Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER IV: THE FEUDATORIES OF THE JULY GOVERNMENT - The Comedy of Protection
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CHAPTER IV: THE “FEUDATORIES” OF THE JULY GOVERNMENT - Yves Guyot, The Comedy of Protection 
The Comedy of Protection, trans. M.A. Hamilton (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1906).
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THE “FEUDATORIES” OF THE JULY GOVERNMENT
Efforts of M. d’Argout—Alliance of the landowners and manufacturers—Count Duchâtel against privileges—Struggle of the Ministry against the Protectionists—The sliding scale in 1832: Commission of Inquiry in 1834—Tumults in Rouen and Roubaix—Discussion of 1836—Thiers and Holland—Guizot and England—and Piedmont—Programme of the Free Trade League—Committee of Labour Defence—Anglophobia—“Be strong and we stand by you”—Scheme of 1847—The copyholders—Count Jaubert and the feudatories.
The centre of political gravity had been changed. Since the double vote had been taken from the great landowners, the electoral basis made a property qualification of £8, and the hereditary peerage abolished, the July Government had not to depend exclusively on the landed interest, which was for the most part in the hands of the Legitimists, its worst enemies. In 1834 M. d’Argout, the Minister of Commerce, proposed to modify the sliding scale. His scheme was tentative enough, but the Committee of the House found it too advanced. It was, however, energetically supported by M. de Laborde, the Duke d’Harcourt, and Duvergier de Hauranne, who asked whether the Customs were intended to secure a remunerative price, relative to the cost price of corn, to the owners of good land or bad. The eternal M. de Saint Cricq replied with a political argument which brought the capitalist manufacturers in line with the landed interest, prophesying that the next step to the abandonment of agricultural Protection by the Government would be its removal from every sort of manufactured product. The effect of this statement was heightened by a remark made by Count Duchâtel to a deputation of cloth manufacturers from Elbœuf in 1832: “The object of the Revolution was the destruction of privilege; you must accustom yourselves to the idea that the destruction of the privileges that protect you is only an affair of time: they cannot shelter you for ever.” Certainly neither d’Argout, Minister of Commerce in 1830, nor Thiers in 1832, nor Duchâtel in 1834, was a Free Trader; yet each of them perceived the necessity of at least exchanging prohibitive taxes for Customs dues, and the prohibitive for a protective tariff. Their object as members of the Ministry was the furtherance of public interests: They encountered the determined opposition of a coalition of private interests. When M. d’Argout proposed to admit for re-exportation certain prohibited goods, among them plain silk, which had been admitted since 1818, M. Fulchiron cried out, “That spells ruin for Lyons.” When Paris demanded an emporium, M. Roux, member for Marseilles, cried, “That is the end of our maritime trade, sacrificed to the insatiable ambition of the capital!” M. Jair threatened a social revolution. However, d’Argout got his Bill passed by 190 votes to 76. The sliding scale set up in 1819 and 1821 ended by creating the most inequitable system possible. The price of corn varied between 6s. per cwt. in Marne and 10s. 9d. in Gard. In October, 1831, d’Argout proposed to repeal prohibition and in every case replace it by graduated duties: to create instead of a crowd of small zones two main divisions, one comprising the sea coast from Dunkirk to Bayonne with a piece of land frontier from the North to the Upper Rhine Department; to replace the hectolitre by a measure of weight; to abolish all taxes on foreign vessels when prices rose very high; and to calculate the scale of duties at the rate of 8s. per cwt. for the first district and 9s. 7d. for the second. But M. Laurence’s amendment reduced the Bill to the level of the Act of 1821. The people of the southern non-corn-growing departments had to endure higher duties to secure for the North a monopoly of their food supply. In September, 1835, the duties stood, according to the scale, at 6s. 7d., 5s., 3s. 1d. per cwt. for the first, third, and fourth classes respectively. In 1847, a year of bad harvests, the sliding scale was suspended, but too late; French buyers had to wait until foreigners had already taken the best. Prices rose to famine height. In February, 1848, the scale was re-established; suspended again from 1853 to 1859; but then the Emperor was obliged to revive the Act of 1832, not finally repealed until 1861. In 1832 the Ministry demanded from Parliament the repeal of prohibitions and the reduction of certain duties. The proposal was not even discussed, but the Government got some of the suggested modifications effected by means of a royal decree, which it was in 1834 proposed to legalise in two Bills. For the decree Thiers was responsible: he entered a protest against prohibition and the aggravation of the tariff. M. Duchâtel, his successor, was more courageous. He nominated a Commission of Inquiry into prohibitive duties affecting the manufacture of glass, pottery, plated metal goods, wool and cotton textiles.
