Front Page Titles (by Subject) 199.: Letter to Richard Cobden - The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics
Return to Title Page for The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
199.: Letter to Richard Cobden - Frédéric Bastiat, The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics 
The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics, translated from the French by Jane and Michel Willems, with an introduction by Jacques de Guenin and Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean. Annotations and Glossaries by Jacques de Guenin, Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean, and David M. Hart. Translation editor Dennis O’Keeffe (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2011).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
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.368 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,369 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.
[368 ]Cobden journeyed to Italy in 1847.