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   Chapter 22 THE TRADE FEATURES OF FRANCE

Up To Date Business By Various Characters: 10915

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


FRANCE A RICHLY FAVOURED COUNTRY

France by nature is one of the most highly favoured countries in the world. Its climate is genial. Its temperature is so varied that almost every vegetable, grain or fruit needed for the sustenance of man may be raised within its borders. Its soil, though not surprisingly fertile, yet yields abundantly such products as are suited to it. Its mineral resources, especially in coal, iron, lead, marble, and salt, are very considerable. Its area is compact. Its facilities for foreign commerce are unsurpassed. It lies between the two bodies of water-the Atlantic and the Mediterranean-of greatest commercial importance in the world. And its people, especially those in rural parts, are exceptionally frugal and industrious. But France as a nation has not made the progress in the world that its natural advantages call for. It has been cursed with expensive and unstable governments and sanguinary wars. Its upper classes, the natural leaders of its peoples, are excessively fond of pleasure and military glory, and the energies of the nation have been much misdirected. As a consequence, despite its natural advantages, France is losing ground among the nations of the world. Its national debt amounts to nearly $7,000,000,000, the largest national debt known in history, being per head of population seventeen and one half times as great as that of Germany, six times as great as that of the United States, and much more than one and one half times as great as that of Great Britain. But, what is of more serious consequence, the vitality of its people seems debilitated. For years the annual number of births in France has been steadily decreasing, while the annual number of deaths has been more or less increasing. Over a great part of the country the number of deaths annually exceeds the number of births. In numerous years this is so for the whole country. The birth rate is the lowest in Europe. The death rate, while not the highest, is yet higher than in many other countries. As a consequence of all this the population of France is almost stationary. During the last seventy years it has increased only 18 per cent., while that of Great Britain has increased 63 per cent., Germany 75 per cent., Russia 92 per cent., and Europe as a whole 62 per cent. And even this increase, small as it is, is largely due to immigration from other countries. Nor is the emigration of Frenchmen to their colonies or to other countries to be set down as a sufficient explanation. The French are averse to emigration. At the present time the number of Frenchmen residing abroad is only a little more than half a million, while of foreigners residing in France the number is not far short of a million and a quarter.

France, compared in size with the States of Illinois and Texas.

THE FRENCH A THRIFTY, FRUGAL PEOPLE

When France is compared with other countries in respect of commercial development and progress, the results will in almost every particular turn out unfavourable to France. For example, since the close of the Napoleonic wars eighty-three years ago the national trade of Great Britain has quadrupled, while that of France has only trebled. At the close of the Franco-German war France was eighteen per cent. ahead of Germany in the carrying power of her shipping. Now Germany is seventy per cent. ahead of France in that respect. But it must be remembered that the Franco-German war cost France in army expenses and in indemnity no less a sum than $3,250,000,000. The effect of that tremendous expenditure upon the prosperity of the nation can be estimated by one comparison. Since that war the annual average savings per inhabitant in France have been $17. For the same period the annual average savings per inhabitant in Great Britain have been $19.50. Had that war not occurred the average annual savings per inhabitant in France would have been $21.50. In short, no people in Europe are comparable with the working classes of the French people in frugality and thrift, and because of this characteristic, if France were well governed, its prosperity would be equal to that of any country in the world, and this would be so in spite of the fact that France's interest bill imposes a tax of $6.50 a year on every inhabitant of the country.

Street scene in Paris, showing the Bourse.

THE IMPORTANCE OF AGRICULTURE IN FRANCE

France has one element of stability, one characteristic inducive of thriftiness, that most other countries of Europe lack. In most other European countries the land is held by few proprietors. In France it is held by many. In Great Britain and Ireland, for example, the land that is devoted to agriculture is held by only 19,000 proprietors. In France it is held by 3,500,000 proprietors. There are also 3,500,000 district farms in France, though only sixty per cent. of the farm land of the country is cultivated by the owners. It follows from this that agriculture has in France a hold upon the affections and self-interest of the people that it has in no other country in the world. About forty-two per cent. of the total population of the country able to work are employed in agricultural pursuits. Agriculture, therefore, is one of the most important industries of France. One fifth of the total earnings of her people are made in agriculture. It cannot be said, however, that agriculture in France is pursued as successfully as it is in some other countries-in Grea

t Britain, for example. France, with sometimes the exception of Russia, is the largest wheat-grower of all the nations of Europe, but its production of grain per acre is not more than four sevenths that of Great Britain, while its production of grain per farming hand is only two thirds that of Great Britain. But so much of the agricultural effort of France is devoted to such industries as can be carried on in small farms or holdings-potato-raising, for example, and fruit-raising and poultry-raising-that the total money product per acre in France is not far short of what it is in Great Britain. That is to say, while agriculture is more profitably carried on in Great Britain than in France, it proportionately supports a larger number of people in France than in Great Britain.

