, enough to supply their
probable demand.(2*)

381. The volume thus purchased of the publisher at 4s. 2d. or
4s. 6d. is retailed by the bookseller to the public at 6s. In the
first case he makes a profit of forty-four, in the second of
thirty-three per cent. Even the smaller of these two rates of
profit on the capital employed, appears to be much too large. It
may sometimes happen, that when a book is enquired for, the
retail dealer sends across the street to the wholesale agent, and
receives, for this trifling service, one fourth part of the money
paid by the purchaser; and perhaps the retail dealer takes also
six months' credit for the price which the volume actually cost

382. In section 256, the price of each process in
manufacturing the present volume was stated: we shall now give an
analysis of the whole expense of conveying it into the hands of
the public.

The retail price 6s. on 3052 produces 915 12 0

1. Total expense of printing and paper 207 5 8 7/11
2. Taxes on paper and advertisements 40 0 11
3. Commission to publisher as agent between author and printer 18
14 4 4/11 4 Commission to publisher as agent for sale of the book
63 11 8
5. Profit--the difference between subscription price and trade
price, 4d. per vol. 50 17 4
6. Profit the difference between trade price and retail price,
1s. 6d. per vol. 228 18 0
362 1 4
7. Remains for authorship 306 4 0

Total 915 12 0

This account appears to disagree with that in page 146. but
it will be observed that the three first articles amount to L266
1s., the sum there stated. The apparent difference arises from a
circumstance which was not noticed in the first edition of this
work. The bill amounting to L205 18s., as there given, and as
reprinted in the present volume, included an additional charge of
ten per cent upon the real charges of the printer and

383. It is usual for the publisher, when he is employed as
agent between the author and printer, to charge a commission of
ten per cent on all payments he makes. If the author is informed
of this custom previously to his commencing the work, as was the
case in the present instance, he can have no just cause of
complaint; for it is optional whether he himself employs the
printer, or communicates with him through the intervention of his

The services rendered for this payment are, the making
arrangements with the printer, the wood-cutter, and the engraver,
if required. There is a convenience in having some intermediate
person between the author and printer, in case the former should
consider any of the charges made by the latter as too high. When
the author himself is quite unacquainted with the details of the
art of printing, he may object to charges which, on a better
acquaintance with the subject, he might be convinced were very
moderate; and in such cases he ought to depend on the judgement
of his publisher, who is generally conversant with the art. This
is particularly the case in the charge for alterations and
corrections, some of which, although apparently trivial, occupy
the compositors much time in making. It should also be observed
that the publisher, in this case, becomes responsible for the
payments to those persons.

384. It is not necessary that the author should avail himself
of this intervention, although it is the interest of the
publisher that he should; and booksellers usually maintain that
the author cannot procure his paper or printing at a cheaper rate
if he go at once to the producers. This appears from the evidence
given before the Committee of the House of Commons in the
Copyright Acts, 8 May, 1818.

Mr O. Rees, bookseller, of the house of Longman and Co.,
Paternoster Row, examined:

Q. Suppose a gentleman to publish a work on his own account,
and to incur all the various expenses; could he get the paper at
30s. a ream?

A. I presume not; I presume a stationer would not sell the
paper at the same price to an indifferent gentleman as to the

Q. The Committee asked you if a private gentleman was to
publish a work on his own account, if he would not pay more for
the paper than persons in the trade; the Committee wish to be
informed whether a printer does not charge a gentleman a higher
rate than to a publisher.

A. I conceive they generally charge a profit on the paper.

Q. Do not the printers charge a higher price also for
printing, than they do to the trade?

A. I always understood that they do.

385. There appears to be little reason for this distinction
in charging for printing a larger price to the author than to the
publisher, provided the former is able to give equal security for
the payment. With respect to the additional charge on paper, if
the author employs either publisher or printer to purchase it,
they ought to receive a moderate remuneration for the risk, since
they become responsible for the payment; but there is no reason
why, if the author deals at once with the paper-maker, he should
not purchase on the same terms as the printer; and if he choose,
by paying ready money, not to avail himself of the long credit
allowed in those trades, he ought to procure his paper
considerably cheaper.

