Front Page Titles (by Subject) 30.: Letter to Félix Coudroy - The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics
Return to Title Page for The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
30.: 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).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Letter to Félix Coudroy
Eaux-Bonnes, 26 July 1844
[vol. 1, p. 46]
Your letter had a painful effect on me, my dear Félix, not because of the news you give me of the electoral prospects but because of what you tell me about yourself, your health, and the terrible struggle taken on by your body and spirit. I nevertheless hope that you wished to speak of the habitual state of your health and not a recurrence that has taken place since my departure. I understand your sufferings well, especially since to a lesser extent I experience them myself. These miserable obstacles that health, wealth, and shyness raise like a wall of brass between our desires and the theater in which they might be satisfied are an unutterable torment. Sometimes I regret having drunk at the cup of science, or at least not having limited myself to synthetic philosophy, and better still to religious philosophy. At least in these you can draw consolation for all types of situations in life, and we might still tolerably organize the rest of the time we have to spend here below. But a solitary existence in retirement is incompatible with our views (which nevertheless act on us with all the force of mathematical truths), since we know that truth has power only when it is diffused. From this arises the irresistible need to communicate it, broadcast it, and proclaim it. What is more, everything is so linked in our way of thinking that the opportunity and facility of revealing a link in the chain cannot content us; yet to reveal the total picture requires the conditions of talent, health, and position which we will always lack. What can we do, dear friend? Wait for a few more years to pass over our heads. I often count them and take a form of pleasure in noting that the more they accumulate, the faster they seem to go:
Vires acquirit eundo.49
Although we are conscious of knowing the truth, with regard to the mechanics of society and from a purely human point of view, we also know that it escapes us as far as the relationship of this life to future life is concerned, and what is worse, we believe that in this respect we cannot know anything with certainty.
We have here several very distinguished priests. Once every two days, they give instruction of the highest order, which I follow regularly. It is almost a repetition of Dabadie’s50 famous work. Yesterday the preacher said that in man there are two orders of disposition of which one is linked to the fall and the other to redemption. According to the second, man is made in the image of God, while the first led him to make God in man’s image. He used this to explain idolatry and paganism and showed their terrifying agreement with corrupt nature. He then said that the fall had so far buried corruption in the heart of man that he still retained an affinity for idolatry which had thus insinuated itself right into Catholicism. I think he was referring to a host of practices and devotions which form such an obstacle for intelligent minds. But if they understand things in this way, why do they not attack these idolatrous doctrines openly? Why do they not reform them? Why, on the contrary, do we see them rushing to increase their number? I am sorry I have not been in contact with this ecclesiastic, who, I believe, is a professor of theology at the faculty in Bordeaux, to discuss this with him.
This takes us far away from the elections. From what you tell me, I have no doubt that the man from the chateau will be nominated. I am surprised that our king, who is farsighted, does not understand that by peopling the chamber with toadies he is sacrificing the very principle of the constitution for a few short-term advantages. He is ensuring a vote for himself, but is placing an entire district beyond the boundaries of our institutions; and this maneuver, if extended to all of France, will succeed in corrupting our political customs, which are already primitive. On the other hand, abuses will increase in number because they will encounter no resistance; and when the cup is full, what remedy will a nation seek that has not learned to make an enlightened use of its rights?
For my part, my dear Félix, I do not feel strong enough to fight for a few votes. If they do not come on their own, let them follow their own course. I would need to go from canton to canton to organize the means of support for the struggle. This is more than I can do. After all, M. Durrieu is not yet a peer.
I have taken advantage of an opportunity to send Le Journal des économistes my article on English and French tariffs.51 I think it includes points of view that are all the more important in that they do not appear to preoccupy anyone. I have met politicians here who have not the first idea of what is going on in England, and when I talk to them of the customs reform that is taking place in that country, they do not want to believe it. I have enough time to compose my letter to M. Dunoyer.52 As for my work on the distribution of taxes, I do not have the materials at hand to give it its final polish.53 The session of the general council will be a good opportunity to publish it.
Farewell, my dear Félix. If you learn anything new please let me know, but of all the news you could give me, the most pleasant would be to say that the depression which permeates your letter was due to a transitory indisposition. After all, my friend, and in the deep shadows that surround us, let us cling to the idea that a primary cause that is intelligent and merciful has subjected us for reasons beyond our comprehension to severe tests in life; this should constitute our faith. Let us wait for the day when it will consider it right to relieve us and to admit us to a better life; this should constitute our hope. With these sentiments in our heart, we will be able to bear our afflictions and suffering. . . .
[49 ]“[Fama] vires acquirit eundo”: “Rumor acquires strength by going.” (Virgil, Aeneid, bk. IV, line 175.)
[50 ]Dabadie was a monk born in Saint-Sever. He was not well known outside his native town. The said “famous work” did not reach posterity.
[51 ]OC, vol. 1, p. 334, “De l’influence des tarifs français et anglais sur l’avenir des deux peuples.”
[52 ]See Letter 34.
[53 ]OC, vol. 1, p. 283, “Mémoire sur la repartition de l’impôt foncier dans les Landes.”