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requisite of our daily food. Its use as an aliment remained long unknown in Europe, but with the progress of civilisation the use of sugar has gradually increased, till it has reached the lowest classes of society. As, however, the subject of my paper this evening is not the article of sugar generally, I shall at once proceed with the kind extracted from the beetroot.
In 1747, Margraff, a Prussian chemist, made the discovery of beet sugar, and advised the Prussian farmers to cultivate this plant, the extract of which might so advantageously replace the cane sugar. The prices then ruling were however not high enough to allow the introduction of the beet sugar manufacture without vigorous protection, as the European markets were at that time so abundantly supplied by Brazil, the Dutch colonies in South America, the French possessions, and lastly by the English West India Islands, where, through the importation of slaves, the sugar culture had received a fresh impulse, so that the importations amounted to 130,000 tons. Therefore, although Margraff plainly saw the benefits which might result from the discovery, he did not pursue the object further.
Twenty four years later, in 1773, Achard, a Berlin chemist, convinced of the great importance of this subject, recommenced experiments to extract sugar from the beet, under Royal encouragment. Frederick the Great, whose love for the arts and sciences is so well known, perceived in the application of this discovery the means by which to develop Prussian industry, and to diminish the exportation of specie in payment for the imports of cane sugar. The death, however, of this great ruler and philosopher prevented Achard for some time from continuing his interesting researches. He resumed them in 1795, and we find that in 1796 he established the first beet-root manufactory in Camoon. His observations are found in a curious pamphlet, wherein the writer enumerates the various uses and benefits to be derived from the beet plant, all of which in the course of time have been verified. The pamphlet states, that, besides the primary article of sugar, the head of the root is eaten green by cattle, as is also the pulp after the sugar is extracted ; that a great production of valuable manure is the result; that this manure, in returning to the soil, prepares it specially for an abundant production of cereals; that the molasses are converted into alcohol or vinegar, and that the leaves could be used as a substitute for tobacco. It was only in 1799 that the reports of Achard's investigations and their successful results became known in France. His statements went to prove that the kilogramme (rather more than two pounds) of brown low muscovado (or raw sugar) could be produced at 65 centimes, or about 3d. the English pound. He furthermore stated that, by improving the manufacture and deducting the value of the residue, the price might even be considerably reduced. The letters of Achard, published in a Chemical Annual, produced everywhere in France the greatest sensation. The journals generally inserted extracts, which attracted the attention of all classes of society, according to the ideas or passions of that period. Some considered this new discovery to be an impudent quackery, others looked upon it as a means of escaping the thraldom of the commercial and industrial monopoly of England. Such an important fact, claimed not only the attention of the scientific world, but also of the Government. A commission of ten, which was comprised of Sels, Chaptal, Parmentier, and other eminent chemists, was appointed by the Institute to investigate this new branch of industry, and to report upon Achard's writings on the subject.
The report of the commission went to prove, that 25 tons of root yielded about 4; cwts. of white cassonade, or a little more than one per cent., only one fifth of what is now considered but a very ordinary production from the root. The first powerful impulse given to the manufacture of beet sugar was in 1809, when Napoleon issued a decree probibiting France from purchasing the produce of the West Indies; still only 2 or 3 per cent. of sugar was obtained. This could not under ordinary circumstances compete with the produce of the cane, but the continental system then introduced by Napoleon, that of blockading the ports, had the effect of raising the price of sugar; in addition to this, he offered premiums for the best methods of extracting (pure) sugar from beet. Every facility and encouragement being granted by the Emperor, the chemists of France exerted themselves in furthering his views.
Extensive experiments were consequently made in the cultivation of the root, and as to the best methods of obtaining the juice, and manufacturing the sugar. The first manufactory was established at Rambouillet, under the especial patronage of the Emperor, and many more were soon at work. The first samples were received by Napoleon with great joy, and he placed them under a glass shade in his drawing room, proudly exhibiting them as one of his greatest treasures. Being especially anxious to render France independent of England, a decree appeared in 1812, establishing chemical schools and imperial manufactories for the extraction of sugar from beet.
The Government ordered the cultivation of 100,000 acres, calculated to produce 37,500 tons sugar, at that time sufficient for the wants of France. Licenses to the number of five hundred were granted, to the owners of manufactories, or to those who, anterior to this decree, had made great sacrifices in endeavouring to produce this new kind of sugar. This inland product was to be free of duty, or any other tax, for four years from the date of the decree, and every manufactory had to make or furnish at least ten tons the first year. In all parts of
France the cultivation was tried, and manufactories everywhere erected, but with more enthusiasm than success. One of the men who had done the most for this new industry was the illustrious economist, Matthieu de Dombasle ; but he, like all the others, suffered serious disappointment. These
arose either from continual rain, or excessive drought, or the bad process of cultivation and manufacture; so that the expenditure was altogether out of proportion to the return. Perhaps, also, the political vicissitudes of the last days of the Empire exercised their fatal influences, as foreign troops, especially Cossacks, in the years of 1814 and 1815, occupied and destroyed numerous fields of this and other plants. Matthieu de Dombasle writes that, at the moment when he, for the first time, ploughed for the cultivation of the year, the French troops entered Moscow; and when, later in the year, he was occupied in manufacturing the root, his buildings served as a garrison to a detachment of Cossacks.
The lower prices of sugar which resulted from the events of 1814 and 1815,-namely, the Restoration,-ruined all these new establishments; and the manufacture of beet sugar could not survive the extraordinary circumstances to which it owed its existence. The French ports were opened to the commerce of all maritime nations; bonded warehouses, long empty, were filled with colonial sugar, and prices sustained a great decline. One establishment only continued to exist, that of Crespel Delisse, * now one of the veterans of this flourishing branch of industry. It may not be uninteresting to you to know that, by rare perseverence and enterprising spirit, Delisse and his sons have seven manufactories, to one of which is added a refinery, and produce annually not less than six thousand tons of sugar. The industrial and administrative organisation of these establishments may serve as a model for the construction and management of similiar undertakings.
* Crespel Delisse, the veteran manufacturer, died recently, and a monument to his memory is to be erected by public subscription.
It may naturally be supposed that after the Restoration no great efforts were made to protect and encourage this infant industry at the expense of the revenue; while its imperial origin was unfortunately no recommendation, nor likely to awaken the sympathy of the Government. After different legislative modifications, the duty on foreign sugar was raised, and colonial and home grown placed on an equality. Then beet sugar began again to show signs of life, and from 1822 to 1825 more than a hundred small manufactories worked regularly, producing annually about five thousand tons. At the present day FIVE factories produce an equal quantity.
The stability of this new home product appeared an accomplished fact, and it continued to progress until 182829, when, reports of large profits made from this new branch of industry attracting the attention of Government, the manufacturers were informed that their produce would ere long have to bear an increased taxation.
The Revolution of 1830, however, put a stop to the intended change of duty, and until 1836 a regular and rapid progress followed, the production in these years being—
In 1830, 5,500 tons. In 1834, 20,000 tons.
1836, 40,000 1833, 12,000 Improved machinery, and the application of steam, were of great benefit during these years, enabling the manufacturers to extract from the root larger quantities of sugar than previously. In 1836 manufactories were dispersed over no less than thirty-seven departments, to the number of four hundred and thirty-seven, a certain number of which were in full operation. Manifest improvements had also been made the result of experience, and the application of chemistry.