386. It is time, however, that such conventional combinations
between different trades should be done away with. In a country
so eminently depending for its wealth on its manufacturing
industry, it is of importance that there should exist no abrupt
distinction of classes, and that the highest of the aristocracy
should feel proud of being connected, either personally or
through their relatives, with those pursuits on which their
country's greatness depends. The wealthier manufacturers and
merchants already mix with those classes, and the larger and even
the middling tradesmen are frequently found associating with the
gentry of the land. It is good that this ambition should be
cultivated, not by any rivalry in expense, but by a rivalry in
knowledge and in liberal feelings; and few things would more
contribute to so desirable an effect, than the abolition of all
such contracted views as those to which we have alluded. The
advantage to the other classes, would be an increased
acquaintance with the productive arts of the country an increased
attention to the importance of acquiring habits of punctuality
and of business and, above all, a general feeling that it is
honourable, in any rank of life, to increase our own and our
country's riches, by employing our talents in the production or
in the distribution of wealth.

387. Another circumstance omitted to be noticed in the first
edition relates to what is technically called the overplus, which
may be now explained. When 500 copies of a work are to be
printed, each sheet of it requires one ream of paper. Now a ream,
as used by printers, consists of 21 1/2 quires, or 516 sheets.
This excess of sixteen sheets is necessary in order to allow for
'revises'--for preparing and adjusting the press for the due
performance of its work, and to supply the place of any sheets
which may be accidentally dirtied or destroyed in the processes
of printing, or injured by the binder in putting into boards. It
is found, however, that three per cent is more than the
proportion destroyed, and that damage is less frequent in
proportion to the skill and care of the workmen.

From the evidence of several highly respectable booksellers
and printers, before the Committee of the House of Commons on the
Copyright Act, May, 1818, it appears that the average number of
surplus copies, above 500, is between two and three; that on
smaller impressions it is less, whilst on larger editions it is
greater; that, in some instances, the complete number of 500 is
not made up, in which case the printer is obliged to pay for
completing it; and that in no instance have the whole sixteen
extra copies been completed. On the volume in the reader's hands,
the edition of which consisted of 3000, the surplus amounted to
fifty-two--a circumstance arising from the improvements in
printing and the increased care of the pressmen. Now this
overplus ought to be accounted for to the author--and I believe
it usually is so by all respectable publishers.

388. In order to prevent the printer from privately taking
off a larger number of impressions than he delivers to the author
or publisher, various expedients have been adopted. In some works
a particular watermark has been used in paper made purposely for
the book: thus the words 'Mecanique Celeste' appear in the
watermark of the two first volumes of the great work of Laplace.
In other cases, where the work is illustrated by engravings, such
a fraud would be useless without the concurrence of the
copperplate printer. In France it is usual to print a notice on
the back of the title page, that no copies are genuine without
the subjoined signature of the author: and attached to this
notice is the author's name, either written, or printed by hand
from a wooden block. But notwithstanding this precaution, I have
recently purchased a volume, printed at Paris, in which the
notice exists, but no signature is attached. In London there is
not much danger of such frauds, because the printers are men of
capital, to whom the profit on such a transaction would be
trifling, and the risk of the detection of a fact, which must of
necessity be known to many of their workmen, would be so great as
to render the attempt at it folly.

389. Perhaps the best advice to an author, if he publishes on
his own account, and is a reasonable person, possessed of common
sense, would be to go at once to a respectable printer and make
his arrangements with him.

390. If the author do not wish to print his work at his own
risk, then he should make an agreement with a publisher for an
edition of a limited number; but he should by no means sell the
copyright. If the work contains woodcuts or engravings, it would
be judicious to make it part of the contract that they shall
become the author's property, with the view to their use in a
subsequent edition of the works, if they should be required. An
agreement is frequently made by which the publisher advances the
money and incurs all the risk on condition of his sharing the
profits with the author. The profits alluded to are, for the
present work, the last item of section 382, or L306 4s.

