Letter to Félix Coudroy
Paris, January 1850
[vol. 1, p. 102]
Never a day goes past, my dear Félix, on which I do not think of replying to you. Always for the same reason, my head is so weak that the slightest work wears me out. As soon as I am involved in one of these preemptive matters, the little time that I can devote to holding a pen is taken up, and I am forced to put off my correspondence day after day. But finally, if I have to seek indulgence somewhere, it ought to be from my friends.
In a previous letter you told me that you had a project that you would tell me about. I am waiting and very willing to give you support, but if it concerns newspapers, I have to warn you that I have very little contact with them, and you can guess why. It would be impossible to create ties to them without losing one’s independence. I have taken the decision that, whatever happens, I will not be a party man. With our ideas, that would be impossible. I am well aware that in these times to isolate yourself is to remove any influence you may have, but I prefer that. If I had the strength I had in the past, this would be the right time to carry out a real campaign to win over public opinion and my distance from any faction would be an advantage to me. But I can see the opportunity slipping away and this is very sad. Not a day goes by on which I am not given the opportunity to say or write some useful truth. The agreement between all the points of our doctrine will end up by making a strong impression on people’s minds, which have incidentally been made ready for this by the succession of deceptions with which they have been misled. I can see this. Many of my friends are pressing me to enter the ring and I cannot. I assure you that I am learning resignation, and when I need it I will have laid up a good stock.
The Harmonies have passed unnoticed here, except for about a dozen connoisseurs. I was expecting this; it could not have been otherwise. I do not even have the support of the customary zeal of our small church, which accuses me of heterodoxy; in spite of this I am confident that this book will gradually carve out a place for itself. In Germany, it was received quite differently. It is examined, ploughed up, worked over, and examined for what is there and what is not. Could I have asked for anything better?
Now I would ask the heavens to grant me one year to write the second volume, which has not even been started, after which I will sing the “Nunc dimittis.”
Socialism is spreading at a frightening rate, but like all contagious diseases it is weakening as it spreads, and it is even mutating. This will be the death of it. The name may survive but not the thing. Today, socialism has become synonymous with progress; anyone who wants any form of change is a socialist. If you refute Louis Blanc, Proudhon, Leroux, or Considérant, you are nonetheless a socialist if you do not demand the status quo in all circumstances. This leads to a strange situation. One day, everyone will meet wearing this label in his hatband, and since, for all that, people will not be in any closer agreement on the reforms to carry out, other names will have to be invented and war will be declared among the socialists. This is already the case and it is this that is saving France.
Farewell, my dear Félix; please tell my aunt that I am well.
Letter to Mme Cheuvreux
Paris, 2 January 1850
[Lettres d’un habitant des Landes, p. 51]
I have been aroused from my slumbers to be handed three volumes, which you sent me without a single word of explanation; have I been so unfortunate as to displease you?
Yesterday, you gathered your family and a few friends around your table to see in the New Year. This meal should have been only a joyful and cordial feast. Alas! Politics crept into it and it is all too true that, without me, even politics might not have been able to cast its somber shadow over it, as perhaps everyone would have been in agreement.
But am I guilty? Did I not keep silent for a long time and did I not treat as general comments what I might have taken as personal ones? Words that resembled provocation? What would happen to me, madam, if this reserve were not enough?
Isolated, scarcely retaining for work the remnants of a strength that is deserting me, must I also lose the sweetness of intimacy, the one delight that binds me to the world?
Between M. Cheuvreux and me, what does a difference of opinion matter, especially when this does not concern our aims or any fundamental principle, but only the means of overcoming momentary difficulties?
It is as much through respect for him as for you, madam, that I drank the chalice that these people put to my lips. And after all, are the opinions for which I am reproached in fact so extravagant?
I would like people to agree to consider me as a hermit, a philosopher, a dreamer, if you like, who does not wish to join a party but who examines them all in order to see where danger lies and whether it can be averted.
In France, I can see two major classes, each of which can be divided into two. To use hallowed although inaccurate terms, I will call them the people and the bourgeoisie.
The people consist of a host of millions of human beings who are ignorant and suffering, and consequently dangerous. As I said, they are divided into two; the vast majority are reasonably in favor of order, security, and all conservative principles, but, because of their ignorance and suffering, are the easy prey of ambitious sophists. This mass is swayed by a few sincere fools and by a larger number of agitators and revolutionaries, people who have an inborn attraction for disruption or who count on disruption to elevate themselves to fortune and power.
The bourgeoisie, it must never be forgotten, is very small in number. This class also has its ignorance and suffering, although to a different degree. It also offers dangers, but of a different nature. It too can be broken down into a large number of peaceful, undemonstrative people, partial to justice and freedom, and a small number of agitators. The bourgeoisie has governed this country, and how has it behaved? The small minority did harm and the large majority allowed them to do this, not without taking advantage of this when they could.
These are the moral and social statistics of our country.
Since I hold very little to and believe even less in various forms of politics, am I going to devote my efforts and speak out against the Republic or the monarchy? Plot to change the institutions which I consider to be of no importance? No! But when I have the opportunity to address the people, I tell them of their errors, illusions, and false aspirations, I seek to unmask the impostors who are misleading them, and I say to them: “Ask only for justice for only justice can be of some use to you.”
And when I speak to the bourgeoisie, I tell them: “It is not raging and ranting which will save you. In all encounters you must grant the people what justice demands, in order to be strong enough to refuse everything which exceeds justice.”
And this is why the Catholics tell me that I have a double-edged doctrine and why Le Journal des débats says that I have to become used to displeasing both parties. Goodness, would it not be easier for me to throw myself body and soul into one of the two camps, to espouse its hatreds and illusions, to make myself the toady either of the people or the bourgeoisie, and to affiliate myself to the evil elements of both armies?
Letter to Mme Cheuvreux
Paris, January 1850
[Lettres d’un habitant des Landes, p. 57]
I have just met Commander Matta, who claims that people will be ill tomorrow at the Hôtel Saint-Georges. I hope he is as bad a prophet as he is a brave soldier! Please be good enough to let me have the true state of affairs. You will not allow me to mention health without giving some news of mine. I am better and Charruau, like Sganarelle, declares that I must be cured. However, yesterday evening, a fatiguing coughing fit revealed the red symptom that is as terrifying in physiology as it is in politics. In spite of this, I would still be strong enough to take on whatever is left of your Louisette’s cough if that were possible, but affection cannot do this miracle; this is one harmony that this world is lacking.
Letter to Mme Cheuvreux
Paris, February 1850
[Lettres d’un habitant des Landes, p. 58]
With some regret I am returning to you the speech delivered by M. de Boislembert to mark the unveiling of the bust of M. Girard, with the reminder that you had promised me a copy. I read it with enthusiasm and would like to reread it once a month to steep myself in it. This is a life of Plutarch proportions, in harmony with our century. How I admire a life so fine, so honorable, and so fulfilled! What a magnificent blend of all the qualities that most honor human nature: genius, talent, activity, courage, perseverance, unselfishness, greatness, and strength of character in adversity! Up to this point, however, the portrait is very impressive and reveals only pure but severe lines; we admire but do not yet love him. Shortly after this, though, we are totally won over when the author describes, perhaps with too much sobriety, the sparkling wit, gentle gaiety, and inexhaustible benevolence that M. Girard invariably brought to his home life, the most precious gifts of all from heaven, that your father has not carried with him to the tomb.
These noble figures, madam, make men appear very small and humanity very great.
Letter to Bernard Domenger
Paris, 18 February 1850
[vol. 7, p. 406]
The political future is still very somber. Unfortunately, much passion and artificial suspicion are mingled with genuine grievances; this is always the case in revolutions. I who see men from all parties can, as it were, measure what is false in their mutual accusations. But hatred, whether well founded or not, produces the same effects. I believe that the majority understands that the most prudent course is to retain the republic. Its mistake is not to come out with sufficient resolution on this side. What is the use of unceasingly belittling and threatening that which you do not want to change? For its part, the minority is seeking to seize power again by means which will create a very heavy burden for it. It raises hopes which it will not be able to satisfy.
In the meantime I do not despair as debate clarifies a great many questions. The main thing is to gain time.
Letter to Mme Cheuvreux
Paris, March 1850
[Lettres d’un habitant des Landes, p. 59]
How can you hope to get better? Your cold is the prey of all those whom it pleases to make you speak in spite of it, and the number of these is great.
From Saturday up to yesterday morning, I have had just one coughing fit. It lasted twelve hours. I cannot understand how the fragile envelopes of breathing and thought do not burst under these violent and prolonged shocks. At least I have nothing to reproach myself for; I am meekly obeying my doctor. I have been kept in these last two days, but I will have to go to M. Say’s house this evening to join my coreligionists. It will be an effort. You would not believe how vividly my indisposition has brought out in me my old solitary and provincial inclinations. A peaceful room full of sunlight, a pen, a few books, a close friend, and warm affection; this is all I needed to live. Do I need more to die? This little was what I had in my village, and when the time comes in a great many years I will no longer find it.
I am sending Mlle Louise a few verses on women, which I liked. They are, however, by a poet who is an economist since he has been nicknamed the free trade rhymer. If I had the strength I would do a free translation of this piece in thirty pages of prose; this would do well in Guillaumin’s journal. Your sweet little tease (I do not forget that she possesses the art of teasing to a high degree, not only without wounding but almost caressing) does not greatly believe in poetry of production and she is perfectly right. It is what I ought to have called Social Poetry, which henceforth, I hope, will no longer take for the subject of its songs the destructive qualities of man, the exploits of war, carnage, the violation of divine laws, and the degradation of moral dignity, but the good and evil in real life, the conflicts of thought, all forms of intellectual, productive, political, and religious combinations and affinities, and all the feelings that raise, improve, and glorify the human race. In this new epic, women will occupy a place worthy of them and not the one given to them in the ancient Iliad genre. Was their role really to be included in the booty?
In the initial phases of humanity, when force was the dominant social principle, the action of woman was wiped out. She had been successively beast of burden, slave, servant, and mere instrument of pleasure. When the principle of force gave way to that of public opinion and customs, she recovered her right to equality, influence, and power, and this is what the last line of the small item of verse I am sending Mlle Louise expresses very well.
You see how dangerous and indiscreet the letters of poor recluses are. Please forgive me this chatter; all I ask for in reply is reassurance as to the health of your daughter.
Letter to Bernard Domenger
Paris, 22 March 1850
[vol. 7, p. 407]
I have reason to believe that the decree that authorizes the exchange of buildings for the hospice in Mugron will reach the prefecture of the Landes on the day this letter reaches you. I have been assured that the president of the Republic has signed it, that the secretariat of the ministry of the interior has given it authority, and that the office for hospices is ready to act. The rest is up to you.
It is already two or three days since I gave the order to my publisher to send you three copies of my debate with Proudhon and three of my speeches on education, which have degenerated into a pamphlet since my cold has become a loss of voice. It is certainly not that I wish to have you swallow these lucubrations three times, but I would like you to give a copy each from me to Félix and Justine.
The newspapers save me the trouble of having to talk politics with you. I believe that reactionary blindness is our greatest danger at the moment; we are being led straight into a catastrophe. What occasion have they selected to carry out experiments of this nature? One in which the people appear to be becoming disciplined and giving up illegal means. The great party said to be in favor of order has met one hundred and thirty thousand opponents at the elections and has carried only one hundred and twenty-five thousand followers. What will be the result of the proposed laws? It will be to make forty or fifty thousand people on the right go over to the left and thus give the left greater strength and a feeling of being right and to concentrate this strength on a lesser number of newspapers, which will result in giving it greater homogeneity, continuity, and strategy. This appears to me to be pure folly. I predicted this on the day Bordeaux sent us Thiers and Molé, that is to say, enemies of the Republic. Today we are in the position we were just before 1830 and 1848: the same slope, the same wagon, and the same coachmen. But then people’s minds could understand the content of a revolution; now, who can say what will succeed the Republic?
Letter to Mme Cheuvreux
Paris, Friday, April 1850
[Lettres d’un habitant des Landes, p. 62]
Very dear Mme Cheuvreux,
Please forgive this address, which has escaped in a moment of effusion. We who suffer, like children, need indulgence, since the weaker the body, the more the spirit grows soft and it seems as though life, at its final as at its initial sunset, instills in the heart the need to seek attachments everywhere. These involuntary expressions of tenderness are the effect of all moments of decline, the end of the day, the end of the year, the basilica half-days, etc., etc. I experienced this yesterday in the shadowy alleys of the Tuileries. However, you must not become alarmed at this elegiac effusion. I am not at all Millevoie, and the leaves that have scarcely opened are not about to fall. In short, I am not worse, on the contrary, but only weaker and I can scarcely retreat in the face of an order that I take a holiday. What is in prospect is a solitude that is even more solitary; in the past I liked it, I knew how to people it with reading, work of a whimsical sort, and political dreams with interludes of cello playing. Temporarily, all these old friends have deserted me, even the faithful companion of isolation, meditation. This is not because my thought is slumbering, it has never been so active; at every instant it is grasping new harmonies and it seems as though the book of humanity is opening before it. However, this is just one more torment since I cannot continue to transcribe the pages of this mysterious book onto a more palpable book published by Guillaumin. I am therefore chasing away these dear phantoms and, like the grumpy drum major who said, “I am handing in my resignation, let the government do what it can,” I too am resigning as an economist and let posterity get on with it if it can.
There it is, this is a lamentation to explain my tactlessness. It is said of misfortunes that they never come singly and this is truer still for actions lacking tact. How many words have I used to justify a single one which you would have pardoned without all these comments, since you would not hold it against me if, in this spate of idleness, my thoughts fly to the Hôtel Saint-Georges, where everyone is always so good to me. This dear house! It is now full of extremely serious preoccupations. The future of your Louise is perhaps being decided and consequently yours and that of M. Cheuvreux. The idea that so much peace, union, and happiness will be put to the test of a decisive revolution is truly frightening. But take courage, you have so many favorable opportunities!
Truly, my letters exceed by a hundred cubits those of M. B——. I beg you, madam, to accept my apologies for this. The most valid of these is that I scarcely dare to appear at your house this evening; is it not very selfish to seek distraction at a place to which you can bring only inopportune coughing fits? Of course, I do not say this about my friends; that would be ungrateful. But is society standing shoulder to shoulder with your benevolence?
Farewell, madam, I am your
Mrs. Schwabe has just arrived without her children. I would like to introduce her to you.
Letter to Mme Cheuvreux
Bordeaux, May 1850
[Lettres d’un habitant des Landes, p. 65]
Here I am in Bordeaux, plunged with delight in the atmosphere of southern France. Although I have left the bustle of Paris to find the peace of my family roof once more, I assure you that my thoughts throughout the journey returned to the past more often than they envisaged the future. I therefore made haste to open the traveling case which I owe to the thoughtful consideration of M. Cheuvreux.
To be reduced to making my health the subject of the first chapter of my letters humiliates me somewhat but your kindness requires it. I can understand this: illnesses which involve coughs have the disadvantage of worrying our friends too greatly. They carry with them an intrusive bell, which unceasingly asks the question: which will gain the upper hand, the cold or the cold-ridden patient? Instead of tiring me, the trip made me feel better; it is true that for three days I had at my disposition an excellent remedy, silence, as it was only from Ruffec onward that I departed somewhat from your orders. My two companions, who took it in turn to move to the outside seat of the mail coach to savor the delights of a cigar, were curious enough to examine the travel document. It turned out that they were both keen followers of political economy, and when they resumed their seat, they made sure to let me know that they were familiar with my small works (since not even the title of the Harmonies had reached them), and so, taking advantage of the opportunity, the green grass, and probably prodded by some devil, I have clipped from this pasture (conversation) the width of my tongue. I had no right to do this since I had been forbidden to. But I yielded to it and my larynx did not fail to punish me. Do not scold me, madam; is silence not a regime that would suit you sometimes as much as it suits me and yet it is the last thing you do?
Let Mme Girard, who is now staying with you, assert her authority to sequester you; what good does it do you to remain in your room if you open its doors wide from ten o’clock in the morning? Could you not sacrifice a few moments of conversation to your health? However, you know that the sacrifice will fall on others and for this reason you do not wish to do this. As you can see, I know the old ploy, which is to scold first so as not to be scolded. After all, I can see that we all descend from our mother, Eve. Your daughter, herself, who is so reasonable, often allows herself to be caught in the trap of music. On the subject of music, it is a great mistake to think that a sound is stifled in the narrow space of a drawing room and a second; a note, or rather a cry from the heart which I heard on Saturday, has traveled two hundred leagues with me. It is still vibrating in my ear, to say the very least.
Poor dear child, I think that I have guessed the thought with which she cloaked Pergolesi’s sad song; was this touching voice whose final accents seem to be lost in a tear not saying farewell to the illusions of youth, the fine dreams of an ideal happiness? Yes, it seemed as though your dear Louise felt herself carried along by circumstances to this fatal and solemn boundary, which separates the land of dreams from the world of reality. May real life bring her at least a calm and solid although slightly solemn happiness. What does she need for this? A good heart and common sense in the man who will be responsible for her destiny, that is the first condition; men whose fiery and artistic imagination casts a bright glow provide opportunities that are often dangerous, but we should not doubt that the noble aspirations of your child will find satisfaction one day.
