Front Page Titles (by Subject) 103.: 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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103.: 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 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.
[221 ]Bastiat is referring to the so-called June Days, when, after the government attempted to close the national workshops, an uprising took place in Paris between 21 and 26 June. This was brutally crushed by the army under General Cavaignac, whose troops killed fifteen hundred workers.