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While relatively little is known about the mechanics or details of this initiative, the voluntarist society employed at least two individuals, known as inspectors of worsted yarn.
Intending a far more ambitious and extensive campaign, they submitted that the law should invest the county's justices of the peace with the responsibility of appointing the worsted inspectors, as they termed the police.
In lobbying the largely sympathetic legislators in Westminster for passage of the Worsted Act, the Yorkshire manufacturers pointed to the already extensive body of embezzlement law.(53) Previous historians have fixed on this point and accounted for the origins of state-sanctioned policing in the Yorkshire industry solely by reference to the manufacturers' presumably single-minded preoccupation with property rights.
Offered anonymously, as was customary in the eighteenth century, but written by leaders of the fledgling Worsted Committee, the letters detail the concerns, grievances and objectives of the associated masters as well as their strategy to gain the passage of the Worsted Act.(64)
Most striking of all is the nearly complete lack of attention to what was ostensibly the raison d'etre of establishing the Worsted Committee: the threat that escalating property depredations posed to the industry.
Labor represented the single greatest expenditure in the manufacture of worsted textiles, amounting, in some cases, to as much as seventy percent of total production costs.(72) Since the costs of raw materials and transport were far less flexible, manufacturers tended to view wage increases as a threat to their ability to remain competitive.
Even after worsted manufacturers undertook the employment of great numbers of spinners as wage laborers, including thousands of men in remote upland areas, the task retained its socially constructed status as menial and unskilled work.(75) It was primarily for this reason that the worst paid workers in the industry came under attack for their "excessive" wages.
A close reading of the letters confirms that this premise, for manufacturers a source of powerful anxiety, informed the decisions and plans of the Worsted Committee's founders.
Among manufacturers such as the Yorkshire worsted masters, the doctrine of the utility of poverty and its attendant corollaries, remained the conventional wisdom.
The architects of the Worsted Committee devised their plan to introduce industrial policing, certain that the intractable bottleneck in the supply of yarn menaced the industry and that excessive wages sanctioned the irregular work patterns of spinners.
The key to the origin of the Worsted Committee's policing was in the exact relationship between the types of embezzlement practiced by spinners and the imperative of strengthening the disciplinary potential of the wage.