How are you going to spend next month? Will you be staying in Paris? Will you be going to Auteuil, Saint-Germain, or London? I would more readily cast my vote for England, as it is there that you will find a pleasant blend of peace and amusement. To tell you the truth, my votes are not in good odor although their conscientious aim is to turn away the misfortunes that you fear; but let us not slide down the slope of politics. There is so much that is unforeseen in your resolutions that I am anxious to know what you will decide. I am afraid that I might learn that you are leaving for Moscow or Constantinople. Please, let me find you comfortably installed close to Paris. France is like Frenchwomen; she may have a few caprices but at the end of the day she is the most lovable, gracious, and finest woman in the world and so the most loved.
Farewell, mesdames, let these two months of absence not efface me from your memories; a further farewell to M. Cheuvreux and Mlle Louise.
Your devoted servant,
Letter to Prosper Paillottet
Mugron, 19 May 1850
[vol. 7, p. 437]
My dear Paillottet, thank you for the interest you take in my health and in my journey. This was completed very well and with fewer incidents than you foresaw. There was no misunderstanding between my seat and me. On the way, from Tours to Bordeaux, I met some ardent enthusiasts for political economy, which gave me pleasure but which forced me to speak rather too much. At Bordeaux I could not avoid anything worse than simple conversation since reaction has reached such excesses there that you needed to be made of marble to listen coolly to such blasphemy. All this meant that my larynx arrived here rather tired and the outpourings of friendship, as delightful as they were, are not conducive to relieving it. However, taking things as a whole, I am feeling a little better; I have more physical and intellectual strength. This is certainly a long bulletin on my health; your friendship demanded it, so lay the blame on that.
Yesterday I received Le Journal des économistes at the same time as your letter and read my article in it. I do not know how you managed it, but I found it impossible to identify the reworkings, so well did they blend in with the original. Might I just suggest that the dominant idea of this article has not been sufficiently highlighted. In spite of this, it should attract sympathetic minds, and if I had been in Paris I would have had five hundred copies printed separately to distribute them in the Assembly. As the article was not long, I consider that La Voix du peuple ought to print it in one of its Monday editions. If you hear anything about this, please let me know what is being said.
Here you are, responsible for my public and private affairs. In any case, please do not devote any other than your spare moments to this. You are very eager for my poor Harmonies to acquire a reputation. You will find this difficult. Only time will succeed in this, if they are worth time taking any trouble over them. I have obtained all that I could reasonably want, that is to say, that a few young men of goodwill study the book. This is enough for it not to fall down if it deserves to remain standing. M. de Fontenay will have done a great deal for me if he succeeds in obtaining the insertion of an account of it in La Revue des deux mondes. He will do even more in the future through the developments he will be able to make from the principal idea. There is an entire continent to clear. I am just a pioneer, starting out with instruments that are very imperfect. Improved cultivation will come later and I could not encourage de Fontenay too strongly to prepare himself for this. In the meantime, try to gain M. Buloz’s favor through our friend Michel Chevalier.
I have probably forgotten a great many things, but they will return, because you will, I hope, be willing to write to me as often as possible. As for me, I will continue to provide you with my writing to decipher.
Letter to Mme Cheuvreux
Mugron, 20 May 1850
[Lettres d’un habitant des Landes, p. 69]
How I thank you, madam, for thinking of the exile in the Landes in the middle of all your occupations; I would scarcely dare to ask you to continue this charitable work if I did not know how persevering in your goodness you are. Please be certain that there is no cordial nor chest remedy that can equal a few lines from Paris, and my health is more dependent on the postman than the pharmacist. It is true that the pen is a heavy and tiring machine; do not send me long letters but just a few words as often as possible, so that I know what is being done, thought, felt, and resolved at the Hôtel Saint-Georges.
Here, for example, is a change of situation that I cannot say is completely unexpected. A short note from M. Cheuvreux made me think it was coming. Poor M. D—— has been dismissed; I am sure that the heart of your Louise is greatly relieved and that is already a good thing. If my wishes were granted, she would go through life without all these trials.
After I wrote to you from Bordeaux, I made some visits. Fortunately several of my friends were absent, as I would not have been able to avoid talking and shouting a great deal. The ones I saw are in such a state of exaltation that calm conversation with them is not possible. These unfortunate people are convinced that for the last two years no one has dared open the shops in Paris. Having taken this idea to heart, they want to escape a situation like this at any cost and, to do this, they do not recoil even from the idea of a civil or foreign war. My département has seemed to be more moderate; our prefect has devoted himself unceasingly to moderating public opinion and he was therefore discharged from office on the day I passed through Mont-de-Marsan. We are being sent one who will be better able to arouse the people.
I arrived on Friday. When I saw the church spire of my village I was surprised not to experience the vivid emotions that the sight of it never failed to arouse in me in the past. Are we like plants, and do the strings of the heart become woody with age, or else do I now have two fatherlands? I remember that Mlle Louise predicted that country life would have lost a great deal of its charms for me.
In a family council made up of my aunt, her chambermaid, and me (and I might say, epitomized by her chambermaid), it was decided that Mugron was as good as Les Eaux-Bonnes and that, in any case, it was not yet warm enough for the Pyrenees. I am therefore staying in the Landes until further instructions. This being decided, our native of the Basque country began to unpack my trunk; we soon saw her return to the drawing room totally upset and crying out, “Madamoiselle, M. Bastiat’s linen is completely perrec, perrec, perrec!” I am sorry that de Labadie is no longer with you to explain the strength of the word perrec, which combines the three notions of shreds, rags, and tatters. What profound scorn must the poor girl feel for Paris and its laundrywomen! It is enough to make one resign as a representative!
On Saturday I went to see the rest of my family in the country and came back tired. The coughing fits have come back so strongly that breathing could not cope; I thought of the description of whale fishing that your cousin gave you. “Everything is fine,” he said, “when you can give a little line to the wounded animal.” Coughing is equally not much of a problem as long as the lungs can give it a little line, after which the situation becomes uncomfortable.
Truly, madam, these details prove to you that I am yielding to the affection I feel for you and that I am counting on yours, as long as this does not, I beg you, go beyond what we call the trio.
The post has brought me a letter; how can I express my gratitude to you! Did you guess my wishes then? My aunt and I have started to have arguments about the north and the south; she praises the superiority of the south, doubtless in order to keep me here, while I claim that everything of any good comes from the north, even the sun (we are receiving light from the north today). It is sending me your good wishes, giving me some reassuring news about Mlle Louise and a few details on these pleasant scenes in the home which I have often witnessed and which I appreciate so much.
Letter to Mme Cheuvreux
Mugron, 23 May 1850
[Lettres d’un habitant des Landes, p. 71]
Dear Mme Cheuvreux, my last letter had scarcely reached the other end of the long line that separates us, when along comes a second, ready to start out on the same road. Is there no indiscretion or unseemliness in this haste? I do not know, since I am not yet well versed in worldly manners, but please be indulgent; even more, please allow me to write to you as the whim takes me, without much regard for the dates and under the sway of impulse, the law that governs weak natures. If you knew how empty and dreary Mugron is, you would forgive me for always directing my gaze toward Paris. My poor aunt, who is more or less all my company, has aged a great deal and is losing her memory. All she has become is a heart; it seems as though her faculties of affection gain what the other faculties lose and I love her more than ever for this, but in her actual presence I cannot prevent my imagination from wandering; am I not ill, after all?
What good are illnesses if they do not give us the privilege of having our fantasies tolerated? This being so, it is agreed, I will attribute my indiscretion to my alleged sufferings; this is a trick that will always take in a woman’s heart, but this must not lead me to deceive you and present myself in the light of a dying man. This is my health report: my cough is less frequent and strength is returning. I can climb the stairs without becoming out of breath; I have found my voice again, which can hum a complete octave. The only thing that inconveniences me is a small pain in the larynx, but I do not think it will last four days. Lastly, although I am not yet ready to offer up my visage to the daunting and exacting gaze of Mlle Louise, I think I am looking better.
Here I am, at peace with my conscience and having obeyed your orders. With regard to Mlle Louise and the face in question, this dear child is always destined to be prey to a painful doubt for a young girl: not to know, in spite of her exquisite tact, if she is being sought for her own merits. This is one of the disadvantages of wealth, but what should reassure her is that if anyone were initially attracted by this wealth, very shortly she would be appreciated for herself. I have told you that goodness of the heart could replace all the other qualities, but I was mistaken; there is something that perhaps is worth even more and that is a sense of duty, a natural disposition to conform to the rule, which is something that goodness of heart does not always imply.
Whatever the number and merit of your friends, please keep me a place in your affections; for my part, I can say this to you, to the extent that time and death are breaking the links around me, to the extent that I am losing the ability to take refuge in politics or study, your benevolence and that of your family are becoming increasingly necessary to me. This is the last light that shines on my life and this is doubtless why it is also the gentlest, purest, and most penetrating. After it will come the night, and let this at least be the night of the tomb.
Letter to Mme Cheuvreux
Mugron, 27 May 1850
[Lettres d’un habitant des Landes, p. 76]
I was confused about the calendar and now my exile has set things right; it is the 27th.
My holiday dates from the 12th, which means that a quarter of the two months has passed. After three times as long as this I will see Paris again.
I have done another calculation, madam, which is less attractive; your last letter was date-stamped the 17th. It is ten days since you wrote it and eight since I received it, eight days! This is nothing for you who spend them surrounded by your family or walking along the banks of the Seine or the Marne, chatting almost always delightfully with your daughter and husband! If at least I could be sure that no cold is stopping you from writing!
Yesterday, a telegraphed dispatch arrived announcing the vote on article 1; I thought that the telegraph might be better employed at least as far as I am concerned.
You have so many friends who, while recommending you to rest, pursue you from morning to night; how anxious I am to learn that you have put a few kilometers between their assiduity and your graciousness!
I have to admit, madam, that La Fontaine was right and that a good number of men are women when it comes to chattering; when I was coming to seek my health here I had not thought that I would find it totally impossible to avoid long conversations. The people of Mugron have nothing to do and so they do not take account of time, except for the times of lunch or dinner. They also resemble Pope a little; they are so many question marks. I leave you to think of how many words you have to deliver. Through a clever maneuver, I lead them into the village gossips or on their pet subjects, their eccentric preoccupations. This gives me a small respite, but all in all, frankly I talk too much, and this has cost me a crisis, which fortunately had no aftermath. I am much better now and ready to leave for Les Eaux-Bonnes, when the sun is pleased to play its part, but it is lazy; we can see mountains covered with snow from here, which will not be habitable much before the month of June.
When I look at Mugron with what are now city dweller’s eyes, I believe I would be ashamed to show it to you; I would blush for it with its smoke-filled houses, its single, deserted road, its patriarchal furniture and neglected civil administration. Its only charm lies in a rustic naiveté, poverty that does not seek to hide itself, a nature that is always silent and peaceful, a total absence of rowdiness, all things that are appreciated and understood only through habit. Nevertheless, if in this uniform existence you place two objects of affection, I maintain that it becomes general happiness, just as when these objects of affection are absent it becomes general boredom and nothingness. There I found again the affection of Félix. It is impossible to say with what joy we started our interrupted conversations again and what pleasure is to be found in the communion of two spirits in harmony, two parallel minds born on the same day, cast in the same mold, fed on the same milk, and having the same opinion on all things, be they religion, philosophy, politics, or social economics. Everything is examined without our succeeding in finding on any subject the slightest difference of opinion between us. This identity of understanding is a great guarantee of certainty, especially since, only ever having just a few books, these are our own opinions which are in contact and not the opinion of a common master. However, in spite of the pleasantness of this company, there is an emptiness here; Félix and I are companions mainly through our minds, and something is lacking in feeling. Here I am, being totally egotistical. I am ashamed of myself, and as a punishment I will take leave of you until tomorrow.
28th. The mail has arrived empty-handed, for what is this pile of letters and journals? However, I recognize Paillottet’s writing; what has he got to say to me? He does not know you and will not have met M. Cheuvreux. I now regret not having dared to introduce him to you as I had the presentiment that he would be punctual and that he would be good for me. Oh! I do hope that nothing dreadful has happened at the Hôtel Saint-Georges.
Farewell, mesdames, I feel that I am beginning to write in f minor. I had better stop while assuring you of my respectful and devoted attachment.
Letter to Prosper Paillottet
Mugron, 2 June 1850
[vol. 7, p. 439]
. . . My cousin left for Paris yesterday. He will arrive at just about the same time as this letter and will hand you more than half of the article I am writing to complete the pamphlet. However, the article has taken on such dimensions that we can no longer use it for this purpose. There will be nearly fifty pages of my writing, that is to say, enough to make a new pamphlet if it so merits. This is a trial. You know that I have always had the desire to know what would happen if I refrained from rewriting. This has been written almost by improvisation. For this reason I am afraid that it will lack the detail required for a pamphlet. In a few days’ time I will send you the rest. When you have the entire article, you will be able to decide.
Letter to Horace Say
Mugron, 3 June 1850
[vol. 7, p. 384]
My dear Friend,
Why have you confined the excellent letter you sent to the latest issue of Le Journal des économistes within such narrow limits? With regard to the events and causes, it is full of wisdom and reveals a level of business experience which we are often reproached for lacking, with some justification. Articles like this always satisfy readers and put forward principles without mentioning them. You ought to develop the thought that you indicate only at the end of your letter. Yes, because of the sluggishness of financial markets, the prices of cereals are lower than they ought to be, and it is inevitable that they will soon exceed the normal level. This is the general law of supply and demand. Busier trading would have brought the two extremes closer to the average. What is more, it would have lowered the average itself as it would have prevented waste and reckless exports. A work by you on this subject would be very useful from both the practical and the scientific points of view. From the latter aspect, it would dissipate the disastrous prejudices against middlemen and the cornering of goods. Please undertake this work.
Although I take little interest in politics, I have been able to convince myself, and painfully, that our great statesmen have succeeded only too well in the first part of their campaign plan, which is to spread disquiet in order to exploit it. Everywhere I have been I have seen a truly morbid terror reign. It seems that we are threatened with an agrarian law. People think Paris is sitting on a volcano. They go so far as to talk about an imminent conflict or foreign invasion, not for perverse reasons but out of fear of the worst. The Republic, republicans, and even those who merely submit are cursed and the lower classes are insulted by a flood of outrageous epithets. In short, I believe that everything is being thrown to the wind, even caution. Please God that this paroxysm passes quickly! Where will it lead?
Letter to Louise Cheuvreux
Mugron, 11 June 1850
[Lettres d’un habitant des Landes, p. 80]
It was my resolution, firmly taken, to let a full week go by before I wrote to you, for one may well count on the benevolence of friendship, but it should not be abused. However, I think that my haste may be excused, for you tell me that your mother is unwell and I am at the end of the world; I cannot send my rustic maid from the Franche-Comté to the Hôtel Saint-Georges to ask for news.
Here you are at last, finally settled in Fontainebleau, far from any noise. We must hope that a week of retirement and silence will restore all those with damaged health; it was yesterday that I learned of your departure from M. Say. This news had a strange effect on me at first; it was as though a hundred leagues more had come to separate us. This is because, since I have never been to Fontainebleau, my imagination was turned upside down.
I cannot thank you enough, dear demoiselle, for your most affectionate words; you have sent me words that are so sweet that they resemble recollections of harmonies or perfumes which the senses sometimes suddenly remember, mingled with a few childhood memories.
But I sense from your letter that you have not yet recovered your gaiety; let us see if I am mistaken. You have such noble self-control that, when it is necessary, you overcome your emotions, but you lack the carefree spirit that makes people forget them. Your nature will always arouse sympathy and admiration, but it will find it hard in this world to come upon the calm which gives rise to long-lasting gaiety. What do you think of my efforts in psychology? Whether or not they are accurate, I will give them to you; please do not try to change yourself, you will gain nothing from this.
I am leaving tomorrow for Les Eaux-Bonnes; this is just another excuse for this letter. The name Eaux-Bonnes reminds me of the dreadful risk I am running; who knows whether I will not leave it just at the time you arrive? Who knows whether your post chaise will not pass the enormous vehicle which will carry me to Paris in the other direction? You must allow that it would be a big disappointment for me.
Oh, come to the Pyrenees! Come right now to breathe this pure and always fragrant air. Come and enjoy this peaceful corner of nature, such an impressive place. There you will forget the troubles of this winter and politics. There you will avoid the heat of the summer. Every day you will vary your walks and excursions; you will gaze on new marvels and combine strength, health, and moral adaptability with physical exercise. You will have the joy of seeing your father lose sight of all his uncertainties which are now an inseparable part of life in Paris. Take the decision, then. I will take you to Biarritz and Saint-Sebastian in the Basque country; compare the journeys; is this not better than Belgium and Holland?
One writer has said that there are just two types of people in the world, “those that drink beer and those that drink wine.” If you want to know how you earn money, go and see the people who drink beer; if you prefer to see how they laugh, sing, and dance, come and visit the people who drink wine.
I had adopted a few illusions about the effect of the air of my native region; although I am coughing less frequently, I have a slight fever every evening. However, fever and Les Eaux-Bonnes have never been compatible.
