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Speech delivered in Carpenter' s Hall


A Speech delivered in CARPENTERS HALL, MARCH 16th, before the Subscribers towards a fund for establishing Manufactories of Woollen, Cotton, and Linen, in the City of PHILADELPHIA.

GENTLEMEN: When I reflect upon the extent of the subject before me, and consider the small share of knowledge I possess of it, I confess I rise with timidity to speak in this assembly; and it is only because the requests of fellow-citizens in every laudable undertaking should always operate with the force of commands, that, I have prevailed upon myself to execute the task you have assigned me.

My business, upon this occasion, is to lay before you a few thoughts upon the necessity, possibility, and advantages of establishing Woollen, Cotton, and Linen Manufactories among us.

The necessity of establishing these Manufactories is obvious from the Association of the Congress, which puts a stop to the importation of British goods, of which woollens, cottons, and linens always made a considerable part. So large has been the demand for these articles, and so very necessary are they in this Country, that it is impossible for us to clothe ourselves without substituting some others in their room. I am far from thinking that the Non-Importation Agreement will be so transitory a thing as some have supposed. The appearance of a change of measures in England respecting the Colonies, does not flow from a conviction of their injustice. The same arbitiary Ministers continue in office, and the same arbitiary favourites continue to abuse the confidence of our Sovereign. Sudden conversion should be trusted with caution, especially when they have been brought about by interest or fear. I shall think the liberties of America established at an easy price by a two or three years' Non-Importation Agreement. By union and perseverance in this mode of opposition to Great Britain, we shall afford a new phenomenon in the history of mankind, and furnish posterity with an example to teach them that peace, with all the rights of humanity and justice, may be maintained by the exertion of economical as well as military virtues. We shall, moreover, demonstrate the falsehood of those systems, of Government which exclude patriotism from the list of virtues, and show that we act most surely for ourselves, when we act most disinterestedly for the publick.

The possibility of establishing Woollen, Cotton, and Linen Manufactories among us, is plain, from the success which hath attended several attempts that have been made for that purpose. A great part of the inhabitants of several of the Counties in this Province clothe themselves entirely with woollens and linens manufactured in their own families. Our wool is equal in quality to the wool of several European Countries; and if the same pains were bestowed in the culture of our Sheep, which are used in England and Spain, I have no doubt but in a few years our wool would equal the wool of Segovia itself. Nor will there be a deficiency in the quantity of wool which will be necessary for us, if we continue to adhere to the Association of the Congress as strictly as we have done. If the City of Philadelphia consumes 20,000 Sheep less this year than it did last, how many 20,000 Sheep may we suppose will be saved


throughout the whole Province? According to the ordinary increase in the breed of Sheep, and allowing for the additional quantity of wool, which a little care of them will produce, I think I could make it appear that in five years there will be wool enough raised in the Province to clothe the whole of its inhabitants. Cotton may be imported upon such terms from the West-Indies and Southern Colonies, as to enable us to manufacture thicksets, calicoes, &c˙, at a much cheaper rate than they can be imported from Britain. Considering how much these stuffs are worn by those classes of people who constitute the majority of the inhabitants of our Country, the encouragement of the Cotton Manufactory appears to be an object of the utmost consequence. I cannot help suggesting in this place, although it may appear foreign to our subject, that the Trade to the West-Indies and Southern Colonies for cotton would create such a commercial union with the Middle and Northern Colonies, as would tend greatly to strengthen that political union which now subsists between them. I need say nothing of the facility of cultivating flax, nor of the excellent quality of the linens which have been already manufactured among us. I shall only add, that this manufactory may be carried on without lessening the value of that trade which arises from the exportation of our flaxseed to Ireland.

I cannot help laying a good deal of stress upon the publick spirit of my countrymen, which removes the success of these Manufactories beyond a bare possibility, and seems to render it in some measure certain. The Resolves of the Congress have been executed with a fidelity hardly known to laws in any Country, and that too without the assistance of fire and sword, or even of the Civil Magistrate, and in some places in direct opposition to them all. It gives me the utmost pleasure to mention here, that our Province is among the foremost of the Colonies in the peaceable mode of opposition recommended by the Congress. When I reflect upon the temper we have discovered in the present controversy, and compare it with the habitual spirit of industry and economy for which we are celebrated among strangers, I know not how to estimate our virtue high enough. I am sure no objects will appear too difficult, nor no undertakings too expensive for us in the present struggle. The sum of money which has been already subscribed for the purpose of these Manufactories, is a proof that I am not too sanguine in my expectations from this Province.

