Front Page Titles (by Subject) 130.: 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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130.: 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, 15 March 1849
[vol. 1, p. 94]
My dear Félix, your letters are really very infrequent, but they give me the pleasant feeling you experience when you see the steeple of your village church after a long absence.
It is a thankless task being a patriot and wanting to remain one of some consequence. Through some unknown optical illusion, the changes that occur around you are attributed to you. I have carried out my mandate in the spirit in which I received it; my country has the right to change and consequently to change its representatives, but it does not have the right to say that it is I who have changed.
You will have read in the newspapers that I proposed my motion. Let representatives remain representatives, I said, since if the law makes other prospects more appealing in their eyes, the mandate instantly becomes vitiated and exploited and, because it is the very essence of representative government, this entire system is undermined at its source and in its fundamental principles.
It was an extraordinary thing! When I mounted the rostrum I did not have ten supporters, and when I left it I had the majority. It is certainly not my powers of oratory that caused this phenomenon, but the power of common sense. The ministers and all those who aspired to become ministers were in ecstasy. They were just about to vote when the commission, with M. Billault at its head, evoked the amendment. It was sent back as of right to this commission. On Sunday and Monday there was a reaction in public opinion, which besides had had very little preparation, with the result that on Tuesday everyone said, “Let representatives remain representatives! But this is a frightful danger, it is worse than the Terror!” All the journals had cut, distorted, and deleted my words and put absurd notions into my mouth. All the meetings in the rue de Poitiers,252 etc., had emitted a cry of alarm; in a word all the usual means were employed.
In short, I was left with a minority made up of a few enthusiasts who no more understood me than the others, but one thing that is certain is that the impression was vivid and will be remembered for some time. More than one hundred members have told me that they were in favor of my proposal but voted against it for fear of making a mistake with such an important innovation on which they had not reflected sufficiently.
You know me well enough to think that I would not have liked to succeed through surprise. Later on, public opinion would have attributed all the calamities time would have brought on us to my amendment.
From a personal point of view, what is sad is the charlatanism that dominates newspapers.253 There is a bias in favor of exalting certain men and deprecating others. What are we to do? It would be easy for me too to have a great number of friends in the press, but to do this I would need to make an effort, which I refuse, since the resulting chains would be too heavy.
As for the elections, I do not know whether I will be able to be present; I will go only when the Assembly has been dissolved. As a member of the budget commission, I have to remain at my post; let the country punish me if it wishes, I will have done my duty. I have one thing only I can reproach myself for, and that is not to have worked enough, and my excuse for this is my very poor health and the inability of my poor lungs to compete with the storms in parliament. Because I could not speak out, I took the course of writing. There is not a single question of burning importance which has not produced a pamphlet from me. It is true that I discussed the practical aspect less than the principles; in doing this I was obeying the character of my mind, which is to go back to the source of error, each person making himself useful in his own way. In the midst of all the heated emotions unleashed, I could not influence the effects, I just pointed out the causes. Have I really remained inactive?
In opposition to the doctrine of Louis Blanc, I wrote Individualism andFraternity.254 When property was attacked, I wrote Property and Law. Income from land came under fire, so I wrote the five articles in the Débats.255 The practical source of communism was revealed, so I wrote the pamphlet Protectionism and Communism. Proudhon and his followers preached free credit, a doctrine which spread like wildfire, so I wrote Capital and Rent. It was clear that a balanced budget would be sought through additional taxes, so I wrote Peace and Freedom.256 We were faced with a law that encouraged parliamentary coalitions, so I wrote a pamphlet on conflicts of interest.257 We were threatened with paper money, so I wrote the pamphlet Damned Money. All these pamphlets were distributed free of charge and in great numbers, which cost me a great deal; from this point of view the electors have nothing to reproach me for. From the point of view of action, I did not betray their trust either. On 15 May and during the days of June I played my part in the troubles. After this, let their verdict condemn me; I will perhaps feel it in my heart but not in my conscience.
[252 ]A group of deputies of the extreme right used to meet in a building on the rue de Poitiers.
[253 ]For example, the following comment was made in La Revue des deux mondes: “M. Bastiat is keen to extend truths as far as paradoxes. This time, he has gone to the most paradoxical extreme of a false idea” (14 March 1843).
[254 ]The pamphlet Individualism and Fraternity was written to refute Louis Blanc’s socialist interpretation of the first French Revolution, Histoire de la révolution française, the first volume of which appeared in 1847. (OC, vol. 7, p. 328, “Individualisme et fraternité.”)
[255 ]Property and Plunder.
[256 ]See Letter 126, note 246.
[257 ]OC, vol. 5, p. 518, “Incompatibilités parlementaires.”