Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/175

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163
COTTON FIBRES AND FABRICS.

which is high-priced, the manufacturers make large use now of the wretched cottons of India, which are cheap, but which make a weak texture, mere cobweb. An appearance of firmness is given to these worthless fabrics by a liberal use of sizing, which deceives the eye; but, apply a little lye-water, and the material will be found to be mere lint.

The evil consequences flowing from the false principles which govern the manufacture of cotton are enormous, and it is time to apply a remedy. If Europe goes on thus, ever giving, and receiving from the United States nothing in return, our material prosperity will soon be at an end. The ladies of Austria would appear to stand alone in justly appreciating this danger, and have resolved to eschew cotton fabrics, and use linen in place of muslin. Let Europe follow their example; let muslin be banished from our households, and the immediate result will be, that Europe will stand at the head of civilized nations.

As it is at present carried on, the cotton industry is the opprobrium of humanity and the curse of Europe. Why is it that this manufacture has come to be regarded as a prime necessity of the civilized world? Simply because fashion has backed it, and preached it up: and fashion is a power before which we all bow in submission.

When Indian tapestries and those admirable Mosul textures were first imported into Europe, there arose a universal demand for them, nor could all the looms of the East furnish the supply required. In time the raw material was brought hither, and we spun and wove it by hand; we printed and dyed it. At first no evil consequences flowed from the new industry, because cotton goods, being yet too costly to be used by the poor, were bought only by the rich, who found them really cheap, on account of their great durability. It was only at the beginning of the present century that we first experienced the evils of which we here speak. Then it was that the invention of machinery for the manufacture of the raw material enabled cotton to drive all other textile fabrics out of the market, and forced on Europe the most deplorable of economies.

But our eyes are at last opened to see the calamities which threaten us, and there is now very little danger that this industry will expand any further. It has owed its past prosperity to frauds of the most consummate nature, and now it is undergoing a crisis which cannot fail to turn to the advantage of other textures, and from which it is not likely to recover. We have reason to rejoice at the fall of King Cotton; and now let us keep for Europe all its own resources, by purchasing only fabrics of hemp and flax, wool and silk, instead of muslin; thus shall we give a mighty impetus to home agriculture and home industry.

For certain purposes, however, cotton cloth is indispensable; thus printed fabrics will ever be of cotton, for no other textile fibre takes colors so well. This is due to the fact that cotton-fibre is flat, while