State of the Case Sail Cloth Manufacturers of Great Britain - 1795

That by an Act of the 12th Queen Anne, a Bounty was granted of 1d. per Ell on all British-made Canvas, "fit for, or made into Sails," on Exportation.

That, by an Act of the 4th of Geo. II. another Bounty was granted on all British-made Canvas, of 1d. per Ell, on Exportation.

That the Preambles to the said Bills set forth the great Importance of the Sail-cloth Manufactory to this Country, the Necessity of its Encouragement ; and that Sail-cloth (though made of Materials paying considerable Duties on Importation) received no Drawback on Exportation.

That the said Acts 'granting the Bounty, have been continued from Time to Time, and will expire on the 29th of September, 1795, unless renewed in the then next Session of Parliament.

That an Act was passed in the 9th Year of Geo. II. called The Regulating Act, confining the Manufacture of British Canvas to one particular Mode ; in which the warp is directed to be made with "double Threads," &c. &c. and inflicting the penalty of 6d. per Yard on all Canvas manufactured "essentially different, lighter, or inferior in Strength or Goodness thereto."

It appears that the Legislature in passing this Act, was to encourage the British Sail-cloth Manufactory, by inflicting Penalties on those who should use Foreign Sail-cloth, and by laying additional duties thereon ; and by this Regulation to make the Distinction of British and Foreign Sail-cloth, and by laying additional duties thereon ; and by this Regulation to make the Distinction of British and Foreign Sail-cloth more obvious to the Custom House Officers ; as the Sail-cloth of no other Country is made with double Warp. But the said Act no where mentions a preference to Double Thread Sail-cloth on account of superior Quality to the Single Cloth, as the Reason of such Regulation.

That the said Regulating Act was renewed from Time to Time, and expired on the 29th September last, unless renewed in this session of Parliament.

That not withstanding the existence of the above Regulating Act, and its Penalties, and Manufacture if Single Thread Canvas was then, and has continued to this Time, a flourishing Branch of the Canvas Manufacture in this Kingdom, and is now by much the most considerable Part of it ; as appears from the Result of Enquiries in the Manufacturers hands, collected with as much Accuracy as has been in their Power.

That it has never been subjected to the Penalties of the Act, or denied the Bounties, will within these last few Months ; having been always considered as not "essentially different in Strength and Goodness," as conforming to the same Weights, and every other

Regulation in the said Act and having a proportionate Number of Threads in the Warp.

That the Manufacturers, however, being subjected to the Caprice of the Custom-House Officers in the Interpretation of the Act, have applied to the Lords of the Treasury, by Memorial, to suffer a clause to the following Purport to be added to the Law, now expired, and about to be renewed,—viz.

"Provided that no Part of the Penalties in the said Act, which do not attach to Double Cloth, shall extend to Canvas fit for, or made into Sails, of the Manufacture of this Kingdom, made with Single Thread Warps, which shall be deemed British Sail-cloth, and be equally entitled to the Bounty with Double Canvas, agreeably to the Acts of Parliament for granting the same."

That the Manufacturers have met with unexpected Obstructions from the Board of Trade, in their Application ; and if their Petition should not finally meet with Encouragement there, request Mr…… Advice as to what farther steps may be proper to be pursued, to prevent the Injury they are likely to sustain, and the Ruin of so essential a Manufacture to this Kingdom, with the Thousand poor Families employed therein.

Reasons for complying with the Manufacturers Petition.

Because it is impolitic to confine any Manufacture to a particular Mode, which damps Ingenuity, and precludes Improvement ; and prevents the Purchasers and Consumers from exercising their Humour or their Judgment in their Choice of the Article ; and in this particular Case, sends away, all those who prefer Single Canvas, to the Manufacturers of Holland, Russia, Ireland, and America (all which Countries make Canvas, and single Canvas only), if this Manufacture be checked or destroyed.

The Sail-cloth Manufactory in this Kingdom, has always been, and must be allowed to be, of the utmost Importance to the Nation ; that we may be able to fit out our own Navy, without depending on Supplies from other Nations ; which, before the Existence of the above Bounty Acts, was very much the Case, but is now in a great Measure, done away, by the Effect of the Bounties encouraging the Manufactory to be carried on to much greater Extent and now supplying our own Colonies, and other Counties.

That, as to the comparative Goodness of Double and Single Cloth ; the Manufacturers think the Fact of the greater Part of the Manufacture in this Kingdom being of Single Cloth, is a Proof of the greater Encouragement that Branch has met with (particularly being made in the Face of an Act of Parliament inflicting the Penalty of 6d. Per Yard on the Makers thereof, if the Act be so construed), and in the price of the one being equal to that of the other. But the Petitioners on this Occasion wish to make no Comparisons to the Prejudice of one or the other Sort; they are equally Manufacturers of both Sorts, in general, and they are confident that the Encouragement given to one Sort is an Encouragement to the other, by affording a Nursery to the Workmen and enabling the Manufacturers to keep them together; which for these few Years past has been very difficult from the flourishing State of the Cotton and other Manufactures, which have advanced the Wages of making a Piece of Sail-cloth nearly half as much as was paid within these three Years, and notwithstanding Sailcloth is a declining Manufacture in many Parts of this Kingdom.

