Articles and Addresses
Articles of Biographical Interest
Two Articles on the Basque Language
[Articles published in La Chalosse, 1 and 8 April 1838.
From the private collection of Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean.]
On the Basque Language
A journal is addressed to all classes of readers, and because of this it should cover only subjects that are of interest to the majority. I therefore have some natural hesitation in sending you an article devoted to a grammatical dissertation that is as dull in its narrow limits as it is by nature; I hoped that the frequent contacts between the people of the Chalosse and the Basque people would provide me with a good excuse for this.
On our western boundary, there is a nation that is proud, gracious, and intrepid and whose origins are unknown. What distinguishes it above all is a language that in all its structures bears the stamp of extreme antiquity, a language that is so philosophical and rational that it appears to have arisen in perfect form from the brain of an expert grammarian, a language that shows no signs of the irregularities and successive modifications that are the effect and living proof of the mixing of races.
When I say that the Basque language has retained its primitive purity, I am talking only about its grammatical forms. Religion and civilization have enlarged its vocabulary, but its grammar has remained unchanged.
I therefore dare to hope that a few of my fellow citizens will take some interest in this essay on the structures of the Basque language. Although it is very short, it will be enough, I think, to establish its antiquity. This having been said, I will leave to those with reflective minds to explain how it happens that antiquity and perfection go hand in hand where language is concerned whereas it is totally the other way round where other human inventions are concerned.
Today, I will deal with declensions and conjugations in Basque. If this article is not too unsuitable for your journal, I will devote another to the roots and etymology of this language.
Basque has no genders. In effect there is nothing rational in the classification of nouns into masculine, feminine, and neuter genders; apart from the fact that it is not useful in principle, it is always arbitrary in its application. Words name things and do not classify them.
On the other hand, Basque distinguishes between a noun used generally and one used with a specific meaning. An article removes from the noun its indefinite meaning: seme, son; semec, the son. Old French had something similar; by the removal of the article, as in this sentence: “poverty is not vice,” words were given a very wide-ranging meaning.
Beings have relationships between each other of dependence, generation, situation, etc. These relationships are expressed in French by the prepositions de, à, pour, etc., in Latin sometimes by cases and sometimes by the prepositions in, ad, cum, etc.; in Basque they are always expressed by cases. For example,
|Mendiac||the mountain, as the subject of an active verb|
|Mendiaz||of, that is to say, by means of|
|Mendiaren||of (as in the genitive)|
|Mendetic||from (out of)|
You would be very wrong to think that this system increases the difficulties of the language.
Latin has only six cases but it has five declensions, which makes, including plurals, sixty characteristics. There are as many for adjectives and as many for the eternal family of pronouns, qui, his, ego, hic, etc. Basque has fourteen or fifteen invariable cases in which all nouns, pronouns, and indefinite adjectives, singulars and plurals, all the infinitives, participles, and adverbs are declined.
This system is not only much simpler but much more rational. In effect the terms of a relationship may vary even though the relationship is identical. Reason refuses to accept that, in this case, the sign of the relationship should vary. Let us compare a Latin sentence and its translation into Basque:
- In nomine patris, et filii et spiritus sancti
- Altaren eta semearen eta espiritu sainduaren icenean.
Here we have two relationships in Latin, one expressed by case and the other by the preposition in; one identical relationship of generation characterized by is, i, us; one preposition, sufficient in itself for marking a relationship which nevertheless regulates a case arbitrarily; and finally the need to make the adjective agree with the noun, four rules that are complicated and useless, and which do not encumber the simple and logical progress of the Basque version.
But if Basque declension is better than Latin declension for its simplicity, regularity, and logic, it is above all in scope that its superiority is remarkable.
The limits of a weekly journal are too narrow for me to show you here how all the adverbs, pronouns, participles, and infinitives in Basque come under the yoke of declension. I will limit myself to two remarks.
We have seen that the article a is used to determine a word and make it a true substantive. From this it follows that in Basque we can make a substantive out of a group of ideas represented by a word. Thus, semearen, “of the son,” semearena, “that of the son,” and this compound word can be totally declined. Thus, hintcen, “you were”; hintcena, “the one who was”; hintcenaren, “of the one who was,” etc.
This means that there is not one single case for substantives, and in verbs not one tense, number, mode, or inflection that cannot be used with an article, and consequently all the forms of the declension, which opens out a truly boundless horizon to it.
A dissertation on Basque verbs would doubtless weary the reader. However, I cannot prevent myself from saying a few words about them before stopping.
Any tense in a verb serves only to express that such and such an attribute agrees with such and such a subject, and to indicate the time at which this correlation existed. With the result, it is true to say, that we always have to find in a verb the entire proposition plus the relationship of time. “I shall fall,” if the language is properly constructed, should encompass five ideas: the idea of me, the idea of a fall, the idea of affirmation, the idea of the relation between falling and me, and lastly the idea of the future; there is none of this in French, and even less in Latin. Both of these languages use a formula that owes its value just to chance and conventions. Let us analyze the Basque formula erorico bainiz, which means “I shall fall.”
First of all, you need to know that erorico is a genuine noun in the destinative case. Erortea, “the fall,” erorico, “for the fall,” like mendico, “for the mountain.” Ni is also a noun or pronoun that means “me.” Niz is its mediative case and is the equivalent of “of me,” like mendiaz, “of the mountain.”
Thus in the formula erorico bainiz you will find: the subject ni, “me”; the attribute erortea, “fall”; the affirmation bai, which means “yes”; the expression that the affirmation is done to the subject by the meditative z and the future expressed by the destinative co. This is just as though you were saying, “Yes for me for the fall,” a manner of speaking that may sound strange to us but which is no less in accordance with the true principles of any language.
Indeed the verb to be, when used to link the attribute to the subject, does not appear to have to differentiate itself from a simple affirmation. Our patois appears to have retained something of this principle. We will precede our entire conjugation with the word que. For example, que marchi, que toumbes, qu’ets riches, etc., as though this was an elliptic formula in which the affirmation is implied. “I say that,” or “I affirm that.”
I will stop there. Other details will become wearisome. I hope that a few glimpses of Basque etymology will provide the reader with greater variety and increased interest.
Reflection on the Question of Dueling (Report)
[vol. 7, p. 10. Originally published
in La Chalosse, 11 February 1838.]
Literary centralization has currently reached such a point in France, and the provinces are so brainwashed that in advance she scorns anything that is not printed in Paris. It seems that talent, wit, common sense, erudition, and genius cannot exist outside the walls of our capital city. Have we thus discovered a short time ago that the silent calm of our retreats is essentially harmful to meditation and intellectual work?
The text to which we are drawing attention is in our eyes an eloquent protest against this blind prejudice. On his debut, the author, a young, unknown man, who perhaps does not have the measure even of himself, attacks one of the most brilliant of literary and political celebrities, and yet if anyone at all impartially compares the famous charge of M. Dupin with regard to dueling and the reflections of M. Coudroy, he will find, we dare to say, that, from the point of view of sound philosophy, elevated reasoning, and glowing eloquence, it is not the attorney general who emerges victorious from the combat.
M. Coudroy examines first of all the relationship of dueling with existing legislation and it seems to us that in this respect his refutation of M. Dupin’s position leaves nothing to be desired. By applying to suicide the line of argument through which the attorney general has succeeded in subjecting dueling to our penal laws, he shows in a sensitive way that this interpretation is forced and is as antipathetic to common sense as it is to public awareness, and one which has led the court to bracket dueling with voluntary and premeditated murder.
M. Coudroy then seeks to ascertain whether this legal interpretation is not undermining our constitution. We think it is difficult not to be struck by the relevance of this notion. Our constitution, in fact, acknowledges that it is public opinion, through the agency of legislative power and in particular of the elective chamber, which classifies actions in the category of crimes, misdemeanors, and misdeeds. No one can be punished for an act that this power has not made subject to a punishment. However, if instead of taking it for granted that any such act must be covered by the punishment, the legal power is able to bend the act to fit the punishment by declaring that this act, hitherto regarded as innocent, belongs to a class of acts covered by the law in question, I do not see how we can prevent the public attorney from substituting himself for the legislator and the civil servant chosen by the authorities for the representative elected by the people.
Following these considerations, the author tackles the moral and philosophical question, and here, it has to be said, he fills the immense gap which appears in M. Dupin’s charge. In his superstitious reverence for the law, all the efforts of this magistrate are devoted to proving that it entails the assimilation of dueling into a kind of murder. But what are the effects of dueling on society; what are the evils it prevents and represses? What other remedy to these evils could we substitute for it? What changes would we need to introduce into our legislation to create a safeguard for honor in law, if courage is not an admissible one? How would we succeed in giving legal verdicts the sanction of opinion and preventing the granting of damages from inflicting another withering blow on the offended person? What would the results be of the undermining of the sensitivity of all citizens to honor and to the opinion of their peers? These are all serious questions which M. Dupin does not appear to have taken into consideration and which have been discussed by our fellow countryman with signal excellence.
Among the deliberations which struck us the most in this very worthwhile discussion, we will quote the passage in which the author highlights the reason for the ineffectiveness of punishments as deterrents to attacks on personal honor. In ordinary crimes and misdemeanors, the courts ascertain and punish only base actions whose impure source is regarded with contempt by public opinion. Legal sanctions and popular sanctions are in harmony. However, in matters of honor these two sanctions go in opposite directions, and if the courts pronounce a punishment involving death, personal restraint, or penal servitude against the offender, public opinion would inflict, even more rigorously, a penalty of infamy on the offended person for having had recourse to law to make himself respected. These verdicts of opinion are so unanimous that they are embedded in the heart of the magistrate himself, whereas his lips are obliged to pronounce a quite different verdict. We know the story of the judge before whom an officer complained of a blow received. “What, sir!” he cried indignantly, “you have received a blow and you have come here . . . but you are right, you are obeying the law.”
We will also point out the fine refutation of a passage from Barbeyrac quoted by M. Dupin, in which the author shows us how the circle of human punishment expands in accordance with the progress of civilization, without, however, its being able to exceed permanently the limit beyond which the disadvantages of repression exceed those of the misdemeanor. The law itself has recognized this limit, when, for example, it prohibited the search for paternity. It did not pretend that beyond its sphere of activity there were not actions condemned by religion and moral law, in relation to which, however, it should disclaim any authority. It is in this class of action that we need to include attacks on honor.
But it is impossible for us to follow the author in the intellectual path he has pursued. To analyze a line of argument that is so vigorous would be to destroy its force and progress. We will therefore return to the pamphlet itself, with the warning, however, that it needs to be read, as it was written, with awareness and reflection. It is the material of a large book reduced to a few pages. It differs in this from the majority of the writings published today, in that in these publications the number of pages seems to increase in proportion to the lack of ideas. M. Coudroy, on the other hand, is rich in penetrating insights and sober in his development of ideas. His text is more valuable for the thoughts he suggests than for those he expresses. This is the seal of true merit.
Perhaps one might even reproach the author for being too restrained. When you read him, you feel that there has been a constant struggle between his ideas—which want to see the light of day—and his determined wish merely to reveal only half of them. But then, not everyone can, like Cuvier, reconstruct an entire animal from the glimpse of a fragment. We are living in a century in which an author has to express his entire thought to his reader.
A man of wit wrote, “Please excuse the length of my letter, I have not enough time to be shorter.” Could not the majority of readers also say, “Your book is too short, I have not enough time to read it”?
On the Bordeaux to Bayonne Railway Line
Letter addressed to a commission
of the Chamber of Deputies
[vol. 7, p. 103. Originally published in
Le Mémorial bordelais on 19 May 1846.]
It is pointless both for those favoring the direct route and those the winding one to lay any claim to virtue. Each side has only one serious argument. The first says, “Our line is shorter by twenty-nine kilometers.” The second replies, “Ours services four times as many people.” Or, aggressively, one party claims: “Your winding route makes transport more expensive for each end” while the other retorts, “Your direct route goes through uninhabited countryside and sacrifices all the interests of the region.”
When the issue is put this way, we understand how very important it is for the supporters of the direct route to prove first that the uninhabited countryside is not as uninhabited as people suppose and secondly that the valleys are neither as rich nor as populous as is claimed.
This is the line of argument to which the commission of inquiry of the Basses Pyrénées had recourse, and in the candid account of his thinking by the minister of public works, it was reproduced in the following terms:
“It should be noted that, in the districts of the greater Landes, the population has constantly increased by an average of 50 percent in the last forty years, while in the valleys, it has remained stationary and has even decreased in a few locations.”
I have reason to believe that the factual matter quoted was drawn from a memorandum I published on the distribution of taxes in the département of the Landes, one which probably, nay, inevitably, will be put before you. I should therefore be allowed to protest against the strange use people are trying to make of it. I do not presume to plead for or against either of the two rival routes, but I do claim the right to object to the way in which those who would keep the railway out of our valleys have recourse to any and all arguments, even the ones about their suffering.
Anyone who has been involved with the vast subject of population knows that it increases normally much faster in regions that are underpopulated than in those in which it has already become dense. To say that this is a reason to give preference to the former with regard to the railway is like saying that the railway is more useful in Russia than in England and in the Landes than in Normandy.
The argument then generalizes a local fact. It is not true that the population is decreasing in the valleys of the Garonne, the Midouze, and the Adour. It is growing slowly there, it is true, precisely because it is very dense.
What is true, and what I do not withdraw, is that in a small region known as the Chalosse, situated on the left bank of the Adour, and in particular in four or five wine-growing districts in this province, the number of deaths in the last twenty years has regularly exceeded the number of births.
This is a deplorable perturbation, a phenomenon unique to this century, one which is manifested nowhere else, not even in Turkey. To know what we should infer from it, it is not sufficient merely to identify it factually; we have to relate it to its cause.
The population has decreased, say the commissioners of inquiry. This sentence is easily said. Oh! They do not realize the magnitude of what they are implying! They were not present during the painful labor through which a revolution like this was achieved! They do not realize all the moral and physical suffering that it involves. I will tell them. It is a sad story, but one that is full of edification.
The Chalosse is one of the most fertile regions in France.
In former times, wines were produced and shipped down the Adour. Some of the wine was consumed around Bayonne; the rest was exported to northern Europe. This export trade occupied the activity and capital of ten or twelve very well-regarded houses in Bayonne, the names of which one of your colleagues, M. Chégaray, can quote if need be.
