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During the Revolution, steered against the rich aristocrats and the monk, the Factory was felt, losing a big part of its clientele and rich shaped tissues were replaced by plain tissues, heightened by embroidery. In his turn, Napoleon helped this industry of Lyons. Of passage in Lyon, he visits the workshops of weaving mill. A silk trade which keeps the Historic Museum of Tissues gives this registration: " Made in the presence of the First Consul in Lyon the 26 Nivose An X ". The furniture storehouse will do for the manufacturers of Lyons of important orders for the imperial places of residence.

At the same moment, Gaspard Grégoire's famous velvet (portraits, decorations according to Raphaël, Greuze, Vien, David, Berjon) painted on the warp, are remarkable masterpieces of a professional skill and an accuracy.

From then on, the invention of Jacquard had allowed to divide the prices and to multiply the variety of the motives, reaching so a wider clientele. The Factory continued to adapt itself to the evolution of the market and its ascendancy was confirmed under the Second Empire, in the starting up of the heavy industry.

As we saw it, the mechanics Jacquard loom is given birth towards 1804 in Lyon by Joseph - Marie Jacquard ( 1752-1834 ). Son of silk worker, Jacquard , then 38 years old, tries from 1890 to invent a mechanism which would allow to raise automatically warp yarns. Till the end of the XVIII-th, the weaving mill of bound materials was made still completely in the hand.

Jacquard resumed for his works the inventions of Bouchon and Falcon, making from their "manual" automatism, a mechanical automatism. The first mechanics, patented in 1801, was perfected and finished by him in 1806. He is indeed so the inventor of the principle of the mechanics, but one forgets generally to honour the collaboration of Sckola and Breton who gave it the perfection that it achieved since.

The legend of Jacquard wants that during a public exhibition of the device, a group of silk workers cast hoofs (sabots) by resentment in the mechanics to destroy the mechanism of it. The word "sabotage" would have acquired a new meaning become a common use of it from 1831, during the Revolt of the Silk workers.

Indeed, one of the essential characteristics of the mechanics Jacquard loom, was that the only one of these loom killed the employment of the draw boys, who raised manually warp yarns.

It would be there only about a legend. In 1805, took place a public sale of loom models, gathered by Philippe de Lasalle. One aspired in twists that this sale, in which appeared a Jacquard loom had been ordered by the council of Industrial tribunal to satisfy the exasperation of the silk workers weavers against the unfortunate inventor. Now this can not be because the council of Industrial tribunal had no competence of such a public sale.

Maybe some dissatisfied silk workers, not seeing the advantages of the system, they threw some gibes, but this had not should go farther. It is what rereleases some report of an inquiry done by the director of the "Revue du Lyonnais" after the death of Jacquard. The likely purpose of the sale was simply to free the rooms of the "Palais Saint Pierre" where looms were exposed and to which one wanted to give another destination.

The Jacquard had the advantage to kill the preparation of "simples" and the preparation of cors, to kill the work of draw boys; the manipulation was simpler and its cost was twice lesser than that of the former loom.

This invention, coming half a century after the John Kay's first flying shuttle, remains the most spectacular innovation in the technique of the weaving mill, but also the most striking, as far as it was going to open the road to the mechanized industrial weaving mill, marking the end of for ever past time. However in 1810 three thousand Jacquard looms, in 1813 fourteen thousand Jacquard looms and in 1835 thirty thousand Jacquard looms beat at the rate of the heart of the laborious city. During the second exhibition of the products of the French industry, in the Year 9, Jacquard loom received only a bronze medal with the following mention: " Jacquard, of Lyon: inventor of a mechanism which kills in the manufacture of bound materials, the worker called a draw boy".

Contrary to the main rule, to Lyon, the weavers are men, women being employed on the works appendices as unwinding of the silk fleets, preparation of quills and espolins... painful and boring works. The feminine condition is not then attractive. In an article of the "Echo de la Fabrique" of Sunday , March 23, 1834, Jane Dubuisson, editor of the " Councillor of the women ", speaks to us about this poor condition.

How works Fabrique of Lyons? In 1830 it monopolizes the quasi-totality of a population of almost 150 000 inhabitants.

