Letter to Richard Cobden
Mugron, 13 January 1846
[vol. 1, p. 118]
My dear sir, what gratitude do I not owe you for having been good enough to think of me in the midst of such pressing occupations, ones so conducive to absorbing your interest so compellingly? You wrote to me on the 23rd, the very day of that astonishing meeting in Manchester, which certainly has no precedent in history. May the people of Lancashire be honored! It is not only free trade that the world will owe them, but also the enlightened, moral, and devoted art of campaigning. Humanity will at last recognize the instrument of all reform. At the same time I received your letter, the issue of the Manchester Guardian with an article on this session arrived. As I had seen the report of your first meeting in Manchester a few days previously in Le Courrier français, I thought that public opinion had now been awakened in France, and I did not think it necessary to translate the report of your proceedings. I am now annoyed that I did not do so, since I see that this major event has not produced an impression commensurate with its importance here.
How I congratulate you a thousandfold, my dear sir, for having refused an official position in the Whig cabinet. This is not to say that you would not be very capable and worthy of power. It is not even that you could not render considerable service. But in the century in which we are, we are so imbued with the idea that whoever appears to devote himself to the public good is in fact working for his own benefit. There is so little understanding of devotion to a principle that no one can believe in disinterestedness, and you will certainly do more good through this example of selflessness and the moral effect it will have on people’s minds than you would have been able to do on the ministerial bench. I would have liked to embrace you, my dear sir, when you taught me, through this conduct, that your heart is equal to your intelligence. Your noble actions will not go unrewarded; you are in a country in which public probity is not discouraged through ridicule.
Since we are talking about devotion, this will lead me on to the other part of your good letter. You advise me to go to Paris. I, myself, feel that at this decisive moment I should be at my post. My own interest as well as that of the cause requires this. For the last two months, our newspapers have been serving up a pile of nonsense on the League, which they would not be able to do if I were in Paris, as I would not let one of these escape without battling with it. On the other hand, since I am better informed than many others on the influence of your movement, I would acquire a certain authority in the eyes of the public. I can see all this, but I languish in a village in the département of the Landes. Why? I think I have mentioned this in one of my letters. I have an honorable and uneventful, although modest situation here. In Paris, I could earn my living only by my pen, something I do not criticize in others but to which I have an inexpressible aversion. I therefore have to live and die in my corner, like Prometheus on his rock.
Perhaps you will have some idea of the mental suffering I am experiencing when I tell you that we tried to organize a League in Paris. This attempt has failed and was bound to fail. The proposal was put forward during a dinner with twenty people at which two ex-ministers were present. You can imagine how much success that was likely to have! Among the guests, one wanted ½ freedom, another ¼ freedom, yet another ⅛ freedom, and perhaps three of four were ready to request freedom in principle. Just try to make a united and fervent association out of that! If I had been in Paris, a mistake like that would never have been made. I have made too close a study of what constitutes the strength and success of your organization. A vital League cannot spring up from a group of men gathered together randomly. As I wrote to M. Fonteyraud, let us be ten, five, or even two if necessary, but let us raise the flag of absolute freedom and absolute principle, and let us wait for those with the same faith to join us. If chance had caused me to be born with a more consistent fortune, with an income of ten to twelve thousand francs, there would have been a League in France right now, doubtless more than somewhat weak but bearing within it the two mightiest principles of truth and dedication.
On your recommendation, I have offered my services to M. Buloz. If he had made me responsible for an article to be included in La Revue des deux mondes, I would have continued the absorbing story of the League up to the end of the ministerial crisis. But he did not even send me a reply. I very much fear that these newspaper editors see the most important events only as an opportunity to satisfy the curiosity of their subscribers, ready to shout, depending on the event, “Long live the king, long live the League!”
The Chamber of Commerce of Bordeaux has just raised the banner of free trade. Unfortunately, it has taken a text, Customs Union between France and Belgium, that is in my view too restricted. I will send them a letter in which I will endeavor to show them that they would have much more power if they espoused the cause of the principle and not that of a special application to this or that treaty. It is the fallacy of reciprocity which paralyzes the efforts of this chamber. Treaties smile on it because it sees the possible stipulation of reciprocal benefits, reciprocal concessions, and even reciprocal sacrifices. Under this liberal veneer, the disastrous thought still lies hidden that imports are an evil in themselves and should be tolerated only when foreigners have been persuaded to tolerate our exports in their turn. As a model to be followed, I would enclose with my letter a copy of the famous deliberation of the Chamber of Commerce of Manchester on 13th and 20th December 1838. Why does the Chamber of Commerce of Bordeaux not take the generous initiative in France that the Chamber of Commerce of Manchester took in England?
As I know how extensive your commitments are, I scarcely dare to ask you to write to me. Nevertheless, please remember from time to time that your letters are the most effective balm for soothing the boredom of my solitude and the torments arising from my feeling of uselessness.
Letter to Richard Cobden
Mugron, 9 February 1846
[vol. 1, p. 122]
My dear sir, when you receive this letter you will be in the line of fire of the discussion. I hope, however, that you will find a moment for our country, France, for in spite of the interesting things you tell me about the state of affairs in your country, I will not discuss them. I would have nothing to say about them and would waste precious time in expressing feelings of admiration and happiness of which you have no doubt. Let us therefore discuss France. But before we do, I want to put an end to the English question. I have seen nothing in your Peel’s measure that relates to wine. This is certainly a major fault in terms of political economy and public policy. A final vestige of the policy of reciprocal treaties is to be found in this omission, as well as that in the case of timber. This is a stain on Sir Robert Peel’s project, and it will detract hugely from the moral effect of the whole, precisely on the classes, in France and in the north, who were the most disposed to accept this elevated teaching. This omission and the sentence “We shall beat all other nations” are fuel for the game of prejudice; they will feast on them for a long time. They will see in them the secret and Machiavellian ideas of perfidious Albion. Please, put forward an amendment. However great the absolutism of Sir Robert Peel, he could not resist your arguments.
I have now returned to France (from which I have scarcely departed). The more I reflect, the more I have reason to congratulate myself on one thing that at first caused me some anxiety. It is having included your name in the title of my book. Your name has now become popular in my country, and with your name, so has your cause. I am snowed under with letters. I am asked for details, newspapers open their columns to me, and the Institut de France has elected me a corresponding member with MM Guizot and Duchâtel voting for me. I am not blind enough to attribute this success to myself; I owe it to the relevance of the case and to the fact that the right time has come, and I appreciate it, not for my own sake but as a means of being useful. You will be surprised that all of this has not persuaded me to take up residence in Paris. This is the reason. Bordeaux is preparing a major demonstration, too large in my opinion, as it will include a great many people who think they are free traders and who are no more free traders than Mr. Knatchbull. I consider that my role at this time is to put to good use my knowledge of the methods of the League, and to ensure that our association is based on solid foundations. Perhaps you will be sent the issue of Le Mémorial bordelais in which I have included a series of articles on this subject. I insist and will continue to insist to the end that our League, like yours, be devoted to an absolute principle and if I do not succeed in doing this I will abandon it.
This is what I am afraid of. In demanding a wise freedom and moderate protection, we are sure to gain a great deal of sympathy in Bordeaux and that will please the founders. But where will all this lead? To the Tower of Babel. It is the actual principle of protection that I wish to breach. Until this business is settled, I will not go to Paris. I have been told that a meeting of forty to fifty traders will be taking place in Bordeaux. It is there that the bases for a league will be established, on which I have been invited to give my opinion. Do you remember that we have searched in vain for your rule in the Anti-Bread Tax Circular? How I regret now that we were not able to find it! If Mr. Paulton could spend an hour looking for it, the time would not be wasted, for I fear that our League might adopt shaky founding principles. After this session, there will be a grand meeting at the Exchange to raise a League fund. The mayor of Bordeaux has taken up his position at the head of the movement.
I have heard about the address you received from the Société d’économie politique but I have not read it. I hope it is worthy of you and our cause!
I beg your pardon for talking at such length about France, but you will understand that the weak cries it utters are almost as interesting to me as the virile accents of Sir Robert.
Once the business in Bordeaux is settled, I will go to Paris. The hope that you will visit has made my decision for me.
I will draw up a plan for the distribution of fifty copies of my translation.
Letter to Richard Cobden
Bordeaux, February 1846
[vol. 1, p. 124]
My dear sir, you will doubtless be interested to learn that a demonstration is taking place in Bordeaux in favor of free trade. The association has now been constituted. The mayor of Bordeaux has been appointed its president. Before long, the subscription list will be opened and we hope that this will produce about a hundred thousand francs. This is a fine result. I dare not hold out a great deal of hope and fear that our somewhat timid beginnings may raise obstacles for us later. We did not dare set out the principle boldly. We limit ourselves to saying that the association demands the abolition of protectionist dues as quickly as possible. In this way, the question of gradual progress has been retained and your total and immediate could not be passed. In view of people’s lack of intellectual development in this respect, it would have been useless to insist, and it is to be hoped that the association, whose aim is to enlighten others, will have the effect of enlightening itself.
