The Factory System

The Factory System

In 1775 Samuel Crompton invented a new machine a spinning mule. It was called because it was a hybrid that combined features of two earlier inventions, the Spinning Jenny and the Water Frame. The mule produced a strong, fine and soft yarn which could be used in all kinds of textiles, but was particularly suited to the production of muslins. Crompton was too poor to apply for a patent and so he sold the rights to a Bolton manufacturer. (1)

Handloom weavers were now guaranteed a constant supply of yarn, full employment and high wages. This period of prosperity did not last long. In 1785, Edmund Cartwright, the younger brother of Major John Cartwright, invented a weaving machine which could be operated by horses or a waterwheel. Cartwright began using power looms in a mill that he part-owned in Manchester. The factory contained 400 power-looms: These machines were driven by the new steam-engines being produced by James Watt and Matthew Boulton. (2)

An unskilled worker could weave three and a half pieces of material on a power loom in the time a skilled weaver using traditional methods, wove only one. These steam-powered textile machines did not need physically strong workers. Men found it difficult to find work, as factory owners preferred to employ women and children. A large number of the children were workhouse orphans. Workhouse guardians, keen to reduce the cost of looking after orphans, were only too willing to arrange for the transfer of these youngsters to the charge of the new factory owners. (3)

Richard Arkwright built a large factory next to the River Derwent in Cromford, Derbyshire. Arkwright later that his lawyer that Cromford had been chosen because it offered "a remarkable fine stream of water… in a an area very full of inhabitants". (4) In Cromford there were not enough local people to supply Arkwright with the workers he needed. After building a large number of cottages close to the factory, he imported workers from all over Derbyshire. Within a few months he was employing 600 workers. Arkwright preferred weavers with large families. While the women and children worked in his spinning-factory, the weavers worked at home turning the yarn into cloth. (5)

A local journalist wrote: "Arkwright's machines require so few hands, and those only children, with the assistance of an overlooker. A child can produce as much as would, and did upon an average, employ ten grown up persons. Jennies for spinning with one hundred or two hundred spindles, or more, going all at once, and requiring but one person to manage them. Within the space of ten years, from being a poor man worth £5, Richard Arkwright has purchased an estate of £20,000; while thousands of women, when they can get work, must make a long day to card, spin, and reel 5040 yards of cotton, and for this they have four-pence or five-pence and no more." (6)

Peter Kirby, the author of Child Labour in Britain, 1750-1870 (2003) has argued that it was poverty that forced children into factories: "Poor families living close to a subsistence wage were often forced to draw on more diverse sources of income and had little choice over whether their children worked." (7) Michael Anderson has pointed out, that parents "who otherwise showed considerable affection for their children... were yet forced by large families and low wages to send their children to work as soon as possible." (8)

The youngest children in the textile factories were usually employed as scavengers and piecers. Piecers had to lean over the spinning-machine to repair the broken threads. One observer wrote: "The work of the children, in many instances, is reaching over to piece the threads that break; they have so many that they have to mind and they have only so much time to piece these threads because they have to reach while the wheel is coming out." (9)

Scavengers had to pick up the loose cotton from under the machinery. This was extremely dangerous as the children were expected to carry out the task while the machine was still working. David Rowland, worked as a scavenger in Manchester: "The scavenger has to take the brush and sweep under the wheels, and to be under the direction of the spinners and the piecers generally. I frequently had to be under the wheels, and in consequence of the perpetual motion of the machinery, I was liable to accidents constantly. I was very frequently obliged to lie flat, to avoid being run over or caught." (10)

John Fielden, a factory owner, admitted that a great deal of harm was caused by the children spending the whole day on their feet: " At a meeting in Manchester a man claimed that a child in one mill walked twenty-four miles a day. I was surprised by this statement, therefore, when I went home, I went into my own factory, and with a clock before me, I watched a child at work, and having watched her for some time, I then calculated the distance she had to go in a day, and to my surprise, I found it nothing short of twenty miles." (11)

Unguarded machinery was a major problem for children working in factories. One hospital reported that every year it treated nearly a thousand people for wounds and mutilations caused by machines in factories. Michael Ward, a doctor working in Manchester told a parliamentary committee: "When I was a surgeon in the infirmary, accidents were very often admitted to the infirmary, through the children's hands and arms having being caught in the machinery; in many instances the muscles, and the skin is stripped down to the bone, and in some instances a finger or two might be lost. Last summer I visited Lever Street School. The number of children at that time in the school, who were employed in factories, was 106. The number of children who had received injuries from the machinery amounted to very nearly one half. There were forty-seven injured in this way." (12)

William Blizard lectured on surgery and anatomy at the Royal College of Surgeons. He was especially concerned about the impact of this work on young females: "At an early period the bones are not permanently formed, and cannot resist pressure to the same degree as at a mature age, and that is the state of young females; they are liable, particularly from the pressure of the thigh bones upon the lateral parts, to have the pelvis pressed inwards, which creates what is called distortion; and although distortion does not prevent procreation, yet it most likely will produce deadly consequences, either to the mother or the child, when the period." (13)

Elizabeth Bentley, who came from Leeds, was another witness that appeared before the committee. She told of how working in the card-room had seriously damaged her health: "It was so dusty, the dust got up my lungs, and the work was so hard. I got so bad in health, that when I pulled the baskets down, I pulled my bones out of their places." Bentley explained that she was now "considerably deformed". She went on to say: "I was about thirteen years old when it began coming, and it has got worse since." (14)

Samuel Smith, a doctor based in Leeds explained why working in the textile factories was bad for children's health: "Up to twelve or thirteen years of age, the bones are so soft that they will bend in any direction. The foot is formed of an arch of bones of a wedge-like shape. These arches have to sustain the whole weight of the body. I am now frequently in the habit of seeing cases in which this arch has given way. Long continued standing has also a very injurious effect upon the ankles. But the principle effects which I have seen produced in this way have been upon the knees. By long continued standing the knees become so weak that they turn inwards, producing that deformity which is called 'knock-knees' and I have sometimes seen it so striking, that the individual has actually lost twelve inches of his height by it." (15)

John Reed later recalled his life aa a child worker at Cromford Mill: "I continued to work in this factory for ten years, getting gradually advanced in wages, till I had 6s. 3d. per week; which is the highest wages I ever had. I gradually became a cripple, till at the age of nineteen I was unable to stand at the machine, and I was obliged to give it up. The total amount of my earnings was about 130 shillings, and for this sum I have been made a miserable cripple, as you see, and cast off by those who reaped the benefit of my labour, without a single penny." (16)

Unguarded machinery was another problem for children working in factories. One hospital in Manchester reported that every year it treated nearly a thousand people for wounds and mutilations caused by machines in factories. In 1842 a German visitor noted that he had seen so many people without arms and legs that it was like "living in the midst of an army just returned from a campaign." (17)

The building of large factories marked the beginning of modern capitalism. In 1776 the moral philosopher, Adam Smith, published the world's first book on economics. In Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Smith outlined the advantages of capitalism. He claimed that the capitalist was motivated by self-interest: "He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it.... By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it.... It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages" (18)

Smith argued that capitalism results in inequality. For example, he wrote about the impact poverty had on the lives of the labouring class: "It is not uncommon... in the Highlands of Scotland for a mother who has borne twenty children not to have two alive... In some places one half the children born die before they are four years of age; in many places before they are seven; and in almost all places before they are nine or ten. This great mortality, however, will every where be found chiefly among the children of the common people, who cannot afford to tend them with the same care as those of better station." (19)

To protect the poor Smith argued for government intervention: "The man whose whole life is spent in performing a few simple operations, of which the effects are perhaps always the same, or very nearly the same, has no occasion to exert his understanding or to exercise his invention in finding out expedients for removing difficulties which never occur. He naturally loses, therefore, the habit of such exertion, and generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become. The torpor of his mind renders him not only incapable of relishing or bearing a part in any rational conversation, but of conceiving any generous, noble, or tender sentiment, and consequently of forming any just judgment concerning many even of the ordinary duties of private life... But in every improved and civilized society this is the state into which the labouring poor, that is, the great body of the people, must necessarily fall, unless government takes some pains to prevent it." (20)

Adam Smith pointed out the dangers of a system that allowed individuals to pursue individual self-interest at the detriment of the rest of society. He warned against the establishment of monopolies. "A monopoly granted either to an individual or to a trading company has the same effect as a secret in trade or manufactures. The monopolists, by keeping the market constantly under-stocked, by never fully supplying the effectual demand, sell their commodities much above the natural price, and raise their emoluments, whether they consist in wages or profit, greatly above their natural rate." (21)

In 1810 Robert Owen purchased four textile factories owned by David Dale in New Lanark for £60,000. Under Owen's control, the Chorton Twist Company expanded rapidly. However, Owen was not only concerned with making money, he was also interested in creating a new type of community at New Lanark. He became highly critical of factory owners to employ young children: "In the manufacturing districts it is common for parents to send their children of both sexes at seven or eight years of age, in winter as well as summer, at six o'clock in the morning, sometimes of course in the dark, and occasionally amidst frost and snow, to enter the manufactories, which are often heated to a high temperature, and contain an atmosphere far from being the most favourable to human life, and in which all those employed in them very frequently continue until twelve o'clock at noon, when an hour is allowed for dinner, after which they return to remain, in a majority of cases, till eight o'clock at night." (22)

Owen set out to make New Lanark an experiment in philanthropic management from the outset. Owen believed that a person's character is formed by the effects of their environment. Owen was convinced that if he created the right environment, he could produce rational, good and humane people. Owen argued that people were naturally good but they were corrupted by the harsh way they were treated. For example, Owen was a strong opponent of physical punishment in schools and factories and immediately banned its use in New Lanark. (23)