At that time, the wines sustained their value well. Prosperity was extensive in the region as was the population. The number of sharecropping farms was naturally restricted and the farms did not cover more than two or three hectares. Each of these small vineyards, worked like a garden, supplied a family with an assured means of existence. Owners’ and sharecroppers’ incomes provided a livelihood for a populous class of artisans, and you can imagine how dense the population became under these economic arrangements.
However, things have changed a great deal!
The commercial policy that prevailed between the nations closed off the external markets of the Chalosse. Exports were, I say, not just reduced but destroyed, indeed completely annihilated.
On the other hand, the system of indirect taxation considerably restricted its internal markets. By freeing the wine produced on his property from consumption tax in favor of the owner, this system altered the division of labor in wine production. It acted as would a law which stated, “Bread shall be subject to a tax, except for that made by individuals in their household.” Obviously, such an arrangement would tend to destroy bakeries.
Finally, the Adour is gradually ceasing to be navigable. Authentic documents show that ships used to go upriver to Aire. Elderly inhabitants of the region have seen them go as far as Grenade and I myself have seen them load at Saint-Sever. Now they stop at Mugron, and in view of the difficulties they have in getting there it is easy to see that shortly they will not go further than the confluence of the Midouze.
I do not have to discuss the causes for all this. They exist, it is clear. What effects have they had?
First of all, they reduce the income of the owners. Secondly, they make the portion of the sharecropper inadequate to provide a living for him and his family. It was therefore necessary for the owner to take a considerable slice out of what was left of his income to provide the sharecropper with what was strictly necessary to keep him alive. One of them had to be ruined. In vain did he combat the attractions of luxury with which the century surrounded him on all sides. In vain did he impose on himself the hardest sacrifices, the most detailed parsimony. He could not escape the bitter suffering that accompanied his inevitable degradation.
The sharecropper was no longer a sharecropper; his payment in kind served only to diminish his debt, and he became a day laborer, given a daily ration of corn in lieu of cash payment.
In other words, it was acknowledged that the acreage of farms, which was adequate in other circumstances, was now too restricted, and at this moment a remarkable revolution is taking place in the agricultural constitution of the region.
Since wine no longer had any markets, two hectares of vines could no longer constitute a working farm. There is a clear tendency to organize property on other bases. Out of two sharecropping farms with vineyards, one is made that encloses a fair proportion of arable land. It can be seen that, under the effect of the causes described, two or three hectares can no longer provide a living for a family of sharecroppers; five or six are needed. Mergers are also being made here, but these mergers change people’s economic conditions.
In the village in which I live, thirty sharecropper houses have been demolished, according to the land register, and more than one hundred and fifty in the district whose legal interests have been entrusted to me, and, mark this well, this means as many families that have been plunged into complete destruction. Their fate is to suffer, decline, and disappear.
Yes, the population has decreased in one part of the Chalosse and if this admission had to be leveled against the region, I would also add that, although this decrease in population is evidence of our distress, it is far from expressing its full measure. If you traveled through my unfortunate homeland, you would see how much men can suffer without dying and understand that one life less on your cold statistics is a symptom of incalculable torture.
And now our sufferings are being used as evidence against us! And in order to refuse us markets mention is being made of suffering that has been inflicted on us by the lack of markets! Once again, I am not voicing an opinion on the route of the railway. I know that the interests of the Chalosse will weigh very little in the balance. But, although I do not expect it to be an argument in favor of the route through the valleys, I do not want it to be used as an argument against, because such an argument is as false as it is cruel. Is it not, in fact, pitiless cruelty to say to us, “You have beautiful sunshine, fertile soil, cool valleys, hill slopes on which the work of your fathers spreads prosperity and happiness? Thanks to these gifts of nature and art, your population was as dense as that in our richest provinces. You lost all your markets suddenly, and distress followed prosperity, and tears, songs of joy. Now, while we have at our disposal an immense outlet, we do not yet know whether we will allocate it to uninhabited areas or put it within your reach. Your sufferings have made our decision for us. They clearly exist; the government itself has noted them in the following laconic phrases: this isnothing, just a falling population. There is no reply to this, and we have now firmly decided to redirect the route through the greater Landes. By casting all your towns into ruin, this decision will accelerate the depopulation that so saddens you, but is not the opportunity of peopling the uninhabited areas worth the certainty of decreasing the population in the valleys?”
Oh! Sirs, give the railway the route which in your wisdom you consider to be in the best general interest, but if you deny it to our valley, do not say in your considerations, as you are committed to doing, that it is its misfortunes and its misfortunes alone that have determined your decision.
Draft Preface for the Harmonies
[vol. 7, p. 303. According to Paillottet, this draft,
in the form of a letter to the author, was
roughed out by him toward the end of 1847.]
My dear Frédéric,
So the worst has happened; you have left our village. You have abandoned the fields you loved, the family home in which you enjoyed such total independence, your old books which were amazed to slumber negligently on their dusty shelves, the garden in which on our long walks we chatted endlessly de omni re scibili et quibusdam aliis, this corner of the earth that was the last refuge of so many beings we loved and where we went to find such gentle tears and such dear hopes. Do you remember how the root of faith grew green again in our souls at the sight of these cherished tombs? With what proliferation did ideas spring to our minds inspired by these cypresses? We had barely given thought to them when they came to our lips. But none of this could retain you. Neither these good ordinary country folk accustomed to seeking decisions in your honest instincts rather than in the law, nor our circle so fertile in quips that two languages were not enough for them and where gentle familiarity and long-standing intimacy replaced fine manners, nor your cello which appeared to renew constantly the source of your ideas, nor my friendship, nor that absolute ruler over your actions and your waking hours: your studies, perhaps your most precious assets. You have left the village and here you are in Paris, in this whirlwind where as Hugo says:
. . . . . . .
Frédéric, we are accustomed to speaking to each other frankly. Very well! I have to tell you that your resolution surprises me, and what is more, I cannot approve of it. You have let yourself be beguiled by the love of fame, I do not go so far as to say glory and you know very well why. How many times have we not said that from now on glory would be the prize only of minds of an immense superiority! It is no longer enough to write with purity, grace, and warmth; ten thousand people in France do that already. It is not enough to have wit; wit is everywhere. Do you not remember that, when reading the smallest article, so often lacking in good sense and logic but almost always sparkling with verve and rich in imagination, we used to say to one another, “Writing well is going to become a faculty common to the species, like walking and sitting well.” How are you to dream of glory with the spectacle you have before your eyes? Who today thinks of Benjamin Constant or Manuel? What has become of these reputations which appeared imperishable?
Do you think you can be compared to such great minds?
Have you undertaken the same studies as they? Do you possess their immense faculties? Have you, like them, spent your entire life among exceptionally brilliant people? Have you the same opportunities of making yourself known, or the same platform; are you surrounded when need arises with the same comradeship? You will perhaps say to me that if you do not manage to shine through your writings you will distinguish yourself through your actions. I say, look where that approach has left La Fayette’s reputation. Will you, like him, have your name resound in the old world and the new for three quarters of a century? Will you live through times as fertile in events? Will you be the most outstanding figure in three major revolutions? Will it be given to you to make or bring down kings? Will you be seen as a martyr at Olmultz and a demigod at the Hôtel de Ville? Will you be the general commander of all the National Guard regiments in the kingdom? And should these grand destinies be your calling, see where they end: in the casting among nations of a name without stain which in their indifference they do not deign to pick up; in their being overwhelmed with noble examples and great services which they are in a hurry to forget.
No, I cannot believe that pride has so far gone to your head as to make you sacrifice genuine happiness for a reputation which, as you well know, is not made for you and which, in any case, will be only fleeting. It is not you who would ever aspire to become the great man of the month in the newspapers of today.
You would deny your entire past. If this type of vanity had beguiled you, you would have started by seeking election as a deputy. I have seen you stand several times as a candidate but always refuse to do what is needed to succeed. You used constantly to say, “Now is the time to take a little action in public affairs, where you read and discuss what you have read. I will take advantage of this to distribute a few useful truths under the cover of candidacy,” and beyond that, you took no serious steps.
It is therefore not the spur of amour-propre that drove you to Paris. What then was the inspiration to which you yielded? Is it the desire to contribute in some way to the well-being of humanity? On this score as well, I have a few remarks to make.
Like you I love all forms of freedom; and among these, the one that is the most universally useful to mankind, the one you enjoy at each moment of the day and in all of life’s circumstances, is the freedom to work and to trade. I know that making things one’s own is the fulcrum of society and even of human life. I know that trade is intrinsic to property and that to restrict the one is to shake the foundations of the other. I approve of your devoting yourself to the defense of this freedom whose triumph will inevitably usher in the reign of international justice and consequently the extinction of hatred, prejudices between one people and another, and the wars that come in their wake.
But in fact, are you entering the lists with the weapons appropriate for your fame, if that is what you are dreaming of, as well as for the success of your cause itself? What are you concerned with, I mean totally concerned with? A proof, and the solution to a single problem, namely: Does trade restriction add to the profits column or the losses column in a nation’s accounts? That is the subject on which you are exhausting your entire mind! Those are the limits you have set around your great question! Pamphlets, books, brochures, articles in newspapers, speeches, all of these have been devoted to removing this gap in our knowledge: will freedom give the nation one hundred thousand francs more or less? You seem very keen on keeping from the light of day any knowledge which does not directly support this preemptive postulate. You seem set on extinguishing in your heart all these sacred flames which a love for humanity once lit there.
Are you not afraid that your mind will dry up and wither with all this analytical work, this endless argumentation focused on an algebraic calculation?
Remember what we so often said: unless you pretend that you can bring about progress in some isolated branch of human knowledge or, rather, unless you have received from nature a cranium distinguished only by its imperious forehead, it is better, especially in the case of mere amateur philosophers like us, to let your thinking roam over the entire range of intellectual endeavor rather than enslave it to the solving of one problem. It is better to search for the relationship of branches of science to each other and the harmony of social laws than to wear yourself out shedding light on a doubtful point at the risk of even losing the sense of what is grand and majestic in the whole.
This was the reason our reading was so various and why we took such care in shaking off the yoke of conventional verdicts. Sometimes we read Plato, not to admire him according to the faith of the ages but to assure ourselves of the radical inferiority of society in antique times, and we used to say, “Since this is the height to which the finest genius of the ancient world rose, let us be reassured that man can be perfected and that faith in his destiny is not misguided.” Sometimes we were accompanied on our long walks by Bacon, Lamartine, Bossuet, Fox, Lamennais, and even Fourier. Political economy was only one stone in the social edifice we sought to construct in our minds, and we used to say: “It is useful and fortunate that patient and indefatigable geniuses, like Say, concentrated on observing, classifying, and setting out in a methodical order all the facts that make up this fine science. From now on, intelligence can stand securely on this unshakeable base and lift itself to new horizons.” How much did we also admire the work of Dunoyer and Comte, who, without ever deviating from the rigorously scientific line drawn by M. Say, mobilize these acquired truths with such felicity in the domains of morality and legislation. I will not hide from you that sometimes, in listening to you, it seemed to me that you could in your turn take this same torch from the hands of your ancestors and cast its light in certain dark corners of the social sciences, above all in those which foolish doctrines have recently plunged into darkness.
Instead of that, there you are, fully occupied with illuminating a single one of the economic problems that Smith and Say have already explained a hundred times better than you could ever do. There you are, analyzing, defining, calculating, and distinguishing. There you are, scalpel in hand, seeking out what there is of worth in the depths of the words price, utility, high prices, low prices, imports, and exports.
But finally, if it is not for you yourself, and if you do not fear becoming dazed by the task, do you think you have chosen the best plan to follow in the interest of the cause? Peoples are not governed by equations but by generous instincts, by sentiment and sympathy. It was necessary to present them with the successive dismantling of the barriers which divide men into mutually hostile communities, into jealous provinces, or into warring nations. It was necessary to show them the merging of races, interests, languages, ideas, and the triumph of truth over error, witnessed in the intellectual shock it effects, with progressive institutions replacing the regime of absolute despotism and hereditary castes, wars eliminated, armies disbanded, moral power replacing physical force, and the human race preparing itself through unity for the destiny reserved for it. This is what would have inflamed the masses, and not your dry proofs.
In any case, why limit yourself? Why imprison your thoughts? It seems to me that you have subjected them to a prison regime of a single crust of dry bread as food, since there you are, chewing night and day on a question of money. I love freedom of trade as much as you do. But is all human progress encapsulated in that freedom? In the past, your heart beat for the freeing of thought and speech which were still bound by their university shackles and the laws against free association. You enthusiastically supported parliamentary reform and the radical division of that sovereignty, which delegates and controls, from the executive power in all its branches. All forms of freedom go together. All ideas form a systematic and harmonious whole, and there is not a single one whose proof does not serve to demonstrate the truth of the others. But you act like a mechanic who makes a virtue of explaining an isolated part of a machine in the smallest detail, not forgetting anything. The temptation is strong to cry out to him, “Show me the other parts; make them work together; each of them explains the others. . . .”
[vol. 7, p. 309. According to Paillottet, this outline dates from
1847. Bastiat had wished to make a chapter out of it for the second
series of Economic Sophisms, published at the end of the year.]
These two sentiments stand face to face and it is hardly possible in this country to judge England impartially without being accused by anglomaniacs of anglophobia and by anglophobics of anglomania. It appears that public opinion, which in France goes beyond what was an ancient Spartan law, condemns us to moral death if we do not rush headlong into one of these two extremes.
However, these two sentiments exist and are already of long standing. They therefore exist justifiably, for, in the world of sympathy and antipathy, as in the material world, there is no cause without an effect.
It is easy to verify that these two sentiments coexist. The great conflict between democracy and aristocracy, between common law and privilege, is continuing, both implicitly and openly, with more or less enthusiasm, with more or less opportunity, worldwide. However, nowhere, not even in France, does it resound as much as in England.
As I say, not even in France. Here, in fact, privilege as a social principle, was extinct before our revolution. In any case, it received its coup de grace on the night of 4 August. The equal sharing of property constantly undermines the existence of any leisured class. Idleness is an accident, the transitory lot of a few individuals, and whatever we may think of our political organization, it is always the case that democracy is the basis of our social order. Probably, the human heart does not change; those who achieve legislative power seek hard to create a small administrative fiefdom for themselves, whether electoral or economic, but nothing in all that takes root. From one session to another, the slightest hint of an amendment can overturn the whole fragile edifice, remove a whole raft of political appointments, eliminate protectionist measures, or change the electoral districts.
