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FALSE SYSTEM OF TRADE.
DECLINE OF PROFITS—BAD PRACTICES AMONG MANUFACTURERS — MER
CHANTS-TRADESMEN MONOPOLY OF CHEAPNESS -ADVERTIZING
SYSTEM-AN OLD ENGLISH TRADESMAN-DECLINE OF HONESTY AND
CHARACTER-EXCESSIVE COMPETITION-FICTITIOUS CAPITAL-JOINT
STOCK COMPANIES-LOWERING OF PRICES-CHEAPNESS NOT QUALITY
-PURCHASERS ENCOURAGE THE EXISTING EVILS-THE DUTIES OF
PURCHASERS--LUXURIES BECOME NECESSARIES, AND MAKE A COUNTRY POOR-HOW TO BE RICH-THE EVILS ARE GENERAL.
What we most pride ourselves in, and most rely upon, is our mercantile pre-eminence and prosperity. Our wealth, it is said, is constantly increasing; and our system of trade therefore must be wise and good, and our national condition healthy and upon a firm basis.
The foundation of these expectations is unsound, and the steps to the conclusion are fallacious. They rest upon reasoning and calculation, rather than experience,-in a subject which is too deep and intricate for perfect analysis ;—and facts and results are disregarded, which alone can test the accuracy and truth of such speculations.
There is an inherent unsoundness and disease in mercantile life, which, if unchecked, works its own corruption and disorganization. Trade should be for the use and happiness of the people of a nation, not for the foundation of its strength. If this end is lost sight of, and wealth itself is supposed to be the proper object of desire, it is the same whether in an individual or a nation, the wisdom and principle must be lost, the character must become corrupted, the happiness and health of mind and body must be undermined, and misery must be the end of it. The national and individual happiness and character of this country and its people, are sacrificed to the national and individual aggrandizement of that power which consists in riches.
The state of trade is wretched, and growing more and more desperate; whether we inquire into it among the manufacturers, among the merchants, or among the tradesmen. No one class of manufacturers or merchants can make a fair and steady profit; no whole class of tradesmen can maintain themselves and their families by proper diligence and skill, and place out their children, with sufficient means and fair prospects, after them. Together with his profits the character of the tradesgone
down; and we can no longer boast as we did, or depend upon the high character and credit of the British merchant and trader; for this has fallen away in the eyes of foreigners, and in our own estimation. These are no empty words. I shall support them by some examples in the several lines and branches of trade; and each one will see and acknowledge the truth of the illustrations in his own department and sphere of information,-and add to them.
It is the practice of manufacturers to sell their articles, in the first instance, at a loss, in order to obtain a custom for them on account of their goodness and quality in comparison with their price,-and then, when the reputation and custom is gained, to lower the quality, and so to make a profit. This is done, and known to be done, by the most respectable manufacturers. The manner and extent in which it is done by the lower class of tradesmen follows of course, and requires no description.
As already before mentioned, the East India Company could have returned a chest of tea from England, and got it received back in China, upon their assertion that it was delivered in an inferior condition; and their goods in like manner would pass up to Pekin under the seal of the company, without being examined; because their credit was unimpeachable. The British merchant had in general a nearly equal reputation all over the world. A single act of dishonesty in any one of them, would have been resented as a dishonour done to their whole body, and an impeachment of their high credit and character. Now, honour and good faith are held cheap, and are little to be reckoned upon, even among the higher class of merchants and manufacturers. Personal character still weighs in some instances, between those who are personally acquainted and have had many dealings together,-though this is declining with the rest, and losing its influence; and more value is attributed to the evidences of a contract, and to the supposed money ability, which cannot be known for certain, than to
the character and personal habit and conduct, which may be more nearly ascertained ;--but little or no faith is now attached to a man as an admitted member of a highly honourable class of men, and because he is a British merchant. A consignment of English goods would be as closely inspected by the purchaser, before parting with the price of them, in a home or a foreign market, as those of another nation.
The following evidence was given before a committee of the House of Commons in the year 1840 :*
“Mr. Charles Warwick, is partner in the house of Ovington, Warwick & Co. in the city, who have a branch of their business at Glasgow. They are extensively engaged in the printing of woven fabrics, generally mixed fabrics, such as silk and wool, cotton and wool, challis, cashmeres, mousselaine-de-laines, &c. The original designs for these fabrics, made by their house, cost last year exceeding 20001. 1836 and 1837, their mousselaine-de-laines were copied almost as soon as produced, but it was by persons eminence, and their articles were of such inferior quality that it did not interfere much with them. In 1838 a circumstance occurred which induced them to seek more earnestly for protection. During the winter months he had been endeavouring to get an article of superior fabric, and, as was their usual custom, they were to make their first spring deliveries on the 20th of February. On the 12th of February, Mr. Thomas, a
In the years
* Report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons, appointed 7th Feb. 1840, to inquire into the expediency of extending copyright of designs. From Mechan. Mag. No. 894, p. 341.
buyer from the house of Messrs. Morrison and Co., requested to be allowed to have twenty-seven dresses which he had selected. To this the witness said he had the most decided objection. That he would not do for Messrs. Morrison what he would not do for any one else. That it was imperative upon him to have a delivery day, and not to give a preference. Mr. Thomas replied, Oh! I have looked these dresses out, no soul shall see them; we are just packing a case now, and they will be shipped this afternoon for the foreign market.'
Having done business with Morrisons to a great extent for some years, he put faith in their representative. The consequence was he ordered the dresses to go. There were twenty-seven dresses, containing eight patterns, but different colours. On the 19th, according to his usual custom, witness wrote a few notes to the principal buyers, stating that his house would be ready on Wednesday the 20th, to deliver their new goods. On that day, two of his own customers, with whom he expected to make large parcels, called, and showed him a note from Mr. Thomas, stating, Before you buy Ovington's goods give me a look in. One of the gentlemen said to witness, 'I do not understand the meaning of it myself; can you explain it to me.' Witness said he could not; and wished them to go down and see what it did mean. The gentlemen accordingly went to Fore-street on Wednesday, the 20th, and was shown those dresses, that had been obtained under the false pretence of shipping, and was told, “Those are Ovington's goods at 228.; now on Saturday, the 23rd, we make our delivery of those eight patterns in all the