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(1848) 85.: Letter to Félix Coudroy - 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 Félix Coudroy
Paris, 5 January 1848
[vol. 1, p. 78]
My dear Félix, while writing to Domenger, I am taking advantage of the opportunity just to wish you a better year than the previous ones.
I am ashamed to publish the second volume of my Sophisms; it is just a ragbag of what has already been printed in journals. A third volume will be needed to lift me up; I have material in rough form for it.195
However, I would much more like to publish the course I am giving to young students in the schools.196 Unfortunately, I have the time only to jot a few notes down on paper. This infuriates me, since I can tell you, and you know this already, that we see political economy from a slightly new angle. Something tells me that it can be simplified and more closely linked to politics and moral values.
Farewell; I must leave you as I am reduced to counting each minute.
Letter to Mrs. Schwabe
Paris, 17 January 1848
[vol. 7, p. 420]
I am very pleased to learn that Mr. Schwabe has had a pleasant journey and that he found the situation in England improving.
Thank you for having thought of sending me Punch. Perhaps I will find something in it for Le Libre échange, after which I will pass it on to M. Anisson or will bring it back to you myself.
I enclose five copies of the last issue of Le Libre échange. I wrote the first article on armaments in the hope that it may have some influence in England. I am very pleased to learn therefore that you will be ensuring that it gets there.
Letter to Félix Coudroy
Paris, 24 January 1848
[vol. 1, p. 78]
I can write you a few words only as I am suffering from the same illness I had in Mugron and which, among other disagreeable characteristics, has deprived me of all my strength. It is impossible for me to think, let alone write.
My friend, I would have liked to discuss our campaign with you but I am not capable of this. I am not at all happy with our journal; it is weak and anemic like anything that comes out of an association. I am going to ask for total power, but alas, I will not be given health with power.
I am not receiving Le Mémorial197 (from Bordeaux), and consequently I have not seen your article “Anglophobia.”198 I am sorry about this. I might perhaps have drawn a few ideas from it, or we might have reprinted it.
Letter to Mrs. Schwabe
Paris, 27 January 1848
[vol. 7, p. 420]
Please receive the homage of a small volume which I have just had published. It is not a weighty work; it just contains some of the trifles that have already appeared in journals. I have been assured that this superficial format is useful in its way, and this is what has decided me to continue down this path which is not at all to my taste.199
Letter to Félix Coudroy
Paris, 13 February 1848
[vol. 1, p. 79]
My dear Félix, I have had no news of you and do not know how your trial is going. I presume that the decree has not been issued, since you would have told me if it had. Please God that the court is properly inspired! The more I think about this matter, the more I think that the judges cannot make conjectures against common law; if this is in doubt, the eternal law of justice (and even the Code) should take precedence.
Politics are stifling our program somewhat. Besides, there is a very flagrant conspiracy of silence which began with our journal.200 If I could have foreseen this, I would not have founded it. Reasons of health have obliged me to give up the management of this broadsheet. It must be added that I did not take pleasure in my involvement in view of the small number of our readers, and the divergence of political opinions of our colleagues did not allow me to stamp a sufficiently democratic management style on the journal; the finest aspects of the question had to be kept in the dark.
If there had been a greater number of subscribers, I would have been able to make this broadsheet my own property, but the state of public opinion stands in the way of this, and in addition my health is an invincible obstacle. Now I will be able to work with a little more latitude.
I am continuing to give my course to law students. My audience is not very numerous but its members come regularly and take notes; the grain is falling on fertile ground. I would have liked to have been able to write up this course, but I will probably leave only confused notes.
Farewell, my dear Félix. Write to me, tell me how your affairs and health are doing; it is not out of the question that I will come and see you before too long. Please remember me with affection to your good sister.
Letter to Mrs. Schwabe
Paris, 16 February 1848
[vol. 7, p. 421]
I am very grateful for all the kindnesses you shower on me. I have received your excellent syrups which have succeeded in curing me. I therefore hope to go to a concert this evening, but rather late as I am dining with M. de Lamartine, and you will understand what it costs to abandon the music of his words even for that of Chopin. However, as the concert starts late, I will tear myself away from the charming conversation of our great poet.
Letter to Richard Cobden
Paris, 25 February 1848
[vol. 1, p. 168]
My dear Cobden, you already know our news. Yesterday we were a monarchy and today we are a republic.201
I have not the time to tell you about it, I simply want to put before you a point of view of the utmost importance.
France wants and needs peace. Her expenses are going to increase, her income to decrease, and her budget is already in deficit. She therefore needs peace and a reduction in her military undertakings.
Without this reduction no serious savings are possible, and therefore no financial reform and no abolition of odious taxes. And without these, the revolution will fall out of favor.
But France, as you will understand, cannot take the initiative of disarming. It would be absurd to ask her to do so.
You see the consequences. Because she does not disarm, she cannot reform anything; and because she does not reform anything, she will be killed by her finances.
The sole fact that foreigners are retaining their forces is obliging us to perish. But we do not wish to perish. Therefore, if foreign nations do not put us in a position to disarm by disarming themselves, if we have to keep three or four hundred thousand men in a state of readiness, we will be drawn into a war of words. This is inevitable. For in this case, the only means of being able to draw breath here would be to create embarrassment for all the kings of Europe.
If, therefore, foreigners understand our situation and its dangers, they will not hesitate to give us this proof of confidence by disarming significantly. In this way, they will put us in a position to do likewise, rebuild our finances, relieve the people, and accomplish the work which has been thrust upon us.
If, on the other hand, foreigners consider it prudent to remain armed, I do not hesitate to say that this so-called prudence is the greatest imprudence, since it will reduce us to the extremity which I have already mentioned.
Please heaven that England understands this and makes it understood. It would save the future of Europe. If she follows the traditions of old-style politics, I challenge you to tell me how we can escape the consequences.
Think carefully about this letter, dear Cobden, and weigh all its statements. See for yourself whether everything I have said to you is not inevitable.
If you remain armed, we will remain armed with no evil intentions. But because we remain armed, we will be overcome by the weight of unpopular taxes. No government could survive this. Governments can change as much as they like. Each will encounter the same problem and the day will come when it will be said, “Since we cannot send the soldiers back to their homes, we will have to dispatch them to arouse the people.”
If you disarm to a significant extent and if you unite closely with us to advise Prussia to follow the same policy, under these conditions a new era may and will spring into being on 24 February.
Letter to Richard Cobden
Paris, 26 February 1848
[vol. 1, p. 170]
My dear Cobden, I would give a great deal of money (if I had it) to have M. de Lamartine as our minister of foreign affairs for a moment. But I cannot reach him.
I wanted to go to London, but not without having seen him, since I need to submit to him the ideas I have to communicate to you.
England can do an immense amount of good without damaging herself in the slightest. She can replace France’s disastrous prejudices with a sincere affection. She has only to will this. For example, why does she not quite freely abandon her veiled opposition to our sad conquest of Algeria? Why does she not quite freely abandon the dangers arising from the right of inspection?202 Why does she allow the idea that she wishes to humiliate us to take root here? Why wait for events to poison these matters? What a magnificent spectacle it would be if England said: “When France has chosen a government, England will make haste to recognize it, and as proof of her friendship she will also recognize Algeria as French and renounce the right of inspection, of which she moreover acknowledges the ineffectualness and drawbacks!”
Tell me, my dear Cobden, what would such acts cost your country if they were freely carried out as I describe?
Over here, we cannot divest ourselves of the idea held by the French that the English covet Algeria. This is absurd, but this is how it appears.
We cannot efface from people’s minds that the right to inspect is part of your policy. This is also absurd, but this is how it appears.
