Reported On This Day 280 Years Ago (April 14 1739): More thoughts on best practice methods in the linen trade

Front page of April 3 1739 Belfast News Letter (April 14 1739 in the modern calendar)
Front page of April 3 1739 Belfast News Letter (April 14 1739 in the modern calendar)
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From the Belfast News Letter of April 3 1739 (April 14 in the modern calendar):


THE following Letter is the first Essay of a Correspondent, who promiseth in his Postscript to become a constant one upon very moderate Encouragement, taking Notice of him in our Papers. We shall therefore publish his Thoughts as he has sent them, tho’ the Reader cannot but remember that the most material Observations there, have already been made by the Society, and insisted on at large in Numbers 26 and 27 of the first Volume.

One hint indeed of great Importance this Gentleman has started, which hitherto we have not touch’d upon, he asserts with great Judgment and much Truth, that to fix the Price of Bread at a constant settled Rate, from which it should not vary on either Side considerably, would be an excellent Expedient to promote all Manufactures.

We agree with him entirely, and have had it frequently under Consideration, how this happy Regulation could be introduc’d among us.

Enlarging our present Tillage is a necessary Condition to this Purpose, but our Correspondent is too sanguine, when he imagines that alone would do.

Harvests inevitably vary with the Seasons, and afford very different Returns, from the same Quantities of Land and Seed, as the Year is either good or bad, and the Rate of Corn is always in Proportion to its Plenty. Granaries, or some equivalent to Granaries, are the only Means to be depended on, to keep it at an equal Price; and how Granaries should be first erected, or regularly supported afterwards, and upon what Plan they should be manag’d, is an Enquiry of considerable Nicety, as well as Moment.

Upon this Account we have hitherto declin’d the Subject, and shall continue to do so, till something offers that visibly promises Success, and is liable to no rational Objections.

GENTLEMEN, March 7, 1738-9.

THE many very ingenious and very useful Instructions which you have given the World on some Branches of Agriculture, and on the Linen Trade in all its Stages, have afforded me great Satisfaction, and I am confident nothing but Slothfulness alone, can make them fail of Success.

Tho’ the Body of the People of the North of Ireland are, and ought to be employ’d in the Linen Manufacture. Care however should be taken to promote Tillage in that Province. They may be consistently encourag’d, and indeed the latter is necessary to the further Growth and Perfection of the Former.

Could it be so far promoted as to secure such an even Price of Bread in Markets, that the Rich should not be able to make unconscionable Advantage of a cheap Year, nor the poor Artificer feel the Calamity of a dear one, the Manufacture would certainly thrive the better, as the Manufacture is the Wealth and Strength of our Country, so plenty of Bread is the Life and Support of that; and if we had enough in Ulster to maintain our own People without depending upon foreign Markets, we should be in a very good Condition.

The Artificer would be supply’d at easy Rates, and the Farmer find sufficient Profit and Employment.

‘Tis otherwise at present, but I hope the Evil may be remedied. It Farmers who are quite ignorant of the Waving Trade, were restrain’d from setting up Looms in their Houses, and hiring young Journeymen at small Wages to work privately for them, the profess’d and skilful Weaver would find constant Business, and by this same happy Regulation, a great deal of bad Work would be prevented.

On the other Hand, whereas the Farmer now complains, that the best Lands are parcell’d out in Patches among Tradesmen — That he cannot procure a Farm of sufficient Extent to maintain his Family, and afterwards supply the Markets — That every Weaver is a Farmer, and he must turn Weaver in his own Defence — If Gentlemen would gather their Tenants, who are Tradesmen, into Market Towns, and encourage new Villages for their Habitation, Emulation would improve the Trade, and the Country be left open for Good Husbandry.

These twin Sisters, which hitherto have interfer’d to the Prejudice of both, would, as they naturally ought, cherish and support each other.

In this reasonable Distribution of our Hands, a fear Farmers would support many Tradesmen to their mutual Advantage. They would have Room to raise Corn for the Supply of both, and carry it themselves to Market, without passing it thro’ the Hands of a very pernicious Sort of Regrators call’d Meal-mongers, who are, at present, to the great Oppression of the Poor, Tools in the Farmer’s Hands to enhance the Price of Corn &c.

I am, &c.

The Remainder of the Gentleman’s Letter does not fall properly under our Inspection — Hints to direct the Manufacturer we shall thankfully accept, but further Regulations or Limitations on the Lappers, are perfectly out of our Province.