« AnteriorContinuar »
it could be inferred that he had in the slightest degree modified his views. Some time after appeared the project of M. Pouyer-Quertier, which laid before the public the amount of the tax proposed by the Minister of Finance. Raw materials were taxed from 12 to 15 and 20 per cent.; the drawback was replaced on most of the materials newly taxed; in a word, all that formidable machinery was set up again with which the partisans of thoroughpaced Protection have resisted Free Trade, and that“ wall of China” rebuilt which is so effective a barrier between national industry and the contact of progress. At the same time the French Government firmly persisted in maintaining the vexatious differential duties on British shipping, against which Lord Granville never ceased to protest since they were first levied under a law of the 2nd of February. Some arbitrary proceedings of the French Custom-house also gave rise to serious complaints, indicating, as they did, a disposition to strain the spirit, if not to violate the letter, of the stillexisting Treaty. Fortunately, meanwhile, for the maintenance of amicable relations, the scheme of the French Government broke down in the working.
The great mass of French manufacturers, great part of whose trade was export, protested that duties on raw materials would ruin their export trade, which would not be aided by duties on manufactured goods entering France. Drawbacks on export were proposed, but found impracticable and useless. They also found the surtaxe de pavillon, which enhanced freights on raw material, as burden they could not bear, while the ports which were to have been conciliated by the protection to French shipping were even the loudest in their protests against it. The small quantity of French shipping indeed got increased freights, but the whole trade of the ports was injured, and by a curious irony of fate German shipping, which is under “ the most favoured nation" clause, profited by the penalties imposed on the flags of other nations.
The fall of M. Pouyer-Quertier paved the way for a new understanding, and allowed the Assembly to abandon the heavy taxes proposed in his scheme, and to vote taxes too moderate to be fairly regarded as a move backwards in the direction of Protection. Negotiations were opened for a new Treaty. Under the heavy pressure of the fiscal necessities of France, England conceded the point of a reduced tax on raw materials, but only on the condition that the French Government should cease to appear as the partisan of Protection, and that England should feel there would be no return to an exploded policy in which she could never consent to participate, could she agree io assist the efforts of France to repair the losses of the war. M. Thiers did not hesitate to reduce to the lowest possible proportions the figures of the new tariff, nor did he fear to authorize the negotiators of the new Treaty to give a formal assurance that he was acting entirely and solely under the pressure of fiscal necessities, and was perfectly free from any Protectionist afterthought. The following were to be the main conditions of settlement :-" The tariff of the Treaty of 1860 to remain in force, with the addition of compensatory duties equivalent to the taxes paid on raw materials by the French producers; England to be replaced in the position assured to her for her navigation by the law of the 19th of April, 1866, now repealed in France. Complete freedom regained by England in respect of her own duties on wine, coal, and all other imports and exports. A general reform in the method of settling Custom-house disputes, both as to classification and value. The French to have power to increase the duties on any branch of industry, by giving six months' notice, and obtaining the consent of the other Treaty Powers. The new Treaty to remain in force till the expiration of the Treaty with Austria on the 1st of January, 1877; after which date England shall enjoy the most favoured nation treatment in respect of any Treaty subsequently contracted.”
The proposed new Treaty met with great opposition from the more advanced champions of Free Trade. M. Michel Chevalier, in France, notwithstanding. M. Thiers' declaration, demanded it as “ facilitating the execution of plans, conceived by the chief of the French Protectionists, to throw back France under a Protectionist policy;" and the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, at home, in answer to a circular of Lord Granville addressed to the various Chambers of Commerce in the United Kingdom, announcing the approaching close of negotiations
and inviting suggestions, took the lead in protesting against the Treaty. Especially they protested against the imposition of any increased duties of a protective character on cotton fabrics, which branch of trade they described as "already taxed out of existence” by the duties imposed under the first Treaty; insisted on the impossibility of adjusting compensatory duties with fairness, and declared through their President, Mr. Hugh Mason, their conviction that "no temporary advantage, however apparently expedient, can justify a departure from wellascertained principles; that the pure and unmodified doctrines of Free Trade are those on which alone the true commercial progress of nations can be based; and that it is the duty of this Chamber manfully to uphold those doctrines in their fullest integrity.” The answer of Lord Granville, however, was that it was too late to argue against any renewal of the Commercial Treaty. And looking to the interests of the trade of the country at large, the Government had apparently, in renewing it, the support of the great majority of the mercantile community. On the 5th of November the Treaty was signed.