In the name of peace and humanity, bring about these great measures! Let us carry out popular diplomatic policies and let us do it in good time.
Write to me. Tell me frankly if a journey to London with this in mind, under the auspices of M. de Lamartine, would have any chance of bringing about a result. I will show him your letter.
Letter to Marie-Julienne Badbedat (Mme Marsan)
27 February 1848
[From the private collection of Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean]
My dear lady,
You must be anxious. I would like to reassure you. My cold has almost disappeared and in this respect I am in my normal state, with which you are familiar. On the other hand, the revolution has left me safe and sound.
As you will see in the newspapers, on the 23rd everything seemed to be over. Paris had a festive air; everything was illuminated. A huge gathering moved along the boulevards singing. Flags were adorned with flowers and ribbons. When they reached the Hôtel des Capucines, the soldiers blocked their path and fired a round of musket fire at point-blank range into the crowd. I leave you to imagine the sight offered by a crowd of thirty thousand men, women, and children fleeing from the bullets, the shots, and those who fell.203
An instinctive feeling prevented me from fleeing as well, and when it was all over I was on the site of a massacre with five or six workmen, facing about sixty dead and dying people. The soldiers appeared stupefied. I begged the officer to have the corpses and wounded moved in order to have the latter cared for and to avoid having the former used as flags by the people when they returned, but he had lost his head.
The workers and I then began to move the unfortunate victims onto the pavement, as doors refused to open. At last, seeing the fruitlessness of our efforts, I withdrew. But the people returned and carried the corpses to the outlying districts, and a hue and cry was heard all through the night. The following morning, as though by magic, two thousand barricades made the insurrection fearsome. Fortunately, as the troop did not wish to fire on the National Guard, the day was not as bloody as might have been expected.
All is now over. The Republic has been proclaimed. You know that this is good news for me. The people will govern themselves. I am convinced that for a long time they will govern themselves badly, but they will learn from experience. Right now, ideas I do not share have the upper hand. It is fashionable to expand the functions of the state considerably, and I think they should be restricted. For this reason, I am outside the movement, although several of my friends are very powerful in it. Two friends and I produced a leaflet to inject some of our ideas into the intellectual to and fro.204
Do not worry about the sequel. My age and health have extinguished in me any taste for street campaigning. As for a situation, I will not be seeking one, and will wait until I am considered useful.
I am writing you just a hasty note. I still have repose in view, since age and duties are piling up.
Julie is not giving me as good news as I would like.
Please ask her to write to me from time to time. I embrace both her and her children warmly.
Farewell, my dear lady.
Letter to Félix Coudroy
Paris, 29 February 1848
[vol. 1, p. 80]
My dear Félix, in spite of the shabby and ridiculous conditions you have been given, I will wholeheartedly congratulate you if you reach a settlement. We are getting old; a little peace and tranquillity in our later years is the happy condition to which we should lay claim.
Since, dear friend, I cannot give you either consolation or advice on this sad outcome, you will not be surprised if I immediately tell you about the major events which have just occurred.
The February revolution has certainly been more heroic than that of July.205 There is nothing so admirable as the courage, order, calm, and moderation of the people of Paris. But what will the results be? For the last ten years, false doctrines that were much in fashion nurtured the illusions of the working classes. They are now convinced that the state is obliged to provide bread, work, and education to all. The provisional government has made a solemn promise to do so; it will therefore be obliged to increase taxes to endeavor to keep this promise, and in spite of this it will not keep it. I have no need to tell you what kind of future lies ahead of us.
There is one possible recourse, which is to combat the error itself, but this task is so unpopular that it cannot be carried out safely; I am, nevertheless, determined to devote myself to this if the country sends me to the National Assembly.
It is clear that all these promises will succeed in ruining the provinces to satisfy the population of Paris, since the government will never undertake to feed all the sharecroppers, workers, and craftsmen in the départements and, above all, in the countryside. If our country understands the situation, I say frankly that she will elect me; if not, I will carry out my duty with greater safety as a simple writer.
The scramble for office has started, and several of my friends are very powerfully placed. Some of them ought to understand that my special studies may be useful, but I do not hear them mentioned. As for me, I will set foot in the town hall only as an interested spectator; I will gaze on the greasy pole but not climb it. Poor people! How much disillusionment is in store for them! It would have been so simple and so just to ease their burden by decreasing taxes; they want to achieve this through the plentiful bounty of the state and they cannot see that the whole mechanism consists in taking away ten to give it back eight, not to mention the true freedom that will be destroyed in the operation!
I have tried to get these ideas out into the street through a short-lived journal206 which was produced in response to the situation; would you believe that the printing workers themselves discuss and disapprove of the enterprise? They call it counterrevolutionary.
How, oh how can we combat a school which has strength on its side and which promises perfect happiness to everyone?
My friend, if someone said to me, “You will have your idea accepted today but tomorrow you will die in obscurity,” I would agree to it without hesitation, but striving without good fortune and without even being listened to is a thankless task!
What is more, as order and confidence are the supreme aims at present, so we must refrain from any criticism and support the provisional government at all cost, making allowances even for its errors. This is a duty that obliges me to make an infinite number of allowances.
Farewell, the elections will take place shortly, and we will see what happens then. In the meantime, let me know if you come across any attitudes favorable to me.
Letter to Bernard Domenger in Mugron
Paris, 4 March 1848
[vol. 7, p. 385]
My dear Domenger,
You are quite right to remain calm. Apart from the fact that we will all need it, the tempest would need to howl furiously before it was felt in Mugron. Up to now, Paris is enjoying the most perfect peace, and this spectacle is in my view just as imposing in its way as courage in battle. We have just witnessed the funeral ceremony.207 I think that the entire universe was out in the street. I have never seen so many people. I have to say that the population appeared to be friendly but cold. Nothing can bring it to utter cries of enthusiasm. This is perhaps all to the good and appears to prove that time and experience have matured us. Are not unbridled demonstrations something of an obstacle to the proper management of affairs?
The political aspect of the future is not being given much attention. It seems that universal suffrage and other rights of the people are so unanimously agreed upon that they are given no further thought. But what is darkening our prospects are economic matters. In this respect, ignorance is so profound and widespread that severe experiences are to be feared. The idea that there is a scheme yet unknown but easy to find, which is bound to ensure the well-being of all by reducing work, is the dominant theme. As it is adorned with such fine terms as fraternity, generosity, etc., no one dares attack these wild illusions. Besides, no one would know how to do so. People instinctively fear the consequences which may arise from the exaggerated hopes of the working classes, but between this and being in a position to determine the truth there is a wide gap. For my part, I continue to think that the fate of the workers depends on the speed with which capital is built up. Anything that can, directly or indirectly, damage property, undermine confidence, or weaken security is an obstacle to the accumulation of capital and has an unfavorable effect on the working classes. This is also true for all taxes and irritating governmental interference. What should we therefore think of the systems in fashion today which have all these disadvantages at once? As a writer, or in another capacity, if my fellow citizens call upon me, I will defend my principles to the last. The current revolution is not changing them any more than it is changing my behavior.
Let us say no more about the statements attributed to F——. This is far behind us. Frankly this meretricious program could not be sustained. I hope that people will be satisfied with the choices made in our département. Lefranc is a courageous and honest Republican who is incapable of making life difficult for anyone without serious and just reasons.
