Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER V: UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE—RAMPANT PROTECTIONISM - The Comedy of Protection
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CHAPTER V: UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE—RAMPANT PROTECTIONISM - Yves Guyot, The Comedy of Protection 
The Comedy of Protection, trans. M.A. Hamilton (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1906).
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UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE—RAMPANT PROTECTIONISM
Landowners and Socialists in agreement on competition—Protection of universal suffrage—Imperial policy of economic freedom—Violent opposition—Railroad coalition—The Emperor impotent before his legislature—Opposes it by a treaty.
After the Revolution of 1848 the Socialists followed in the steps of the landed proprietors of the Restoration and the capitalist employers of Louis Philippe, in denouncing competition, and M. Victor Grandin, a manufacturer from the Lower Seine, who had distinguished himself under the late régime by his passionate ardour for Protection, became the spokesman of the Committee of Commerce in the Constituent Assembly. He got the duty on glass raised to 27 per cent. and the import of nankeen in foreign vessels prohibited. In 1850 the Legislative Assembly took the opportunity afforded by the introduction of a liberal bill by Sainte-Beuve to express Protectionist sentiments, Thiers being much less moderate in his views than he had been in 1832 and 1834. After the coup d’état the Emperor aimed at gradually working round to Free Trade. Between 1853 and 1855 M. Magne lowered the duties on coal, cast iron, sheet iron, steel, wool, oil seeds, and dye-woods, and substituted a 10 per cent. duty on live stock, meat, cereals, and wines for the prohibitive duty on foreign-built vessels.
At this time the Empire was practically a dictatorship; the legislative body, composed of candidates for office, was dumb. So soon, however, as 1856 it ventured to resist the Emperor by nominating a Protectionist Commission. This did not check him; in a scheme issued June, 1856, he proposed the repeal of all prohibitions. In defiance of articles 471 and 472 of the Penal Code the Protectionists had a central committee in Paris, connected with local branches. Roubaix, as violent as in 1834, declared that without prohibition the working classes would be reduced to misery and beggary. Duties of 30 to 40 per cent. did not satisfy the manufacturers. They threatened to provoke risings by closing their factories. The Government scheme had to be withdrawn.
However, the Minister of Public Works failed in a railway contract for rails for the line between Paris and Chartres. He offered £13 16s. per ton of rail; the ironmasters could have executed the contract at £10 or £12 per ton; but at the time the duty being £8 5s., foreigners could not deliver for less than £16, and the Ironmasters’ Union would not take less. The Government had to establish a special duty on rails, which permitted their importation at 40 per cent. below the official tariff.
The Emperor had frequently extended the operation of the decree of 1853 suspending the sliding scale, but in 1857 he was obliged to restore the Act of 1832 in full force. The Constitution of 1852, however, gave him the power of concluding commercial treaties; and to paralyse the opposition he must make alliances abroad which should enable him to meet it with a non possumus.