ePub 版

the compulsion of some sort of slavery :—-forced servitude' is the Southcountry euphemism, I believe. Civilised workers, how much continuous systematic work could be got out of you save under the compulsion of forced servitude ? Grown out of babyhood and sent to school, a forced servitude awaits us all for a season, not dissimilar to that which is the fate of Sambo his whole life long. Passing out of boy's estate and launched upon the world, we find our masters multiplied, and their biddings more imperious. Have you a small patrimony? is your door wolf-proof? If 80, all the better; still for all that you do not escape the slavery which is the doom of mankind. Alighting upon the threshold of your manhood, first comes Cupid :—the master of many slaves. Conjuring the lineaments of some fair Laura or Aurora, he sets you your first task: bidding you win her. Then flapping those purple wings of his, he straightway vanishes, beckoning to his drivers. Looking about, you see them. Yonder is Ambition with a tremendous cow-hide; and yonder Pride: his cousins Envy, Hatred, and Malice not far away. Gird yourself up for work, my friend; you needs must do it, for you are enslaved.

And when fair Laura or Aurora is won at last, you give—as a wise man said long ago—a hostage to Fortune. Remorselessly your masters whip you on to do a daily labour. Farther we need not scan each dawning phase of civilised forced servitude. Contemplate it as you will, the same result comes out. Work! is the fiat; and people who stupidly run from the unembodied taskmasters of civilisation, are very likely to come under the more material dominion of buffalo-hide and cowskin. The Negro's warmest advocate could hardly dispute the fact, that—the means of immediate subsistence provided for, and some small show of barbaric finery attained - Sambo works no longer. Thus it happens that, left to himself, he is a profitless citizen. Not even Cupid can fire the Negro with ambition, or stimulate him to the winning of wealth through labour. Contemning the white man's masters, he temptingly solicits the white man to become their deputy. The climate of the cotton states is totally unadapted to the prolonged exercise of white labour : of this no doubt. By whom, then (slavery abolished), is cotton to be cultivated in the South? Were the slaves manumitted, they could not in the Southern States be quite as idle as the Negroes of our own West-Indian colonies :—the climate would not quite admit of it. That they would do their best to do their minimum, nobody conversant with the Negro character doubts:-a scheme of labour but little accordant with the cotton wants of Liverpool and Manchester. Cotton-producers will have to remember - acting up to the remembrance—that in the contest they enter upon it is a contest of hand-labour against steam-labour. The whirling machinery of Cottonopolis brooks no delay. Five millions of British, depending upon it for their bread, cannot be at the mercy of people who, when in lazy mood, cease working altogether. Britons engaged in the cotton-trade contribute more than twelve millions sterling to the public revenue,-about a fourth part of the same:-not a sum to be trifled

with. And when we consider that the area of the British cotton-factories only amounts to the one-hundredth of the entire area of the United Kingdom, the importance of this interest will be still further evidenced.