In the summit, eight hundred manufacturers who make absolutely nothing but content with buying the silk, with making it weave and to sell it. Taking no risk, they wait for the firm order of the customer before giving some work to the foremen. Haughty, little scrupulous, Reybaud sees them as agents rather than as manufacturers, very different from foremen considered as cheerful lads. For Audigamme, they are two races very different. The manufacturer is a hypocrite who pursues of her diligences the woman of the foreman who comes to take the silk or to bring back the rollers of weaved material. Because this baron of the industry does not hesitate to use its power to crush all the hesitations

Down, eight thousand foremen who possess the looms, quarrelling the work distributed by the manufacturer, their competition helping in the decline of the price of a way. They should make a weight of weaved material equal to the weight of the successful materials deducted from a certain percentage of accepted scrap. The risks and the expenses of the production are for them. Here is in illustration a case subjected in 1831 to the council of Industrial tribunal :

The foreman Boferding had disposed up for the manufacturer Champagne a loom for handkerchiefs. The preparation had cost 42 francs. Noticing that the new article did not produce, the manufacturer ordered to stop earlier than foreseen and paid the then made handkerchiefs 66 francs. The foreman owed to his worker a 33-franc salary. He had so after one and a half month of labour 33 francs for 42 francs of freshly engaged.

To survive, the foremen defend themselves then individually as they can it, practising what one names the " taking ounce " by annexation of the weight of a foreign body to the work, water or oil and keeping so for them a part of the silk given by the manufacturer. Balzac, in " Maison Nuncigen " claims that this guile dates from the next day of the Revolt of the Silk workers to 1831. He makes a mistake and the "taking ounce" became simply widespread, as expedient in the conflict of classes and interests. The foreman works in the high houses of the Croix Rousse (Red Cross, in Lyon). Streets were narrow and workshops needing light were placed in the superior floors, in full light. As Férat's magnificent carving shows it (to see in the top of the page), the lodging house of the boss worker constitutes at the same moment a family circle and a professional environment forming a quite inseparable. The foreman has in his service four or five companions. He lives rather bad but at the same time he is an aristocrat of the industry, having a difficult position among his companions and the manufacturers.

The foreman remains leaned in the lower middle class which maintains strongly the flame of 1789. Secret societies, franc - masonry, here is the school where he educated itself. From there this pride, these angers which turn easily in the violence.

Down still, thirty to forty thousand companions. Joseph Benoit speaks to us about them:

" The worker has only the arms which he rents unclearly in the course of the same year to several bosses. He can become attached nowhere, the industrial organization opposes to it magisterially. Similar to the roaming Jew of the legend, he should roam from a workshop to the other one without being ever able to settle in a stable way in anyone. The life, as that of the foreman, is a continual trance, a constant apprehension of the future. It is never sure that the work which it do, of the piece of material which it makes. Once this work delivered and taken out of the hands, the foreman is free, and is obliged to try somewhere else to occupy the henceforth useless arms. And that often arrive, every other week... "

On November 21 , 22 and 23, 1831 remain an exemplary date in the history of the silk trade of Lyons, but also in the social history of the western world. It is indeed in the capital of the silk that opens the era of the big fights workers of the XIX-th century. The contrast pushed to its paroxysm which reigns then between the various classes conduit inevitably in an explosive social climate.

The silk trade of Lyons could only aim towards a capitalist shape because the exercise of this art required a distant search for expensive raw materials and a prospecting of more distant markets for a production of material of very grat luxury. These indispensable conditions demanding an important immobilization of capital, Lyon, as we saw it, see the constitution in the course of the years of categories as ill-assorted as opposite in the profession. To maintain the Factory in the prosperity, the manufacturers do not hesitate to quarter the silk workers of Lyon in their ancestral misery as well as testifies of it this text precursor of the capitalism of class, fired by " "Mémoire sur les manufactures de Lyon" of Mayet, and quoted by Justin Godard:

" To insure and maintain the prosperity of our factories, it is necessary that the worker never grows rich, that he exactly has only what it is necessary him to feed well and indeed to dress. In a certain class of the people, too much ease softens the industry, engenders the idleness and all the vices which depend on it. As the worker grows rich, he becomes difficult on the choice and the salary of the work. The salary of the workforce once was increased, it increases because of the advantages which it gets... Nobody ignores that it is mainly in the low labour cost that the factories of Lyon owe their surprising prosperity. If the necessity stops forcing the worker to receive from the occupation some salary which one oggre to him, if he succeeds in getting free of this sort of servitude, if profits exceed the needs to the point that he can remain a little while without the help of the hands, he will employ this time to form a league. Being unaware not that the trader can not eternally do without him, he will dare to prescribe him in his turn laws which will put this one outside state to support any competition with the foreign factories, and of this reversal to which the prosperity of the worker will have given place, will result the total ruin of the Factory. It is so very important for the manufacturers of Lyon, to hold the worker in a continual need of work, never to to forget that the low price of the manpower is not only advantageous by itself, but that it becomes it still by making the worker more laborious, more adjusted in its customs, more subjected to its wills... "

It seems evident that an industrial strife should burst sooner or later. In 1831, never the silk worker had had a more miserable condition and one labour more badly paid. It is of custom to say, according to the statistics, that on 1830 a worker does not gain the third party of what he gained in 1810, nor half of what he gained in 1824, for an always more tiring work; Mr Moissonnier speaks to us about this condition:

" From the dawn until in the middle of the night, the silk worker sits in front of the loom. One of its legs takes support on the ground, the other one activates a wooden pedal which lifts in due course warp yarns. Of the right hand he launches the shuttle, the left he moves the batten which tightens the weft and strikes regularly the front roller against which leans the stomach of the worker. "

Eighteen hours of labour in this awkward position are very exhausting: the attention should not loosen, the sight gets fast tired, especially during the hours of night when the only light results from a hazy lamp, a "chelu". The doctors the most qualified as Lyon think while the three quarters of the diseases from which suffer the workers of the Factory result from this abuse of night work. During eighteen hours, finally, the silk worker receives in the stomach the repercussion of the batten which strikes the roller of tissue and these repeated shocks oppose the digestion. It is classic to present the silk worker as a pale man, in the soft flesh, often deformed. In his book " History of the Revolution " Michelet write on their subject: " Physically, it was one of the sickest races of Europe ".

The conflict which, in fact, is only the rehearsal of the uprisings of 1744 and 1786, burst in the first days of October, 1831, when the " Echo of the Factory " publishes a letter sent to the prefect of Lyon, Bouvier-Dumolart, by the foremen announcing the constitution of a committee loaded with studying the construction of a rate of work, which of any times they tried in vain to impose. The prefect Bouvier-Dumolart, passing a rescuer with the eyes of the workers, eventually obtained on October 5 the signature of a collective agreement increasing the rate of the prices of work. Of Saint Jean in Croix-Rousse the shout of enjoyment spread as a powder trail: " One has the rate, one has the rate! "

But most of the manufacturers did not feel engaged by the signature of their delegates and refused at once the new rate. After detention of the general of the national police, the strike turned in armed uprising. The City hall was occupied by the insurgents. Fast exceeded by the events, the foremen did not know more than to do of their victory, being any more bosses of companions who had " nothing to lose and everything to win ". Polices resumed the situation in hand and Lyon, occupied by marshal Soult, lives the solemn entrance of the prince of Orléans.

As for the prefect, he paid of his dismissal his relative benevolence towards the demands workers.

The Rate declared invalid, sounded the knell of the immense hope that once more, the weavers had to succeed in building a more just society and to require a more decent life. The blood had poured, the amertune was in hearts. It did not stay more than to fire the lessons of a defeat. And nevertheless, aware of this defeat, the weavers of Lyons kept anchored in the heart of themselves the hope that one day would come, bearer of this justice and this propriety:

" Oh, please , Go through the history, and in the first times
Please , look there for you for wholesome lessons:
When these dark men who one names proletarians
Come to discover that tiny ranks
They can raise themselves on the size of the big,
That the bread belongs to the starving mouths,
Then, misfortune in all! Even if the armies
Under their artillery mutains gives up,
Their fall announces still of certain disasters. "

Such is the honoring returned to the silk workers of Lyon by Auguste Barthélémy.

Philippe DEMOULE.


If this story pleased you, Please, read the last sector of this trilogy :