Front Page Titles (by Subject) 75.: 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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75.: 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
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 cry175 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 Krakow176 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.
Letter to Richard Cobden
Paris, 10 January 1847
[vol. 1, p. 152]
My dear friend, I received your two letters written in Marseilles almost at the same time. I agree with your merely passing through this town, as God alone knows how a longer visit would have been interpreted. My friend, the obstacle that will be constructed against us by national prejudices is much more serious and will last for longer than you appear to believe. If the monopolists had whipped up anglophobia for the needs of the cause, this strategic maneuver could easily be countered. In any case, France would have discovered the trap in a very short time. But they are exploiting a sentiment that already existed, which has deep roots in people’s hearts, and—shall I tell you?—although mistaken and exaggerated, can be explained and justified. There is no doubt that the English oligarchy has borne down painfully upon Europe, and that its pendulum policy of sometimes supporting the despots in the north to repress freedom in the south and sometimes whipping up liberalism in the south to contain the despotism in the north, must have generated an inevitable reaction everywhere. You will tell me that you should never confuse peoples with their governments. That is fine for thinkers. But nations judge each other by the external action they carry out against each other. And then, I must admit, this distinction is a bit subtle. Peoples stand by their governments to a certain extent and let them act even if they do not actively help them. The constant policy of the British oligarchy has been to involve the nation in its intrigues and enterprises in order to generate in it a hostile feeling against the human race and thus keep it in a state of dependence. Now this general hostility is coming to the surface; it is a just punishment for past sins and it will survive long after these same sins disappear.
Thus the national sentiment of which the monopolists are making use is very real. In addition, it serves the parties admirably. The democrats, the republicans, and the opposition on the left all exploit it as best they can, some for making the king unpopular, others for overthrowing M. Guizot. You will agree that the monopolists have discovered in this a very dangerous power.
To outwit this maneuver, I had the idea of beginning by acknowledging the Machiavellianism and invasive policy of the British oligarchy and then saying, “Who has suffered more than the English people themselves?” revealing the sentiment of opposition that it has encountered in England from time immemorial and showing this sentiment resisting the war against American independence in 1773 [sic] and the war against the French Revolution in 1791. This sentiment was then repressed but not stifled; it still lives, it is growing and has become public opinion. This is what extracted Catholic emancipation, the extension of electoral suffrage, and the abolition of slavery from the oligarchy, and more recently, the destruction of monopolies. It will also extract the liberation of trade with the colonies. And on this subject, I will show that the liberation of trade will lead to political liberation. Therefore, invasive politics will have ceased to exist, since we do not give up invasions that have been achieved to run after new forms of invasion.
Following this, through translations of writings by you, Fox, and Thompson, I will show that the League is the mouthpiece and outward expression of the sentiment which harmonizes with that in Europe, etc., etc.; you can guess the rest. But I will need time and strength and I have neither. As I cannot write, this will be the text for the end of my next speech in the Montesquieu Hall. For the rest, I will not say anything I do not think.
How lucky you are to be under Italian skies! When will I also see the fields, the sea, and the mountains! O rus! Quando ego te aspiciam!177 And above all, when will I be in the midst of those who love me! You, yourself, have made sacrifices, but they were done in order to build the foundation of civilization. In all conscience, my friend, is the same selflessness expected of someone who can bring only a grain of sand to the monument? However, I needed to think of this before; now the sword has been drawn from its scabbard. It will never return. The monopoly or your friend will go to Père Lachaise178 before it does.
[175 ]In English in the original.
[176 ]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.
[177 ]“O countryside! When shall I look upon you!”
[178 ]Famous cemetery in Paris.