Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

the twenty-ninth to the thirtieth degree of north latitude. These limits give a belt of about five degrees of latitude, in width extending from the Atlantic coast to the commencement of the elevated plains east of the Rocky Mountains. Cotton cannot be successfully cultivated in any region where there is a wet and dry season. The extremes of rain and drought are equally fatal to the production of the staple or fibre. Tropical rains cause the plant to grow too large, and either extreme wet or dry weather will cause the blossoms and young bolls to drop off. Therefore, climate is one of the first considerations in the selection of a region suitable for the cultivation of the cotton plant.. That of the cotton states is peculiarly suitable for that purpose. The prevailing winds in spring and summer, charged with moisture, flow inland from the Atlantic, and are met by cold currents of air from the Alleghany and Rocky Mountains, which are attracted by the radiation of heat on the plains. The contact causes frequent showers of rain to fall throughout the spring, summer, and autumn, in sufficient quantity to preserve a healthy growth and early maturity of the plant, without endangering its product of cotton. . The principal cotton-producing States are: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. The area of those States is 706,288 square miles, or 452,024,320 acres. The average product of cotton per acre is estimated at half a bale of 500 lbs. The crop of 1859, the largest yet made, was 4,500,000 bales, which at the average product required only 9,000,000 acres. It has been estimated that one half the area of the States named, is suited to the cultivation of cotton; but for the purpose of avoiding all possible criticism, I will say one-third, or 150,674,773 acres, which at half a bale to the acre, will produce 75,337,338 bales of 500 lbs. each, and the entire weight of which would be 37,668,673,000 lbs. If we assume that the entire population of the earth amounts to 1,200,000,000, that quantity of cotton would give 31 lbs. to every man, woman, and child on the face of the globe. This would be more than three times as much as is consumed in England, and nearly eight times the quantity consumed in France per head of the population. The consumption of Great Britain is stated to be 9 lbs., and that of France to be 4 lbs. per head of the entire population. If the consumption of the whole people of the world were to be brought up to the present consumption of France, they would require but 9,600,000 bales, or less than one-eighth part of the crop which the cotton States could produce. If the consumption were to reach that of Great Britain, it would require 21,600,000 bales, or a little more than one-fourth of the capital for production of the cotton States.

When the cotton-gin of Whitney laid out the future work of the blacks, the steam engine of Watt, and the jenny of Hargrave, with the improvements of Arkwright and Crompton, laid out the future manufacturing industry of England and the mode of employing her capital. The old mode of preparing the cleaned cotton for spinning was by carding it between two flat cards in the hand of an individual, in order to straighten out the fibres as much as possible. The material so carded was spun by a wheel worked with one hand to give velocity to a single spindle that spun a thread from the cotton held upon a distaff in the left hand of the operator. · The thread thus produced was irregular, and served only as a woof for linen warp. By a new invention, the cards were placed upon a revolving drum, which operated against several rollers, also covered with cards. The action of these rollers distributed the cotton in a fleecy web upon the surface. This was removed from the last roller by an instrument which caused the cotton to come off in long rolls ready for spinning. Arkwright added rollers that were to “ draw” these rolls as they were carded, so as, by making the fibres of cotton more parallel to each other, to increase the fineness and regularity of . the thread. The invention of Hargrave in 1764, was to put eight spindles in a frame, and draw the ends in a clasp held by the operator. The number was soon raised to eighty spindles. Samuel Crompton in 1779 added the “mule spinner.” The effect of all these inventions was that, whereas one man could clean one pound of cotton, another card it, and another work one spindle; one man might now clean 360 lbs., another card it, and the third work 2200 spindles instead of one.

The English inventions were previous to the American invention of the gin, and their utility depended altogether upon the latter. The anxiety then took possession of the mind of the English manufacturer in relation to a supply of material · which now, after seventy years, is as active as ever. Hitherto the demand has, as we have seen, developed black industry.

From that moment the accumulated capital of England, New and Old, became engaged in the gigantic operation of clothing the world with cotton. Hand-loom goods were everywhere to be supplanted

by those formed on the new principle. When Watt started his engine, mechanical genius seemed to have sprung suddenly into life, and each subsequent year witnessed some improvement in machinery, by which the texture of the cloth has been improved and its cost diminished. Chemistry has as rapidly multiplied the number and richness of colours. The art of applying them by steel dies and copper cylinders has improved, until sixteen colours are imparted at one impression more perfectly than was one forty years ago; and the perfection of the designs is equalled only by the excellence of the execution. With each improvement in texture, and design, and colours, the fabric is produced at less cost, because a class of persons who formerly did not produce at all are now the chief manufacturers.

“1. The finest long cotton in the world is called the Sea Island.' It is grown on the low-lying lands and small islands on the coast of Georgia. The quantity is small, and the price very high. It is used mostly for muslin thread, and the very finest number of yarn -- say 100's and upwards — price, in fact is of little moment to the manufacturers who purchase it. It usually sells at about 2s. per pound. A quality much resembling it, and almost, if not quite

« AnteriorContinuar »