Front Page Titles (by Subject) 48.: 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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48.: 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, 13 December 1845
[vol. 1, p. 115]
My dear sir, I am greatly in your debt, since you were willing, in the midst of your noble and arduous work, to relax the agreement which I had gratefully accepted of “one letter for two,” but I unfortunately have only too many excuses to invoke and while all your time is so usefully devoted to the public good, mine has been absorbed by the greatest and most personal grief that I might suffer on this earth.106
I was delaying writing to you to have news of M. Fonteyraud. I needed to know in what terms I should thank you for your welcoming him on my recommendation. I had total peace of mind in this, as I had heard indirectly that he was delighted with his trip and enthusiastic about the members of the League. I am pleased to learn that the members of the League were no less pleased with him. Although I did not know him very well, I considered that he had it in him to be his own recommendation. Doubtless, he has not had the opportunity to write to me yet.
On this subject, you have returned to my visit to you and the excuses you express to me leave me quite embarrassed. Except for the first two days when, for unforeseen reasons, I found myself alone in Manchester and when my morale was undoubtedly afflicted by the sad influence of your strange weather (an influence whose expression I allowed to emerge in the unfortunate note to which you refer), with the exception of these two days, as I have said, I was overwhelmed by the care and kindnesses expressed by you and your friends, Messrs. John and Thomas Bright, Paulton, Wilson, Smith,107 Ashworth, Evans, and many more, and I would be truly ungrateful if, because there was an election in Cambridge during these two days, I remembered only this moment of spleen108 and forgot those which you imbued with goodwill and charm. You can be sure, my dear sir, that our dinner in Chorley and your eminently instructive meeting with Mr. Dyer at Mr. Thomas Bright’s have left indelible memories in my mind and heart. You want me to make another visit. That is not entirely impossible and this is how it might be arranged. It is probable that the big question will be settled this summer, and, like a valiant fighter, you will need to take a little rest and bind your wounds. Since words have been your principal arms, their means of expression in you will have suffered the most, and you have made reference to your state of health in your last letter. It so happens that in the Pyrenees over here there are marvelous springs to cure exhausted chests and larynxes. So come and spend a season as part of the family in the Pyrenees. I promise you either to come to collect you or to accompany you back, at your choice. This trip will not be detrimental to the cause. You will see our wine-producing population and will gain an idea of the spirit that animates it or rather that does not animate it. When we pass through Paris, I will introduce you to all our comrades in political economy and rational philanthropy. I like to think that this trip would leave its beneficial traces in your health and memories, and also in shifting French attitudes about freeing up trade. Bordeaux is also a town which it would interest you to see. People’s minds there are quick and enthusiastic; just a spark will set them ablaze, and this might well come from your words.
Thank you, my dear sir, for the offer you made me regarding my translation. Permit me, however, not to accept it. It is a personal sacrifice which you wish to add to so many others and I must not agree to it.
I feel that the title of my book does not allow you to claim any influence on the part of the League. This being so, let us allow my poor volume to live or die by itself. However, I cannot be sorry that, in France, I attached your name to the history of this great movement. In doing this, I may have upset your worthy colleagues a little and this involuntary injustice gives me some cause for remorse. But truly, to arouse and catch attention here, it is necessary for a doctrine to be incarnated in an individual personality and for a great movement to be represented and summarized in an individual name. Without the great figure of O’Connell, the Irish unrest would have taken place unnoticed in our newspapers. And look what has happened. The French press now uses your name to designate the orthodox principle in political economy. It is an ellipsis, a shorthand method of speaking. It is true that this principle is still the subject of much dispute, and even sarcasm. But it will grow and commensurately your name will grow with it. The human mind is made like this. It needs flags, banners, incarnations, and individual names, and in France more than elsewhere. Who knows whether your destiny will not arouse in our country the emulation of some man of genius?
I have no need to tell you with what interest and anxiety I follow the development of your campaign. I regret that Sir Robert Peel has let himself be overtaken. His personal superiority and position make him able to provide services to the cause that are more immediately achievable, perhaps, than those it can expect from Russell, and I fear that the arrival of a Whig government will result in the reassembly of a formidable aristocratic opposition which will prepare new conflicts for you.
You are good enough to ask me what I do in my solitude. Alas, dear sir, I am embarrassed to have to reply with this shameful word, Nothing. The pen tires me and speech even more so, to the extent that if a few useful thoughts ferment in my head I have no longer any means of revealing them externally. I sometimes think of our unfortunate André Chénier. When he was on the scaffold, he turned to the people and said, striking himself on the forehead, “It is a pity, I had something there.” And I too think that “I have something there.” But who is whispering this thought to me? Is it the consciousness of a genuine truth? Is it fatuous pride? For which idiotic hack today does not think he also “has something there”?
Farewell, my dear sir; permit me to shake your hand most affectionately across the distance that separates us.
P.S. I have frequent contact with Madrid and it would be easy for me to send a copy of my translation there.
[106 ](Paillottet’s note) The death of a relative.
[107 ]John Benjamin Smith.
[108 ]In English in the original.