On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 313 pages of information about On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures.

304.  Another element in this question which should not be altogether omitted, is the opposition which the new manufacture may create by its real or apparent injury to other interests, and the probable effect of that opposition.  This is not always foreseen; and when anticipated is often inaccurately estimated.  On the first establishment of steamboats from London to Margate, the proprietors of the coaches running on that line of road petitioned the House of Commons against them, as likely to lead to the ruin of the coach proprietors.  It was, however, found that the fear was imaginary; and in a very few years, the number of coaches on that road was considerably increased, apparently through the very means which were thought to be adverse to it.  The fear, which is now entertained, that steampower and railroads may drive out of employment a large proportion of the horses at present in use, is probably not less unfounded.  On some particular lines such an effect might be produced; but in all probability the number of horses employed in conveying goods and passengers to the great lines of railroad, would exceed that which is at present used.

Notes

1.  One of the results of these enquiries is, that every coach which travels from London to Birmingham distributes about eleven pounds of wrought iron, along with the line of road between the two places.

Chapter 26

On a New System of Manufacturing

305.  A most erroneous and unfortunate opinion prevails amongst workmen in many manufacturing countries, that their own interest and that of their employers are at variance.  The consequences are that valuable machinery is sometimes neglected, and even privately injured—­that new improvements, introduced by the masters, do not receive a fair trial—­and that the talents and observations of the workmen are not directed to the improvement of the processes in which they are employed.  This error is, perhaps, most prevalent where the establishment of manufactories has been of recent origin, and where the number of persons employed in them is not very large:  thus, in some of the Prussian provinces on the Rhine it prevails to a much greater extent than in Lancashire.  Perhaps its diminished prevalence in our own manufacturing districts, arises partly from the superior information spread amongst the workmen; and partly from the frequent example of persons, who by good conduct and an attention to the interests of their employers for a series of years, have become foremen, or who have ultimately been admitted into advantageous partnerships.  Convinced as I am, from my own observation, that the prosperity and success of the master manufacturer is essential to the welfare of the workman, I am yet compelled to admit that this connection is, in many cases, too remote to be always understood by the latter, and whilst it is perfectly true that workmen, as a class, derive advantage from the prosperity of their employers, I do not think that each individual partakes of that advantage exactly in proportion to the extent to which he contributes towards it; nor do I perceive that the resulting advantage is as immediate as it might become under a different system.

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On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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