FRANCE'S WATERWAYS AND RAILWAYS

France, like Germany, is well supplied with navigable rivers, and these, with its canals, constitute a complete network of navigable waterways that cover all the country and greatly promote the internal commerce of the nation. These navigable rivers aggregate 5500 miles, and the navigable canals over 3100 miles. The tonnage of goods carried on these waterways compares quite favourably with that carried by the railways. The railways aggregate 25,000 miles.

THE DISTINCTIVE AND IMPORTANT MANUFACTURES OF FRANCE

The most distinctive manufacture of France, the one in which she surpasses all other countries of the world, is the silk manufacture. France's total production of silk is not far short of one third of the total production of the world. Lyons (466,000), on the Rhone, is the chief seat of the industry, having had this pre-eminence ever since the Jacquard loom was invented there at the beginning of this century. Its production is not far short of three fourths of the total production of the country. The most important manufacture of France, however, is her manufacture of woollens. In this manufacture she comes next after Great Britain, her total production being a little ahead of that of both Germany and the United States. Her woollen mills number over 2000. Her consumption of wool for this industry is about three fourths that of Great Britain, but the value of her production is only two thirds that of Britain. Lille (216,000) and Rheims (108,000) are the chief seats of the woollen industry. Of about equal value with the woollen manufacture of France is its hardware manufacture, but the importance of France's hardware manufacture is national rather than international. Of next importance is the manufacture of cottons and linens. The chief seats of these industries are, for cottons, Rouen (113,000), the "Manchester of France," and for linens, Lille. Near Lille is Cambrai, the chief place of manufacture for that finer class of linens known as cambrics. A second distinctive manufacture of France is that of glass and porcelain. In this manufacture France quite equals Great Britain in respect of value, and surpasses her in respect of the artistic character of the wares. Limoges (77,000) and St. Cloud (near Paris) are the chief seats of the French porcelain manufacture. It is at St. Cloud that the celebrated "Sèvres" porcelain is made.

PARIS AND THE GREAT SEAPORTS OF FRANCE

Paris (2,536,834) is, of course, the chief trade centre of all France, but the trade interests of Paris are general rather than special. The manufactures that are most localised in Paris are those of articles of luxury, such as jewellery, perfumery, gloves, fancy wares, novelties, and fashionable boots and shoes. Paris is also a great financial centre. Marseilles (442,000), one of the oldest cities in Europe, is the great seaport of France. Its trade amounts to over $350,000,000 annually, and it ranks next after Hamburg among the great seaports of central Europe. Its specialty is its great trade with the Mediterranean and the East. The opening of the Suez Canal has been of incalculable advantage to Marseilles. Next as shipping port comes Havre (119,000), at the mouth of the Seine, with a total trade not far short of that of Marseilles. Havre is in reality the port or "haven" of Paris. It is the great depot for French imports from North and South America. These comprise principally cotton, tobacco, wheat, animal produce, and wool. Its import of South American wool is enormous, for three fourths of the wool used in France now comes from the region of the La Plata. Recently the Seine has been deepened and now both Rouen and Paris may be considered seaports. By this means Paris has direct water communication with London, and is, indeed, the third seaport in the country. Next comes Bordeaux (257,000), the chief place of export for French wines and brandies. About twenty years ago the wine industry of France suffered tremendous loss from the ravages of the insect phylloxera. Over 4,000,000 acres of vineyard, representing a value of $1,000,000,000, were wholly or partially ruined by this terrible pest. The plague, however, has now been stamped out, but nearly 2,000,000 acres of vineyards have been permanently destroyed and have been devoted to potatoes and the sugar-beet root. The result is that the production of wine in France is now less than what is needed for home consumption, and over fifty per cent. more wine is imported than is exported. The remaining great shipping ports are Dunkerque (40,000) and Boulogne (37,500). Calais (57,000) has a great passenger trade with England.

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