When this matter has been settled, I am determined to go to Paris. I have received several letters, which give me to understand that the huge sector of industry entitled “Articles of Paris” is ready to start a movement. I thought that my duty lay in setting aside any personal reasons I had for staying in my corner. I assure you that I am making a sacrifice to the cause whose merit lies in its lack of visibility.
In the last month, my book has had an extraordinary success in Bordeaux. The prophetic tone with which I announced the reform has given me a reputation that I scarcely merit, since all I have had to do is be the echo of the League. I am taking advantage of it nevertheless, for advertising purposes. When I am in Paris, I will take advice to see whether it would not be appropriate to produce a second edition in a low-cost format. I am sure that the association in Bordeaux will come to my aid if need be. You would spare me a great deal of work if you would suggest two speeches by MM Bright, Villiers, and others after consulting them. This would avoid my having to reread the three volumes of the League. I need these men to indicate the speeches in which they dealt with the question from the highest and most general point of view, and where they refuted the most universally held fallacies, especially reciprocity. I will add comments, statistical information, and portraits. Lastly, I also need you to indicate a few parliamentary sessions, especially the stormiest ones, in which free traders were attacked the most relentlessly. A work like this, sold for three francs, will do more than ten treatises on economics. You cannot imagine the good that the first edition did in Bordeaux.
I cannot help deploring the fact that your prime minister let slip the opportunity of arousing astonishment in Europe. If, instead of saying, “I need new subsidies to increase our army and navy forces,” he had said, “Since we are adopting the principle of free trade, there can no longer be any question of outlets and colonies. We will give up Oregon and even perhaps Canada. Our disputes with the United States will disappear and I am proposing that we reduce our army and navy.” If he had said this, the effect would have been as great a difference between this speech and the treatises on economics, which we are still reduced to producing, as between the sun and treatises on light. Europe would have been converted within a year and England would have won on three fronts. I will not list them as I am overcome by tiredness.
Letter to Félix Coudroy
Bordeaux, 19 February 1846
[vol. 1, p. 65]
My dear Félix, I had promised to write to you about the events in Bordeaux. I have been so interrupted by visits, meetings, and other annoying incidents that the time for postal collections always arrives before I have been able to honor my promise; what is more, there is not much to tell you. Things are happening very slowly. We floundered about a great deal while settling the first stages of a constitution. Finally a makeshift version emerged from the discussion, and today it is being offered for the approval of seventy to eighty founding members. The final board will be installed with the mayor at its head as president, and in two or three days a grand meeting will take place to open the subscription list. It is thought that Bordeaux will raise one hundred thousand francs. I am longing to see it. You understand that it is only from today, when the board has been installed, that attention can be paid to a plan, since it is the board that should take this initiative. What will the plan be like? I do not know.
As for my personal contribution, it is limited to being present at the sessions, writing a few articles for newspapers, paying and receiving visits, and dealing with economic objections of all kinds. It has been made very clear to me that the level of education in this matter is not sufficient to keep the institution going and I would be leaving with no hope if I did not count on the institution itself to enlighten its own members.
Here I found my poor Cobden all the fashion. A month ago, there were only two copies, the one I gave Eugène and the copy at the bookseller’s; today, it is to be found everywhere. I would be embarrassed, my dear Félix, to tell you what an opinion has been formed of the author. Some suppose that I am a first-rate scholar, and others that I have spent my life in England studying its institutions and history. In short, I am very embarrassed at my position, since I know full well the difference between what is true and what is exaggerated in this current view. I do not know whether you will see today’s Mémorial (the 18th); you will understand that I would not have used this tone if I had not had a clear view of what I could achieve.
It has almost been decided that, when this organization is fully on its feet, I will go to Paris to try to rally Parisian industry, which I know is well disposed toward us. If this is successful, I foresee one difficulty, and that is to persuade the people in Bordeaux to send their money to Paris. It is certain, however, that Paris is the center from which everything must radiate, since, on the basis of the same expenditure, the Paris press has ten times more influence than the provincial press.
When you write to me (as soon as possible, please) tell me about your personal situation.
Letter to Victor Calmètes
Bayonne, 4 March 1846
[vol. 1, p. 13]
My good, long-standing friend, your letter warmed my heart, and reading it, it seemed to me that there were twenty-five years fewer hanging around my neck. I was drawn back to those happy days when our being arm in arm reflected our cordial relationship. Twenty-five years! Alas! The weight of them has quickly made itself felt again.
. . . . . . .
I think that in itself, my appointment as a corresponding member of the Institute is of little importance, and I greatly fear that many mediocre people have been able to adorn themselves with this title. However, the particular circumstances leading to my nomination do not allow me to refuse your friendly congratulations. I had published only one book, and in this book only the preface was my work. Once I had returned to my solitude, this preface worked in my favor, unknown to me, since the same letter, which informed me of my appointment, announced my candidature. Never in my life had I thought of this honor.
This book is entitled Cobden and the League. I am sending it to you with this letter, which spares me from having to tell you about it. In 1842 and 1843, I endeavored to attract attention to the subject it covers. I sent articles to La Presse, Le Mémorial bordelais, and other newspapers. They were refused. I saw that my cause had been utterly destroyed by a conspiracy of silence and I had no other solution but to produce a book. This is how I came to be an author without knowing it. Now I have embarked on a career and I sincerely regret it; although I have always liked political economy, it is at a cost to myself to give it all my attention, which I like to allow to roam freely over all the subjects of human knowledge. What is more, in this economic science, just one question sweeps me along and will be absorbing me: the freedom of international relations; for perhaps you have seen that I have been assigned a role in the association that has just been formed in Bordeaux. Such is our century; you cannot become involved without being strangled in the bonds of specialization.
. . . I forgot to tell you about the elections. The electors in my region are thinking about me but we are snubbing one another. I claim that their choice is their affair and not mine, and that consequently I have nothing to ask them for. They absolutely insist that I should go and canvas their votes, doubtless in order to gain some right over my time and services, with personal aims. You can see that we do not agree and therefore I will not be nominated.
Farewell, dear Calmètes;
your devoted friend.
Letter to Richard Cobden
Paris, 16 March 1846
[vol. 1, p. 126]
My dear sir, I have waited a few days to reply to your fine and instructive letter. It is not because I did not have a great deal to tell you, but I had no time; even today, I am writing only to let you know that I am arriving in Paris. If I had had any hesitation in coming, the hope you give me of seeing you there soon would have been enough to persuade me.
Bordeaux is really in a state of uproar. It has been fashionable to be associated with this work and I have found it impossible to follow my plan, which was to limit the association to the converted. I was overwhelmed by the furia francese. I can see that this will be a significant obstacle in the future, since already, when we wanted to petition the chambers to establish our claims, deep divisions came to the fore. In spite of this, we read and study, and that is a great deal. I am counting on the uproar itself to enlighten those who are creating it. Their aim is to educate others, and they will end by educating themselves.
As I arrived yesterday evening, I cannot give you any news in this letter. I would prefer a thousandfold to form a core of deeply persuaded men than generate a noisy demonstration like that in Bordeaux. I know that people are already talking about moderation, gradual reforms, and experiments. If I can, I will advise those people to form an association among themselves on these lines and leave us to form another in the domain of the abstract and absolute principle of no protection, as I am deeply convinced that ours will absorb theirs.
Letter to Félix Coudroy
Paris, 22 March 1846
[vol. 1, p. 66]
My dear Félix, I hope that you will not delay giving me your news. God willing, an arrangement has been found: I scarcely hope for it and want it desperately. Once you are free from this painful preoccupation, you will be free to devote your time to useful things, for example, your article in Le Mémorial, which I have had the time to read only quickly, but which I will reread tomorrow at my uncle’s. It is extremely lively and provides excellent and vivid arguments. On Monday, I will read it to the assembly, which will be quite numerous. When I am slightly better settled, I will tell you the name of the newspaper in Paris to which you should send it; at that stage, however, you should, as far as possible, refrain from mentioning wine. I have just mentioned that we were having an assembly on Monday. Its aim is to set up the board of the association. We have the duc d’Harcourt as president, and he accepted with a resolution which I liked. The other members will be MM Say, Blanqui, and Dunoyer. However, Dunoyer does not much like being in the spotlight, and I will be proposing in his place M. Anisson-Duperron, a peer of France, whom I found compelling in that he is firm on the basic idea. As treasurer, we will have the baron d’Eichthal, a rich banker. Finally, a secretary, who obviously will be called upon to bear the brunt of the work, will join the management. No doubt you can foresee that these functions will fall on my shoulders. As always, I am hesitating. It will be hard work binding myself to such an arduous and assiduous task. On the other hand, I think I can be useful by devoting myself entirely to this business. Between now and Monday I must make an irrevocable decision. Besides, I hope that we will not lack subscribers. Peers, deputies, bankers, and men of letters will flock to us in sufficient numbers, and even a few major manufacturers. It seems clear that there has been a significant change in public opinion and success is perhaps not as far off as we first supposed.
