Front Page Titles (by Subject) 46.: Letter to Richard Cobden - The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics
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46.: Letter to Richard Cobden - 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 Richard Cobden
Mugron, 2 October 1845
[vol. 1, p. 111]
Whatever the charm, my dear sir, that your letters have just brought to me in my solitude, I would not allow myself to provoke them by such frequent obtrusiveness. However, an unforeseen circumstance has made it a duty for me to write to you.
I have met a young man in Paris circles who seemed to me to be full of heart and talent, whose name is Fonteyraud, the editor of La Revue britannique. He has written to me to offer to continue my work by inserting a follow-up of the operations of the League in the collection he is editing.98 With this in mind, he wants to go to England to see your fine organization for himself and has asked me for letters of introduction to you and MM Bright and Wilson.99 The object he has in view is too useful for me not to be quick to agree and I hope that, for your part, you would be willing to satisfy M. Fonteyraud’s elevated curiosity.
However, in a second letter, he tells me that he has yet another aim which, according to him, would require effective, in other words, financial support from the League. I have been swift to tell M. Fonteyraud that I could not speak to you about a project about which I knew very little. I made it clear to him, moreover, that, according to me, any action carried out on public opinion in France that appeared to be directed and financed by England would be counterproductive since it would strengthen the deep-rooted prejudices that many adroit men have vested interests in exploiting. If therefore M. Fonteyraud makes his journey, would you, together with Messrs. Bright and Wilson, assess his projects for yourselves and consider me to be totally outside the undertaking he is considering? I hasten to leave this subject to reply to your affectionate letter of 23 September.
I am sorry to hear that your health is suffering from your immense workload, both private and public. Certainly, it could not be undermined for a finer cause; each of your pains will remind you of noble actions, but that would be small consolation and I would not dare to voice it to other than you, since to understand it one would need to have your self-sacrifice and devotion to the public good. But at last your work is reaching its target, you do not lack workers around you, and I hope that you will at last seek strength in repose.
Since my last letter, a movement of which I had given up hope has started in the French press. All the Paris newspapers and very many provincial newspapers have reported on the demonstration against the Corn Laws, to mark my book. It is true that they have not understood its full implications, but at last public opinion has been woken up. This was the essential point, the one I was hoping for with my whole heart and it is a question now of not allowing it to fall back into indifference, and if there is anything I can do about it, that will not happen.
Your letter arrived the day after we had an election. It was a courtier who was elected.100 I was not even a candidate. The electors are imbued with the idea that their votes are a precious gift, an important and personal service. This being so, they expect their vote to be personally solicited. They do not wish to understand that a parliamentary mandate is their own affair, that they will suffer the consequences of trust that is well or badly placed and consequently it is up to them to give it with discernment, without waiting for it to be solicited or wrested from them. For my part, I had taken the decision to stay in my corner and, as I expected, I was left there. Probably, in a year, we will have general elections in France. I doubt whether in the intervening period the electors will have come round to more appropriate ideas. However, a considerable number of them appear to have decided to support me. My efforts in favor of our wine-producing industry will give me an effective name of which I can make use. For this reason, I am pleased to see that you were willing to second the views I set out in the letter that the League has quoted.101 If you could arrange for this journal to support the principle of ad valorem rights to be applied to wine, this would give my candidature a solid and honorable base. In fact, in my circumstances, being a deputy is a heavy charge, but the hope of contributing to the formation of a nucleus of free traders within our parliament comes before all personal considerations. When I think that, in our two chambers, there is not a single man who dares to acknowledge the principle of free trade, who understands its full significance, or who is capable of supporting it against the sophisms of monopoly, I must admit that, in the depths of my heart, I want to win the empty seat I see in our legislative body, although I do not want to do anything that would increasingly distort the dominant ideas relating to elections. Let us try to be worthy of their confidence and not to gain it by surprise.
Thank you for the judicious advice you have given me by indicating the procedure for disseminating economic doctrines you think would be best suited to the situation in our country. Yes, you are right, I can see that here light has to be diffused from top to bottom. Instructing the masses is an impossible task, because they have neither the civic right, the habit, nor the liking for grand rallies and public discussion. This is one more reason for me to aim to gain contact with the most enlightened and influential classes through becoming a deputy.
I am very pleased to hear that you have good news from the United States.102 I was not expecting this. America is lucky to speak the same language as the League. It will not be possible for its monopolists to withhold your arguments and work from the knowledge of the general public. I would like you to tell me, when you have the opportunity to write to me, which American journal is the most faithful representative of the economist school.103 The circumstances of this country are analogous with ours and the free-trade movement in the United States could not fail to produce a good and strong impression in France if it were widely known. To save time, would you please take out a one-year subscription for me and ask M. Fonteyraud to reimburse you? It would be easier for me to reimburse him than to send it to you.
I accept with great pleasure your offer to exchange one of your letters for two of mine. I consider that you are sacrificing here again the fallacy of reciprocity, since I will certainly be the winner and you will not receive equal value. In view of how busy you are, I would have been ready to undertake to write to you three times. If ever I become a deputy, we will renew the bases of our contract.
[98 ]Fonteyraud and Garnier, Mélanges d’économie politique.
[99 ]Bastiat refers to two Wilsons in his correspondence. Here, Bastiat is most likely referring to George Wilson.
[100 ]Marie Gustave Larnac. See “On Parliamentary Reform,” p. 367.
[101 ]OC, vol. 1, p. 387, “De l’avenir du commerce des vins entre la France et la Grande-Bretagne.”
[102 ]The tariff of 1842 was heavier than that of 1832. It was reduced in 1846.
[103 ]Les Économistes.