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The Méline Tariff as Social Protection: Rhetoric or Reality?*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 December 2008

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Copyright © Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis 1992


1 Smith, Michael Stephen, Tariff Reform in France, 1860–1900: The Politics of Economic Interest (Ithaca, 1980), especially pp. 2325, 197235, 239254.Google Scholar

2 Lebovics, Herman, “Protection against Labor Troubles: The Campaign of the Association de l'industrie française for Economic Stability and Social Peace during the Great Depression, 1880–1896”, 31(1986), 2, pp. 147165.Google Scholar

3 Lebovics, Herman, The Alliance of Iron and Wheat in the Third French Republic, 1860–1914: Origins of the New Conservatism (Baton Rouge, 1988), especially pp. 5196.Google Scholar

4 Lebovics, , The Alliance of Iron and Wheat, pp. 5, 9192.Google Scholar

5 Perrot, Michelle, Les ouvriers en grève: France, 1871–1890, 2 vols (Paris, 1974), 1, pp. 4872.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

6 Ibid., 1, p. 82.

7 Goninet, Marcel, Histoire de Roanne et de sa région, 2 vols (Roanne, 1975), 1, pp.232237.Google Scholar

8 Gras, L.J., Histoire économique de la métallurgie de la Loire (Saint Etienne, 1908), pp.352381.Google Scholar

9 Reid, Donald, The Miners of Decazeville: A Genealogy of Deindustrialization (Cambridge, MA, 1985), pp. 72113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

10 On the French state's increasing intervention on behalf of labor, see Reid, ibid.

11 The stability of the protectionist forces from the 1870s to the early 1890s is reflected in the membership lists of the Association de l'industrie française reprinted in Lebovics, pp.193 201. On the protectionist campaign of the 1880 as an cxtension of previous efforts, see Smith, , Tariff Reform in France, pp. 196210.Google Scholar

12 “Tariffs promised to stabilize existing industries, increase prices and profits, and permit concessions to pacify the growing militancy of the new class of industrial workers of the provinces”, Lebovics, , The Alliance of Iron and Wheat, p. 93.Google Scholar

13 Ibid., pp. 97–123.

14 “In the early years of the 1890s, the defenses of the social order of the Republic were nearly completed. In place was a tariff policy and an ideology of National Production to pacify the working class” [emphasis added], Lebovics, , The Alliance of Iron and Wheat, p. 123.Google Scholar

15 See the tariff rates in Smith, , Tariff Reform in France, pp. 253258.Google Scholar

16 Hanagan, Michael P., The Logic of Solidarity: Artisans and Industrial Workers in Three French Towns, 18711914 (Urbana, IL, 1980).Google Scholar

17 The membership of the commission included industrialists such as Jean Audiffred (Roanne), Henry Boucher (president of the Epinal Chamber of Commerce), Jules Dansette (Armentières linen spinner), and Eugène Motte (the mayor of Roubaix). It also included such pro-labor deputies as Gustave Dron, the Radical mayor of Tourcoing, and the Socialists Jean Jaurès, Edmond Charpentier (Loire), Léon Mirman (Reims), and Gustave Delory (mayor of Lille).

18 des députés, Chambre, Procès-verbaux de la Commission chargé de procéder à une enquête sur l'état de l'industrie textile et la condition des ouvriers textiles, 5 vols (Paris: Imprimerie de la Chambre des députés, 1906). [Hereafter cited Chamber Textile Commission.]Google Scholar

19 As the president of the Armentières Chamber of Commerce put it, “without the Méline tariff, our industry would no longer exist”, Chamber Textile Commission, II, p.19.

20 Smith, , Tariff Reform in France, pp. 225226;Google ScholarMarkovitch, T.J., “L'Industrie française de 1789 à 1964: Analyse des faits”, Cahiers de l'ISEA AF 6, no. 174 (juin 1966), Tableau de base XVI (Industrie textile).Google Scholar

21 Deposition of the Association syndicale des ouvriers de l'industrie textile d'Armentières et d'Houplines. Chamber Textile Commission, II, pp. 6167; on wages at Lille and Armentières, Chamber Textile Commission, IV, pp. 266270, 293302.Google Scholar

22 Chamber Textile Commission, II, p. 67.

23 Imports of woolen cloth fell from an annual average worth of 77 million francs in 1877–1886 to 40 million francs in 1897–1906. Levasseur, Emile, Histoire de commerce de la France, 2 vols (Paris, 19111912), II, p. 771.Google Scholar

24 The value of French woolen cloth exports declined from an annual average of 349 million francs in 1877–1886 to 226 million francs in 1897–1906 (Levasseur, , II, p. 771).Google Scholar After the United States enacted a tough new tariff in 1883, the value of French woolen cloth exports to the USA fell from an annual average of 73 million francs in 1881–1885 to 17 million francs in 1901–1905, a decline of 77 percent. See Smith, Michael S., “France's Commercial “Decline’, 1871–1914: A Re-examination”,Google Scholar in Perkins, E.J. (ed.), Essays in Economic and Business History, IV (1986), pp. 2122.Google Scholar

25 Chamber Textile Commission, IV, pp. 336–410. The employers said that the daily wages of spinners fell from 5.5 to 4–5 francs per day from 1893 to 1903 while the daily wages of weavers were falling from 4.4 francs to 2.5–4 francs per day. The union, the prud'hommes, and others indicated it was much worse, with weavers' wages declining fully 50 percent (4 francs to 2 francs) and with spinners in the poorest mills earning only 1 franc per day.

