Front Page Titles (by Subject) 47.: Letter to [D.] Potonié 104 - 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:
47.: Letter to [D.] Potonié 104 - 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 [D.] Potonié104
Mugron, 24 October 1845
[From the private collection of Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean]
The most kind letter that you have been good enough to write to me has revived in me old projects and hopes, which cost me a great deal to abandon. Long before I knew of the existence of the English League, I had conceived the idea of forming an association against protectionism, this absurd system which, apart from the direct harm it causes, causes so many ancillary calamities, national hatreds, wars, standing armies, navies, taxes, restrictions, plunderings, etc. As I needed a fulcrum to set up my lever, I thought of our wine-producing population, which seemed to me to be the most likely to embrace the cause of free trade. I tried to form it into an organization, as you will see from the brochure which it is my pleasure to enclose with this letter. My mistake was to address this call to a single class only, and the class that is probably the least political, the most dispersed, and the most difficult to organize. I ought to have called together all the consumers and in addition all the producers who felt they were sufficiently strong and honest to reject all forms of protection and taxes, for however you look at them, protectionist duties are none other than the taxes we raise from one another.
This frustrated idea was just dormant in my mind, and you can doubtless guess with what joy and enthusiasm I welcomed the arrival of the English League, which pursues the same aim with an energy, a spirit of togetherness, a line of conduct and the talents, resources, and opportunities that I lacked.
I have now been happy to learn from your letter of the existence in Paris of elements which, when they are properly put into operation, may serve as the basis for a similar association to the League. The men who have devoted themselves to the setting up of what is known as “The Articles of Paris”105 are certainly the most appropriate people to lay the foundations for this institution. At the heart of enlightened opinion, close to one another, and in a position to exert an influence on the press, on our political representatives, and on public opinion; more disposed than most to make well-judged sacrifices and more able to supervise the use made of them, they certainly have to offer quite different resources from the wine-producing population. Besides, these people would have only to glimpse this center of action to join it in full sympathy. I believe that we will soon also obtain the support of men in the government, as they receive fixed salaries that bear the weight of the protectionist regime without any possible compensation. I would say the same thing about bankers, traders, merchants, lawyers, doctors, and all the countless sectors of artisans whose work by its very nature is not likely to be protected by customs duties.
I see from your letter that “The Articles of Paris” has already formed a general association divided into sections, one of the most important of which is under your chairmanship. If you consider, sir, that it is possible to find the seed of an energetic league in this institution, and if you think that my efforts and devotion can help in this great work, please write to me and you will find me ready to join you and your colleagues. I have already sounded out a few key figures, for in France they are necessary if one is to succeed in anything, and I know some who would be only too ready to welcome the honor of the initiative. For my part, I will join the combat at whatever level I am placed, for apart from the fact that I put our noble cause a thousand times higher than our little individual ideas, I have learned from Mr. Cobden, the one man in the world in whom I have the fullest confidence, that individual self-sacrifice is the soul and cement of any voluntary association. Let us, therefore, make ourselves small and give free rein to the conceit of others, and use this quotation from Danton as a commentary: “Let our memory perish and may freedom triumph.”
As for a demonstration to the League, I do not see where this would lead. What would be genuinely and immediately useful would be for “The Articles of Paris” to have a representative in London while Parliament is sitting. In the midst of this collapse of duties which is taking place in England, a man who had the confidence of the members of the League who have great influence in these matters might perhaps obtain considerable advantages for “The Articles of Paris,” especially since England is no longer asking for reciprocity or what are called concessions. We do have an ambassador, but it is not possible to deal with things like this officially, and this you will readily understand. . . . As Great Britain is accomplishing this reform without asking anything from foreigners, she cannot accept foreigners’ attempts to influence her resolutions.
When I was in London and enjoying quite close relations with officers in the Board of Trade and members of the League, I sought to convince them that they would be acting shrewdly by encouraging the introduction of our wine into their country. The spirit of my lectures on this subject is set out in the brochures I am enclosing, and I had the pleasure of receiving letters from Cobden and other members of Parliament telling me that they were working hard to make my ideas succeed; what I said to them with regard to wine might equally apply to Parisian goods. England feels that if she opened her market to Parisian goods without France lowering her duties, Parisians would have trouble effecting purchases from England in return, and this would soon open their eyes to the inconsistency of our policy and foment in us the spirit of free trade. I do not doubt that she is aiming her reforms in this direction. For my part, sir (and I hope that you will not find this confidence out of place), I must say that I deeply regret that my financial situation does not allow me to spend time in London at this time. Something tells me that I could do some good there.
Allow me, sir, in ending this overlong letter, to thank you for your kind words both in your own name and that of your sons and colleagues.
I am, sir, your devoted servant.
[104 ]The only Potonié that the editor could find is D. Potonié, who wrote Note sur l’organisation facultative des débouchés de l’industrie parisienne.
[105 ]“The Articles of Paris” industry covered a wide range of luxury items, from leather goods to jewelry and fashion. They exported quite well.