Here, people very much want me to be nominated as a deputy; you cannot imagine how much credit I received for the quasi-prophecy contained in my introduction. It confuses and embarrasses me, as I am certain that I do not match up to my reputation, but I have very little hope with regard to becoming a deputy, since the events in Bordeaux and Paris have very little echo in Saint-Sever. And, incidentally, this would perhaps be a further reason for keeping me at a distance. Dear old Chalosse does not appear to understand the importance of the enterprise to which I have devoted my efforts; if this were not the case, it is probable that it would want to join in by increasing my influence in its own interest. I do not bear it any grudge; I love it and will serve it to the end, however indifferent it is.
Today, I made my entry into the Institut, where they discussed the question of education. University professors, led by Cousin, monopolized the discussion. I am very sorry I have left my work on the subject in Mugron, as I can see that no one considers it from our point of view.
Try from time to time to write articles to maintain the sacred flame in Bordeaux. Later we can doubtless make them into a collection to be distributed in large numbers. In my next letter to my aunt, I will add a note to tell you what they thought of your last article in the Assembly.
I am expecting our friend, Daguerre, in order to be introduced to M. de Lamenais, whom I hope to convert to free trade. M. de Lamartine has announced his membership, as has our good Béranger. We will be bringing in M. Berryer as well, as soon as the association is sufficiently strongly established not to be diverted by political passions. The same is true for Arago; you see that the leading minds of our time will be on our side. I have been assured that M. de Broglie will agree to be president. I must admit that I go in some fear of the diplomatic approach, which is bound to be his habit. His presence will doubtless have a prodigious effect from the start, but we must look to the future and not be dazzled by transitory brilliance.
Letter to Richard Cobden
Paris, 25 March 1846
[vol. 1, p. 127]
My dear sir, as soon as I received your letter, I handed over your reply to the address from our Société d’économie politique to M. Dunoyer. I have just translated it, and it appeared to contain nothing that might have unfortunate consequences if it were published. The only thing is that we do not have any clear idea on where we should publish this precious document. Le Journal des économistes will not be published until about 20 April. This is rather late. A significant number of newspapers are committed to the monopoly, many others to anglophobia, and many others again are worthless. An approach will be made to Le Journal des débats. I will tell you the result in a postscript. Certainly, there is nothing but pure, noble, true, and cosmopolitan sentiments in your letter, as in your heart. But our nation is so susceptible to, and also so imbued with, the idea that free trade is good for you but not for us, and that you adopted it in part through Machiavellianism and to inveigle us down this path; these ideas, as I say, are so prevalent and popular that I do not know whether the publication of your address will not be inopportune at the time we are forming an association. People will not fail to say that we are the dupes of perfidious Albion. Men who know that if two and two are four in England they do not make three in France laugh at these prejudices. However, I think it prudent to dissipate rather than confront them. This is why I will be submitting the question of publication to a few enlightened men whom I am meeting this evening and I will let you know tomorrow the result of this consultation.
I stressed the words in part for this reason: our principal point of support for the campaign is the commercial class, the traders. They earn their living by trade and they want as much of it as possible. They are also used to conducting business. Under this twin heading, they are our best auxiliaries. However, they support monopoly in one respect, the maritime aspect, protection for the national fleet, in a word, what is known as the surtax.
However, it so happens that our shipowners are all taken with the idea that, in his financial plan, Sir Robert Peel has not amended your Navigation Act and that he has left the full force of protection on this; I leave you to imagine the consequences they are drawing from this. I seem to remember that Huskisson amended your Navigation Act. I have your tariff, and I do not see anywhere that goods carried by foreign ships are subject to differential taxes. I would like to be sure of this question, and if you do not have time to enlighten me, could you not ask Mr. Paulton or Mr. James Wilson to write a fairly detailed letter to me on this subject?
I will now tell you a little about our association. I am beginning to be a little discouraged by the difficulties, even physical ones, of doing anything in Paris. Distances are huge, you waste a lot of time in the streets, and in the ten days I have been here I have put only two hours to good use. I would decide to abandon the enterprise if I did not see some elements of usefulness. Peers, deputies, bankers, men of letters, all of whose names are well known throughout France, have agreed to join our society, but they do not want to take the first step. Even supposing we succeeded in bringing them together, I do not think we would be able to count on a very active contribution from people who are so busy, so carried away by the whirlwind of business and pleasure. But the sole mention of their names would have a considerable effect in France and would make it easier for similar and more practical associations to be founded in Marseilles, Lyons, Le Havre, and Nantes. This is why I am resolved to waste two months here. What is more, the Paris society would have the advantage of giving a little courage to free-trade deputies, who, rejected by public opinion up to now, have not dared to admit their principles.
I have incidentally not lost sight of what you told me one day, that the movement, which was constructed from the bottom up in England, should be constructed from the top down in France, and for this reason I am delighted to see such major figures join us as Harcourt, Anisson-Dupéron, Pavée de Vandœuvre, and perhaps de Broglie among the peers; Eichthal, Vernes, Ganneron, and perhaps Rothschild among the bankers; and Lamartine, Lamenais, and Béranger among the men of letters. I am certainly far from believing that all these illustrious people have fixed opinions. It is instinct rather than a clear vision of the truth that guides them, but the very fact of their adhesion will commit them to our cause and oblige them to examine it. This is why I hold the cause dear, since without it I would prefer a wholly homogeneous association of a dozen followers who are free from commitments and unbound by the considerations that a name in politics imposes.
What factors sometimes make events great! Certainly if an opulent financier became devoted to the cause, or what would amount to the same thing, if a man who was profoundly persuaded and devoted had a huge fortune, the movement would quickly make progress. Today, for example, I know twenty prominent people who are watching each other, hesitating, and restrained only by the fear of tarnishing the brilliance of their name. If, instead of running from one to the other, on foot, mud spattered on my back, to meet one or two a day only and to obtain only evasive or dilatory replies, I could gather them round my table, in a sumptuous dining room, what difficulties would be overcome! Believe me, it is neither my spirit nor my heart that is failing. But I feel that this superb Babylon is not my place and I must make haste to return to my solitude and limit my contribution to a few articles in newspapers and some writing. Is it not strange that I should have reached the age at which hair goes gray, be a witness of the progress of luxury and repeat like the Greek philosopher, “How many things there are that I do not need!” and that I should feel overwhelmed by ambition at my age? Ambition! I dare to say that this ambition is pure, and if my poverty makes me suffer, it is because it is an invincible obstacle to the progress of the cause.
Forgive me, my dear sir, for these outpourings from my heart. I am talking about myself when I should be discussing only public affairs with you.
Farewell; I remain always your affectionate and devoted servant.
Letter to Richard Cobden
Paris, 2 April 1846
[vol. 1, p. 130]
My dear sir, as I told you, your reply to the address of the Société d’économie politique will appear in the next issue of Le Journal des économistes. I hope it will produce a good effect. However, in view of the extreme susceptibility of our fellow citizens, it was deemed appropriate not to publish it in the daily press and to wait until our Paris association was on a firmer footing.
What we lack above all is a mouthpiece, a special journal, like the League. You will tell me that this must be a product of the association. However, I firmly believe that, to a certain extent, it is the association that will be the product of the journal; we do not have the means of communication and no accredited journal can provide us with one.
For this reason, I have thought about creating a weekly journal entitled Libre échange. I received the estimate for it yesterday evening. It can be established for an expenditure of 40,000 francs for the first year and receipts, based on one thousand subscribers at 10 francs, would only be 10,000 francs; a loss of 30,000 francs.
Bordeaux will, I hope, agree to bear part of this. But I must envisage covering the total cost. I thought of you. I cannot ask England for an open or secret subsidy as this would result in more disadvantages than benefits. But could you not obtain for us one thousand subscriptions at half a guinea? This would mean receipts of 500 pounds sterling or 12,500 francs, or 10,000 francs net once postage charges have been deducted. I think that London, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Birmingham, Glasgow, and Edinburgh would be enough to take these thousand copies in genuine subscriptions, which your agents would facilitate. There would then be no subsidy, but faithful encouragement, which could be acknowledged openly.
When I see the timidity of our so-called free traders and how little they understand the necessity of adopting hard and fast principles, I consider it essential—as I will not hide from you—to take the initiative of starting this journal and managing it, for if, instead of preceding the association, it follows it, and is obliged to take on its spirit instead of creating it, I fear that the enterprise will be still-born.
Please reply as soon as you can and give me your frank advice.