I would also like to be cured of a bout of low spirits which I cannot explain. Where has it come from? Is it the result of the doleful changes that Mugron has undergone in the last few years? Is it because ideas fly from me without my having the strength to write them down on paper, to the great detriment of posterity? Is it because . . . is it because? But if I knew, this sadness would have a cause and it does not . . . I will stop there, before starting the boring jeremiads of splenetic dispositions, misunderstood souls or blasé ones, geniuses without recognition or those seeking soul mates, a cursed race that I detest. I prefer that people simply tell me, like Bazile: It is your fever, buona sera.
Farewell; tell your father and mother how much I appreciate their remembering me. Farewell; when will I see you all again? Farewell; I repeat this word which is never neutral, since it is the most painful or the most pleasant that can ever cross our lips.
Please be assured, dear demoiselle, of the tender attachment of your devoted servant,
Letter to Mme Cheuvreux
Les Eaux-Bonnes, 15 June 1850
[Lettres d’un habitant des Landes, p. 85]
My dear Mme Cheuvreux,
Having arrived yesterday evening in Les Eaux-Bonnes, I went this morning to the post office. Reason told me there would be nothing there, but I had the feeling there would be something; in fact, reason was wrong as often happens, in spite of its name.
Thus, thanks to your goodness, I feel a fundamental joy that had deserted me, and our delightful valley will lose nothing by my looking upon it in this light.
On Thursday I went to Pau at around seven o’clock. I was in the rue du Collège where I think I have identified the house where you lived. How joyful and impressive this view of Pau is; light clouds hid the mountain and you could enjoy the foreground only: the Gave, Gélos, Bizanos, and the slopes and villas of Jurançon.
If the star under which I was born had created me a poet instead of making me a cold economist, I would send you verses, as there was in me a little of Lamartine; have not you and your Louise distributed a great many smiles over this landscape and does it not appear to have kept the memory of these? But poetry enjoys a degree of license forbidden to prose.
In Les Eaux-Bonnes, I have taken a room at the junction of three roads, which is well ventilated and full of sunlight and with an admirable view. The first night, I slept for twelve hours to the murmur of the Valentin. When I arose I already felt in a better mood when I received the wonderful surprise of your letter. I took it with me on my morning walk and now I feel better in both mind and body than I have felt for a long time. This should be a warning to my friends; you should never take too much notice of the lamentations of a man under stress.
Mesdames, you scold me for having been unfaithful to my beloved Harmonies, but have they not set me a bad example? What evidence have they given me of their affection? For the last six months the only word they have addressed to me has been through the good offices of M. Paillottet; seriously, I can see that this book, if ever it is to be useful, will have its use only in the far distant future, and perhaps even this assessment is just a refuge for my amour propre. As the opportunity has arisen to write a small pamphlet that is more topical, I have taken it and have a second in my head: I would like to paint the moral state of the French nation as I see it; analyze and dissect the highly varied elements which make up our two major political movements, socialism and reaction; distinguish what is justifiable and reasonable in them from what is false, exaggerated, selfish, and reckless; and end it with a solution or view of what should be done or rather undone.
The elections will not take place until 1854; let us not look so far into the future. I know in what state of mind the electors nominated me and I have never strayed from this path. They have changed and that is their right. However, I am persuaded that they have been wrong to change. It had been agreed that the republican form of government, a form that I could personally live without if necessary, would be tried honestly, and perhaps this would not have stood up to the test, however sincere. In this case it would naturally have fallen under the weight of public opinion: instead of this, people are trying to overthrow it by means of plots, lies, injustice, organized and calculated terror, and discredit. They are preventing it from working and imputing to it things for which it is not responsible, and in doing this they are acting contrary to agreements without having anything to replace it.
Would it not be singular if, after so many projects and hesitations, you quite simply returned to La Jonchère? This countryside has been somewhat denigrated; ask the gardener for her opinion. When all is said and done, you have spent a good summer there. I will go to see you as often as possible as M. Piscatore wishes to let me have Le Butard again.
Your next letter will tell me what has been decided. Do you know that, from this point of view, your letters are fearful? The previous one never lets me guess what the following will say; four days in Fontainebleau are all well and good, but I am afraid that you will end up writing to me from Rome or Spa.
Mlle Louise will have returned in time to enjoy the young cousins from whom she is unfortunately growing apart; why therefore does she not want to make sure of a closer, more direct, and permanent happiness in this connection? She must sometimes ask herself this simple question: what would my father and mother do if they did not have me?
In bidding you farewell, it is with great joy that I think this is not a farewell from a far distance or a farewell for several months; I will be in Paris when the holiday is over.
Your respectful and devoted friend,
Letter to Prosper Paillottet
Les Eaux-Bonnes, 23 June 1850
[vol. 7, p. 440]
. . . Here I am at the so-called source of health. I am doing things conscientiously, which means that I am doing very little work. As I am not inclined to start further work on the Harmonies, I am finishing the pamphlet What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen and will probably be able to send it to you in a few days’ time.
Thank you for the article you had printed in L’Ordre. It has just been reprinted in the newspapers in my département. This is probably all that will ever be known about my book.
Another report has appeared in Le Journal des économistes. I cannot understand how M. Clément has thought it apposite to criticize my future chapter on population. What has been printed offers enough to work on without dealing in advance with what has not yet appeared. It is true that I have announced that I will be trying to prove the following thesis: The density of the population is equivalent to an increasing production capacity. M. Clément will have to agree with this or deny the virtues of trade and the sharing of work.
The criticism he has made of the chapter on landed property makes me think that it might be useful to reprint as a pamphlet the four or five articles which have appeared in the Débats entitled “Property and Plunder.” Besides, this would be another weapon in the armory of our manifesto, which those who do not have the patience to read the Harmonies will need.
Please remember me to MM Quijano and de Fontenay.
Letter to Mme Cheuvreux
Les Eaux-Bonnes, 23 June 1850
[Lettres d’un habitant des Landes, p. 89]
You have just joined forces with Mlle Louise, madam, to make me endure absence. In the midst of the problems of setting up home, you have found the time to write to me and, what is more, you give me the presentiment that those who are absent will not lose out to your leisure activities at La Jonchère. Oh, how good women’s hearts are! I know full well that I owe a great deal to my sickly health; do you remember that I once said that the moments I remembered with the greatest pleasure were those of suffering, because of the touching care it brought me from my good aunt. Truly, mesdames, you are such as could make one want to be ill, but I must not play the hypocrite here and, even if it delays your next letter by twenty-four hours, I really must admit that I am better. I take the waters cautiously, although without the assistance of a doctor, for what is their use? Spa doctors are like confessors; they always have the same remedy.
However, do not take advantage of my confession, and if you do not write to me on account of my health, write to me to tell me about your family.
There you are at La Jonchère. Since you are boasting of being properly countrified, try to get up earlier in the morning and gain a few extra minutes each day. Go for many walks, read a little, the newspapers as little as possible, and do not attract to yourselves more than a small number of friends at a time. This is the result of my consultation; it snaps its fingers at M. Chaumel’s as he has lost my confidence.
Les Eaux-Bonnes is beginning to be very crowded; my dinner table is, however, not as well composed as on my last journey. It may be that the effort to avoid politics cools the conversation. Today, two people arrived from Le Havre who quizzed me on the chapter about my solution to the social problem. I took advantage of the opportunity to put abroad some detailed publicity, reciting almost an entire pamphlet, which I wrote in Mugron. It was very strange! Everyone kept saying: “That’s right! That’s right!” until I spoke of applications; there, I was on my own. It is to be deplored that the classes who make the laws are unwilling to be just whatever that might cost, since, if this were so, each person would want to make the law, whether he be a manufacturer, farmer, shipowner, family man, taxpayer, artist, or worker. In the event, each person is a socialist as far as he himself is concerned and claims a share in the injustice, after which people are quite willing to grant others state charity, and this is a second form of injustice. As long as the state is regarded in this way as a source of favors, our history will be seen as having only two phases, the periods of conflict as to who will take control of the state and the periods of truce, which will be the transitory reign of a triumphant oppression, the harbinger of a fresh conflict. But may God forgive me, I am thinking myself still at the dinner table; I will go to bed, as it is better to put down the pen than use it too much.
Letter to Mme Cheuvreux
Les Eaux-Bonnes, 24 June 1850
[Lettres d’un habitant des Landes, p. 92]
You have seen the Pyrenees in Paris; I for my part am finding Paris in the Pyrenees. There are only beautiful women, fine outfits, countesses, and marquises; this morning some children chased one of their comrades away because he had come dressed in twill: you are not smart enough! These were the expressions used. His father, a doctor, was mortified by this.
Recently, I have been to the village of Aas; you know, you have to go down into the valley and up on the other side. I visited the cemetery; it is full of monuments: young men and women who came to Les Eaux-Bonnes to seek an end to their suffering and succeeded far beyond their hopes. Should we envy their fate? Oh, no. Not yet. I met two women and came back with them. The daughter was weak, slim, thoughtful, and fearful of the ride she was taking on horseback; her mother was in good health and indefatigable. Add to this the purest of language, the most distinguished manners, and you will understand that this necessarily reminded me of an outing at La Jonchère.
Yesterday, Sunday, we had a few joys, but alas, all the local color is leaving; the mountain folk were making their rounds to the sound of violins and Spaniards danced the fandango in smocks: tambourines, castanets, striped jackets, and mantillas, what will become of you? Violins are invading everywhere, and as for smocks, there are no more Pyrenees. Oh, the smock will become the symbol of the next century! But after all, is not what appears to us to be a profanation in fact progress? It is funny that we, civilized people, so proud of our arts and outfits, should want people elsewhere to preserve knickerbockers and the Provençal flute forever and ever, to entertain the tourists.
Did I read correctly, mesdames? You tell me that I must not return to Paris until I am cured, that I must spend the winter in Mugron! You must find my absence very pleasant then!
Ah, there is no point in your saying this. I take your words as evidence of interest since I am the most obliging interpreter in the world. I am therefore hoping to return to Paris on 20 July, unless the Chamber is prorogued; this will be an extension of a week to my holiday. It would be amusing if the Assembly inflicted a penalty on me for having returned too late while you scolded me for returning too soon.
I am anxious to receive a letter from La Jonchère to know whether M. Cheuvreux has decided to take a little rest or if you were pursuing your projects alone? Solitude for three! That is a universe; and is not Croissy close at hand, and the Renouard and Say families and Mme Freppa? In all conscience, I cannot pity you your fate!
Goodness, how I am overusing M. Cheuvreux’s fine writing desk; it has solved the problem of pens for me and I have never written such incommensurate letters!
Please persuade Mlle Louise to pardon me and please call what others might call indiscretion, friendship.
Farewell, your devoted servant,
Letter to Prosper Paillottet
Les Eaux-Bonnes, 28 June 1850
[vol. 7, p. 441]
. . . Here is the first part of the pamphlet entitled The Law. I have added nothing to it. I suppose that the other part is on the way. This is very serious for a pamphlet. However, the experience has taught me that what you count on the least is sometimes the most successful and that the mind is harmful to the idea.
I wanted to send you What Is Seen but I do not think it is very successful. I ought to have adopted a lighter tone instead of resorting to a serious tone and, what is worse, a geometric form.
I will be delighted to receive Michel Chevalier’s work. While he does me the honor of borrowing a few points of view, he provides me with a great many facts and examples; this is free trade. Our manifesto is in sore need of his pen.
Letter to Prosper Paillottet
Les Eaux-Bonnes, 2 July 1850
[vol. 7, p. 441]
. . . Your comment on The Law is accurate. I have not proved that the selfishness that distorts the law is unintelligent. However, there is now no time to do this. Besides, this proof is shown by all of the preceding pamphlets and will be shown even better by those that follow. People will see that the severe hand of providential justice will sooner or later weigh cruelly on these demonstrations of selfishness. I very much fear that the middle classes of our time will pay the penalty. This is a lesson that has not spared kings, priests, the various forms of aristocracy, the Romans, members of the National Convention, or Napoléon.
I would write to M. de Fontenay to thank him for his kind letter if he had not told me he was leaving for the country. This colleague is made of stern stuff. What is more, the young people of our time have a flexible style which they will use to surpass us. This is how the world goes and should go. I am happy that this is so. What good would it do for an author to make a discovery if others did not come along to fertilize it, correct it if necessary, and above all spread it widely?
I intend to leave here on the 8th and to arrive in Paris around the 20th. I will subject my health to your ruling.
Letter to M. de Fontenay
Les Eaux-Bonnes, 3 July 1850
[vol. 1, p. 204]
. . . Perhaps you are too ardently in favor of the Harmonies in the face of opposition from Le Journal des économistes. Middle-aged men do not easily abandon well-entrenched and long-held ideas. For this reason, it is not to them but to the younger generation that I have addressed and submitted my book. People will end up acknowledging that value can never lie in materials and the forces of nature. From this can be drawn the absolutely free characteristic of gifts from God in all their forms and in all human transactions.
This leads to the mutual nature of services and the absence of any reason for men to be jealous of and hate each other. This theory should bring all the schools together on a common ground. Since I live with this conviction, I am waiting patiently, since the older I become the clearer I perceive the slowness of human evolution.
However, I do not conceal a personal wish. Yes, I would like this theory to attract enough followers in my lifetime (even if only two or three) for me to be assured before dying that it will not be abandoned if it is true. Let my book generate just one other and I will be satisfied. This is why I cannot encourage you too strongly to concentrate your thinking on capital, which is a huge subject and may well be the cornerstone of political economy. I have no more than touched upon it; you will go further than I and will correct me if need be. Do not fear that I will take offence. The economic horizons are unlimited: to see new ones makes me happy, whether it was I that discovered them or someone else that is showing them to me.
. . . Yes, you are right. There is a complete avenue of science to be explored with regard to the dread word consumption; this is what I will be establishing at the start of my second volume. As for population, it is incomprehensible that M. Clément can attack me on a subject that I have not yet tackled! And basically, to deny the axiom that the density of the population is an advantage for production is to deny all the power of trade and the division of labor. What is more, it is to deny facts that are blindingly obvious. Doubtless, populations naturally organize themselves so as to produce as much as possible, and to do this they divide or merge as circumstances require; they obey a double tendency to spread out and to concentrate, but the more they increase, ceteris paribus, that is to say, all virtues, forward planning, and dignity being equal, the more the services divide and are mutually rendered and the more each person is rewarded for the least of his particular qualities, etc. . . .
Letter to Mme Cheuvreux
Les Eaux-Bonnes, 4 July 1850
[Lettres d’un habitant des Landes, p. 95]
At last I have a letter from La Jonchère, my dear madam, and I am now certain that you are somewhere definite. What is more, you tell me that your first few days in the country have been happy, that you are taking long walks in the woods, and that you are having some lovely visits, since today the Say family have come to call.
Just as I have your first letter from La Jonchère, this is, I think, my last from Les Eaux-Bonnes. I will be leaving on the 8th, unless in the meantime I learn that the Assembly is going on holiday. However, if there is any doubt, I will have to leave. It is not that I have been fundamentally cured; while my health has improved, my larynx stubbornly continues to suffer.
It is clear that in Les Eaux-Bonnes this year, ridicule of the gentlefolk has risen to such a height that it is ruining everything. People adopt accents, figures, and manners worthy of Molière’s pen; the only person who continues to be unaffected here is Mme de Latour-Maubourg. If she is giving a lesson to the précieuses around her, this lesson has gone unnoticed. Of course, I do not frequent these circles overly much, since I have noticed that they welcome only those people who give them the opportunity of saying, “I was with M. de ——, we were on a walk with the Count of ——, etc.” My company is made up of a very ill lieutenant, a young Spaniard who is at death’s door, and a Parisian aged twenty-three, as ill as the two others.
I am surprised that this time of exile, whose end I have desired so ardently, has seemed so short: “Everything that has to end passes quickly.” This saying is as true as it is sad. In fact, the provincial habits I rediscovered have had a certain charm. Independence, free time, work, and leisure at will, reading at odd times, thoughts that wander on impulse, solitary walks, scenery that is admirable, peace and quiet, this is what you can find in our mountains, and the power of a piece of music in b, a single piece in b, would make it a paradise. What else would you need, other than a drop of the ambrosia that perfumes all the details of life that is called friendship?
You have seen the success and ovations given to MM Scribe and Halévy in the newspapers. This will have pleased you and doubtless made you regret that you were not there to witness it. Mlle Louise had the feeling that pleasant amusements were awaiting her in London. We should congratulate ourselves on everything that brings peoples together and unites them: in this respect your friends’ attempt will bear good fruit. It will increasingly encourage our neighbors to study French. Reciprocity would be very useful, for we have a lot to learn from the other side of the Channel. I was happy to see that Richard Cobden, in difficult circumstances which must have been a cruel test for him, neither slipped nor stumbled. He has remained true to himself, but these are things that our newspapers do not notice.
Have you read the article by M. de Broglie on Chateaubriand in La Revue des deux mondes? I was not displeased to see this chastisement inflicted on vanity that is inflated to a childish level. With such exclusive selfishness of heart one can be a great writer, but do you believe one can be a great man? For my part, I detest these blind and proud men who spend their lives striking postures and attitudes, who put humanity on one side of the scales with themselves on the other and believe they win the day. I regret that M. de Broglie did not seek to appreciate the value of Chateaubriand’s philosophy; he would have found that it was very slight. From the eleventh volume of his memoirs, I copied out this paradox, “The perception of good and evil is obscured in proportion to the enlightenment of the mind; the conscience shrivels in proportion to the expansion of ideas.”
