Front Page Titles (by Subject) 100.: 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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100.: 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, 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
[215 ]Edward Baines.
[216 ]Bastiat is making a play on words with the name of the Schwabes. In German, der Schwabe is a Swabian and schwabenstreich means “tomfoolery.” Perhaps he is hinting that the Schwabes threw good parties.