Letter to Richard Cobden
Paris, 11 April 1846
[vol. 1, p. 131]
My dear sir, I hasten to tell you that your reply to the address of the economists will appear in this month’s journal, which will be published between the 15th and 20th. The translation is a little weak, as the person to whom it was mainly addressed thought it more appropriate to soften a few expressions in order to humor the susceptibility of our general public. This susceptibility is genuine, and what is more, it is cleverly manipulated. Just recently, while reading a few proofs in a printing works, I came across a book in which we were positively accused of having been bribed by England or rather by the League. As I knew the author, I persuaded him to withdraw this absurd allegation, but it made me realize the increasing danger of having any financial link with your society. I find it impossible to see anything reprehensible in the few subscriptions you may take in our writings in order to distribute them in Europe, and yet from now on I will refrain from calling on your sympathy and, independently of the reasons you give me, this is enough to make me resolve to conform to the national prejudice in this regard.
Although the movement in Bordeaux was rather impressive, I fear that it will create a great many obstacles precisely for that reason. No one dares do anything in Paris, for fear of not doing as much as Bordeaux. Right from the beginning, I predicted that an association, unnoticed at first but made up of men that were totally united and persuaded, would have a better chance than a grand demonstration. Finally, we have to act using the elements we have to hand, and one of the benefits of the association, if ever it spreads, will be to train the members themselves. They certainly need it. They cannot perceive the distinction between revenue-raising duties and protectionist duties. That means that they do not understand the very principle of the association, the only thing that can give it strength, cohesion, and longevity. I have developed this thesis in today’s issue of Le Courrier français, and will continue to do so.
Whatever happens, there has been incontrovertible progress in this country. Six months ago, no newspaper would support us. Today, we have five in Paris, three in Bordeaux, two in Marseilles, one in Le Havre, and two in Bayonne. I hope that a dozen peers and as many deputies will join our League and draw from it, if not enlightenment, at least courage.
Letter to Félix Coudroy
Paris, 18 April 1846
[vol. 1, p. 68]
My dear Félix, I am totally deprived of your letters and it is true that I myself have been very negligent. You cannot believe that I have no time, but this is nevertheless true; when you are living as though so to speak “camping in Paris,” the availability of time is so bad that you end up doing nothing.
I will not tell you very much about myself. I have so many people to see that I see no one; this may seem paradoxical but it is true. I have been only once to Dunoyer’s, once to Comte’s, once to Mignet’s, and so on. I am able to have contact with the newspapers; La Patrie, Le Courrier français, Le Siècle, and Le National have opened their columns to me. I have not been able to sign up with the Débats. M. Michel Chevalier has offered to include my articles in it, but I want to have entry to their actual offices to avoid cuts and changes.
The association is moving forward at the speed of a tortoise; I will not have my position settled until Sunday week, when there will be a meeting. Here are the names of some of the members: Harcourt, Pavée de Vandœuvre, Admiral Grivel, Anisson-Duperron, Vincens de Saint-Laurent, peers.
Lamartine, Lafarelle, Bussières, Lherbette, de Corcelle, and a few other deputies.
Michel Chevalier, Blanqui, Wolowski, Léon Faucher, and other economists. D’Eichthal, Cheuvreux, Say, and other merchant bankers.
The difficulty is to gather together these figures who are borne along in the political whirlwind. Behind them, there are young people who are more fervent and who must be contained at least provisionally, so as not to lose the advantage of having the support of these well-known and popular names.
In the meantime, we have had a meeting of the traders and manufacturers in Paris. Our aim was to prepare them; I was very ill prepared myself and I had not devoted more than one hour to thinking about what I would have to say. I drew up a very simple plan in which I could not go wrong and was happy to find that this method was not beyond my powers. By starting very simply and in a conversational tone, without seeking to be either witty or eloquent, but only to be clear and convincing, I was able to talk for half an hour without either fatigue or shyness. Others were more brilliant. We will be having another, larger meeting in a week’s time and then I will try to enthuse the Latin Quarter.
I have seen the minister of finance in the last few days. He approved of all I am doing and asks for nothing more than to see public opinion molded.
Farewell; time is running short and I am even afraid that I am late.
Letter to Félix Coudroy.
Paris, 3 May 1846
[vol. 1, p. 70]
My dear Félix, I have learned that there is an opportunity to send this letter and, although I am not at my best (as I have been holding my pen for seven hours), I do not want to let it pass without giving you my news.
I mentioned a meeting tomorrow to you and this is its subject. The addition of famous figures has buried our modest association. These people wanted to start everything again ab ovo and we therefore have to construct a program and draw up a manifesto, and this I have been working on all day. But there are four others who are doing the same thing. Whether we want to choose or combine, I can see a long, fruitless discussion ahead, because there are many men of letters, many theorists, and then there is the matter of ego. I would therefore not be surprised if it were referred to yet another commission where the same difficulties will arise, since everyone except me will defend his work and will come to be judged by the Assembly. This is a pity. The manifesto will be followed by the statutes, an organization that complies with these, and subscriptions, and it is only after all this that I will be confirmed. Sometimes I feel the urge to give up, but when I think of the beneficial effect that the simple manifesto with its forty signatures will produce, I cannot summon up the courage to do so. Perhaps when the manifesto has been issued, I will go to Mugron to wait for my summons, since the thought of spending months on end coping with simple formalities without doing anything useful appalls me. Besides, the electoral battle may require my presence. M. Dupérier sent me a message to say that he had formally withdrawn, and even added that he had burned his boats and written to all his friends that he had abandoned his candidature. Since this is so, if other candidates do not come forward, I may find myself confronting M. de Larnac alone, and this combat does not worry me because it will be a conflict of doctrines and opinion. What amazes me is not to receive any letters from Saint-Sever. It appears that Dupérier’s communication ought to have attracted a few overtures to me. If you hear anything, please let me know.
Letter to Félix Coudroy
Paris, 4 May 1846
[vol. 1, p. 71]
Yesterday evening a manifesto was discussed and adopted. The discussion was serious, interesting, and profound, and that in itself is a very good thing, since many people who undertake to enlighten others enlighten themselves. All executive powers were entrusted to a commission made up of MM Harcourt, Say, Dunoyer, Renouard, Blanqui, Léon Faucher, Anisson-Duperron, and me. On the other hand, this commission will be transmitting to me, at least in practice, the authority it has received and will limit itself to a controlling function; in these circumstances, could I possibly abandon a role that might fall into other hands and compromise the entire cause? I am unhappy at leaving Mugron and my accustomed ways, whimsical work, and our conversations. This is a desperate wrench, but have I any right to step back?
Farewell, my dear Félix; your friend.
Letter to Félix Coudroy
Paris, 24 May 1846
[vol. 1, p. 72]
My dear Félix, I have run around so much this morning that I cannot hold my pen properly and my writing is all trembling. What you have told me concerning the usefulness of my presence in Mugron is a constant preoccupation. But, my friend, I am almost certain that, if I left Paris, our association would collapse, and we would have to start all over again. You will make up your own mind about this; this is the position we are in: I think I told you that a commission had been appointed with full powers, but just when we were about to issue our manifesto, several of the commissioners wanted us to obtain prior authorization. A request was made for this and the minister agreed, but the days go by and nothing seems to come. In the meantime, the manifesto is in our files. It was certainly a mistake to request authorization; we should have limited ourselves to a simple declaration. Our faint-hearted commissioners thought they were being accommodating to the minister but I think they caused him embarrassment since, especially with the elections coming shortly, he will be afraid of upsetting the manufacturers.
Nevertheless, M. Guizot has declared that he will give the authorization, M. de Broglie has made it understood that he would come over to us immediately afterward and this is why I am still being patient, but if there is any more delay I will complain loudly at the risk of demolishing everything, so as to start on another course and with other people.
You see how difficult it is to leave the field at this time. It is not that I do not want to, for, my dear Félix, Paris and I are not made for one another. There is too much to say on this subject, so we will leave it for another day.
Your article in Le Mémorial was excellent. Few people have read it, as it arrived only at the end of our meetings for the reason which I have told you, but I have sent it to Dunoyer and Say as well as to a few others, and everyone thought it was sufficiently lively and clear to absorb the reader and oblige him to agree. The “I will no longer be involved” could not fail to please Dunoyer a great deal; unfortunately the current view is leaning to an appalling degree in the other direction: “Involve the state in everything.” We will shortly produce a second edition of my Sophisms. We could include this article and a few others in this, if you write them. I can certainly tell you that this small book is destined to be circulated widely. In America, they are offering to distribute it widely, and the English and Italian newspapers have translated it almost in its entirety. But what annoys me a little is to see that the three or four pleasantries that I have slipped into this volume have been highly successful while the serious part has been widely overlooked. For this reason, you also should try a few buffa.
I must end here. I have just learned that an opportunity has occurred with regard to Bordeaux and I want to take advantage of it.
