Front Page Titles (by Subject) 51.: Letter to Richard Cobden - The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics
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51.: Letter to Richard Cobden - Frédéric Bastiat, The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics 
The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics, translated from the French by Jane and Michel Willems, with an introduction by Jacques de Guenin and Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean. Annotations and Glossaries by Jacques de Guenin, Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean, and David M. Hart. Translation editor Dennis O’Keeffe (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2011).
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Letter to Richard Cobden
Mugron, 9 February 1846
[vol. 1, p. 122]
My dear sir, when you receive this letter you will be in the line of fire113 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.114 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 politique115 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.
[113 ]Discussion of the Corn Bill in the Commons.
[114 ]OC, vol. 7, p. 30, “Projet de ligue anti-protectioniste” and the following two essays.
[115 ]Cobden’s address (to a banquet held in his honor) can be found in Annales de la Société, vol. 1, 1846-53.