David Dale had originally built a large number of houses close to his factories in New Lanark. By the time Owen arrived, over 2,000 people lived in New Lanark village. One of the first decisions took when he became owner of New Lanark was to order the building of a school. Owen was convinced that education was crucially important in developing the type of person he wanted. He stopped employing children under ten and reduced their labour to ten hours a day. The young children went to the nursery and infant schools that Owen had built. Older children worked in the factory but also had to attend his secondary school for part of the day. (24)

George Combe, an educator who was unsympathetic to Owen's views generally, visited New Lanark during this period. "We saw them romping and playing in great spirits. The noise was prodigious, but it was the full chorus of mirth and kindliness." Combe explained that Owen had ordered £500 worth of "transparent pictures representing objects interesting to the youthful mind" so that children could "form ideas at the same time that they learn words". Combe went on to argue that the greatest lessons Owen wished the children to learn were "that life may be enjoyed, and that each may make his own happiness consistent with that of all the others." (25)

The journalist, George Holyoake, became a great supporter of Owen's work in New Lanark: "At New Lanark he virtually or indirectly supplied to his workpeople, with splendid munificence and practical judgment, all the conditions which gave dignity to labour.... Co-operation as a form of social amelioration and of profit existed in an intermittent way before New Lanark; but it was the advantages of the stores Owen incited that was the beginning of working-class co-operation. His followers intended the store to be a means of raising the industrious class, but many think of it now merely as a means of serving themselves. Still, the nobler portion are true to the earlier ideal of dividing profits in store and workshop, of rendering the members self-helping, intelligent, honest, and generous, and abating, if not superseding competition and meanness." (26)

When Owen arrived at New Lanark children from as young as five were working for thirteen hours a day in the textile mills. Owen later explained to a parliamentary committee: "I found that there were 500 children, who had been taken from poor-houses, chiefly in Edinburgh, and those children were generally from the age of five and six, to seven to eight. The hours at that time were thirteen. Although these children were well fed their limbs were very generally deformed, their growth was stunted, and although one of the best schoolmasters was engaged to instruct these children regularly every night, in general they made very slow progress, even in learning the common alphabet." (27)

Owen's partners were concerned that these reforms would reduce profits. Frederick Adolphus Packard explained that when they complained in 1813 he replied: "that if he was to continue to act as managing partner he must be governed by the principles and practices." Unable to convince them of the wisdom of these reforms, Owen decided to borrow money from Archibald Campbell, a local banker, in order to buy their share of the business. Later, Owen sold shares in the business to men who agreed with the way he ran his factory. This included Jeremy Bentham and Quakers such as William Allen, Joseph Foster and John Walker. (28)

Robert Owen hoped that the way he treated children at his New Lanark would encourage other factory owners to follow his example. It was therefore important for him to publicize his activities. He wrote several books including The Formation of Character (1813) and A New View of Society (1814). In these books he demanded a system of national education to prevent idleness, poverty, and crime among the "lower orders". He also recommended restricting "gin shops and pot houses, the state lottery and gambling, as well as penal reform, ending the monopolistic position of the Church of England, and collecting statistics on the value and demand for labour throughout the country." (29)

In January 1816, Robert Owen made a speech at a meeting in New Lanark: "When I first came to New Lanark I found the population similar to that of other manufacturing districts... there was... poverty, crime and misery... When men are in poverty they commit crimes.., instead of punishing or being angry with our fellow-men... we ought to pity them and patiently to trace the causes... and endeavour to discover whether they may not be removed. This was the course which I adopted". (30)

Robert Owen sent detailed proposals to Parliament about his ideas on factory reform. This resulted in Owen appearing before Robert Peel and his House of Commons committee in April, 1816. Owen explained that when he took over the company they employed children as young as five years old: "Seventeen years ago, a number of individuals, with myself, purchased the New Lanark establishment from Mr. Dale.... I came to the conclusion that the children were injured by being taken into the mills at this early age, and employed for so many hours; therefore, as soon as I had it in my power, I adopted regulations to put an end to a system which appeared to me to be so injurious". (31)

In his factory Owen installed what became known as "silent monitors". These were multi-coloured blocks of wood which rotated above each labourer's workplace; the different coloured sides reflected the achievements of each worker, from black denoting poor performance to white denoting excellence. Employees with illegitimate children were fined. One-sixtieth of wages was set aside for sickness, injury, and old age. Heads of households were elected to sit as jurors to judge cases respecting the internal order of the community. (32)

Robert Owen came under attack from those who objected to the capitalist system of manufacturing. In August 1817, Thomas Wooler wrote an article about Owen in his radical newspaper Black Dwarf: "It is very amusing to hear Mr Owen talk of re-moralizing the poor. Does he not think that the rich are a little more in want of re-moralizing; and particularly that class of them that has contributed to demoralize the poor, if they are demoralized, by supporting measures which have made them poor, and which now continue them poor and wretched? Talk of the poor being demoralized! It is their would-be masters that create all the evils that afflict the poor, and all the depravity that pretended philanthropists pretend to regret."

Wooler went on to argue: "Let him abandon the labourer to his own protection; cease to oppress him, and the poor man would scorn to hold any fictitious dependence upon the rich. Give him a fair price for his labour, and do not take two-thirds of a depreciated remuneration back from him again in the shape of taxes. Lower the extravagance of the great. Tax those real luxuries, enormous fortunes obtained without merit. Reduce the herd of locusts that prey upon the honey of the hive, and think they do the bees a most essential service by robbing them. The working bee can always find a hive. Do not take from them what they can earn, to supply the wants of those who will earn nothing. Do this; and the poor will not want your splendid erections for the cultivation of misery and the subjugation of the mind." (33)

Robert Owen toured the country making speeches on his experiments at New Lanark. He also publishing his speeches as pamphlets and sent free copies to influential people in Britain. In one two month period he spent £4,000 publicizing his activities. In his speeches, Owen argued that he was creating a "new moral world, a world from which the bitterness of divisive sectarian religion would be banished". As one of his supporters pointed out that to argue that "all the religions of the world" to be wrong was "met by outrage". (34)

In the later stages of the 18th century Richard Arkwright was the largest factory owner; he made huge gains in the 1770s, and even in the early 1780s his profits from the industry seem to have been at 100 per cent per annum. Arkwright's biographer, J. J. Mason, claimed that: "In 1782 he bought Willersley manor and in 1789 the manor of Cromford. These acquisitions established him more firmly with the local gentry, including the Gells and Nightingales, with whom he was already connected through business.... Society sneered at his extravagance and ridiculed his gauche behaviour... but enjoyed his lavish entertainments in... Rock House, perched high and overlooking the mills and his more stately home, Willersley Castle." (35)

Richard Arkwright's employees worked from six in the morning to seven at night. Although some of the factory owners employed children as young as five, Arkwright's policy was to wait until they reached the age of six. Two-thirds of Arkwright's 1,900 workers were children. Like most factory owners, Arkwright was unwilling to employ people over the age of forty. (36)

Arkwright was made Sheriff of Derbyshire and was knighted by King George III in 1787. He died aged 59 on 3rd August 1792 at his home in Cromford, after a month's illness. The Gentleman's Magazine claimed that on his death, Arkwright was worth over £500,000 (over £200 million in today's money). (37)

I was straight and healthy when I was seven... When I worked about half a year, a weakness fell into my knees and ankles... I could scarcely walk, and my brother and sister used to take me under each arm, and run with me, a good mile, to the mill, and my legs dragged on the ground... If we were five minutes too late, the overlooker would take a strap, and beat us till we were black and blue.

The overlookers used to cut off the hair of all the girls caught talking to the lads... We were more afraid of it than of any other punishment, for girls are proud of their halr.

A little girl about seven years old, whose job as a scavenger, was to collect fragments of cotton that might impede the work... accidents frequently occur, and many are the flaxen locks, rudely torm from infant heads, in the process.

Besides the deformed persons, a great number of maimed ones may be seen going about in Manchester; this one has lost an arm or part of one, that one a foot, the third half a leg; it is like living in the midst of an army just returned from a campaign. The most dangerous portion of the machinery is the strapping which conveys motive power from the shaft to the separate machines. Whoever is seized by the strap is carried up with lightning speed, thrown against the ceiling above and floor below with such force there is rarely a whole bone left in the body, and death follows instantly.

Child Labour Simulation (Teacher Notes)

Richard Arkwright and the Factory System (Answer Commentary)

Robert Owen and New Lanark (Answer Commentary)

James Watt and Steam Power (Answer Commentary)

The Domestic System (Answer Commentary)

The Luddites (Answer Commentary)

Handloom Weavers (Answer Commentary)

(1) Richard Guest, A History of the Cotton Manufacture (1823) page 31

(2) Edward Baines, The History of the Cotton Manufacture (1835) page 229

(3) J. F. C. Harrison, The Common People (1984) page 218

(4) R. S. Fitton, The Arkwrights: Spinners of Fortune (1989) page 28

(5) Thomas Southcliffe Ashton, The Industrial Revolution 1760-1830 (1948) page 59

(6) Ralph Mather, An Impartial Representation of the Case of the Poor Cotton Spinners in Lancashire (1780)

(7) Peter Kirby, Child Labour in Britain, 1750-1870 (2003) page 28

(8) Michael Anderson, Family Structure in Nineteenth-Century Lancashire (1971) page 76

(9) James Turner, interviewed by Michael Sadler's Parliamentary Committee (17th April 1832)

(10) David Rowland interviewed by Michael Sadler's Parliamentary Committee (10th July 1832)

(11) John Fielden, speech in the House of Commons (9th May 1836)

(12) Dr. Ward from Manchester was interviewed about the health of textile workers on 25th March, 1819.

(13) Sir William Blizard was interviewed by Michael Sadler's House of Commons Committee on 21st May, 1832.

(14) Elizabeth Bentley was interviewed by Michael Sadler and his House of Commons Committee on 4th June, 1832.