Letter to Richard Cobden
Paris, 25 May 1846
[vol. 1, p. 133]
It is quite a few days since I last wrote to you, dear Mr. Cobden, but finally I could not have found a more appropriate opportunity to atone for my negligence, since I am pleased to introduce to you the mayor of Bordeaux, the worthy and jovial president of our association, M. Duffour-Dubergié. I do not think I need add anything to assure him of the most cordial welcome on your part. Knowing the close union which binds all the members of the League, I am even dispensing with the duty of writing to Messrs. Bright, Paulton, etc., as I am sure that, on your recommendation, M. Duffour will be admitted to your circle as a member of this great confraternity which has arisen in support of the freedom and union of peoples. And who is more worthy of your friendship than he? He it was who, through the authority of his position, his wealth, and his character, carried Bordeaux along and caused the little that has occurred in Paris to happen. He has not procrastinated and hesitated like our diplomats in the capital. His resolution has been sufficiently prompt and forceful for our government itself not to have the time to hinder the movement, even supposing it had the intention of doing so.
Please, therefore, welcome M. Duffour as the true founder of the association in France. Others will seek and maybe gain the glory for this one day. This is quite normal, but, for my part, I will always give the credit to our president in Bordeaux.
In the midst of the uproar and excitement which must be surrounding your affairs, perhaps you sometimes wonder how our small league in Paris is getting on. Alas, it is in a period of the doldrums, which is very annoying for me. As French law requires associations to be authorized, several of our most prominent members stipulated that this formality should precede the release of any information outside. We therefore submitted our request, and since then we are dependent on the goodwill of the ministers. They have indeed promised authorization, but they have not issued it. Our colleague, M. Anisson-Dupéron, is devoting to this matter a zeal for which he should be praised. He combines the vigor of a young man with the maturity of a peer of France. Thanks to him, I hope we will succeed. If the minister stubbornly refuses to authorize us, our association will be dissolved. All the faint-hearted will leave, but there will always remain a certain number of members with greater resolve and we will constitute an organization on different lines. Who knows whether in the long run this sorting out will not be an advantage to us?
I must admit that I will regret having to abandon fine, well-known names. These are needed in France, since our laws and customs prevent us from doing anything with and through the people. We can scarcely act with just the enlightened classes and, since this is so, men who have acquired a reputation are excellent auxiliaries. But, as a last resort, it is better to do without them than not to do anything at all.
It would appear that the protectionists are preparing a desperate defense in England. If you have a moment, I would be grateful if you would give me your views on the outcome of the struggle. M. Duffour will witness this great conflict. I envy him his good fortune.
Letter to Mr. Richard Cobden
Mugron, 25 June 1846
[vol. 1, p. 134]
It is not for you to apologize, my dear sir, but for me, for you are making great and noble use of your time while I, who am wasting mine, ought not to have waited so long without writing to you. You are at the end of your work. The hour of triumph has sounded for you. You can give yourself the testimonial that you have left a deep imprint of your passage on this earth and humanity will bless your name. You have led your huge campaign with the vigor, comprehensiveness, prudence, and moderation that will be an eternal example for all future reformers and, I say this most sincerely, the perfection you have brought to the art of campaigning will be a greater benefit for the human race than the specific purpose of your efforts, however great that is. You have taught the world that genuine strength lies in public opinion and shown it how to put this strength to work. I take it upon myself, my dear Cobden, to award you the palm of immortality and anoint your forehead with the mark of a great man.
As for me, you will see from the date of my letter that I have deserted the battlefield, not because of discouragement but temporary disgust. It must be said; the task in France is more specialized and less likely to make inroads in public sympathy. The material and moral obstacles are also huge. We have neither the railways nor the penny postage. We are not accustomed to subscriptions; French minds are impatient with all hierarchy. We are capable of discussing the details of a regulation or the formalities of a meeting for a year. Lastly, our greatest misfortune is that we have no genuine economists. I have not met two who are capable of supporting the cause and its doctrine in a comprehensive and correct fashion, and we see the most gross errors and concessions infiltrating the speeches and writings of those known here as free traders. Communism and Fourierism absorb all the young minds, and we will have a host of outer ramparts to destroy before being able to attack the heart of the fortress.
If I turn my gaze on myself, I can feel tears of blood coming to my eyes. My health does not allow me to work assiduously and . . . but what use are complaints and regrets!
The September Laws which oppose us are not greatly to be feared. On the contrary, the government is doing us a favor by placing us in this posture. It offers us the means of stiffening the public fiber a little and melting the ice of public indifference. If it wanted to counter the rise of our ideas, it could not have gone about it in a worse way.
You make no mention of your health. I hope it is a little stronger. I would be very sorry if you came to Paris and I did not have the pleasure of doing you the honors there. It is doubtless an instinct for contrast that incites you to go to Cairo, contraria contrariis curantur. You wish to escape the fog, liberty, and unrest in Britain by seeking refuge under the sun, despotism, and political inertia of Egypt. Oh that I might, in seven years’ time, go to seek rest from the same weariness in the same place!
You are thus going to dissolve the League! What an instructive and imposing prospect! What is the abdication of Scylla compared with such an act of selflessness? This is the time for me to rewrite and complete my History of the League. But will I have the time? The flow of affairs takes up all my waking hours. I also need to produce a second edition of my Sophisms and I would very much like to write a small book entitled Economic Harmonies. It will make a pair with the other; the first demolishes and the second would build.
Letter to Richard Cobden
Bordeaux, 21 July 1846
[vol. 1, p. 136]
My dear and excellent friend, your letter found me here in Bordeaux, where I have come to attend a meeting following the return of our president, M. Duffour-Dubergié. This meeting will take place in a few hours’ time; I am to speak at it and this is exercising my mind to such an extent that you must excuse the confusion and incoherence of this letter. Nevertheless, I do not want to put off writing to you since you have asked me to reply by return.
I do not need to tell you how pleased I was to learn of the conclusion of your great and glorious enterprise. The keystone has fallen, and the entire monopoly structure will crumble, including the colonial system, which is linked to the protectionist system. This above all is what will have a strong influence on public opinion in Europe and dissolve the truly disastrous and profound prejudices in this country.
When I entitled my book Cobden and the League, no one had told me that you were the soul of this powerful organization and that you had communicated to it all the qualities of your mind and heart. I am proud that I sensed this and that I foresaw, if not anticipated, public opinion throughout England. For the love of man, please do not reject the acknowledgment the country wishes to give you. Allow the people to express their gratitude freely and nobly. England is honoring you and is honoring herself even more through this great act of justice. Be sure that she is investing the hundred thousand pounds sterling at a high rate of interest, since as long as she knows how to reward its faithful servants well she will be well served. She will never lack great men. Here in France, we also have fine minds and noble hearts, but their potential remains unrealized because the country has not yet learned this important but oh, so simple lesson: honor what is honorable and despise what is despicable. The gift they are preparing for you is the glorious culmination of the most glorious enterprise that the world has ever seen. Leave these great examples to reach future generations in their entirety.
I will be going to Paris at the beginning of August. It is not likely that I will be arriving there as a deputy. The same cause is still forcing me to wait for this mandate to be imposed on me, and in France, this wait can be long. But, like you, I think that the work I have to do is outside the legislative perimeter.
I have just left the meeting, at which I did not speak. But, with reference to election as a deputy, an extraordinary thing has happened to me. I will tell you about it in Paris. Oh, my friend, there are countries in which you have to have a truly great spirit to concern yourself with the public good, so great an effort is deployed to discourage you!
Letter to Félix Coudroy
Bordeaux, 22 July 1846
[vol. 1, p. 73]
My dear Félix, I wrote to you the day before yesterday and would not be surprised if my letter went astray, since for the last month I have been going from one misunderstanding to another. I would need a ream of paper to tell you all that has happened to me. They are not pleasant things but they do have the advantage of letting me make great strides in acquiring knowledge of the human heart. Alas! Perhaps it would be better to retain the few illusions we should have at our age.
First of all, I have found out that the delay in sending out my brochure is the result of intrigue. My letter to M. Duchâtel offended him, but it forced out of him the authorization that so many highly placed figures were pursuing for the last three months. And do you think the association in Bordeaux was grateful? Not at all. There has been a complete change of opinion against me here, and I have been branded a radical; my brochure was the final straw. M. Duchâtel has written to the prefect, the prefect summoned the manager of Le Mémorial and hauled him over the coals, and the manager has atoned for his fault by delaying my brochure. In spite of this, right now, the four hundred copies should have reached you.
As for what is happening with regard to the elections, it would take too long and I will tell you when we meet. The result is that I will not be supported anywhere, except perhaps in Nérac. However, I see this as a mere show of opposition and not as a serious candidature, unless the unexpected happens on election day.
Yesterday we had a meeting of the association in Bordeaux. The way I was begged to speak made me beg to refuse.
I presume that right now all the electors of Saint-Sever have received my brochure. This is all I have to offer them with my devotion to duty. Distributing it must be giving you much work. If there are four of you, however, the task will be lighter. I hope to have returned to Mugron by the 28th or 29th, just in time to vote.
Farewell, my dear Félix, I will not seal this letter until this evening, in case I have anything to add.
P.S. I have just had an important interview, which I will tell you about. But the result is that Bordeaux will not be supporting me; they want an economist who is right in the center. The minister has recommended Blanqui.
