Front Page Titles (by Subject) 12.: Letter to Félix Coudroy - The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics
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12.: Letter to Félix Coudroy - Frédéric Bastiat, The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics 
The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics, translated from the French by Jane and Michel Willems, with an introduction by Jacques de Guenin and Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean. Annotations and Glossaries by Jacques de Guenin, Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean, and David M. Hart. Translation editor Dennis O’Keeffe (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2011).
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Letter to Félix Coudroy
Bayonne, 8 January 1825
[vol. 1, p. 16]
I am sending you the preceding pages, my dear Félix, which will be a constant proof that I am not neglecting to reply to you but merely to forward the letter. I have this unfortunate fault resulting from my untidy habits which means that I believe that I have done my duty to my friends when I write to them, without thinking that the letter itself has to be sent.
You talk to me about political economy as though I knew more about it than you. If you have read Say carefully, as you appear to have done, I can assure you that you will have left me far behind, since I have read only the following four works on this subject, Smith,12 Say, Destutt, and Le Censeur. What is more, I have never studied M. Say in depth, especially the second volume, which I have just glanced through. You have given up hope that sane ideas on this subject will ever penetrate public opinion, but I do not share your despair. On the contrary, I believe that the peace that has reigned in Europe for the last ten years has spread them a great deal, and it is a good thing perhaps that this progress is slow and imperceptible. The Americans in the United States have very sound ideas on these matters, although they have set up customs stations in retaliation. England, which is always at the head of civilization in Europe, is now giving a good example by gradually giving up the system that hampers it.13 In France, commerce is enlightened but owners are less so, and manufacturers work just as hard to retain their monopolies. Unfortunately, we do not have a chamber capable of ascertaining the true state of the nation’s understanding. The seven-year period14 is also detrimental to this slow and upward drift of ideas from public opinion which partly rejuvenates the legislature. Finally, a few events and above all the incorrigible French character that enthuses about anything new and is always ready to treat itself to a few fine words will prevent the truth from triumphing for a short while. But I do not despair. The press, necessity, and financial interest will end up by achieving what reason still cannot. If you read Le Journal du commerce, you will have seen how the English government tries to enlighten itself by officially consulting the most enlightened traders and manufacturers. The conclusion then agreed is that the prosperity of Great Britain is not the product of the system it has followed but the result of many other causes. It is not enough for two facts to exist at the same time to conclude that one is the cause and the other the effect. In England, trade restrictions and prosperity certainly relate to each other through coexistence and contiguity, but not through causation. England has prospered not because of, but in spite of, countless taxes. This is the reason I find the language of ministers so ridiculous when they say to us each year, “You see how rich England is, it pays a billion!”
I think that if I had more paper, I would continue this abstruse chatter. Farewell, with my fondest good wishes.
[12 ]Adam Smith.
[13 ](Paillottet’s note) Thus, twenty years before his first publication, Bastiat was already concerned with the beginnings of customs reform started in our neighbor’s country by Huskisson.
[14 ]The law of 5 February 1817 had organized the election of one-fifth of the Chamber of Deputies every year. Following the success of ultralegitimists in February 1824, the government, in order to keep the majority, extended the term of office to seven years, with an election of one-seventh of the chamber each year.