The obligatory clauses are on this occasion accompanied by an extensive Schedule of specific duties, instead of those duties being reserved for announcement many months after the publication the Articles which fixed their maximum, as happened in 1860.
e Second Article of the new Treaty it is provided that, save tcept so far as engagements made by France with foreign s other than this country shall entitle us to call for a reducduties under the most favoured nation clause—the duties
leviable on British imports from the date of the operation of the Treaty until December 1, 1876, shall be those set forth in the First Annex or Schedule which is published with the Treaty. Those duties are to be levied as from the 1st of December next, if the Treaty and its Protocol should be ratified by that time by the respective Powers; if not then from the date of that ratification. The enacting clauses of the Treaty open with a guarantee, which the two parties give to each other, of treatment such as each gives to the nation it most favours, or may at any time favour. At the same time, a difference is made in the treatment of two classes of British imports. Those designated in the Annex accompanying the Treaty will be liable to the new duties from December 1, 1872; while for all others the duties contained in the tariff of the Convention of 1860 will stand until the 15th of March next. The last paragrapb of the third Article contains the stipulation which has done more than anything else to secure the success. of the Treaty—that which declares that "hereafter British ships and their cargoes shall in France and Algeria, from whatever place arriving, be treated in every respect as national ships and their cargoes, vessels engaged in the coasting trade alone being excepted." The French Government equally binds itself to levy no transit dues in France or Algeria. Neither Power is to issue any prohibition of importation or exportation against the other, which shall not at the same time be applicable to all other foreign nations whatsoever. The clause by which each of the two Governments reserved, in 1860, the right to levy, on the imports of the other, an equivalent compensatory duty against an excise tax or inland duty imposed by itself, is revived by the fifth Article of the new instrument.
A number of Articles then follow, designed to protect the British importer against unjust treatment at the hands of the French Customs officers in the production of goods liable to ad valorem duties. The sixth Article, prescribing the basis on which value shall be estimated, is taken almost word for word from the fourth Article of the old Treaty; by the eighth and seven following Articles, security is taken for the due application of the principles previously laid down. Whenever the French Customs authorities decline to exercise the right of pre-emption against a British importer, they are not to detain his goods, but surrender them, provided that he leaves samples and gives security for the payment of such duties and fines as a jury of experts may eventually declare to be payable. In all cases of dispute, the declarant is to have the option of removing the valuation by experts from an outport to Paris. The experts who are to decide a dispute at an outport are to be nominated one by the declarant, and the other by the local head of the Customs service. In case these cannot agree upon a valuation, they may appoint an umpire ; and if they cannot agree upon an umpire, the President of the local Tribunal of Commerce is to act. Both the importer and the Customs authorities, however, will have the right to adopt an alternative course, and refer the inquiry to the Board of Experts sitting at the Ministry of Commerce at Paris. No decision of experts must be withheld more than eight days at an outpoit, or fifteen days at Paris. As to some questions concerning the duties to be levied on the articles mentioned in the first Annex to the Treaty, the two Governments have not come to a final decision; and these, with certain other questions mentioned in the Protocol accompanying the Treaty, are to be referred to a Special Commission, which is to sit at Paris. Those provisions of the Treaty which concern import duties are to continue in force, except as may hereafter be otherwise provided, until the 1st of January, 1877, and those as to navigation until the 15th of July, 1879. The provision made in the twenty-second Article, with respect to the preservation of the Treaty and the manner in which it may be prolonged, is important. After setting forth that the provisions in regard to tariffs contained in Article two of the present Treaty are' to remain in force until the just-mentioned dates, the Article states that “the High Contracting Parties, if they think fit, may communicate with each other respecting the general working of the present Treaty, and come to an understanding by means of a Declaration or Protocol with respect to its further duration. Failing such definite understanding, and subject to the condition in the next Article stated, either party may, by twelve months' previous notice, which may be given either at any time after the aforesaid dates respectively, or within the twelve months next preceding the same, terminate any of the provisions contained in the preceding Articles of the present Treaty; and, until the expiration of any such notice, this present Treaty, or such part thereof as shall for the time being not be terminated by any similar notice, shall remain in force." By the next following Article, however, the two Governments bind themselves to maintain the principle of treating each other at all times as to matters of commerce and navigation, on the footing of the “most favoured nation,” even when specifio duties are changed.