If we cast an eye on other great nations, such as Austria and Russia, we will see a very different situation. There, privilege based on brute force reigns with absolute authority. We can scarcely distinguish the dull murmur of democracy laboring away underground, like a seed that swells and grows far from all human sight.
In England, on the other hand, the two powers are full of force and vigor. I will say nothing of the monarchy, a kind of idol on which the two opposing factions have agreed to impose a sort of neutrality. But let us consider a little how the elements of force with which the aristocracy and democracy do battle are constituted and what the quality of their arms is.
The aristocracy has on its side legislative power. It alone can enter the House of Lords and it has taken over the House of Commons, without one’s being able to say when and how it can be dislodged from it.
It has on its side the established church—all of whose positions have been taken over by the younger sons of great families—an institution unreservedly English or Anglican, as its name indicates, and unreservedly a political force, having the monarch as its head.
It has on its side the hereditary ownership of land and entails, which prevent the breaking up of estates. Through this, it is assured that its power, concentrated in a small number of hands, will never be dispersed and will never lose its characteristics.
Through its legislative power, it controls taxes, and its efforts naturally tend to transfer the fiscal burden onto the people while retaining the profit from them.
We thus see it commanding the army and the navy, that is to say, still wielding brute force. And the manner in which recruitment to these bodies is carried out guarantees that it will never transfer its support to the popular cause. We may further note that in military discipline there is something that is both energetic and degrading, which aspires to efface in the soul of the army any urge to share common human feelings.
By means of the wealth and material power of the country, the English aristocracy has been able successively to conquer all parts of the globe it considered to be useful for its security and policy. In doing this, it has been wonderfully supported by popular prejudice, national pride, and the economic sophism which attaches so many crazy hopes to the colonial system.
In a word, the entire British diplomatic corps is concentrated in the hands of the aristocracy, and as there are always sympathetic links between all the privileged groups and all the aristocratic classes around the world, since they are all based on the same social principles and what threatens one threatens the others, the result is that all the elements of the vast power I have just described are in perpetual opposition to the development of democracy, not only in England but all over the world.
This explains the War of Independence in the United States and the even more relentless war against the French Revolution, a war carried out using not only steel but also and above all gold, used either to bribe alliances or spent to lead our democracy into excesses, social disorder, and civil war.
There is no need to go into further detail, to show the interest the English aristocracy might have had in stifling, at the same time as the very idea of democracy, any accompanying hints of forceful action, power, or wealth, anywhere. There is no need for a historical exposition of the action it carried out with regard to peoples in this respect, a policy which became known as the alternating balance of power, to show that anglophobia is not a sentiment that is totally blind and that it has, as I explained at the beginning, its own raison d’être.
As for anglomania, if it can be explained as stemming from a puerile sentiment, from the sort of fascination constantly exercised on superficial minds by the spectacle of wealth, power, energy, perseverance, and success, this is not what concerns me. I wish to speak about the serious reasons for sympathy which England is able rightly to generate in other countries.
I have just listed the powerful props of the English oligarchy, the ownership of land, the House of Lords, the House of Commons, taxes, the church, the army, the navy, the colonies, and diplomacy.
The forces of democracy possess nothing so clear and firm of purpose.
Democracy has on its side the power of the spoken word, the press, associations, work, the economy itself, increasing wealth, public opinion, a good cause, and truth.
I think that the progress of democracy is manifest. Look at the major breaches it has made in the walls of the opposing camp.
The English oligarchy, as I have said, had ownership of the land. It still has. But what it no longer has is a privilege grafted on this privilege, the Corn Laws.
It had the House of Commons. It still has, but democracy has entered Parliament through the breach of the Reform Bill, a breach which is constantly widening.
It had the established church. It still has, but it is shorn of its exclusive ascendancy by the increase in number and popularity of dissident churches and the Catholic Emancipation Bill.
It had control of taxation. It still has taxes at its disposal but, since 1815, all ministers, whether Whigs or Tories, have been constrained to go from reform to reform, and at the first financial difficulty, the provisional income tax will be converted into a permanent land tax.
It had the army. It still has, but everyone knows the avid concern of the English populace to be spared the sight of red uniforms.
It had the colonies. These provided its greatest moral authority, since it was with the illusory promises of the colonial system that it carried along a populace both swollen with pride and misled. And the people are breaking this link by acknowledging the chimerical nature of the colonial system.
Finally, I have to mention here another conquest the people have made, which is probably the greatest. For the very reason that the weapons of the people are public opinion, a good cause, and the truth, and for the additional reason that they possess in all its fullness the right of defending their cause in the press, through speeches and gatherings, the people could not fail to attract, and in fact they did attract, to their banner the most intelligent and honest of the aristocrats. For it should not be thought that the English aristocracy forms a compact unity, all of like mind. We see, on the contrary, that it is divided on all the major issues and, either through fear, social adroitness, or philanthropy, certain illustrious members of the privileged class are sacrificing part of their own privilege to the needs of democracy.
If those who take an interest in the ups and downs of this great struggle and the progress of the popular cause on British soil are to be called anglomaniacs, I declare that I am an anglomaniac.
For me there is just one truth and one justice, and equality takes the same form everywhere. I also think that liberty always produces the same results everywhere and that a fraternal and friendly link should unite the weak and oppressed in all countries.
I cannot fail to see that there are two Englands, since in England there are two bodies of sentiment, two principles, and two eternally conflicting causes.
I cannot forget that, although the aristocratic interest wanted to bend American independence beneath its yoke in 1776, it encountered in a few English democrats such resistance that it had to suspend freedom of the press, habeas corpus, and trial by jury.
I cannot forget that, although the aristocratic interest wanted to stifle our glorious revolution in 1791, it needed to set its army rabble on its own soil against the men of the people who opposed the perpetration of this crime against humanity.
I call those who admire the acts and gestures of the two parties without distinction anglomaniacs. I call those who envelop both in a blind, senseless disapproval, anglophobes.
At the risk of attracting to this little volume the hammer blows of unpopularity, I am forced to admit that this great, unending, and gigantic effort by democracy to burst the bonds of oppression and attain its rights in full, offers in my view particularly encouraging prospects in England which are not available in other countries, or at least not to the same degree.
In France, the aristocracy fell in ’89, before democracy was ready to govern itself. The latter had not been able to develop and perfect in all their aspects those qualities, robustness, and political virtues which alone could keep power in its hands and constrain it to make prudent and effective use of them. The result has been that all parties, all persons even, believed that they could inherit the aristocratic mantle, and conflict thus arose between the people and M. Decazes, the people and M. de Villèle, the people and M. de Polignac, and the people and M. Guizot. This conflict of petty proportions educates us on constitutional matters. On the day we become sufficiently emancipated nothing will prevent us from taking hold of the reins of management of our affairs, for the fall of our great antagonist, the aristocracy, will have preceded our political education.
The English people, on the contrary, are growing in stature and becoming proficient and enlightened through the struggle itself. Historic circumstances which it is pointless to recall here have paralyzed the use of physical force in its hands. It has to have recourse to the power of public opinion alone, and the first condition for making public opinion a power in itself was that the people should enlighten itself on each particular question until unanimity was achieved. Public opinion will not have to be formed after the conflict; it has been formed and is formed during, for, and by the conflict itself. It is always in Parliament that victory is won and the aristocracy is forced to sanction it. Our philosophers and poets shone before a revolution which they prepared, but in England it is during the struggle that philosophy and poetry do their work. From within the popular party come forth great writers, powerful orators, and noble poets who are completely unknown to us. Here we imagine that Milton, Shakespeare, Young, Thompson, and Byron encompass the whole of English literature. We do not perceive that, because the struggle is ongoing, the chain of great poets is unbroken and the sacred fire inspires poets such as Burns, Campbell, Moore, Akenside, and a thousand others, who work unceasingly to strengthen democracy by enlightening it.
Another result of this state of affairs is that aristocracy and democracy confront each other with regard to all questions. Nothing is more likely to perpetuate and aggravate them than this. Something that elsewhere is just an administrative or financial debate is in this instance a social war. As far as one can tell, hardly a single question has sprung up in which the two great protagonists have not been at loggerheads. Henceforth, both sides make immense efforts to form alliances, to draft petitions, and to distribute pamphlets through mass subscription, far less over the issue itself than for the ever-present and living principles involved. This was seen, not only with regard to the Corn Laws, but regarding any law that touched on taxes, the church, the army, political order, education, foreign affairs, etc.
It is easy to understand that the English people have thus had to become accustomed, with regard to any measure, to going back to first principles and to basing discussion on this wide foundation. This being so, in general the two parties are opposite and mutually exclusive. It is a case of all or nothing, because both sides feel that to concede something, however small, is to concede the principle. Doubtless, when it comes to voting, bargains are sometimes struck. Reforms have naturally to be adapted to the times and circumstances, but in debates no one gives way and the invariable rule of democracy is this: take everything that is given and continue to demand the rest. And it has even had occasion to learn that its most certain course is to demand everything, for fifty years if necessary, rather than content itself with a little at the end of a few sessions.
Thus, the most rabid anglophobes cannot deceive themselves that reforms in England carry a quotient of radicalism, and therefore of grandeur, which astonishes and enthralls the mind.
The abolition of slavery was won in a single step. On a particular day, at a particular time, the irons fell from the arms of poor blacks in all the possessions of Great Britain. It is related that, during the night of 31st July 1838, the slaves were gathered together in the churches of Jamaica. Their thoughts and hearts, their entire life seemed to be hanging on the hands of the clock. Vainly did the priest try to fix their attention on the most imposing subjects capable of capturing the human mind. Vainly did he speak to them of the goodness of God and their future destiny. There was but a single soul in the congregation and that soul was in a fever of expectation. When the gong sounded the first chime of midnight, a cry of joy such as the human ear had never heard before shook the rafters of the church. These poor creatures did not have enough words and gestures to express the exuberance of their joy. They rushed weeping into each other’s arms until, their paroxysm now calmed, they were seen to fall to their knees, raise their grateful arms to heaven, and cover with blessings the nation that had delivered them; the great men, Clarkson and Wilberforce, who had embraced their cause; and the Providence that had shone a ray of justice and humanity into the heart of a great people.
While fifty years were needed to achieve absolute personal freedom, a bargain, a truce, on political and religious freedom was reached more quickly. The Reform Bill and the Catholic Emancipation bill, which at first were supported as principles, were delivered as matters of expediency. Thus, England has still two major troubles to overcome, the people’s charter and the revocation of the established church as the official religion.
The campaign against protectionism is one of those that has been led by the leaders under the safeguard and authority of principle. The principle of freedom of trade is either true or false, and has to triumph or fall in its entirety. To strike a bargain would have been to acknowledge that property and liberty are not rights but, depending on the time and place, ancillary circumstances, whether useful or disastrous. To accept discussion on this ground would have been to deprive oneself of everything that constitutes authority and strength; it would have been to renounce having on one’s side the sense of justice that lives in every human heart. The principle of the freedom to trade has triumphed and has been applied to the things that are necessary to life, and it will soon be applied to everything that can be traded internationally.
This cult of the absolute has been transferred to questions of a lesser order. When it was a matter of postal reform, the question was raised as to whether individual communications of thought, the expression of friendship, maternal love, or filial piety, were taxable matters. Public opinion replied in the negative and from that time on a radical, absolute reform has been pursued, with no worry as to whether the treasury would be embarrassed or in deficit in any way. The cost of carrying letters has been reduced to the smallest English coin, since this is enough to pay the state for the service rendered and reimburse it for its costs. And since the post still makes a profit, there should be no doubt that the cost of carrying letters would be reduced still further if there were in England a coin smaller than a penny.
I admit that in this audaciousness and vigor there is a touch of greatness which causes me to follow with interest the debates in the English Parliament and, even more, the popular debates that take place in associations and meetings. This is where the future is worked out, where long discussions end up with the question “Are we hitting a fundamental principle?” And if the answer is affirmative, we may not know the day of its triumph but we can be sure that such triumph is assured.
Before returning to the subject of this chapter, anglomania and anglophobia, I must first warn the reader against a false interpretation that may insinuate itself into his mind. Although the conflict between aristocracy and democracy, ever present and lively at the center of each question, certainly gives heat and life to debates; although by delaying the solution and pushing it further away it contributes to the maturing of ideas and shapes the political habits of the people, it should not be concluded from this that I consider it an absolute disadvantage for my country not to have the same obstacles to overcome and consequently not to feel the same spur, not to enjoy the same mixture of vivacity and passion.
Principles are no less involved in our country than in England. The only thing is that our debates have to be much more general and humanitarian (since the word is sacred), just as, in our neighbor’s country, they have to be more national. The aristocratic obstacle, in their eyes, occurs in their country. For us, it is worldwide. There is nothing, of course, to prevent us from taking principles to a height that England cannot yet reach. We do not do this, and this is a result solely of our inadequate degree of respect and devotion for principles.
If anglophobia were only a natural reaction in us against English oligarchy, whose policy is so dangerous to the nations and in particular to France, this would no longer be anglophobia but, and may I be forgiven for such a barbarous word (which is more than apposite since it combines two barbaric ideas), oligarcophobia.
Unfortunately, this is not so and the most constant occupation of our major newspapers is to arouse national sentiment against British democracy, against the working classes, who are demanding work, industry, wealth, and the development of their faculties and the strength necessary for their emancipation. It is precisely the growth of these democratic forces, the perfection of work, industrial superiority, the extension of the use of machines, commercial aptitude, and the accumulation of capital, it is precisely an increase of all of these forces, I say, that is represented to us as being dangerous, as being opposed to our own progress and implying as of necessity a proportional decrease in similar forces in our country.
This is the economic sophism I have to combat and it is through this that the subject I have just dealt with is linked to the spirit of this book and which may up to now have appeared to be a pointless digression.
First of all, if what I call here a sophism was a truth, how sad and discouraging it would be! If the progressive movement which is making an appearance in one part of the world caused a retrograde movement in another part, if the increase in wealth in one country was achieved at the expense of a corresponding loss spread over all the others, there would obviously be no progress possible overall and, in addition, all national jealousy would be justified. Vague ideas of humanity and fraternity would certainly not be enough to lead a nation to rejoice at progress achieved elsewhere, since such progress would have been attained at its expense. The enthusiasts of fraternity do not change the human heart to that extent, and according to the hypothesis I envisage, it is not even desirable. What element of honesty or delicacy would have me rejoice at one people’s elevation to having more than they need if, as a result, another people has to descend to below what they need? No, I am not bound either morally or religiously to carry out such an act of selflessness, even in the name of my country.
