Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER IV: THE TEXTILE INDUSTRIES - The Comedy of Protection
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
CHAPTER IV: THE TEXTILE INDUSTRIES - Yves Guyot, The Comedy of Protection 
The Comedy of Protection, trans. M.A. Hamilton (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1906).
About Liberty Fund:
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
THE TEXTILE INDUSTRIES
I. Wool—II. Cotton—III. Linen—IV. Silk—V. Conclusion.
Wool is the most important of the textile industries, employing more than 200,000 persons, to 150,000 employed in cotton, and 55,000 in linen; its plant can produce twice as much as is consumed in France. M. Gaston Grandgeorge estimates the output of French woollen yarn at £20,000,000, and assessing woollen cloth at a price of 4s. per lb.—a rather low figure—values it at £31,080,000 a year.1 The export for 1903 was £5,920,000 worth of textiles, £3,780,000 of wool combings, a net total of £12,680,000; for several years the industry has been stationary, enduring rather than demanding Protection.
The cotton industry is found in three districts, Normandy, the North, and the Vosges; and the cotton spinners and weavers, especially in Normandy, have been for three-quarters of a century ardent Protectionists. 37,500 persons are employed in spinning, 122,000 in weaving. The report of the Commission on Customs for 1891 declares, “The output in cotton spinning and weaving can actually be said to balance demand. The industry is this year in a thoroughly sound condition, as is proved by extreme commercial and industrial activity, and the firmness of the market for cotton.” In 1892 this prosperous industry obtained an almost prohibitive rise in duties on thread and textiles; according to the Blue Book on Direct Taxation, the number of spindles in spinning mills was some 3,799,400 in 1891; after that year there are no official statistics, but the Cotton-spinners’ Union fixed the number in 1904 at 6,150,000, a 62 per cent. increase, while the increase in consumption for the same period was only 31 per cent.
If the last sum were exact it would prove a consumption of 77 lbs. per spindle, showing that the greater part of the French output is of high numbers. High as the tariff walls were raised they did not prevent the importation of cotton yarn.
The export of cotton textiles has increased.
The main cause of this export is the protective duties instituted in the colonies at the expense of their own inhabitants for the advantage of the capital.
It is also due to the extended market which England offers for our cottons, equal to that of Madagascar and Indo-China put together.
But this export trade with England is to be considered rather as a payment of debts than as a sign of prosperity. The surcharges on cotton goods were so heavy that when the manufacturers tried to extend their sales by sending them to Manchester they lost a day a week. In 1904 a Congress was held at which M. Méline made two confessions—“It is sad to have to confess that our exports of cotton tend to diminish, while those of England and Germany increase”; and “It is true” that the protective duties led to the establishment of new factories. The Congress nominated a permanent committee, empowered to enforce the closing of mills and factories on receipt of an indemnity—but it was not stipulated that this indemnity should be extended to the employés.1 In the article on Cotton in the “Dictionary of Commerce,” a manufacturer, M. Gustav Roy, says: “The Protectionist system must be made responsible for a great part of the considerable difference existing between the price of cotton in France and of the same goods in England; price had to be reckoned plus the addition of interest on capital sunk in the paying of duties (1) on the materials, (2) on the machines and workmen employed—of annual charges necessitated by the Customs dues on the raw material, cotton; and secondly, on all the plant needed for the working of the factory, such as coal, oil, metals, and woods of different kinds, and various other goods; finally, of expenses caused by the bounties paid to certain industries, and of the rise in cost of transport due to the protection given to the merchant service. Moreover, since the sales can only be extended over a strictly limited market, there is a constant need to guard against the danger of over-production.”
In 1892 very high tariffs were set up for flax spinning and linen weaving. The stimulus of Protection led to over-production. In the 1902 Reports of the Customs Commission, edited by M. Widmer, President of the Linen Committee, it runs as follows: “Exports passed the high total of 1900, and rose to more than twenty-two million pounds. Such an unprecedented total shows that something is wrong at home, for such sales abroad could only be effected at a heavy loss—an evil that must be endured in order to clear the market, but still an evil.”
Linen, hemp, and jute spinning employ 86,000 people, to 96,000 employed in weaving, rope-making, &c.
The weaving and spinning of silk stands next in importance to wool, giving employment to some 136,000 persons, 80,000 in weaving, 20,000 in silk-throwing, and 26,000 in spinning. The weavers of Lyons are Free Trade, but the spinners who supply them with the silk, that is, their raw material, are Protectionists, who, though they failed to get Customs dues on raw silk, had got bounties on a pretence of defending the French cocoon. This splendid system led in 1902 to the production of 1,254,000 lbs. out of a European production of 11,943,800, and a world production of 41,005,800 lbs., which fell in 1903 to 1,042,800 out of a European production of 9,605,200, and a world production of 39,681,400. In 1902 16,627,600 lbs. were put on the French market, of which total the home produce was only 7 per cent.; in 1903 15,250,400 lbs., of which the home produce was only 6 per cent. The bounty system had not increased the number of silk-growers. There were 148,971 in 1893 with 225,000 oz. of eggs; in 1902 only 128,199 with 198,427, and 120,266 in 1903 with 262,145. In his report to the Customs Commissioners for 1902, M. Baumlin, President of the Committee on Silk, said that the bounty system was of no use in encouraging the production of silk; it did not attract the peasants to plant mulberries. The bounties on spinning have only assisted a few big firms. In 1898 there were 273 manufacturers with 11,823 vats; in 1901 there were 247 with 11,250 vats.
In 1892 a duty of 1s. 41/2d. per lb. was placed on thrown silk, the raw material for weaving. The production of silk fabrics was £18,080,000 in 1902, of which £17,760,000 came from Lyons and its neighbourhood; £16,819,000 in 1903, of which Lyons claimed £16,520,000. The export was 8,166,400 lbs. at £8,302,280, of which £3,633,600 worth went to England in 1902; and in 1903 8,296,200 lbs. at £10,030,400, of which England took £5,962,440.
Out of a total production of £17,760,000 in 1902, and £1,680,000 in 1903, £4,000,000 and £3,560,000 respectively go to silk and cotton mixtures, whose price was raised by the French Customs duties on cotton yarn, especially in the high numbers.
Of the 8,166,440 lbs. exported in 1902, 54 per cent. and 56 per cent. of the 8,296,200 lbs. exported in 1903, was composed of cotton mixtures, whose prices were raised and sales restricted by protection to cotton yarn.
This statistical examination of the textile industry proves: (i.) That such industries as the wool and silk trade are tributary to the protected cotton-spinners; (ii.) textiles being the raw material of all the clothing trades as well as of linen-drapery and millinery, all protection to spinners and weavers is at the expense of their trades; (iii.) since labour is a much more important element in the latter than in the textile trades, protection to them falls especially upon the wages of those employed in the clothing trades, linendrapery, and millinery, who stand in the ratio of seven to one to those employed in cotton and linen manufacture; (iv.) such protection, by raising the price of goods, restricts or closes their market; (v.) protected industries, stimulated to over-production, end after short periods of fictitious prosperity in crisis and stoppage.
“Dictionary of Trade Industry and Banking,” published under the direction of Y. Guyot and A. Raffalovich.
La Réforme Économique, June 26, 1904.