Letter to Richard Cobden
Mugron, 5 April 1848
[vol. 1, p. 171]
My dear friend, here I am, all alone. Why can I not bury myself here forever and work peacefully on the economic synthesis208 I have in my head and which will never leave it! For, unless there is a change in public opinion, I am going to be sent to Paris with the responsibility of the awe-inspiring mandate of a representative of the people. If I had health and strength, I would accept this mission with enthusiasm. But what can my weak voice and my sickly and nervous constitution do in the midst of the revolutionary whirlwind? How much wiser it would have been to devote my final days to examining in silence the great problem of society and what the future holds in store for it, especially since something tells me that I would have found the answer. Poor village, the humble dwelling of my fathers, I am about to bid you an eternal farewell; I am going to leave you with the foreboding that my name and life, lost in the midst of storms, will not have even the modest usefulness for which you prepared me!
My friend, I am too far from the theater of events to tell you about them. You will learn about them before I do, and at the time I am writing to you, it may be that the facts on which I might base my reasoning are past history. If the overthrown government had left us finances in good order, I would have total faith in the future of the Republic. Unfortunately the treasury has been destroyed and I know enough about the history of our first revolution to realize the influence of financial chaos on events. An urgent measure leads to an arbitrary one, and it is above all in this situation that fate exercises its power. At present, the people are behaving admirably, and you would be surprised to see how well universal suffrage is working right from the start. But what will happen when taxes, instead of decreasing, increase, when there is a shortage of jobs, and when bitter reality succeeds brilliant hopes? I had perceived a lifeline, on which it is true I scarcely placed much hope, since it presupposed wisdom and prudence in kings; this was the simultaneous disarmament of Europe. If this happened, finances would have been restructured everywhere, nations relieved and restored to order, industry would have developed, the number of jobs increased, and peoples would have waited calmly for the gradual development of administrative institutions. Monarchs, however, have preferred to stake their all or rather they were unable to assess present or future situations. They are pressing against a spring, without understanding that as their strength weakens that of the spring increases proportionately.
Imagine that they had disarmed everywhere and reduced taxes accordingly, and had, also, given to their nations institutions that are, moreover, not to be gainsaid. France, burdened with debt, would make haste to do likewise, only too happy to be able to found the Republic on the solid basis of a genuine relief of the burden on the people. Peace and progress would go hand in hand. However, the opposite has happened. People are arming everywhere, public expenditure (and taxes and hindrances) is increasing everywhere, when the taxes that exist are precisely what is causing revolutions. Will not all of this end in a terrible explosion?
What is wrong? Is justice so difficult to exercise and prudence so difficult to understand?
Since my arrival here, I have not seen an English newspaper. I do not know what is happening in your Parliament. I would have hoped that England would take the initiative in rational politics and would take it with the energetic boldness which she has shown so often in the past. I would have hoped that she would want to teach mankind how to live,209 by disarming, abandoning expensive colonies, ceasing threatening behavior, protecting herself from any possibility of being threatened, removing unpopular taxes, and presenting the world with a fine spectacle of union, strength, wisdom, justice, and security. But, alas! Political economy has not yet sufficiently pervaded the masses, even in your country.
Letter to Horace Say
Mugron, 12 April 1848
[vol. 7, p. 381]
My dear friend, I constantly look for your name in the newspapers, but they are not yet discussing the elections. They are probably too busy reporting on the political clubs. This is the only explanation I can give of the silence of the Paris press. Perhaps Paris is too stormy a theater, given your character and the life you are used to. I now regret that you have not considered moving to one of the départements. Socialist folly has whipped up such terror that because of your well-known antecedents you would have had wonderful opportunities there. Your candidature has the advantage of giving you the opportunity of putting about sane ideas. This is a great deal but not enough for our cause. For this reason, make a supreme effort, abandon your customary reserve for a few days, start something of a campaign, and leave no stone unturned to enter the Constituent Assembly. I sincerely believe that the salvation of the country depends on our principles gaining a majority.
If there is no change in public opinion here, my election is assured. I even think that I will gain all the votes except for those of a few traders in resin who are terrified of free trade.
All the committees210 in the cantons support me.
Next Sunday, we will be having a general central meeting. I would have to make a huge mess of things to change the attitudes of electors toward me.
A very strange fact is the ignorance of socialist doctrines of the people in this country. There is a horror of communism. But communism is seen only as the sharing out of land. Last Sunday, during a large public meeting, a general murmur arose when I said that communism was not a threat in this respect. People seemed to deduce from these words that I was only very tepidly opposed to this form of communism. The rest of my speech removed this impression. It is really very dangerous to speak before an audience that is so little informed. You risk not being understood. . . .
I must admit to you that I am very worried about the future. How can industry revive when it is accepted in principle that the scope for regulation is unlimited? When every minute a decree on earnings, working hours, the cost of things, etc., can upset all economic decision making?
Farewell, my dear M. Say. Please remember me to Mme Say and M. Léon.
P.S. The central meeting of delegates took place yesterday; I do not know why it was brought forward. After answering questions, I withdrew and this morning learned that I have all of the votes except two. Having forgotten to post my letter before leaving, I have opened it to tell you this result which may please you. Try to make a supreme effort, my dear friend, to ensure that political economy, which is lifeless in the Collège de France,211 is represented in the Chamber by M. Say. Shame to the country, if it excludes a name of this eminence that is so nobly borne!
Letter to Richard Cobden
Paris, 11 May 1848
[vol. 1, p. 173]
My dear Cobden, it is impossible for me to write to you in any length. Besides, what would I say to you? How can I foretell what will come out of an assembly of nine hundred people who are not restricted by any rule or precedent, who do not know one another, who are under the sway of so many errors, who have to satisfy so many just and illusory hopes, and who, in spite of this, have difficulty in listening to each other and debating because of their numbers and the huge size of the hall? All that I can say is that the National Assembly has good intentions. A democratic spirit reigns there. I would have liked to say as much of the spirit of peace and nonintervention. We will know the outcome on Monday. This is the day set for discussions on Poland and Italy.
In the meantime, I will go straight to the subject of my letter.
You know that a workers’ commission used to meet at the Luxembourg Palace under the chairmanship of M. Louis Blanc. The presence of the National Assembly dispersed it, but it was quick to set up a commission responsible for carrying out an inquiry on the situation of industrial and agricultural workers and suggest ways of improving their lot.
This is a huge task, which the current illusions are making very hazardous.
I have been called upon to take part in this commission. I was fairly nominated, after I set out my doctrines frankly, but above all from the point of view of property rights. I am having printed what I said, which succeeded in having me nominated, in an article entitled Property and Law, which will be appearing in the next issue of Le Journal des économistes. Please read it.212
I now want to use this inquiry to bring truth out into the open. Whether I am right or wrong, we need the truth. In France, we do not have much experience of the machinery known as a parliamentary inquiry. Do you know of any work which describes the art of organizing these inquiries so as to reveal the truth? If you know of one, please let me know, or better still send it to me.
Anti-British prejudices are still far from being extinguished here. People think that the English are devoting themselves on the continent to countering the republican policy of France and I would not put this past your aristocracy. For this reason, I will be following with great interest your new campaign in favor of political and economic reform, which may reduce the foreign influence of the squirearchy.213
Letter to Mrs. Schwabe
Paris, 17 May 1848
[vol. 7, p. 421]
You must think me a very badly brought up Frenchman to have taken so long to thank you and your husband for the many gestures of affection you both showered on me during your stay in Paris. I certainly have not forgotten them. The memory of them will never be effaced from my heart, but you know that I made a journey to the Pyrenees I hold so dear. What is more, I did not know where to address my letters; this one will be sent in the hope it will be lucky.