I now come to point out the advantages we shall derive from establishing the Woollen, Cotton, and Linen Manufactories among us. The first advantage I shall mention is, we shall save a large sum of money annually in our Province. The Province of Pennsylvania is supposed to contain 400,000 inhabitants. Let us suppose that only 50,000 of these are clothed with the woollens, cottons, and linens of Great Britain, and that the price of clothing of each of these persons, upon an average, amounts to Five Pounds sterling a year. If this computation be just, then the sum annually saved in our Province by the manufactory of our clothes, will amount to £250,000 sterling.

Secondly: Manufactories, next to Agriculture, are the basis of the riches of every Country. Cardinal Ximenes is remembered at this day in Spain,, more for the improvement he made in the breed of Sheep, by importing a number of rams from Barbary, than for any other services he rendered his Country. King Edward the Fourth and Queen Elizabeth, of England, are mentioned with gratitude by historians for passing Acts of Parliament to import a number of Sheep from Spain; and to this mixture of Spanish with English Sheep, the wool of the latter owes its peculiar excellence and reputation all over the world. Louis the Fourteenth, King of France, knew the importance of a Woollen Manufactory in his Kingdom, and in order to encourage it allowed several exclusive privileges to the Company of Woollen Traders in Paris. The effects of this Royal patronage of this Manufactory have been too sensibly felt by the English, who have, within these thirty or forty years, had the mortification of seeing the trade up the Levant, for woollen cloths, in some measure monopolized by the French. It is remarkable that the riches and naval power of France have increased in proportion to this very lucrative trade.


Thirdly: By establishing these Manufactories among us, we shall employ a number of poor people in our City, and that too in a way most agreeable to themselves, and least expensive to the Company; for, according to our plan, the principal part of the business will be carried on in their own houses. Travellers through Spain inform us, that in the Town of Segovia, which contains 60,000 inhabitants, there is not a single beggar to be seen. This is attributed entirely to the Woollen Manufactory which is carried on in the most extensive manner in that place, affording constant employment to the whole of their poor people.

Fourthly: By establishing the Woollen, Cotton, and Linen Manufactories in this Country, we shall invite manufacturers from every part of Europe, particularly from Britain and Ireland, to come and settle among us. To men who want money to purchase lands, and who, from habits of manufacturing, are undisciplined to agriculture, the prospect of meeting with employment as soon as they arrive in this Country, in a way they have been accustomed to, would lessen the difficulties of emigration, and encourage thousands to come and settle in America. If they increased our riches by increasing the value of our property, and if they added to our strength by adding to our numbers only, they would be a great acquisition to us. But there are higher motives which should lead us to invite strangers to settle in this Country. Poverty, with its other evils, has joined with it, in every part of Europe, all the miseries of slavery. America is now the only asylum for liberty in the whole world. The present contest with Great Britain was, perhaps, intended by the Supreme Being, among other wise and benevolent purposes, to show the world this asylum, which, from its remote and unconnected situation with the rest of the globe, might have remained a secret for ages. By establishing manufactories, we stretch forth a hand from the ark to invite the timid manufacturers to come in. It might afford us pleasure to trace the new sources of happiness which would immediately open to our fellow-creatures from their settlement in this Country. Manufactories have been accused of being unfriendly to population. I believe the charge should fall upon slavery. By bringing manufacturers into this land of liberty and plenty, we recover them from the torpid state in which they existed in their own Country, and place them in circumstances which enable them to become husbands and fathers, and thus we add to the general tide of human happiness.

Fifthly: The establishment of Manufactories in this Country, by lessening our imports from Great Britain, will deprive European luxuries and vices of those vehicles in which they have been transported to America. The wisdom of the Congress cannot be too much admired, in putting a check to them both. They have in effect said to them, "Thus far shall ye go, and no farther."

