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that the change should be so contrived, as to inflict the least possible injury on individuals. The French Government, much to its credit, went readily into the project. The Commissioners they appointed to meet Messrs Villiers and Bowring were gentlemen of high character, and of the most enlightened views; and the Government gave, besides, every facility to its enquiries, by supplying the Commission with all sorts of public documents.
The Report before us is not the joint production of the whole Commissioners, but of the English only; the French Commissioners having, in like manner, made their Report to their own Government. Being written for the information and use of Englishmen, it refers principally to matters connected with the French trade; but various particulars are embodied in it in relation to smuggling, and other matters immediately connected with England. It contains a great many curious and instructive details; is written in a fair and liberal spirit ; and is highly creditable to the Commissioners.
The most obnoxious by far of the French customhouse regula tions, are those that refer to iron and cottons. Both branches grew up during the prevalence of the continental or anti-commercial system of Napoleon; and had they been left to themselves, both would have been destroyed, or have shrunk within comparatively narrow limits when it was overthrown. We are inclined to think that good policy required that the new Government should interfere to prevent any sudden shock to industry, by establishing a gradually diminishing scale of duties on the importation of the articles in question, and of others in the same situation. But, instead of this, they carried the principle of exclusion further than it ever had been carried by Napoleon. He supported it rather as a means of annoying England, than because he really looked upon it as advantageous to France. Not so the Ministers of Louis and of Charles. They were all that Mr Sadler himself could desire; and appear to have thought that the only, but, at the same time, the infallible mode of rendering a kingdom prosperous, was to shut out every thing brought from abroad that might be made, no matter at what cost, at home! And, in accordance with this principle, if we may so call it, they imposed exorbitant duties on the importation of foreign iron into France, and absolutely prohibited the introduction of foreign cotton goods and yarn.
The injury done to the kingdom by the iron duties is now pretty generally acknowledged. We showed in a former Article, (No. 99, Art. 3.) from statements made by the Commission d'Enquête sur les Fers, that, owing to the deficiency of coal mines in France, and the want of improved means of communication by canals and
otherwise, it was not possible, in the present state of the arts, to produce iron for less than double what it costs to produce it in England. Surely, however, if there be one article more essential than another to the progress of a nation in manufacturing and commercial industry, it is iron. Had the English or the Swedes possessed machines capable of being employed with singular advantage in a variety of ways, and which they could furnish to the French in unlimited quantity for 100 francs each, while they could not be constructed in France for less than 200 francs, everybody, even M. Thiers himself, would have been ready to admit, that their exclusion could not be defended;—that at best it was only conferring a trivial advantage on the few persons engaged in making the machines in France, while it was inflicting a serious injury on every branch of industry in which they might be employed. But whether an improved and powerful machine, or the materials of which it is constructed, be excluded, what is the difference? The following extract from the Report of the Commissioners shows, from data deduced from the best French authorities, the injury done to agriculture by this preposterous system.
In the article of iron, the annual sacrifice made by the agri'culturists to the protected iron-masters, has been frequently stated to be not less than from L.1,500,000 to L.2,000,000 'a-year. The lands cultivated in France are supposed to amount to 22,818,000 hectares, equal to 57,045,000 acres English; and it is calculated that a team of oxen should cultivate 15 hectares; hence, the number of ploughs employed in France is 'supposed to be about 1,500,000. M. de la Rochefoucauld estimates the annual wear and tear of iron at 40 kilog. per plough, but it is more frequently estimated at 50 kilog., making, for the whole consumption, 75,000,000 kilog.; being, at 90 francs per 100 kilog., 67,500,000 francs, or L.2,700,000 sterling. Now, it is undeniable that the iron could be imported from foreign countries at half the price; so that in ploughs alone there is said to be a yearly loss to the agriculture of France of L.1,350,000 'sterling. In other agricultural instruments, the loss is calcula'ted at L.200,000 sterling a-year; and it is believed that the ' iron produced in France is not so good by one-fifth part as the 6 foreign iron that might be imported; so that it is believed that the entire sacrifice made by one interest, the agricultural, to the iron monopoly, is not less than L.1,860,000 sterling a-year!' This is paying pretty well for protecting a business that does certainly employ 150,000 hands; but this is, in fact, but a small part of what it costs the public. Its influence over manufactures is still more noxious than over agriculture, Peculiarities of soil,
climate, or productions, may countervail a great inferiority in agricultural skill or instruments; but in manufactures these are of less importance, and a country that has either inferior or more costly machinery than others, is sure to be left behind in the race of competition. Can any thing, then, be more absurd and contradictory than the conduct of the French government, which, at the same time that it is endeavouring, at an immense cost, to raise up new branches of manufacture, shuts out the principal instru ment of manufacturing industry? To bolster up the cotton trade, they exclude foreign cottons and twist; but in consequence of the exclusion of foreign iron, a cotton-mill at Rouen costs about three times its cost in Manchester! Here, therefore, prohibition the first is at war with prohibition the second. It is of little consequence, however, except as showing the inconsistency of all systems of the sort, to enquire how far the iron masters, the cotton manufacturers, the beet-root growers, &c., encroach upon each other's monopolies. It is sufficient to know that they are all bottomed on a false principle; and that all of them subsist, not upon their own capital or labour, but at the expense and to the injury of the public.
