Home Steel Making Categories Manufacturing and the Economy of Machinery


Of Copying By Stamping
128. This mode of copying is extensively employed in the art...

On The Future Prospects Of Manufactures As Connected With Science
453. In reviewing the various processes offered as illustrat...

Of Printing From Cavities
83. The art of printing, in all its numerous departments, is ...

Of Copying By Moulding
112. This method of producing multitudes of individuals havi...

On The Division Of Labour
241. We have already mentioned what may, perhaps, appear par...

Of Copying
82. The two last-mentioned sources of excellence in the work ...

On Contriving Machinery
318. The power of inventing mechanical contrivances, and of ...

Of Raw Materials
210. Although the cost of any article may be reduced in its ...

On The Influence Of Durability On Price
197. Having now considered the circumstances that modify what...

Copying With Elongation
140. In this species of copying there exists but little rese...

Proper Circumstances For The Application Of Machinery
329. The first object of machinery, the chief cause of its e...

Distinction Between Making And Manufacturing
163. The economical principles which regulate the application...

Of Price As Measured By Money
201. The money price at which an article sells furnishes us ...

Exerting Forces Too Great For Human Power And Executing Operations Too Delicate For Human Touch
56. It requires some skill and a considerable apparatus to e...

On A New System Of Manufacturing
305. A most erroneous and unfortunate opinion prevails among...

Printing From Surface
91. This second department of printing is of more frequent a...

Economy Of The Materials Employed
77. The precision with which all operations by machinery are ...

On The Influence Of Verification On Price
181. The money price of an article at any given period is us...

On The Method Of Observing Manufacturies
160. Having now reviewed the mechanical principles which reg...

Registering Operations
65. One great advantage which we may derive from machinery is...

On The Effect Of Machinery In Reducing The Demand For Labour

Category: On the domestic and political economy of manufactures

404. One of the objections most frequently urged against
machinery is, that it has a tendency to supersede much of the
hand labour which was previously employed; and in fact unless a
machine diminished the labour necessary to make an article, it
could never come into use. But if it have that effect, its owner,
in order to extend the sale of his produce, will be obliged to
undersell his competitors; this will induce them also to
introduce the new machine, and the effect of this competition
will soon cause the article to fall, until the profits on
capital, under the new system, shall be reduced to the same rate
as under the old. Although, therefore, the use of machinery has
at first a tendency to throw labour out of employment, yet the
increased demand consequent upon the reduced price, almost
immediately absorbs a considerable portion of that labour, and
perhaps, in some cases, the whole of what would otherwise have
been displaced.

That the effect of a new machine is to diminish the labour
required for the production of the same quantity of manufactured
commodities may beclearlyperceived, byimaginingasociety,
inwhichoccupation are not divided, each man himself manufacturing
all the articles he consumes. Supposing each individual to labour
during ten hours daily, one of which is devoted to making shoes,
it is evident that if any tool or machine be introduced, by the
use ofwhich his shoes can be made in halfthe usual time, then
each member ofthe community will enjoy the same comforts as
before by only nine and one-half hours' labour.

405. If, therefore, we wish to prove that the total quantity
oflabourisnot diminished by the introduction of machines, we must
have recourse to some other principle of our nature. But the same
motive which urges a man to activity will become additionally
powerful, when he finds his comforts procured with diminished
labour; and in such circumstances, it is probable, that many
would employ the time thus redeemed in contriving new tools for
other branches of their occupations. He who has habitually worked
ten hours a day, will employ the half hour saved by the new
machine in gratifying some other want; and as each new machine
adds to these gratifications, new luxuries will open to his view,
which continued enjoyment will as surely render necessary to his

406. In countries where occupations are divided, and where
the division of labour is practised, the ultimate consequence of
improvements in machinery is almost invariably to cause a greater
demand for labour. Frequently the new labour requires, at its
commencement, a higher degree of skill than the old; and,
unfortunately, the class of persons driven out of the old
employment are not always qualified for the new one; so that a
certain interval must elapse before the whole of their labour is
wanted. This, for a time, produces considerable suffering amongst
the working classes; and it is of great importance for their
happiness that they should be aware of these effects, and be
enabled to foresee them at an early period, in order to diminish,
as much as possible, the injury resulting from them.

407. One very important enquiry which this subject presents
is the question whether it is more for the interest of the
working classes, that improved machinery should be so perfect as
to defy the competition of hand labour; and that they should thus
be at once driven out of the trade by it; or be gradually forced
to quit it by the slow and successive advances of the machine?
The suffering which arises from a quick transition is undoubtedly
more intense; but it is also much less permanent than that which
results from the slower process: and if the competition is
perceived to be perfectly hopeless, the workman will at once set
himself to learn a new department of his art. On the other hand,
although new machinery causes an increased demand for skill in
those who make and repair it, and in those who first superintend
its use; yet there are other cases in which it enables children
and inferior workmen to execute work that previously required
greater skill. In such circumstances, even though the increased
demand for the article, produced by its diminished price, should
speedily give occupation to all who were before employed, yet the
very diminution of the skill required, would open a wider field
of competition amongst the working classes themselves.