(15) Samuel Smith, interviewed by Michael Sadler's House of Commons Committee on 16th July, 1832.

(16) William Dodd interviewed John Reed from Arkwright's Cromford's factory in 1842.

(17) Friedrich Engels, Condition of the Working Class in England (1844) page 164

(18) Adam Smith, Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776) page 106

(19) Adam Smith, Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776) page 33

(20) Adam Smith, Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776) page 327

(21) Adam Smith, Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776) page 25

(22) Robert Owen, Observations on the Effect of the Manufacturing System (1815) page 9

(23) Gregory Claeys, Robert Owen : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(24) Robert Owen, Robert Peel's House of Commons Committee (26th April, 1816)

(25) Harold Silver, Owen's Reputation as an Educationalist, included in Robert Owen: Prophet of the Poor (1971) page 269

(26) George Holyoake, Sixty Years of an Agitator's Life (1892) page 118

(27) Robert Owen, Robert Peel's House of Commons Committee (26th April, 1816)

(28) Frederick Adolphus Packard, Life of Robert Owen (1866) page 82

(29) Gregory Claeys, Robert Owen : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(30) Robert Owen, speech in New Lanark (1st January, 1816)

(31) Robert Owen, Robert Peel's House of Commons Committee (26th April, 1816)

(32) Gregory Claeys, Robert Owen : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(33) Thomas Wooler, Black Dwarf (20th August 1817)

(34) George Holyoake, Sixty Years of an Agitator's Life (1892) page 244

(35) J. Mason, Richard Arkwright : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(36) Thomas Southcliffe Ashton, The Industrial Revolution 1760-1830 (1948) page 93

(37) The Gentleman's Magazine (August, 1792)

Rise of the Factory System

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, most of the workforce was employed in agriculture, either as self-employed farmers as land owners or tenants, or as landless agricultural laborers. By the time of the Industrial Revolution the putting-out system in which farmers and townspeople produced goods in their homes, often described as cottage industry, was the standard. Typical putting-out system goods included spinning and weaving. Merchant capitalists provided the raw materials, typically paid workers by the piece, and were responsible for the sale of the goods. Workers put long hours into low-productivity but labor-intensive tasks. The logistical effort in procuring and distributing raw materials and picking up finished goods were also limitations of the system.

Some early spinning and weaving machinery, such as a 40 spindle spinning jenny for about six pounds in 1792, was affordable to cottagers. Later machinery such as spinning frames, spinning mules, and power looms were expensive (especially if water-powered), giving rise to capitalist ownership of factories. Many workers, who had nothing but their labor to sell, became factory workers in the absence of any other opportunities.

The factory system was a new way of organizing labor made necessary by the development of machines, which were too large to house in a worker’s cottage and much too expensive to be owned by the worker.One of the earliest factories was John Lombe’s water-powered silk mill at Derby, operational by 1721. By 1746, an integrated brass mill was working at Warmley near Bristol. Raw material went in at one end, then smelted into brass to become pans, pins, wire, and other goods. Housing was provided for workers on site. Josiah Wedgwood in Staffordshire and Matthew Boulton at his Soho Manufactory were other prominent early industrialists, who employed the factory system. However, Richard Arkwright is credited as the brains behind the growth of factories and, specifically, the Derwent Valley Mills. After he patented his water frame in 1769, he established Cromford Mill in Derbyshire, England.

The Soho Manufactory, J. Bissett’s Magnificent Directory, 1800.

This early factory was established by the toy manufacturer Matthew Boulton and his business partner John Fothergill. In 1761, they leased a site on Handsworth Heath, containing a cottage and a water-driven metal-rolling mill. The mill was replaced by a new factory, designed and built by the Wyatt family of Lichfield, and completed in 1766. It produced a wide range of goods from buttons, buckles, and boxes to japanned ware (collectively called “toys”) and later luxury products such as silverware and ormolu (a type of gilded bronze).

Andrew Ure's Explanation and Promotion of the Factory System as a Self-Regulating Automaton

Roberts looms in operation at a cotton mill. The long caption to this hand-colored print is unusually informative. It reads:

"The Diagram represents one of the great Weaving Galleries of of a Cotton Factory, containing about twelve hundred power-looms. The principle of the power-loom may be thus simply described. At the back of the machine, towards the bottom, is a cylindrical roller or beam containing the warp. The warp as it is unwound passes over a smaller roller above, and extends onwards towards the front in its passage it passes through the loops of two treddles suspended from above, and the threads of the warp are by those treddles so separated into groups as to form a shed into which the shuttle is thrown the woven cloth then passes forward and is wound upon the cloth beam in front. Such is the appratus, which fixed in a certain frame work, and placed in connection with the moving power from a steam engine, forms the power-loom. The noise created by so many of these machines working near each other is so great as at first to be almost unbearable. The steam engine sets the whole vast assemblage to work, and effects a variety of different movements in each machine. In the cotton manufacture each loom is between three and four feet high, by five or six feet wide, and the looms are so placed that one female can attend to two of them.The duties which these females have to fulfill consist in mending the warp-threads when they happen to break, replacing the empty shuttles by filled ones, replacing the warp-beam when emptied by another containing a fresh supply, and removing the cloth-beam as it is filled."

In 1835 physician, science writer, and business theorist Andrew Ure issued The Philosophy of Manufactures: or, an Exposition of the Scientific, Moral, and Commercial Economy of the Factory System of Great Britain. Probably it was not coincidental that this explanation and promotion of the factory system was published in London by Charles Knight, who just three years earlier had issued Charles Babbage's Economy of Machinery and Manufactures. Popular interest in the details of factory manufacturing must have been stimulated by publicity concerning government efforts to regulate factory working conditions in the Factory Acts that were working their way through parliament around this time.

Ure, Babbage and Knight shared a common interest in the new technologies of the Industrial Revolution. Babbage subjected methods of production to new methods of scientific analysis. Knight believed that the cost savings and wider distribution resulting from the new book production technologies would improve access to knowledge among the laboring classes, and that the cost savings from factory production would improve the overall standard of living. Of the three men, Ure may have been the most unbridled exponent of the factory system as the most advanced method of manufacturing, to the deteriment of the value of the individual skilled worker. Though some of his statements in this regard may seem a bit shocking today, Ure maintained a balanced viewpoint, including in his book detailed studies of the social and health problems caused by the factory system. Regarding the factory system in general, On pp. 20-21 of The Philosophy of Manufactures, Ure wrote:

"The principle of the factory system then is, to substitute mechanical science for hand skill, and the partition of a process into its essential constituents, for the division or graduation of labour among artisans. On the handicraft plan, labour more or less skilled, was usually the most expensive element of production&mdashMateriam superabat opus but on the automatic plan skilled labour gets progressively superceded, and will, eventually, be replaced by mere overlookers of machines.

"By the infirmity of human nature it happens, that the more skillful the workman, the more self-willed and intractable he is apt to become, and, of course the less fit a component of a mechanical system, in which, by occasional irregularities, he may do great damage to the whole. The grand object therefore of the modern manufacturer is, through the union of capital and science, to reduce the task of his work-people in the exercise of vigilance and dexterity, &mdashfaculties, when concentred to one process, speedily brought to perfection in the young. In the infancy of mechanical engineering, a machine-factory displayed the division of labour in manifold gradations&mdash the the file, the drill, the lathe, having each its different workmen in the order of skill: but the dextrous hands of the filer and riller are now superseded by the planing, the key-groove cutting, and the drilling-machines and those of the iron and brass turners, by the self-acting slide-lathe. Mr. Anthony Strutt, who conducts the mechanical department of the great cotton factories of Belper and Milford, has so thoroughly departed from the old routine of the schools, that he will employ no man who has learned his craft by regular apprenticeship but in contempt, as it were, of the division of labour principle, he sets a ploughboy to turn a shaft of perhaps several tons weight, and never has reason to repent his preference, because he infuses into the turning apparatus a precision of action, equal, if not superior, to the skill of the most experienced journeyman."

While Adam Smith showed how the division of labor created an intensification of skill that improved the manufacturing process, Babbage believed that division of labor resulting from specialization of tasks allowed more efficient use of labor, resulting in cost savings. In contrast Ure believed that a major virtue of factory production was that it essentially removed or excluded human skill from manufacturing, except in the supervision of the machinery. On pp. 13-14 of The Philosophy of Manufactures he wrote:

"The term Factory, in technology, designates the combined operation of many orders of work-people, adult and young, in tending with assiduous skill a system of productive manchines continuously impelled by a central power. I conceive that this title, in its strictest sense, involves the idea of a vast automaton, composed of various mechanical and intellectual organs, acting in uninterrupted concern for the production of a common object, all of them being subordinated to a self-regulated moving force."

Ure expressed unbridled enthusiasm for the factory system as the most advanced way of manufacturing, but he also addressed the social and health problems that it caused. The final third of the book concerns the "Moral Economy of the Factory System" within which are chapers on the "Condition of our Factory Operatives", the "Health of Factory Inmates," and "State of Knowledge and Religion in the Factories."


The "factories" were not workshops or manufacturing centres but the offices, trading posts, and warehouses of foreign factors, [1] mercantile fiduciaries who bought and sold goods on consignment for their principals. The word derives from “feitoria” which means trading post in Portuguese (the first westerners to engage in trade with China).