Letter to Richard Cobden
Paris, 23 September 1846
[vol. 1, p. 138]
Although I have not a great deal to tell you, my dear friend, I do not want to let any more time go by without writing to you.
We are still in the same situation, with a great deal of trouble bringing an organization to birth. I hope, nevertheless, that next month will be more productive. First of all, we will have a headquarters. That is a good start; it is the embodiment of the League. Next, several leading men are returning from the country, among whom is the excellent M. Anisson, whom I have been missing.
In the meantime, we are preparing for a second meeting on the 29th. This is perhaps a little dangerous, since a fiasco in France tends to be deadly. I am offering to speak at it and I will reread your lesson on eloquence several times between now and then. Could I obtain this from a better source? I assure you that I will have at least two precious, although negative, qualities in the absence of others, simplicity and brevity. I will not try to make people laugh or cry, but to elucidate a difficult point of economic science.
There is one point on which I do not agree with you, that is, on public speaking. I think it is the most powerful instrument of propagation. Is it nothing to have several thousand listeners who understand you much better than if they were reading you? Afterward, the next day, everyone wants to know what you said and the truth goes on its way.
You know that Marseilles has issued its pronunciamento; the people there are already richer than we. I hope they will help us, at least in founding the journal.
Brussels has just formed its association. And what is surprising, the association has just published the first issue of its journal. Alas! The Belgians probably do not have a law on stamps and another on surety.
I am impatient to know whether you have visited our marvelous Pyrenees. The mayor of Bordeaux wrote to tell me that my desolate Landes appeared to you to be the land of lizards and salamanders. And yet deep affection can transform this frightful desert into an earthly paradise! But I hope that our Pyrenees will have reconciled you to the south of France. What a shame that all the provinces that surround Pau, the Juranson, the Béarn, the Tursan, the Armagnac, and the Chalosse cannot carry out trade that would be so natural with England!
Let us return to the subject of associations. One is being formed of protectionists. This is the best thing that could have happened to us, as we really need a stimulus. It is said that another is being formed in favor of free trade in raw materials and the protection of factories. That one, at least, does not pretend to be based on a principle and take account of justice. It thus considers itself to be eminently practical. It is clear that it cannot stand alone and that it will be absorbed by us.
Letter to Richard Cobden
Paris, 29 September 1846
[vol. 1, p. 140]
My dear friend, I have been to visit M. de Loménie, who has come to my lodgings though we still have not met. But I am meeting him tomorrow and will make available to him all my documents and those of Fonteyraud. In addition, I will offer him my cooperation, either for translating or, if need be, giving his article a veneer of economic orthodoxy. I have at the forefront of my memory the passage from your closing speech in which you make an excursion into the future and from there open up to your listeners a horizon that is wider and finer than that offered to you from the Pic du Midi. This speech will be translated and sent to M. de Loménie. He might well also use your excerpt on emigration, which is really eloquent. In short, let me have some information on it. The only thing is that I have to tell you that very little is said here about this gallery of famous men. I am assured that this type of work is a speculation on the amour propre of those who aspire to celebrity. But perhaps this insinuation arises from the jealousies of authors and publishers, irritabile genus, the vainest species of men I know after fencing masters.
I have just received your nice letter. Has it reached me in time? I have incorporated the text you indicate quite naturally in my speech. How could I not have thought of asking for your advice? This doubtless is because I have a head full of arguments and felt that I was rich. But I thought only of the subject and you have made me think of the audience. I now understand that a good speech must be supplied to us by the audience rather than by its subject. Running through mine in my head, I think that it is not too philosophical and that it combines economic science, appropriateness, and parables in proper proportion. I will send it to you and you will let me know your view of it for my edification. You will understand, my dear Cobden, that any tact would do me a disservice. I have as much amour propre as the next man and no one fears ridicule more than I, but that is precisely why I want good advice and good criticism. One of your remarks might spare me a thousand in the future that is opening out before me and carrying me along. A great many things will be decided tonight.
I am expected in Le Havre. Oh! What a burden is an exaggerated reputation! There, I will have to discuss the shipping interest. I remember that you had good things to say on this subject in Liverpool or in Hull. I will do some research, but if you have any good ideas relating to Le Havre, please let me have them for charity’s sake or rather, through me, bestow this charity on the fearful shipowners who are counting on the small number of trading operations to increase the number of transport facilities. What blindness! What a distortion of human intelligence!
- And I am astonished when I think of this,
- To what depths the human spirit can sink.
I will not post my letter until tomorrow, so that I can tell you about an event that I am sure will interest you as much as if it were personal.
I was forgetting to tell you that your previous letter arrived too late. I had already booked two separate apartments, one for the association and the other for me, but in the same house. We have to accept our fate with the motto that consoles Spanish people in all circumstances: no hay remedio! As for my health, do not worry, it is better. I believe that Providence will give me enough to see me through. I am becoming superstitious; is it not good to be this way just a little?
But here my letter is arriving at the square yard. It will pay heavy duties. This would probably not happen if the post office adopted the ad valorem duty. I am leaving some space for tomorrow.
The session has just ended. Anisson chaired it. The audience was larger than the previous time. We had five speeches including two from professors who thought they were giving classes. Very much more than I, they thought about their subject more than their audience. M. Say had a great success; he spoke with warmth and was roundly applauded. I am pleased about that, since how can one fail to like this excellent man? M—— made three excellent speeches in one. His only fault was length. I was the fifth to speak, with the disadvantage of having a harassed audience. Notwithstanding this, I had as much success as I wished. What was funny is that the only emotion I felt was in my calves. I now understand Racine’s line:
And my trembling knees are buckling beneath me.
I have seen only one newspaper, Le Commerce. This is what it says: “Mr. Bastiat succeeded in having his economic parables accepted through an unpretentious delivery that was accompanied by a thoroughly southern eloquence.” This scant praise is enough for me and I want no more, since God preserve me from arousing envy in my colleagues!
Letter to Félix Coudroy
Paris, 1 October 1846
[vol. 1, p. 74]
My dear Félix, I have had no news of you and consequently do not know how you are progressing in your court case. May you be close to a solution and success! Give me news of your good sister; were the baths at Biarritz beneficial for her? I am sorry you were not able to accompany her; I think Mugron must be becoming sadder and more monotonous for you with each passing day.
People in Bordeaux have written to tell me that several of our articles are being reprinted as a brochure. This is why I am in no hurry to produce a second volume of Sophisms; this would be duplication. Just writing my correspondence takes me as much time as I can devote to writing. My friend, I am not only part of the association, I am the association in its entirety, not because I lack enthusiastic and devoted colleagues when it comes to speaking and writing. As for organizing and administering this vast machine, however, I am on my own, and how long will this last? On the 15th of this month, I am taking possession of my place of work. I will then have staff. Until then, I cannot undertake any intellectual work.
I am sending you an issue of the journal that reports on our public session yesterday. I made my debut on the Paris stage in extremely unfavorable circumstances. There was a large audience and for the first time there were women in the public gallery. It had been arranged that five speakers would be heard and that each would speak for half an hour. This already made the session last for two and a half hours. I was to speak last; of my four predecessors, two were faithful to the rules and two others spoke for more than an hour; they were professors. I therefore stood up in front of an audience harangued by three hours of economics and in a hurry to leave. I myself was very tired by such an extended wait. I stood up with the terrible foreboding that my head would let me down. I had prepared my speech carefully but without writing it down. You can imagine how terrified I was. How was it that I did not have a moment of hesitation or feel any worry or emotion, except in my legs? I cannot explain it. I owe it all to the modest tone with which I started. After warning the audience that they should expect no eloquence, I felt perfectly at ease and I must have succeeded since the newspapers report only this speech. This is a great test I have passed. I tell you all this frankly, as you can see, persuaded that you will be delighted both for me and the cause. My dear Félix, I am sure that we will triumph. In a short time, my fellow countrymen may trade their wines for anything they want. The Chalosse will come back to life. This is the thought that sustains me. I will not have been totally without use to my country.
I presume that I will be going to Le Havre in two or three months to organize a committee. The prefect in Rouen has warned M. Anisson “that he should take care to come at night if he does not wish to be stoned.”
I am assured that yesterday evening there was a large protectionist meeting in Rouen. If I had known this, I would have gone incognito. I would congratulate myself if these people did as we do; that would goad us on. And incidentally it is a safety valve; as long as they defend themselves through legal channels, there will be no fear of collision.
Farewell, my dear Félix. Write to me from time to time; put your solitude to good use and do something worthwhile. I very much regret not being able to undertake anything for true glory. If you think of a good way of doing so, let me know of it. I am assured that parables and jokes have greater success and more effect than the best treatises.
