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BOOK in proportion to its quality; owing, it was faid, to a confiderable rife in the price of the mate rial, which confifts altogether of Spanish wool. That of the Yorkshire cloth, which is made altogether of English wool, is faid indeed, during the course of the prefent century, to have fallen a good deal in proportion to its quality. Qua lity, however, is fo very difputable a matter, that I look upon all information of this kind as fomewhat uncertain. In the clothing manu facture, the divifion of labour is nearly the fame now as it was a century ago, and the machinery employed is not very different. There may, however, have been fome small improvements in both, which may have occafioned fome reduction of price.
But the reduction will appear much more fenfible and undeniable, if we compare the price of this manufacture in the present times with what it was in a much remoter period, towards the end of the fifteenth century, when the labour was probably much less fubdivided, and the machinery employed much more imperfect, than it is at prefent.
In 1487, being the 4th of Henry VII., it was enacted, that "whofoever fhall fell by retail a "broad yard of the fineft fcarlet grained, or of "other grained cloth of the finest making, "above fixteen fhillings, fhall forfeit forty fhil
lings for every yard fo fold." Sixteen fhillings, therefore, containing about the fame quantity of filver as four-and-twenty fhillings of our present money, was, at that time, reckoned
not an unreasonable price for a yard of the finest CHAP. cloth; and as this is a fumptuary law, fuch cloth, it is probable, had ufually been fold somewhat dearer. A guinea may be reckoned the highest price in the prefent times. Even though the quality of the cloths, therefore, fhould be fuppofed equal, and that of the prefent times is moft probably much fuperior, yet, even upon this fuppofition, the money price of the fineft cloth appears to have been confiderably reduced fince the end of the fifteenth century. But its real price has been much more reduced. Six fhillings and eight-pence was then, and long afterwards, reckoned the average price of a quarter of wheat. Sixteen fhillings, therefore, was the price of two quarters and more than three bufhels of wheat. Valuing a quarter of wheat in the present times at eight-and-twenty fhillings, the real price of a yard of fine cloth muft, in thofe times, have been equal to at least three pounds fix fhillings and fixpence of our prefent money. The man who bought it must have parted with the command of a quantity of labour and fubfiftence equal to what that fum would purchase in the prefent times.
The reduction in the real price of the coarse manufacture, though confiderable, has not been great as in that of the fine.
In 1463, being the 3d of Edward IV., it was enacted, that " no fervant in husbandry, nor "common labourer, nor fervant to any artificer " inhabiting out of a city or burgh, fhall ufe or wear in their clothing any cloth above two
BOOK" fhillings the broad yard." In the 3d of Edward IV. two fhillings contained very nearly the fame quantity of filver as four of our prefent money. But the Yorkshire cloth which is now fold at four fhillings the yard, is probably much fuperior to any that was then made for the wearing of the very poorest order of common fervants. Even the money price of their clothing, therefore, may, in proportion to the qua lity, be fomewhat cheaper in the present than it was in those ancient times. The real price is certainly a good deal cheaper. Ten-pence was then reckoned what is called the moderate and reasonable price of a bufhel of wheat. Two fhillings, therefore, was the price of two bufhels and near two pecks of wheat, which in the prefent times, at three fhillings and fixpence the bufhel, would be worth eight fhillings and nine-pence. For a yard of this cloth the poor fervant must have parted with the power of purchafing a quantity of fubfiftence equal to what eight fhillings and nine-pence would purchase in the present times. This is a fumptuary law too, reftraining the luxury and extravagance of the poor. Their clothing, therefore, had commonly been much more expenfive.
The fame order of people are, by the fame law, prohibited from wearing hofe, of which the price fhould exceed fourteen-pence the pair, equal to about eight-and-twenty pence of our prefent money. But fourteen-pence was in thofe times the price of a bufhel and near two pecks of wheat; which, in the present times, at three and fixpence
fixpence the bufhel, would coft five fhillings and CHA P. three-pence. We fhould in the prefent times confider this as a very high price for a pair of ftockings to a fervant of the poorest and lowest order. He muft, however, in those times have paid what was really equivalent to this price for them.
In the time of Edward IV. the art of knitting ftockings was probably not known in any part of Europe. Their hofe were made of common cloth, which may have been one of the caufes of their dearnefs. The firft perfon that wore ftockings in England is faid to have been Queen Elizabeth. She received them as a prefent from the Spanish ambaffador.
Both in the coarfe and in the fine woollen manufacture, the machinery employed was much more imperfect in thofe ancient, than it is in the prefent times. It has fince received three very capital improvements, befides, probably, many fmaller ones of which it may be difficult to afcertain either the number or the importance. The three capital improvements are: firft, The exchange of the rock and spindle for the fpinning-wheel, which, with the fame quantity of labour, will perform more than double the quantity of work. Secondly, the use of feveral very ingenious machines which facilitate and abridge in a still greater proportion the winding of the worsted and woollen yarn, or the proper arrangement of the warp and woof before they are put into the loom; an operation which, pre
BOOK vious to the invention of thofe machines, muft
have been extremely tedious and troublesome. Thirdly, The employment of the fulling mill for thickening the cloth, instead of treading it in water. Neither wind nor water mills of any kind were known in England fo early as the beginning of the fixteenth century, nor, fo far as I know, in any other part of Europe north of the Alps. They had been introduced into Italy fome time before.
The confideration of these circumftances may, perhaps, in fome measure explain to us why the real price both of the coarse and of the fine manufacture, was fo much higher in those ancient, than it is in the prefent times. It coft a greater quantity of labour to bring the goods to market. When they were brought thither, therefore, they must have purchased or exchanged for the price of a greater quantity.
The coarfe manufacture probably was, in thofe ancient times, carried on in England, in the fame manner as it always has been in countries where arts and manufactures are in their infancy. It was probably a houfhold manufacture, in which every different part of the work was occafionally performed by all the different members of almost every private family; but fo as to be their work only when they had nothing elfe to do, and not to be the principal business from which of them derived the greater part of their fubfiftence. The work which is performed in this manner, it has already been obferved,