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776     DOUGLAS MONTHLY    January, 1863

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On Wednesday evening a number of the officers and others in the service of the North-Eastern Railway Company held a meeting in the Large Room in the Central Station, for the purpose of considering the steps to be taken with a view of meeting the distress in the cotton manufacturing districts.  The room was well filled, and Mr. Tennant was called to the chair.

The Chairman said he was not unwilling to occupy the position on that occasion, because in his opinion the object of the meeting was such as would commend itself to the judgement of every man.  The question might be asked - How it happened that an interruption in the cotton trade had caused such wide-spread distress?  Those who had lived in Yorkshire knew that at times the stuff trade had been almost suspended.  The iron trade had experienced seasons of extreme depression, and the mining operations in the North of England had often been seriously affected, but nothing in his recollection had ever occurred in any of those branches of business which produced a state of things at all to be compared to that at present existing in the cotton districts, especially in Lancashire.  The answer to that question might be found in the immense extent and importance the cotton manufacture had assumed in this country compared with any other branch of industry. -- The cotton manufacture in England was a recent addition to the commerce of the country.  Like many other things, it spread from the east to the west; and long before it was even known in England it formed a staple trade in India.  It was curious to trace the change, not only in the current of trade, but also in opinion with respect to it.  A century and a half ago, pamphleteers alleged that the introduction of the "painted" cotton from India had half destroyed the woollen trade of England, and laws were made with a view of preventing the introduction of printed and other cotton articles from India.  But, as was stated, "the passion of the ladies for the fashion" was such, that inspite of the injury to native productions, they refused to be dressed "according to Act of Parliament."  The cotton manufacture, however, made little progress in England before the introduction of machinery.  To give an idea of the progress and extent of this branch of manufacture, the Chairman said that during the last hundred years the total value had increased from siv hundred thousand to sixty-six millions sterling.  One hundred years ago ago the exports of woollen goods were seven times the amount of cotton goods, whilst now, the value of cotton exports was three times as large as that of woollen goods.  The cotton exports were equal to one-third of the entire export trade of the country, even including coal and other raw material, whilst one hundred years ago, the value of cotton goods supplied to foreign countries was merely nominal.  It was estimated by Mr. Bazley, that the exports now are equal to at least one shilling per head of the entire population of the world.  The yarn spun at the mills in Great Britain would encircle the globe six hundred thousand times, or it would reach 150 times from the earth to the sun.  It was estimated that 52 millions of money, and at least four hundred thousand operatives were employed in connection with the cotton trade, and it was further estimated that, in 1859, the average wages were rather more than ten shillings per week.  When, therefore, they knew that a trade of that magnitude had been paralysed, nay, almost suspended, it required not the reports of Poor-law Inspectors or Relief Committees to prove that distress existed; if they had never read of distress their own common sense would have led to the obvious conclusion that, under such circumstances, the position of these operatives must of necessity be amentable in the extreme.  The Chairman then referred to the immediate cause of all the misfortune.  There had been many warning voices he said, touching the cotton question.  
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Many men whose views were entitled to a respect far higher than the statements of ephemeral writers--men whose utterances had deserved the most profound consideration, had long entertained the opinion that this country's prosperity, so far as the cotton manufacture was concerned, was being built up on a false foundation--false, because the cotton interest was depending for raw material upon one source of supply, and doubly false because that supply was the produce of slave labor, and consequently the produce of robbery and extortion, and that, we in this country, being the receivers of American cotton, were necessarily implicated in all the iniquities of the slave system.  Whether that warning voice ought to have been listened to or not, at all events it had been disregarded.  Then the culpable neglect of India--which supplied the native manufacturers with cotton which they sent to the British market manufacturers in large quantities--the neglect of that as a cotton growing country had often been pointed out, but with no practical result.  Then we had had warnings from the other side of the Atlantic.  Many Englishmen were but little aware of the contest with the slave power which had been going on in America for many years.  They had been as little acquainted with the agitations there as they were with the seething discontent which existed in India long before the open outbreak of the mutiny.  The Northern States had truckled to the South; they had for a long time yielded the government of the country to Southern influence, but the Republican party was ill satisfied, and they determined to do that which the constitution allowed them to do.  In America each State was supposed to have the control of its internal affairs, and thence it had been held that the Union had no power or right of interference with slavery as it existed in those States.  But the admission of new States was the work of the entire body of States represented by Congress.  The Republican party had resolved that slavery should be kept within its then limits, and should not be extended to new territories.  Limitation of slavery was the principle on which President Lincoln was elected and then it was that the South rebelled.  