Chapter 6 Operations Alike Common to All Branches of Industry.

September 30, 2015

take the example of a product of external commerce; such as indigo.

The science of the geographer, the traveller, the astronomer, brings us acquainted with the spot where it is to be met with, and the means of crossing the seas to get at it. The merchant equips his vessels, and sends them in quest of the commodity; and the mariner and land-carrier perform the mechanical part of this production. If we examine closely the workings of human industry, it will be found, that, to whatever object it be applied, it consists of three distinct operations. 33Jean-Baptise Say, A Treatise on Political Economy and afterwards have accumulated, of procured the requisite capital, collected artificers and labourers, and assigned to each his respective occupation. But, looking at the substance, indigo, as a mere primary ma- terial of a further or secondary product, of blue cloth for in- stance; we all know that the chemist is first applied to for information, as to the nature of the substance, the method of dissolving it, and mordants requisite for fixing the colour; the means of perfecting the process of dyeing are then col- lected by the master manufacturer, under whose orders the labourer executes the manual part of the process. Finally, the work must have been completed by the manual skill of the workmen employed; some in constructing the buildings and furnaces, some in keeping up the fire, mixing up the ingredients, blowing, cutting, rolling out, fitting and fixing the pane of glass. The utility and beauty of the result- ing product, are inconceivable to those who have never be- held this admirable creation of human industry. By means of industry, the vilest materials have been invested with the high- est degree of utility. The very rags and refuse of wearing ap- parel have been transformed into the white and thin sheets, that convey from one end of the globe to the other, the requi- sitions of commerce and the particulars of art; that serve as the depositories of the conceptions of genius, and the vehicles of human experience from one age to another; to them we look for the evidence of our properties; to them we entrust the most noble and amiable sentiments of the heart, and by them we awaken corresponding feelings in the breasts of our fellow-creatures. The extraordinary facilities for the commu- nication of human intelligence which paper affords, entitles it to be considered as one of the products that have been most efficacious in ameliorating the condition of mankind. Fortu- nate, indeed, would it have been, had an engine so powerful never have been made the vehicle of falsehood, or the instru- ment of tyranny! Industry is, in all cases, divisible into theory, application, and execution. Nor can it approximate to perfection in any na- tion, till that nation excel in all three branches. A people, that is deficient in one or other of them cannot acquire products, which are and must be the result of all three. And thus we may learn to appreciate the vast utility of many sciences, which, at first sight, appear to be the objects of mere curios- ity and speculation. 67 The negroes of the coast of Africa are possessed of consider- able ingenuity, and excel in all athletic exercises and handi- craft occupations; but they seem greatly deficient in the two previous operations of industry. Wherefore, they are under the necessity of purchasing from Europe the stuffs, arms, and ornaments, they stand in need of= Their country yields so few products, notwithstanding its natural fertility, that the slave traders are obliged to lay in their stock of provisions before- hand, to feed the slaves during the voyage. 68 In qualities favourable to industry, the moderns have greatly surpassed the ancients, and the Europeans outstrip all the other nations of the globe. The meanest inhabitant of an European town enjoys innumerable comforts unattainable to the sover- eign of a savage tribe. The single article, glass, that admits light into his apartment, and, at the same time, excludes the inclemency of the weather, is the beautiful result of observa- tion and science, accumulated and perfected during a long course of ages. To obtain this luxury, it was necessary previ- ously to know what kind of sand was convertible into a sub- stance possessing extension, solidity, and transparency; as well as by the compound of what ingredients, and by what degree of heat, the substance was obtainable= to ascertain, besides, the best form of furnace. The very wood-work, that supports the roof of a glass-house, requires, in its construction, the most extensive knowledge of the strength of timber, and the means of employing it to advantage. It is worth while to remark, that the knowledge of the man of science, indispensable as it is to the development of industry, circulates with ease and rapidity from one nation to all the rest. And men of science have themselves an interest in its diffusion; for upon that diffusion they rest their hopes of for- tune, and, what is more prized by them, of reputation too. For this reason, a nation, in which science is but little cultivated, may nevertheless carry its industry to a very great length, by taking advantage of the information derivable from abroad. But there is no way of dispensing with the other two opera- tions of industry, the art of applying the knowledge of man to the supply of his wants, and the skill of execution. These quali- ties are of advantage to none but their possessors; so that a country well stocked with intelligent merchants, manufactur- ers, and agriculturists has more powerful means of attaining prosperity, than one devoted chiefly to the pursuit of the arts and sciences. At the period of the revival of literature in Italy, Bologna was the seat of science; but wealth was centred in Florence, Genoa, and Venice. Nor was the mere knowledge of these matters sufficient; for that knowledge might possibly have lain dormant in the memory of one or two persons, or in the pages of literature. It was further requisite, that a manufacturer should have been found, possessed of the means of reducing the knowledge into practice; who should have at first made himself master of all that was known of that particular branch of industry, In our days, the enormous wealth of Britain is less owing to her own advances in scientific acquirements, high as she ranks in that department, than to the wonderful practical skill of her adventurers al the useful application of knowledge, and the 34Book I= On Production success ensue, the adventurer rewarded by a longer period of exclusive advantage, because his process is less open to ob- servation. In some places, too, the exclusive advantage is pro- tected by patents of invention. For all which