Letter to Richard Cobden
Paris, 22 October 1846
[vol. 1, p. 142]
My dear friend, I was beginning to worry about your silence. At last I have received your letter dated . . . and I am delighted to learn that you and Mrs. Cobden are enjoying being in Spain. What will happen when you see Andalusia! As far as I was able to see, in Seville and Cadiz there was an air of equality in the manners between classes which was balm to the soul. I am enchanted to learn that there are good free traders beyond the Pyrenees. Perhaps they will put us to shame. Dear friend, I think we have in common that we are free of personal jealousy. But do you have national jealousy? For my part, I scarcely feel any. I would like my country to give a good example, but failing that, I would prefer even more that it receive good example rather than wait a century to take the lead. And yet . . . I cannot refrain from uttering a philosophical thought. Nations take great pride in having a great musician, a good painter, or a skillful captain, as though that added something to their own merit. It is said that “the French invent, the English encourage.” For heaven’s sake! Would you not agree that invention is a personal fact and encouragement a national fact? Bentham said of science, “What propagates it is more valuable than what advances it.” I say the same of virtues.
But whither am I wandering? To the view that it matters little whether progress reaches us from the dusk or the dawn, provided that it comes.
Your speech will appear in two Paris newspapers. It was not I who translated it. I noted that you were able to give advice to more places than just Paris. Moreover, you did this with perfect propriety and I very much approve of your having told the Castilians that it is not necessary to kill people in order to teach them how to live.
Here we are moving slowly but we are moving. Our most recent meeting was good and the public is clamoring for another. I went to Le Havre. An association has been formed there but it did not think it necessary to adopt our title. I fear that these people have not understood the importance of rallying round a single principle. They are demanding trade reform and a reduction in consumption taxes. How much there would be to say! Trade reform! They did not dare utter the word freedom, because of shipping. A reduction in taxes! Into what topics of discussion will this draw them?
On the subject of shipping, I inserted an article in the Le Havre journal, which had a good local effect. M. Anisson thinks that it is at the expense of the principle. I do not think so, but it pains me to disagree with the most enthusiastic and enlightened of my colleagues. I would very much like you to be close to us to be able to settle this disagreement. But truly, a debate by letter would take too long.
I do not know whether it is to my shame or glory but I have read nothing about the marriage. Our journal, the Courrier, has been speaking of nothing else for the last two months. I have told it that it would do just as well to print under its title “Journal of a Spanish Coterie.” It has lost its subscribers and is blaming it on Libre échange. What a shame! I really am homesick for my Landes. There, I imagined human turpitude, but it is much sadder to see it.
Farewell, my brother in arms, take care of your health and that of Mrs. Cobden, to whom I send my best regards. Be careful of the Spanish climate, which is very treacherous and destroys the lungs without appearing to affect them.
Letter to Richard Cobden
Paris, 22 November 1846
[vol. 1, p. 144]
My dear friend, I thank you for having made it possible for me to follow you in your travels in the newspapers of Madrid, Seville, and Cadiz. The expressions of friendship that you receive everywhere reach our fine cause, through you. It makes me happy to see that people’s tributes are finally reaching the right target instead of being diverted, as is customary, toward the actions that, for whatever reason, inflict the most obvious evils on the poor human race. At the same time I am very glad to learn that you are enjoying good health and that Mrs. Cobden has not suffered from such a long journey.
I share your opinion on Spain and the Spanish. However, are you not cherishing a few illusions on the degree of prosperity enjoyed by this country? I know that everyone always talks about its fertility, but the absence of rivers, canals, roads, and trees creates obstacles whose significance you should appreciate. By isolating people, they obstruct both moral and social development and the accumulation of wealth. Spain needs someone to invent a means of enabling trains to cross the mountains.
Because I have little time and scarcely enough to keep up with correspondence with my family, I will go straight to the question of free trade in France. At present we are overwhelmed. The protectionists are campaigning in depth and in the English style. Newspapers, contributions, calls to the workers, and threats to the government are all being used. When I say English style, I mean that they are using a great deal of energy and a true understanding of campaigning.
In this respect, our provinces in the north are much further advanced than our départements in the south. In addition, a more pressing interest is goading them on. In twenty-four hours they have founded a journal, while we . . . would you believe that we still do not know whether Bordeaux is willing to help us or not? Marseilles and Le Havre are isolating themselves and their only reason for this is that they do not think we are practical enough, as though we had something other to do than destroy a public error. But I was expecting all this and even worse.
I have not been able to escape the need to take on the physical work myself. Lack of money on the one hand and the commitments of my colleagues on the other leave me with no alternative but to abandon everything or drink deep from this chalice. I have seen in the protectionist journal and in democratic broadsheets the strangest fallacies without having the time to refute them, and it is even impossible for me to gather together the material for a second volume of Sophisms, although I have them in sufficient number. The only thing is that they are all of the buffa type, and I would like to intersperse them with a few seria. As for another, more complete edition of Cobden and the League, I am not even thinking about it.
What a difference it would make, my dear friend, if I could go from town to town speaking and writing!
Be that as it may, public opinion has been awoken and I entertain hope.
It has almost been decided that we will be publishing our first issue in the first few days of December, without knowing how we will be able to continue. However, should not good causes be able to rely on Providence? I will send you a copy as often as I can contact you in your wanderings. I also hope that you will be able to gain us subscribers abroad. We have worked out that at twelve francs we need five thousand subscribers to cover our costs. We would then be able to do without Marseilles and Le Havre. In spite of the fact that we have to be very circumspect with regard to foreigners, and especially the English, I do not think there will be any disadvantages in your fellow countrymen helping us to increase the circulation of our journal in those countries in which French is widely spoken.
I have just received a letter from Bordeaux. It gives me hope that we will receive help. The mayor is working on this with good heart.
Another piece of good fortune has just happened to me. The workers have committed me to going to meet them and reach an agreement with them. If I won them over, they would carry along the democratic party. I will devote all my efforts to this.
Letter to Richard Cobden
Paris, 25 November 1846
[vol. 1, p. 147]
My dear friend, yesterday evening we held our third public session. The Montesquieu Hall was full and many people could not enter, which is, in Paris, the most favorable circumstance for attracting people. New classes of people appeared in the audience. I had sent tickets to workers and students at the law school. The public was admirable and, although the speakers sometimes forgot the rule of wisdom and prudence which was of course in their own interest too, stop talking! the audience listened with religious attention where they were not carried away with enthusiasm. Our speakers were MM Faucher, who commented with great emphasis and pertinence on an official letter from the protectionists to the council of ministers; Peupin, a worker, who would have been a perfect model of verve and simplicity if he had kept to his subject, from which he was rather too eager to wander; and Ortolan, who gave an eloquent speech and considered the question from a totally new point of view. This speech roused the audience and stiffened the French fiber. Lastly, Blanqui, who was as energetic as he was witty. Our worthy president opened the session with a few graceful words imbued with the fine tone that our nominal aristocracy still retains. I will send you all of this.
Speaking in public has an irresistible attraction for French people. It is therefore probable that we will be overwhelmed with requests and, as for me, I have decided to wait to be asked to speak. This makes it possible that I will have a long wait; be that as it may, it will not bother me to be ready if need be. Therefore, if you have any new ideas or a thought that, when developed, might serve as a text for a good speech, please let me have them. If my health cannot cope with the amount of internal work that has fallen upon me, I will request a holiday and take advantage of it to go to Lyons, Marseilles, Nîmes, etc. Therefore, please send me anything that you consider would be relevant for these various towns. You might write these thoughts down on scraps of paper as they come to mind, and enclose them in your letters. I will mix the drink using the flavorings you have given me.
In particular, I would like to examine in depth the question of wages, that is to say, the influence that freedom and protectionism have on them. It would be no trouble at all for me to deal with this major question in economic terms, and if I had to write a book on this, I would perhaps produce a satisfactory result. But what I lack is one of the clear, striking reasons that are ready to be put before the workers themselves and which, in order to be understood, do not need all the previous notions of value, currency, capital, competition, etc.
Farewell, my dear friend, write to me in Barcelona. I think I am slightly feverish and have subjected myself to doing nothing today. This is why I am stopping, assuring you once more of my friendship.
Letter to Richard Cobden
Paris, 20 December 1846
[vol. 1, p. 148]
My dear friend, I had lost track of you for a while and am glad to know that you are in France, in the most delightful country on earth, if it had common sense. Ah! My friend, I was expecting our opponents to exploit blind popular passions against us, including the hatred of foreigners. But I did not think that they would succeed so well. They have once more bribed the press and the word is out to treat us as traitors and agents of Pittand Coburg. Would you believe that, in my own region, this calumny has made inroads? I have had letters from Mugron to say that people dare to speak of me only within the family, so fiercely has public opinion been aroused against our enterprise. On the 29th of this month, I am due to speak in the Montesquieu Hall and I plan to refer to this delicate subject and develop the idea that “the English oligarchy has borne down hard upon the world, and it is this that explains the universal distrust with which anything that is done across the Channel is met. But there is a country on which it has borne down harder upon than on any other and that is England itself. This is why there is in England a class that stands up to the oligarchy and is gradually stripping it of its dangerous privileges. This is the class that has in succession achieved Catholic emancipation, electoral reform, the abolition of slavery, and free trade, and that is on the point of achieving the liberation of the colonies. It is therefore working in our direction, and it is absurd to envelop it in the same hatred that we should be reserving for the domineering classes in all countries.”