With the exception of Marseilles the seaport towns demanded the repeal of prohibition; the County Council of Arras argued against Protection, and petitions in favour of a gradual diminution of duties were sent up by the Chambers of Commerce of Strassburg, Tours, Clermont Ferrand, Givet, Metz, Orleans, and the County Councils of Niort, Valenciennes, Bar le Duc, Nevers, Rennes, d’Alençon, Limoges, Rethel, Vire, Grenoble, Saumur Rouen, however, was loud in support of prohibition; the burgesses denounced “secret agents from England.” Roubaix put down the Revolution of 1830 to the fact that the printers were afraid of being deprived of their work by royal decree, and said, “Remember that two risings in Lyons have been caused by reduction of wages.”
Nevertheless, Duchâtel got the Act of 1834 passed, empowering the Government to convert the prohibitions on the following articles into duties: Unbleached cotton thread of high numbers, cashmere shawls, lace made by hand or with a distaff, silk handkerchiefs, new ready-made clothes, naval iron cables, watches and clocks, spun silk, Russia leather, rum, &c. To legalise this measure he drew up a Bill for February 1, 1836, which gave rise to a long debate reopening the whole question of Free Trade versus Protection. Ducos, introducing the Bill, pronounced definitely against the restrictive system, and demanded sweeping reductions of the duties on iron. Thiers opposed him on the ground that “five miles of railroad would not be made in a year.” M. David, the Director of Customs, opposed temporary importation. “There has never been any question of admitting prohibited textiles for printing—as, for example, calico and other cotton fabrics.” When the consumption of meat was stated to have diminished, General Bugeaud declared that he preferred an invasion of Cossacks to that of a herd of oxen.
In 1840 Thiers made a treaty with Holland which, in spite of opposition from the seaports, lasted till 1860. Formidable opposition compelled Guizot to abandon a projected commercial treaty with England. Louis Philippe had an idea of opposing the German Zollverein, definitely constituted in 1833, by a Customs union with Belgium, but the sole outcome was the treaty of 1842, established for four years. When Guizot proposed a treaty with Piedmont, even on a four years’ basis, he had to demand a vote of confidence. The Free Trade Association, with the Duc d’Harcourt as its president and Frederic Bastiat as general secretary, did not aim at complete Free Trade, but the substitution for prohibition of a 20 per cent. duty; a 91/2d. duty on corn instead of the sliding scale; the 1816 tariff of 2s. 7d. per head on oxen; repeal of the duties on coal and pig-iron; steel to be brought under the imperial tariff at 79s. per ton; abolition of duties on some hundreds of minor articles only bringing in an insignificant return, of zones and classes and all right of exportation. They did not demand immediate repeal, but gradual reduction of duties on raw material, e.g., raw cotton, fleeces, hemp, flax, iron and steel bars, and dyestuffs.
The Committee of Labour Defence, with MM. Odier, Mimerel, Périer, Lebeuf, at its head, declared that those who benefited by Protection bore the heaviest part of the dues, and that on them national existence depended. They denounced the Journal des Débats and “certain paid professors” for being impertinent enough not to be Protectionists, and they described those who thought their privileges too great as English emissaries; they put up placards to warn factory employés against Free Traders, “whose only aim was to help England to ruin and then rule over France.” Their anger was, of course, increased by the triumph of Free Trade in England. M. Duchâtel, the Home Secretary, had said to the Free Trade Association, “Be strong and we stand by you.” The Government was besieged by the arrogant claims of the Protectionists. In March, 1847, M. Cunin-Gridaine brought in a Bill (1) to repeal five prohibitive taxes; (2) to reconsider some minor duties; (3) to free 298 of the 666 articles of the tariff which would have reduced the revenue £1,200,000; (4) to repeal altogether the duty on shipbuilding materials. The Chamber of Commerce opposed these propositions in a vast report drawn up by M. Lanyer. Discussion was prevented by the Revolution of 1848.
Under the government of Louis Philippe, there were only 166,000 electors in 1831, 171,000 in 1834, 199,000 in 1837, 201,000 in 1839, 220,000 in 1842.
In 1836 Count Jaubert had declared, “No society can outgrow aristocracy: the aristocracy of the July Government is composed of great manufacturers and employers: they are the feudatories of the new dynasty.” Thus they had the right to demand privileges. But the 1848 Revolution replaced a system based on property qualification by one of political equality, and substituted universal for restricted suffrage. Was the policy of universal suffrage to be the same as that dictated by the electors of the Restoration with their dual vote, and by the 200,000 copyholders of the Louis Philippe Government?