If we were hostile to France, which we are not, we should wish her to persevere in this system: so long as it is maintained, our manufacturers may make themselves easy about her competition-they have quite as much to fear from that of the Laplanders. We have seen no evidence to convince us that labour -meaning by labour the quantity of work done-is cheaper in France than in England. But, though it were 50 per cent cheaper, it would not countervail the disadvantages under which she is laid by the high price of iron, and the monopolies that fetter other departments of industry;-monopolies which necessarily generate an indifference to improvements, and teach those they appear to protect to place a deceitful confidence in customhouse regulations, rather than on their own ingenuity and in
We have already seen how the high price of iron, by acting on machinery, deprives the manufacturers of the advantages they expected to derive from their monopoly. But the iron masters are not in any better a situation. On the contrary, they affirm, and we believe truly, that they made larger profits when the duty on foreign iron was reasonable, and larger quantities were imported, than they do at present. The reason is, that iron being only wrought in a few places in France, nine-tenths of the iron produced in the kingdom is smelted and prepared by means of wood fuel; and in consequence of the extension of iron works caused by the increase of the duties, the price of fuel in France has been
about doubled since the peace; so that the monopoly prices that are now obtained by the iron masters are barely adequate to defray the increased expenses to which they were put! Unluckily, however, the rise in question has not affected them only. Timber being almost the only species of fuel used in France, the iron monopoly has really doubled the cost of this indispensable necessary, and occasioned privations of which it is not easy to estimate the extent. The iron manufacture of Great Britain is ten times more valuable and important than that of France. We apprehend, however, that any statesman who should have proposed relieving its late depression by the adoption of measures calculated to double the price of coal, would have been reckoned fitter for Bedlam than for the House of Commons. Notwithstanding, he might have appealed to the vrais principes of M. Thiers, and the example of la grande Nation.
Nothing, indeed, can be more ludicrously absurd than the pompous way in which the exploded dogmas of the Mercantile School are paraded in the French Chambers, as if they were so many mathematical axioms. It was recently, for example, laid down in the Report of a Committee of the Chamber of Deputies on the sugar duties, That the richest nation is always that which exports most, and imports least. The legitimate inference from which is, as Messrs Villiers and Bowring have remarked, that a people which should send away every thing and get back nothing, would have reached the maximum of prosperity. Ministry and the Chambers may depend upon it, that the only principle on which commerce can be carried on, is that of the interchange of reciprocal and equal advantages. But the extent to which it may be carried, depends quite as much on the freedom of importation as on that of exportation. A country that should admit no foreign products, would be as effectually deprived of commerce as if she were surrounded by Bishop Berkeley's wall of brass. Exportation is, in fact, always dependent upon, and measured by importation. Restrictions on the latter are really and practically restrictions on the former. To suppose that it should be otherwise, is to suppose what is contradictory and absurd. It is supposing that merchants are anxious only to give away, without caring whether they get back any thing!
Causes similar to those that have given a death-blow to the American tariff, notwithstanding the powerful interest by which it was supported, are at work in France, and will, we have no doubt, lead to the overthrow of the protecting system in that country. Foreigners have always been the principal customers for the peculiar productions of the Southern States of the Union. But the planters and merchants soon found that every new ob
stacle thrown in the way of importation from abroad, reacted on exportation, and hindered the sale of their cotton, rice, tobacco, and other articles. Hence the decisive opposition of Carolina and of the other Southern States to the tariff; and hence the modifications it has undergone, and is undergoing.
The case of France is exactly parallel. The distress in the southern provinces, and especially among the wine-growers, is very great. The foreign demand for French wines, brandies, silks, &c., the staple productions of the country, is every day decreasing; not because their quality has deteriorated, or that the taste for them has declined, but simply because their system of prohibition makes it impossible for foreigners to pay them. The extent to which this principle has already operated in depressing the wine trade-a branch of industry on which more than three millions of people are dependent-could hardly be imagined by those not acquainted with the circumstances. But the following statement, extracted from official documents, of the exports of wine from the Gironde, during the three years ending with 1831, sets it in the clearest point of view :—
During the last two years matters have become still worse. The exports of brandy have also declined in about the same degree, or more; and the foreign shipping frequenting the port of Bordeaux, has been diminished nearly a half.
The glut of the market, and the extreme depression of price occasioned by this cessation of demand, has been productive of great distress and irritation. This, however, is a case in which good will assuredly come out of evil. The excess to which the prohibitive system has been carried in France will ensure its entire abolition. The injury it entails on the vast majority of the population, is too gross and glaring to admit of concealment or palliation. Every one is aware of the source of the evils by which he is oppressed, and deprived of the fruits of his industry. Hence the system has been repeatedly denounced in petitions and memorials from the wine-growers, and from the merchants of Bordeaux, Lyons, Nantes, Havre, &c. The whole body of petitioners concur in ascribing the stagnation of commerce, and decay of industry, to the policy of the Government to an attempt to counteract the order of nature, by forcing the home production of articles they might obtain from abroad for half the price; at the very moment that the productions most suitable to their