On the Justice and Policy of Repealing the Laws Prohibiting the Emigration of Artizans and the Exportation of Machinery.
The first part of the petition is relevant to the question of emigration of artisans and is in agreement with the act which repealed the previous law restricting the free movement of artisans. The petition describes the superiority of British artisans and their contributions to the commercial system. Acknowledgement is given to the necessity for regulations to insure continued prosperity but the petitioner believes that the repeal of the law preventing the emigration of artisans will not produce any injurious effects to individual manufacturers or to the system as a whole.
The second part of the petition argues against the proposed repeal of the law prohibiting the export of machinery. The petitioner states that the purpose of the law is "to secure for Great Britain the full benefit of its superiority and to prevent foreign nations, from improving their manufacturers and rivaling us by means of machinery procured from this country." France is viewed as a potential rival if parts and tools become legally available to French trade. The petition cites evidence from Thomas Ashton, a spinner and power loom manufacturer, on March 25, 1824 which supports the opinion that British factories would suffer if repair parts became unavailable because foreign orders depleted available supplies.
The petition concludes with the opinion that machinery, parts, and tools should not be allowed for export from Great Britain.
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Joseph Hume was appointed chairman of the Select Committee on Artizans and Machinery which began hearings in February 1824. Other members of the committee were Thomas Acland, Frankland Lewis, Peter Moore, and William Huskisson. The committee heard evidence from masters, workers, and other interested persons. When all the evidence had been heard, the committee concluded that the Combination Laws should be repealed and the law preventing artisans from working abroad should be removed. The repeal bills passed both Houses of Parliament in 1824.
The question of repealing the law regarding exportation of machinery was not settled as easily. On May 21, 1824, Hume reported that "the committee are of the opinion that further inquiry, and a more complete investigation, should take place ... and they therefore recommend, that the consideration of this important question be resumed in the next session of Parliament." On February 24, 1825, Hume presented a motion to the House of Commons to re-appoint another select committee to examine the laws respecting the export of tools and machinery. On March 14, 1825, The Select Committee on the Laws Relating to the Export of Tools and Machinery convened, chaired by Joseph Hume.
Apparently, some members of Parliament remained strongly opposed to allowing free exportation of parts and tools and believed that to do so would diminish England's pre-eminent position in the business of trade and manufacturing. In a House of Commons session on June 14, 1825, Edward Littleton presented a petition from residents of Nottingham which stated that repeal would be prejudicial to British manufacturers. On December 6, 1826, Littleton described a petition from the Manchester Chamber of Commerce which had been presented to the Board of Trade and contained "sound and practical arguments against indiscriminate exportation (of machinery)."
The parliamentary debates continued until March 3, 1841 when Mark Phillips was chosen to chair the Select Committee Appointed to Inquire into the Operation of the Existing Laws Affecting the Exportation of Machinery. In its final report on June 11, 1841, the committee recommended "that the law prohibiting the export of machinery should be repealed and the trade of machine-making be placed upon the same footing as other departments of British industry."
General Physical Description note
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