This is not all. If this sort of pendulum was the law governing nations, it would also be the law governing provinces, communes, and families. National progress is no different from individual progress, from which it can be seen that if the axiom with which I am concerned were a truth and not a sophism, there would not be a man on earth who would not constantly have to strive to stifle the progress of all the others, only to meet in others the same effort made against himself. This general conflict would be the natural state of society and Providence, in decreeing that the benefit of one is the loss of another, would have condemned mankind to an endless war and humanity to an invariably primitive condition.
There is no proposition in social science, therefore, that it is more important to elucidate. It is the keystone of the entire edifice. It is absolutely necessary to grasp the true nature of progress and the influence that the progressive condition of one people has on the condition of other peoples. If it were demonstrated that progress in a given constituency has as its cause or effect a proportional depression in the rest of the human race, nothing would remain to us but to burn our books, abandon all hope in the general good, and enter into the universal conflict with the firm determination to be crushed as little as possible while crushing the others as much as we can. This is not an exaggeration; it is the most rigorous logic, that which is the most often applied. A political measure that is so close to the axiom that the profit of one person is the loss of another, because it is the incarnation of this, the Navigation Act of Great Britain was situated openly in the quotation of the famous words of its preamble: It is necessary for England to crush Holland or be crushed by her. And we have seen, La Presse quotes the same words to have the same measure adopted in France. Nothing is simpler, as soon as there is no other alternative, for peoples, as for individuals, than to crush or be crushed, from which we can see the point at which error and atrocity achieve fusion.
But the sad axiom that I mention is well worth being opposed in a special chapter. It is, in effect, not a matter of opposing vague declamations on humanity, charity, fraternity, and self-sacrifice to it. It needs to be destroyed by a demonstration that is, so to speak, mathematical. While being determined to devote a few pages to this task, I will pursue what I have to say about anglophobia.
I have said that this sentiment, insofar as it is linked to this Machiavellian policy which the English oligarchy has caused to weigh for so long on Europe, was justifiable, with its own raison d’être, and should not even be labeled anglophobia.
It deserves this name only when it envelops in the same hatred both the aristocracy and that part of English society that has suffered as much as or more than we from oligarchic predominance and resisted it, the working class, which was initially weak and powerless but which grew sufficiently in wealth, strength, and influence to carry along in its wake part of the aristocracy and hold the other in check, the class to which we should be holding out a hand, whose sentiments and hopes we should share if we were not restrained by the deadly and discouraging thought that the progress it owes to work, industry, and commerce is a threat to our prosperity and independence, and threatens it in another form but as thoroughly as do the policies of the Walpoles, Pitts, etc., etc.
This is how anglophobia has become generalized, and I admit that I can view only with disgust the means that have been used to maintain and arouse it. The first means is simple but no less odious; it consists in taking advantage of the diversity of languages. Advantage has been taken of the fact that English is little known in France to persuade us that all English literature and journalism consisted only of outrages, insults, and calumnies perpetually vomited out against France, from which France could not fail to conclude that, on the other side of the Channel, she was the object of general and inextinguishable hatred.
In this we were marvelously served by the boundless freedom of the press and speech which exists in this neighboring country. In England, as in France, there is no question on which opinion is not divided, so that it is always possible, on every occasion, to uncover an orator or a newspaper that has covered the question from the point of view that hurts us. The odious tactic of our newspapers has been to extract from these speeches and writings the passages most likely to humiliate our national pride and quote them as an expression of public opinion in England, taking very good care to keep under wraps everything said or written giving the opposite view, even by the most influential newspapers and the most popular orators. The result has been what it would be in Spain if the press of that entire country agreed to take all quotations from our newspapers from La Quotidienne.
Another means, which has been employed very successfully, is silence. Each time a major question has caused organized resistance in England and was likely to reveal whatever existed in that country in the way of life, enlightenment, warmth, and sincerity, you could be sure that our newspapers would be determined to prevent the fact reaching the general public in France, by their silence, and when they have thought it necessary, they have imposed ten years of silence on themselves. As extraordinary as it may seem, English resistance against protectionism bears this out.
Finally, another patriotic fraud that has been widely used is false translation, with the addition, removal, and substitution of words. This ability to alter the meaning and the spirit of the discourse has meant that there is no limit to the indignation that can be aroused in the minds of our fellow countrymen. For example, when they found gallant French meaning “brave Frenchmen” (“gallant” being the word vaillant which was transferred to England and to which the only change made was that of the initial V to G, as opposed to the inverse change made to the words garant, “warrant”; guêpe, “wasp”; guerre, “war”), it was enough to translate it thus: “effeminate, philandering, corrupt nation.” Sometimes they went so far as to substitute the word hatred for the word friendship and so on.
On this subject, may I be allowed to relate the origin of the book I published in 1845 under the title of Cobden and the League.
I was living in a village in the heart of the Landes. In this village, there is a discussion group, and I would probably greatly surprise the members of the Jockey Club if I quoted here the budget of our modest association. However, I dare to believe that there reigns there an uninhibited gaiety and zest that would not dishonor the sumptuous salons of the boulevard des Italiens. Be that as it may, in our circle we do not only laugh, we also discuss politics (which is quite different), for please note that we have two newspapers there. This shows that we were strong patriots and anglophobes of the first order. As for me, as steeped in English literature as one could be in the village, I had seriously suspected that our newspapers were exaggerating somewhat the hatred that, according to them, the word French aroused in our neighbors and I sometimes happened to express doubts in this regard. “I cannot understand,” I said, “why the spirit that reigns in journalism in Great Britain does not reign in its books.” But I was always defeated, proof in hand or no.
One day, the most anglophobic of my colleagues, with eyes alight with fury, showed me the newspaper and said, “Read this and see.” I read in effect that the prime minister of England had ended a speech by saying, “We will not adopt this measure. If we adopted it, we would fall, like France, to the lowest rank of all the nations.” A patriotic flush rose to my cheeks.
However, on reflection, I said to myself, “It seems very extraordinary that a minister, the leader of a cabinet, a man who because of his position has to speak with such reserve and measure, would allow himself to utter an uncalled-for insult, which nothing has motivated, provoked, or justified. Mr. Peel does not think that France has fallen to the lowest rank of all the nations and, even if he thought that, he would not say so, in open Parliament.”
I wanted to be sure of my facts. The same day, I wrote to Paris to subscribe to an English newspaper, asking for the subscription to be backdated one month.
A few days later, I received about thirty issues of the Globe. I hurriedly searched for the unfortunate statement by Mr. Peel and I saw that it was as follows, “We could not adopt this measure without descending to the lowest rank of all the nations.” The words like France were missing.
That put me on the right track and I have been able to ascertain since then a number of other pious frauds in our journalists’ method of translating.
But that is not all I learned from the Globe. For two years, I was able to follow the development and progress of the League.
At that time, I was an ardent supporter, as I am today, of the cause of free trade, but I considered it to be lost for centuries, since it is no more spoken of in our country than it probably was in China in the last century. Imagine my surprise and joy on learning that this great question had grabbed people’s attention across the length and breadth of England and Scotland, and on reading about this uninterrupted succession of huge meetings, and the energy, perseverance, and enlightenment of the leaders of this admirable association!
But what surprised me even more was to see that the League was spreading, growing, and spilling floods of light over England, monopolizing the attention of ministers and Parliament, without a word of mention in our newspapers!
Naturally I suspected that there was some correlation between this absolute silence on such a serious matter and the system of pious frauds in translation.
Naively thinking that it was sufficient for this silence to be broken just once for it not to persist any longer, I decided, trembling, to become a writer, and I sent a few articles on the League to La Sentinelle in Bayonne. However, the Paris newspapers paid not the slightest attention to them. I set about translating a few speeches by Cobden, Bright, and Fox and sent them to Paris newspapers themselves; they did not print them. “It is not to be tolerated,” I said to myself, “that the day on which free trade is proclaimed in England should surprise us in our ignorance. I have only one course, that is to write a book. . . .”
Proposition for the Creation of a School for Sons
[The following paper was presented in 1844 to the Chamber
of Agriculture of the Landes, after being presented to a Catholic
foundation that rejected it for lack of sufficient resources.
From the private collection of Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean.]
I am going to put before you, sirs, the plan of the institution that I am proposing by telling you how the thought came to me. Since I am the owner of an estate, perhaps one of the most suited to major crop rotation in the country, I have tried out this project in the past, but it did not take long for me to realize that it was beyond my powers. As I am of uncertain health, I was constantly being warned that it was possible that I would not be able to continue this work, and I recoiled from any decision that by launching me definitely into this career would have obliged me to burn all my boats. With a certain hesitation I decided to make some preliminary expenditures which were bound to be written off if I had to stop the work and, as you know, in an enterprise that demands faith and strength, you have already lost if you have an eye constantly on retreating.
For a while I had the idea of finding someone to work with me and throwing myself into the very risky business of full-time farming. But I soon realized how risky this resolution was. Our region of sharecropping farms does not provide opportunities for large-scale farming; the only workers you find are the class of inhabitants known as “idlers,” the dregs of the working population, who have been turned off sharecropping farms because of their laziness and bad behavior. It was therefore a question of nothing less than importing managers, workers, equipment, cattle, and seed from afar. How many mistakes might such farming entail, made up as it would be of oddments, without any form of trial and that preliminary testing without which a successful transition from small-scale to large-scale farming cannot be effected.
And then, would this operation have been genuinely useful? For reasons that I will not go into here, it is doubtful whether the managers would have made the interest from their capital that any other form of industry would have yielded and, as for the country, I think that its form of farming devoted to sharecropping would have gained little from the example of a large-scale farm, even supposing that the example had been totally positive.
There was just one avenue open to me. This was to improve the estate using the means it offered me, that is to say by enlightening the sharecroppers and by seeking to attract them to my ideas. I did not even try this. Apart from the huge difficulty of the enterprise and the constant state of conflict into which it would have put me vis-à-vis the smallholders, a conflict which I would be almost sure to lose through open resistance and even more by the force of inertia, I would feel guilty if I forced these good workers to abandon their method of farming. Whatever my total belief in the superiority of crop rotation, I could not keep from myself the fact that, when it comes to attempts directed by the willing but inexperienced and carried out by the ill-intentioned, the immediate results might be extremely dangerous. What right had I to bring possible losses on men incapable of supporting them? I congratulate myself now that I drew back from these various schemes (and if) I now tell the story of my disappointments, it is because I think that in almost all cases they relate to those overardent friends of progress, in too much of a hurry to achieve the promises of science without taking sufficient account of the difficulties that arise from a farming system and a series of habits evolved for a very different set of circumstances. Overcoming obstacles is doubtless proof of strength, but avoiding them in order not to be overcome is proof of wisdom.
What would therefore be most useful, philanthropic, and at the same time most practical would be to act with regard to the class of sharecroppers themselves, that is to say, on the young generation, to educate them, renew them, and raise them through intelligence and dignity to the level of the middle classes of society.
Among the projects that came to my mind, there is one that pleased me, I must admit, more than all the others. It seemed to me to be worthy of occupying the life of a man who did not want to depart from this earth without leaving some trace of his passing and a few honorable memories in the minds of good men. It is the foundation of a school for sharecropping, for a nursery of good sharecroppers with whose help I would in the long run carry out on my estate this farming revolution that people long for so, in a way that would be most advantageous to me and my region. But since it has not been granted to me to make this institution my work, I hasten to set out the plan for it to you, having removed from it the personal aim that I might have had in a former time.
Admission. In order to gain entry to the school for sharecroppers, the candidate has to belong to the class of sharecroppers and to a family of good reputation; to be aged fourteen; to know how to read, write, and do calculations; to have proof of intelligence, activity, and an ordered and open mind at primary school; and to have a good physical constitution. These conditions would be imposed on us in any case by the limited resources that we will probably have at our disposal, which would not allow us to have at our school very young children who are incapable of earning even part of their subsistence and whose early education would require the intervention of an elementary teacher; we should be happy that they are not incompatible and they are even in total harmony with the object of our wishes, which is to train as quickly as possible and at the lowest possible cost a certain number of hard-working, well-instructed, and upright sharecroppers.
At the age of fourteen, a child is able to take part in all farming work; he is close to the age at which he can turn his hand to the plough and I do not see why one would reclassify a special school so as to overload it with the care of imparting the general primary education which our legislation has provided for. None of you, sirs, could fail to be interested in the efforts that have been made in various locations to preserve children from vagrancy. Like you, I admire these noble attempts. Who is able to read without emotion the account of his visit to the Hofwill that Mr. Feutrier has included in Les Annales de Roville. However, the aim we have set ourselves is essentially different.
In the philanthropic institutions to which I refer, the need has been felt to admit only children who are six years old. If they were older, they would introduce the seeds of immorality and evil tendencies into the schools. People preferred to have them institutionalized a few years longer rather than to expose young smallholders to the contagion of vice and insubordination. However, I repeat, the aim of Hofwill, Petit-Bourg, and Mettray differs from ours. It is directed exclusively to vagrants, beggars, and that precocious corruption which threatens society. We, on the other hand, are looking for exceptional natures, children gifted with naturally happy dispositions, which have been developed through the care of their families and community teachers. We are therefore able and are even obliged to postpone the age of admission, a fortunate circumstance that enables us to count on the actual work of these young people to contribute to the cost of their board and lodging.
Work at the School. If, after studying and discussing this project, the society believes it could implement it, I would be able to place at its disposal a conveniently situated sharecropping farm of twenty hectares of cultivable land and land that could be given over progressively to cultivation. The society will judge whether the school would continue to give me one-third of the produce or whether it would not be more appropriate to set an estimated rental price.
It is not yet time to talk about the system of cultivation that should be followed. I will say just a word while waiting to go into more detail if the occasion warrants this. I would like the cultivable land to be planted with mulberry bushes in wide rows. The number of these rows will permit the adoption of any form of rotation considered suitable and the submission of the estate, so to speak, to market gardening. In this way, the school would satisfy three essential conditions: 1. it would give the young pupils the experience of raising a great variety of plants, 2. it would supply manpower in proportion to the overall number of hands by definition at the disposal of the manager, 3. it would bring into the region market gardening, which fits in so well with the small acreage of our sharecropping farms and is, moreover, the only system that, through the abundance of its produce, enables competition between small- and large-scale farming enterprises.