Sixthly: By establishing Manufactories among us, we erect an additional barrier against the encroachments of tyranny. A people who are entirety dependant on foreigners for food or clothes, must always be subject to them. I need not detain you in setting forth the misery of holding property, liberty and life upon the precarious will of our fellow-subjects in Britain, I beg leave to add a thought in this place which has been but little attended to by the writers upon this subject, and that is, that poverty, confinement, and death are trifling evils when compared with that total depravity of heart which is connected with slavery. By becoming slaves we shall lose every principle of virtue. We shall transfer unlimited obedience from our Maker to a corrupted majority in the British House of Commons, and shall esteem their crimes the certificates of their commission to govern us, We shall cease to look with horrour upon the prostitution of our wives and daughters, by those civil and military harpies who now hover around the liberties of our Country. We shall cheerfully lay them both at their feet. We shall hug our chains. We shall cease to be men. We shall be slaves.

I shall now consider the objections, which have been made to the establishment of Manufactories in this Country.

The first, and most common objection to Manufactories in this Country is, that they will draw off our attention from Agriculture. This objection derives great weight from being made originally by the Duke of Sully, against


the establishment of Manufactories in France. But the history of that Country shows us, that it is more founded in speculation than fact. France has become opulent and powerful in proportion as Manufactories have flourished in her; and if Agriculture has not kept pace with her Manufactories, it is owing entirely to that ill-judged policy which forbade the exportation of grain. I believe it will be found, upon inquiry, that a greater number of hands, have been taken from the plough, and employed in importing, retailing, and transporting British woollens, cottons, and linens, than would be sufficient to manufacture as much of them as would clothe all the inhabitants of the Province. There is, an endless variety in the geniuses of men; and it would be to preclude the exertion of the faculties of the mind to confine them entirely to the simple arts of agriculture. Besides, if these Manufactories were conducted as they ought to be, two-thirds of the labour of them will be carried on by those members of society who cannot be employed in agriculture, namely, by women and children.

A second objection is, that we cannot manufacture cloths so cheap here, as they can be imported from Britain. It has been the misfortune of most of the Manufactories which have been set up in this Country, to afford labour to journeymen only for six or nine months in the year, by which means their wages have necessarily been so high as to support them in the intervals of their labour. It will be found, upon inquiry, that those Manufactories which occupy journeymen the whole year, are carried on at as cheap a rate as they are in Britain. The expense of manufacturing cloth will be lessened from the great share women and children will have in them; and I have the pleasure of informing you that the machine lately brought into this City for lessening the expense of time and hands in spinning, is likely to meet with encouragement from the Legislature of our Province. In a word, the experiments which have been already made among us, convince us that woollens and linens of all kinds may be made and bought as cheap as those imported from Britain; and I believe every one who has tried the former, will acknowledge that they wear twice as well as the latter.

A third objection to Manufactories is, that they destroy health, and are hurtful to population. The same may be said of Navigation, and many other arts which are essential to the happiness and glory of a State. I believe that many of the diseases to which the manufacturers in Britain are subject, are brought on, not so much by the nature of their employment, but by their unwholesome diet, damp houses, and other bad accommodations, each of which may be prevented in America.

A fourth objection, to establishing Manufactories in this Country, is a political one. The liberties of America have been twice, and we hope will be a third time preserved by a non-importation of British manufactures. By manufacturing our own clothes we deprive ourselves of the only weapon by which we can hereafter effectually oppose Great Britain. Before we answer this objection, it becomes us to acknowledge the obligations we owe to our Merchants for consenting, so cheerfully, to a suspension of trade with Britain. From the benefits we have derived from their virtue, it would be unjust to insinuate that there ever will be the least danger of trusting the defence of our liberties to them; but I would wish to guard against placing one body of men only upon that forlorn hope to which a nonimportation agreement must always expose them. For this purpose I would fill their stores with the manufactures of American looms, and thus establish their trade upon a foundation that cannot be shaken. Here, then, we derive an answer to the last objection that was mentioned; for in proportion as manufactures flourish in America, they must, decline in Britain, and it is well known that nothing but her Manufactories have rendered her formidable in all our contests with her. These are the foundations of all her riches and power. These have made her Merchants Nobles, and her Nobles Princes. These carried her so triumphantly through the late expensive war; and these are the support of a power more dangerous to the liberties of America than her Fleets and Armies — I mean the power of corruption. I am not one of those vindictive patriots


who exult in the prospect of the decay of the Manufactories of Britain, I can forgive her late attempts to enslave us, in the memory of our once mutual freedom and happiness. And should her Liberty, her Arts, her Fleets and Armies, and her Empire, ever be interred in Britain, I hope they will all arise in British garments only in America.