That machines do not, even at their first introduction,
invariably throw human labour out of employment, must be
admitted; and it has been maintained, by persons very competent
to form an opinion on the subject, that they never produce that
effect. The solution of this question depends on facts, which,
unfortunately, have not yet been collected: and the circumstance
of our not possessing the data necessary for the full examination
of so important a subject, supplies an additional reason for
impressing, upon the minds of all who are interested in such
enquiries, the importance of procuring accurate registries, at
various times, of the number of persons employed in particular
branches of manufacture, of the number of machines used by them.
and of the wages they receive.

408. In relation to the enquiry just mentioned, I shall offer
some remarks upon the facts within my knowledge; and only regret
that those which I can support by numerical statement are so few.
When the crushing mill, used in Cornwall and other mining
countries, superseded the labour of a great number of young
women, who worked very hard in breaking ores with flat hammers,
no distress followed. The reason of this appears to have been,
that the proprietors of the mines, having one portion of their
capital released by the superior cheapness of the process
executed by the mills, found it their interest to apply more
labour to other operations. The women, disengaged from mere
drudgery, were thus profitably employed in dressing the ores, a
work which required skill and judgement in the selection.

409. The increased production arising from alterations in the
machinery, or from improved modes of using it, appears from the
following table. A machine called in the cotton manufacture a
'stretcher', worked by one man, produced as follows:

Year; Pounds of cotton spun; Roving wages per score; Rate of
earning per week
s. d. s. d.

1810 400 1 31/2 25 10(1*)
1811 600 0 10 25 0
1813 850 0 9 31 101/2
1823 1000 0 71/2 31 3

The same man working at another stretcher, the roving a little
finer, produced,

1823 900 0 71/2 28 11/2
1825 1000 0 7 27 6
1827 1200 0 6 30 0
1832 1200 0 6 30 0

In this instance, production has gradually increased until, at
the end of twenty-two years, three times as much work is done as
at the commencement, although the manual labour employed remains
the same. The weekly earnings of the workmen have not fluctuated
very much, and appear, on the whole, to have advanced: but it
would be imprudent to push too far reasonings founded upon a
single instance.

410. The produce of 480 spindles of 'mule yarn spinning', at
different periods, was as follows:

Year; Hanks about 40 to the pound; Wages per thousand (s. d.)

1806; 6668; 9 2
1823; 8000; 6 3
1832; 10,000; 3 8

411. The subjoined view of the state of weaving by hand- and
by power-looms, at Stockport, in the years 1822 and 1832, is
taken from an enumeration of the machines contained in 65
factories, and was collected for the purpose of being given in
evidence before a Committee of the House of Commons.

In 1822 In 1832
Hand-loom weavers 2800 800 2000 decrease
Persons using power-looms 657 3059 2402 increase
Persons to dress the warp 98 388 290 increase
Total persons employed 3555 4247 692 increase
Power-looms 1970 9177 8207 increase

During this period, the number of hand-looms in employment has
diminished to less than one-third, whilst that of power-looms has
increased to more than five times its former amount. The total
number of workmen has increased about one-third; but the amount
of manufactured goods (supposing each power-loom to do only the
work of three hand-looms) is three and a half times as large as
it was before.

412. In considering this increase of employment, it must be
admitted, that the two thousand persons thrown out of work are
not exactly of the same class as those called into employment by
the power-looms. A hand-weaver must possess bodily strength,
which is not essential for a person attending a power-loom;
consequently, women and young persons of both sexes, from fifteen
to seventeen years of age, find employment in power-loom
factories. This, however, would be a very limited view of the
employment arising from the introduction of power-looms: the
skill called into action in building the new factories, in
constructing the new machinery, in making the steam-engines to
drive it, and in devising improvements in the structure of the
looms, as well as in regulating the economy of the establishment,
is of a much higher order than that which it had assisted in
superseding; and if we possessed any means of measuring this, it
would probably be found larger in amount. Nor, in this view of
the subject, must we omit the fact, that although hand-looms
would have increased in number if those moved by steam had not
been invented, yet it is the cheapness of the article
manufactured by power-looms which has caused this great extension
of their employment, and that by diminishing the price of one
article of commerce, we always call into additional activity the
energy of those who produce others. It appears that the number of
hand-looms in use in England and Scotland in 1830, was about
240,000; nearly the same number existed in the year 1820: whereas
the number of power-looms which, in 1830, was 55,000, had, in
1820, been 14,000. When it is considered that each of these
powerlooms did as much work as three worked by hand, the
increased producing power was equal to that of 123,000
hand-looms. During the whole of this period the wages and
employment of hand-loom weavers have been very precarious.

413. Increased intelligence amongst the working classes, may
enable them to foresee some of those improvements which are
likely for a time to affect the value of their labour; and the
assistance of savings banks and friendly societies, (the
advantages of which can never be too frequently, or too strongly,
pressed upon their attention), may be of some avail in remedying
the evil: but it may be useful also to suggest to them, that a
diversity of employments amongst the members of one family will
tend, in some measure, to mitigate the privations which arise
from fluctuation in the value of labour.


1. In 1810, the workman's wages were guaranteed not to be less
than 26s.

Next: On The Effect Of Taxes And Of Legal Restrictions Upon Manufactures

Previous: On Combinations Of Masters Against The Public

Add to Informational Site Network

Viewed 2392