The same divisions would be adopted in the second sector of the rural economy, the raising of stock. The production of milk and wool and the raising of calves and beef cattle would be carried out simultaneously. The results of all these operations, either in the fields or in the barns, would have to be carefully recorded in strict accounts. I do not know, sirs, whether I am exaggerating the usefulness of accounts, but I am one of those who think that no operation that is at all complicated can do without them. I dare to point out that there is no farmer, even among those who keep their accounts with the greatest care but who do not use the double entry system, who can establish with accuracy the cost price of his wheat, fodder, milk, fertilizer, and how much his working day or hour produces, what his teams and vehicles, plowing or hoeing cost, and still less if this or that harvest or occupation is more lucrative than another. There is also in accounting “a very vigorous, moralizing principle.” A farmer who keeps his books knows exactly what each of his practices is worth or costs him. His books tell him in irrefutable figures and repeat this to him each time he opens them. Is it to be believed that a sharecropper would attend markets so much if he were obliged to note as a loss each hour of the time he wastes, according to a strict evaluation?
There is another reason that makes the use of accounting indispensable. Crop rotation certainly greatly complicates the relationships between sharecroppers and their owners; as long as it is only a question of sharing the sheaves and heads of corn on the spot, it is not essential to know their cost accurately. But when rye and corn are no longer the only and perhaps not the largest sources of income, when the master’s capital and the work of the smallholder become intimately associated in the production of fodder, milk, butter, meat, and wool, only strict accounting can show the most appropriate agreements and make it easy to carry them out. Perhaps it will be thought that in this respect sharecropping seems to be incompatible with advanced cultivation. I admit that I consider their combination as necessarily leading to much more direct cooperation on the part of owners, and this certainly will be no bad thing. However, if the difficulties become too great, tenant farming would seem here to be a resource the adoption of which our school might even greatly facilitate.
Graduating from the School. Let us now move forward in thought, sirs, to the time at which your establishment will start to provide people for agriculture. Four pupils, now become men, will leave the school. Six years of study and practice have made them familiar with the most advanced farming methods. Accounting has made the most varied combinations easier for them and they are able to work in line with the views of enlightened owners. One will take up a sharecropping farm with his family. Others, while waiting for one to become available, may join together in association and take up a joint operation. They themselves will need young colleagues and will thus disseminate the education they have received. Will this not be so many subsidiaries for the mother school? From neighbor to neighbor, it will be easy for the most advanced owners, those who do not retreat in the face of progress, to propel their estates to the highest degree of perfection. The region will see the rise of a race of men combining knowledge with experience. We will no longer have to deplore the unbridgeable distance that now appears to separate the thinking class from the active class. Work, enlightenment, land, and capital will all combine and advance, and our society itself will be strengthened by an element, which it must be agreed it rather lacks, I mean the contribution of men who do things.
I will not hide, sirs, that an institution like this seems to me to go deeply into the depths of the major problems that we have to solve. I think that it meets more closely the needs of the region than what we call experimental farms, model farms, or farming institutes, and if we look at these closely we will be convinced that these expensive establishments are genuine vicious circles. Some may give us good lessons and others good examples, but what good are these lessons and examples to us, who are unable to apply them ourselves, or to our sharecroppers, who can benefit from neither?
On the other hand the project that I have the honor of submitting to you may in practice introduce four sharecropping farms each year into the orbit of crop rotation. Each of these in turn will train new adepts in the class of sharecroppers itself. Practical example and dissemination are in line and go hand in hand, and it seems to me that our school will perhaps require fifty years of existence to accomplish this major farming and social revolution in our region which, without it, would not appear to be possible in a hundred years.
I must now tell you of the difficulties which this project may encounter.
The Master. The first and by far the greatest lies in the choice of a master. What eminent qualities are not required for functions like these? The person called upon to assume them has to have a wide-ranging practical and theoretical farming education, his moral stature must be irreproachable, and he must have the gift of training and directing young minds. He must like children and give them only good lessons and examples and must submit himself to sharing their lives, studies, and work. No, we will not be asking him to cooperate as a mercenary but to undertake a task of total selflessness, sublime charity, devotion, and sacrifice.
These considerations led me to contact the Foundation of Saint-Antoine to find out whether we might count on the cooperation of one or more brothers from this order. Perhaps you know, sirs, that it is very similar to the Order of the Brothers of the Christian Doctrine. The difference between them is that the Christian Brothers devote themselves to general primary education while the foundation is devoted to imparting a farming education to orphans and vagrants. The reply I received and which I submit to the society does not give us hope for the cooperation I had counted on.
May I be allowed to say that the venerable priest who manages the Foundation of Saint-Antoine does not perhaps appreciate the stature of the institution I am proposing when he considers it a powerful instrument for production? “While it is desirable to practice good farming methods,” he said, “and prepare a generation that is intelligent and capable through a greater development of farming products, it is also good to make some effort to cure the plague of beggary and eliminate the seeds of vagrancy that are so detrimental to the peace of society.”
Please God, how could I ever undermine the usefulness and merit of such work!
To the Electors of the Département of the Landes
[vol. 1, p. 217]
A people is not free simply because it has liberal institutions; it also needs to know how to put them into practice, and the same legislation that plucked from the ballot box such names as La Fayette and Chantelauze, Tracy, and Dudon can, depending on the wisdom of the electors, become the palladium of public freedom or the most unyielding instrument of total oppression, the one exercised over a nation by the nation itself.
In order for an electoral law to be a genuine guarantee for the public one condition is essential: electors must know where their interests lie and be determined to achieve their triumph. They must not allow their vote to be swayed by issues that are foreign to the election nor view this solemn act as a mere formality or at the very most as a matter between an elector and his candidate. They must not totally overlook the consequences of a bad choice. In a word, the public itself must know how to use the sole repressive means at its disposition, and show hatred and scorn for those voters who sacrifice it through ignorance or offer it up to their greed.
It is really strange to listen to the naive views of certain electors.
One will vote for a candidate through personal gratitude or through friendship, as though it were not a genuine crime to settle his debt at the expense of the public and to make an entire people the victim of individual affection.
Another will yield to what he calls the recognition due to major services rendered to the country, as though the office of deputy were a reward and not a mandate; as though the Chamber were a pantheon which we have to people with cold, inanimate figures and not the arena in which the fate of peoples is settled.
One person would think he was dishonoring his region if he did not send a deputy born in the département to the Chamber. Out of fear that some candidatures will be deemed invalid, he encourages the belief that the electors are stupid. He considers that he shows more intelligence in choosing an idiot from his own region rather than an enlightened man from a nearby district and that it is better reasoning to have oneself oppressed by the representation of someone who lives in the Landes than to be released from one’s chains by that of an inhabitant of the Basses Pyrénées.
Another wants a deputy who is versed in the art of lobbying; he hopes that our local interests will benefit and does not think that an independent vote on municipal law may prove to be more advantageous to all the regions of France than the lobbying and obsessions of a hundred deputies might be to a single one.
Lastly, yet another is obstinately determined to reelect the 221 indefinitely.
It is useless for you to put forward the most soundly based objections and his only reply will be: “My candidate is one of the 221.”
What is his past record? “I have forgotten, but he is one of the 221.”
But he is a member of the government. Do you think he will be ready to restrict the power he shares or to reduce the taxes on which he lives? “That does not worry me because he is one of the 221.”
Just think that he will contribute to passing laws. Do you not realize the consequences of a choice made on grounds that do not relate to the goal you ought to set yourself? “That’s all the same to me. He is one of the 221.”
But it is above all the moderation which plays a major role in this army of sophisms that I wish to review briefly.
Everyone wants moderates at any price; we fear extremists above all and how can we judge the category to which our candidate belongs? We do not scrutinize his opinions but the place he occupies, and since the center is definitely between the right and the left, we conclude that this is where moderation lies.
Were those who each year voted for more taxes than the nation could bear moderates? What about those who never found the contributions to be sufficiently heavy, emoluments sufficiently huge, and sinecures sufficiently numerous? What about those who engaged in an odious traffic with all governments in the betrayal of the confidence of their constituents, a betrayal through which, in reward for dinners and positions, they accepted the most tyrannical institutions in the name of the nation: double voting,lois d’amour, or laws on sacrilege? What of those who, in a word, have reduced France to breaking the chains they spent fifteen years in forging through a coup d’état?
And are those who want to prevent the return of such excesses extremists? I mean those who want to inject a dose of moderation into spending; those who want to moderate the action of the people in power and who are not immoderate, that is to say, insatiably seeking high salaries and sinecures; those who do not want our revolution to become just a change in surnames and color; those who do not want the nation to be exploited by one party rather than another and who wish to prevent the storm which will inevitably break if electors are rash enough to give a majority to the center right of the Chamber?
I will not go further in examining the reasons for supporting a candidate for whom the general opinion does not hold out much hope. What use would it be to spend more time refuting sophisms which are used only to delude oneself?
I think that electors have just one way of making a reasonable choice; they first need to know the general aim of the national representative body and then to gain an idea of the work that the future legislature will have to carry out. It is in fact the nature of the mandate which should decide the choice of a representative for us and, in this respect as in others, we will expose ourselves to great disillusionment if we adopt the means, leaving aside the aim we intend to achieve.
The general objective of national representative bodies is easy to understand.
In order to be able to carry out safely all the modes of activity in the course of private life, taxpayers need to be administered, judged, protected, and defended. This is the aim of government. Government is made up of the king, who is the supreme head, ministers, and an army of agents who report to one another and who envelop the nation as if it were in a huge network.
If this vast machine always kept itself within the limits of its responsibilities, elected representatives would be superfluous. However, the government is a living body at the center of the nation, which, like all organized entities, tends strongly to preserve its existence, to increase its well-being and power, and to expand indefinitely its sphere of action. Left to itself, it soon exceeds the limits which circumscribe its mission. It increases beyond all reason the number and wealth of its agents. It no longer administers, it exploits. It no longer judges, it persecutes or takes revenge. It no longer protects, it oppresses.
This would be the way all governments operate, the inevitable result of this law of movement with which nature has endowed all organized beings, if the people did not place obstacles in the way of governmental encroachments.
The electoral law is precisely this brake on the encroachments of government, a brake which our constitution hands over to taxpayers themselves. It tells them, “Government will exist from now on not for its own purposes but for yours. It will administer only to the extent that you feel the need to be administered. It will embark only on the development that you consider necessary for it to undertake. You will be the masters in expanding or tightening its resources. It will adopt no measure without your involvement. It will draw money from your purse only with your consent. In a word, since it is from you and for you that power exists, you may at will monitor it and contain it if need be, supporting its views when they are useful or reining in its action if it causes damage to your interests.”
These general considerations impose on us, as electors, a primary obligation not to seek our representatives from among the ranks of government; rather, we should entrust the responsibility of resisting government to those over whom it is exercised and not to those by whom it is exercised.
Would we in fact be so foolish as to hope that, when it is a question of abolishing jobs and salaries, this mission will be properly carried out by civil servants and paid staff? When all our ills result from the excesses of those in power, would we entrust to a representative of that power the task of reducing it? No, no, a choice must be made. Let us nominate a civil servant, a prefect or a maître des requêtes if we do not think the burden is sufficiently heavy, if we are not weary from the weight of the state billions, if we are persuaded that government does not take an undue interest in things that ought to be outside its responsibilities, if we want it to continue to interfere in matters of education, religion, commerce, or industry or to allocate us doctors, lawyers, snuff, tobacco, electors, and jurors.
If we wish, however, to restrict the action of the government, let us not appoint employees of the government. If we wish to decrease taxation, let us not appoint those people who live off taxation. If we wish to obtain good municipal law let us not appoint a prefect. If we want freedom of education, let us not appoint a rector. If we want to eliminate the droits réunis or the Council of State, let us not appoint either a councillor of state or the director of the droits réunis. Individuals cannot independently represent those who pay them, and it is absurd to have a function kept in check by the very person bound by it.
If we examine the work of the future legislature, we see that it is of such importance that it can be regarded as a constituent body rather than as a purely legislative body.
It will have to provide us with an electoral law, that is to say, one that establishes the limits of sovereignty.
It will promulgate a municipal law of which each word must have an influence on the well-being of local regions.
It will be the body that debates the organization of the National Guard, which has a direct bearing on the integrity of our frontiers and the maintenance of public order.
Education will claim its attention and it will doubtless be called upon to open that education to the free competition of teachers and the choice of subjects to the care of parents.
Ecclesiastical affairs will require our deputies to have wide-ranging knowledge, great prudence, and unshakeable firmness. Perhaps, in line with the wishes of the supporters of justice and enlightened priests, the question will be raised as to whether the expenses arising from each faith should not be borne exclusively by those who take part in it.
Many other weighty matters will also be raised.
However, it is above all with regard to the economic part of the Chamber’s work that we should be scrupulous in selecting our deputies. Abuses, sinecures, exorbitant pay, irrelevant positions, damaging jobs, and administrative structures substituted for competition will have to be strictly investigated; I have no fear in stating that this is the worst plague from which France is suffering.
I apologize to the reader for the digression into which I feel I am being irresistibly drawn, but I cannot stop myself from seeking to have the depths of my thoughts on this grave question understood.
If I considered excessive expenditure to be evil only because of the portion of wealth of which it deprives the nation for no good reason, if the only results I noted were the weighty burden of taxes, I would not raise the subject so often. I would say, with M. Guizot, that liberty should not be bargained over, that it is an asset so precious that no price is too high for it and that we should not regret the millions it costs us.
Such language implies that prodigality and liberty can go hand in hand. However, if I am deeply convinced that they are incompatible, that grossly overpaid jobs and the proliferation of positions not only exclude liberty but also undermine public order and peace and compromise the stability of governments, as well as polluting the ideas of peoples and corrupting their morals, no one will be surprised that I attach so much importance to the selection of deputies who will enable us to hope for the elimination of abuses like these.
