In 1783 the English carriage-builders, who had before been considered inferior in elegance to the French makers, began to receive large orders from Paris itself. In 1759 Walter Taylor and son introduced machinery for cutting blocks, sheaves, and pins for ships. Saw-mills were also introduced into Great Britain, in 1767, by Mr. Dingley, of Limehouse.

At the period at which we have now arrived France was in a state of the wildest and most awful convulsion. A revolution had broken out, more terrible and furious than had ever yet appeared in the history of nations. The French people, so long trodden down by their princes, their aristocracy, and their clergy, and reduced to a condition of wretchedness and of ignorant brutality, almost unparalleled, seizing the opportunity of the distresses of the impoverished Government, and encouraged by a new race of philosophers who preached up the equality of the human race, had broken through their ancient subserviency, and were pulling down all the old constituted powers, ranks, and distinctions, with a rapidity which electrified the whole world. The first steamboat that was worked for hire in Britain was the Comet, a small vessel with an engine of three horse-power. Two years later the Elizabeth, of eight horse-power, and the Clyde, of fourteen horse-power, were placed upon the river Clyde. Thus Scotland has had the honour of leading the way in this great line of improvement. In 1820 there were but three steam-vessels built and registered in England, four in Scotland, and one in Ireland. In 1826 there were fifty in England, and twenty-two in Scotland, with 9,000 tons burden. The building of steamers proceeded regularly, with an increasing amount of tonnage, till the number rose in 1849 to 1,296 steam-vessels, the aggregate burden of which was 177,310 tons. They were distributed as follows:In the ports of England, 865 vessels, 103,154 tons; Scotland, 166 vessels, 29,206 tons; Ireland, 111 vessels, 26,369 tons; the Channel Islands, 7 vessels, 955 tons; the colonies, 147 vessels, 17,626 tons. A Committee of the House of Commons was appointed in June, 1837, to inquire into the best means of establishing communication by steam with India by way of the Red Sea. During the year arrangements were made for the establishment of a regular monthly steam communication between Great Britain and India by way of the Red Sea upon the following basis:"The Government undertakes the transmission of the monthly mails between Great Britain and Alexandria at the sole charge of the public; and the East India Company undertakes the transmission of these[422] mails between Alexandria and Bombay, upon condition that one-half of the expense incurred in the purchase and navigation of steam-vessels, and of any other expense incurred in the service, is defrayed by the Government, which is to receive the whole money connected with postage of letters between London and Bombay." This arrangement was carried out, and a further economy of time was obtained by the overland route to Marseilles, instead of transmitting the mails by steam-packets from Falmouth through the Strait of Gibraltar. In this way the journey was shortened to the extent of more than 1,000 miles, the direct distance by Marseilles and Malta being 5,238 miles, and by way of Falmouth, 6,310 miles. This system of conveyance was maintained till 1841, when the Government entered into a contract with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, which undertook to employ powerful steam-vessels for the carrying of letters and passengers between England and Egypt, and between Suez, Ceylon, Madras, and Calcutta, towards the expenses of which the East India Company undertook to contribute 20,000 per annum for five years. After some time there was a further extension of the plan, by which the Government engaged to contribute 50,000 per annum towards the expense of the line of steam-packets between Bombay and Suez, 115,000 per annum for the service between Calcutta and Suez, and 45,000 for the service between Ceylon and Hong Kong, making a total of 210,000 per annum, of which one-third was to be repaid by the East India Company. By these arrangements was obtained a regular and safe steam communication twice a month to India, and once a month to China. We may judge of the extent of the intercourse thus carried on by the fact that in 1836 Great Britain received from Calcutta, Madras, Bombay, and Ceylon about 180,000 letters, and sent to those places in the same year nearly 112,000 letters.

The spring of 1720 was a period of remarkable national prosperity. But "the grand money schemes projected of late," which appeared to the Jacobite Atterbury and others calculated to cement the royal peace and strengthen the foundation[46] of the Government and nation, were destined to produce a very different effect. For the South Sea Bubble was about to burst. In 1711, Harley, being at his wits' end to maintain the public credit, established a fund to provide for the National Debt, which amounted to ten millions of pounds. To defray the interest he made permanent the duties on wine, vinegar, and tobacco, etc. To induce the purchase of the Government stock, he gave to the shareholders the exclusive privilege of trading to the Spanish settlements in South America, and procured them an Act of Parliament and a royal charter, under the name of the South Sea Company. The idea, hollow and groundless as it was, seized on the imagination of the most staid and experienced traders. All the dreams of boundless gold which haunted the heads of the followers of Drake and Raleigh were revived. The mania spread through the nation, and was industriously encouraged by the partisans of Harley. But this stupendous dream of wealth was based on the promises of Ministers, who at the Peace of Utrecht were to secure from the Government of Spain this right to trade to its colonies. The right was never granted by that haughty and jealous Power, further than for the settlement of some few factories, and the sending of one small ship annually of less than five hundred tons. This, and the Assiento, or privilege of supplying those colonies with African slaves, were the sole advantages obtained, and these were soon disturbed by the war with Spain, which broke out under Alberoni. The South Sea Company, however, from its general resources, remained a flourishing corporation, and was deemed the rival of the Bank of England.

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Had this Bill been frankly accepted by Ministers, it would have gone far to heal the rupture between the mother country and her colonies. The Earl of Dartmouth, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, proposed that the Bill should lie on the table for deliberation. The Duke of Grafton complained of the manner in which the Bill had been hurried into the House, and, as Chatham in his reply observed, showed every disposition to hurry it as quickly out again. The friends of the Duke of Bedford, who had joined the administration, exhibited the most rancorous disposition towards America. The chief of these, Lord Sandwich, declared that he never could believe this Bill was the work of any British peer, but rather of an American, and he looked full at Dr. Franklin, who was leaning on the bar. He declared the Americans to be in actual rebellion; that they were not troubling themselves about mere words and nice distinctions; that they were aiming at independence, and nothing else. The Bedford party carried the day, and the Bill was rejected by sixty-one votes against thirty-two.

The silk trade received a great impulse by the erection of a silk-mill at Derby, in 1719, by John Lombe and his brothers. Lombe had smuggled himself into a silk-mill in Italy, as a destitute workman, and had then copied all the machinery. To prevent the operation of this new silk factory in Englandwhich was worked by a water-wheel on the river Derwent, had 97,746 wheels, movements, and individual parts, and employed three hundred personsthe King of Sardinia prohibited the exportation of the raw material, and thus, for a time, checked the progress of the manufacture. Parliament voted Sir Thomas Lombe[167] 14,000 as a compensation for loss of profits thus occasioned, on condition that the patent, which he had obtained for fourteen years, should expire, and the right to use the machinery should be thrown open to the public. By the middle of this period our silk manufactures were declared superior to those of Italy, and the tradesmen of Naples recommended their silk stockings as English ones. In 1755 great improvements were introduced by Mr. Jedediah Strutt in the stocking-loom of Lee.