315. It is possible that the present laws relating to partnerships might interfere with factories so conducted. If this interference could not be obviated by confining their purchases under the proposed system to ready money, it would be desirable to consider what changes in the law would be necessary to its existence: and this furnishes another reason for entering into the question of limited partnerships.
316. A difficulty would occur also in discharging workmen who behaved ill, or who were not competent to their work; this would arise from their having a certain interest in the reserved fund, and, perhaps, from their possessing a certain portion of the capital employed; but without entering into detail, it may be observed, that such cases might be determined on by meetings of the whole establishment; and that if the policy of the laws favoured such establishments, it would scarcely be more difficult to enforce just regulations, than it now is to enforce some which are unjust, by means of combinations either amongst the masters or the men.
317. Some approach to this system is already practised in several trades: the mode of conducting the Cornish mines has already been alluded to; the payment to the crew of whaling ships is governed by this principle; the profits arising from fishing with nets on the south coast of England are thus divided: one-half the produce belongs to the owner of the boat and net; the other half is divided in equal portions between the persons using it, who are also bound to assist in repairing the net when injured.
1. For a detailed account of the method of working the Cornish mines, see a paper of Mr John Taylor’s Transactions of the Geological Society, vol. ii, p. 309.
On Contriving Machinery
318. The power of inventing mechanical contrivances, and of combining machinery, does not appear, if we may judge from the frequency of its occurrence, to be a difficult or a rare gift. Of the vast multitude of inventions which have been produced almost daily for a series of years, a large part has failed from the imperfect nature of the first trials; whilst a still larger portion, which had escaped the mechanical difficulties, failed only because the economy of their operations was not sufficiently attended to.
The commissioners appointed to examine into the methods proposed for preventing the forgery of bank-notes, state in their report, that out of one hundred and seventy-eight projects communicated to the bank and to the commissioners, there were only twelve of superior skill, and nine which it was necessary more particularly to examine.
319. It is however a curious circumstance, that although the power of combining machinery is so common, yet the more beautiful combinations are exceedingly rare. Those which command our admiration equally by the perfection of their effects and the simplicity of their means, are found only amongst the happiest productions of genius.