But where can there be liberty when the government, in order to sustain enormous expenditures and forced to levy huge fiscal contributions, must resort to the most offensive and burdensome taxation, the most unjust monopolies, the most odious demands; to invade the sphere of private industry, to narrow incessantly the circle of individual activity, to make itself merchant, manufacturer, postman, and teacher, not only pricing its services at the highest level but also removing any competition which might threaten to reduce its profits, by means of punishments intended for crimes? Are we free if the government spies on all our movements in order to tax them, subjects all its activities to the goal of enlarging its cohort of employees, hampers all businesses, constrains all faculties, interferes with all commercial exchanges in order to restrain some people, hinder others, and hold almost all of them to ransom?
Can we expect order from a regime that places millions of enticements to greed all around the country and constantly gives the whole of a huge kingdom the appearance offered by a large town on the day of free handouts?
Do we believe that the stability of power is assured when, having been abandoned by people who have been alienated by its exactions, it remains without defense in the face of attack by the ambitious, when portfolios are fiercely assailed and defended and when those laying siege rely on rebellion just as those being besieged rely on despotism, the one in order to achieve power and the others to retain it?
Inflated salaries result not only in restrictions, a lack of order, and the instability of government; they also distort people’s ideas by strengthening the barbarous prejudice that work is to be scorned and jobs in the public sector are the only ones worthy of honor. They corrupt morals by making careers in industry burdensome and government employment flourish; by enticing the entire population to abandon manufacturing in favor of careers in the state sector, work in favor of political intrigue, manufacturing in favor of sterile consumption, ambition to control things in favor of ambition to control men; and, in sum, by increasingly spreading a mania for governing and a zeal for domination.
Do we want then to free government from the plotters who pursue it in order to share out the spoils, from factions who undermine it in order to capture it, and from the tyrants who strengthen it in order to control it? Do we want to achieve order, freedom, and public peace? Let us above all take care to reduce excessive remuneration, remove the enticements if we fear greed, and eliminate the seductive prizes linked to the end of a career if we do not want careers beset with antagonism. Let us wholeheartedly embrace the American system, in which top civil servants are indemnified and not richly endowed, where positions lead to a great deal of work and little profit, where civil service jobs are a burden assumed and not the means to a fortune and do not give glory to those holding them nor arouse envy in those who do not.
Once we have understood the object of national representation, once we have examined the work to be carried out by the future legislature, we will find it easy to know what qualities and guarantees we have to require from our deputy.
It is clear that the first thing we have to look for in him is knowledge of the subjects he will be called upon to discuss, in other words his ability in the fields of political economy and legislation.
We cannot deny that M. Faurie fulfills this first condition. The ease with which he has managed his individual affairs is a guarantee that he will be capable of administering public matters. His knowledge of finance might be of great use in the Chamber. In short, throughout his life he has devoted himself with dedication to the study of moral and political science.
The ability to do well is not enough for our representative; he also needs determination, and this determination can be guaranteed only by a constant past record, total independence of character, wealth, and social position.
In all of these respects, M. Faurie should meet the requirements of the most stringent elector.
No inconsistency in his past gives us anxiety as to the future. His probity in private life is well known and virtue in M. Faurie is not a vague sentiment but a well-defined system that is invariably practiced, which means that it would be difficult to find a man whose conduct and opinions are more in harmony. His political probity is most scrupulous; his wealth places him beyond any form of enticement, just as his courage puts him beyond all forms of fear. He does not want positions and cannot desire them; he has neither sons nor brothers in whose favor he might, to our detriment, compromise his independence. In sum, the force of his character will make him for us not an intrepid lobbyist (it is good to note that he is this) but a stubborn defender when needed.
If, along with just ideas and high sentiments, we required a talent for oratory as a condition that is, if not essential, at least desirable, I would not dare to claim that M. Faurie possesses the passionate eloquence to rouse popular masses in a public arena, but I consider him perfectly capable of putting forward in the Chamber the observations his upright mind and conscientious intentions generate and it is accepted that, where it is a matter of debating laws, the eloquence which appeals only to reason for its enlightenment is less dangerous than that which appeals to passions in order to sway them.
I have heard an objection to this candidate which I consider to have little foundation, the comment “should we not fear that, as he comes from Bayonne, he will work harder for Bayonne than for the département of the Landes?”
My answer will not be that no one dreamed of raising this objection to M. d’Haussez; that the link that is forged between a representative and the electors is as powerful as that which binds a man to the region in which he was born; finally, that as M. Faurie’s property lies in the département of the Landes, he may to some degree be regarded as a fellow countryman of ours.
There is another answer which, in my view, removes any basis for the objection.
To hear the language used by these farsighted men, would it not seem that the interests of Bayonne and the département of the Landes are so far opposed that nothing can be done for one that does not invariably run counter to the good of the other? But if we reflect a little on the respective positions of Bayonne and the Landes, we will perceive that, on the contrary, their interests are inseparable and identical.
In effect, in the ordinary course of events, a commercial town situated at the mouth of a river can have an importance only proportional to that of the region through which the river flows. If Nantes and Bordeaux are more prosperous than Bayonne, it is because the Loire and the Garonne flow through regions that are much richer than those the Adour traverses, areas that are capable of producing and consuming more. This being so, as the trade relating to this production and consumption is carried out in the town situated at the mouth of the river, it ensues that the trade in this town grows or is restricted depending on whether the surrounding regions prosper or decline. Were the banks of the Adour and its tributaries fertile, the moors cleared, the Chalosse given means of communication, our département crossed by canals and inhabited by a significant and rich population, then Bayonne would be assured of trade by the nature of things. If our deputy wants to make Bayonne flourish, he will first have to attract prosperity to the département of the Landes.
If different constituency boundaries brought Bayonne into our département, is it not a fact that we would not object? Well then, has a line drawn on a scrap of paper changed the nature of things? Does the fact that on a map a town is separated from the countryside surrounding it by a red or blue line divide their mutual interests?
There are some who fear compromising the proper order of things by selecting as deputies men who are clearly liberal. “For the moment,” they say, “we need order above all. We need deputies who do not want to go too far too fast!”
Well! It is precisely in order to maintain order that good deputies should be appointed! It is through a love of order that we should seek to ensure that the chambers are in harmony with France. If you want order, are you going to strengthen the center right, at a time when it grates on France, a time when, with her most cherished hopes dashed, she is anxiously awaiting the election results? And do you know what she will do if she sees that, once again, her final hopes have evaporated? For my part, I do not know.
Electors, let us take up our stations, let us remember that the future legislature will bear within it the entire destiny of France, that its decisions must either snuff out for good or indefinitely prolong this struggle that has existed for so long between the France of yesteryear and modern France! Let us recall that our destiny is in our hands and that we are the masters on whom it falls to strengthen or dissolve this monstrous centralization, this gallows structure built up by Bonaparte and restored by the Bourbons in order to exploit the nation, once they had garroted it. Let us not forget that it is an illusion to count on colors and proper names to improve our lot; let us rely only on our independence and our resolve. Do we want the government to take more of an interest in us than we take in ourselves? Are we expecting it to restrain itself if we strengthen it and become less active if we send it reinforcements? Do we hope that the spoils it can take from us will be refused if we are the first to offer them? What! Should we expect a supernatural nobility of spirit or a chimerical impartiality in those who govern us, while for our part we are incapable of defending, through a simple vote, our dearest interests!
Electors, be careful! We will not be able to retrieve the opportunity if we let it slip. A major revolution has taken place; up to now, how has it improved your existence? I know that reforms take longer than a day, that we should not ask for the impossible nor criticize at random through bad temper or habit. I know that the new government needs strength and I believe it to be imbued with the best intentions, but ultimately we should not shut our eyes to the evidence nor should the fear of going too fast reduce us to immobility nor, worse, remove from us any hope of making progress. And, if there has been no material improvement, have we at least been given any reason for hope? No, they tear up those intoxicating proclamations which in the heat of the moment would have made us spill the last drop of our blood. Each day brings us closer to that past which the three glorious days should have cast back to a remote century. Is it a question of communal law? The Martignac project is being exhumed, which was drawn up under the influence of an officious court with no confidence in the nation. Is it a question of a mobile National Guard? Instead of these popular choices which ought to make it a moral force, they throw us as a consolation prize the election of subalterns, and their distrust of us is such that all our leaders are imposed on us. Is the question that of taxes? They clearly state that the government will not lower them by a cent; that if they make a sacrifice in one sector of the revenue, they will recover it from another; that the billion must remain intact indefinitely; that if some economy is achieved, taxpayers will not be relieved thereby; that eliminating one form of abuse would entail eliminating them all and that they do not wish to go down that road; that taxing drink is the fairest and most equitable of taxes, the one which is least offensively collected and least costly, a fine ideal of fiscal design which must be maintained, with no attention paid to the clamor of an overburdened populace, and that if they agree to alter it, it is with reluctance and on condition that instead of one iniquity they will make us suffer two; that all forms of transport will be taxed without any problem or inconvenience resulting for anyone; that luxury goods should not be made to pay but rather that redoubled contributions should be imposed on useful objects; that France is beautiful and rich and can be counted upon; that it is easy to bring her round to reason; and a hundred other things which bring back comte de Villèle in the person of Baron Louis and which confound you to such a dizzy extent that you do not know whether you are waking up in the reign of Philippe or that of Bonaparte.
But, people will say, these are only projects; our deputies still have to debate and adopt them.
Doubtless, and it is for this reason that we need to be scrupulous in our choices and to give our vote only to men who are independent of all governments, both present and future.
Electors, Paris has given us liberty with its blood; are we going to destroy its work with our votes? Let us go to the elections solely for the general good. Let us close our ears to all fallacious promises and close our hearts to all personal affection or even gratitude. Let us bring forth from the ballot the name of a man who is wise, enlightened, and independent. If the future brings us a better fate let us have the glory of having contributed to it; if it hides yet more storms, let us have nothing to reproach ourselves for.
To the Electors of the District of Saint-Sever
[vol. 1, p. 461]
My dear Fellow Countrymen,
Encouraged by a few of you to stand at the forthcoming elections, and wishing to ascertain the degree of collaboration on which I could rely, I have spoken to a number of electors. Alas! one finds me too progressive, another not enough; my anti-academic opinions are rejected by one, my aversion to the Algerian enterprise by another, my economic convictions by a third, my views on parliamentary reform by yet another, etc.
This proves that the best policy for a candidate is to hide his opinions, or, for even greater security, not to have any, and to confine himself to the hackneyed platform: “I’m for freedom without licentiousness, order without tyranny, peace without shame, and economizing without endangering any service.”
Since I have not the slightest intention of deceiving your trust, I shall continue sincerely to make my ideas known to you, even if this should further alienate many votes from me. I beg you to excuse me if the need to pour forth convictions that weigh upon me drives me to overstep the limits that are customarily set to political manifestos.
I have met with many conservatives, I have conversed with many members of the opposition, and I think I can positively assert that neither of those two great parties that divide parliament is satisfied with itself.
They wage battles in parliament with soft balls.
The conservatives have the official majority; they reign, they govern. But they feel in a confused way that they are leading the country, and themselves, to ruin. They have the majority, but, in the depths of their conscience, the manifest fraud of the polls raises a protest that bothers them. They reign, but they can see that, under their reign, the budget increases year by year, that the present is deep in debt and the future already tied up, that the first emergency will find us without resources, and they are well aware that financial difficulties have always been the occasion for revolutionary outbursts. They govern, but they cannot deny that they govern people through their evil passions, and that political corruption is making its way into all the arteries of the electorate. They wonder what the consequences of such a serious state of affairs will be, and what is to become of a nation where immorality has pride of place and where faith in the political system is an object of mockery and contempt. They worry on seeing the constitutional regime perverted in its very essence, to the point where the executive power and the legislative assembly have publicly exchanged their responsibilities, with the ministers surrendering to the members of parliament the job of appointing people to all posts and the members of parliament relinquishing their share of legislative power to the ministers. As a result, they see civil servants overcome with deep discouragement, when favor and electoral submissiveness alone entitle you to promotion and when the longest and most devoted services are held of no account whatsoever. Yes, the future of France troubles the conservatives; and how many among them would not go over to the opposition, if only they could find there some guarantees for that peace at home and abroad of which they are so fond?
On the other hand, as a party, can the opposition rely on the strength of the ground on which it has placed itself? What does it demand? What does it want? What is the mainspring of its action? What is its program? Nobody knows. Its natural role would be to watch over the sacred deposit of the three great conquests of civilization: peace, freedom, justice. And it breathes out nothing but war, domination, and Napoleonic ideas. It is neglecting freedom of work and of trade along with freedom of thought and of education. And, in its conquering zeal, with regard to Africa and the South Seas, there has never been any instance of the word justice passing its lips. It is aware that it is working for the ambitious and not for the public, that the multitude will gain nothing from the success of its scheming. We once saw an opposition party with only fifteen members supported by the enthusiastic assent of a great people. But today the opposition has not rooted itself in the sympathies of the people; it feels cut off from that source of strength and life, and, apart from the zeal with which personal designs fire its leaders, it is pale, confused, discouraged, and most of its sincere members would go over to the conservative party were they not loath to associate themselves with the perverse course the latter has given to affairs of state.
A strange sight indeed! How is it that whether in the center or at either extreme in the House, decent souls feel ill at ease? Could it not be that the conquest of ministerial offices, which is the more or less acknowledged aim of the battle they are engaged in, interests only a few individuals and remains a matter of complete indifference to the masses? Could it not be that they lack a rallying principle? Maybe it would be sufficient to toss into the heart of that Assembly one simple, true, clear, fertile, practical idea to see what one seeks there in vain suddenly emerge: a party exclusively representing, in all its scope and entirety, the interests of the governed, of the taxpayers.
I see that fertile idea in the creed of certain renowned political writers whose words have unfortunately gone unheeded. I will try to sum it up before you.
There are things that can be done only by collective force or established authority, and others that should be left to private activity.
The fundamental problem in political science is to know what pertains to each of these two modes of action.
Public administration and private activity both have our good in view. But their services differ in that we suffer the former under compulsion and accept the latter of our own free will, whence it follows that it is reasonable to entrust the former only with what the latter is absolutely unable to carry out.
For my part, I believe that, when the powers that be have guaranteed to each and every one the free use and the product of his or her faculties, repressed any possible misuse, maintained order, secured national independence, and carried out certain tasks in the public interest which are beyond the power of the individual, then they have fulfilled just about all their duty.
Beyond this sphere, religion, education, association, work, exchanges, everything belongs to the field of private activity, under the eye of public authority, whose role should be one only of vigilance and of repression of disorder.