The foreign agents were known at the time as "supercargos" in English and as daban ( 大班 ) in Chinese. This term's Cantonese pronunciation, tai-pan, only came into common English use after the rise of private trading from 1834 on. [2] A private captain might be his own supercargo a large East Indiamen might have five or more, which were ranked "chief supercargo", "2nd supercargo", and so on. A team of supercargos divided their work, some overseeing sales, others tea purchases, silk purchases, and so forth. [3] Permanent supercargos might divide their work by the order ships arrived. The bookkeepers who attended them were called "writers" those serving with the ship, who also checked these accounts, "pursers". [4]

"Hong" is the Cantonese pronunciation of 行 , the Chinese term for a properly-licensed business. [2] By analogy, it was applied to its chief, the Hong merchant, and its property, the factories themselves. It has also been suggested the term was first applied to the factories as they were arranged in a row along the riverbank, "row" or "rank" being an alternative meaning of the same Chinese character. [5]

Hoppo, or fully the "Canton Sea Customs Minister", was the imperial official responsible for imperial customs and supervised the other officials. The word is Chinese Pidgin English, and some speculated that it derived from Hu Bu (Board of Revenue), but the official had no connection to the Board. The Hoppo was responsible for fixing the charges levied as a ship entered the port, a responsibility that allowed him to become quite rich. [6]

Since the Ming dynasty ( founded in 1368 ), a series of sea bans (haijin) restricted China's foreign commerce, at times attempting to ban it completely. In 1684, the Kangxi Emperor of the Qing Dynasty allowed foreigners to trade with China in the four cities of Guangzhou, Xiamen, Songjiang, and Ningpo. [7] In the case of Guangzhou, early traders were obliged to follow the monsoon winds, arriving between June and September, conducting their business, and then departing between November and February. [8] The foreign ships were anchored downstream at Pazhou (then known as "Whampoa"), [4] with business conducted in the city's western suburbs. [9] Western traders were further required to work through Chinese merchants who would guarantee their good behavior and tax obligations they were also the owners and landlords of the warehouses and apartments the traders were obliged to use. [2] In practice, private traders could often avoid these restrictions but the customs superintendent, the hoppo, was always careful to enforce them upon large-volume purchasers such as the East India Company. [10] Typically, cargo was ferried from the ships by its own crew and to the ships at the expense of the Chinese merchants on their "chop boats" (lighters). To avoid theft or piracy, foreign traders began assigning a few of their own seamen to these ships as guards. [8]

In 1686, Westerners were allowed to rent accommodations in the factory quarter to avoid the necessity of shuttling back to Pazhou each night. For the most part, the supercargos, their assistants, and the bookkeepers stayed at the factories, the crew—except for a few guards or those on shore leave [8] —stayed with the ships, and the captains continued to ferry between the two. [4] A Chinese comprador hired each factory's staff of Chinese servants and bought its provisions from local vendors senior supercargos sometimes brought their own staff or slaves as well. Another comprador dealt with the ship's provisions at Pazhou, where sampan ladies crowded around the ships to do laundry and odd jobs for the sailors. [4] A few weeks before departure, the crew came to the factories in shifts of a few days each for shore leave, chaperoned by some of the ship's officers. Hog Lane was lined with open-fronted booths and shops catering to them, selling food, drink, clothing, and "chowchows" (novelties), and was policed by Chinese guards stationed at both ends of the alley. [11] At first the supercargos came and left with the ships, but over the course of the 18th century companies began to rent their factory spaces year-round to avoid being displaced on their return. The supercargos were then permitted to outstay their company's ships a few weeks to conduct business for the next season after that, they were obliged to remove themselves to Macao through the spring and summer until the appearance of the next ship. [8] By the 1760s, every East India company had permanent supercargos [12] and rooms were being rented in Macao year-round as well. [8]

In the mid-1750s, the East India Company realized that the fees and prices were both better at Ningbo it was also nearer the main centres of Chinese tea production and silk manufacture. The impact of their shift on Guangzhou's tax receipts and a fear of a second Macao being created prompted attempts to force Ningbo to make itself less attractive. When that failed, the Qianlong Emperor issued a 1757 edict closing all ports but Guangzhou's to most Westerners. [13] [n 1] In order to keep the traders in the factory area and out of the rest of the western suburbs, the 17 Chinese merchants of the port were obliged to establish the guild known to foreigners as the "Cohong" in 1760, [12] each paying an entrance fee of around 10,000 Spanish dollars (74,000 tls.) and submitting to a levy of about 3% on their future business. Ten of the merchants did so, the fees establishing the Consoo Fund and Hall, walkways, and a new street to which small-scale merchants were obliged to move in order to continue selling to the foreign traders. [n 2] Since the new street was particularly full of porcelain dealers, it came to be known as China Street. [9] The Hong merchants included Howqua (Wu Bingjian), Puankhequa, Mowqua, Goqua, Fatqua, Kingqua, Sunshing, Mingqua, Saoqua, and Punboqua. [15] Despite the existence of Sinophones [15] and the linguists usually accompanying each ship, [4] foreigners were notionally banned by imperial decree from learning the Chinese language, [1] there being officially appointed translators for that purpose. [15] The foreign traders—despite most working for government monopolies themselves—protested strongly at the Cohong's control over prices, advances, and exchange rates and predicted the death of trade with China. [12] In fact, the Cohong helped ensure Chinese production met the traders' needs—some ships had previously been obliged to wait as much as a year to be fully stocked [12] —and by 1769, the area was being expanded to make up for an extreme shortness of apartments. [16] In 1748, there had only been eight factories, [17] but there were seventeen by 1770, a number kept up until the great fire of 1822. [2]

It was discovered that, rather than depending on the monsoon winds, ships could arrive or depart at any time of year by rounding the Philippines. [8] This opened the trade for smaller craft who might only need a few weeks to complete a visit, where the large company vessels still needed 4 to 5 months at minimum. [4] Subsequently, the British and Americans typically always had ships anchored off Pazhou, allowing them to keep their supercargos and staff in the Guangzhou factories all year. [8] During the 1780s, the Spanish also began to send several ships from Manila each year rather than the single vessel they had previously used [8] they began renting a permanent factory in 1788. [10] (In practice, senior supercargos tended to prefer Macao during the summer regardless and to send their junior officers to deal with off-season trade.) [8]

In 1793, George III sent George Macartney to request that ports in northern China be opened to trade but was rejected by the Qianlong Emperor, not due to Macartney's refusal to kowtow in the presence of the Qianlong Emperor, as is commonly believed. [18] [1] A second embassy under Lord Amherst fared no better in 1816–7. The growth of European (particularly British) tea consumption supplemented the port's heavy trade in silk and porcelain. The balancing trade in goods from Europe was poor so payments had to be settled in large volumes of bullion until the trade in opium rose to take its place.

In 1835, the medical missionary Peter Parker opened an ophthalmic hospital in the area. [19] Parker commissioned Lam Qua, a Western-trained Chinese painter who also had workshops in the area, to paint pre-operative portraits of patients who had large tumors or other major deformities.

The viceroy Lin Zexu's vigorous suppression of the British opium trade precipitated the First Opium War (1839–42), during which the factories were burnt to the ground. The 1842 Treaty of Nanking ending that war forced the ceding of Hong Kong Island to the British and opened the treaty ports of Shanghai, Ningbo ("Ningpo"), Xiamen ("Amoy"), and Fuzhou ("Fuchow"). It nominally opened the walled city of Guangzhou to the foreigners, but this was subsequently resisted by the city's viceroys on a number of pretexts. The factories were rebuilt at their former location but, with their diminished importance, they were not rebuilt a third time after their destruction at the onset of the Second Opium War. Instead, the foreign traders first operated off of Henan Island on the other side of the Pearl River and then, after the war's conclusion, rebuilt their Guangzhou operations at a new enclave on the Shamian sandbar south of the city's western suburbs. [20]

Under the Canton System, between 1757 and 1842, Western merchants in China were restricted to live and conduct their business only in the approved area of the port of Guangzhou and only through government-approved merchant houses. Their factories formed a tight-knit community, which the historian Jacques Downs called a "golden ghetto" because it was both isolated and lucrative. [21]

These hongs—first established by Pan Zhencheng ( 潘振成 ) and nine others in 1760—were granted a lucrative monopoly on foreign trade in exchange for various payments and obligations to the Qing state. [15] The hongs were organised into a guild known as the cohong, which also oversaw the Thai and domestic trade in the South China Sea. The Hoppo was appointed by the emperor to oversee taxation and customs collection he also oversaw disputes among the merchants, in an attempt to restrain the foreigners from contacting the imperial government in Beijing directly. [1]

The Western merchants were allowed to occupy two- or three-story buildings set back about 100 yards (91 m) from the river. Each factory contained a number of houses. The warehouses occupied the ground floors the upper floors were taken up by living areas. The square in front of the factories was fenced off, with Chinese access restricted. There were no wells or access to running water. Chinese servants were used to bring in drinking and wash water and to empty the factories' chamber pots. [4]

The facades of the buildings used Western classical designs, but the structures otherwise were merchant buildings of local style. The layout featured courtyards, long, narrow hallways, with rooms on either side. Construction materials were local, such as brick with tile roofs, but the windows and stairs came from British sources abroad. [22]

The area was bound on the north by Thirteen Factory Street, on the west by Pwanting Street, and on the east by a small creek. [ which? ] Old China Street, New China Street, and Hog Lane divided the groups of factories from one another and were lined by retail stores selling a wide variety of Chinese goods. Peter Parker's hospital was located at 3 Hog Lane. [19]

The exact number of factories varied, but by the early 19th century it became stable at 17 or 18 [23] including, from east to west:

English name Literal Translation/Transliteration [15] [ page needed ] Chinese name (Cantonese)
Traditional Simplified Pinyin Characters Sidney Lau
Creek Factory 小溪館 小溪馆 Xiǎoxī Guǎn 怡和行 Yi⁴ Wo⁴ Hong⁴
Dutch Factory 荷蘭館 荷兰馆 Hélán Guǎn 集義行 Jaap⁶ Yi⁶ Hong⁴
British Factory
(New English Factory)
新英國館 新英国馆 Xīn Yīngguó Guǎn 保和行 Bo² Wo⁴ Hong⁴
Fung-tae Factory
Chow-Chow Factory
(Miscellaneous Factory)
炒炒館 炒炒馆 Chǎochǎo Guǎn 豐泰行
Fung¹ Taai³ Hong⁴
Ba¹ Si¹ Hong⁴
Old English Factory 舊英國館 旧英国馆 Jiù Yīngguó Guǎn 隆順行 Lung⁴ Sun⁶ Hong⁴
Swedish Factory 瑞典館 瑞典馆 Ruìdiǎn Guǎn 瑞行 Sui⁶ Hong⁴
"Imperial Factory"
(Austrian Factory)
帝國館 帝国馆 Dìguó Guǎn 孖鹰行 Ma¹ Ying¹ Hong⁴
Paoushun Factory 寶順館 宝顺馆 Bǎoshùn Guǎn 寶順行 Bo² Sun⁶ Hong⁴
American Factory 美國館 美国馆 Měiguó Guǎn 廣源行 Gwong² Yuen⁴ Hong⁴
Mingqua's Factory 明官館 明官馆 Míngguān Guǎn 中和行 Jung¹ Wo⁴ Hong⁴
French Factory 法蘭西館 法兰西馆 Fǎlánxī Guǎn 高公行 Go¹ Gung¹ Hong⁴
Spanish Factory 西班牙館 西班牙馆 Xībānyá Guǎn 大呂宋行 Daai⁶ Lui⁵ Sung³ Hong⁴
Danish Factory 丹麥館 丹麦馆 Dānmài Guǎn 黃旗行 [16] Wong⁴ Kei⁴ Hong⁴

The Chow-Chow Factory was indirectly linked to the British East India Company.

The former site of the thirteen factories is now part of the Cultural Park. Thirteen Factories Street, which ran north of the enclave, is now named Shisanhang (Thirteen Factories) Road. [20]

Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution occurred over a span of time starting in the late 1700’s and running through the 1800’s. There was a big change in the way goods were produced during the Industrial Revolution. Instead of individuals making a few goods at a time in their homes, goods were made in factories by workers on assembly lines. Each worker would be in charge of a specific task involved in creating a product. For instance, in a chair factory, one person would be in charge of attaching the legs of the chair to the seat. Another person on the assembly line would be in charge of putting the back on the chair. Further down the line, a person would ensure that each chair was sturdy and ready to be sold. The factory system allowed for the fast assembly of goods.

The chief innovator with just the right instincts

“When Honold finished a new item and passed it to manufacturing, the Bosch world started clamoring for the finished product.”

This was how Robert Bosch paid tribute to his long-standing head of engineering, who had first started work for him as an apprentice. Besides the high-voltage magneto ignition system, he was also the brilliant creator of lighting systems, starters, and horns for the portfolio of Bosch products — until his untimely death in 1923.

Photo: Gottlob Honold (1901)

The Factory System - History

Capitalism: System in which private or corporate wealth (capital) is used in the production and distribution of goods resulting in the dominance of private owners of capital and production for profit.

Feudalism: A political and economic system where a landowner granted land to a vassal in exchange for homage and military service.

Agrarian: Relating to landed property.

Protectionism: The protection of domestic producers by impeding or limiting, as by tariffs, the importation of foreign goods and services.

Laissez faire: An economic doctrine of non-interference that opposes government involvement in commerce.


Anarcho-syndicalism originated as a response to capitalism. This introductory unit examines the emergence of capitalism through the agrarian and industrial revolutions in Britain in order to provide a context for the development of the movement.

As well as providing an insight into how capitalism came about, and an indication of how it works, this unit looks at the nature of historical change. It challenges the idea that historical change is determined by the discoveries or endeavours of a few people, or by an unquantifiable ‘spirit of the age’ – an idea often offered as explanation of sweeping change. Rather, it looks at the idea that change comes about by the interaction of economic development and social movements.

Understanding how historical change comes about, and how societies choose to spell out their version of the past is a crucial part of coming to understand the political present. Acknowledging that social changes have occurred over time alerts us to the fact that if society has not always been the same, then it can change. Study of the past also raises questions around what we are encouraged to think of as ‘natural’ social relations in the present. This Unit is a starting-point in raising some of these questions.

The Feudal Economy

From the 12th to the 15th Centuries, medieval feudal society was based on a series of regionally based, largely self-supporting economic systems, each composed of a town and its surrounding agricultural district. Within these mini-economies, peasants were forced to work the land for a feudal lord in exchange for the right to build shelter on, and work a small strip of land. Although they were allowed to cultivate this strip of land and, if they could afford to, keep animals on it, they still had to hand over part of their produce as rent. After paying this rent and meeting their own needs, the peasants traded the little that was left of their harvest in the town for goods produced by the town’s craftsmen. The gentry and their innumerable servants consumed the harvest from the lord’s land, plus the peasants’ ‘rent’. Any surplus was traded for locally produced goods, or for imported goods, although the latter were limited luxuries.

In the towns, industries were organised into powerful guilds, and production was carried out by master craftsmen and their families. Only men could enter the guilds to become skilled workers, and this direct structural sexism was a severe limitation on the economic and social power of women. Each craftsman owned his tools and worked in a single shop, with his family and assistants. Guilds aimed to eliminate competition, both from within and from outside the regional economy, and to limit production to ensure it didn’t outstrip demand, causing prices to fall (which they would if market forces came into play). Only guild members could produce and sell goods in the region. They could not expand their output beyond a given point, nor could they hire more than the agreed number of assistants. Guilds set exact quality standards to which goods had to be produced, as well as the prices they must be sold at. Thus they maintained monopoly production, ensuring a decent standard of living for craftsmen and their families.

The feudal economy persisted in this form up to around the end of the 15th Century. Thus, social and economic life continued to be characterised by the dominance of agriculture, and by production geared to meet immediate local needs (including those of the feudal landlords). There were numerous restrictions to ensure that the regional economies remained relatively closed. For example, the sale of goods from outside the economic regions was severely restricted. Through such restrictions, the feudal lord ensured the continuation of the economic region on which his authority and economic survival depended. Trade was limited and so the amount of money in circulation was very small.

Rise of the Merchant Class

The relatively static feudal way of life, which had endured for centuries, began to break down at the beginning of the 16th Century. A primary cause of the shift away from feudalism was increased foreign trade, which led to the emergence of a new class of merchant capitalist. These new merchants amassed great fortunes by purchasing foreign goods cheaply and selling them on at huge profits to Europe’s aristocracy.

This boom led to many European countries growing rich from taxes and attempting to boost their share of trade by establishing colonial empires. Once a country established a colony, it would try to impose a trading monopoly by banning foreign merchants and ships. For example, the riches of Spanish colonies in the Americas could only be exported to Spain, where they were traded on to other European countries at a tremendous mark up, enriching both Spanish merchants and the Spanish state.

The race for new colonies inevitably led to conflict. England, being a relative latecomer to the international trade race, found that many of the prime sources of wealth had already been snapped up, so it embarked on nearly three centuries of war to establish its own colonial empire. Thus, it defeated Spain in the 16th Century, Holland in the 17th Century, and France in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Having meanwhile spread its supremacy throughout Britain, England thus became the world’s mightiest seafaring and colonial power. Indeed, it was to engage in bloody wars right up to the second world war in an attempt to maintain economic power (ironically, after centuries of war, Britain finally lost her superpower economic status to a former colony and a close friend – the USA).

The growth in trade both outside and within Europe led to increased money exchange. This in turn led to inflation being injected into the feudal economies for the first time, so that the 16th Century witnessed a price revolution. For instance, in Britain, wheat prices, which had been static for centuries, more than trebled between 1500 and 1574.

Increased use of money and inflation began to undermine the feudal order. The gentry wanted money to buy the new luxury goods that flooded Europe. Meanwhile, spiralling prices meant they could make money either by producing and trading agricultural goods directly, or by renting the land to a growing class of large-scale farmers. Thus, capitalism was quick to penetrate into English agriculture, where part of the land-owning class formed a bloc with the new capitalist farmer.

These changes in the economy led to a dramatic change in social relations. The peasantry, who had been, to all intents and purposes, tied to the land and virtually owned by the lords, were set “free” - in other words, evicted. Evictions gathered pace as trade increased, especially as the growth of the textile industry raised the demand for high quality English wool. The landed gentry enclosed more and more common land, to raise sheep. Such land was owned collectively by the peasantry and was forcibly taken over - stolen - by the aristocracy. Some measure of the pace of evictions can be gauged from contemporary writers. Thomas Moore, at the start of the 16th Century, recorded that “the sheep swallow down the very men themselves”. By 1581, H. Stafford wrote:

“Gentlemen do not consider it a crime to drive poor people off their property. On the contrary, they insist that the land belongs to them and throw the poor out of their shelter, like curs. In England at the moment, thousands of people, previously decent householders, now go begging, staggering from door to door.”

Evicted from the land and faced with massive price rises for basic foods, the lives of an increasing number of landless peasants became ones of desperation and growing starvation. Evictions were to carry on in Britain for the next three centuries. As a result, today, it still has the smallest rural population in the industrialised world, and even amongst these, the majority neither own nor work on the land. (It is interesting to note that the transition from feudalism to capitalism took a different route in France due to the French revolution. The land, which under feudalism was jointly owned by the lord and the peasant, was taken from the defeated aristocracy and handed to the peasantry, making France a country of small-scale peasant holdingsthe opposite of what occurred in Britain.)

It was not just in the countryside that the feudal order was breaking down. In the towns throughout the 16th Century, the guild system also suffered due to the increased trade. The new merchant capitalists now bought goods locally for export. Hence, these were no longer produced for sale locally, but were instead sold to merchants. As merchants could travel the country to buy the cheapest goods, craftsmen soon found themselves competing with each other in a national market. This undermined the guild system, which could only operate through control of regional economies, maintaining monopoly production, and keeping market forces at bay. However, with the establishment of a national market, the regional monopolies were broken. Henceforth, market forces began to dictate patterns of trade, fundamentally affecting all aspects of production, consumption and pricing of goods.

