On The Position Of Large Factories

277. It is found in every country, that the situation of

large manufacturing establishments is confined to particular

districts. In the earlier history of a manufacturing community,

before cheap modes of transport have been extensively introduced,

it will almost always be found that manufactories are placed near

those spots in which nature has produced the raw material:

especially in the case of articles of great weigh
, and in those

the value of which depends more upon the material than upon the

labour expended on it. Most of the metallic ores being

exceedingly heavy, and being mixed up with large quantities of

weighty and useless materials, must be smelted at no great

distance from the spot which affords them: fuel and power are the

requisites for reducing them; and any considerable fall of water

in the vicinity will naturally be resorted to for aid in the

coarser exertions of physical force; for pounding the ore, for

blowing the furnaces, or for hammering and rolling out the iron.

There are indeed peculiar circumstances which will modify this.

Iron, coal, and limestone, commonly occur in the same tracts; but

the union of the fuel in the same locality with the ore does not

exist with respect to other metals. The tracts generally the most

productive of metallic ores are, geologically speaking, different

from those affording coal: thus in Cornwall there are veins of

copper and of tin, but no beds of coal. The copper ore, which

requires a very large quantity of fuel for its reduction, is sent

by sea to the coalfields of Wales, and is smelted at Swansea;

whilst the vessels which convey it, take back coals to work the

steam-engines for draining the mines, and to smelt the tin, which

requires for that purpose a much smaller quantity of fuel than


278. Rivers passing through districts rich in coal and

metals, will form the first highroads for the conveyance of

weighty produce to stations in which other conveniences present

themselves for the further application of human skill. Canals

will succeed, or lend their aid to these; and the yet unexhausted

applications of steam and of gas, hold out a hope of attaining

almost the same advantages for countries to which nature seemed

for ever to have denied them. Manufactures, commerce, and

civilization, always follow the line of new and cheap

communications. Twenty years ago, the Mississippi poured the vast

volume of its waters in lavish profusion through thousands of

miles of countries, which scarcely supported a few wandering and

uncivilized tribes of Indians. The power of the stream seemed to

set at defiance the efforts of man to ascend its course; and, as

if to render the task still more hopeless, large trees, torn from

the surrounding forests, were planted like stakes in its bottom,

forming in some places barriers, in others the nucleus of banks;

and accumulating in the same spot, which but for accident would

have been free from both, the difficulties and dangers of shoals

and of rocks. Four months of incessant toil could scarcely convey

a small bark with its worn-out crew two thousand miles up this

stream. The same voyage is now performed in fifteen days by large

vessels impelled by steam, carrying hundreds of passengers

enjoying all the comforts and luxuries of civilized life. Instead

of the hut of the Indian, and the far more unfrequent log house

of the thinly scattered settlers--villages, towns, and cities,

have arisen on its banks; and the same engine which stems the

force of these powerful waters, will probably tear from their

bottom the obstructions which have hitherto impeded and rendered

dangerous their navigation.(1*)

279. The accumulation of many large manufacturing

establishments in the same district has a tendency to bring

together purchasers or their agents from great distances, and

thus to cause the institution of a public mart or exchange. This

contributes to diffuse information relative to the supply of raw

materials, and the state of demand for their produce, with which

it is necessary manufacturers should be well acquainted. The very

circumstance of collecting periodically, at one place, a large

number both of those who supply the market and of those who

require its produce, tends strongly to check the accidental

fluctuations to which a small market is always subject, as well

as to render the average of the prices much more uniform.

280. When capital has been invested in machinery, and in

buildings for its accommodation, and when the inhabitants of the

neighbourhood have acquired a knowledge of the modes of working

at the machines, reasons of considerable weight are required to

cause their removal. Such changes of position do however occur;

and they have been alluded to by the Committee on the Fluctuation

of Manufacturers' Employment, as one of the causes interfering

most materially with an uniform rate of wages: it is therefore of

particular importance to the workmen to be acquainted with the

real causes which have driven manufactures from their ancient


The migration or change of place of any manufacture has

sometimes arisen from improvements of machinery not applicable to

the spot where such manufacture was carried on, as appears to

have been the case with the woollen manufacture, which has in

great measure migrated from Essex, Suffolk, and other southern

counties, to the northern districts, where coal for the use of

the steam-engine is much cheaper. But this change has, in some

instances, been caused or accelerated by the conduct of the

workmen, in refusing a reasonable reduction of wages, or opposing

the introduction of some kind of improved machinery or process;

so that, during the dispute, another spot has in great measure

supplied their place in the market. Any violence used by the

workmen against the property of their masters, and any

unreasonable combination on their part, is almost sure thus to be

injurious to themselves.

281. These removals become of serious consequence when the

factories have been long established, because a population

commensurate with their wants invariably grows up around them.

The combinations in Nottinghamshire, of persons under the name of

Luddites, drove a great number of lace frames from that district,

and caused establishments to be formed in Devonshire. We ought

also to observe, that the effect of driving any establishment

into a new district, where similar works have not previously

existed, is not merely to place it out of the reach of such

combinations; but, after a few years, the example of its success

will most probably induce other capitalists in the new district

to engage in the same manufacture: and thus, although one

establishment only should be driven away, the workmen, through

whose combination its removal is effected, will not merely suffer

by the loss of that portion of demand for their labour which the

factory caused; but the value of that labour will itself be

reduced by the competition of a new field of production.

282. Another circumstance which has its influence on this

question, is the nature of the machinery. Heavy machinery, such

as stamping-mills, steam-engines, etc., cannot readily be moved,

and must always be taken to pieces for that purpose; but when the

machinery of a factory consists of a multitude of separate

engines, each complete in itself, and all put in motion by one

source of power, such as that of steam, then the removal is much

less inconvenient. Thus, stocking frames, lace machines, and

looms, can be transported to more favourable positions, with but

a small separation of their parts.

283. It is of great importance that the more intelligent

amongst the class of workmen should examine into the correctness

of these views; because, without having their attention directed

to them, the whole class may, in some instances, be led by

designing persons to pursue a course, which, although plausible

in appearance, is in reality at variance with their own best

interests. I confess I am not without a hope that this volume may

fall into the hands of workmen, perhaps better qualified than

myself to reason upon a subject which requires only plain common

sense, and whose powers are sharpened by its importance to their

personal happiness. In asking their attention to the preceding

remarks, and to those which I shall offer respecting

combinations, I can claim only one advantage over them; namely,

that I never have had, and in all human probability never shall

have, the slightest pecuniary interest, to influence even

remotely, or by anticipation, the judgements I have formed on the

facts which have come before me.


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 enterthe rest of the

vessel and sink it intantly.