22 SEPTEMBER 1860, Page 11


Orrin weekly contemporary, the Saturday ,Reriera, reports a most painful state of feeling in the North of France on the subject of the commercial treaty with this country. He denies "the value of the professions of unbounded satisfaction which arc • manu- factured by the prefects and sub-prefects, by the order of the French Government." The fact is, he says, that " in all the de- partments lying to the North of 'the line of 'Paris, the Emperor is intensely unpopular." Our contemporary admits that "the the utt7. pqmilarity is undeserved, and is •produced, not by the worst, 'but by the best parts of Imperial policy ; " and we understand from the general tone of the article, that the feeling is provoked by the movements in the direction of free-trade. The Saturday Review is conducted with such remarkable ability, and it has commanded such an amount of talent amongst its contributors, that it has justly acquired the very highest reputation amongst the London papers, and hence any statement made in its pages is naturally accounted to come from high authority. It is this which draws attention to the article ; for, otherwise, the assertions are too vague and too little supported by specific instances, to have much effect upon the practical English public. Circulating as the paper does, however, amongst eduoated and influential classes it is not desirable that even the vague and latent feeling which such an article may leave should pass without correction. It is not that the writer leaves his assertion unsupported by something that is intended 'to look like evidence. Lie gives the "reasons for the discontent of a large part of France with the great experiment which is beginning to be tried"— One very intelligible reason is, the certainty that the period of transi- tion from-protection to free trade must prove IL season of much more per- plexity and distress than the analogous period in England. The very bad- ness of the system under which the trade and manufacture of France have been developed rendersit extraordinarily difficult to pass otherwise than by an abrupt leap from the old principles to the new ones. " So unreal and artificial are several of the French manufactures, that those engaged in them have never had the spirit to call to their aid the com- monest discoveries and inventions of this century and the last. Nor are these enterprises in their infancy merely so far as regards the processes employed in manufacture;_ they are equally primitive in their dis- tribution of labour. It is a circumstance little known in England that great commercial cities'of Normandyand Alsace, and in a less degree those of the extreme north of 'France, are not so much seats of manufacture as centres and depots of an'industry which is diffused over the whole surrounding de- partment. Only a part of the cotton-prints, muslins, and cloths are the fabric*, of steam and iron in the towns ; a large part—and sometimes the largest and most important part—are,produced by hand-labour in the vil- lages, where almost every cottage has its loom, its frame, or its wheel. Nothing testifies more completely to the nnhealthhiess and backwardness ftf.ttlifbrYatein of production hitherto maintained in France than its depen- Once on the rudest forms, of me4hanical labour. It is well ascertained that the healthiest state of relations between the separate labour of individuals and the combined labour of men in manufactories is that in which nothing but the finest and rarest of fabrics are produced by the human hand, while all the commoner and cheaper stuffs are thrown off by millions of yards in colossal factories, served by hundreds of disciplined operatives. But in the .North, East, and -West of France it is precisely- the cheapest fabrics which are manufactured by the hand-loom: 'The cotton-prints, so paltry to Eng- lish eyes, ihieh are worn by the French peasant woman or the Parielian grisette, come near!) exclusively from small .Norman and Alsacian villages. 'Of course, the labour which has hitherto been occupied by them will helm.- .ferwrad renmin idle, unless some expansion of manufacture in the cities should tempt the rural citizens to leave their homes for the purpose of assisting in modes of prialuction,requiringgreat organization and extensive combination. Hire, however, we come upon the source of the peculiar difficulty with which French labour has to struggle in making its way over a crisis like the present. The peasants who surround the manufacturing cities are agricultural labourers as wall as spinners and weavers, and, moreover, far the largest part of them are proprietors of small patches of land. The opinion of those who know them best is, that if they are compelled to give up the hand- loom, they will simply trust for support to the cultivation of their little fields, and encounter year after year of slow starvation rather than migrate to the city. The immense wages paid to operatives in the North of England since the establishment of free trade have failed to attract any adequate number of labouring men from their one-roomed cottage and their eight shillings a week in the. Southern counties ; and yet, compared with the stay- at-home French peasant, the English farm-labourer is a restless and erratic nomad. The alarm of the French manufacturing interests is the greater from the want of any knowledge which may teach them that augmented wealth and a more stirring activity must necessarily, in the long run, be the result of the Imperial policy. People who are aware that some of the most Instructive treatises on political economy, and certainly the one brilliant book on that subject, have been written by Frenchmen, can never be pre- pared- for the absolute ignorance of economical truth which characterizes the whole of French society, except a small circle in Paris. They have not in France that vague appreciation of the true laws of trade, finance, and pro- duction which has taken possession of the popular mind in England ever since Adam Smith wrote. The tone of thought in France is, in fact, in- tensely setitimental, and the sentiments in favour are exactly those which are fatal, except in minds of great strength, to the understanding of an economical proposition."