If this is so, the human race is condemned to fatal and irremediable degradation; the man who has written these lines is a soul condemned.
Here is another letter from La Jonchère, but one that does not confirm its predecessor. In the meantime, I have had news from M. Say and I thought that you were all in good health. I see that sleep is eluding you, that Mlle Louise is fatigued by the heat, and that M. Cheuvreux himself is unwell! What a well-organized trio! What upsets me considerably is that I will have no news of you from now until 20 July, unless you are good enough to write to me once more, if only a note to Mugron. I am definitely leaving Les Eaux-Bonnes repeating the chorus of our ballad:
- Aigues caoutes, aigues rèdes,
- Lou mein maou n’es pot guari.
“Hot water, cold water, nothing can cure my ill.” It is true that the good cavalier was doubtless speaking of some strange wound on which all the springs of the Pyrenees had no effect. I was better placed to count on them for my larynx; it resisted them; what should I do?
I will probably have some strong battles to confront at Mugron to get any holiday there as well. But I will resist these assaults as I cannot allow myself not to be present at the Assembly.
Do you wish to visit Les Cormiers? It is a place that is very peaceful, cool, and solitary. If I spend two months there, I will perhaps reach the stage of starting out in the world of the Harmonies. I have not done anything about them here; my publisher is pressing me and I tell him that the coolness of the public is cooling my ardor. In this respect, I am committing the sin of lying. Authors do not lose courage over so little. In these types of mis-adventures, the angel or demon of pride calls out to them, “It is the public which is mistaken, it is too scatterbrained to read you or too backward to understand you.” “That is all very well,” I say to my angel, “but in this case I can dispense with working for it.” “It will appreciate you in a century and that is enough for fame,” replies the stubborn tempter.
Fame! Heaven is my witness that I did not aspire to it and if one of its stray rays, ever so weak, should fall on this book, I would be delighted for the advancement of the cause and also a little for the satisfaction of my friends; let them love me without this and I will not give it another thought.
Your devoted servant,
Letter to Horace Say.
Les Eaux-Bonnes, 4 July 1850
[vol. 1, p. 200]
My dear Friend,
. . . I have read the article by M. Clément on the Harmonies. If I thought a controversy useful, I would accept it, but who would read it? M. Clément appears to think that it is a lack of respect for our masters to go deeper into problems that they have scarcely touched on, because at the time they were writing these problems had not been raised. According to him, they have said everything, seen everything, and have left us nothing to do. This is not my opinion and it was certainly not theirs. Between the first and last pages of your father there is too significant a degree of progress for him not to have seen for himself that he had not reached the horizon and that no one would ever reach it. For me, even if the Harmonies were ever completed to my satisfaction (which they will not be), I would still see them only as a point from which our successors will draw a whole new world. How can we make progress when we are obliged to devote three-quarters of our time to elucidating the simplest questions for a misguided public?
. . . If you write the article on insurance for Guillaumin’s Dictionary, please make it clear that it is not only the companies that join together in association but also and above all those who are insured. It is they that form, without suspecting this, an association which is no less real for being voluntary and something one enters and leaves at will.
Letter to Mme Cheuvreux
Mugron, July 1850
[vol. 7, p. 435]
. . . You had just lost a childhood friend. In these circumstances, your first feeling is one of regret. You then cast a worried look around you and end up looking introspectively into yourself. The mind asks questions of the great unknown, and, as it receives no reply, it becomes terrified. This is because there is a mystery that is not accessible to the mind, but only to the heart. Can you doubt on a tomb? . . .
Letter to M. Cheuvreux
Mugron, 14 July 1850
[Lettres d’un habitant des Landes, p. 100]
Your kind letter, my dear M. Cheuvreux, has just been handed to me. A few hours later and it would have had to retrace its journey to Paris in the same mail coach as the person to which it was addressed, since I am preparing to leave tomorrow. I am doubtless making a mistake; this must be so since everyone says so and I have already endured countless verbal and epistolary assaults. I do not claim to be right in the face of everyone, although Mme Cheuvreux is calling me a sophist in advance. The truth is that I could scarcely excuse myself from putting in an appearance in the Chamber before the holidays; after this I admit that I am yielding a bit to caprice. For some time now, I have had a very local pain in the larynx that is unbearable because it is continuous. I think I will find relief by changing my environment.
Mlle Louise may fear that her letter has gone astray in the Pyrenees. Please reassure her, it was given to me here on my arrival. Truly, it would have been a great privation for me, since your dear child has the art (if art it is) of infusing her letters with her soul and goodness. She spoke to me of the impression English literature had on her and then deplores the loss of belief that characterizes ours.
I was getting ready to write an essay in reply, on this text, but I will spare her this. Since I am leaving tomorrow, I will take my revenge face to face.
You are quite right, my dear M. Cheuvreux, to encourage me to continue these elusive Harmonies. I too feel that I have the duty to complete them, and I will endeavor to devote my holidays to them.
The field is so vast that it terrifies me.
When I said that the laws of political economy are harmonious, I did not mean only that they harmonize with each other, but also with the laws of politics, the moral laws, and even those of religion (granted the making of generalizations as to the particular rules of each cult). If this were not so, what good would it be for a set of ideas to promote harmony if this set clashed with other sets no less essential?
I do not know whether I am deluding myself, but it seems to me that it is through this and only through this that the lively and fertile beliefs whose loss Mlle Louise deplores will be regenerated within the human race. Extinguished beliefs will no longer be revived, and the efforts made in times of terror and danger to give society this anchor are more meritorious than effective. I believe that an inevitable ordeal is lying in wait for Catholicism. Acquiescence in form alone, which each person requires from others and from which acquiescence each person allows himself dispensation, cannot be a permanent state of affairs.
The plan I had conceived required political harmony to be first of all brought down to rigorous certainty, since this is its basis. It appears that I have not established this certainty adequately, since it has not struck anyone, even professional economists. Perhaps the second volume will provide more consistency for the first. I am subjecting myself to your and Mme Cheuvreux’s advice to stop me in the future from doing anything else.
This letter will precede me by so little that I find it almost incorrect to send it to you. However, I did not want to leave Mugron without thanking you for all the kindnesses that you and your family have shown me during this absence.
Farewell, my dear sir,
Your devoted servant,
Letter to Richard Cobden
Paris, 3 August 1850
[vol. 1, p. 185]
My dear Cobden, since the departure of our dear friends, the Schwabes, I no longer have the opportunity of talking about you. However, I have not altogether lost sight of you, and recently I noted with joy, but no surprise, that you had disassociated yourself from your friends in order to remain faithful to your convictions. I am referring to the vote on Palmerston. The upsurge in British pride that characterized this episode is not in step with the natural sequence of events and the progress of public reasoning in England. You were right to resist this. It is this perfect coherence of all of your actions and votes that will in the future give your name and example an unassailable authority.
I have spent some time in my native region to see whether my poor lungs, which serve me in a highly unreliable fashion, might be cured. I have returned somewhat better but suffering from an ailment of my larynx coupled with a total loss of my voice. My doctor has ordered me to keep total silence. For this reason, I am going to spend two months in the country not far from Paris. There, I will endeavor to write the second volume of the Economic Harmonies. The first went almost unnoticed in scholarly circles. I would not be an author if I accepted this judgment. I call on the future to correct this for I am convinced that this book contains an important idea, a core concept. Time will prove me right.
Today, I wanted to say a few words in support of our colleague in political economy, A. Scialoja. You know that he was a professor in Turin. Events caused him to become a minister of trade in Naples for a few days. This was in the days of the constitution. When absolute authority was reinstated, Scialoja, thinking that a ministry of trade was not sufficiently political to compromise its holder, did not wish to flee. He was to regret this. He was arrested and imprisoned. For ten months now, he has been clamoring to be released or put on trial.
I have taken a few steps here to arouse the interest of our diplomatic service. (Let diplomacy be good for something for once in its life!) I received the reply that our embassy would do what it could but that it stood little chance. It is said that Scialoja would be much better protected by English goodwill. Could you therefore please obtain support for him from your ambassador in Naples?
Scialoja is asking to be put on trial! I would much prefer for him to be given a passport for London or Paris, since I do not think that a Neapolitan trial would guarantee much equity, even for the most shining innocence.
Will you be going to Frankfurt? For my part, it is no good my attending the Congress, since I have become dumb, but I would be very pleased to see you when you pass through Paris and my apartment at 3, rue d’Alger is at your disposal.
Letter to Richard Cobden
Paris, 17 August 1850
[vol. 1, p. 187]
My dear Cobden, as you know about my poor health, you will not have been surprised at my absence from the Congress in Frankfurt, especially since you will not have attributed it to a lack of zeal. Apart from the pleasure of being one of your colleagues in this noble enterprise, it would have been very pleasant for me to meet in Frankfurt friends that I rarely have the occasion to see and to meet a host of distinguished men from these two excellent races, the Anglo-Saxon and the Germanic. In a word, I have been deprived of this consolation like many others. For a long time now, mother nature has gradually been making me accustomed to all sorts of deprivations, as though to familiarize me with the final one which includes them all.
As I have had no news of you, for a time I did not know whether you were going to the Congress; since it did not occur to me that you could go from England to Frankfurt without going through Paris, and since I did not think either that you would pass through our capital city without letting me know, I concluded that you yourself had been prevented from doing so. I have been told that this is not so and I am happy for the Congress. Try to deal a mighty blow to this monster of war, an ogre that is almost as voracious when digesting as it is when eating, for I truly believe that arms cause almost as much harm to nations as war itself. What is more, they hinder good. For my part, I constantly return to what seems to me to be as clear as daylight: as long as disarmament prevents France from restructuring her finances, reforming her taxes, and satisfying the just hopes of the workers, she will continue to be a nation in convulsion . . . and God alone knows what the consequences will be.
A man whom I would have liked to see because of all the interest he has shown in me is M. Prince Smith, from Berlin. If he is at the Congress, please convey to him my great desire to meet him personally. How happy I would be, my dear Cobden, if you decided to pass through Paris and if you persuaded M. Prince Smith to accompany you on this excursion! But I do not dare to formulate such hopes. Good fortune does not seem to be made for me. For a long time now, I have been endeavoring to take advantage of good things when they come but not to expect them.
I consider that a short stay in Paris must be of interest to politicians and economists. Come and see the profound peace we are enjoying here, whatever the newspapers might say. Certainly, internal and external peace in the face of such a tumultuous past and such an uncertain future is a phenomenon that shows great progress in public common sense. Since France has survived this, it will survive a great many other difficulties.
Say what you like, the human mind is making progress, interests in the best sense of the word are prevailing, disagreements are less profound, and long-lasting harmony is establishing itself.
Letter to the President of the Peace Congress in Frankfurt
Paris, 17 August 1850
[vol. 1, p. 197]
An ailment of the larynx would not have been enough to keep me away from the Congress, especially as my role would rather have been to listen than to speak, if I were not undergoing a treatment that obliges me to remain in Paris. Please convey my regret to your colleagues. Much taken as I am with all that is grand and new in the spectacle of men of all races and languages who have come from all corners of the globe to work together for the triumph of universal peace, I would have joined my efforts to yours in favor of such a holy cause with zeal and enthusiasm.
In truth, universal peace is considered in many places an illusion, and as a result the Congress is considered to be an honorable effort but with no far-reaching effect. Perhaps this feeling is more prevalent in France than elsewhere because this is a country in which people are more weary of utopias and where ridicule is the more to be feared.
For this reason, if it had been given to me to speak at the Congress, I would have concentrated on correcting such a false assessment.
There was doubtless a time when a peace congress would have had no chance of success. When men made war to acquire loot, land, or slaves, it would have been difficult to stop them by moral or economic considerations. Even various forms of religion have failed to do this.
But today, two circumstances have changed the question radically.
The first is that wars no longer have vested interest as their cause or even their pretext, since they are always contrary to the real interests of the masses.
The second is that they no longer depend on the whims of a leader, but on public opinion.
The result of the combination of these two circumstances is that wars are due to become increasingly rare and finally disappear through the force of events and independently of any intervention by the Congress, since an event that harms the general public and which depends on the general public is bound to cease.
What, therefore, is the role of the Congress? It is to hasten this inevitable result by showing, to those who do not yet perceive this, how and why wars and arms are harmful to the general interest.
What element of utopia is there in such a mission?
For the last few years, the world has experienced circumstances which, in other eras, would have caused long and cruel wars. Why have these been avoided? Because, although there is a party in favor of war in Europe, there are also those who love peace. Although there are men who are ever ready to make war, in whom a stupid form of education has imbued ancient ideas and barbaric prejudices and who attach honor to physical courage alone, seeing glory only in military exploits, fortunately there are other men who are more religious, more moral, more farsighted, and who can work things out better. Is it not only natural that this latter category should endeavor to gain recruits from the former? How many times has civilization, as in 1830, 1840, and 1848, been, so to speak, in suspense faced with this question: which of the war or peace parties will gain the upper hand? Up to now, the peace party has triumphed and, it must be said, it is perhaps less through fervor or numbers than because it had political influence.
So peace and war depend on public opinion and opinion is divided. There is therefore a constantly imminent danger. In these circumstances, is not the Congress undertaking something that is useful, serious, effective, and even, I dare say, easy by trying to gain support for those in favor of peace so as to give them at last a decisive weight?
What is utopian in this? Does it mean saying to the people, “We are coming to enjoin you to trample your interests underfoot, to act henceforward in accordance with the principles of devotion, sacrifice, and self-renunciation?” Oh, if this were so, the enterprise would indeed be risky!
But on the contrary, we are coming to tell them: “Do not consult only your interests in the next life, but those in this one. Examine the effects of war. See whether they are not disastrous for you. See whether wars and heavy arms do not lead to interruptions in work, crises of production, the loss of strength, crushing debt, heavy taxes, impossible financial situations, discontent, and revolutions, not to mention deplorable moral habits and reprehensible violations of religious law.”
Are we not allowed to hope that this language will be heard? Take courage, then, you men of faith and devotion, have courage and confidence! The gaze and hearts of those who are now unable to join your ranks will be following you.
I remain, Mr. President, your most
respectful and devoted servant.
Letter to Richard Cobden
Paris, 9 September 1850
[vol. 1, p. 188]
My dear Cobden, I am grateful for the interest you are good enough to take in my health. It is still shaky. At the moment I have a severe inflammation and probably ulcers on the two tubes that take air to the lungs and food to the stomach. The question is to know whether this disease will stop or whether it will get worse. In the latter case, there will no longer be any means of breathing or eating, a very awkward situation indeed. I hope not to be subjected to this ordeal for which, however, I am not neglecting to prepare myself by practicing patience and resignation. Is there not an inexhaustible source of consolation and strength in these words, “Non sicut ego volo sed sicut tu”?
One thing that distresses me more than these physiological prospects is the intellectual weakness whose progression I see so clearly. I will doubtless have to abandon the completion of the work I have started. But, at the end of the day, has this book as much importance as I like to give it? Will posterity not get along very well without it? And if one should combat the unseemly love of material possessions, is it not also good to stifle the upsurges of author’s vanity that come between one’s heart and the only thing worthy of one’s aspirations?
Besides, I am beginning to think that the principal idea that I am seeking to disseminate is not lost; yesterday a young man sent me in a letter an article entitled “An Essay on Capital.” It included these sentences:
“Capital is the characteristic sign and measure of progress. It is the sole and necessary vehicle for it, with the special mission of aiding the movement from priced goods to free ones. Consequently, instead of augmenting natural prices, as it is alleged, its unchanging role is to lower them persistently.”
These sentences encompass and summarize the most fertile of the economic phenomena that I have endeavored to describe. They include a guarantee of the inevitable reconciliation between the property-owning and the proletarian classes. Since this point of view on social order has not been defeated, since it has been perceived by others who will set it out for all to see better than ever I could, I have not entirely wasted my time and I am able to sing my “Nunc dimittis,” with slightly less distaste.
I have read the report on the Congress in Frankfurt. You are the only one to know how to give this work a practical character, an influence on the world of business. The other speakers limit themselves to well-worn commonplaces. But I continue to think that the association will end up having a significant indirect influence by awakening and molding public opinion. Doubtless, you will not obtain the official declaration of universal peace, but you will make wars more unpopular, difficult, rare, and odious.
However, we should not hide the fact that the affair in Greece has dealt a body blow to the supporters of peace and they will need a great deal of time to recover. Which French deputy, for example, will be sufficiently bold to speak merely of partial disarmament in the presence of the international principle involved in this Greek affair, with the consent (and it is above all this that is serious) of the British nation? Disarm! Could this be their cry when a formidable power is openly acting according to the principle that when it considers itself in confrontation, however slight the grounds of complaint, with another government, it will not only employ force against this government but also seize the private property of its citizens? As long as such a principle remains standing, whatever its cost, we will need to remain armed to the teeth.