The National Assembly has met. What will come out of this blazing furnace? Peace or war? Fortune or misfortune for the human race? Up to now, it has been like a child who stutters before speaking. Can you imagine a hall as big as the Place de la Concorde? In it, there are nine hundred members debating and three thousand onlookers. To have the opportunity of making yourself heard and understood, you have to utter high-pitched shouts accompanied by very emphatic hand movements, which rapidly result in an outburst of unreasonable fury in whoever is speaking. That is how we are conducting our internal proceedings. This takes up a lot of time and the general public does not have the common sense to understand that this waste of time is inevitable.
You will have learned from the newspapers of the events of the 15th. The Assembly was invaded by a horde of the populace. The pretext was a demonstration in favor of Poland. For four hours, these people endeavored to wrest from us the most subversive votes. The Assembly bore this tempest calmly, and to do justice to our population and our century I have to say that we cannot complain of any personal violence. The result of this outrage has been to make known the wishes of the entire country. It enables the executive power to take prudent measures to which it cannot have recourse if there is no provocation. It is very fortunate that things were taken so far. Without this, the aims of the seditionists would never have been so clearly seen. Their hypocrisy brought them followers. They no longer have any; they have been unmasked, and once again the finger of Providence has been seen. There were ten thousand chances that things would not turn out so well.
I assume you are calling on Mrs. Cobden. Please convey to her the admiration I feel for her, following all you have said about her.
Farewell, dear lady. Can you not give me some hope of seeing you again? Your children do not know enough French and one of your daughters is a citizen of the Republic.214 She must be made to breathe the air of her fatherland.
I shake the hand of Mr. Schwabe with great affection.
Letter to Richard Cobden
Paris, 27 May 1848
[vol. 1, p. 175]
My dear Cobden, thank you for having given me the opportunity of making the acquaintance of Mr. Baines.215 I regret only having had just an instant to talk to such a distinguished man.
Forgive me for having caused you the trouble of writing to me on the subject of inquiries and their format. I have abandoned our working committee for the one on finance. When all is said and done, this is where all the questions and even all the utopian ideas will end up. Unless the country renounces the use of reason, it will need to subordinate even its foreign policy to financial stringency to some extent. If only we can make the policy of peace triumph! For my part, I am convinced that, after the present war, nothing is more disastrous for my country than the system inaugurated by our government, which it calls “armed diplomacy.” From whatever point of view it is considered, a system of this sort is unjust, wrong, and ruinous. I am saddened to think that just a few simple notions of political economy would be enough to make it unpopular in France. But how do we manage this when the vast majority thinks that the interests of nations and even interests in general are at root naturally antagonistic? We must wait for this prejudice to dissipate, and this will take a long time. As far as I am concerned, nothing can change my belief that my role was to be a country magistrate as in the past or, at the very most, a teacher. It should not be my fate to have been born in an age in which my place is on the stage of active politics.
What would be apparently simpler than convincing France and England to agree to disarm simultaneously? What would they have to fear? How many genuine, imminent, and pressing difficulties would they then be capable of resolving? How many taxes could be reformed! How many sufferings could be relieved! How much popular affection could be gained! How many troubles and revolutions could be averted! But we will not achieve this. The physical impossibility of collecting taxes will not suffice, in either of our countries, to have disarmament accepted, even though this is advisable as the simplest of prudent measures.
However, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised to find the most favorable attitudes in our committee, made up of sixty members. May God enable the spirit animating it to be first diffused upon the Assembly and subsequently upon the general public. But alas! Out of fifteen committees there is one, responsible for ways and means, which has attained concepts of peace and economy. The other fourteen committees are preoccupied only with projects, all of which will lead to new expenditure; will they withstand the torrent?
I believe that at the present time you are enjoying the company of Mrs. Cobden and Mr. and Mrs. Schwabe. Please convey to them my affectionate good wishes. Since the departure of Mr. Schwabe, the Champs-Élysées seems to me to be a desert; before, I thought that they lived up to their name.216
Letter to Félix Coudroy
Paris, 9 June 1848
[vol. 1, p. 82]
My dear Félix, it has indeed been a very long time since I wrote to you; you must forgive me as I do not know which way to turn. This is how I live; I get up at six o’clock, dress, shave, have breakfast, and scan the newspapers, which takes me up to seven or half past seven. Around nine o’clock I have to leave, as the session of the finance committee217 to which I belong starts at ten. This lasts up to one o’clock and then the public session begins and lasts until seven. I return home for dinner, and it is very rare that after dinner there is not a meeting of subcommissions responsible for special matters.
The only time at my disposal is therefore between eight and nine in the morning, and this is also when visitors arrive. All of this means that not only do I have no time for my correspondence but I cannot study anything just at the time when, now that I am in contact with the practical side of matters, I realize that I have everything to learn.
For this reason, I am profoundly disgusted with this job and what is happening is not conducive to raising my spirits. The Assembly218 is certainly excellent from the point of view of its intentions; it has plenty of goodwill and wants to do good, but it cannot, first of all because it has no knowledge of the principles and secondly because there is no initiative anywhere. The executive commission is totally self-effacing; no one knows whether the members composing it agree with one another, because they emerge from their inertia only to express the most strangely incoherent of views. It is useless for the Chamber to express repeatedly its confidence in order to encourage them to act; it would appear that they have taken the decision to leave us to our own devices. Imagine what an assembly of nine hundred people responsible for debating and acting is like and add to this a huge hall in which one cannot be heard. For having wanted to say a few words today,219 I have left with a cold, which is why I am not going out and can write.
But other symptoms are much more terrifying. The dominant notion, the one that has permeated every class of society, is that the state is responsible for providing a living for everyone. This has caused a general rush in which the workers have finally become involved. They are blamed, feared; and what do they do? What every class up to now has done. The workers have a better case; they say, “Give us bread in exchange for work.” Monopolists were and still are more demanding. But where will this lead us in the end? I dread to think.
Naturally the finance committee is resisting this, as its mission makes it thrifty and economical; it has therefore already become unpopular. “You are standing up for capital!” We are being killed by this word, since you ought to know that here “capital” is seen as a devouring monster.
Far from being dead, Duprat is not ill.
“The people you are killing off are in quite good health.”
In the riots of the 15th,220 I was neither struck nor threatened; I would even add that I did not feel the slightest emotion, except for the moment I thought that a public gallery was about to collapse under the feet of the seditionists. Blood would have flowed in the hall and then. . . .
Farewell, my dear Félix.
Letter to Félix Coudroy
Paris, 24 June 1848
[vol. 1, p. 84]
My dear Félix, the journals will have told you of the frightful state of our sad capital. Cannon and rifle fire are the sounds that predominate; civil war has begun and with such ferocity that no one can foretell the outcome. While this sight distresses me as a man, you can only imagine what I am suffering as an economist; the real cause of the evil is certainly the false ideas of socialism.
You will perhaps be surprised, and many here are surprised that I have not yet set out our doctrine on the rostrum. They would doubtless forgive me if they were to cast a glance at this huge hall, in which you cannot make yourself heard. What is more, our Assembly is undisciplined; if a single word shocks a few members, even before the sentence is completed a storm breaks out. In these circumstances, you will understand my aversion to speaking. I have concentrated my insignificant action on the committee of which I am a member (the finance committee), and up to now this has not been wholly unsuccessful.
I wanted to be able to give you the news of the outcome of the terrible battle that is raging around us. If the party of order wins, how far will reaction to this go? If the party of the riots wins, how far will its pretensions extend? We tremble to think. If this were some random struggle, I would not be discouraged. But the thing afflicting society is a manifest error, which will run its course to the end, since it is more or less shared by the very people who combat its exaggerated manifestations. May France never become like Turkey!