The emergence of Capitalism

Capitalism started to emerge during the 17th Century. At first the merchants, or “buyer uppers”, as they became known, were a link between the consumer and producer. However, gradually, they began to dominate the latter, first by placing orders and paying in advance, then by supplying the raw materials, and paying a wage for the work done in producing finished goods.

The concept of a waged worker signalled a crucial stage in the development of capitalism. Its introduction was the final stage in the “buyer uppers” transition from merchant, (making money from trade), to capitalist (deriving wealth from the ownership and control of the means of production). The first stage of capitalism had come into being. This stage saw one new class, the primitive capitalists, exerting power over another new class, the waged workers.

Early capitalism also engendered new methods of production. The earliest was the ‘cottage industry’, which saw individual homes become mini-factories, with production directed by the capitalist. The cottage industry model became so widespread in the woollen textile industry that it became a method of mass production. In turn, the wool trade became Britain’s most important industry by the end of the 17th Century.

Importantly, the hundred-year transition from feudalism to primitive capitalism had strong state support. The regionally based feudal economies and the power of the aristocracy ran counter to the interests of this alliance between capitalism and the increasingly centralised state. The state gained the wealth it desperately needed to maintain its growing bureaucracy and standing army, by tapping into capitalism through taxes, customs, duties and state loans. In return, it conquered colonies, fought for dominance of the world’s markets, and took measures against foreign competition and the power of the aristocracy. Such measures included bans on the import of manufactured goods, restrictions on the export of raw materials destined for competitors, and tax concessions on the import of raw materials. Restrictions on exporting raw materials hit the aristocracy particularly hard as agricultural produce is, by its very nature, raw materials. Thus, bureaucrats and capitalists defeated the aristocracy - though a section did survive the transition from feudalism by forming an alliance with the new capitalists.

It is worth noting here that the alliance between the state and capitalism occurred across Europe, though in different forms.instance, in Germany, where capitalism was much less developed and therefore weaker, the more powerful state was able to exercise much more control. This was an early indication of the development of the social market in Germany under which the state has much more power. In Britain, capitalism was much more developed and so was able to exert much more influence, leading to the development of the free market system, under which the state has far less influence.

Social impact of capitalism

The establishment of capitalism was a time of upheaval and bitter struggles between new and old power-brokers. At the same time, the mass of the population were dragged unwillingly into an increasingly violent conditioning process. The new capitalists needed to be able to exert ever more pressure on their producers to produce more for less, so that the capitalists could maintain trading prices and increase profits. They looked to the state to ensure pressure was brought to bear on workers who, for the first time, were being forced to sell their labour in an increasingly competitive work environment, which was itself aggravated by the swollen ranks of the new landless and unemployed. Laws were passed setting a rate for the maximum wage payable to peasants. The aim of all this brutal legislation was to turn the dispossessed into a disciplined obedient class of wage workers who, for a pittance, would offer up their labour to the new capitalism. The state also clamped down on beggars, whose ranks were swollen by dispossessed peasants and ruined craftsmen. Able- bodied vagabonds were lashed or branded with red-hot irons, while persistent vagrants were liable to execution.

The problem of creating a disciplined and regimented workforce should not be underestimated. Viewed from our advanced modern industrial perspective, submitting to the routine of going to work daily, for a set number of hours, usually inside a building, appears the norm. From the perspective of 16th and 17th Century peasants, however, this routine would have been alien. The working day under a pre- capitalist agrarian system would have been shaped by hours of light and hours of darkness, as most work took place out of doors. The intensity and length of labour was dictated by seasonal considerations, such as planting or harvest periods. Similarly, holiday periods, even those marked by the Church, were seasonally derived and often based on ancient pagan festivals. The number and extent of these holidays helped define and shape the working year up until the Reformation during the 16th Century, it is estimated that around 165 days a year, excluding Sundays, were given over to celebrations and festivals. .

The Rise of Manufacturing

The spread of capitalism meant that the feudal economic system and the power of the aristocracy was in terminal decline by the late 17th Century. The establishment of mass production, based on the cottage industry, meant England was well on the way to becoming a capitalist and industrially-based society. As the 18th Century progressed, this transition was completed.

During the 18th Century, a primitive form of manufacturing developed, which differed from cottage production in that workers did not work from home, but rather from single premises, or factory, owned by the capitalist. However, this early manufacturing differed from its later form in that it still depended on human physical power with little use of machinery. As such, early 18th Century manufacturing can be seen as a link between domestic production, based on cottage industry, and capitalist production, based on the mechanised factory system.

At first, the move towards factory production was driven by cost. Centralised production spared capitalists the cost of distributing raw materials to individual workers. Further, as the factory system developed, it soon became clear that it gave capitalism much greater control over the workforce, establishing tighter organisation of work and workers and thus higher productivity.

Keeping production under one roof also meant the possibility of speeding it up by breaking the process down into planned stages. This entailed workers specialising in one particular component of the production process. Within this new system, the worker’s role was reduced to repeating the same monotonous task over and over. This led to gains by the capitalist because of the greater speed of the production process and the better quality of the goods. Importantly, this division of labour into separate tasks significantly transformed the nature of work. It effectively de-skilled craftsmen and women who had been trained to produce finished goods by participating in the process of production from beginning to end and arguably, removing the sense of meaningfulness inherent in being present in the whole process of production to the point of completion.

These transformations, of the place and nature of work, lead to yet another fundamental change in social relations. Society rapidly evolved into two clearly defined social classes, the industrial capitalist and the waged worker. Capitalists broke their remaining links with their merchant past, giving up their commercial role to concentrate on organising the production process. Their sole source of income was profit, gained from the exploitation of the labour of the emerging working class.

Working class life also changed dramatically under the factory system. Even under the cottage industry system workers had had some independence. Owning their own basic tools and cultivating a plot of land enabled them to subsidise their income. This, and the fact that they worked unsupervised from home, gave them some degree of autonomy and control. In the factory, any semblance of autonomy was lost completely. Workers had to work a specific number of hours under the direct supervision of the capitalist, who owned the more specialised tools. With no land or tools to earn extra income from, workers became totally dependent on their ability to sell their labour. Thus, a clearly defined working class was emerging, separated totally from even limited control of the means of production. The wage slave had been born. New social relations within the factory also developed. With the division of labour it was necessary for someone to co-ordinate the actions of many workers. The job of overseer, or foreman, came into being, separate from the rest of the skilled workers. Also, as production was increasingly simplified, the unskilled worker came into the process a concept which had never before existed. Though the creation of the primitive factory system did greatly increase productivity, the savings made were not enough to entirely eliminate cottage industries, which still had many advantages.

Under the cottage system, the capitalist did not have to pay for a factory and its upkeep. Wages could be kept to a minimum, as cottage labourers paid for much of their own upkeep through growing their own food and working on their own behalf. As a result, production was often integrated, with the first and last parts of the process based in the factory, and the intermediate parts done by cottage labourers. Through such developments, manufacturing grew out of the cottage industry in Britain. This contrasted with the rest of Europe, where the state generally remained stronger, and attempted to introduce manufacturing by planning, providing factories and recruiting the workforce. For example, in France, capitalism was far more state-directed, and this remains the case today.

The needs of capitalism changed as factory production developed and the state was again enlisted to ensure continued expansion. Under existing apprenticeship laws, the right to engage independently in industry was only granted to men who had served a seven-year apprenticeship and who were members of a guild. This severely limited the number of workers that could be hired, which hampered the spread of factory production. At first, manufacturers by-passed guild regulations by setting up in rural areas and new towns where the guild system didn’t operate and by investing in new industries not covered by guilds. However, as capitalism expanded, calls for an unregulated free labour market grew. The state responded by sweeping away the remaining restrictive guild regulations, bringing their power to an end. It also undermined the practice of local Justices of the Peace setting minimum wage levels. The free market form of British capitalism demanded and got a completely deregulated, unprotected workforce that it could then exploit to the full.

Capitalism developed quicker in Britain and was far more ‘productive’ than elsewhere - it produced more goods more cheaply. This brought calls from British capitalists for international free trade and for an end to protectionism. So, after centuries of building up the economy behind barriers to foreign competition, Britain suddenly decided that protectionism is an abomination. This tactic has been used since by all advanced capitalist countries including the US, Germany and Japan. Current attempts by the developed nations to force underdeveloped nations to open their borders to free trade under so-called free trade agreements should be viewed in this light.

The laws originally brought in by the state to protect the interests of capitalism against foreign competition were now a barrier, preventing the more dynamic sectors of British industry, most notably the cotton and metal trades, from exploiting overseas markets. By the late 18th Century, calls for free trade had gained widespread currency, particularly with the publication, in 1776, of Adam Smith’s The Wealth Of Nations. These laissez faire free market ideas, upon which British capitalism developed, still dominate the British ruling elite’s thinking, and helps explain why the Thatcherite free market “revolution” occurred in Britain in the 1980s, rather than elsewhere.

The Industrial Revolution

By the early 1770s, the economic and social conditions were in place for the industrial revolution to explode on to the world’s economies. Powered by a number of new inventions, the primitive factory system was transformed, as machine power drove productivity to unprecedented levels. With the factories transformed by the new machinery, the cottage industries could not possibly compete and soon collapsed. Between the 1770s and the 1830s, there was a boom in factory production with all manner of buildings being converted into factories and the majority of waged labour taking place within factory buildings.