There was a time, my friend, when diplomacy itself tried to have respect for individual property prevail at sea in time of war. This principle has entered our military mores. In 1814, the English took nothing in the south of France without paying for it. In 1823, we made war in Spain under the same conditions, and however unjust this war was from the political point of view, it made an admirable distinction, now acknowledged, between the public domain and personal property. M. de Chateaubriand tried at this time to have the elimination of privateering and letters of marque, in a word, respect for private property, included in international law. He failed, but his efforts reveal great progress in civilization.
How far back into the past Lord Palmerston is taking us! It is therefore now admitted that if England has a grievance against King Othon, no Greek can claim ownership of a bark or a keg of goods. For the same reason, if France has any complaint against Belgium, Switzerland, or Piedmont, it may send battalions to seize houses, harvests, cattle, etc. This is barbaric. I repeat, with a system like this, everyone will need to remain armed to the teeth and be ready to defend his property, for, my friend, men are not yet Quakers. They have not renounced the right to personal defense, and they will probably never renounce this.
If, moreover, everything was limited to the doctrines and acts of Lord Palmerston, this would be one more iniquity for which to reproach diplomacy, but that would be all. But what is serious and threatening is the unexpected approval given to this policy by the English nation. One hope is left to me: that this approval is not typical.
But while making politics, I am forgetting to tell you that, in order to obey my doctors’ prescriptions, with no great belief in them, I am leaving for Italy. They have condemned me to spend this winter in Pisa in Tuscany. From there, I will doubtless visit Florence and Rome. If you have any friends there who are close enough for me to introduce myself to them, please let me know, without taking the trouble to send introductory letters. If I knew where to find Mr. and Mrs. Schwabe, I would warn them of this journey in order to take their instructions. When you have occasion to write to them, please tell them about this trip.
Letter to Félix Coudroy
Paris, 9 September 1850
[vol. 1, p. 104]
My dear Félix, I am writing to you on the point of starting a long journey. The illness which I had when I saw you has settled on my larynx and throat. The constant pain and weakness it causes has made it a genuine torture. However, I hope that I will not lack resignation. My doctors have ordered me to spend the winter in Pisa and I am obeying, although these gentlemen have not habitually inspired trust in me.
Farewell, I must stop because my head is preventing me from writing any more. I hope that I will have more vigor during my journey.
Letter to Prosper Paillottet
Lyons, 14 September 1850
[vol. 7, p. 442]
I do not wish to start out on the second half of my journey without telling you that everything has gone quite well up to now. I became a little tired only during the stage between Tonnerre and Dijon, but that was almost inevitable. I think that it would have been better to sacrifice a night and take the mail coach. It is always the best way. Spending the night on the way always obliges you to take stage carts and old crocks or be cast in among drunken men, etc., and you arrive at a bad inn only to repeat the procedure the next day.
I have not told you, my friend, how much I appreciated the idea that occurred to you for a moment to accompany me to Italy. I am as grateful to you as if you had in fact carried out this project. But I could not have agreed to this. This would have deprived Mme Paillottet of one day seeing this beautiful country or at least have reduced her chances of doing so. Besides, as I cannot talk, all the delight of traveling together would have been lost. Either we would have often disobeyed orders, which would have caused us regret, or we would have obeyed them only after a difficult and constant struggle. Be that as it may, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and if Mme Paillottet feels up to the journey, come and fetch me in the spring, when I will no longer be dumb.
Please remind M. de Fontenay of my advice or, to put it more strongly, my pressing invitation to have his Capital printed.
Letter to Louise Cheuvreux
Lyons, 14 September 1850
[Lettres d’un habitant des Landes, p. 107]
Dear Demoiselle Louise,
Here I am in Lyons since yesterday evening; at a stretch you might have had this letter twenty-four hours earlier, but on my arrival I hesitated between the writing desk and bed. My heart encouraged me to favor the first and my body the second; who would ever have told me that my body would win in a conflict of this kind? However, scarcely was I in bed than it fell victim to a high fever, which explains its victory and justifies me in my own eyes. However, do not worry about this fever; it was very temporary and has completely gone this morning.
On Tuesday, after leaving you, I went to the Économistes dinner. M. Say was in the chair. Following the fatigue I always suffer in the evening, I could not go to bid farewell to Mme Say, for which I am very sorry.
On Wednesday, I set out at half past ten. Up to Tonnerre, the journey went extremely well. We went so quickly that we were scarcely able to enjoy the scenery, with the result that since my eyes were fixed on a cloud probably visible from La Jonchère, I remembered that you were not very happy with the words set to the pretty melody by Félicien David.
I addressed other words to my cloud. Unfortunately they did not rhyme and therefore are not worth my copying them down here. From Tonnerre to Dijon, troubles of all sorts began. If you follow this route, as I hope you will, M. Cheuvreux must contact M. G—— in writing to procure mail coaches.
As I was responsible only for myself, I trusted to luck, which could have looked after me better. There were six of us in the seating space of a stagecoach made for four. Out of these six people, four were women, which meant that under our feet, on our knees, and up against our sides we had a multitude of parcels, bags, baskets, etc.; truly, women, who are such adorable models of self-sacrifice in domestic life, appear not to understand that they owe something to others, even people they do not know, when in public.
From Châtillon to Dijon, I was crowded onto the top deck as the fourteenth passenger. It was during this stage that we crossed the watershed, one side of which looks to the ocean, the other the Mediterranean. When this line is crossed, it seems as though you are leaving your friends for a second time, as you no longer breathe the same air and are no longer under the same sky. Finally, from Dijon to Châlon, you have only two hours on the train and from Châlon to Lyons there is a delightful excursion by water.
But can I say that I am traveling? I am going through a succession of landscapes, that is all. I have no communication with anyone, whether in coaches, in boats, or in hotels. The more attractive people’s faces appear, the more I shun them. The chapter of random adventures or unforeseen meetings does not exist for me. I am going through space like a bale of goods, except for a few visual delights of which I am soon tired.
You told me, dear demoiselle, that poetic Italy would be a source of new emotions for me. Oh, I very much fear that it will be unable to extricate me from this numbness which is gradually taking over all of my faculties. You gave me a lot of encouragement and advice, but for me to be sensitive to nature and art, you would have needed to lend me your soul, the soul that longs to blossom with happiness, which so quickly becomes attuned to everything that is beautiful, graceful, sweet, and lovely and which has such great affinity with all that is harmonious in light, color, sound, and life. Not that this need for happiness reveals any selfishness in your soul; on the contrary, if it seeks, attracts, or desires it, it is to concentrate it in itself as in a hearth and from there radiate it around you in wit, a fine mischief, constant good deeds, consolation, and affection. It is with this disposition of the soul that I would like to travel, as there is no prism that embellishes external objects more. However, I am changing surroundings and skies under a totally different influence.
Oh, how fragile is the human frame! Here I am, the plaything of a tiny pimple growing in my larynx. It is the thing that is driving me from the south to the north and from north to south. It is the thing that makes my knees buckle and empties my head. It is the thing that makes me indifferent to the Italian landscapes of which you speak. I will soon have no thought or concentration for anything other than it, like the old invalids who fill their entire conversations and all their letters with one single idea. It seems as though I am well down this path already.
To escape this, my imagination has one route still open to me and that is to go to La Jonchère. I imagine that you are enjoying with delight the fine days that September stores up. Here you are, all together! Your dear father and M. Edouard have returned from Cherbourg delighted with the magnificent things they have seen and full of tales to tell. Just the presence of Marguerite would be enough to make your mountain a charming place to stay. Here is one who might boast of having been caressed! I love to hear parents reproaching each other for spoiling their children, a very innocent small conflict, since the most spoiled, that is to say the most loved, are those that succeed the best.
Dear demoiselle, allow me to remind you that you should not sing for too long a time, especially with the windows open. Be careful of the autumn chills and avoid catching cold in this season. Remember that if you caught one through your own fault it would be as though you were making all those who love you ill. Be careful of returning from Chatou at eleven o’clock at night. To combine care for your health and your love of music, might not your evenings be turned into mornings? Farewell, dear Mlle Louise.
Allow me to express my
Letter to Mme Cheuvreux
Lyons, 14 September 1850
[Lettres d’un habitant des Landes, p. 113]
Dear Mme Cheuvreux,
I am leaving tomorrow for Marseilles. If you take the boat at eleven o’clock you have only the inconvenience of spending the night in Valence and this will not be inconvenient for me since I will have the pleasure of taking news to your brother, the captain.
If you go to Lyons, do not fail to climb Fourvières! This is an admirable viewpoint from which you can see the Alps, the Cévennes, the mountains of Forez, and those of the Auvergne. What an image of the world Fourvières gives! Down below, there is work and its insurrections, halfway up, cannons and soldiers, and at the top religion with all its sad excrescenes. Is this not the story of the human race?
Contemplating the theater of so many bloody conflicts, I thought that there is no more pressing need in man than that for confidence in a future that offers some stability. What troubles the workers is not so much how low their wages are but their uncertainty, and if men who have achieved wealth were prepared to take a look at themselves, seeing with what ardor they love security, they would perhaps be somewhat indulgent toward the classes which always, for one reason or another, have the specter of unemployment before them. One of the most beautiful of economic harmonies is the ever-increasing tendency for all classes in succession to achieve stability. Society achieves this stability as civilization is attained, through earnings, fees, rent, and interest, in short everything that the socialists reject; to such an extent that their plans bring the human race back precisely to its point of departure, that is to say the time when uncertainty is at its highest for everyone. There is a subject here for new research for political economy . . . But what shall I tell you about Fourvières! What poetry, heavens, for the delicate ear of a woman! . . . Farewell once more, forgive this torrent of words; I am taking revenge for my silence, but is it fair that you should be the victim?
Letter to M. Cheuvreux
Marseilles, 18 September 1850
[Lettres d’un habitant
des Landes, p. 115]
My dear M. Cheuvreux,
It was painful for me to leave Paris without shaking your hand, but I could not delay my departure on pain of missing the mail boat here. In fact, I arrived here yesterday and have just one day to make all my arrangements, obtain a passport, etc.
It is not even certain that I will be embarking; I have learned that travelers who go by sea are welcomed in Italy by quarantine. Three days in a quarantine station is not very attractive!
When I arrived in Marseilles, my first visit was to the post office, as I hoped to find a letter there; to know that all three of you were enjoying good health at La Jonchère would have made me so happy! There was no letter. Thinking about it made me realize that I was being too demanding since it is scarcely a week since I left the dear mountain. Silence makes time seem so long that it is not surprising that I attach so much importance to receiving a letter.
How anxious I am to reach Pisa. How anxious I am to know whether this fine climate will make my head strong and give it two hours of work a day. Two hours! This is not too much to ask, and yet this is still a vanity.
Doubtless, like André Chénier and like all authors, I think I have something there, but this upsurge of pride scarcely lasts long. Whether I transmit to posterity two volumes or just one, the progress of human affairs will remain unchanged.
No matter, I claim my two hours, if not for future generations, at least in my own interest. For if the prohibition to work has to be added to so many others, what will become of me in this tomb of my anticipation? I spent the night of Sunday to Monday in Valence. In spite of the desire I had to see the captain and the efforts I made to do this, I was not able to do it.
The 19th. I am definitely leaving tomorrow and by land. Here I am embarked upon an adventure whose outcome I cannot see.
This morning I was still hoping for a letter; I would have left happier. Now only the good Lord knows where and when I will have news of you all; will I have to wait two weeks?
Dear M. Cheuvreux, please remember me to both mother and daughter and assure them of my profound friendship. Do not forget to remember me also to M. Edouard and Mme Anna, who will allow me to embrace their delightful child, although from afar.
Farewell, dear M. Cheuvreux,
Letter to Mme Cheuvreux
Marseilles (on board the Castor),
22 September 1850
[Lettres d’un habitant
des Landes, p. 117]
Dear Mme Cheuvreux,
Before leaving France, allow me to send you a few lines. The date of this letter will surprise you; here is the explanation.
As you know, since I was determined to go by land, I allowed the boat on the 19th to leave. At the time, a day sooner or later was of little importance and I was not willing to leave Marseilles knowing that one of your letters was on the point of arriving. I waited and was right to do so, since I have at last received your very benevolent and affectionate encouragement, and what is more, I know the major decision that has been taken at La Jonchère.
In short, I should have been taking the coach yesterday, but I was perfectly aware that, to avoid the quarantine station, I would encounter other inconveniences, such as going through clouds of dust, going from inn to inn, cab to cab, and using my larynx to argue with porters; all this was scarcely an attractive prospect. At eleven o’clock, while reading the Marseilles journal, I saw that the Castor was leaving for Leghorn in the afternoon. Although you advised me to avoid making unplanned decisions, I booked and paid for a ticket, thinking that the quarantine would be swallowed at a gulp if I closed my eyes. In the evening, the sea was so rough that the boat did not leave, and this is how I come to be scribbling this epistle while they are raising the anchor.
Since my arrival on board, I have noticed that it is a great mistake to be the last to book your ticket. Instead of having a good single cabin, you have a bed in a joint cabin.
Oh, what an improvident man! You are going to cross the Mediterranean in the joint cabin of a packet-boat; you will die in the general ward of a hospital and will be thrown in the common grave of a Campo Santo! What difference does it make, if the happiness I have dreamed of in this world is waiting for me in the next? However, it is better to have a single cabin, and this is why I am writing to you so that you can take the necessary steps.
Your journey is worrying me. At first, I thought I had the answer (who does not seek answers today?). I thought that His Holiness, who subjects his infallibility to the protection of our bayonets, should spare his soldiers an insulting quarantine. If this were so, it would have been easy for M. Cheuvreux and M. Edouard Bertin to obtain passages on a state vessel going to Civitavecchia. It seems, however, that even our troops are subject to the health regulations (a bad solution). The final consideration, then, is that a journey across the Apennines seems to me to be a risky venture at the end of October.
I meant to write to Mlle Louise since, just as a good government is very willing to raise a great many taxes but distributes them evenly, I feel the necessity to divide the weight of my lamentations; alas, my letter would not have been very pleasant! On my journey, I have been able to see only the side of things that is reprehensible and can be criticized. I am fully aware that colors are not in objects but in ourselves. According to whether we are in a rosy or black mood, we see everything in rosy or black hues.
Farewell, I cannot hold the pen any longer under the vibration of the steam engine.
Your devoted servant,
Letter to Mme Cheuvreux
Pisa, 2 October 1850
[Lettres d’un habitant des Landes, p. 120]
My dear Mme Cheuvreux,
Doubtless, we are both complaining about each other, you of the flood of letters with which I am overwhelming you and I who am desolate at not receiving any. However, I am not accusing you of not writing; it is not possible that you have let all this time go by without writing to me. I attribute my disappointment to some mismanagement by the Italian postal service. This explanation is all the more likely since I am also without news of my family and Paillottet.
I do not know whether you are continuing to plan your journey, what route you will be taking, etc. I have been to Leghorn to find out about the conditions at the quarantine station. The large apartments lack furniture, but as soon as I am sure of the date of your arrival, I will see that two rooms are prepared. A decent caterer will supply food and then, if you permit, I will put myself with pleasure into quarantine . . . “and Phaedra in the labyrinth.” Poor man! I am forgetting that I cannot speak and that my company will be only a nuisance.
If only you knew, madam, how your enterprise worries me with regard to Mlle Louise. It is not that it offers the slightest danger; I even hope for fine weather in October, since the wind blows in September, but I fear that you will both be unwell. I entreat the influence of the heavens and the sea to be favorable!
At last, a moment of pleasure! I have read your letter of the 25th, which arrived accompanied by a missive from my aunt and another from Cobden. I wish you could see me; I am no longer the same person.
Is it really dignified for a man to be so wholly dependent on an external event, an accident of the post? Are there no extenuating circumstances for me? My life is just one long deprivation. Conversation, work, reading, plans for the future, all this I find lacking. Is it surprising that I am becoming attached, perhaps too much so, to those who are willing to take an interest in this ghost of an existence? Oh, their affection is more astonishing than mine. So you are leaving on the 10th? If this letter reaches you, please reply immediately.
You advise me to speak to you as I would to a court, to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; I am very willing to do this but it is impossible to know whether I am better or worse. The progress of this illness, whether it moves forward or back, is so slow, so imperceptible that you see no difference between the day before or the day after. You have to take points of comparison that are further apart. For example, how was I a year ago at Le Butard? How was I there this year and how am I now? Here are three periods, and I have to admit that the results of this examination are not good.
The departure of your brother and his family will have left a great emptiness in La Jonchère. It needs only one lovely child like Marguerite to fill an entire house.
Farewell, dear Mme Cheuvreux.
Come, and come soon, to bring a little life to the Italy that seems dead to me. When you are all here, I will appreciate more its sun, climate, and arts. Until then, I will follow your advice and just take care of my body, make it an idol, dedicate a cult to it, and prostrate myself in adoration before it. If only I might recover speech when you arrive, for, madam, dumbness is painful in your presence! You have a collection of paradoxes in whose defense you are highly skilled, but to which it is a pleasure for me to reply.
Farewell; M. Cheuvreux will not be the least busy of the three. Please accept my great and respectful affection.