26 Testimony of the Chambre syndicale des ouvriers de l'industrie textile, Chamber Textile Commission, II, pp. 161177.Google Scholar

27 Imports of cotton yarn fell from 101,500 quintaux in 1890 to 38,800 quintaux in 1902, and imports of cotton cloth fell from 24,510 quintaux in 1892 to 12,670 in 1903 (Chamber Textile Commission, IV, p. 38). Meanwhile, cotton cloth exports rose from 14,720 to 27,717 quintaux of which 50 percent went to the colonies (Marseille, Jacques, Empire colonial et capitalisme français (Paris, 1984), p. 54).Google Scholar

28 Chamber Textile Commission, II, p. 253.

29 Ibid., II, p. 245.

30 Ibid., II, pp. 267–284.

31 Total power looms in Normandy rose from 17,400 in 1890 to 24,500 in 1903 (Chamber Textile Commission, IV, pp. 42–73).

32 According to the Syndicat de la filature de coton, daily wages of male mule spinners rose from 4,75 francs to 4.83 francs, 1892–1903; wages of rattacheurs went from 2.86 to 2.93 francs and wages of female spinning machine tenders went from 2.91 to 3.01 francs in the same period. According to the Syndicat du tissage de coton, wages of bobineuses rose from 2.2 to 2.4 francs per day and wages of tisserands rose from 3.02 to 3.2 francs per day (Chamber Textile Commission, IV, pp. 2292).Google Scholar

33 The Conseil des prud'hommes reported to the textile commission “une légère baisse des taux de la main-oeuvre” (IV, p. 98). In the previous five years there had been four strikes lasting four to six weeks each, three of which protested the lowering of piece-rates when new machinery was installed. All had failed as the cotton masters refused to negotiate and summarily fired the workers'spokesmen (Chamber Textile Commission, IV, p. 100).Google Scholar

34 Chamber Textile Commission, IV, p. 101.

35 From 1892 to 1903, the number of spindles in the Vosges increased from 1,116,000 to 2,236,000 and the number of looms increased from 33,000 to 54,700 (Chamber Textile Commission, IV, p. 269).

36 According to an index provided by the Syndicat cotonnier de l'Est, wages for men in the Vosges cotton industry rose 40 percent, 1890–1903, while women's wages increased 17 percent and children's 47 percent (Chamber Textile Commission, IV, p. 259).

37 Boucher, Henry, president of the Epinal Chamber of Commerce and deputy for the Vosges, maintained that “patrons and workers [in the Vosges] lived on terms of such intimate collaboration that conflicts were relatively rare” (Chamber Textile Commission, IV, p. 244).Google Scholar This is confirmed by Poull, Georges, L'Industrie textile vosgienne, 1765–1981 (Rupt-sur-Moselle, 1982), p. 430, who speaks of the Vosges workers as “notoriously passive”.Google Scholar

38 Thus at David, Maigret, et Cie where piece rates fell 40 percent, workers still earned 3.75–4 francs per day tending four looms instead of 3.5 francs tending two (Chamber Textile Commission, IV, p. 281).

39 Chamber Textile Commission, IV, p. 287.

40 On the development and diffusion of the Northrop loom, see Mass, William, “Mechanical and Organizational Innovation: The Drapers and the Automatic Loom,” Business History Review, 63, 4 (winter 1989), pp. 876929.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

41 Research on the cost of living and the computation of real wages was in its infancy in France at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, and available data tends to be drawn from Paris, as is reflected in the work of Halbwachs and Singer-Kérel (Halbwachs, Maurice, La classe ouvrière et les niveaux de vie (Paris, 1913);Google ScholarSinger-Kérel, J., Le coût de vie à Paris de 1840 à 1954 (Paris, 1961)).Google Scholar See the discussions in Levasseur, Emile, Questions ouvrières et industrielles en France sous la IIIe République (Paris, 1907), pp. 523600,Google Scholar and Perrot, Michelle, “Les classes populaires urbaines”, Histoire économique et sociale de la France, IV (Paris, 1979), 1, pp. 483505.Google Scholar V. Zamagni recently computed a new real wage index from Phelps-Brown's wage index and Singer-Kérel's cost of living index. It shows stagnation in French real wages, 1891–1896 (with the index fluctuating between 92 and 95), followed by steady improvement, 1896–1907 (with the index rising to 108), followed by a severe decline in 1911–1913 when the cost of living rose dramatically as wage rates held steady (Zamagni, V., “An International Comparison of Real Industrial Wages, 1890–1913: Methodological Issues and Results”, in Scholliers, Peter (ed.), Real Wages in 19th and 20th Century Europe: Historical and Comparative Perspectives (New York, 1989), pp. 107140). Of course, the behavior of such general indices tells us little about what was happening to the specific occupational groups discussed here.Google Scholar

42 Hilden, Patricia, Working Women and Socialist Politics in France, 1880–1914: A Regional Study (Oxford, 1986), pp. 76ff.Google Scholar