This section of the book is from the "Introduction To Public Finance" book, by Carl Copping Plehn.
France has a highly developed system of customs duties. By the edict of 1664 Colbert attempted to reduce to a single uniformscheme all the confused and multifariouscustoms charges that had come down from feudal times and were in the hands of many different authorities. The tariff thus established was protective in character and was dictated mainly by the mercantile doctrine. But many provincial duties were left, and as time went on confusion increased. The Revolution swept all the old taxes away, and in 1791 the system which is the basis of the present one was established.
The development since then has been gradual. Prohibitions of imports and exports, so numerous in the tariffs of the ancient monarchy, have now all been removed. Since 1863 the only exceptions to this statement are books that infringe the Copyright law and munitions of war. To ensure the proper registration, for statistical research, of all traffic, there used to be an import charge on all goods of 15 centimes per 100 francs' worth or 50 centimes per 100 kilograms, and an export charge of 25 centimes per 100 kilograms.1 See examples cited above, also Cohn, pp. 565 ff.
These have been removed.1 During the period subsequent to the Revolution, and down to 1814, war measures left no opportunity to test the tariff of 1791. The Restoration established a highly protective system at the instigation of the Chambers. The Second Republic continued the same policy. Napoleon III., finding himself unable to persuade the deputies to change the tariff, removed many of the prohibitive duties by treaties. The first of these treaties, with England in 1860, fixed the maximum ad valorem duty on English goods at 30 per cent for the first four years and 25 per cent after that. Other treaties followed extending similar privileges to other countries. In the spirit of these treaties the tariff itself underwent many amendments, raw products were admitted free, duties on foods were removed or lowered, and the duties protecting the stronger manufactures were lowered. By 1873, that is, after the struggle with Germany was over, and after the revenue system had been rearranged to meet the tremendous burden which was the consequence of the war, France had two distinct tariffs. First, the general tariff built upon the law of 1791 amended many times. Second, a conventional tariff based upon treaties.
1 On the whole subject see Levasseur, "Recent Commercial Policy of France," Journal of Political Economy, Vol. I., No. 1, December, 1892.
Since these treaties generally contained the clause granting each nation the same privileges as the most favoured, this tariff was more uniform than the method of construction would lead one to expect. In 1881 the general tariff was pretty thoroughly revised so as to approach the treaty tariff. Manufactures were slightly protected. With this as a starting-point new treaties were made.
One of the most remarkable reforms that any tariff has ever undergone was accomplished in 1892. This was the passage of two tariffs in a single law. There was first a general tariff or maximum which was to be levied on goods from all countries not obtaining special privileges by treaties. Second, a minimum tariff marking the lower limit to which the concessions might go. The latter was to be applied to the native products of those countries which grant French products reciprocal privileges. Both of these tariffs were protective. There are over 700 items in the maximum tariff, but the number on which concessions could be made was considerably less.