Cotton and Clay

By William Morris

Entry 8318


From: holdoffhunger [id: 1]


Revolt Library Anarchism Cotton and Clay

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(1834 - 1896)

William Morris (24 March 1834 – 3 October 1896) was a British textile designer, poet, novelist, translator and socialist activist associated with the British Arts and Crafts Movement. He was a major contributor to the revival of traditional British textile arts and methods of production. His literary contributions helped to establish the modern fantasy genre, while he helped win acceptance of socialism in fin de siècle Great Britain. (From:

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Cotton and Clay

The commission appointed by government to inquire into the sanitary condition of the weaving sheds where the delicious compound of filth called heavily sized cotton is worked up into cloth (?), says among other things: "The amount of size used to a given weight of cotton warp could no longer be actually described as being from 50 to 90 per cent.; 100, 120, 150 per cent. of size is now not unfrequently used. We conversed with one manufacturer, who admitted that to every 100 lb. of warp he put 200 lb. of size; another had gone as far as 230. In one factory visited by us the manufacturer weighed in our presence a piece of cotton cloth weighing 8 3/4 lb. and another weighing 4 1/2 lb. and remarked that the latter contained by far the larger amount of cotton."

The commission, with touching fidelity to the doctrine of laisser faire, remarks elsewhere: "Whatever natural regrets may therefore be felt at the decline of an ancient staple, they are as unavailing as if they were expended upon similar degradations that have long since taken place in silk and woolen manufactures."

Unavailing indeed, while the profit-mongers are ruling the roast! But though we may smile at such barefaced and cynical rascality, it is no laughing matter. A working man of our acquaintance whose wife was a cotton-weaver a year or two ago tells us that she suffered terribly from rheumatism in the shoulders brought on by the damp air of the sheds where this filth is worked up; since steam has to be blown through them to soften the warps: he said also that when she got to work in the morning everything about her looms was dripping wet, the reeds and so forth rusty; and in consequence she necessarily made bad work for the first few yards, for which serious deduction was made when the goods were taken to the warehouse; so that instead of making 20s. a week which would have been her normal wage as a 'four loomer,' she would bring home no more than 14s.

Meantime, and while this race to fresh and hopeless savagery is going on, the Textile Manufacturer like his brethren of the Plutocratic press hymns the progress of the competitive commerce in an editorial attack on Professor Ruskin and (your humble servant) the Treasurer of the Democratic Federation.

What we have to remember is that these so called 'goods' are forced on poor and helpless persons and from that force come the riches of the manufacturers, the refinement of their sons, the peerages of their grandsons; if it were not for the poor who are forced to buy, and the poor who are forced to make it, this cursed heap of filth, (the words are used deliberately), would not be made at all.

Justice, 26th January 1884

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