Of late-since American troubles have caused the future prospects of cotton to be so much discussed--one common error has vitiated almost every debate on this material. The production of cotton has been treated as if it were a result determinable by climate, and climate alone. So far is this assumption from being tenable, that very few tropical or sub-tropical regions are without cotton, as an indigenous product. Nor need we go out of Europe to find a region capable of producing cotton. Along the littoral belt of Andalusia it flourishes admirably, in company with the sugar-cane; both imported by the Saracens. It is grown, too, in Sicily and Southern Italy. Capability of soil and climate are far from satisfying the whole conditions of cotton supply. Between the raw cotton-wool and cotton fit to be wrought into yarn, there is about as much difference as between sugarcane and sugar. At every stage of its growth the cotton-shrub demands solicitude; but when the pods have ripened and burst, neglect is ruin. They must be plucked at once, or they spoil: por when gathered is the crop secure. Cotton is, in some sense, a manufactured article, whilst yet in the place of its growth. Firstly, the seeds have to be extracted from the wool by appropriate machinery; differing according to the nature of the cotton. The seed teems with oil: which, oozing out, would soon unfit the wool for all civilised industrial purposes. The seed being separated, the wool has to be pressed and packed. This is best accomplished by hydrostatic force; just as hay in this country is pressed and packed for exportation. It is in the highest degree important that no dirt be permitted to mingle with the cotton, Dirt not only intrinsically deteriorates the staple, but is ruinous to machinery. Packing accomplished, means of ready transit have to be secured; or the most favourable climate and soil, the most unflagging labour, will have gone for nothing. A bulky article, cotton is not to be profitably transported on horse or mule back; nay, even the facilities of good roads and good carriage hardly meet the necessities of the case. If river-courses be absent,-nature's noblest highways,-man must find compensation in canals and railroads. A glance at the map of North America will disclose the transcendent grandeur and excellence of the river communication throughout that continent. In the whole world its equal cannot be found; wherefore, although the soil and climate of the Southern States as regards cotton are not-on the wholesuperior to what obtains in many other regions, the facilities of river-communication present enormous advantages to begin with; and these, combined with the circumstance of a sufficient agricultural population, bound to fixed labour under the thraldom of slavery, give North America the lead in all that concerns the supply of cotton. If, as the result of present commotions, or otherwise, the cotton-lands of America should go out of culture, or—what practically would be just as bad-if no reliance could be placed on the continuity of American cotton-supply, then—the fortunes and prosperity, if not the very life, of five millions of British depending on the issue—the problem whence to obtain cotton would be pressed onward to an attempted solution more strenuously than heretofore. A sufficient population addicted to agriculture, and not insensible to the influences which make civilised men forced labourers,—this is a condition in the highest degree necessary; however excellent the climate and the soil. Secondly, the conditions of successful cotton produce involve machinery, and local means of keeping in order and repairing machinery. Lastly, ready means of intercommunication for bulky goods. Conditions of this kind, where they do not exist, cannot be extemporised. Of all people, the Chinese seem best adapted to do, under the impulse of money greed, that varied labour which the Negro race has been driven to do by force. Chinese Coolies have even begun to oust the Negro in Cuba. Chinese Coolies some look forward to as being the race most likely to supplant the Negro in the cotton states of America. A wild notion this, it seems, and not to be soon realised. What this country wants-what the five millions of Britons dependent on cotton want—is the immediate discovery and utilisation of a cotton field possessing all the concomitants fitted to make it commercially available. The required area is small, as we have seen,-four millions of acres only,-another Yorkshire. The empire upon the broad expanse of which the sun never sets has proper climatic spots in plenty, but cannot extemporise canals or railroads ; cannot suddenly alter the habits and traditions of a people. The Manchester Cotton Supply Association and Exeter Hall have considerable hopes of Africa as a cotton-producing region. Africa indeed can grow cotton, good cotton : and if the Africans were industrious like the Chinese, the hopes of the Cotton Supply Association and Exeter Hall would be realised. Ay, and a higher aspiration than cotton would be satisfied. The middle passage with its horrors would cease ; Negro slavery, under the white man at least, would be extinguished : the position being evident, that when in Africa men's home-labour rises to a higher value than men's flesh for exportation, Negro kings will no longer forward their subjects and their enemies to barracoons for shipment and exportation. All circumstances regarded, perhaps India is the most promising future field of cotton-supply. Had this Government done its duty by India long ago, Manchester would not at this time be so dependent as she is upon the revolted states of North America. Not only is cotton indigenous to India, but from time immemorial it has been wrought there into fabrics of exquisite delicacy: - fabrics which Manchester, despite her mechanical resources, has never yet equalled. Some of the Dacca muslins, if laid upon the ground whilst dew is falling, can no longer be distinguished, so exquisite is their transparency. The quaint old Tavernier lorg ago bore testimony to the exquisite fineness of certain India muslins. “At Seconge, in the province of Malwa,” says he,“ there is made a sort of calicut so fine, that when a man puts it on his skin shall appear as plainly through it as if he was quite naked; but the merchants are not permitted to transport t, for the governor is obliged to send it all to the Great Mogul's seraglio and the principal lords of the court, to make the sultanesses and noblemen's wives shifts, and garments for the hot weather; and the king and the lords do take great pleasure to behold them in these shifts, and see them dance with nothing else upon them.”* With much show of reason, therefore, might an English writer of the 17th century-remonstrating against the admission of India muslins, for which he says the high price of thirty shillings a yard was paid-call these beautiful fabrics “only the shadow of a commodity;" and very pretty and appropriate is that Oriental hyperbole, “woven wind," applied to the Dacca muslins. In mere delicacy of thread our steam machinery enables us to spin cotton finer than the handlabour of India. At the Exhibition of All Nations, in 1851, specimens of cotton-thread were shown, 960 yards of which were spun out of a single grain-weight of cotton. At this rate, a little over a pound and a tenth of cotton would have furnished yards enough to gird the earth, and seventyone pounds and one-seventh enough to reach from our planet to the moon. The finest Indian yarn is not so fine as this. No cotton-yarn of such attenuity as this can be machine or hand woven. In the quality of evenness, machine-spun cotton-yarn is superior to hand-spun material, but it is devoid of a certain semi-transparency which contributes to the beauty of Indian muslin. Machine-spun cotton is more twisted than the hand-spun material; hence a certain opacity.