Your devoted servant,
Letter to Bernard Domenger
Pisa, 8 October 1850
[vol. 7, p. 408]
Who would have told us on the last occasion, when I had the pleasure of seeing you, that my first letter would be dated in Italy? I have come here strictly on doctor’s orders. In fact, I have no doubt that if there is still time for my throat to be helped by anything, it will be by the pure, warm air of Pisa. Unfortunately, this is just one aspect of the question. The finest climate in the world cannot alter the fact that, when you cannot talk, write, read, or work, it is very sad to be alone in a foreign country. This makes me miss Mugron and I think that I would prefer to shiver in Chalosse than be warm in Tuscany. I am experiencing all sorts of disappointments here. For example, it would be easy for me to have contact with all the distinguished men in this country. This is because, as political economy is included in the study of law, this science is cultivated by almost all educated men. Do you want a singular proof of this? In Turin, although the principal language spoken is Italian, more copies of my Harmonies (in the French edition) have been sold than in Marseilles, Bordeaux, Lyons, Rouen, and Lille combined, and this is true of all works on economics. You see, my dear friend, in what a state of illusion we live in France when we think we are in the vanguard of intellectual civilization. This being so, I was able to gain access to all the leading figures and eminent people and was perfectly placed to study this country in depth. Unfortunately, my constant preoccupation is to see nobody and to avoid people I know. What is more, close friends are going to come to see me from Paris; they will be visiting Florence and Rome as genuine connoisseurs, as they appreciate the arts and know a great deal about them. In any other circumstances or with any other illness this would be such a pleasant event! But dumbness is an abyss that isolates you, and I will be obliged to flee them. Oh, I assure you that I am learning patience very well.
Let us talk of Mesdames X. I have always noticed that customary devotion does nothing to change the way men act and I very much doubt that there is more probity, gentleness, or mutual respect and consideration among our highly devout populations in the south than among the indifferent populations in the north. Young and amiable people will attend the bloody sacrifice of their Redeemer every day and will promise Him a great deal more than simple equity, and every evening they will deck altars to Our Lady with flowers. At every instant they will repeat: deliver us from evil, lead us not into temptation, thou shalt not take away or keep what belongs to another, etc., etc., and then when the opportunity occurs, they take as much as they can from their father’s inheritance at the expense of their brothers, just as the sinners do. Why not? Are they not quits with an act of contrition and a firm purpose of amendment? They do good work; they give a half farthing to the poor and thus gain absolution. So what do they have to fear? What do they have to reproach themselves for, since they have succeeded in making accomplices of the ministry of God and God Himself?
I seem to think that Mme D—— had the notion of spending Holy Week in Rome. If she carried out this plan, I would perhaps make my devotions in her company; her presence and consequently yours would be very pleasant for me, at least if I succeeded in articulating a few words. Otherwise, considering only myself, I would rather you stayed where you are, since knowing that you were close to me and being reduced to avoiding you would be just one extra torture.
Letter to Prosper Paillottet
Pisa, 11 October 1850
[vol. 1, p. 205; vol. 7, p. 443]
I feel the desire to live, my dear Paillottet, when I read your account of your anxiety at the news of my death. Thank heaven, I am not dead, not even more seriously ill. This morning, I saw a doctor who is going to try to rid me, at least for a few minutes, of this pain in my throat, whose constancy is so distressing. But in any case, if this news had been true, you would have had to accept it and be resigned to it. I would like all my friends to acquire the philosophy I have myself acquired in this respect. I assure you that I will yield my last breath with no regret and almost with joy, if I could be sure to leave behind me, to those who love me, no searing regrets but a sweet, affectionate, and slightly melancholic memory. When I am no longer ill, this is what I will prepare them for. . . .
I do not know how long the current legislation on the press and obligatory signatures will last. In the meantime, here is a good opportunity for our friends to make an honorable name for themselves in the press. I have noted with pleasure the articles by Garnier, well thought out and carefully written, and in which you see that he does not want to compromise the honor of the teaching profession. I urge him to continue. From all points of view, the situation is opportune. He can establish a fine position for himself by disseminating a doctrine in favor of which public sympathy is ready to be aroused. Tell him from me that, if the occasion arises, he should not allow either M. de Saint-Chamans or anyone else to identify my position with that of M. Benoist d’Azy with regard to tariffs. There are three essential differences between us:
- 1. First, although it is true that I am driven by the love of my region, this is not the same thing as being driven by the love of money.
- 2. Everything I have inherited and all my worldly assets are protected by our tariffs. Therefore, the more M. de Saint-Chamans deems me to be self-seeking, the more he has to consider me sincere when I state that protectionism is a plague.
- 3. But what totally precludes the protectionists’ position in the Assembly from being identified with that of the free traders is the abyss that separates their demands. What M. Benoist d’Azy is asking of the law is that it should fleece me for his benefit. What I ask of the law is that it should be neutral between us and that it should guarantee my property in the same way as that of the blacksmith.
From what La Patrie appears to say, Molinari is responsible for a party that is livelier and more salient. For heaven’s sake, let him not treat it lightly. How much good might he not do by showing how many leaflets there are that are unknowingly steeped in socialism! How could he have let pass the article in Le National on the book by Ledru-Rollin and these sentences?
“In England, there are ten monopolies stacked one on top of the other; therefore it is free competition that is doing all the harm.”
“England is enjoying a precarious prosperity only because it is based on injustice. For this reason, if England returns to the ways of justice, as Cobden is proposing, her economic decline is inevitable.”
And it is for having made these great discoveries that the National has awarded Ledru-Rollin the title of Great Statesman!
Farewell, I am tired.
Letter to Mme Cheuvreux
Pisa, 14 October 1850
[Lettres d’un habitant des Landes, p. 124]
My dear Mme Cheuvreux,
At last! If nothing has upset your plans, if there has not been a coup d’état in Paris, if Mlle Louise has not been overcome by some cursed indisposition or M. Cheuvreux by a migraine, if he has settled his affairs with his court, if . . . if you have now taken the first step, the most difficult one, the one that costs the most, you will be on the railway en route for Tonnerre. Each evening, I will be able to say: “There are fifty leagues fewer between us.” Oh, how happy our descendants will be to have electric telegraphs which will tell them: “Departure took place one minute ago.” And now, madam, why are wishes based on friendship totally useless? If mine could be heard, your journey would be just a series of pleasant impressions; you would have beautiful sunshine as a constant companion, not to mention pleasant meetings all along your way. Mlle Louise would feel her strength increasing hourly and her gaiety and friendly interest in everything would not flag for a minute. This disposition would be caught by her father and mother, and this is how you would reach Marseilles. There, you would find a mirror-like sea, quarantine waived, etc. But all the wishes in the world will not prevent your having chosen a date for your departure that greatly increases the difficulties of your journey. This is somewhat due to my bad reputation. You are so convinced, having constantly repeated it, that I do not know my left from my right, your convictions in this respect are so deeply rooted, that I am taken to be totally incapable of properly executing the slightest maneuver, let alone of advising others. This is why you have not read a single word of what I have written on this subject. From what you say, it is as clear as daylight that you have leaped with both feet over all the passages in my letters where I set myself up as an adviser. However, it is pointless going over this again, since this advice, presuming you take account of it, will arrive too late.
Instead of a good French mail boat, will you not have a small Sardinian boat, loaded with goods, crowded with all kinds of passengers subject neither to control nor discipline, where the second-class passengers invade the first-class seats and come to smoke under the noses of women? No complaint can be made, least of all to the captain, since he sets the example of breaking all the rules. At least, this pilgrimage is beginning by the grace of God and it has to end under the same auspices.
Very dear madam, how can I end this letter without begging a pardon of which I am in great need? I have complained loudly of your silence; I was very ungrateful and very unjust, since I have received more letters, not than I wished but than I dared to hope for. The only thing was that the first was delayed and was a little laconic, and this was the cause of all this noise. Please be indulgent toward the complaints of patients: people with your goodness pity and excuse them but do not become annoyed by them.
Farewell, your devoted servant,
Letter to Richard Cobden
Pisa, 18 October 1850
[vol. 1, p. 192]
My dear Cobden, thank you for the interest you take in my health. I cannot say whether it is better or worse. Its progress is so imperceptible that I scarcely know the fate to which it is leading me. All that I ask of the heavens now is that the tubes that go from my mouth to my lungs and stomach do not become more painful. I have never given thought to the immense role they play in our lives. Drinking, eating, breathing, talking, all pass through them. If they do not work, we die; if they work badly it is very much worse.
The first sight of Italy, and in particular of Tuscany, has not had the same effect on me as it had on you. This is not surprising; you arrived here in triumph after having made the human race take one of its most remarkable steps forward. You were welcomed and feted by all the most enlightened and liberal men in the country who love the public good; you saw Tuscany from the summit. For my part, I have entered it from the opposite extreme; all my contacts up to now have been with boatmen, coachmen, waiters in inns, beggars, and facchini, who constitute the most rapacious, tenacious, and abject race of men you could ever meet. I often tell myself that we should not be quick to judge and that very probably my interior disposition clouds my view of things. It is true that it is very difficult for a man who cannot speak and who can scarcely stand upright not to be very irritable, and therefore unjust. However, my friend, I do not think I am mistaken in saying this: when men disregard their dignity, when they acknowledge no other law than carelessness, and when they refuse to submit to any form of order or voluntary discipline, there is no hope. Here men are very well disposed to one another, and this disposition is taken to such lengths that it becomes a fault and an insuperable obstacle to any serious attempt to achieve independence and freedom. In the streets, in steamboats, on the railway, you will constantly see rules being flouted. People smoke where it is forbidden to do so, second-class passengers invade first class, and those that have not paid take the places of those who have. These are accepted events that do not annoy anyone, not even their victims. They seem to say: he has dared to do this, he was right and I would do as much in his place. As for officialdom and police constables and captains, how can they ensure that the rules are respected when they are always the first to break them?
Nevertheless, my dear Cobden, do not take these words for more than the tirade of a misanthropist. In the evening of the day before yesterday, boredom took me to Florence. I arrived at three o’clock in the afternoon. As I had no other luggage than an overnight bag, no one wanted to allow me into his hotel. I was overcome with tiredness and could not explain my situation since my voice had gone. Finally, in a more hospitable inn, I was given a cold, dark room in the attic. For this reason, yesterday I was in a hurry to leave this city of flowers, which for me had been just a city of worries. However, I did have the pleasure of meeting the marquis de Ridolfi. We talked a great deal about you. Later, if my vocal cords recover some of their sound, I will return to reconcile myself with the city of the Medici.
Letter to Horace Say
Pisa, 20 October 1850
[vol. 1, p. 201]
My dear friend, we wrote to each other at almost the same time on the day of the monthly dinner, which made our letters cross between Paris and Pisa. Since then, I have noticed no change, either for better or for worse, in my illness. Only, the feeling of pain is wearing because of its constancy. Weakness, isolation, and boredom I could overcome, if only it were not for this cursed tearing in the throat which makes all the numerous and essential functions that pass through it so painful. Oh, how much I would like to have one day of respite! But all the invocations on earth are powerless. From the strange dreams I have and the perspiration that always follows sleep, I can see that I have a slight fever every night. However, since I do not cough any more than before, I think that this fever is rather an effect of my continuous state of indisposition than a symptom of a constitutional illness.
. . . I believe in fact that political economy is more widely known here than in France because it is included in the law. It is a great thing to give a gloss of this science to the men who are more or less closely concerned with the execution of the laws, since these men contribute greatly to their drafting and in addition they form the basis of what is known as the enlightened class. I have no hope of seeing political economy taking root in the school of law in France. In this connection, the blindness of governments is incomprehensible. They do not want us to teach the only approach to economic science that guarantees them durability and stability. Is it not typical that the minister of trade and the minister of education, by passing me from one to the other like a ball, have effectively refused me a location in which to give lectures free of charge?
Since you are our cappoletto, our leader, you ought to indoctrinate our friends Garnier and Molinari in order that they take advantage of this unique occasion of the signature which, whatever people say, is giving dignity to the newspaper. It is up to them, I believe, to give La Patrie something it has never had, which is color and character. They will have to act with great prudence and circumspection, since the paper is not an économiste publication either with respect to its director, its shareholders, or its subscribers. Its cachet should become apparent only gradually. I believe that our friends should not act as though they were in an overtly économiste journal and one which displayed the flag. This would be to cross swords with our opponents. But in La Patrie the tactic should not be the same. First of all, questions of free trade should be discussed only now and then, in particular the most controversial (such as the laws on navigation). It would be better to deal with the question on a higher plane, one that embraces politics, political economy, and socialism at the same time, that is to say, state intervention. In my view, they should also not put forward nonintervention as a theory or set of principles. All they should do is draw the attention of the reader to it each time the opportunity arises. In order not to generate mistrust, their role is to show for each individual case the advantages and disadvantages of intervention. Why should we hide the advantages? There have to be some if this intervention is so popular. They will therefore have to admit that, when there is good to be done or an evil to be combated, a call for government enforcement appears at first to be the shortest, most economic and effective means. In this very respect, in their place, I would show myself to be very broad-minded and conciliatory to government supporters, since they are very numerous and it is less a question of refuting them than winning them over. But after having acknowledged the immediate advantages, I would draw their attention to later disadvantages. I would say: This is how new functions, new civil servants, new taxes, new sources of discontent, and new financial problems are created. Then, by substituting government enforcement for private activity, are we not removing the intrinsic value of individuality and the means of acquiring it? Are we not making all citizens into men who do not know how to act individually, take a decision, and repulse unexpected events and surprise attacks? Are we not preparing elements of society for socialism, which is nothing other than one man’s thought taking the place of everyone else’s will?
If the various special questions that may arise are discussed from this point of view with impartiality, with the arguments for and against being correctly made, I believe that the public would take a greater interest in them and would soon recognize the true cause of our misfortunes. M. Dumas’ circulars provide a good text to start with.
Farewell, my dear friend, would you believe that I am tired from having scribbled these few lines? However, I still have the strength to ask you to remember me to Mme Say and Léon.
Letter to the Count Arrivabene
Pisa, 28 October 1850
[vol. 7, p. 419]
I was profoundly touched, my dear sir, by the quite unforced and tactful interest you have shown me in sending me a letter of introduction to Mme Primi. You accurately guessed what suits my position and, above all, my character and I must admit that not only Tuscany but paradise as well would have less attraction for me if I did not meet a friendly soul there. You can therefore imagine with what enthusiasm I would have met Mme Primi. Unfortunately, she is away on holiday and I very much fear that I will have no further opportunity to pay her my respects as I am planning to move my quarters to Rome for the coming winter. It is exactly the need for a few friends that has persuaded me to do this. In Rome, I will meet one of my relatives, an excellent priest, and M. Say’s brother-in-law with his family. Not being able to frequent society and, what is much worse, not being able to work, I would be faced with enforced isolation and idleness, unbearable without a few friends willing to bear with me and my miseries.
All that you tell me about Mme Primi and her sister makes me very much regret missing this opportunity of making their acquaintance. If I am better in the spring, I will probably be going through Tuscany again on my return to France, since you can scarcely avoid examining a region that has such interesting institutions and history when you have undergone so much to come here. In this case, I will compensate for the disappointment that my sudden departure has given me today.
I remember that at our last meeting in Paris, you spoke to me of M. Gioberti. I have been to see him and am in debt to him for some excellent recommendations for which my gratitude extends to you.
Farewell, my dear sir;
your devoted servant,
Letter to Mme Cheuvreux
Pisa, 29 October 1850
[Lettres d’un habitant des Landes, p. 127]
Dear Mme Cheuvreux,
How difficult your journey from Florence to Rome must have been! In spite of that philosophical strength with which you encounter setbacks, in spite of the good humor that each one of you will have brought to the company, it is not possible for you not to have suffered from such terrible weather, traveling on potholed roads and in a region with no resources. My imagination scarcely dares follow you in this odyssey; all M. Sturler’s forecasts rise up before it. However, how I bless the happy inspiration that made you take the sea route in Marseilles on the 19th! Two days later, the crossing became dangerous as the Mediterranean became rough enough to disrupt all the services, and when the boat that followed you arrived in Genoa, it was not able to reach Leghorn. It abandoned the journey at La Spezzia, where it put its passengers ashore. You escaped these perils, thank heaven, and this idea comforts me a little in the face of your current deprivations which, fortunately, will end this evening. The sight of the Eternal City makes you forget everything. I am counting on arriving in this Eternal City on Saturday, 2 November. I will leave Leghorn by the state mail boat (tempo permettendo) and you will understand why I will not be stopping in Civitavecchia.
Dear madam, let us not talk about my health; this is a sonata which I will have ample time to deafen you with in Rome. When I think that you have come to provide your husband and especially your daughter with pleasures and amusements, I have some remorse in leaping into your midst like some killjoy, since I am fully aware that for a long time I have been turning to Victor Hugo and his “Last Days of a Condemned Man,” which is not much fun for my friends. I still find Victor Hugo’s hero very fortunate, since he could at least think and speak; he was in the same situation as Socrates, so why did he not have the same attitude to things?