It would be over-simplistic, however, to see the industrial revolution merely as a result of the invention of machines that replaced many workers. As we have seen, the social relations needed for the industrial revolution to take place had taken centuries to evolve. Without the factory system, these inventions would have been meaningless. In the first place, the machinery introduced into the work places of late eighteen and early nineteenth century England was specifically intended for factories, as they had developed within the economic and social conditions of the time. In this sense, we can see that these inventions themselves were largely products of a particular context within history. In addition, it should be noted that the invention of machines to aid production was hardly new. Under feudalism their introduction had been opposed by the guilds, often violently, with the audacious inventor occasionally being put to death. For example, the Ripon loom was banned in the 16th Century after guild opposition. But the demise of the guilds meant the way was opened for the introduction of all manner of labour-saving inventions. The water wheel, the blast furnace, pumping machines for mines, improved transmission of power through cog-wheels and fly-wheels, were just a few of the innovations which paved the way for the industrial revolution.

Given the pre-conditions for the development of capitalist industry, it is hardly surprising that the industrial revolution first took off in the cotton industry. Cotton production only appeared in Britain in the late 17th Century and was free of any guild restrictions. Further, it had to compete with the well-established woollen industry.

Both these factors encouraged higher productivity, resulting in the invention of the spinning jenny in the 1730s, followed by the mule, followed by the mechanical loom.

However, it was not until the invention of the steam engine that the industrial revolution truly took off. Steam power replaced human power, first in the cotton and metal industries, then throughout the rest of industry. This explosion in productive power transformed Britain’s economy. As productivity increased, so the prices of manufactured goods plummeted, stimulating demand for British goods across the world. As a result, the value of British exports rose from £15million in 1760 to £59million in 1805. This new wealth, however, was not experienced by the workers whose labour had made it possible. Abroad, these were the black slaves upon whose backs the cotton industry in Lancashire grew and prospered. In Britain, it was concentrated amongst the few, capitalists who owned the means of production and ‘bought’ with capitalist-dictated wages, the labour of the workers.

It is important to note that ownership of the ‘means of production’ at this stage in the development of industrial capitalism meant not only the ownership of factories, machinery and the power to invest or withhold capital, but also the means of the production of knowledge. Capitalists who owned newspapers, for example, could exert great political influence to protect their own interests. Ownership of a newspaper meant not only the direct control of print workers, distributors and sellers, but control over the transmission of information. This could, for instance, extend to direct or indirect political influence through specific politicians or parties. It might also extend and protect capitalist interests by the spread of ideology and, less subtly, blatant propaganda.

Within the conditions engendered by the industrial revolution, workers faced up to eighteen hours a day in the factories and horrific living conditions in the “booming” manufacturing towns. The brutality of the new capitalist system is perhaps best summed up by its treatment of children. Women workers, from the onset of the industrial revolution, were used as cheap labour, while retaining child- raising responsibilities. With nowhere to leave children, women had little choice but to bring them to work. It was not long before they were seen by capitalism as an even cheaper source of labour. By the early 1800s, children as young as five could be found working up to twenty hours a day down mines, with conditions little better above ground in the factories. Orphanages systematised this slavery, handing over a steady stream of children to factory owners.

Along with terrible living and working conditions, wages fell in real terms, due to rocketing corn prices caused by the Napoleonic wars. In response to the rise in corn prices, and with an eye on the main chance, large farmers and the aristocracy rushed to grow wheat on every available patch of land. This caused the enclosure of yet more “common” land, emptying the countryside of ever-greater numbers of peasant farmers, and driving them into the misery of the industrial cities. This conclusive chapter in rural clearance completed the centuries-old process of transforming Britain from a feudal agricultural society into the world’s first capitalist industrial society. Demographic statistics of the period are extremely illuminating in 1750 some 90% of the population of England lived in the countryside. By the time of the 1851 census the number of people living in urban settlements was greater than those living rurally.


A brief look at the history of the economic and social conditions that pre-dated the industrial revolution shows that capitalism did not arise from the efforts of a few inventors causing an industrial revolution, nor because British capitalists had some special “enterprising spirit”. It arose from the systematic breakdown of feudalism as a social and economic system and the imposition of a wage labour system in its place.

Sadly, capitalists and state bureaucrats copied the ‘success’ of industrialisation across the western world, as they sought to cash in on the huge wealth enjoyed by the new British ruling class. The capitalist system, based on the exploitation of the working class, soon spread to Europe, and as we will see, to the rest of the world. Presently, capitalism, alongside its essential partner institutions of sexism, racism and homophobia, dominates the global economy, continuing to inform and maintain the social relations within it. The now-familiar pattern of economic success being measured by which country or capitalist can extract the most profit from the workers under their control has its origins in the transition of Britain from a feudal society.

We will see in the next Unit, that the coming of capitalism has, somewhat paradoxically, also brought with it the potential for workers to organise for change. Though capitalism brought with it untold misery, ordinary people were far from passive victims in the face of exploitation. Instead, they sought to resist capitalism, giving birth to the idea of an alternative world, free from exploitation and misery. In the remainder of this course, we will trace that resistance, and the struggle for a new world, and how such ideas developed into the theory and practice that came to be known as anarcho-syndicalism.

Key points

  • Present –day capitalism arose from the systematic breakdown of one social and economic system (feudalism) based on obligation, and the rise of another social and economic system (capitalism) based on wage labour
  • Until the end of the eighteenth-century, the work experience of the labouring population in England was predominantly agrarian-based but by the mid-nineteenth-century was predominantly urban
  • Colonialism, involving the establishment of national trading monopolies, began with merchants and state chasing the wealth created by foreign trade and led to several wars over exploited foreign territory, over four centuries
  • Changes in the economy in England led to changes in social relations
  • The industrial revolution began in England and came about as a result of changes in economic and social relations
  • The present-day model of the capitalist exploitation of labour for profit has its origins in the transition of Britain from feudalism to capitalism


  1. When and how did the breakdown of the feudal economy begin in England?
  2. What are the common features of the peasant evictions of 16th century and the land enclosures of the 18 th century?
  3. What are the main differences between the work experience of the labouring population of England before and after the end of the 18th Century?
  4. What was the first stage of capitalism and how did this come about?
  5. How did the primitive form of manufacturing that developed during the 18 th century differ from cottage production? How did it differ from later developments?
  6. What were the main effects on the nature of work of the factory system of the early nineteenth-century?
  7. What is meant by ‘protectionism’ and why did capitalists call for it to end in the late eighteenth-century?

Answer suggestions

1. When and how did the breakdown of the feudal economy begin in England?

A major cause of the shift away from the feudal system was the increase in foreign trade around the beginning of the sixteenth- century. As well as leading to the creation of a class of merchant capitalists, the growth in foreign trade promoted the use of money and produced inflation. This came about mainly through the aristocracy’s money-making schemes of direct trading of agricultural goods or renting out land all undertaken in order to attain money to buy foreign goods. In addition, the purchase of locally produced goods for export by the merchant capitalists enforced competition between craftsmen in a national market, thus breaking the regional monopolies and the power of the guilds. After this, market forces dictated all aspects of trade.

2. What do the peasant evictions of 16 century and the land enclosures of the 18 century have in common?

The peasant evictions of the 16th century came about because the gentry began to rent out land to a new class of large-scale farmers, in order to make enough money to buy the new foreign luxury goods that were flooding Britain and Europe. Peasants who had hitherto been tied to the land were driven off and left without shelter or subsistence. The enclosures of the 18 th century came about because large farmers and the aristocracy wanted to grow as much wheat as they could in order to profit from the huge price rise in corn caused by the Napoleonic Wars. Common land was enclosed which meant that peasant farmers were thrown off and were prohibited from cultivating or keeping animals on this land. In both cases, the economic greed of the powerful classes have resulted in deprivation for the labouring classes.

3. What are the main differences between the work experience of the labouring population of England before and after the end of the eighteen-century?

Prior to the onset of the industrial revolution, most work was land-based, took place out of doors and was dictated by hours of light and darkness and the seasons. The production of goods was often seen through from beginning to end by the same worker. After the onset of the industrial revolution, when the factory system evolved,

labour took place by the clock, mostly indoors and was repetitive and monotonous, one worker being responsible for one part of the process of manufacture. Other differences include the wage system, the place of work, conditions and the move from the countryside to the towns and cities. It can be noted that, while the changes were sweeping as a whole, there were many variations across the country.

4. What was the first stage of capitalism and how did this come about?

The first stage of capitalism came about during the 17th century, when merchants gradually became more involved in the production of goods by supplying materials and paying wages. The merchant made the transition to capitalism by making profits from the ownership and control of the means of production. This is considered to be the first stage of capitalism.

5. How did the primitive form of manufacturing that developed during the 18 century differ from cottage production? How did it differ from later developments?

The main difference between cottage production and the primitive form of manufacturing that developed during the 18th century is in the location of work. In the new system, workers did not work from home but from a premises (factory) owned by the capitalist. This new form of manufacturing differed from the later factory system in that it still relied very much on human physical power and skill and involved little machinery.

6. What were the main effects of the factory system on the nature of work in the early nineteenth-century?

The main effects were to lengthen the working day, and the number of days spent in work, to create a new class of ‘overseer’ separate from the majority of the workers, and sweep away guild regulation. It ended the practice of local wage setting and drew the labouring classes into the horrific conditions of the new industrial towns. Workers became totally dependant on their ability to sell their labour and the working class emerged as a category of people who were separated from even limited control of the means of production. You may have found many other changes from your reading and thinking around the implications of the sweeping changes wrought by the factory system of the early nineteenth-century.

7. What is meant by ‘protectionism’ and why did capitalists call for it to end in the late eighteenth-century?

Protectionism is an economic system that protects home producers by way of tariffs to foreign imports and services. Once capitalism had developed in Britain and it became the world’s dominant economic power it was producing more goods cheaply and needed to open and exploit overseas markets. This meant a call for international free trade and an end to the tariffs. Paradoxically, these had been originally set up to protect capitalists from foreign competition, but they became a barrier to increased profits for the big British capitalists.

