The question is, why were the masters and the wholesalers so insistent upon pushing the payments to the weavers down to an absolute minimum? The amounts per weaver were very small. What happened arithmetically, was that the costs of weaving, in shillings per piece, were high. The hand-loom weavers were very inefficient in comparison with the spinning machinery, and thus the weekly payment to the weaver was divided by a small quantity of cloth. We see from the following table that the unit costs of the spinning operation were reduced to one-tenth from 1782/85 to 1826/30, in spite of the large increase in the wages of the spinning personnel; the unit weaving costs reduced by only a quarter.
Cost Components (deflated), printing cloth; (shillings per cloth)
(Harley, Prices and Profits, 2010, Table 2, p. 10)
“What proportion do the wages of the weavers of counterpanes and quilts bear to the value of the articles?” “Sometimes half; it depends upon the material of which they are made; upon the average about half.”
(Select Committee on Hand-Loom Weavers’ Petitions, 1834, p. 356, Mr. Thomas Myerscough, Manufacturer with hand-loom weavers, Bolton)
“Do you consider that wages form so small a portion of all the branches of manufacture with which you are connected, that they might be raised, so as to place the weaver in far better circumstances, without in any way injuring the trade?” “Yes, I do think so; for the wages in the branch in which I am engaged form only about three-eighths of the cost of the goods.”
(Select Committee on Hand-Loom Weavers’ Petitions, 1834, pp. 383, Mr. John Makin, Manufacturer, Bolton)