This small book that I asked you for shows us this Athenian philosopher, condemned to death, speaking about his soul and future. Socrates, however, was a pagan and reduced to creating for himself uncertain hopes through a process of reason. A condemned man who is a Christian does not have to go down this road. Revelation spares him this, and his point of departure is precisely this hope, become a certainty, which was a conclusion for Socrates. This is why Victor Hugo’s condemned man is just a coward. Is it not better to have in front of one a single month of strength and health, one month of vigor in body and soul with hemlock at the end, rather than one or two years of decline, increasing weakness and distaste, during which every link breaks and nature no longer appears to do other than detach one from earthly existence? In fact, however, it is for God to ordain and for us to be resigned.
I really think that I am a little better; I have been able to spend quite long sessions with M. Mure and in addition I have received a great many visits.
Paillottet has written to me. He is always the same person, good, obliging, devoted, and, what is more, unaffected, which is rather rare in Paris. My family has also given me news of itself.
Farewell, dear Mme Cheuvreux, till Saturday or Sunday. In the meantime, please assure M. Cheuvreux and your daughter of my wholehearted friendship, not forgetting the captain, and please express my compliments and respects to M. Edouard and Mme Bertin.
Letter to Félix Coudroy
Rome, 11 November 1850
[vol. 1, p. 104]
If I put off writing to you from day to day, my dear Félix, it is because I always think that in a little while I will have the strength to indulge in a long chat. Instead of this, I am obliged to make my letters ever shorter, either because my weakness is increasing or because I am losing the habit of writing. Here I am in the Eternal City, my friend, unfortunately very little disposed to visit its marvels. I am infinitely better than in Pisa, surrounded by excellent friends who wrap me in the most affectionate solicitude. What is more, I have met Eugene again and he comes to spend part of the day with me. So, if I go out, I can always give my walks an interesting aim. I would ask for one thing only, and that is to be relieved of this piercing pain in the larynx; this constant suffering distresses me. Meals are genuine torture for me. Speaking, drinking, eating, swallowing saliva, and coughing are all painful operations. A stroll on foot tires me and an outing in a carriage irritates my throat; I cannot work nor even read seriously. You see the state to which I am reduced. Truly, I will soon be just a corpse that has retained the faculty of suffering. I hope that the treatment that I have decided to undergo, the remedies I am given, and the gentleness of the climate will improve my deplorable situation soon.
My friend, I will speak only vaguely about one of the subjects you have discussed with me. I had already thought about this, and among my papers there should be some outlines of articles in the form of letters addressed to you. If my health returns and I am able to write the second volume of the Harmonies, I will dedicate it to you. If not, I will insert a short dedication in the second edition of the first volume. In the second of these cases, which will imply the end of my career, I will be able to set out my plan to you and bequeath to you the mission of completing it.
Here we have trouble getting papers. I have come across an old one, from the time when people were enthusiastic about improving the lot of the working classes. The future of workers, the condition of workers, and the eternal virtues of workers formed the text of all the books, pamphlets, reviews, or journals. And to think that these are the same writers who shower the people with insults, committed as they are to one of the three dynasties that are fighting over our poor France, and who are wholly responsible for this bad situation. Can you think of anything more dismal?
Thank you for having sent some biographical information to M. Paillottet. My life is of no interest to the general public, except for the circumstances that drew me out of Mugron. If I had known that people were interested in this account, I would have related this interesting fact.
Farewell, my dear Félix; unless I am completely unable to travel or completely cured, I am counting on spending the month of April in Mugron, since I have been forbidden to return to Paris before May. I groan at not being able to fulfill my duties as a representative, but it is unfortunately clear that it is not my fault. In Italy as well as in Spain, we often see how little influence external devotion has on morals.
Please remember me to all our friends and give news of me to my aunt. Please assure your sister of my friendship.
Letter to Prosper Paillottet
Rome, 26 November 1850
[vol. 1, p. 206]
My dear Paillottet, each time I receive a letter from Paris, it seems to me that my correspondents are Toinettes and that I am Argan:
The cheeky girl has claimed for an entire hour that I was not ill! You know, my love, what is really the case.
All of you are taking a friendly interest in my illness, but you then treat me as a healthy man. You plan things for me to do, you ask my opinion on various serious subjects, and then you tell me just to write you a few lines. I would have liked you to have included the secret of saying everything in a few words, along with your advice, in your letter. How can I discuss the parliamentary conflicts of interest with you, the corrections to be made to it, and the reasons that make me think that this subject cannot be combined, either in substance or form, with the speech on the tax on wines and spirits—all of this in a single line? And then I have to say something about Carey, since you are sending me his proofs here in Tuscany—and the Harmonies, since you tell me that the current edition is out of print.
In your fine letter, which I received today, you express the fear that, at the sight of Rome, I will be overcome with enthusiasm and that this will undermine my healing by shattering my nerves. In this, you are still assuming that I am a healthy man. You should understand, my friend, that there are two reasons, which are just as strong as each other, that Rome’s monuments do not trigger an outburst of dangerous enthusiasm in me. The first is that I do not see any of these monuments, since I am more or less confined to my room, surrounded by ashes and coffeepots; the second is that the source of enthusiasm has completely dried up in me, since all the strength of my concentration and imagination are centered on the means of swallowing a little food or drink and getting a little sleep between two coughing fits.
In spite of my writing to Florence, I have no news of Carey’s proofs. God alone knows when they will arrive.
Farewell; I will end abruptly. I would have a thousand things to say to you for M. and Mme Planat, M. de Fontenay, and M. Manin. Shortly, when I am better, I will chat longer with you. Now, it is all I can do to reach this page.
Letter to Mr. Domenger
Rome, 28 November 1850
[vol. 7, p. 410]
I am very happy to have come to Rome where I have found a degree of medical treatment as well as some medicines; I do not know how I would have got on in Pisa. My throat has become so painful that just eating and drinking has become a major operation. Special preparations have to be made for me, and for this my friends have been very useful to me. I cannot say whether I am better. I do not notice any change from one day to the other, but if I compare myself on a month to month basis, I cannot avoid noticing a definite gradual weakening. May I have the strength in February, my dear D., to return to Mugron! However much the virtues of the climate are praised, they cannot replace home. Besides, I envisage two outcomes for my illness, a cure or the final conclusion. If I have to die, I would like to be laid to rest in the common resting place in which my friends and parents lie. I would like our circle of friends to accompany me to this final resting place and our excellent parish priest in Mugron to say for me this sublime request: “Lux perpetua luceat ei!” etc., etc. Also, if I can, I intend to take advantage of the fine days of February to go to Marseilles, where Justin can come to fetch me.
If ever I return home, it will be a very sharp disappointment to have spent several months in Rome and not seen anything. I have visited Saint Peter’s only, because its temperature never changes. I limit myself to taking the sun every day on Mount Pincio, where I cannot stay very long because there are no benches. I will therefore have seen Rome only as the crow flies. In spite of this, you always gain some information through reading, conversation, and the atmosphere. What strikes me the most is the solidity of the Christian tradition and the abundance of irrefutable evidence of this.
My friend, the recent political outcome has given me much pleasure, since it gives some respite to our France. It seems to have justified totally my line of conduct. At the first elections, I promised to give an honest Republic a loyal trial, and I am sure that this was the general wish. For one reason or another, priests, nobles, and plebeians were in agreement on this although with different expectations. The Legitimists and Orleanists disappeared completely as such. But what happened? As soon as they were able, they began to belittle, cheat, calumniate, and embarrass the Republic in favor of Legitimism, Orleanism, or Bonapartism. All of this has failed, and now they are doing what they promised to do, which is what I have done and from which they diverged for two years. They have caused commotion in France for no good reason.
I was very mistaken, I admit, to talk to you as I did about Mesdames X——. I was under the influence of the idea that devotion, when it takes charge of detailed practices, overlooks genuine morals, and I had striking examples of this in view. But it is certain that this was nothing to do with these ladies.
Letter to Prosper Paillottet
Rome, 8 December 1850
[vol. 1, p. 207]
Dear Paillottet, Am I better? I cannot say; I feel constantly weaker. My friends think that my strength is returning. Who is right?
The Cheuvreux family is leaving Rome immediately because of Mme Girard’s illness. You can imagine my sorrow. I like to think that it is above all because of the sorrow of such very good friends, but certainly more selfish motives have the upper hand.
Quite providentially, yesterday I wrote to my family asking them to send me a sort of Michel-Morin, a man full of gaiety and also resourceful, a coachman, cook, etc., etc., who has often served me and who is totally devoted to me. As soon as he arrives, I will be free to leave whenever I like for France. For you have to know that the doctor and my friends have taken a solemn decision on this matter. They consider that the nature of my illness has created so many problems that all the advantages of the climate do not outweigh the care provided at home. Given these opinions, my dear Paillottet, you will not be coming to Rome to carry out works of mercy for me. The affection you have shown me is such that you will be annoyed by this, I am sure. But console yourself with the thought that, because of the nature of my illness, you would have been able to do very little for me other than coming to keep me company for two hours a day, something that is more pleasant than reasonable. I would have liked to be able to give you some explanation of this. But heavens above! To explain would require a great deal of writing and I cannot do this. My friend, in a multitude of ways I am undergoing the torture of Tantalus. Here is a new example: I would like to express my thoughts to you in detail and I have not the strength. . . .
What you and Guillaumin will have done for the conflicts of interest will be well done.
As for the Carey matter, I must admit that it seems a little odd to me. On the one hand, Garnier has announced that the journal has taken the side of property and monopoly. On the other, Guillaumin tells me that M. Clément is going to take part in the conflict. If Le Journal des économistes wants to punish me for having treated a question in economic science independently, it is not very generous of it to choose a time when I am on my sickbed, unable to read, write, or think and seeking to retain at least the ability to eat, drink, and sleep which is escaping me.
As I feel that I cannot take up the conflict, I have added to my reply to Carey a few considerations addressed to Le Journal des économistes. Let me know how they have been received.
Will Fontenay then never be ready to enter the arena? He must understand how much I would need his assistance. Garnier says, “We have the support of Smith, Ricardo, Malthus, J. B. Say, Rossi, and all the economists except for Carey and Bastiat.” I very much hope that belief in the legitimacy of landed property will soon find other defenders and I am especially counting on Fontenay.
Please write to Michel Chevalier to tell him how grateful I am for his excellent article on my book. His only fault is to be too benevolent and to leave too little room for criticism. Tell Chevalier that I am waiting only for a little strength to return to convey to him myself my deep gratitude. I sincerely hope that he will inherit M. Droz’s chair; this would be no more than belated justice.
Letter to Mme Cheuvreux
Rome, 14, 15, and 16 December 1850
[Lettres d’un habitant
des Landes, p. 132]
Very dear Mme Cheuvreux,
I hope to sit on occasion at this desk, adding one line to another to send you a souvenir.
I have never been so close to nothingness and I would like to be all-powerful in order to make the sea as calm as a lake.
What emotions and duties await you in Paris! My only consolation is for you to tell me that you are ready, with courageous energy, to go down the road that God will have prepared for you, however painful it is.
My health remains the same. If I started to speak about it, it would be through a series of small details only, which would not be of any importance the following day.
Basically, I think Doctor Lacauchy is right not to listen to a word I say.
I am very pleased to think that M. Cheuvreux will shortly be seeing our excellent, all too excellent friend, Paillottet, and will persuade him to abandon an act of devotion that is now totally unnecessary. I very much fear that his presence in Paris will be absolutely essential for me if the Harmonies are reprinted. I cannot be involved with this and everything will be on his shoulders.
Sunday, 15 December
Here you are in Genoa and with just a little more patience you will be in France. It is five o’clock, the time you used to come to see me. Then I knew what gallery Mlle Louise had visited, what ruin or painting had interested her. This was a ray of sunshine in my life. Everything is ended, I am alone for twenty-four hours a day, except for the two visits from my cousin, de Monclar. The time to which I am referring has become bitter because it used to be too sweet; you proved to me with the scientific approach of your father that I was right to be the most grumpy, stupid, irritable, and often the most unjust of men. Besides, I think that I am learning resignation and am acquiring a certain taste for it.
Monday, 16 December
When Joseph came to say goodbye, the poor man dissolved into thanks. Alas! No one owes me any thanks and I owe them to everyone, especially to Joseph, who has been such a help to me.
A new discovery! A sudden movement removed all breath from me. With one breath being unable to join another, the pain was unbearable. I have concluded that I will have to make all movements slowly like an automaton.
Tuesday, 17 December
Paillottet has arrived. He has announced the dreadful news to me. Oh! You poor woman, poor child! You have received the most terrible and unexpected blow of all. How can you have borne it with a soul so little made for suffering? Louise will be able to control her sorrow better. Throw yourself into the arms of this divine strength, the only strength that can sustain you in such times of trial. May this strength never desert you. Dear friends, I do not have the fortitude to continue these disconnected words and fractured thoughts.
Farewell; in spite of my state of prostration, I still find bright sparks of sympathy for the misfortune that has come upon you.
Farewell, your friend,
Letter from Prosper Paillottet to Mme Cheuvreux
Rome, 22 December 1850
[Lettres d’un habitant des Landes, p. 135]
I am settling a personal debt and carrying out the wishes of our friend in giving you news of him. You had few illusions when you left him, and yet you could not have imagined that his strength would have declined so rapidly. This decline is very noticeable since my arrival here. The poor invalid is aware of it and is pleased within himself, as though it were a favor from heaven to shorten his suffering.
At first he protested in word and gesture at what he called my folly. M. de Monclar and I had difficulty persuading him that this was the right thing to do. However, I soon realized that my presence was a consolation and I am infinitely grateful to you, madam, for having made it possible to give him this. “Since you have made this long journey, I am very glad that you are here,” he said to me on the third day. Besides, he never fails to ask me when I leave: “At what time will I see you tomorrow?”
This is how M. de Monclar, whose agreement I naturally sought, and I have divided his days. M. de Monclar visits him in the morning and leaves when I arrive, at half past eleven. I keep him company up to five o’clock in the afternoon, and after supper M. de Monclar returns.
It is an extremely painful spectacle that I am witnessing, but I would be very sorry, both through affection and duty, if I were not there. Death is almost always the third person present in our talks. Both he and I refrain from mentioning his name; he in order not to upset me and I in order not to give him the example of breaking down and weeping when he is such an example of courage. He is dying in fact just as I have always thought he ought to die, staring death in the face with total resignation.
The subjects we discuss are absent friends, among whom you and yours have the pride of place, followed by his beloved science, political economy, for which he has done so much and for which he would have wanted to do still more. I have no need to tell you that these discussions are very short and that I put my ear close to his lips from time to time. The few sentences he pronounces are received by me with a religious respect.
Yesterday, we went on an outing that enchanted him. Leaving by the Popolo gate, we went to the ponte Molle and returned through the Angelica gate. The sites we saw were bathed in fine sunshine. He repeatedly said to me, “What a delightful outing! How successful we have been!” The serenity of the sky had entered his soul. He was expressing a final farewell to the splendors of nature, which had so often aroused his enthusiasm.
Since the 20th, he has made his confession. “I want,” he told me, “to die in the religion of my forefathers. I have always loved it, even though I have not followed its external practices.”
I am limiting myself to these few details and perhaps I should even apologize for sending them to you, when you are in the throes of the most legitimate affliction caused by the most cruel of losses.
I missed meeting you in Leghorn by a whisker, since it appears that we were there on the same day, as I later found out. Anyway, I was glad that this encounter did not take place, since you still had a shred of hope, which I would have found it difficult to remove from you.
Please convey, madam, my affectionate sentiments to M. Cheuvreux and I assure you and Mlle Louise of my homage and respectful devotion.
Letter to Le Journal des économistes
[vol. 1, p. 209]
My book is in the hands of the general public. I do not fear that it will encounter a single person who, after reading it, will say, “This is the work of a plagiarist.” A slow assimilation, the fruit of lifelong meditation, is only too evident, especially if it is compared with my other writings.
But whoever mentions assimilation admits that he has not drawn all his material from his own resources.
Oh, yes! I owe a great deal to Mr. Carey; I owe something to Smith, J. B. Say, Comte, and Dunoyer; and I owe something to my opponents and something to the air I have breathed. I owe something to the intimate discussions I have had with a close friend, M. Félix Coudroy, with whom for twenty years I have investigated all these questions in solitude, without there appearing the slightest disagreement in our assessments and ideas, something that is very rare in the history of the human mind and very propitious to the enjoyment of the delights of certainty.
This means that I do not claim the title of inventor with regard to harmony. I even believe that it is the mark of a small mind, one that is incapable of linking the present to the past, to imagine that it invents principles. Sciences and academic disciplines grow like plants; they spread, grow, and become refined. But what successor owes nothing to those that went before him?
In particular, the “harmony of interests” could not be the invention of one person only. Is it not the presentiment and aspiration of the human race, the aim of its eternal evolution? How can a political writer dare to claim for himself the invention of an idea that is the instinctive belief of all men?
This harmony has been proclaimed by economic science from the outset. This is proved by the very title of the physiocrats’ books. Doubtless, scholars have often demonstrated this badly, they have allowed a great many errors to creep into their works which, for the very reason that they were errors, contradicted their beliefs. What does that prove? That scholars make mistakes. However, by dint of much trial and error, the core idea of the harmony of interests has always shone over the economist school, like its pole star. The only proof I want of this is the motto it has been criticized for: laissez-faire, laissez-passer. It certainly implies a belief that interests achieve justice among themselves, under freedom’s dispensation.
