Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER II: FROM 1791 TO 1814 - The Comedy of Protection
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CHAPTER II: FROM 1791 TO 1814 - Yves Guyot, The Comedy of Protection 
The Comedy of Protection, trans. M.A. Hamilton (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1906).
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FROM 1791 TO 1814
M. Goudard’s Protectionist proposal rejected: Liberal tariff of March 15, 1791—Prohibition of English goods, March 1, 1793—Law of Brumaire 10 year V—The Continental Blockade—Licences—Check—England not ruined—Napoleon’s Continental Free Trade.
De Tocqueville has shown that in the National Assembly of 1789 considerable influence was exercised by the economists, although, according to Du Pont de Nemours, every self-respecting speaker thought it necessary to begin by reviling them.
Internal Customs dues were abolished by an order of November 4, 1790, and the question of commercial freedom versus prohibition came up before the Committee of Trade and Agriculture. M. Goulard, member for Lyons, who introduced a scheme, openly avowed himself a prohibitionist. He made all the jokes against the Free Traders which are still in vogue, declaring that one of the best planned and most successful measures of Colbert’s Ministry was the issue of a tariff based not on fiscal considerations, but on the protection and defence of national handicrafts against foreign industry. He proposed a prohibitive duty on all goods which could be made in native factories for consumption, while ready to remove all duties on food and raw materials.
This scheme was not passed by the National Assembly. Its proposer, who had at least the merit of not being infatuated by his ideas, brought forward another scheme containing only one prohibition of importance, that on new or old ships; other duties being fixed at from 5 to 15 per cent. This tariff, dated March 15, 1791, was the most liberal passed in France down to 1860.
On February 1, 1793, the Convention declared war on England, and on March 1st it annulled all commercial treaties. Any one introducing, selling, or advertising English goods was punished by twenty years’ penal servitude. Little attention, however, was paid to their orders as long as privateers succeeded in selling their captures. At the time of the discussion of the law of 10th Brumaire year V, it was stated that in the last three years more than £1,600,000 worth of English commodities and manufactured goods had been sold. And the new law, passed to make the prohibition more stringent, was equally ineffective. On June 16, 1801, the First Consul reopened the frontiers to the passage of English goods, and on the advice of Cambacérès, who declared that the last cause of division would then be removed, considered the possibility of a commercial treaty. War, however, broke out in May, 1803. Napoleon tried to renew, on a more extensive scale, the prohibitions of the Convention and the Directory: in the Berlin Decree of November 21, 1806, he forbade any exchange or communication with England; in the Milan Decree of November 23, 1807, he declared any vessel which had touched English soil contraband of war; and in the Decree of the following September he put the British Isles under blockade. Smuggling increased with the increased duties. In the Order of October 8, 1810, he created County Courts which could in the last resort condemn smugglers to ten years’ penal servitude and branding. He himself, however, broke the Continental Blockade by conceding by means of licences the more or less imaginary obligation of exporting an amount equal to the quantity imported; and he dressed the soldiers who were to enforce the blockade on Europe in smuggled cloth. Nevertheless, the Continental Blockade was the main object of his policy. He tried to conquer Spain in 1808 in order to close it against English goods; he invaded Russia in 1812 because it would not accede to the policy which he wished to extend as far as India. When he refused in 1813 to hand over the Hanseatic towns to Austria, it was because of his designs on English trade. He aimed at ruining England. In 1813 he saw that, far from having attained that end, he had extended her markets. The drafts of English business men enabled her to pay her own troops and finance allied powers: they transmitted to their correspondents commodities and manufactures which liquidated the drafts. By 1813 Napoleon realised so clearly that he must abandon the idea of ruining England that, according to M. Thiers, he had issued enough licences “practically to re-establish trade with England, on which the import dues brought in some £4,000,000. The parts were thus reversed. Whereas two years ago Napoleon had tortured Europe to break off its commercial intercourse with England, England now, seeing the advantage her enemy reaped by licensing trade with her, tried to render it impossible.”
Napoleon had established Free Trade on the Continent. Between France and the Low Countries, North and Central Italy, and the greater part of Germany, Customs had been abolished. The experiment proved that French industries could stand the competition of the industries of the rest of Europe.