If that great and fundamental boundary were thus established, then authority would be strong, and it would be appreciated, because it would make felt a tutelary action only.
It would be inexpensive, because it would be confined within the narrowest limits.
It would be liberal, for, on the one condition that he or she did not encroach on the freedom of others, each citizen would fully and completely enjoy the free exercise of his or her physical, mental, and moral faculties.
I might add that, once the power of perfectibility that is within society had been freed from all regulating constraint, society would then be in the best possible position to develop its riches, its education, and its morality.
But, even if there were agreement on the limits of public authority, it is no easy matter to force it and maintain it within those limits.
Government power, a vast, organized, and living body, naturally tends to grow. It feels cramped within its supervisory mission. Now, its growth is hardly possible without a succession of encroachments upon the field of individual rights. The expansion of government power means usurping some form of private activity, transgressing the boundary that I set earlier between what is and what is not its essential function. Government power departs from its mission when, for instance, it imposes a particular form of worship on our consciences, a particular method of teaching on our minds, a particular finality for our work or for our capital, or an invasive drive on our international relationships, etc.
Gentlemen, I would bring it to your attention that government becomes all the more costly as it becomes oppressive. For it can commit no encroachments otherwise than through salaried agents. Thus each of its intrusions implies creating some new administration, instituting some fresh tax, so that our freedom and our purse inevitably share a common destiny.
Consequently, if the public understands and wishes to defend its true interests, it will halt authority as soon as the latter tries to go beyond its sphere of activity; and for that purpose the public has an infallible means, which is to deny authority the resources with which it could carry out its encroachments.
Once these principles are laid down, the role of the opposition, and I would even say that of parliament as a whole, is simple and clearly defined.
It does not consist in hindering the government in its essential activity, in denying it the means of administering justice, of repressing crime, of paving roads, of repelling foreign aggression.
It does not consist in discrediting or debasing the government in the public eye, in depriving it of the strength it needs.
It does not consist in making government go from hand to hand by changing ministries, and less still, by changing dynasties.
It does not even consist in ranting childishly against the government’s tendency to intrude; for that tendency is inevitable, incurable, and would manifest itself just as much under a president as under a king, in a republic as in a monarchy.
It consists solely in keeping the government within its limits; in preserving the sphere of freedom and of private activity as completely and extensively as possible.
So if you were to ask me: “What will you do as a member of parliament?” I would reply: “Why, what you yourselves would do as taxpayers and subjects.”
I would say to those in power: “Do you lack the means to maintain order within and independence without? Well, here is money, here are men; for order and independence are to the advantage of the public and not of the government.
“But if you think you have the right to impose on us a religious cult, a philosophical theory, an educational system, a farming method, a commercial trend, a military conquest, then there will be neither money nor men for you; for in that case we would have to pay, not to be served but to be serfs, not to preserve our freedom but to lose it.”
This doctrine can be summed up in the following simple words: Let everything be done for the majority of citizens, both great and humble. In their interest, let there be good public management of what can unfortunately not be carried out otherwise. In their interest also, let there be complete and utter freedom in everything else, under the supervision of established authority.
One thing will strike you, gentlemen, as it strikes me, and it is this: for a member of parliament to be able to express himself in this way, he must be part of that public for whom the administration is designed and by whom it is paid.
It must be acknowledged that it is entirely up to the public to decide how, to what extent, and at what cost it means to have things managed; otherwise representative government would be nothing but a deception and the sovereignty of the people a meaningless expression. Now, having recognized the tendency of any government to grow indefinitely, when it questions you through the polls on the subject of its own limits, if you leave it to the government itself to reply, by entrusting its own civil servants with drawing up the answer, then you might as well put your wealth and your freedom at its disposal. To expect a government to draw from within itself the strength to resist its natural expansion is to expect from a falling stone the energy to halt its fall.
If the election regulations were to stipulate: “The taxpayers will have themselves represented by civil servants,” you would find that absurd, and you would understand that there would no longer be any limit to the expansion of the powers that be, apart from riot, or to increase in the budget, apart from bankruptcy; but are the results any different when electors voluntarily make up for such a regulation?
At this point, gentlemen, I must tackle the serious question of parliamentary conflicts of interest. I will not say much about it, reserving the right to address myself at greater length to M. Larnac. But I cannot entirely pass over it in silence, since he has thought fit to circulate among you a letter of which I have not kept a copy, and which, not being intended for publication, only touched on that vast subject.
According to the way that letter has been interpreted, it appears that I would demand that all civil servants be banned from parliament.
I do not know whether such an absolute meaning is perceptible in my letter. In that case, my expression must have gone beyond my thought. I have never considered that the Assembly in which laws are drawn up could do without magistrates, or that it could deal constructively with maritime problems in the absence of seamen, with military problems in the absence of soldiers, or with financial problems in the absence of financiers.
What I said and what I uphold is this: as long as the law has not settled the position of civil servants in parliament, as long as their interests as civil servants are not, so to speak, effaced by their interests as taxpayers, the best we electors can do is not to appoint any; and, I must admit, I would rather there were not a single one of them in the House than see them there as a majority, without cautionary measures having been taken, as the good sense of the public requires, in order to protect them and to protect us from the influence that hope and fear must exercise over their votes.
This has been construed as petty jealousy, as mistrust verging on hatred toward civil servants. It is nothing of the sort. I know many civil servants, nearly all my friends belong to that category (for who doesn’t nowadays?), as I do myself; and in my essays on economics, I maintained, contrary to the opinion of my master, M. Say, that their services are productive just as private services are. But it is nonetheless true that they differ in that we take of the latter only what we want, and at an agreed price, whereas the former are imposed on us as well as the payment attached to them. Or, if it is claimed that public services and their payment are voluntarily approved by us, because they are formulated by our representatives, it must be acknowledged that our approval stems only from that very formulation. It is therefore not up to civil servants to see to the formulation. It is no more up to them to decide on the extent of the service and the price to be paid than it is up to my wine supplier to decide on the amount of wine I should take and the sum I should spend on it. It is not of civil servants that I am wary, it is of the human heart; and I can respect those who make a living out of collecting taxes, while considering that they are hardly qualified to vote them, just as M. Larnac probably respects judges, while considering their duties as incompatible with those of the National Guard.
My views on parliamentary reform have also been presented as tainted with excessive radicalism. And yet I had taken care to point out that, in my opinion, reform is even more necessary for the stability of the government than for the preservation of our liberties. As I said then, the most dangerous men in the House are not the civil servants, but those who aim at becoming civil servants. The latter are driven to waging, against whatever cabinet may be in power, an incessant, troublesome, seditious war, which is of no use whatsoever to the country; they make use of events, distort questions, lead public opinion astray, hinder public affairs, disturb the peace, for they have only one aim in mind: to overthrow the ministers in order to take their places. To deny the truth of this, you would have to have never set eyes on the historical records of Great Britain, you would have to deliberately reject the teachings of our constitutional history as a whole.
This brings me back to the fundamental idea underlying my address, for, as you can see, the concept of opposition may take on two very different aspects.
The opposition, such as it is now, the inevitable result of deputies being admitted to power, is reduced to the disorderly struggle of ambitions. It violently attacks individuals, but only weakly attacks corrupt practices; that is natural, since corrupt practices make up the greater part of that which it is striving to control. It does not contemplate limiting the sphere of administrative action; rather, it seeks only to eliminate a few cogs from the vast machine it longs to control. Besides, we have seen it at work. Its present leader was once prime minister; the present prime minister was once its leader. It has governed under either banner. What have we gained from it all? Throughout these developments, has the upward trend of the budget ever been suspended even for a minute?
Opposition, as I see it, is the organized vigilance of the public. It is calm and impartial, but as permanent as the reaction of a spring under the hand that holds it down. So that the balance may not be upset, must not the force of resistance of the governed be equal to the force of expansion of those that govern? This opposition has nothing against the men in office: it has only to replace them, it will even help them within the sphere of their legitimate duties, but it will mercilessly confine them within that sphere.
You might think that this natural form of opposition, which has nothing dangerous or subversive about it, which attacks the government neither in those who hold office, nor in its fundamental principle, nor in its useful action, but only in its exaggeration, is less distasteful to the ministers than seditious opposition. Don’t you believe it! It is precisely this form of opposition that they fear most of all; they hate it, they deride it in order to bring it to naught, they prevent it from emerging within their constituencies, because they can see plainly that it gets to the bottom of things and pursues evil to its very roots. The other kind of opposition, personal opposition, is less to be dreaded. Between those men who fight over ministerial portfolios, however bitter the struggle, there is always a tacit agreement, under which the vast edifice of government must be left intact. “Overthrow me if you can,” says the minister, “I will overthrow you in your turn; only, let us take care that the stake remains on the table, in the shape of a budget of fifteen hundred million francs.” But if one day a member of parliament, speaking in the name of taxpayers and as a taxpayer himself, rises from his seat in the House to say to present or prospective ministers: “Gentlemen, fight among yourselves over power, all I seek to do is restrain it; wrangle over how to manipulate the budget, all I wish to do is reduce it,” ah! be sure that those raging fighters, apparently so bitterly opposed, will very soon pull together to stifle the voice of that faithful representative. They will call him a utopian, a theoretician, a dangerous reformer, a man with a fixed idea, of no practical value; they will heap scorn upon him; they will turn the venal press against him. But if taxpayers let him down, sooner or later they will find out that they have let themselves down.
I have spoken my mind, gentlemen; I have laid it before you plainly and frankly, while regretting not being able to corroborate my opinion with all the arguments that might have carried your convictions.
I hope to have said enough, however, for you to be able to appreciate the course I would follow if I were your representative, and it is hardly necessary to add that, with regard to the government and the ambitious in opposition, I would first make a point of placing myself in that position of independence which alone affords any guarantee, and which one must impose on oneself, since the law has made no provision in that respect.
Having laid down the principle which should, as I see it, govern the whole career of your parliamentary representatives, allow me to say a few words about the main subjects to which it seems to me this principle should be applied.
You may have heard that I have devoted some energy to the cause of free trade, and it is easy to see that my efforts are consistent with the fundamental idea that I have just set forth concerning the natural limits of government authority. As I see it, anyone who has created a product should have the option of exchanging it, as well as of using it himself. Exchange is therefore an integral part of the right of property. Now, we have not instituted and we do not pay government in order to deprive us of that right, but on the contrary in order to guarantee us that right in its entirety. None of the government’s encroachments has had more disastrous consequences than its encroachment on the exercise of our faculties and on our freedom to dispose of their products.
First of all, this would-be protective regime, when closely examined, is based on the most flagrant plunder. Two years ago, when measures were taken to restrain the entry of oil-producing seeds, it was indeed possible to increase the profits on certain crops, since the price of oil immediately went up by a few pence a pound. But it is perfectly obvious that those excess profits were not a gain for the nation as a whole, since they were taken gratuitously and artfully from the pockets of other citizens, of all those who grow neither rapeseed nor olive trees. Thus, there was no creation, but simply an unjust transfer, of riches. To say that in so doing you supported one branch of agriculture is saying nothing at all as regards general welfare, because you gave it only the sap that you took from other branches. And what crazy industry might not be made lucrative at such a cost? Suppose a shoemaker takes it into his head to cut shoes out of boots, however unsound an operation; just give him a preferential license, and it will become an excellent one. If growing rapeseed is in itself a sound activity, there is no need to give any supplementary profit to those who practice it. If it is unsound, the extra income does not make it sound. It simply shifts the loss onto the public.
Plunder, as a rule, transfers wealth but does not destroy it. Protectionism transfers wealth and furthermore destroys it, and this is how: as oil-producing seeds from the north no longer enter France, there is no longer any way of producing here the wherewithal to pay for it, for example, a certain quantity of wine. Now, if, regarding oil, the profits of the producers and the losses of the consumers balance, the sufferings of the vine growers are an unjustified and unalleviated evil.
Many of you no doubt are not quite clear in your minds as to the effects of a protectionist regime. Allow me to make a remark.
Let us suppose that this regime were not forced on us by law, but directly by the will of the monopolists. Let us suppose that the law left us entirely free to purchase iron from the Belgians or the Swedes, but that the ironmasters had servants enough to prevent the iron from passing our frontiers and to force us thereby to purchase from them and at their price. Would we not complain loudly of oppression and injustice? The injustice would indeed be more obvious; but as for the economic effects, it cannot be said that they would be any different. After all, are we any the fatter because those gentlemen have been clever enough to have carried out by customs officers, and at our expense, that policing of the frontier that we would not tolerate were it carried out at their own expense?
The protectionist system bears witness to the following truth: a government that goes beyond its normal assignments draws from its transgressions power only that is dangerous, even for itself. When the state becomes the distributor and regulator of profits, all sectors of industry tug at it this way and that in order to tear from it a shred of monopoly. Have you ever seen free home trade put a cabinet in the predicament in which regulated foreign trade put Sir Robert Peel? And if we consider our own country, is it not a strong government indeed that we see trembling before M. Darblay? So, as you can see, by restraining the government you consolidate rather than endanger it.
Free trade, freedom of communication between peoples, putting the varied products of the world within everyone’s reach, enabling ideas to penetrate along with the products into those regions still darkened by ignorance, the state freed from the contrary claims of the workers, peace between nations founded on intertwining interests—all this is undoubtedly a great and noble cause. I am happy to believe that this cause, which is eminently Christian and social, is at the same time that of our unhappy region, at present languishing and perishing under the pressure of commercial restrictions.
Education is also bound up with the same fundamental question that precedes all others in politics: Is it part of the state’s duties? Or does it belong to the sphere of private activity? You can guess what my answer will be. The government is not set up in order to bring our minds into subjection or to absorb the rights of the family. To be sure, gentlemen, if it pleases you to hand over to it your noblest prerogatives, if you want to have theories, systems, methods, principles, textbooks, and teachers forced on you by the government, that is up to you; but do not expect me to sign, in your name, such a shameful abdication of your rights. Besides, you must not shut your eyes to the consequences. Leibnitz used to say: “I have always thought that whoever was master of education, would be master of mankind.” Maybe that is why the head of our state education is known as Grand Master. The monopoly of teaching cannot reasonably be entrusted to any but an authority recognized as infallible. Otherwise, there is an unlimited risk that error be uniformly taught to the people as a whole. “We have made a republic,” Robespierre would say; “it now remains for us to make republicans of everyone.” Bonaparte wanted to make soldiers of everyone, Frayssinous wanted only religious devotees, M. Cousin would turn people into philosophers, Fourier would have only “harmonians,” and I suppose I would want economists. Unity is a wonderful thing, but only on condition that you are in the right, which again amounts to saying that academic monopoly is compatible only with infallibility. So let us leave education free. It will perfect itself through trial and error, example, rivalry, imitation, and emulation. Unity is not at the starting point of the efforts made by the human mind; it is the result of the natural gravitation of free intellects toward the center of all attraction: truth.