That having been said, I do not hesitate to give justice to Mr. Carey. I have known his works for a short time only; I have read them very superficially because of my occupations, my illness, and especially because of the singular divergence that, both in fact and in method, characterizes the English and French minds. We make generalizations, which our neighbors disdain. They go into detail in thousands and thousands of pages, which our attention cannot cope with. Be that as it may, I acknowledge that we owe this great and consoling cause, the conformity between the interests of the various classes, to no one more than to Mr. Carey. He has pointed it out and proved it from a great many and varied angles in such a way that there can be no further doubt of the general law.
Mr. Carey complains that I have not acknowledged him. This is perhaps a mistake on my part, but it is not intentional. Mr. Carey has been able to show me new views and supply me with arguments but he has not revealed any principle to me. I could not quote him in my chapter on trade, which is at the root of all, nor in those on value, the progressive society, or competition. The time to base myself on his authority would have been in connection with landed property, but in this first volume I treated the question through my own theory of value, which is not that of Mr. Carey. At this time, I was planning to write a special chapter on rent from land, and I firmly believed that my second volume would follow the first closely. It was in this that I would have quoted Mr. Carey, and not only would I have quoted him, but I would have given way to him to allow him the leading role on the stage; this was in the interest of the cause. In fact, on the question of land, Mr. Carey cannot fail to be a major authority. To study the primitive and natural development of property, all he has to do is open his eyes. To set it out, he has only to describe what he sees, more fortunate in this than Ricardo, Malthus, Say, and all of us European economists, who can see only a landed property that is subject to the thousand artificial combinations of conquest. In Europe, to go back to the principle of landed property you have to use the difficult process used by Cuvier to reconstruct a mastodon. It is not very surprising that most of our writers made mistakes in this attempt at analogy. In America, every career reveals its genuine mastodons; one has only to open one’s eyes. Therefore, I had everything to gain, or rather the cause had everything to gain, from my quoting the evidence of an American economist.
Finally, I cannot prevent myself from observing to Mr. Carey that a Frenchman can scarcely do him justice without a great effort at impartiality, and, as I am French, I was far from expecting him to deign to concern himself with me and my book. Mr. Carey professes the deepest scorn for France and the French and a hatred that borders on frenzy. He has expressed these sentiments in a good third of his voluminous writings and has taken the trouble to gather together, with no discernment it is true, a number of statistical documents to prove that we scarcely rank above the Hindus in the scale of humanity. To tell the truth, in his book Mr. Carey denies this hatred. But in denying it, he proves it, for how can such a denial be explained? What provoked it? It is Mr. Carey’s own conscience, when he himself was surprised by all the proofs of hatred toward France that are accumulated in his book, that impelled him to proclaim that he did not hate France. How many times have I not told M. Guillaumin, “There are excellent points in Mr. Carey’s works and it would be a good thing to have them translated. They would contribute to advancing political economy in our country.” However, I was obliged to add, “Can we cast before the French general public diatribes like this against France and do we not risk missing our aim? Will the public not reject the good that is in these books because of what is wounding and unjust?”
May I be allowed to end with a reflection on the word plagiarism, which I used at the start of this letter? The people from whom I may have borrowed a view or an argument think that I am greatly in their debt. I am convinced of the contrary. If I had not allowed myself to be drawn into any controversy, if I had not examined any theory, if I had not quoted anyone’s name, if I had limited myself to establishing these two proposals: Services are exchanged for other services; value is the relationship between services exchanged, if I had then used these principles to explain all the highly complicated categories of human transactions, I believe that the monument I sought to raise would have gained a great deal (too much, perhaps, for the period) in clarity, grandeur, and simplicity.
P.S. I am leaving the subject of Mr. Carey and addressing, perhaps for the last time, with feelings of deep-seated goodwill, our colleagues on the editorial staff of Le Journal des économistes. In the note by this journal that provoked the complaint from Mr. Carey, the management announces that, with regard to landed property, it is siding with Ricardo’s theory. The reason it gives is that this theory has the authority of Ricardo himself, as well as Malthus, Say, and all the economists, “except for MM Bastiat and Carey.” The epigram is sharp and it is certain that the American economist and I are humbled in this antithesis.
Be that as it may, I reiterate that the journal’s management has passed a decisive resolution for its scientific authority.
Do not forget that Ricardo’s theory can be summed up thus: “Landed property is an unjust but necessary monopoly whose effect is to render the rich inevitably richer and the poor ever poorer.”
The first disadvantage of this formula is that its very enunciation arouses an invincible distaste and conflicts in people’s hearts, not with everything I would call generous and philanthropic, but with what more simply and bluntly I would see as honest. Its second mistake is that it is based on incomplete observation and consequently runs counter to logic.
This is not the place to demonstrate the legitimacy of rent from land, but since I have to provide a useful aim for this text, in a few words I will set out how I understand it and how my opponents err.
You have certainly known traders in Paris whose profits increase annually without anyone being able to conclude that they are overcharging for their goods each year. They are far from doing this, and there is nothing more commonplace and more true than this proverb: Compensate through quantity. It is even a general law governing the flow of trade, that the greater it becomes, the greater the discount that the trader gives his customers, while at the same time making more profit. To persuade you of this, you have only to compare what a hatter in Paris and one in a village earn per hat. This is a well-known example of a case in which, when public prosperity grows, the sellers become ever richer and so does the buyer.
Now, what I say is that it is not only the general law of profit, but also the general law of capital and interest, as I have proved to M. Proudhon, and the general law of land rents, as I would prove if I were not exhausted.
Yes, when France prospers, there is a consequent general rise in land rents and “the rich become ever more rich.” To this extent Ricardo is right. But it does not follow that each agricultural product is increased in price at the expense of the workers. It does not follow that each worker is reduced to giving a greater proportion of his work to acquire a hectoliter of wheat. In a word, it does not follow that “the poor become ever poorer.” It is exactly the opposite that is true. As rent increases, through the natural effect of public prosperity it becomes less and less of a burden on products that are more abundant, exactly like the hatter who favors his customers all the more when he is in a milieu in which there is a greater demand.
Believe me, my dear colleagues, let us not incite Le Journal des économistes to reject these explanations lightly.
Lastly, the third and perhaps the greatest mistake, in terms of economic science, of the Ricardo theory is that it is belied by all the individual and general events that occur around the globe. According to this theory, for a century we should have seen industrial and commercial movable assets drawn into rapid and fatal decline compared with landed fortunes. We ought to have witnessed the onset in our towns of barbarous behavior, of darkness and filth, and of difficulties in the means of transport. What is more, with merchants, artisans, and workers reduced to giving an ever-increasing proportion of their work to obtain a given quantity of wheat, we ought to be seeing wheat used less or at least no one being able to allow himself the same level of consumption of bread without curtailing other things he enjoys. I ask you, my dear colleagues, does the civilized world show any evidence of such a situation?
And then, with what purpose would you endow the journal? Would it say to landowners: “You are rich because you are enjoying an unjust but necessary monopoly, and, since it is necessary, enjoy it without scruple, especially since it ensures you ever-increasing riches”? Then turning to workers of all classes, would you say: “You are poor; your children will be poorer than you and your grandchildren even more so, until you die of starvation. This is because you are subject to an unjust but necessary monopoly, and since it is necessary, resign yourselves wisely and let the ever-increasing riches of the rich console you”?
I certainly do not ask for my ideas to be adopted without examination, but I believe that Le Journal des économistes would do better to subject the matter to study rather than issue an opinion right now. Oh, let us not readily believe that Ricardo, Say, Malthus, and Rossi, such eminent and well-founded minds, are mistaken. But let us not, either, lightly admit a theory that leads to such monstrosities.
Articles and Addresses
Articles of Biographical Interest
See Letter 133, note 265.
An army medical officer.
One of Molière’s characters, borrowed from the Commedia dell’arte. He appears in particular in Le Médecin malgré lui.
Another reference to the fatal illness that would eventually kill Bastiat.
The economists living in Paris met for a dinner once a month.
Félix Coudroy and Justine Bastiat.
Bastiat had plans for writing a book titled Social Harmonies.
Allusion to a plan of marriage for Louise Cheuvreux, which had no follow-up. See letters 166, 168, and 169.
Small town in the département of La Charente, between Paris and Bordeaux.
Allusion to a well-known fable of La Fontaine, Les Animaux malades de la peste.
Mother of Mme Cheuvreux.
Plunder and Law.
La Voix du peuple did not publish Bastiat’s article.
The review did not publish any account of Economic Harmonies.
Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte appointed his supporters to the highest military and administrative positions in the country.
Bastiat had been given a two-month leave of absence for health reasons.
Article 1 of a law restricting universal suffrage, opposed by 197 deputies, including Bastiat. The law was approved by the majority on 31 May.
He is referring to his fondness for his Aunt Justine and his friend Félix Coudroy.
Eugène de Monclar.
(Paillottet’s note) This work, instead of being used as an addition to the pamphlet Plunder and Law, became a separate pamphlet titled The Law.
The rise of socialism during the 1848 revolution made this a serious problem for many classical liberals. See the article by Courcelle-Seneuil on “Lois agraires,” in the Dictionnaire de l’économie politique.
A character in Beaumarchais’ plays Le Barbier de Seville and Le Marriage de Figaro.
The Gave de Pau River, running through Pau; Gélos, a small town in the vicinity of Pau; Bizanos, a small town in the vicinity of Pau.
A mountain brook flowing through Les Eaux-Bonnes.
The Law, written in Mugron a few days earlier.
Bastiat published a short version of Economic Harmonies with only ten chapters in 1850. After Bastiat’s death Paillottet and Fontenay went through his papers and put together a larger edition with twenty-five chapters. The shorter first edition was reviewed by Ambroise Clément in Le Journal des économistes 26 (April-July 1850).
Le Journal des débats.
In his discussions of social problems in various places in his works, for example, in The Law, Property and Law, Property and Plunder, and Economic Harmonies, Bastiat often elaborated on those discussions by writing that liberty was “the solution to the social problem.”
An allusion to a phrase of Louis XIV’s uttered when the king of Spain, Charles II, decided to make Philippe d’Anjou (grandson of Louis XIV) his heir.
(Paillottet’s note) No longer in manuscript form but as a printed proof.
What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen.
(Paillottet’s note) See the note on page 336 of vol. 5. [Paillottet is referring to a footnote he wrote to What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen in which he describes how Bastiat lost the original manuscript in a house move and had to rewrite it. See also the Glossary of Subjects and Terms, What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen.]
Bastiat could be referring to one of several books that Chevalier published in 1850: Les Questions politiques et sociales; Cours d’économie politique fait au Collège de France: La Monnaie; or Lettres sur l’organisation du travail.
See Letter 175, note 336.
Bastiat seems to be anticipating an argument that would be taken up by Julian Simon in the twentieth century. Simon saw population as “the ultimate resource.” See Julian P. Simon, The Ultimate Resource (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1981).
Cobden was opposed to the foreign policy of Palmerston.
This is the Gascony dialect, which evolved from the langue d’oc, from which Catalan and Provençal also evolved.
For most of the first half of the twentieth century the works of Bastiat lay forgotten. It was not until the Foundation for Economic Education published a translation of “La Loi” in 1950, the centenary of Bastiat’s death, that his work became known to another generation.
Horace Say did write the article on insurance in the Dictionnaire de l’économie politique (published in 1854). The Say family was very much involved in compiling the various dictionaries of political economy published by Guillaumin. In the first edition, of 1852, a number of articles carried the name “Jean-Baptiste Say” (obviously selected from his books, as Say had died in 1832); his son Horace contributed twenty-seven articles, and his grandson Léon also wrote some articles. A second version, the Nouveau dictionnaire de l’économie politique, which appeared in 1891 and 1900, was edited by Léon Say.
Palmerston got a vote of censure from the Lords for having blocked the harbor of Piraeus to defend the interests of a British citizen named Pacifico. A few days later, Palmerston made a speech to defend his position and won approval—but not from Cobden. See Letter 188.
International peace congresses were held in Brussels in September 1848, Paris in August 1849, Frankfurt in August 1850, and London in July 1851.
For the Peace Congresses, see Letter 157, note 305. The Frankfurt Congress took place on 22, 23, and 24 August 1850. Among the 600 delegates, 250 were British, 31 American, and 15 French.
This letter was also contained in the book published by Mme Cheuvreux, preceded by the following note: After having left the Pyrenees in July, Bastiat settled in the vicinity of Paris. He spent his mornings alone at Le Butard, and his evenings at La Jonchère. But his very painful laryngitis worsened, and regular work became more and more difficult. His friends, who the year before saw him write several chapters of The Harmonies amid noise and movement in a corner of their living room, on a table edge, dipping his pen in a bottle of ink drawn from his pocket, caught him then pushing away his paper with an impatient gesture; idle and bowing his head, Bastiat kept silent until the moment when his ardent thinking erupted like a meteor in eloquent sentences. But his words quickly brought back the pain in his throat and forced him to be silent. On 9 September 1850, the sick man, with a stoical self-control, informed Richard Cobden about the dreadful consequences of his situation.
In English in the original.
“Not my will but Thine be done.”
An unpublished paper by M. de Fontenay. See Letter 180.
See Letter 185, note 351.
Privateering (la course) refers to the expeditions of the corsairs, or privateers. The letter of marque was a commission given by a country to a privateer, in time of war, to capture ships of the hostile nation.
During the blockade of the Piraeus, two hundred Greek soldiers were captured.
Small town on the Seine, near Paris, in which La Jonchère was located.
Allusion to the revolts of 1830 and 1834 of the “canuts,” the textile workers who lost their jobs because of the growing use of machinery. The revolts were severely repressed.
(Paillottet’s note) Two months later, I encountered in Leghorn the counterfeit Belgian edition, which was selling well.
An Italian newspaper had announced Bastiat’s death.
A law of 8 June 1850 increased the postage cost, reestablished the surety (see Letter 68, note 155), and made the journalist’s signature compulsory for all articles of political, philosophical, or religious discussion.
Bastiat is possibly referring to Ledru-Rollin’s work De la décadence de l’Angleterre, which was reviewed in Le Journal des économistes, August 1850, by Coquelin.
Cobden journeyed to Italy in 1847.
Signatures of Garnier and Molinari, who started to write articles in La Patrie.
Eugène de Monclar; Cheuvreux family.
After having spent two days with him in Pisa, Bastiat’s friends went to Rome to wait for him.
Toinettes and Argan, characters from Molière’s play Le Malade imaginaire.
Carey’s book, The Harmony of Interests, Agricultural, Manufacturing, and Commercial, was sent to Bastiat as proofs in November 1850, before it appeared in print.
(Paillottet’s note) Here the exact date is important because of the political assessments which follow, and Bastiat left the day blank. However, the address carries the clear Sardinia date stamp of 1 December, from which it follows that the letter was probably written and posted in Rome on 28 November.
“May perpetual light shine on him.”
See Letter 204, note 374
In a letter sent on 31 August 1850 to Le Journal des économistes, Carey criticized Bastiat’s use of the word harmony in the title of his book and accused Bastiat of having been influenced by his own works on harmonies of interests without acknowledging it. This event prompted a storm of debate in the journal and in the Société d’économie politique during the first half of 1851. Numerous articles appeared in Le Journal des économistes in the 28 (January-April) and 29 (May-August) issues.
Bastiat replied indirectly in a letter to the journal written on 8 December 1850 and published after his death, on 15 January 1851 (see Letter 209). The controversy continued after Bastiat’s death. In June 1851, in Le Journal des économistes, Paillottet quoted some writings of Bastiat dating back to 1834, which showed the originality of Bastiat’s ideas. An exchange of letters between Paillottet and Carey put an end to the debate, and Carey acknowledged Bastiat’s honesty (13 January 1852).
Droz was appointed to the Académie française in 1813 and to the Académie des sciences morales et politiques in 1833. His death on 9 November 1850 would have left the vacancy to which Bastiat is probably referring.
A shortened version of Economic Harmonies with ten chapters had been printed in Bastiat’s lifetime. Bastiat was working on additional chapters when he died. Paillottet found these unfinished chapters in Bastiat’s papers and edited them for a new, larger edition of the book.
This letter, the last he wrote, preceded his death by just eight days.
The death of Mme Cheuvreux’s mother.
Although this letter is not by Bastiat, it is included because it is an essential piece for an understanding of his last days.
(Paillottet’s note) After the death of Bastiat, it was easy for his friends to inform Mr. Carey of his total loyalty. However, we consider that this letter is worthy of preservation, especially since the postscript contains the elements of a major exposition.
Bastiat wrote a short article titled “Laissez-faire” for the first issue of the short-lived journal Jacques Bonhomme in June 1848 (see “Laissez-faire,” p. 434. Joseph Garnier discusses the origin of the expression in the work of the physiocrats Gournay and Turgot (see “Laisser-faire, laissez-passer,” in Dictionnaire de l’économie politique).
In an article of 15 May 1851, Carey claimed that it was not France as such he hated but rather war, and according to him, France was the great warrior nation of Europe.
The text of this letter up to the postscript was published as “Note de M. Bastiat,” in Le Journal des économistes 28 (January-April 1851): 50-52. The “Note” was preceded by Carey’s letter and followed by a reply by Ambrose Clément. The postscript, however, appeared only in the Œuvres complètes.