391. Having now explained all the arrangements in printing
the present volume, let us return to section 382, and examine the
distribution of the L915 paid by the public. Of this sum L207 was
the cost of the book, L40 was taxes, L3S2 was the charges of the
bookseller in conveying it to the consumer, and L306 remained for

The largest portion, or L362 goes into the pockets of the
booksellers; and as they do not advance capital, and incur very
little risk, this certainly appears to be an unreasonable
allowance. The most extravagant part of the charge is the
thirty-three per cent which is allowed as profit on retailing the

It is stated, however, that all retail booksellers allow to
their customers a discount of ten per cent upon orders above
20s., and that consequently the nominal profit of forty-four or
thirty-three per cent is very much reduced. If this is the case,
it may fairly be enquired, why the price of L2 for example, is
printed upon the back of a book, when every bookseller is ready
to sell it at L1 16s., and why those who are unacquainted with
that circumstance should be made to pay more than others who are
better informed?

392. Several reasons have been alleged as justifying this
high rate of profit.

First, it has been alleged that the purchasers of books take
long credit. This, probably, is often the case, and admitting it,
no reasonable person can object to a proportionate increase of
price. But it is no less clear, that persons who do pay ready
money, should not be charged the same price as those who defer
their payments to a remote period.

Secondly, it has been urged that large profits are necessary
to pay for the great expenses of bookselling establishments; that
rents are high and taxes heavy; and that it would be impossible
for the great booksellers to compete with the smaller ones,
unless the retail profits were great. In reply to this it may be
observed that the booksellers are subject to no peculiar pressure
which does not attach to all other retail trades. It may also be
remarked that large establishments always have advantages over
smaller ones, in the economy arising from the division of labour;
and it is scarcely to be presumed that booksellers are the only
class who, in large concerns, neglect to avail themselves of

Thirdly, it has been pretended that this high rate of profit
is necessary to cover the risk of the bookseller's having some
copies left on his shelves; but he is not obliged to buy of the
publisher a single copy more than he has orders for: and if he do
purchase more, at the subscription price, he proves, by the very
fact, that he himself does not estimate that risk at more than
from four to eight per cent.

393. It has been truly observed, on the other hand, that many
copies of books are spoiled by persons who enter the shops of
booksellers without intending to make any purchase. But, not to
mention that such persons finding on the tables various new
publications, are frequently induced, by that opportunity of
inspecting them, to become purchasers: this damage does not apply
to all booksellers nor to all books; of course it is not
necessary to keep in the shop books of small probable demand or
great price. In the present case, the retail profit on three
copies only, namely, 4s. 6d., would pay the whole cost of the one
copy soiled in the shop; and even that copy might afterwards
produce, at an auction, half or a third of its cost price. The
argument, therefore, from disappointments in the sale of books,
and that arising from heavy stock, are totally groundless in the
question between publisher and author. It shold be remarked also,
that the publisher is generally a retail, as well as a wholesale,
bookseller; and that, besides his profit upon every copy which he
sells in his capacity of agent, he is allowed to charge the
author as if every copy had been subscribed for at 4s. 2d., and
of course he receives the same profit as the rest of the
wholesale traders for the books retailed in his own shop.

394. In the country, there is more reason for a considerable
allowance between the retail dealer and the public; because the
profit of the country bookseller is diminished by the expense of
the carriage of the books from London. He must also pay a
commission, usually five per cent, to his London agent, on all
those books which his correspondent does not himself publish. If
to this be added a discount of five per cent, allowed for ready
money to every customer, and of ten per cent to book clubs, the
profit of the bookseller in a small country town is by no means
too large.