Very ancient are cotton fabrics. They can be proved to have been known in India more than five hundred years B.c.; and by the time of Alexander's Indian conquests, three hundred and odd years before the Christian era, the Hindoos had not only acquired the arts of cotton weaving and spinning, but also cotton-printing. When Nearchus, Alexander's admiral, in 327 B.C., descended the Indus and navigated the coast of Persia as far as the River Tigris, he saw the Indians in “ linen" garments, the substance whereof “grows upon trees;" thus testifies Arrian, in whose history the narrative of Alexander's admiral is preserved. “This tree-wool,” the historian goes on to state, is indeed flax, or rather something much whiter and finer than flax. “They wear shirts of the same," says he, “which reach down to the middle of their legs, and veils which cover their head and great part of their shoulders." Nearchus, moreover, did not fail to notice the beautifully-flowered cotton fabrics of India, their owvdovas eủavēcis (chintzes, I suppose, the modern name will be). Fancy Porus, worthy antagonist of the great Alexander, clad and fighting in chintzes! In Strabo's time (be died A.D. 25) cotton grew, and cotton cloths were manufactured in Susiana, a province of Persia, at the head of the Persian Gulf. In Pliny's time (he lived fifty years later than Strabo) the cotton manufacture had extended to Egypt; for, “ in Upper Egypt," says he, “ towards Arabia, there grows a shrub which some call gossypium, and others xylon, from which the stuffs are made

* Dr. Harris's Collection of Voyages and Travels, vol. i. p. 829.

that we call xylina. There is nothing to be preferred to these stuffs for whiteness or softness. Beautiful garments are made of them for the priests of Egypt.” Nevertheless, cotton would not seem to have been known in Egypt during the time of the Pharaohs. Not one mummy has been found with a cotton envelope amongst the hundreds, if not thousands, which have been examined. Of this there is no doubt, the microscope at once revealing the difference between cotton and linen fibre. And here, whilst consulting the records of old Pliny, it is worth while to note the circumstance, that he seems to throw a light on the etymology of the word 'cotton. “The pod of the cotton.plant,” says he, “is about the size of the cydoneum, or cotoneum malum—in other words, the quince. That the cotton manufacture was prosecuted at a very early date in India, existing records prove, as we have seen. Probably it is of not less ancient date in China. When the Spaniards first set foot on Mexican soil, they found the manufacture of cotton established there. Many African tribes use cotton; wherefore we perceive, that although the enormous cotton-trade which has sprung into existence under the pressure of capital and steam-machinery is modern and partial, the arts of cotton-spinning and weaving are ancient and widely diffused.

In the reign of the virgin queen, the Great Mogul had arrived at the zenith of his power. Delhi the magnificent was the goal and tarryingplace of suppliant ambassadors; who failed not to discourse, returning, on the wonders they had seen. Muslins, printed calicoes, chintzes, were the subjects of special admiration. Vivid was the account they gave of the beauty of these things. A small export trade sprang up. English beauties came to look with disfavour on garments of British wool. Largepattern dresses, that a costermonger's wife now would scorn, were deemed a right noble present in the Elizabethan age. Even up to the close of the eighteenth century, the East India Company imported chintzes, muslins, and calicoes from India: from China, nankeens. Long before cotton spinning and weaving had been established amongst us, calicoes were imported to be printed, covered with patterns, in England; the process of calico - printing having been established in London by Mauvillion, a Frenchman, about the end of the seventeenth century. The history of the extension of cotton-printing is most interesting to those who, possessing sufficient mechanical and chemical information, can understand the various successive phases of it. Little dream the wearers of bright-pattern cotton gowns, of the delicate craft brought to bear on the elaboration of these. Certain colours combine with the fabric of themselves, whence they are called substantive colours. Others only combine under the influence of a second agent, being bitten in, so to speak : whence the second agent is called a mordant, or “biter.” A third class of colours, some of them very beautiful, cannot be made to combine with the fabric by any device; still, being beautiful, the cotton-printer is loth to dispense with them.

And here remember, that, in a general way to speak, what a cottonprinter vows to do he will do. No hum-drum man of precedent is he,

« 上一頁繼續 »