HC Deb 12 February 1821 vol 4 cc579-80
Sir R. Wilson

rose to present a petition from the Journeyman Rope Makers of the metropolis, signed by 700 individuals. The petitioners stilted the deep distress into which they were plunged in consequence of the application of machinery to certain branches of their profession. By the introduction of machinery into the trade, two-thirds of the workmen formerly employed were prevented from earning a livelihood. The machine of which they complained was called "The Devil," which, with the assistance of six or seven men, performed the same quantity of work, which previously occupied ninety-seven. The petitioners stated that the work so done, was extremely imperfect, and would of course injure the character of that manufacture in foreign countries. In conclusion, the petitioners expressed a wish to place this "devil" in more immediate connexion with the chancellor of the exchequer—to whom they recommended the propriety of laying a tax on it. The question for the consideration of the House was, whether the present system of extreme taxation could be continued? whether a competition in trade and commerce could be hoped for, when the burdens of this kingdom were so great, while other countries were in a state of growing prosperity? If some efficient measures were not taken, the time must come when they would behold the greatest of all possible calamities, not only a suffering, but an idle people.

Mr. Curwen

observed, that on a former occasion, when a petition was presented remonstrating against the undue use of machinery, and praying for a restraint upon it, a long discussion had taken place, in the course of which, it appeared to be the unanimous opinion of all the most intelligent members of the House, that the discouragement of machinery would be highly injurious to the country; an opinion in which he believed the petitioners themselves afterwards concurred.

Ordered to lie on the table.