Some of the writers, who have published criticisms on the
observations made in the first edition of this work, have
admitted that the apparent rate of profit to the booksellers is
too large. But they have, on the other hand, urged that too
favourable a case is taken in supposing the whole 3000 copies
sold. If the reader will turn back to section 382, he will find
that the expense of the three first items remains the same,
whatever be the number of copies sold; and on looking over the
remaining items he will perceive that the bookseller, who incurs
very little risk and no outlay, derives exactly the same profit
per cent on the copies sold, whatever their numbers may be. This,
however, is not the case with the unfortunate author, on whom
nearly the whole of the loss falls undivided. The same writers
have also maintained, that the profit is fixed at the rate
mentioned, in order to enable the bookseller to sustain losses,
unavoidably incurred in the purchase and retail of other books.
This is the weakest of all arguments. It would be equally just
that a merchant should charge an extravagant commission for an
undertaking unaccompanied with any risk, in order to repay
himself for the losses which his own want of skill might lead to
in his other mercantile transactions.

395. That the profit in retailing books is really too large,
is proved by several circumstances: First, that the same nominal
rate of profit has existed in the bookselling trade for a long
series of years, notwithstanding the great fluctuations in the
rate of profit on capital invested in every other business.
Secondly, that, until very lately, a multitude of booksellers, in
all parts of London, were content with a much smaller profit, and
were willing to sell for ready money, or at short credit, to
persons of undoubted character, at a profit of only ten per cent,
and in some instances even at a still smaller percentage, instead
of that of twenty-five per cent on the published prices. Thirdly,
that they are unable to maintain this rate of profit except by a
combination, the object of which is to put down all competition.

396. Some time ago a small number of the large London
booksellers entered into such a combination. One of their objects
was to prevent any bookseller from selling books for less than
ten per cent under the published prices; and in order to enforce
this principle, they refuse to sell books, except at the
publishing price, to any bookseller who declines signing an
agreement to that effect. By degrees, many were prevailed upon to
join this combination; and the effect of the exclusion it
inflicted, left the small capitalist no option between signing or
having his business destroyed. Ultimately, nearly the whole
trade, comprising about two thousand four hundred persons, have
been compelled to sign the agreement.

As might be naturally expected from a compact so injurious to
many of the parties to it, disputes have arisen; several
booksellers have been placed under the ban of the combination,
who allege that they have not violated its rules, and who accuse
the opposite party of using spies, etc., to entrap them.(3*)

397. The origin of this combination has been explained by Mr
Pickering, of Chancery Lane, himself a publisher, in a printed
statement, entitled, 'Booksellers' Monopoly' and the following
list of booksellers, who form the committee for conducting this
combination, is copied from that printed at the head of each of
the cases published by Mr Pickering:

Allen, J., 7, Leadenhall Street.
Arch, J., 61, Cornhill.
Baldwin, R., 47, Paternoster Row.
Booth, J.
Duncan, J., 37, Paternoster Row.
Hatchard, J., Piccadilly.
Marshall, R., Stationers' Court.
Murray, J., Albemarle Street.
Rees, O., 39, Paternoster Row.
Richardson, J. M., 23, Cornhill.
Rivington, J., St. Paul's Churchyard.
Wilson, E., Royal Exchange.

398. In whatever manner the profits are divided between the
publisher and the retail bookseller, the fact remains, that the
reader pays for the volume in his hands 6s., and that the author
will receive only 3s. 10d.; out of which latter sum, the expense
of printing the volume must be paid: so that in passing through
two hands this book has produced a profit of forty-four per cent.
This excessive rate of profit has drawn into the book trade a
larger share of capital than was really advantageous; and the
competition between the different portions of that capital has
naturally led to the system of underselling, to which the
committee above mentioned are endeavouring to put a stop.(4*)

399. There are two parties who chiefly suffer from this
combination, the public and authors. The first party can seldom be
induced to take an active part against any grievance; and in fact
little is required from it, except a cordial support of the
authors, in any attempt to destroy a combination so injurious to
the interests of both.

Many an industrious bookseller would be glad to sell for 5s.
the volume which the reader holds in his hand, and for which he
has paid 6s.; and, in doing so for ready money, the tradesman who
paid 4s. 6d. for the book, would realize, without the least risk,
a profit of eleven per cent on the money he had advanced. It is
one of the objects of the combination we are discussing, to
prevent the small capitalist from employing his capital at that
rate of profit which he thinks most advantageous to himself; and
such a proceeding is decidedly injurious to the public.

