A History of French Commercial Policies

By Frank Arnold Haight | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XV
ASSIMILATION

THE ACQUISITION of the second French colonial empire was neither co-ordinated nor popular. Both before and after the Franco-Prussian War each venture in the colonial field was opposed in parliament and throughout the country, for in many circles the occupation of overseas territories was regarded as a waste of military effort and their maintenance as a financial burden. The advocates of expansion, on the other hand, particularly after 1870, hoped to find in a colonial empire a new source of economic and military strength and, inspired by the neomercantilism of modern protectionism, a market for manufactures. Colonial expansion was in keeping with the times, for it was during the period from 1870 to 1914 that Germany, Belgium, Italy, Japan, and the United States obtained their overseas possessions. The tendency toward a policy of customs assimilation in French colonial legislation accompanied the growth of the empire and the progress of the Industrial Revolution. But the explanation for this return to a policy of severe discrimination lies chiefly in the protectionist reaction which swept Europe after 1880.

Tariff assimilation requires that the colonies and continental France should be regarded, for customs purposes, as parts of one unit despite their geographical separation. Foreign merchandise should be charged the duties inscribed in the French tariff whether imported into the metropolitan territory or into one of the colonies, and between France and the colonies, and

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