About the year 1806 or 1807 consumers of cane sugar, and particularly those in central Europe, began to find out that there was very little of this kind of sugar to be obtained. Naval warfare and Napoleon's Continental System had resulted in something very like a sugar famine; and the only means of relief appeared to be either to extend and improve the existing methods of producing sugar from the beetroot or to discover new sources of saccharine matter from materials furnished by Europe itself, and so to make Europe independent of supplies of overseas sugar. Napoleon—the master of Europe at that time—made it his first care to provide, as far as possible, for the needs of the people of France; and French chemists were ordered and encouraged to undertake researches with the view to finding a more or less efficient substitute for cane sugar and molasses. The first step which was taken in the direction of relieving the situation was taken by Proust, who turned his attention to the possibilities inherent in grape juice. After a little time he had so well succeeded in his research that he was able to present the people of France with a sort of treacle, and with this it appears the masses had to be contented for about four years; refined cane sugar had become somewhat of a luxury. The use of molasses was the common practice in Germany—where the cost of moist sugar had been about fifteen pence a pound for some years before the time we are referring to. Proust's treacle must have proved an exceedingly poor article, and Napoleon, realising that human endurance of this would not survive for long, appointed a Committee, with the celebrated Chaptal as its head, to consider the best means of introducing the manufacture of beet sugar into France. Chaptal had succeeded Lucien Bonaparte as Minister of the Interior in 1801. He was the President of the Society for the Encouragement of National Industries, and in all respects he was well qualified to supervise a public enquiry of such importance. Marggraf's discovery in 1747 had already been taken advantage of to some extent in Prussia, and Achard of Berlin and others were already cultivating the beetroot and obtaining small quantities of beet sugar. After an interval of three or four years, during which careful examination had been made of the Prussian methods and results with beet sugar, Chaptal was able to send in a favourable report to Napoleon regarding their probable success in France. Events then moved rapidly. By Imperial decree 32 thousand hectares, say 80 thousand acres, of French soil were at once sown with beet. An absolute embargo was placed on all overseas sugar; and in the same year (1811) Chaptal was created Count de Chantaloupe. The start of the beet sugar industry in Europe may be said to date from this time.
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