400. Having derived little pecuniary advantage from my own
literary productions; and being aware, that from the very nature
of their subjects, they can scarcely be expected to reimburse the
expense of preparing them, I may be permitted to offer an opinion
upon the subject, which I believe to be as little influenced by
any expectation of advantage from the future, as it is by any
disappointment at the past.

Before, however, we proceed to sketch the plan of a campaign
against Paternoster Row, it will be fit to inform the reader of
the nature of the enemies' forces, and of his means of attack and
defence. Several of the great publishers find it convenient to be
the proprietors of reviews, magazines, journals, and even of
newspapers. The editors are paid, in some instances very
handsomely, for their superintendence; and it is scarcely to be
expected that they should always mete out the severest justice on
works by the sale of which their employers are enriched. The
great and popular works of the day are, of course, reviewed with
some care, and with deference to public opinion. Without this,
the journals would not sell; and it is convenient to be able to
quote such articles as instances of impartiality. Under shelter
of this, a host of ephemeral productions are written into a
transitory popularity; and by the aid of this process, the
shelves of the booksellers, as well as the pockets of the public,
are disencumbered. To such an extent are these means employed,
that some of the periodical publications of the day ought to be
regarded merely as advertising machines. That the reader may be
in some measure on his guard against such modes of influencing
his judgement, he should examine whether the work reviewed is
published by the bookseller who is the proprietor of the review;
a fact which can sometimes be ascertained from the title of the
book as given at the head of the article. But this is by no means
a certain criterion, because partnerships in various publications
exist between houses in the book trade, which are not generally
known to the public; so that, in fact, until reviews are
established in which booksellers have no interest, they can never
be safely trusted.

401. In order to put down the combination of booksellers, no
plan appears so likely to succeed as a counter-association of
authors. If any considerable portion of the literary world were
to unite and form such an association; and if its affairs were
directed by an active committee, much might be accomplished. The
objects of such an union should be, to employ some person well
skilled in the printing, and in the bookselling trade; and to
establish him in some central situation as their agent. Each
member of the association to be at liberty to place any, or all
of his works in the hands of this agent for sale; to allow any
advertisements, or list of books published by members of the
association, to be stitched up at the end of each of his own
productions; the expense of preparing them being defrayed by the
proprietors of the books advertised.

The duties of the agent would be to retail to the public, for
ready money, copies of books published by members of the
association. To sell to the trade, at prices agreed upon, any
copies they may require. To cause to be inserted in the journals,
or at the end of works published by members, any advertisements
which the committee or authors may direct. To prepare a general
catalogue of the works of members. To be the agent for any member
of the association respecting the printing of any work.

Such a union would naturally present other advantages; and as
each author would retain the liberty of putting any price he
might think fit on his productions, the public would have the
advantage of reduction in price produced by competition between
authors on the same subject, as well as of that arising from a
cheaper mode of publishing the volumes sold to them.

402. Possibly, one of the consequences resulting from such an
association, would be the establishment of a good and an
impartial review, a work the want of which has been felt for
several years. The two long-established and celebrated reviews,
the unbending champions of the most opposite political opinions.
are, from widely differing causes, exhibiting unequivocal signs
of decrepitude and decay. The quarterly advocate of despotic
principles is fast receding from the advancing intelligence of
the age; the new strength and new position which that
intelligence has acquired, demands for its expression, new
organs, equally the representatives of its intellectual power,
and of its moral energies: whilst, on the other hand, the sceptre
of the northern critics has passed, from the vigorous grasp of
those who established its dominion, into feebler hands.

403. It may be stated as a difficulty in realizing this
suggestion, that those most competent to supply periodical
criticism, are already engaged. But it is to be observed, that
there are many who now supply literary criticisms to journals,
the political principles of which they disapprove; and that if
once a respectable and well-supported review(5*) were
established, capable of competing, in payment to its
contributors, with the wealthiest of its rivals, it would very

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