Letter to Richard Cobden
Paris, 27 June 1848
[vol. 1, p. 176]
My dear Cobden, you have learned of the huge catastrophe that has just afflicted France and which is afflicting the world. I believe you will be glad to have news of me but I will not go into many details. It is really too distressing for a Frenchman, even for a cosmopolitan Frenchman, to have to describe these dreadful scenes to an Englishman.
Allow me therefore to leave the task of giving you the facts to our journals. I will just say a few words about the causes. In my opinion, they are all rooted in socialism. For a long time our rulers have prevented a knowledge of economics from being widespread as far as they could. They have gone further. Out of ignorance, they have prepared people’s minds to accept the errors of socialism and false republicanism, since this is the obvious trend in classical and university education. The nation has been infatuated with the idea that fraternity can be established by law. The state has been required to provide for the welfare of its citizens directly. But what has been the outcome? Because of the natural leanings of the human heart, each person has begun to claim a greater share of the welfare for himself from the state. This means that the state or the public treasury has been plundered. Every class has demanded from the state the means of subsistence, as of right. The efforts made by the state to provide this have led only to taxes and restrictions and an increase in deprivation, with the result that the demands of the people have become more pressing. In my view, a protectionist regime has been the first manifestation of this disorder. Owners, farmers, manufacturers, and shipowners have called upon the law to intervene to increase their share of wealth. The law has been able to satisfy them only by creating distress in the other classes, especially the working classes. These therefore raised a clamor, and instead of demanding that this plundering should cease, they demanded that the law should allow them to take part in the plundering as well. It has become general and universal. It has led to the ruin of all forms of industry. The workers, who are more deprived than ever, began to think that the dogma of fraternity had not been designed for them and took up arms. You know the rest: a frightful slaughter which, for four days, desolated the capital of the civilized world and which has still not been ended.221
It seems to me, my dear Cobden, that I am alone in the National Assembly to perceive the cause of the evil and consequently its remedy. However, I am obliged to keep quiet, for what is the use of speaking if I am not understood? I therefore sometimes ask myself if I am not a crank, like so many others, submerged in my old errors; but this thought cannot be right since I know too much, I think, about the problem in all its details. Besides, I tell myself: “In the end, what I am asking for is that the very harmonious and simple laws of Providence should triumph. Or are we to take it that Providence is in error?
I now profoundly regret that I accepted the mandate entrusted to me. I am not good for anything there, whereas, as a simple political writer, I might have been useful to my country.
Letter to Julie Marsan (Mme Affre)
Paris, 29 June 1848
[From the private collection of Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean]
My dear Julie,
Cables and newspapers will have told you all about the triumph of the republican order after four days of bitter struggle.
I shall not give you any detail, even about me, because a single letter would not suffice.
I shall just tell you that I have done my duty without ostentation or temerity. My only role was to enter the Faubourg Saint-Antoine after the fall of the first barricade, in order to disarm the fighters. As we went on, we managed to save several insurgents whom the militia wanted to kill. One of my colleagues displayed a truly admirable energy in this situation, which he did not boast about from the rostrum.
Your own letter arrived this morning precisely at the time the government was changed. I do not know M. ——, on whom the fate of Romain222 depends, but I got together with Duprat to try to prevent the creation of the position. This is the best hope there is for the time being, subject to something better turning up.
I am happy to learn that the health of your mother is improving.223 I hope that, as the children grow, her pain will be eased somewhat, because she is more and more attached to them. As far as I am concerned, I am longing to get acquainted with little Eugénie.
Mlle Marsan has been often writing to me in the last days. Her letters give such a picture of her. She tells me for example: “Three lines every three months, this is how you are treating me!” When I wrote to you, I wrote to her as well to tell her that I was not in any danger, and I added, “I tell you this to prevent any flights of fancy on your part.” In her answer, she resorts to the word “flights” five or six times.
I am very sorry indeed about what you tell me of your financial position, my dear Julie, all the more so given that mine is not so brilliant that I could help you at this moment.
On 1 September, M. Lagelouze and Co. will remit me 650 francs that I shall put at the disposal of your mother.
Letter to Mr. Schwabe
Paris, 1 July 1848
[vol. 7, p. 423]
My dear Sir,
I thank you for the affectionate interest that made you think of me on the occasion of the terrible events which have afflicted this capital city. Thank heaven the cause of order and civilization won the day. Our excellent friends MM Say and Anisson were in the country, the first in Versailles and the second in Normandy. Their sons took part in the combat and came through with honor and unscathed.
It was false socialist ideas that caused our brothers to take up arms. It also has to be said that deprivation was a major contributor, but deprivation itself can be attributed to the same cause since, from the time we wished to make fraternity a legal obligation, capital no longer dares to show its face.
This is a very good time to preach the truth. During the entire time of the troubles, I have been able to consult widely with the National Guard, trying to show that each person should call upon his own forces to provide his means of existence and expect the state to provide only justice and security. I assure you that, for the first time, this doctrine was well received and a few friends gave me the means of expounding it in public, which I will be starting to do on Monday.
You will perhaps ask me why I am not fulfilling this mission within the National Assembly, whose rostrum echoes widely. This is because the hall is so huge and the audience so impatient that any demonstration is impossible.
This is very unfortunate, since I believe that there has never been in any country an assembly with better intentions, that is more democratic, a more sincere advocate of good, and more devoted. It is an honor to universal suffrage, but it has to be said that it shares the dominant preconceived ideas.
If you glance at the map of Paris, you will see that the insurrection has been graver than you appear to think. When it broke out, Paris had troops of no more than eight thousand men which, in accordance with good tactics, had to be kept together, since their number was insufficient to carry out operations. For this reason, the riot quickly overcame the suburbs and in a matter of two hours later would have overrun our street. From another direction, it was attacking the Town Hall and through the Gros-Caillou224 was threatening the National Assembly to the extent that we also were reduced to erecting barricades. However, after two days, reinforcements reached us from the provinces.
You ask me whether this insurrection will be the last. I dare to hope so. We now have a government with determination and unity. The Chamber is imbued with a spirit of order and justice, but not vengeance. Today, our greatest enemy is deprivation and the lack of work. If the government reestablishes security, business will regenerate and this will be our salvation.
You should not doubt, my dear sir, the enthusiasm with which I would accept your and Mrs. Schwabe’s kind invitation, if I could. Two weeks spent with you in discussion, walks, music making, and playing with your lovely children would be true happiness for me. However, it very much appears that I will have to refuse myself this pleasure. I very much fear that our session will last a long time. You may be sure at least that, if I am able to get away, I will not fail to do so.
Letter to Richard Cobden
Paris, 7 August 1848
[vol. 1, p. 178]
My dear Cobden, I have left the Assembly to reply in a few lines to your letter of the 5th. I hoped to see our ministers to discuss your communication with them, but they did not come. While we are waiting for further details, this is what I know.
For 1848, we are facing a deficit that is impossible to make good through taxes. The minister of finance took the decision to solve this through a loan and to organize the budget in 1849 so as to balance the income and expenditure without having to call upon credit once again. The intention is good; what is needed is to remain faithful to it.
With this in mind, he acknowledged that ordinary income could meet expenditure in 1849 only if this was reduced by a rather significant amount. He therefore declared to all his colleagues that they set about making a reduction to be shared among all the departments. The Ministry of the Navy was targeted for thirty million of the proposed reduction and, since this department has sections that it is impossible to touch, such as expenditure on colonies, convict prisons, living expenses, salaries, etc., it follows that the reduction will bear only on the production of new armaments.
