Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XVIII: BOUNTIES TO THE MERCHANT SERVICE - The Comedy of Protection
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CHAPTER XVIII: BOUNTIES TO THE MERCHANT SERVICE - Yves Guyot, The Comedy of Protection 
The Comedy of Protection, trans. M.A. Hamilton (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1906).
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BOUNTIES TO THE MERCHANT SERVICE
Law of 1893—Suppression of steamboats and encouragement to sailing ships—Result—Dockyards idle—The law of 1902.
The tariffs of 1892 were completed by the Act of 1893 dealing with the merchant service. In compensation for expenses resulting from the Customs tariff the law of 1893 established a system of bounties to shipbuilders so arranged as to reduce the construction of steam ships and encourage sailing vessels, which indeed made voyages not so much for the purpose of transportation as of collection of bounties. The law was, in fact, the death-blow to the construction of the vessels which it was designed to encourage. French dockyards having a monopoly, demanded such extravagant prices that the class of shipbuilders disappeared, and if there was any development in the building of sailing ships, that of steam ships sank to a negligible quantity. The following table gives the tonnage of vessels constructed under the system of the law of 1893:—
And to reach this result the State paid between 1893-1902 in
without counting the postal subventions, which amounted to some £1,040,000 a year. As for the result to navigation:—
The results are even poorer when one considers the coasting trade with its monopoly, the bounties to the fishing trade on a large scale, and the expense of registering the smaller fishing-boats.
The shipbuilders, for whom the Act of 1893 had been passed, did not need to build for the merchant service; they preferred to serve the Government which paid them highly. In 1898 among the 117 million orders received by the Mediterranean ironworks and shipyards, not a single one applied to the merchant service. If the ships of the companies subventioned for the postal service had not been obliged to be built in France, the effect of the Act of 1893 would have been the complete disappearance of the shipbuilding which it aimed at developing. Speaking on November 9, 1901, M. Guillain declared that out of nine companies which built sea-going ships, three owned 37 out of a total of 67 ships; and for the last twenty years they had executed no private order except for some twenty packet boats, while the other six did almost no building except of sailing ships. When the Merchant Marine Bill of 1902, designed to rearrange the bounty system, was under discussion, the tonnage of sailing ships on the stocks rose between January 1, 1901, and July to 99 vessels, with a gauge of more than 237,438 tons. The Finance Minister, M. Cailloux, calculated in December, 1901, that were the Act of 1893 allowed its full effect until the Bill now before the House became law, the total cost would be £6,000,000 for vessels whose building had cost from £3,600,000 to £4,000,000. Thus the Treasury, by buying and destroying them, would gain some £2,000,000. The Bill of April 7, 1902, which replaced the law of 1893, limited for twelve years the bounties on the construction of the 270,000 tons of steam ships and 90,000 tons of sailing ships contemplated in the Act to £2,000,000 to be expended on a maximum annual construction of 47,260 tons of steam and 114,778 tons of sailing vessels. On January 8, 1903, the Journal Officiel published the names of the vessels on the list, and for twelve years there was to be no building beyond this number. In 1905 the Government introduced a new resolution to correct this anomaly at the expense of the taxpayers. The private iron shipbuilding-yards employed 15,000 men in 1896, and the number was fixed at that. In 1902 France imported 47,857 tons of ships valued at £505,160, and exported 48,025 valued at £429,840—old ships, some as old as 1856, most of them of English make and dating 1881-1886. Such are the results of the bounty system in the shipbuilding industry.