So far the clauses of the Treaty are an improvement on that which it supersedes; but the new duties argue much retrogression in French policy.
A glance at the Tables and Schedules of the Treaty will show how far France has fallen from the measure of commercial freedom which she lately enjoyed. There is no need to look round for considerations to justify us in consenting to these quasi-protective duties, because at no time our consent necessary to the levy of any duties which the French Government might choose to impose after its notice to terminate the Treaty of 1860 had expired. But it may reconcile us to this Treaty to remember that, after a short experience of the new taxes on raw materials, France may be as anxious to recover that form of commercial liberty which involves freedom of exchange, as M. Thiers has been to grasp that very peculiar privilege which he calls by the same name, but which is nothing but the power to obstruct and embarrass
trade. In that case the Government of France will not find it difficult to approach our own with a view to a revision of this Treaty. Four years soon pass away; but the aggravated charges now imposed may have even a shorter term of existence. France cannot remain permanently behind the rest of the world. By the treaty of 1860 she passed from duties, many of them prohibitory, to a maximum of 30 per cent., to be reduced in 1864 to 25 per cent. Her example has been largely followed by the principal nations of Europe, who are too well aware of the advantages they have gained on every approach to Free Trade to go back to their former erroneous systems. France, in recovering her strength, will recover that old spirit which never permits her for any long time to lag behind the civilization which she ought to lead and inspire. The numerous strikes which have occurred during the year
have produced general anxiety by the formidable nature of their possible results, and by the extension of the system to classes which had hitherto abstained from combination. Joseph Arch, an agitator with a considerable command of language, who had formerly worked in the fields, succeeded in organizing an Agricultural Labourers' Union in several counties. The movement began in Warwickshire. Stoneleigh Abbey, the seat of Lord Leigh, some four or five miles north of Warwick and Leamington, was the extremity of the disturbed district in one direction; and in the other its limit was found at Wellesbourne, six or seven miles south of Leamington, through Whitnash, Barford, and Wasperton, the intermediate hamlets. There was by no means a general strike in this district; it appears that not more than 200 men, out of 2000 or 8000, had thrown up their work, and the farmers had no difficulty in getting on without them. The dispute began in February, at Wellesbourne, with a claim that the rate of wages should be raised from 12s. to 158. or 148. a week, not including certain allowances in kind. Some farmers granted the advance to 148. without beer, while others did not. The Leamington propagandists of trade unionism, hearing of this dispute, sent an emissary to Wellesbourne, and a society was soon got up called “The Warwickshire Agricultural Labourers' Union," which obtained flattering promises of support from Birmingham and other manufacturing towns. The local newspapers, by reporting and advocating this organization, gave it an appearance of political importance, which was increased by borrowing the names of Professor Beesley, of University College, London, and Mr. Henry Fawcett, M.P., as patrons of the movement. The Hon. Auberon Herbert, M.P., with his usual alacrity to figure as a “people's friend," and Mr. Edward Jenkins, the author of “Ginx's Baby,” were induced to come forward at Leamington tea-meetings, where many people of that little town, having no business of their own, were disposed to hear speeches from the notable strangers.
The landowners and gentlemen-farmers of Warwickshire, on their part, held a meeting, and passed a resolution deprecating the interference of political agitators. One of