This resolution is not immutable. It does not come from a determination to reduce our military forces. However, it is certain that the government and Assembly would be strongly encouraged to continue down this road if England offered to follow us, and above all to precede us to a reasonable extent. It is to this that I shall be drawing Bastide’s attention.
Right now, rumors about Italy are circulating which are likely to foil the good intentions of the minister of finance. I very much fear that peace in Europe cannot be maintained. Please God that at least our two countries walk in step!
Farewell, my dear Cobden; I will write to you shortly.
Letter to Richard Cobden
Paris, 18 August 1848
[vol. 1, p. 179]
My dear Cobden, I have received your letter and the fine speech by Mr. Molesworth. If I had enough time at my disposal I would have translated it for Le Journal des économistes. But I do not have the time and, what is more, the strength. This is slipping away from me and I must admit that I am now seized with the obsession of all writers. I would like to devote the little health left to me, first of all to set out the true principles of political economy as I see them, and then to show their links with all the other moral sciences. This is still my chimera of Economic Harmonies. If this work had been completed I think that it would draw to our cause a host of fine minds whose hearts are being drawn to socialism. Unfortunately, in order for a book to survive and be read, it has to be short, clear, accurate, and as full of feeling as of ideas, all at the same time. This means that it must not contain a single word that has not been weighed. It has to be formed drop by drop like crystal, and in silence and obscurity, also like crystal. This makes me sigh greatly for my beloved Landes and Pyrenees.
It has not yet seemed the right time to make overtures to Cavaignac on the subject of your letter.225 The time seems to me badly chosen. We must wait until the situation in Italy is clearer. Nothing would be more unpopular now than a reduction of the army. All the parties would unite in condemning it, the politicians because of the state of Europe and owners and traders because of demagogic passion. The French army is a model of devotion and discipline. For the moment, it is our anchor of salvation. Its most popular leaders are in power and would not accept anything that would alienate the affection felt for it.
As for the navy, it is not likely that France will enter into negotiations on the subject of proportional reduction. England would need to go further and I very much fear that it is not prepared for this. I would at least like to know what we might hope to obtain.
The spirit of the public on this side of the Channel makes negotiations of this kind extremely difficult, especially with England alone. We must endeavor to expand it to include all the powers.
This is why I have not dared to compromise success by asking Cavaignac for an ad hoc audience. I will endeavor to sound out his ideas from time to time and will let you know.
It is impossible to set oneself a nobler aim. I was pleased to see that La Presse is going down this road. I will try to get the Débats226 to join in as well. The difficulty, however, will be in involving the popular journals, although I have not lost all hope of this.
Farewell, I must leave you now.
Letter to Félix Coudroy
Paris, 26 August 1848
[vol. 1, p. 85]
My dear Félix, I am very sorry to see that despite my wishes our correspondence is languishing. It would be very pleasant for me to continue by letter this exchange of feelings and ideas which, for so many years, was sufficient to maintain our happiness. Besides, your letters would be just what I need. Here, in the midst of events and the tumult of passions, I can feel the clarity of principles becoming blurred because of the compromises life demands. I am now convinced that the carrying out of business excludes the possibility of producing a work that is truly scientific, and yet I do not hide from you that I still have this old elusive fancy of writing my Social Harmonies, and I cannot suppress the idea that, had I remained in your company, I would have succeeded in coming up with a useful idea for the world. For this reason, I am longing to go into retirement.
This morning, we concluded the major inquiry which weighed so heavily on the Assembly and on the country. A vote by the Chamber authorized proceedings against Louis Blanc and Caussidière for the part they played in the uprising on 15 May.227 People will perhaps be surprised in our region that this time I voted against the government. It was once my aim to explain to my electors the reason for my votes. Lack of time and strength is the only reason I would fail in this duty, but this vote is so serious that I would like to explain what determined it. The government believed that the proceedings against these two colleagues were necessary. People went so far as to say that the support of the National Guard could be counted on only on this condition. I did not feel I had the right, even for this reason, to gag the voice of my conscience. You know that perhaps in the whole of France there is no more determined an opponent of the doctrines of Louis Blanc than I. I have no doubt that these doctrines will have a disastrous influence on the attitudes of the workers and, consequently, on their actions. But were we being called upon to express an opinion on doctrines? Anyone who holds a belief must consider as disastrous a doctrine that contradicts this belief. When the Catholics had the Protestants burned, it was not because Protestants were in error but because this error was deemed to be dangerous. On this principle we would all kill each other.
We therefore needed to investigate whether Louis Blanc had really been guilty of the offenses of conspiracy and insurrection. I did not think so and anyone who read his defense could not think so. In the meantime, I cannot forget the situation in which we are: a state of siege228 is in force, ordinary justice is suspended, and the press is muzzled. Could I hand over two colleagues to political opponents at a time when no rule of law was assured? This was an act with which I could not associate myself, a first step which I did not wish to take.
I do not blame Cavaignac for having temporarily suspended all forms of freedom; I believe that this sad necessity was as painful for him as it is to us and it may be justified by what justifies everything, public safety. However, does public safety require two of our colleagues to be handed over? I did not think so. Quite the contrary, I believed that such an act could only sow discord among us, inflame hatred, and deepen the abyss between the parties, not only in the Assembly but also in the whole of France. I considered that in the face of the current internal and external circumstances, when the country is suffering and needs order, confidence, governing institutions, and unity, it was an ill-chosen moment to sow the seeds of discord among the representatives of the nation. I think that we would do better to forget our grievances and causes of bitterness in order to work for the good of the country, and I considered myself fortunate that there were no detailed charges against our colleagues, since it was because of this that I was spared the duty of handing them over.
The majority thought otherwise. I hope it is not mistaken! I hope this vote is not the death knell of the Republic.
If you consider it apposite, I authorize you to send an extract of this letter to the local journal.
Letter to Bernard Domenger
Paris, 3 September 1848
[vol. 7, p. 386]
Tomorrow we are starting to debate the constitution. However, whatever you say, this work will always carry within its heart an all-devouring canker, since it will be debated in an atmosphere of siege and in the absence of freedom of the press. As for us, the representatives, we feel that we are totally free, but that is not enough. The parties will exploit the abnormal nature of our situation to undermine and discredit the constitution. I therefore voted against the state of siege yesterday. I believe that Cavaignac is making the common and very natural mistake of sacrificing the future to the present. As disposed as I am to lending strength to this honest and well-intentioned government we have put in place, I cannot go beyond this. Here I am then, voting yet again with the Red Republic, but it is not my fault. People should not look at with whom one votes, but why.
I presume that a new effort will be attempted in favor of freedom of the press. I will join this; above all I want the constitution to be respected. If in Paris there are such great ferments of disorder that the rule of law cannot be maintained, I would prefer the combat to be renewed and the country to learn to defend itself.
All the rumors are of legitimist plots. I cannot believe them! The legitimists who were powerless in ’89 hope to be strong in 1848? May God prevent them from reawakening the beast of revolution! If you chance to see them, tell them clearly that they should be under no illusion. They are opposed by all the workers, all the socialists, all the republicans, and all the people, with leaders capable of prolonging events right up to the limit. Above all, the clergy should be circumspect. Men of principle who, like me, have faith in the power of truth ask only for a free debate and accept in advance the triumph of public opinion, even if (except for changing it) these men are few in number. Those who accept the struggle elsewhere, on the battlefield, are countless and determined to take things right to the end. Let the legitimists and clergy not give the signal for action; they would be overrun. Legitimists know that their principles have had their day, and as for the clergy, while they are not totally blind, they cannot ignore their vulnerable side. Let a degree of popular irritation arising from the industrial crisis and financial problems not inspire dangerous and wild hopes in them, unless they want to play their trump card once and for all.
