Inferior Council Of Labor

What! You have the assurance to demand for every citizen the right to

buy, sell, trade, exchange, and to render service for service according

to his own discretion, on the sole condition that he will conduct

himself honestly, and not defraud the revenue? Would you rob the

workingman of his labor, his wages and his bread?

This is what is said to us. I know what the general opinion is; but I

have desired to
know what the laborers themselves think. I have had an

excellent opportunity of finding out.

It was not one of those Superior Councils of Industry (Committee on

the Revision of the Tariff), where large manufacturers, who style

themselves laborers, influential ship-builders who imagine themselves

seamen, and wealthy bondholders who think themselves workmen, meet and

legislate in behalf of that philanthropy with whose nature we are so

well acquainted.

No, they were workmen to the manor born, real, practical laborers,

such as joiners, carpenters, masons, tailors, shoemakers, blacksmiths,

grocers, etc., etc., who had established in my village a Mutual Aid

Society. Upon my own private authority I transformed it into an

Inferior Council of Labor (People's Committee for Revising the

Tariff), and I obtained a report which is as good as any other, although

unencumbered by figures, and not distended to the proportions of a

quarto volume and printed at the expense of the State.

The subject of my inquiry was the real or supposed influence of the

protective system upon these poor people. The President, indeed,

informed me that the institution of such an inquiry was somewhat in

contravention of the principles of the society. For, in France, the land

of liberty, those who desire to form associations must renounce

political discussions--that is to say, the discussion of their common

interests. However, after much hesitation, he made the question the

order of the day.

The assembly was divided into as many sub-committees as there were

different trades represented. A blank was handed to each sub-committee,

which, after fifteen days' discussion, was to be filled and returned.

On the appointed day the venerable President took the chair (official

style, for it was only a stool) and found upon the table (official

style, again, for it was a deal plank across a barrel) a dozen reports,

which he read in succession.

The first presented was that of the tailors. Here it is, as accurately

as if it had been photographed:


Disadvantages. Advantages.

1. On account of the protective tariff, we pay None.

more for our own bread, meat, sugar, thread,

etc., which is equivalent to a considerable 1. We have examined

diminution of our wages. the question in

every light, and

2. On account of the protective tariff, our patrons have been unable to

are also obliged to pay more for everything, and perceive a single

have less to spend for clothes, consequently we point in regard to

have less work and smaller profits. which the protective

system is

3. On account of the protective tariff, clothes advantageous to

are expensive, and people make them wear longer, our trade.

which results in a loss of work, and compels us to

offer our services at greatly reduced rates.

Here is another report:


Disadvantages. Advantages.

1. The protective system imposes a tax (which does

not get into the Treasury) every time we eat, drink,

warm, or clothe ourselves.

2. It imposes a similar tax upon our neighbors, and

hence, having less money, most of them use wooden

pegs, instead of buying nails, which deprives us of


3. It keeps the price of iron so high that it can None.

no longer be used in the country for plows, or gates,

or house fixtures, and our trade, which might give

work to so many who have none, does not even give

ourselves enough to do.

4. The deficit occasioned in the Treasury by those

goods which do not enter is made up by taxes

on our salt.

The other reports, with which I will not trouble the reader, told the

same story. Gardeners, carpenters, shoemakers, boatmen, all complained

of the same grievances.

I am sorry there were no day laborers in our association. Their report

would certainly have been exceedingly instructive. But, unfortunately,

the poor laborers of our province, all protected as they are, have not

a cent, and, after having taken care of their cattle, cannot go

themselves to the Mutual Aid Society. The pretended favors of

protection do not prevent them from being the pariahs of modern society.

What I would especially remark is the good sense with which our

villagers have perceived not only the direct evil results of protection,

but also the indirect evil which, affecting their patrons, reacts upon


This is a fact, it seems to me, which the economists of the school of

the Moniteur Industriel do not understand.

And possibly some men, who are fascinated by a very little protection,

the agriculturists, for instance, would voluntarily renounce it if they

noticed this side of the question. Possibly, they might say to

themselves: It is better to support one's self surrounded by well-to-do

neighbors, than to be protected in the midst of poverty. For to seek to

encourage every branch of industry by successively creating a void

around them, is as vain as to attempt to jump away from one's shadow.