That is the text. I think I will be able to dress it up sufficiently to have it accepted.
How much I would have to tell you, my dear friend, but I do not have enough time. I am sending you the first four issues of our journal. I have marked what I have written. I was constrained, under pain of having the enterprise fail, to mention my name and now I can no longer accept the responsibility for everything that is said in it. This is going to lead to a crisis, because I need to be able to produce the journal in the way I want or else someone else must give it his signature.
Of all the sacrifices I have made to the cause, this is the greatest. Carrying on the fight in my own way was more suited to my character, sometimes writing serious and lengthy articles and at others going to Lyons or Marseilles, in short being guided by my native sensibility. Here I am, on the contrary, chained to daily polemics. However, in our country, that is the scope of usefulness.
You have no need of an introduction to M. Rossi; your reputation will open all doors to you. However, since you want one, I will send you a letter from M. Chevalier or from someone else.
Now, I believe that our efforts should be directed to the distribution of our journal, Le Libre échange. Rest assured that, as soon as we are free of the inevitable tensions accompanying a launch, this journal will be produced with a good spirit and may give considerable service, provided that it is read. Devote yourself, therefore, during your travels, to finding subscribers to it and ensure that the borders of Italy are not closed to it. Underline that it does not attack any political institution or religious belief. Italy is the country which provided the most subscribers to Le Journal des économistes. It should provide even more to Libre échange, which will appear every week and cost only twelve francs. That is not all. I think you ought to write to London or Manchester, because, after all, the cry against England does not prevent us from finding subscribers there. Subscriptions are a matter of life and death for us. My dear Cobden, after having directed the movement in England from such a height, please do not disdain the humble mission of a subscription broker.
I am truly ashamed to send you this letter written in fits and starts and not really knowing what I am saying. I will find the time to write to you in more relaxed fashion, either tonight or tomorrow night.
Letter to Richard Cobden
Paris, 25 December 1846
[vol. 1, p. 151]
My dear friend, I communicated your letter to Léon Faucher. He says that “you do not know France.” For my part, I am convinced that we can succeed only by awakening a sentiment of justice and that we would not even be able to mention the word justice if we accepted the shadow of protection. We have tried it, and the only time we wanted to make overtures to a town, it laughed in our faces. It is this conviction and the certitude I have that it is not sufficiently shared that principally committed me to accepting the management of the journal. Not that it is a very real management; there is an editorial committee, which has full authority, but I hope nevertheless to give some clear color to the spirit of this broadsheet. What a sacrifice, my friend, to accept the job of a journalist and put my name at the foot of a medley! But I am not writing to you to air my complaints.
Marseilles does not appear, any more than Bordeaux, to understand the need to concentrate the action in Paris. This is weakening us. Our opponents have not made this mistake, and although their association is harboring the countless germs of division, they are containing these germs through their skill and self-sacrifice. If you have the opportunity of seeing the leaders in Marseilles, please explain the situation to them clearly.
The cry against England is stifling us. Formidable prejudices have been aroused against us. If this hatred for perfidious Albion were just a fashion, I would wait patiently for it to blow over. However, it has deep roots in people’s hearts. It is universal, and as I have told you, I think that in my village people no longer dare to talk of me outside the family. What is more, this blind passion serves protected interests and political parties so well that they exploit it in the most shameless fashion. As an isolated writer, I might refute them energetically, but, as a member of an association, I must act with more prudence.
Besides, it must be said that events do not favor us. On the very day that Sir Robert Peel accomplished free trade, he asked for a credit of twenty-five million for the army, as though to proclaim his lack of faith in his work and as though to throw our best arguments back in our faces. Since then, the policy of your government has always been imbued with a spirit of teasing which irritates the French people and makes it forget what might remain to it of impartiality. Ah! If I had been prime minister of England, on the occasion of Krakow I would have said, “The 1815 treaties have been broken. France is free! England fought the principle of the French Revolution up to Waterloo. Now it has another policy, that of nonintervention to its full extent. Let France recover its rights, like England in eternal neutrality.” And fitting action to words, I would have dismissed half of the army and three-quarters of the sailors. But I am not the prime minister.
Vice president of the Board of Trade.
Justice of the peace in the county of Mugron.
At the 13 December 1838 meeting, the president of the chamber of commerce, Mr. Wood, criticized the Corn Laws but wanted to let the Whig government of John Russell modify them. Instead, Cobden was in favor of a total and immediate repeal.
Discussion of the Corn Bill in the Commons.
OC, vol. 7, p. 30, “Projet de ligue anti-protectioniste” and the following two essays.
Cobden’s address (to a banquet held in his honor) can be found in Annales de la Société, vol. 1, 1846-53.
See Letter 47, note 105.
Cobden and the League.
The sale price of Cobden and the League was 7.5 francs; Economic Sophisms was 4 francs.
In 1818, under the “Indivision Treaty,” in Oregon, British and American citizens had the same hunting, fishing, navigation, and circulation rights. The treaty was renewed in 1827 and canceled in 1846.
It raised fifty-six thousand francs.
Articles published in Le Mémorial bordelais of 8, 9, 10, and 11 February.
Eugène de Monclar.
Le Mémorial bordelais.
Institut de France.
In English in the original.
Le Mémorial bordelais.
To Cobden and the League.
Bastiat is referring affectionately to the Chalosse region of the Landes.
Institut de France.
An extra tax levied on goods imported into France on foreign ships.
Free-trade associations were effectively established in Marseilles (17 September 1846), Lyons (13 October 1846), and Le Havre (28 November 1846).
Socrates (469-399 b.c.e.).
Bastiat is referring to Cobden’s articles “Lettre à la Société des économistes de Paris,” vol. 14, 1846; and “Discours au banquet de cette société,” vol. 15, 1846.
In English in the original.
Le Journal des débats.
No association of more than twenty persons could be formed without prior authorization from the government.
Le Mémorial bordelais.
The first English translation was Popular Fallacies Regarding General Interests. Being a Translation of the Sophismes économiques, by M. Frédéric Bastiat, with notes by G. R. Porter (London: J. Murray, 1846). Also appearing was an American edition: Sophisms of the Protective Policy, translated from the second French edition by Mrs. D. J. McCord, with an introductory letter by Dr. Francis Lieber (New York: Geo. P. Putnam; Charleston, S.C., 1848). An Italian edition also quickly appeared: Sofismi economici, translated by Antonio Contrucci (Florence: C. P. Onesti, 1847).
Opera buffa, or comic opera.
In English in the original.
Laws restricting liberties promulgated in September 1835, following an attempted assassination of Louis-Philippe.
“Opposites are balanced by opposites.”
Cobden had severe financial difficulties in 1845 that continued into 1846, the result of his increased activities with the Anti-Corn Law League and subsequent neglect of his family business. His friends and colleagues organized a public fund-raising campaign, which enabled him to pay off most of his debts. Most likely Bastiat is here referring to this campaign.
See Letter 67.
The letter to M. Duchâtel, minister of the interior, was published on 30 June 1846 by Le Mémorial bordelais. The authorization was granted in July.
Le Mémorial bordelais.
See “To the Electors of the District of Saint-Sever,” p. 352.
Town in the département of Lot et Garonne.
In English in the original.
In English in the original.
Before the postal reform of 1848, the price of mail depended on distance and was paid by the recipient. The surety was a deposit that the editor of a periodical had to make to provide for any future fine.
After the dissolution of the League, Cobden undertook a tour around Europe, traveling to France, Spain, Italy, Prussia, and Russia. From Bordeaux, he went to Spain through the Landes and the Pyrenees.
All these areas, which produced wines and spirits, were handicapped by difficult communications with Bayonne and tariffs.
Louis Léonard de Loménie, writer and professor of literature.
“The grumbling tribe.”
OC, vol. 2, p. 238, “Second discours, à Paris.”
“There is no cure.”
The second public meeting of the Association pour la liberté des échanges.
Bastiat wrote three letters in Le Havre which were published in Le Mémorial bordelais. (OC, vol. 7, p. 131, “Aux négociants du Havre.”)
Marriage of the young queen of Spain, Isabella II. Palmerston pushed for a candidate favored by the English, Leopold of Saxe-Coburg; and Guizot, for a son of Louis-Philippe. But the queen preferred her cousin Francisco.
Le Courrier français.
Bastiat’s journal, on the verge of publication.
In English in the original.
In English in the original.
Opera buffa, or comic opera.
Opera seria, or serious opera.
William Pitt the Younger.
At the fourth meeting of the Association pour la liberté des échanges.
This speech was never made.
In English in the original.
In English in the original.
After the Vienna Congress of 1815, Krakow had been a free town under the joint protection of Prussia, Russia, and Austria. Following an upheaval in 1846, Krakow was invaded by troops of the three countries and annexed to the Austrian empire. France and England protested in the name of the 1815 treaty.