The cotton crisis in England.
--We republished, from the London Times
a few days ago, an article which appeared in that paper on the 19th of September, and of which some portions were so significant that we place them once more before our readers.
is commenting upon a great meeting of operatives, in Lancashire
, for the purpose of taking into consideration the alarming condition of the manufacturing districts, owing to the failure of the usual supply of cotton from the Southern States
It speaks hopelessly of any adjustment between the belligerent parties, and proceeds as follows:
"With all these contingencies looming darkly around us, it is at least a satisfaction to observe, both that the condition of the cotton manufacture is favorable to our present efforts, and that the operatives of Lancashire
are looking at the subject like sensible men. The first resource in such straits as the present is evidently to limit the rate of produc-duction , and this, we are told, can be done not only without much disadvantage to the trade, but with a positive gain.
It is said that production has recently been carried too far, and that the stocks of manufactured goods are everywhere in excess of the demand.
In this case it can certainly do no harm to slacken our pace and allow our products to recover their value.
Short time in fact would be rather desirable, even if our supplies of material were in no jeopardy at all.
"In the meantime, the operatives have recognized the exigencies of the crisis by unanimous resolutions.
They demur, indeed, to the alleged necessity for the reduction of wages but at a large meeting of delegates at Manchester
it was freely admitted that the present scarcity of cotton afforded a well grounded reason for running the mills short time, and thus diminishing the rate of consumption.--Such a view of the case speaks well for the good sense and sagacity of the men. We must face the impending trial as well as we can.--The long expected dearth has now overtaken us. It is a serious matter, but not quite so bad as feared.
We have two resources--one in economy of consumption, the other in the discovery of new supplies.
Both, we trust, will stand us in good stead, while we feel our way to such a position as will exempt us from any future return of the liability."
We have constantly maintained that a crisis, springing out of the blockade of the Confederate
ports, and the consequent failure of the English
manufacturers to receive their usual supply of cotton, was close at hand.
It was nearer than we had supposed itself to be. The question has already walked down from the parlor and walked into the kitchen.
Its discussion is no longer confined to the upper regions of "the highest commercial and manufacturing classes; " it has been taken up by the operatives themselves.
At the very beginning of the difficulty, the Times
brings forward its last resource.
It can hit upon no expedient, but those of reducing the amount of consumption, and opening new sources of supply.
It thinks it would be beneficial to commerce, under any circumstances, to try the experiment of short work, since there is already a surplus of manufactured articles on hand Doubtless it would suit the manufacturers very well to get rid of old stocks before creating more; but how would it suit the operatives?
Short work signifies short wages, and short wages signify short allowance of the necessaries of life.
The wages of the English
operative, working full time, can hardly keep him alive.
How could he live on half what he now receives?
The view of the Times
is a one-sided view, and fails to take in the party most deeply interested, and likely to play the most important part.
Yet this is all the Times
can propose as a remedy for the approaching distress, except the alternative of opening new sources of supply.
We have frequently had occasion to notice the folly with which English journals, English statesmen, English merchants, and English manufacturers cling to this notion; as if four or five millions of bales of cotton could be brought into existence by the mere fiat of the Cotton Association
, or a string of energetic resolutions adopted by a Liverpool or Manchester
It was not thus that the inhabitants of the Southern States
reached their present rate of production.
They found ready made to their hand, a soil and climate, the best in the world for the culture of cotton.
They constituted one of the most active, one of the most enterprising, and one of the most intelligent bodies upon the face of the earth.
They had an abundance of black slave labor always at command.--Being such a race, and possessing such advantages by the labor and enterprise of fifty years, they brought the cotton culture up to four millions and a half of bales.
We undertake to say that no country which does not answer all these conditions — which has not a proper soil and climate, an energetic white population, and plenty of black slave labor — can ever become a great cotton growing country.
It must have them all. One or even two will not do without the rest.
The proper soil and climate and the proper white population will not do without the proper black population.
The proper white population and the proper black population will not do without the proper soil and climate.
The proper soil and climate and the proper black population will not do without the proper white population.
In a word, they must all be blended in the utmost harmony before the culture of cotton on the scale of the Southern States
can be expected to succeed, and in no country upon earth can such an union be found save in the Southern States
After all, the result can only be reached by the slow and painful progress of fifty years. Can England
afford to wait so long?
Can she wait one year?
Can she wait six months from this day?
If she could have accomplished this result, would she not have done it long ago?
It is curious that while, in England
, the operatives are discussing the necessity of reducing the consumption of cotton, in the Southern States
the planters are discussing the policy of omitting to plant any cotton at all next year, if the blockade continues.
A direct issue seems thus to be made up between the producers and the consumers, and we think there can be little apprehension about the result.
The Southern people propose to omit the regular planting next year, in order to prevent the accumulation of two crops, which would bring down the price below its proper minimum
They will cultivate the land thus left vacant in cereals, or will turn it into pasture, and will employ themselves in raising stock, sheep, or cattle, or all three.
These will not afford so much ready money as cotton; but there is this comfort, that there is no traveling for pleasure nowadays, and that few luxuries can be bought at any price, so there is less need than usual of ready money.
But in the meantime the planters and his slaves will live in the greatest abundance.
The sum total of what he will lose by the non-production of cotton; will not exceed his expenses in traveling and luxuries in ordinary times.
How will it be with the consumer, that is, the operative in England
, working on short time, and receiving short wages?
On the first day of October, there was cotton enough at Liverpool
to last three months, at the usual rate of consumptions Putting the mills on two-thirds work, this supply may be spun out six weeks longer or putting them on half work, it can be made to last three months longer.
In five months from the present time, then, there will be no American cotton in Liverpool
Can it be possible that four or five millions of human beings will be contented to live so long a time on half wages, when whole wages are barely sufficient to sustain life?
It is not possible, unless the deficiency be supplied directly by the Government
, and what is to be gained by that?
all classes seem to shut their eyes, voluntarily and resolutely, to the approaching condition of affairs.
They cannot see it, because they will not; or if they do see it. they will not acknowledge it. But the sufferings of the manufacturing population, when they shall have been living on half wages a very few months, will vent themselves in groans so loud, so long, and so threatening, that they must reach the ears of the Government