Some discussion points

  • In which ways can studying the early history of capitalism in Britain help us to understand the present-day working of capitalism?
  • What have you learned about the nature of history as it is generally offered during the course of studying this unit?
  • Was the development of capitalism inevitable?

Further Reading

Specifically for this Unit, there are very few good books which cover the period in question and give any real weight to the issues facing the working class and how they dealt with them. However, there are many general history texts which do cover the period, although they invariably understate the level of working class organisation and activity. Try searching your local library.

I. I. Rubin. A History of Economic Thought. Pluto. ISBN 0745 303013. -LI- -BS-

Rubin, a Russian Bolshevik, first wrote this in the 1920s (he was subsequently executed by Stalin for questioning Soviet economic policy). Though clearly marxist-determinist, this remains a very useful background to the rise of capitalism.

K. Marx. Capital. various reprints available. -LI- -BS-

In the original, Marx is not an easy read, and this is no exception. However, it is detailed and was written sooner after the events than most books available today.

L. Spencer & A. Krauze. Enlightenment For Beginners. Icon. ISBN 1874 166560. £8.99 -BS- -LI-

Accessible (with pictures!) and modern (so available) commentary on the closing days of feudalism and the transition to capitalism. Classical perspective, and rather light on the labour movements of the era.

E. P. Thompson. Customs In Common. -LI-

A homage to pre-capitalist society, with some good accounts of early resistance to the first signs of capitalism.

Note: The further reading outlined is not designed to be an exhaustive bibliography or a prescriptive list. It is designed to provide some pointers for the reader who is interested in taking the topics raised in this Unit further. There will be many useful sources which are not listed here, and some of those which are listed may be difficult to obtain. To assist Course Members, an indication is given alongside each reference as to how best to obtain it. The codes are as follows: -LI- try libraries (from local to university), -AK- available from AK Distribution under Course Member discount scheme (order through SelfEd), -BS- try good bookshops, -SE- ask SelfEd about loans or offprints).

Factories in the Industrial Revolution

Richard Arkwright is the person credited with being the brains behind the growth of factories. After he patented his spinning frame in 1769, he created the first true factory at Cromford, near Derby.

This act was to change Great Britain. Before very long, this factory employed over 300 people. Nothing had ever been seen like this before. The domestic system only needed two to three people working in their own home. By 1789, the Cromford mill employed 800 people. With the exception of a few engineers in the factory, the bulk of the work force were essentially unskilled. They had their own job to do over a set number of hours. Whereas those in the domestic system could work their own hours and enjoyed a degree of flexibility, those in the factories were governed by a clock and factory rules.

Edmund Cartwright’s power loom ended the life style of skilled weavers. In the 1790’s, weavers were well paid. Within 30 years many had become labourers in factories as their skill had now been taken over by machines. In 1813, there were only 2,400 power looms in Britain. by 1850, there were 250,000.

Factories were run for profit. Any form of machine safety guard cost money. As a result there were no safety guards. Safety clothing was non-existant. Workers wore their normal day-to-day clothes. In this era, clothes were frequently loose and an obvious danger.

Children were employed for four simple reasons :

there were plenty of them in orphanages and they could be replaced easily if accidents did occur they were much cheaper than adults as a factory owner did not have to pay them as much they were small enough to crawl under machinery to tie up broken threads they were young enough to be bullied by ‘strappers’ – adults would not have stood for this

Some factory owners were better than others when it came to looking after their work force. Arkwright was one of these. He had some harsh factory rules (such as workers being fined for whistling at work or looking out of the window) but he also built homes for his work force, churches and expected his child workers to receive a basic amount of education. Other owners were not so charitable as they believed that the workers at their factories should be grateful for having a job and the comforts built by the likes of Arkwright did not extend elsewhere.

At the time when the Industrial Revolution was at its height, very few laws had been passed by Parliament to protect the workers. As many factory owners were Members of Parliament or knew MP’s, this was likely to be the case. Factory inspectors were easily bribed as they were so poorly paid. Also there were so few of them, that covering all of Britain’s factories would have been impossible.

Factories rarely kept any records of the ages of children and adults who worked for them. As employment in cities could be difficult to get, many people did lie about their age – and how could the owner know any better ? Under this system, children in particular suffered.

Indian Treaties and Removal — 1780-1840

Trade was not the only issue bringing Indians and whites into conflict.

For two generations, United States policy struggled with the status and rights of the Native Americans in the frontier regions.

The initial purpose and intention of negotiations between the United States and the Indian nations supposedly was to protect the tribes in the northwest territories from the incursions of rapidly expanding white settlement. It was for that reason the government imposed boundaries and placed restrictions on travel and commercial intercourse with the natives. To ensure proper implementation and enforcement, local Indian agencies were established in the Indian Country. Indiana's office was opened in 1802 at Fort Wayne with William Wells and John Johnston as agents. In 1825, John Tipton secured the removal of the office to Logansport where it was closer to the concentration of Indians.

The fundamental principles pursued by the federal program and the local agencies were: protecting Indian rights to their lands controlling the liquor traffic providing for punishment for crimes against the Indians and promoting education and civilization among the Indians in hope of eventual assimilation into American society. These concepts appeared as federal laws (the Trade and Intercourse Acts) between 1790 and 1834.

There were numerous treaties which directly affected the formation of the Indiana Territory and eventually the state itself.

In each case, the negotiated settlement resulted in a major cession of Indian land, which slowly carved away the landed possessions of the long-time inhabitants of the region in return for guaranteed land to the west, perpetual annuity payments, supplies, and other sundry items.

Clarks Grant of 1783 was the first incursion into the Indiana region.

This land, totaling some 150,000 acres, was awarded to George Rogers Clark and his soldiers who served against the British in the Revolutionary War.

The Treaty of Greenville, signed August 3, 1795, essentially established a boundary between the Indian and white civilizations, thereby protecting the Indian Country against incursions by white settlers. The line opened nearly two-thirds of the Ohio region and a sliver of southeastern Indiana to white settlement and confined the Indians to the north and west. The tribes received approximately $20,000 in goods, with annual payments valued at $9,500.

The Treaty of Fort Wayne (1803) was arranged by Gov. William Henry Harrison to resolve Indian complaints, to establish guidelines for the region, and to prepare for the eventual cession of Indian lands. By this agreement, the Potawatomies and other tribes transferred the lands in question to the federal government. This was done at the direction of President Thomas Jefferson who had asked Harrison to obtain title to as much land as possible, even if it meant placing the Indians in financial debt to the government through the "factory system." (Esarey, Messages of Harrison, 1:76-84)

William Henry Harrison, 1813
(National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution)

The Treaty of Vincennes (1804) with the Delawares and Piankeshaws ceded Indian lands in the extreme southern portion of the Indiana region along the Ohio River.

The Treaty of Grouseland (1805) granted the entire southeastern section of Indiana to the United States in return for complete assurances for Indian sovereignty in the northwestern territories.

The Treaty of Fort Wayne (1809), also known as "Harrison's Purchase," concluded with the Delawares, Potawatomies, and Miamis, ceded a large segment of land above the earlier Fort Wayne cession of 1803, and a narrow strip of land along the eastern border adjacent to the Greenville cession.

The treaty process in Indiana was dormant for eight years, but resumed with the Treaty of Wyandots in 1817. This covered a large portion of the State of Ohio and also affected northeastern Indiana with cession of land between the St. Mary's and St Joseph's rivers as far north as Fort Wayne.

The most significant and far-reaching treaties were those negotiated in September and October of 1818 at St. Mary's, Ohio. Commissioners signed these pacts with the Potawatomies, Weas, Delawares, and Miamis. In essence, the agreements provided for the complete cession of the middle third of Indiana in return for compensations, annuities, and some individual land grants. Only in the cases of the Miamis and the Weas did the treaties specify land grants to the tribes in the case of the Delawares, the government promised specific western territories and allowed the Indians to remain on their present lands until 1821. Why the treaties forced the consolidation of some tribes onto reservations and required others to leave is not known.

The treaties concluded between 1821 and 1832 at Chicago, Mississinewa, Carey Mission, and Tippecanoe focused on the lands in northern Indiana. In the 1826 negotiations of the Mississinewa agreements, the Miamis and Potawatomies were further isolated on reservations in the north-central part of the state and provided with hunting rights on their ceded lands.

The treaties of 1834, 1838, and 1840 completed the efforts of the United States government to remove the Indian population from the state of Indiana. In the 1834 parleys, the Indians ceded portions of the reserved land given to them in earlier treaties and were allowed to remain for a period of three years they were then relocated across the Mississippi to present-day Iowa and Missouri. According to the Miami treaties of November 6, 1838 and November 28, 1840, the tribe ceded all lands south of the Wabash River called the "residue of the Big Reserve," which essentially constituted all the remaining Indian lands in Indiana.

While the process of negotiating treaties continued throughout the early decades of the 19th century, it did not reflect a formally established governmental policy. Only by way of the Indian Removal Act of 1830 was the president officially allowed to extinguish "as he may judge necessary" title to any lands occupied by the Indians in exchange for lands to the west. Andrew Jackson implemented this policy because he believed that Indians could not exist as independent enclaves within the states. Rather than leaving the Indians to the mercies of the separate states, Jackson opted for an accelerated treaty process which cleared the western territories of the slowly vanishing Native American.

The attitude governing the entire Indian removal was one of expressing the common belief that this land was inherently reserved for white civilization. As Noble said, "it is universally admitted that the earth was designed for improvement and tillage, and the right of civilized communities to enter upon and appropriate to such purposes, any lands that may be occasionally occupied or claimed as hunting grounds by uncultivated savages, is sanctioned by the laws of nature and of nations" (Noble Messages, December 4, 1832, p. 139-140).

Within eight years, Noble and other advocates of Indian removal succeeded in clearing the "white man's rightful lands."

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