There was no question at issue as to the personal liberty of the white people of the South, but the South claimed the right to perpetuate and extend slavery indefinitely.  Here, then, they had two contending forces--on the one side, the Republican party admitting that slavery was an evil to be got rid of some time, and doing something towards than end; on the other side, the Southern Confederacy, who, far from having entertained an unfavorable opinion of the slave system, had based their constitution on the perpetual bondage of the African race, holding up negro slavery as the chief corner-stone.  That view of the Southern position was no draft on imagination, but it was taken from the open declarations of a prominent member of the Confederate Government.  But, however negligent and inert the Government might have been in the development of India, however torpid the general conscience on the subject of slave produce, however far from righteousness the position the Northern States might have assumed, and however fearful the depths of infamy and wickedness into which the South had fallen, as regarded the poor operatives themselves, there was but one opinion, one verdict universally pronounced--viz., that they, at all events, were wholly free from blame.  Had the fact been otherwise, they would still have been entitled to assistance; but being so entirely innocent, they ought to receive not only succour in their hour of need, but sympathy and kindness of the highest character, Their necessities should be met liberally, and in a manner which would preserve to them as far as possible that self-respect and independence which, as abundantly manifest, they so highly prized.  Of the distress there could be no doubt; but, in order that they might realise to some extent the real position of thousands of families, the Chairman read extracts from the account of a "Visit to the Cotton Districts," as follows :--"Down a miserable court, where a quadrangle of little dens--they 
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could not be called houses - were huddled together; their open doors exhibiting all that the houses contained--for they were single storied--we entered a low-roofed hovel.  A woman sat on a bench, or rather a rough framework which represented a bed; an infant was in her arms, and at her feet two little half clothed children were lying.  The room contained nothing but a counterpane upon the bed, a pot beside the fire, and a few articles of crockery; not a chair or table was there, nor one single article to contribute to comfort.  The poor creature evinced great regret that we could not be accommodated with seats; but we told her our object was merely to look through the district, and we would not intrude.  'Intrude!  You are welcome, sirs; and if you bring any help, God reward you, ' she said.  'You seem to have a large family?' 'There are five, sir.  This little one is just six months old.' 'Do you not manage to receive relief?' 'Yes, sir, I do, and very thankful I am for it; but I only have 3s 6d a week, and what is that?' In good times my master used to make [[pound sterling symbol]]1 to [[pound sterling symbol]]1 5s a week, and then we thought we could only just live; but now see what we have come to!--'Are there many cases like this in your round?'  I asked our guide.  'Aye, there are that,'he answered.  'I could take you to a hundred families within five minutes' walk of this spot, where there is not an article of clothing in the house excepting what they stand up in.'  It had often been a matter of surprise how these poor people had struggled on so long.  It was partly to be accounted for by the withdrawals from savings banks, which in Blackburn alone had amounted to at least [[pound sterling symbol]]15,000; but, said the eye-witness of the fearful destitution, 'There are within five minutes' walk of this spot 100 families where there is not an article of clothing in the house, excepting what they stand up in;' so that the people had been living not on their savings alone but on the proceeds of their furniture and necessary clothing.  It would be a mistake, however if it were supposed that only the recipients of weekly wages were in a distressed condition  The clergyman who accompained the visitor said we all suffer alike here.  Not long since my salary was [[pound sterling symbol]]150 a year, now it is reduced to [[pound sterling symbol]]100, and what it will be by and by, I cannot tell, but I must leave it in the hands of Providence.  I have to depend upon the rent of sittings in the chapel, and now very few, if any, are able to pay them.  Of course I urge upon my congregation to retain their seats and to think nothing about arrears, and I am thankful to say that my numbers still keep up, although Sunday after Sunday their clothes get shabbier, and I fear that soon a feeling of shame will prevent many from attending.  The case is hard for all of us--They know that I and my family are dependent upon the church for daily bread, and they feel this very much, although I try all in my power to prevent them doing so.  If you could live in this neighborhood a month you would be surprised at the extreme poverty which underlies an appearance of comfort or even luxury."  Again,another case.  Even owners of property were in difficulties.  A man had saved money and invested in in cottage property, living upon the rents.  In consequence of cotton famine he had received no rent for six months, and was destitute of income.  All classes were mutually dependent as was well expressed by an innkeeper in Preston:--"I went into an inn and ordered bread and cheese; the landlady brought me in a few scraps of each, apologising that she had not more, but all lived on hard fare now, and very few bread and cheese customers found their way into her house.  'But you are not a spinner or a weaver,' I said; 'I thought they were the people to talk about hard times?' 'Yes, but we are all kind o'cannibals in Lancashire, and live one upon another.  The factory folk live upon the millowners, and we live upon the factory folk, but now all is come to a standstill.  Why, this little room used to be full of an evening, with men who like to have a chat and a sup of beer together after the day's work; and now, night after night passes without a penny being taken in it, for nobody has 
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