Use your influence to safeguard our beloved département from the consequences of a desperate struggle. God knows that I do not want to deprive anyone of the right to express and put across his ideas! But we should carefully avoid anything that might resemble a conspiracy.
Letter to Félix Coudroy
Paris, 7 September 1848
[vol. 1, p. 87]
My dear Félix, your letter did not leave me the choice of the course of action I had to take. I have just sent in my resignation as a member of the General Council; I have not resigned as a representative and you know the reason why. In the end, it was not a few people from Mugron who bestowed this title on me. When all is said and done, the people from Mugron who bestowed this title on me were not few in number.
I would like to know how many there are of those who blame me who have read the defense of Louis Blanc in the Moniteur,229 and, if they have not read it, it must be said that they are extremely presumptuous in speaking out.
It is said that I gave way to fear; fear was completely on the other side. Do these men think that less courage is needed in Paris than in the départements to confront the passions currently raging? We were threatened with the fury of the National Guard if we rejected the plan to start legal proceedings. This threat came from the sector that controls the might of the army. It was possible therefore for fear to influence the black balls but not the white ones.230 You need to be uncommonly absurd and foolish to believe that it is an act of courage to vote in favor of might, the army, the National Guard, the majority, the passions of the moment, and the government.
Have you read the inquiry? Have you read the deposition of Trélat, an ex-minister? It says, “I went to Clichy but did not see Louis Blanc and did not hear that he went there; but I recognized traces of his passage in the attitudes, gestures, facial expressions, and even the utterances of the workers.” Have you ever seen such passions expressed by more dangerous trends? And three-quarters of the inquiry is in this vein!
In short, in all conscience, I believe that Louis Blanc has done a great deal of harm in conjunction with all the socialists, and there are many of these who are, without even knowing this, among those who are making an outcry against him. However, I do not think that he took part in the outrages of May and June and I have no other reasons to give as to my conduct.
Thank you for having made me aware of the state of people’s minds. I am too familiar with the human heart to blame anyone. From their point of view, those who blame me are right. May they be long preserved from this plague of socialism! I feel relieved of a great weight since I posted my letter to the prefect. The country will see that I want it to be represented as it wishes. When the by-election occurs, please ask M. Domenger urgently not to support my candidature. By accepting it, I was drawn by the desire to see my region once again; this was an entirely personal feeling and I have been punished for it. Now I want nothing more than to be rid of a mandate that is most painful.
Letter to Mr. Schwabe
Dover, 7 October 1848
[vol. 7, p. 425]
I do not want to leave the soil of England, my dear sir, without expressing the gratitude I feel and also without asking your pardon for all the trouble my stay with you caused. You will perhaps be surprised to see the date on this letter. While I was looking for Mr. Faulkner at Folkestone, the steamer was impolite enough to sail, leaving me on the quay, undecided as to whether I should jump on board. Twenty years ago, I would have tried. But I just watched it and, learning that another steamer was leaving this evening from Dover, I came here and do not regret the misadventure, since Dover is well worth staying an extra day in England for. This is what I would do even if I were not without all my luggage. Finally, I was able to deliver your message to Mr. Faulkner without any hurry.
. . . The two days I spent with Mr. Cobden were very pleasant. His temporary unpopularity has not changed his joyful and equitable temper. He says, and I believe he is right, that he is closer to disarmament today than he was to free trade when he founded the League. He is a great man and I recognize it for this reason: that his own interests, his reputation and glory are never weighed in the balance against the interests of justice and humanity.
I remain, etc.
Letter to Mr. Schwabe
Paris, 25 October 1848
[vol. 7, p. 426]
. . . . . . .
I thank you for your kind offers. One never leaves such good friends without planning to see them again. It would be too cruel not to nurture this hope. Alas, however! It is often just an illusion, as life is very short and Manchester very far away. Perhaps it will be given to me to do you the honors of my beloved Pyrenees. I often dream that your family, Cobden’s family, Say’s family, and I will all gather together in one of my cool valleys. These are plans which men would certainly carry out if they really knew how to live.
Paris continues to be calm. The boulevards are gay and sparkling, there are shows and spectacles to attract the crowds, and the French character is manifest in all its carefree lightness. This is a hundred times better than London, and if the revolutions in Germany continue231 I do not abandon the hope of seeing Paris become an asylum for those fleeing political storms. What do we lack that stops us from becoming the most fortunate of nations? A grain of common sense. I think that this is not very much.
I can see why cholera232 terrifies you, since you are surrounded by such a lovely and numerous family. The happier we are in our affections, the more we risk danger. He who is alone is vulnerable only through his least sensitive point, which is himself. Fortunately this dreadful scourge appears to be totally embarrassed by its impotence, like a tiger without teeth and claws. Because of my friends on the other side of the Channel, I rejoice to see from the journals that the most dreadful characteristic of cholera is its name and that, in fact, it causes less havoc than a head cold.
Letter to Mme Cheuvreux
Paris, November 1848
[Lettres d’un habitant des Landes, p. 8]
At the Hôtel Saint-Georges, there are three forms of health that are so involved in each other that should one decline, the others are threatened. Allow me to ask how you are. At Mugron, at nine o’clock in the morning we have news of all of our friends. You know, provincial monotony has its compensations.
If you have to hand the name of the learned pharmacist who has discovered the art of making cod-liver oil palatable, please send it to me. I would also love it if this valued alchemist could teach me the secret of producing a pared-down version of political economy; this is a remedy that our sick society is very much in need of, but it refuses to take the smallest teaspoonful, so repulsive does it find the stuff.
Your devoted servant,
Letter to Mrs. Schwabe
Paris, 14 November 1848
[vol. 7, p. 427]
If my thoughts, guided by the memory of such pleasant and cordial hospitality, often turn to Crumpsall House and Manchester, they did so with still more emphasis yesterday evening, because Sonnambula233 was being played at the Italiens and I could not stop myself from disobeying the doctor’s orders and going to see this production. Each scene and each tune took me back to England, and either through emotion or the weakness of my constitution, I felt my eyes constantly brimming with tears. Who can explain the intimate nature of music! While I listened to the very touching duet and the splendid finale of the first act, it seemed to me that several months had been swept away and that, with the two performances blending into one, I was experiencing one and the same emotion. However, I must tell you, without wishing to criticize your singers, the work was infinitely better performed here, and although your first tenor was as good as ours, Madame Persiani infinitely surpasses your prima donna. And also the Italian language was invented and specially made for music. When I heard Madame Persiani cry out, “Sono innocente” in the recitative, I could not help remembering the singular effect produced by the rhythmic translation of this sentence, “I am not guilty.”
What can you do? The language of business, the sea, and political economy can never be that of music.
Letter to Félix Coudroy
Paris, 26 November 1848
[vol. 1, p. 88]
My dear Félix, you must all have been expecting me in Mugron. My initial plan was to go there; when I agreed to join the General Council, I must admit to my shame that I was somewhat influenced by the prospect of this journey. The air of my birthplace has always had such great attraction! And I would so liked to have shaken your hand. At that time, there was one thing that was taken for granted, that the Assembly would be prorogued during the Council session. Since then, things have changed; it was considered dangerous to dissolve the only authority standing in our country and, as I shared this opinion, I had to remain at my post. It is true that I have been ill and often confined to my room, sometimes even to my bed, but at least I was in Paris, ready to do whatever circumstances required, to the extent of my strength.