That if it be persisted in, that Double Canvas is the best Canvas, and the Manufacturers must decline making Single Canvas, they answer, that is is clear they cannot from this one plain Circumstance: The Warp of a Piece of Single Canvas in Lancashire is spun by Girls of 10 Years old and upwards, of which a Spinner will spin three in one Week, and her Wages will be 9s. 9d. If they could be turned to the old Mode of spinning the Double Warp, one Spinner would be two Weeks in spinning one Warp, and her Wages would be 3s. at most. How then can the Manufacturer expect to keep his Spinners or turn them to the Double Manufacture ?

If it be intended intirely to put down the Single-Manufacture by putting the Act in force, What is to become of all these poor People employed in spinning, weaving, &c. of near 100,000 Pieces of Single Canvas yearly, and particularly at this Time when they cannot be employed in the Cotton Manufactures ? What is to become of the Ships of Great Britain deprived of this Quantity of Canvas, when the whole export of the Kingdom is not 50,000 Pieces yearly, which would leave a Deficiency at Home of 40,000 Pieces at least, as will appear in the succeeding Statement ?

If it be intended to take advantage of the Construction lately put upon the Act by the Customs house Officers, and to refuse the Bounty to all Single Canvas, but not to stop the Manufacture of it ; what other Effect can this have but of causing all the-Double Canvas to be exported in order to receive the Bounty to those People who do not wish for it, but prefer Single Canvas ; and of keeping the Single Canvas for Home Consumption, though the Idea would in that Case be that the Double Was the better Canvas, and therefore neither would there be any Bounty saved to Government ?

Ought not the Hardship and serious loss to the Manufacturers of making Buildings for spinning single Chains (which is not done in double Chains)on the Supposition that this Act did not affect them ; and which the constant Practice at the Custom house from granting the said bounties till within the last six months in two or three Ports only) of never refusing the same was a Kind of Pledge in their favour, that the Single and Double Canvas deserved equal Encouragement : We say ought not the Hardship of their case to be considered, who under the Faith of these Things have laid out many Thousand Pounds in the County of Lancaster only within these few Years the better to carry on a Manufacture highly important to these Kingdoms, and encouraged by the Legislature.

From the best Accounts the Manufacturers can procure of the Quantity of Canvas manufactured in this Kingdom, about 150,000 Pieces are manufactured in England, of which Circa 90,000 are single and 60,000 are double : And in Scotland perhaps 60,000 are manufactured, of which about half are double and half single : almost all the Manufacturers make both double and single to suit their Customers, and the different climates where the Cloth is to be used, except in Somersetshire, where nearly all the Cloth is single, and London, where nearly all the Cloth is double ; and the different Memorials presented the latter End of last Year to the Treasury, are signed by almost all the Manufacturers in the Kingdom.

The Bounty paid in this Kingdom on Canvas for Exportation, it is apprehended; is not more than £10,000 yearly on both Double and Single at most. In the Year 1791 it was only £8,100, odd ; the last Year's Accounts are not yet made up at the Custom House. If one-fourth of the exportation is double, £7,500 is received as bounty by single canvas. But canvas is divided by weight into 10 Numbers ; of which the four last are allowed by the Regulating Act to be Single, which being deducted leaves only £4,500 yearly, to be paid for the Single Canvas no made according to that Act, but which has hitherto been paid. And that the question of Policy is (independent of the serious consequences to the Nation, the Manufacturer, and the Workman, in suppressing the manufacture of 100,000 Pieces of Single Canvas yearly), whether the sum of £4,500 to be paid in bounty as above, is not compensated by the duties on Hemp and other articles employed in the manufacture, in the trade to Russia and elsewhere for those articles, and the ships and seamen employed in that trade.

All the British of the value of sixpence per yard, receive a bounty of three half pence per yard, nearly equivalent to the sail cloth bounty ; and the value of the sail cloth, for which the manufacturers petition is 13d. to 14d. per yard on the average.

The Irish grant an equal bounty, even to this country ; and their Manufacture is nearly all, if not entirely single.

If it be required that Single Canvas should be corded in the same manner as Double Cloth, as recommended by the Navy Board ; nothing is more easy to the Manufacturers, and it is no additional expense to them ; but the merchant service disapproves it in general.

The Manufacturers therefore petition that the Bounty on Double and Single Canvas may go Hand in Hand, as they have hitherto-done to the Expiration of the Bounty Acts in 1795. And that the Lords of his Majesty's Treasury would either be pleased to give Directions to the Officers of his Majesty's Customs for admitting Single Threaded Sail Canvas to the Bounty, as "no Ways essentially different, or inferior in Strength or Goodness;" or that they Would suffer a Clause to the Purport of the one herein before-mentioned to be inserted in the Act now expired, and about to be renewed; which latter Plan, though an Expence to them, the Manufacturers would prefer, that they might not in future lie at the Mercy of the Informer, or the Customs House Officer.

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