Without further explanation, our own readers might be pecu- liarly disposed to accept this description of the North of France, since it will be found in many respects to coincide with the traits we men- tioned some time ago, in alluding to the state of agriculture and of enterprise generally. The most unobservant traveller in the agricultural and manufacturing districts of France cannot fail to note a strange combination,—a really intelligent and industrial race, and a curious, beggarly, makeshift system of contrivances replaoing the needful apparatus of agriculture and trade. The peasant stints himself in food ; the beast he drives, underbred, is also underfed, and is scarcely able to stagger along in front of a tumble-down cart ; and the implements are as primitive and in- efficient. The fact is, that the whole race is intent more upon parsimony than upon turning its resources to a profit—a grand distinction ethnologists will tell us, between the Celtic and the Anglo-Saxon races. Ethnology, however, is sometimes wide in its assertions, and there are many changes in the state of France which throw considerable doubt upon this assertion of ethnology. In great part the condition of France, agriculturally and indus-, trially, is the result of the peculiar tenure of land and the despe- rate oppression of the people, so late as the day of Arthur Young ; and eighty years are not so wide a span of time to effect the re- generation of a race, to say nothing of the fact that the political disturbances of France and the general tendency of its adminis- tration, which has inclined- to a sort of retail philosophy in eco- nomical matters, have not contributed to call forth the enterprise and energies of the population until this very day. The descrip- tion to which we have referred, however, rather applies to the condition which France is leaving, than to the permanent state of

the community. It would be observed that our contemporary limits his assertion

to the departments North of the line of Paris—a limitation which implies that, on the other side of the line, the description does not hold good. While speaking of the relations between the Im- perial Government and France, it would obviously have been more exact, if not more fair to explain distinctly the condi- tion of the people in the Southern half of the country. Here we should find very considerable counteractives to the feeling reported by the Saturday Review. It is in some of the Southern districts that the greatest improvements are proceeding under the sanction of the Imperial Government, with large financial assist- ance from Paris,—improvements which must clear waste lands and annex so much territory to the empire of France. It is towards the South that the wine interest is in the ascendant, speculating upon the advantages to be derived from the Treaty of Commerce. It is in the South that we have had a remarkable manifesto,—that from Lyons, whose commercial men, in their corporate capacity, have given their adhesion to the most absolute free trade, with one exception so slight as substantially to afford no abatement of the opinion avowed. In the South, therefore, the commercial policy of the Imperial Government is manifestly congenial to the immediate wants and feelings of the phpnlation. -- It happens, however, that this statement holds equally good to the'Noith of the line. We do not speak upon vague generalities, nor are.we left dependent upon statements derived from the Im- perial Government. We speak from facts within our own per- sonal knowledge, from 'evidence obtained through commercial people in"the towns to which; the -Saturday _Review must refer, and through Englishmen whbse Position experience, and recent inquiries enable them to speak with absolute knowledge. We re- fer not only to the departments North of the 'line of Paris, but especially to the "department of the North," and thoao`around it. We have iome time since stated that the general prospects of trade had thoroughly.reconciled to the Imperial Government men who had formerly been thick-and-thin Orleanists, and who now, avow- ing their political attachments, nevertheless pray for the con- tinuance of the Imperial rule in order to their own profit and ad- vantage. If Lyons has declared in favour of free trade, the towns of the North have made a declaration, not quite so sweeping, but strikingly illustrative of the present question. • Rouen and St. Quentin have both petitioned the Imperial Government for a re- moval of the prohibition on cotton yarns, and the establishment of an ad valorem duty of 5 per cent on the finer sorts. What are the motives of these petitions?

We have partly reported them before. Since the discussions on the treaty began, a surprisino.° progress has taken place in the opinions of the commercial body throughout France. There is no doubt that the discussions in Paris have actually consti- tuted a school for grown children, in which the mercantile men of France have been compelled to learn the advantages which they might derive from an enlarged sphere for their commercial operations. They already possessed the intelligence necessary to ap- preciate that information, but, prejudiced in favour of the existing system, they had obstinately refused to listen to the information, to look at the figures. The class to which we refer is not that out of which " prefects and sub-prefects are manufactured," but the regular trading body. Nor do we speak only of the upper classes, or of general opinions ; there are practical business reasons for the movement. This portion of France presents a curious anomaly amongst the cotton manufacturing population. There is an extraordinary deficiency of spinners,—spinners do not amount to 5 per cent upon the total number of halide engaged in. the cotton trade. The consequence is, that the weavers are kept short of materials from the deficiency of spinners. Why has not the want been supplied ? the Englishman asks. Because spinning is a trade which requires for its development a considerable outlay of capital in proportion to the returns, and French traders very generally run in favour of small operations, making prompt and much more proportionate profits. Under the present state of things, the spinners have enjoyed an exclusive market ; and so far has the bad influence gone, that it has literally been a favour acknowledged by the weavers to obtain yarn from the spinners. We believe we are correct in saying that it is a practice among the weavers to inscribe their names in a book kept for the purpose, in order that they may receive yarn from the gracious spinners in regular turn. That simple fact discloses the uncommercial .state of trade ; but it also explains why the great body of the population in this calumniated North sees the advantage to be derived from an abolition of the restrictions under which it suffers. If the weavers are mixed with the industrial population generally, the fact that these petitions have come from the weav- ing body, shows how deeply the opinions in favour of a more liberal policy must have taken root in the population, even North Of the line of Paris.