Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 02.djvu/97

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Arkwright
Arkwright
85

contradictory. He asserted that he had made rollers for spinning in 1767 on the principle of the one set going faster than the other, but confessedly they must have been incapable of performing the operation of spinning, for he admitted that it was not till 1769—that is the year after Arkwright removed to Nottingham—that he had hit on the contrivance of having the one roller fluted and the other covered with leather, a contrivance without which it was impossible that a machine constructed on Arkwright's principles could work. Further, none of the machines by which Highs asserted that he had spun cotton as an experiment were ever produced, and on this ground alone Arkwright—if it be merely a question between his word and that of Highs—must be held to possess the preferable claim to the invention. It has been argued in error that Arkwright misdescribed his occupation in his first patent, but as a matter of fact he merely described himself there as ‘of the town of Nottingham in the county of Nottingham,’ nor was any trade mentioned in his second patent. A punctilious regard for the rights of inventors was not a characteristic trait of those among whom Arkwright lived, and he may not have considered himself very blameworthy in utilising the ideas of Highs, which, in the words of Highs, had not then ‘been brought to bear.’ At the same time, even if he were indebted to Highs at all, it may have been for nothing more than a knowledge of the invention of Lewis Paul [q.v.] , who had obtained a patent for spinning by rollers in 1738. So radically different, however, were the machines of Paul from that of Arkwright, that probably when the latter constructed it, he possessed no accurate knowledge of what had been done by Paul. Another of Paul's machines, patented in 1758, did not include spinning by rollers. (See drawing of Lewis Paul's spinning machine, patent 1758, in Baines's Cotton Manufacture, p. 139.)

The machine of Arkwright was adapted for roving by means of a revolving can which a witness asserted he had used in 1774, although, as it happened, the can had been made for him by two men in Arkwright's employment. For the process of carding additions and improvements of great ingenuity were affixed to the carding cylinder patented by Paul in 1748, transforming it into an entirely new machine. The most important of these were the crank and comb, said to have been used by Hargreaves, but which, according to the somewhat disputable opinion of Baines, Hargreaves stole from Arkwright (see Baines, Cotton Manufacture, p. 178); the perpetual revolving cloth called the feeder, said to have been used by John Lees, a quaker of Manchester, in 1772, but which Arkwright had undoubtedly used previously at Cromford; and filleted cards on the second cylinder which also must have been used by Arkwright in 1772, although a manufacturer named Wood claimed to have first used them in 1774 (see Ure, Cotton Manufacture, ii. 24). Indeed the whole of the complicated self-acting machinery which without the intervention of hand labour performed the different processes necessary to change raw cotton into thread suitable for warp, was substantially the invention of Arkwright; and while each separate machine was in itself a remarkable triumph of inventive skill, the construction of the whole series, and the adaptation of each to its individual function in the continuous succession of operations, must be regarded as an almost unique achievement in the history of invention.

It is from the construction of the mills of Arkwright that we may properly date the origin of the factory system, with its minute division of labour and the regular uninterrupted co-operation of numerous individuals in the different processes of machinery. In overcoming the prejudices of workers, in accustoming them to unremitting diligence during the stated hours of labour, in training them for their particular tasks and inducing them to conform to the regular celerity of the machinery, Arkwright displayed an energy and perseverance perhaps of a higher kind, if less rare, than that which enabled him to originate his inventions. His whole arrangements were framed with the utmost forethought and care, and from the beginning he enforced scrupulous cleanliness and the most systematic order. So admirable were his plans of management that they cannot be said to have yet been in any degree superseded, and their general adoption doubtless rendered the introduction of the factory system much smoother and easier than it would otherwise have been.

The prosperity of Arkwright suffered no serious check from the cancelling of his patents. His experience and extraordinary business capacity, and the start he had obtained, enabled him to retain an advantage over other manufacturers. ‘For several years he fixed the price of cotton twist, all other spinners conforming to his prices’ (Baines, Cotton Manufacture, p. 193). About 1784 Arkwright had visited Scotland, and assisted David Dale in planning the erection of the New Lanark mills, afterwards associated