This deterioration in my health, which is revealed mostly by weakness and apathy, has come at a bad time. To tell you the truth, my friend, I believe I might have been useful. I always note that our doctrines provide us with the solution to the difficulties that arise and, what is more, that when these solutions are set out simply, they are always well received. If a wider and more witty version of political economy had found an outlet in the Assembly, it would have been a real force since, no matter how often it is said, while this Assembly may lack enlightenment, there has never been one with more goodwill. Errors and the most strange and threatening theories have been advocated from the rostrum, as though to construct a counterpedestal to political economy and put its light in the shade. I was there, a witness glued to my seat, I felt within me what was needed to rally the intelligent minds and even the sincere hearts, and my wretched health condemned me to silence. What is worse, in the committees, commissions, and offices, I had to be very careful to keep my counsel in the certainty that if I had to take the stage I would not have been able to play my role. This is a cruel test. For this reason, I have to renounce public life and my total ambition is now to have three or four months of peace before me to write my Economic Harmonies. They are in my head but I am very much afraid that they will never come out.
Today’s journals will tell you about yesterday’s session. It went on until midnight. It was awaited with anxiety and even unease. I hope that it will produce a good effect on public opinion.
You ask my opinion on the forthcoming elections. I cannot understand how, with identical principles, the milieu in which we live is enough to make us see things from such different points of view. What journals or information do you receive for you to say that Cavaignac is leaning toward La Montagne?234 Cavaignac was put where he is to support the Republic and he will do this conscientiously. Would people like it better if he betrayed it? At the same time as he wants the Republic, he understands the conditions under which it will survive. Let us go back to the time of the general elections. What was the almost generally held feeling? There were a certain number of true and honest republicans and also a huge multitude that until then had been divided, neither requesting nor wanting the republic but whose eyes had been opened by the February revolution. They understood that the monarchy had outlived its time and wanted to join the new order, letting it prove its worth. I dare to say that this was the dominant feeling, as the result of the election shows. The masses have chosen their representatives from the republicans of whom I have spoken, and this is why we may consider these two categories as making up the nation. However, above and below this huge body, there are two parties. The one above is known as the Red Republic and is made up of men who make exaggerated assaults when they need to flatter popular passions, while the one below is known as Reaction. This gathers together all those who aim to overthrow the Republic, set traps for it, and shackle its progress.
This was the situation in the early days of May, and to understand what came after, you should not forget that power was then held by the Red Republic, still dominated by the most extreme and violent parties.
What point have we reached through time, patience, and many perils? We have succeeded in making the power homogeneous with this huge mass, which forms the nation itself. In effect, whence has Cavaignac drawn his government? Partly from the honest republicans of yesteryear and partly from the men who rallied to him sincerely. Note that he could not neglect any of these elements, nor could he ascend as far as the Montagne nor descend as far as the Reaction. This would have been to lack sincerity and a proper policy. He has taken enough open republicans for no one to doubt the Republic, and from the men of another age he chose those whose proclaimed loyalty prevented them from being considered suspect, like Vivien and Dufaure.
In this downward progression toward the exact point which coincides with public opinion and the stability of the Republic, we have offended the party of exaggerations, which conveyed to us the level of its discontent on 15 May and 23 June and we have disappointed the reactionaries, who are taking revenge through their choice. . . .
Now, if this huge multitude, which had rallied the government, breaks up and abandons the aim it set itself, forgetting the difficulties that the Assembly has encountered, I do not know any longer where we will be going. If it continues to be loyal, it must prove this by nominating Cavaignac.
The Reds, who at least have the merit of being consistent and sincere, are giving their votes to Ledru-Rollin and Raspail. . . . What ought we to do? I defer to your wisdom.
Except for the days in June when, like all my colleagues, on returning from the barricades, I went to tell the leader of the executive power what I had seen, I have never spoken to Cavaignac. I have never been in his circles, and he very probably does not know that I exist. But I listen to his words, I have observed his acts, and although I have not approved of them all, while I have often voted against him, in particular each time I considered that the exceptional measures arising from the requirements of June were being continued for too long, I am able to say, at least in my soul and conscience, that I believe Cavaignac to be honest. . . .
Letter to Félix Coudroy
Paris, 5 December 1848
[vol. 1, p. 92]
My dear Félix, I am taking advantage of a reply I am sending Hiard to write you a couple of lines.
The elections are approaching. I have written a letter to the newspapers in the Landes. I do not know whether it has been published. In my own interest it would have been more prudent to keep quiet, but I considered that I ought to make my views known. If I am not nominated again, I will easily be consoled.
Up to now, we have had no news of the pope.235 This is a major question that has been raised. If the pope wishes to agree to become the first among bishops, Catholicism may have a great future. Whatever Montalembert236 says, temporal power is a major problem. We are no longer in an age in which it is possible to say, “All peoples will be free and will give themselves the government they wish, except for the Romans, because this suits us.”
Letter to the Count Arrivabene237
Paris 21 December 1848
[vol. 7, p. 416]
My dear Sir,
The doubt you have expressed is very natural. It is possible that in pushing terms a little far I have gone beyond my ideas. The words, by anticipation, inserted in the passage you quote tell you that I intend to discuss the matter in detail. In a future article, I will cover exchange and then set out what I was bold enough to call my theory of value. I ask you to be kind enough to suspend your judgment until then. You may be sure that after this I will welcome your comments gratefully as they will enable me to explain better or to correct as needed.
You will acknowledge, I hope, that what appears to divide us is not very serious. I believe that value lies in the services exchanged and not in the things. Materials and physical forces are provided free of charge in nature and move free of charge from hand to hand. However, I do not say that two items of work, considered to be equal in intensity and duration, should be equally remunerated. He who is positioned to render a service that is more precious because of the materials or forces at its disposal is better remunerated; his work is more intelligent, more fortunate if you wish, but the value is in this work and not in things. The proof of this is that the same phenomenon occurs even where there is no physical object to mislead us and appear to take on value. In this way, if I feel the desire to hear the finest voice in the world and am willing to make exceptional sacrifices to do this, I would call upon Jenny Lind. As she is the only one in the world who could render me this service, she could ask whatever price she wants. Her work would be better remunerated than that of another; it would have greater value, but this value lies in the service.
I believe that this is also true where a physical object is involved, and if we give it a value, it is through pure metonymy. Let us take one of your examples. A man grinds his wheat between two stones. Later he takes advantage of his situation on a hill exposed to wind and builds a mill. I request from him the service of grinding my wheat. Many others do likewise, and, as he disposes of a great force, he is able to render a great number of similar services. He is highly remunerated. What does this prove? That his intelligence is being rewarded, that his work is fortunate, but not that the value lies in the wind. Nature never receives any remuneration; I remunerate only a man and I do so only because he has rendered me a service. I appreciate this service because it would cost me more to do it for myself or to ask it from others. The value, therefore, lies in a comparative appreciation of a variety of services exchanged.
This is so true that, if competition is involved, the miller will lower his price; the service offered in future would have less value, even though the action of the wind remains the same and retains all of its usefulness. It is I, the consumer, who will profit freely from this decrease. It is not the usefulness of the wind that has changed, it is the value of the service.
You see that basically it is a quarrel of words. What does it matter, you tell me, if the value lies in a natural force or in the service rendered to me, by means of this force, by the person who has harnessed it? The result is the same for me.
I cannot tell you here what consequences, which according to me are very important, will result from this distinction. I sincerely believe that if I manage to put across my thesis I would have crushed all the socialist, communist, and other arguments, just as I would have removed many errors that have escaped economists with regard to property, income, credit, etc. It is perhaps an illusion of authorship, but I admit that it has taken over my entire being, and I regret that I have only a few moments to devote to this study.
I remain, my dear sir,