reasons, the progress of manufacturing is generally more rapid and more diversified than that of agricultural industry. superiority of her workmen in rapid and masterly execution. The national pride, that the English are often charged with, does not prevent their accommodating themselves with won- derful facility to the tastes of their customers and the con- sumers of their produce. They supply with hats both the north and the south, because they have learnt to make them light for the one market, and warm and thick for the other. Whereas the nation that makes but of one pattern, must be content with the home market only. In commercial industry, the risk of experiment would be greater than in the other two branches, if the costs of the ad- venture had no auxiliary and concurrent object. But it is usu- ally in the course of a regular trade, that a merchant hazards the introduction of a virgin commodity of foreign growth into an untried market. In this manner it was that the Dutch, about the middle of the seventeenth century, while prosecuting their commerce with China, with no very sanguine expectation, made experiment of a small assortment of dried leaves, from which the Chinese were in the habit of preparing their favourite beverage. Thus commenced the tea-trade, which now occa- sions the annual transport of more than 45 millions of pounds weight, that are sold in Europe for a sum of more than 80,000,000 of dollars. 70 The English labourer seconds the master manufacturer; he is commonly patient and laborious, and does not willingly send out an article from his hands, without giving it the utmost possible precision and perfection; not that he bestows more time upon it, but that he gives it more of his care, attention and diligence, than the workmen of most other nations. There is no people, however, that need despair of acquiring the qualities requisite to the perfection of their industry. It is but 150 years since England herself had made so little progress, that she purchased nearly all her woollens from Bel- gium; and it is not more than 80 years since Germany sup- plied with cotton goods the very nation, that now manufac- tures them for the whole world. 69 In some cases of very rare occurrence, boldness is nearly cer- tain of success. When the Europeans had recently discovered the pas sage round the Cape of Good Hope and the continent of America, their world was suddenly expanded to the East and West; and such was the infinity of new objects of desire in two hemispheres, whereof one was not at all, and the other but very imperfectly known before, that an adventurer had only to make the voyage, and was sure of selling his returns to great advantage. I have said that the cultivator, the manufacturer, the trader, make it their business to turn to profit the knowledge already acquired, and apply it to the satisfaction of human wants. I ought further to add, that they have need of knowledge of another kind, which can only be gained in the practical pur- suit of their respective occupations, and may be called their technical skill. The most scientific naturalist, with all his su- perior information, would probably succeed much worse than his tenant, in the attempt to improve his own land. A first-rate mechanist would most likely spin very indifferently without having served his apprenticeship, though admirably skilled in the Construction of the cotton-machinery. In the arts there is a certain sort of perfection, that results only from repeated trials, sometimes successful and sometimes the contrary. So that science alone is not sufficient to ensure the progress, without the aid of experiment, which is always attended with more or less of risk, and does not always indemnify the ad- venturer, whose profit, even when successful, is moderated by competition; although society at large receives the acces- sion of a new product, or, what amounts to the same thing, of an abatement in the price of an old one. In all but such extraordinary cases it is perhaps prudent to defray the charges of experiments in industry, not out of the capital engaged in the regular and approved channels of pro- duction, but out of the revenue that individuals have to dis- pose of at pleasure, without fear of impairing their fortune. The whims and caprices that divert to an useful end the lei- sure and revenue which most men devote to mere amuse- ment, or perhaps to something worse, cannot be too highly encouraged. I can conceive no more noble employment of wealth and talent. A rich and philanthropic individual may, in this way, be the means of conferring upon the industrious classes, and upon the consumers at large, in other words, upon the mass of mankind, a benefit far beyond the mere value of what he actually disburses, perhaps beyond the whole amount of his fortune however princely it may be. Who will attempt to calculate the value conferred on mankind by the unknown inventor of the plough? 71 In agriculture, experiments usually cost the rent of the soil for a year or more, over and above the labour and the capital engaged in them. A government, that knows and practises its duties, and has large resources at its disposal, does not abandon to individu- als the whole glory and merit of invention and discovery in In manufacture, experiment is hazarded on safer grounds of calculation, capital engaged for a much shorter period, and if 35Jean-Baptise Say, A Treatise on Political Economy the field of industry. The charges of experiment, when de- frayed by the government, are not subtracted from the na- tional capital, but from the national revenue; for taxation never does, or, at least, never ought to touch any thing beyond the revenue of individuals. The portion of them so spent is scarcely felt at all, because the burthen is divined among innumerable contributors; and, the advantages resulting from success be- ing a common benefit to all, it is by no means inequitable that the sacrifices, by which they are obtained, should fall on the community at large. one with the other= for the tools and machines which form a principal item of capital, are commonly but expedients more or less ingenious, fol turning natural powers to account. The steam engine is but a complicated method of taking advan- tage of the alternation of the elasticity of water reduced to vapour, and of the weight of the atmosphere. So that, in point of fact, a steam engine employs more productive agency, than the agency of the capital embarked in it= for that machine is an expedient for forcing into the service of man a variety of natural agents, whose gratuitous aid may perhaps infinitely exceed in value the interest of the capital invested in the machine.


No comments yet. Post a comment in the form at the bottom.

All Superphysics principles in our books

The Simplified Series