THE FRENCH COMMERCIAL TREATY.
Tim E Treaty, in the estimation of certain writers, has got into very deep water ; and were we to credit the statements made to us, England has been befooled into a bad bargain. Waiving the question that these treaties are opposed to Free Trade in principle, this particular treaty was hailed with ,satisfaction, because the country saw in it an opportunity of creating and fostering a sub- stantial alliance between the two peoples of France and England. But every wind that blew from any point of the political compass was supposed to prove the folly of a treaty with a country of the ruler of which we are suspicious. The distinction has never been drawn between the value of an alliance between Governments, and the infinitely greater value of a mutual interest between the two nations. Foiled in defeating the treaty as a whole, the acts of opponents have been directed latterly to the details ; and our great daily contemporary somewhat triumphantly asked, the other day, what would happen to the article of German silver spoons, if the duty settled by the text of the treaty, which might be moderate upon spoons of the value of fourteen shillings a pound, was also levied. upon spoons only worth a shilling ? Our contem- porary has never got beyond the first schedule affixed to the treaty, and he sets aside all the subsequent arrangements made by the deputations in conjunction with the English and French Commissioners. The principle of ad valorem duties has been adopted in the case of Belfast, Rochdale, Leeds, and Bradford, the products of which have been laboriously examined and classi- fied; Belfast, for instance, having no less than six assortments of her linens all distinguishable in their texture. So with Leeds and other places, Bradford and Rochdale being able to define exactly the proportion of duty payable upon each description 61 manufacture.
There seems to be no reason to doubt that the French Govern- ment is seriously in earnest in the completion of the treaty. We find evidence of the fact in the announcement made last week in the Moniteur, that it was the intention of the Government to an- ticipate the date originally fixed upon for the commencement of the new. tariff. Whatever were the original influences at work in France, set in motion to defeat the treaty in detail, they seem to have subsided before the determination of the Commissioners. The opposing forces now appear on this side of the Channel, in the form of sneers, which can never be answered, as Gibson said, and we are told that the treaty would long ago have been com- pleted if it had been a straightforward proceeding from the first. We forget the long struggle in. our own country between protection and free-trade, and grudge to France a similar delay. A great country can only pass through such a change by gradual transition, and France is giving earnest by the admission of corn-laden British and American bottoms into her ports at the same rates as French ships, that she is prepared to enter upon that system of relaxation which Sir Robert Peel initiated for us in 1846. Our shipowners only gave up the cry for reciprocity the other day ; it was time they did, for it is impossible to restore a commerce once lost, but there is a better reason for the discontinuance of the cry in the fact that British ships are admitted into France and Martinique. One principle we should keep steadily in view with respect to the treaty. It is a contract, the effects of which will create a thousand interests not now existing, interlacing Frenchmen and Englishmen together. This is better than any alliance between Governments, because it extinguishes old hatreds in mutual ad- vantages, which affect the prosperity of individuals known to each other in commercial relations and communities so inter- twined, are not likely to get to war. France went to war in Italy for an " idea ; " she comes and makes a trade with us by treaty—a mere "idea" in the inception, but one which is likely to become productive of lasting effects to both countries. Sepa- rated from the politics of the time and the acts of diplomacy, the treaty is a great sheet-anchor upon which England can rely for calming the passions under national excitement. The attitude of England at this moment is a proud one; we are still "a nation of shopkeepers," but we are also renewing our youth and restoring the old age of chivalrous devotion. We are neither willing to wound, nor yet afraid to strike if it be necessary ; but, before we strike, we are anxious to try the effect of developed industry and intercourse with all our neighbours. France recognizes the fact of England's new position ; she comes to buy and sell with us ; and, whilst we reciprocate the offer, we stand erect and unmoved by fear of hosts armed either with steel or gold. Being so strong at home, we can afford to be liberal abroad, and scatter our bargains in tariffs with generosity of purpose. Our wisdom will be justified before long in the result.