Front Page Titles (by Subject) 115.: Letter to Félix Coudroy - The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics
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115.: 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, 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. . . .
[234 ]“The Mountain,” a reference to “the Left.” During the French Revolution, the deputies from the “Left” had been sitting on the top rows of the Assembly, “the mountain.”