That does not mean to say that the powers that be should withdraw in complete indifference. As I have already said, their mission is to supervise the use and repress the misuse of all our faculties. I accept that they should accomplish this mission to the fullest extent, and with even greater vigilance regarding education than in any other field; that the state should lay down conditions concerning qualifications and character references; that it should repress immoral teaching; that it should watch over the health of the pupils. I accept all that, while yet remaining convinced that its solicitude, however scrupulous, can offer only the very slightest guarantee compared with that instilled by nature in the hearts of fathers and in the interest of teachers.
I must make myself clear on one vast subject, more especially as my views probably differ from those of many of you: I am referring to Algeria. I have no hesitation in saying that, unless it be in order to secure independent frontiers, you will never find me, in this case or in any other, on the conqueror’s side.
To me it is a proven fact, and I venture to say a scientifically proven fact, that the colonial system is the most disastrous illusion ever to have led nations astray. I make no exception for the English, in spite of the specious nature of the well-known argument post hoc, ergo propter hoc.
Do you know how much Algeria is costing you? From one-third to two-fifths of your four direct taxes, including the extra cents. Whoever among you pays three hundred francs in taxes sends one hundred francs annually to evaporate into the clouds over the Atlas mountains or to sink into the sands of the Sahara.
We are told that the money is an advance and that, a few centuries from now, we shall recover it a hundredfold. But who says so? The very quartermaster general’s department that swindles us out of our money. Listen here, gentlemen, when it comes to cash, there is but one useful piece of advice: let each man watch his purse . . . and those to whom he entrusts the purse strings.
We are further told: “The money spent helps to support many people.” Yes, indeed, Kabyle spies, Moorish moneylenders, Maltese settlers, and Arab sheikhs. If it were used to cut the “Grandes-Landes” canal, to excavate the bed of the Adour River and the port of Bayonne, it would help to support many people around us, too, and moreover it would provide the country with an enormous capacity for production.
I have spoken of money; I should first have spoken about men. Every year, ten thousand of our young fellow citizens, the pick of our population, go to their deaths on those consuming shores, and to no useful purpose so far, other than to extend, at our expense, the field of the administrative services, who are naturally all in favor of it. In answer to that, there is the alleged advantage of ridding the country of its surplus. A horrible pretext, which goes against all human feeling and which hasn’t even the merit of being materially true, for, even supposing the population to be overabundant, to take from it, with each man, two or three times the capital which could have supported him here, is far from being any relief to those who remain behind.
But I must be fair. In spite of its liking for anything that increases the size of its administration, it seems that at the outset the government shrank from that abyss of bloodshed, injustice, and distress. The nation chose to go ahead; it will long suffer the consequences.
What carried the country away, besides the mirage of a great empire, of a new civilization, etc., was a strong reaction of national feeling against the offensive claims of the British oligarchy. England’s veiled opposition to our designs was enough to persuade us to go ahead with them. I appreciate that feeling, and I would rather see it go astray than die out. But, on the other hand, is there not a danger that it should place us under the very domination that we hate? Give me two men, the one submissive and the other contrary, and I will lead them both on a leash. If I want them to walk, I will say to one: “Walk!” and to the other: “Don’t walk!” and both of them will do as I wish. If our sense of dignity were to take that form, then all perfidious Albion would have to do, in order to make us do the most stupid things, would be to appear to oppose them. Just suppose, and it is certainly very allowable to do so, that England sees in Algeria the ball and chain that tie us down, the abyss which could swallow up our power; then would that country have only to frown, take on a haughty and angry air, in order to make us pursue a dangerous and insane policy? Let us avoid that pitfall; let us judge by ourselves and for ourselves; let no one lay down the law to us either directly or in a roundabout way. The problem of Algiers is unfortunately not isolated. We are bound by precedents; the past has committed the future, and there are precedents that must be taken into account. Let us, however, remain master of decisions to come; let us weigh the advantages and drawbacks; and let us not disdain to add a measure of justice to the balance, albeit toward the Kabyles. If we do not begrudge the money, if glory is not to be haggled over, let us at least attach some importance to the grief of families, the sufferings of our fellow countrymen, the fate of those who fall, and the disastrous habits of those who survive.
There is another subject that deserves all the attention of your representative. I am referring to indirect taxation. In this case the distinction between what is and what is not within the competence of the state does not apply. It is obviously up to the state to collect taxes. However, it may be said that it is the inordinate expansion of its power that makes the state have recourse to the most hateful tax inventions. When a nation, the victim of its own excessive timidity, dares do nothing by itself and is forever begging for state intervention, then it must resign itself to being mercilessly ransomed; for the state can do nothing without finance, and when it has drained the ordinary sources of revenue dry, it has no alternative but to turn to the strangest and most oppressive forms of extortion. Thus we have indirect taxation on alcohol. The suppression of these taxes therefore depends on the answer to the eternal question that I never tire of asking: Does the French nation want to be forever in tutelage and to call on its government to intervene in every matter? In that case, it should no longer complain about being overburdened and can even expect to see things get worse.
But, even supposing that the tax on alcohol could not be abolished (which I am far from conceding), it seems clear to me that it could be largely modified, and that it would be easy to cut out its most distasteful elements. All that would be necessary would be to induce the owners of vineyards to give up certain exaggerated ideas on the extent of their right of property and the inviolability of their domicile.
Allow me, gentlemen, to end with a few personal observations. You must excuse me for doing so. For I, personally, have no active and devoted canvasser at a salary of three thousand francs plus four thousand francs in office expenses to busy himself with promoting my candidacy from one side of the constituency to the other, and from one end of the year to the other.
Some people say: “M. Bastiat is a revolutionary.” Others: “M. Bastiat has thrown in his lot with the government.”
What precedes answers that dual assertion.
There are those who say: “M. Bastiat may be a very decent fellow, but his opinions have changed.”
As for me, when I consider how I have persisted in defending a principle that is making no progress in France, I sometimes wonder if I am not a maniac possessed with a fixed idea.
To enable you to judge whether I have changed, let me set before you an extract from the declaration of policy that I published in 1832, when a kind word from General Lamarque attracted the attention of a few voters in my favor.
“In my view, the institutions that we have already obtained and those that we can obtain by lawful means are sufficient, if we make enlightened use of them, to raise our country to a high degree of freedom, greatness, and prosperity.
“The right to vote taxes, in giving citizens the power to extend or restrain the action of the government as they please, isn’t that management by the public of public affairs? What might we not achieve by making judicious use of that right?
“Do we consider that ambition for office is the source of many contentions, intrigues, and factions? It rests with us alone to deprive that fatal passion of its sustenance, by reducing the profits and the number of salaried public offices.”
. . . . . . .
“Do we feel that industry is shackled, the administration overcentralized, education hampered by academic monopoly? There is nothing to prevent us from holding back the money that facilitates those shackles, that centralization, those monopolies.
“As you can see, gentlemen, I shall never expect the welfare of my country to result from any violent change in either the forms or the holders of power; but rather from our good faith in supporting the government in the useful exercise of its essential powers and from our firm determination to restrict it to those limits. The government has to be firm facing enemies from within and from without, for its mission is to keep the peace at home and abroad. But it must leave to private activity everything that is within the latter’s competence. Order and freedom depend on those conditions.”
Are those not the same principles, the same feelings, the same fundamental way of thinking, the same solutions for particular problems, the same means of reform? People may not share my opinions; but it cannot be said that they have varied, and I venture to add: they are invariable. It is too coherent a system to admit of any alterations. It will collapse or it will triumph as a whole.
My dear fellow countrymen, please forgive the length and the unusual form of this letter. If you grant me your votes, I shall be deeply honored. If you grant them to another, I shall serve my country in some less eminent sphere, better suited to my abilities.
Mugron, 1 July 1846
On Parliamentary Reform
[vol. 1, p. 480]
To M. Larnac, Deputy for the Landes
You have considered it appropriate to circulate a letter which I had the honor of sending you and your reply to it. I do not reproach you for this. No doubt you assumed that at the elections we would meet in opposing camps, and if my letter revealed to you a man who professed mistaken and dangerous opinions, you had the right to warn the general public. I allow that you took this decision with this sole preoccupation with the general interest in mind. Perhaps it would have been more fitting to choose between absolute silence and total publicity. You have preferred something that is neither of these, pompous yet hard to pin down scandalmongering about a letter of which I have not kept a copy and whose terms, consequently, I cannot explain nor defend. So be it. I have not the slightest doubt about the accuracy of the copyist responsible for reproducing it and that is enough for me.
However, sir, is this enough to achieve your aim, which is doubtless to enlighten the beliefs of the electors? My letter relates to a particular fact, followed by a political doctrine. I have scarcely touched on this fact, and this is simply explained, since I was addressing someone who was aware of the full circumstances. I sketched the doctrine as one can do in letter form. This is not enough detail for the general public, and since you have involved them in this matter, allow me to address them in my turn.
I find it too distasteful to introduce actual names into this debate to underline particular facts. Only the need to defend myself personally could make me decide to do this and I hasten to come to the major political question which is the subject of your letter, the conflicts of interest of a legislative mandate with work in the civil service.
I make it clear at the outset, I am not actually asking for civil servants to be excluded from the House; they are citizens and should be able to enjoy the rights of citizenship, but they should be admitted to it only as citizens and not as civil servants. If they wish to serve the nation over which the law reigns, they cannot be the executors of the law. If they wish to represent the general public which pays the government, they cannot be the salaried agents of that government. I consider that their presence in the Chamber be subordinated to a measure which I will indicate later; and I unhesitatingly add that, in my eyes at least, there are many more disadvantages in admitting them to the Chamber unconditionally than to excluding them unremittingly.
“Your thesis is truly immense (you say); if I were dealing a priori with the question of conflicts of interest, I would begin by castigating this tendency to suspiciousness, one which appears very illiberal to me.”
But sir, what is the body of our laws if not a series of precautionary measures against the dangerous tendencies of the human heart? What is the constitution? What are all these checks and balances and the counterbalancing of powers if not a system of barriers to possible and even fatal encroachments in the absence of any restraint? What is religion itself, at least in one of its essential aspects, if not a source of grace intended by Providence to remedy native and therefore foreseen weakness in our nature? If you would remove from our symbols, charters, and law codes all that which has been placed there by what you call suspicion and I call prudence, you would make the task of legislators very easy, but make the fate of men quite precarious. If you believe man to be infallible, burn the laws and charters. If you consider him to be fallible, in that case, when it is a matter of conflicts of interest or even a particular law, the question is not to know whether it is founded on suspicion but whether that suspicion is an impartial, reasonable, enlightened one, in other words on a prediction unfortunately justified by the indelible infirmity of men’s hearts.
This reproach made to suspicious tendencies has so often been directed against anyone who petitions for parliamentary reform that I feel obliged to repel it with some insistence. When we are very young and have just escaped from the atmosphere of Greece and Rome, where the university compels us to absorb our initial impressions, it is true that the love of liberty is too often mistaken in us with impatience in the face of any rules, of any government, and consequently with a puerile aversion to public office and civil servants. For my part, age and reflection have totally cured me of this aberration. I acknowledge that, except in instances of abuse, whether in public or private life, each person provides society with similar services. In one case, he satisfies the need for food and clothing, in another the need for order and security. I therefore do not take up arms against public office or suspect any civil servant individually. I have esteem for very many of them and I am a civil servant myself, although one of very modest rank. If others have pleaded the cause of conflicts of interest under the influence of a narrow and bitter jealousy or of an alarmist version of democracy, I can pursue the same goal without associating myself with these sentiments. Of course, without exceeding the boundaries of reasonable caution, it is permissible to take account of man’s passions or rather the nature of things.
However, sir, although public office and private industry have in common that both render similar services to society, it cannot be denied that they differ in one circumstance which it is essential to note. Each person is free to accept or refuse the services of private industry and receive them insofar as they suit him and to discuss their price. On the other hand, anything that concerns public office is regulated in advance by law and removed from our free will. It prescribes for us the quantity and quality we have to consume (pardon this rather too technical language) as well as the remuneration that will be attached. For this reason, it would seem that it is up to those for whom and at whose expense this type of service is established to approve at least the law which determines its particular purpose, its scope, and the salaries involved. If the field of hairdressing were regulated by law, if we left to wig makers the job of making the law, it is likely (and I would not at all wish to ruffle the feelings of wig makers, nor to display a tendency to illiberal suspiciousness but simply to base my reasoning on the knowledge we have of the human heart), it is likely, I repeat, that we would soon be inordinately well groomed, indeed to the point of tyranny and the emptying of our purses. In the same way, when the electors have laws passed which regulate the provision of public safety and the salaries thereby entailed, or those of any other governmental product, by civil servants who earn their living from this work, it would seem to me to be indisputable that these electors run the risk of being administered and taxed beyond all reasonable measure.
Obsessed by the idea that we are prey to illiberal suspiciousness, you add: “In periods of intolerance, we would have said to candidates, ‘You must not be either a Protestant or a Jew’; these days, we say, ‘Do not be a civil servant.’ ”
In that case we would have been absurd, whereas now we are being rational. Jews, Protestants, and Catholics, regulated by the same laws and paying the same taxes, are voted for by us as equals. How can a religious creed be a motive justifying exclusion for anyone among us? However, with regard to those who apply the law and earn a living from taxation, the prohibition against voting for them is not at all arbitrary. Administrative authority itself acts in accordance with this principle and thus demonstrates that it is common sense. M. Lacave-Laplagne does not have the accounts audited by the accountants. It is not him personally, it is the very nature of these two orders of functions that causes conflicts of interest. Would you not find it laughable for the minister to base it on religious creed, the length of the nose, or the color of hair? The analogy you offer is of this nature.
“I think that you need very serious, patently clear, and proven reasons for asking that an exception should be made of someone. In general, this idea is bad and retrograde.”
Do you mean to satirize the Charter? It lays down that anyone who does not pay five hundred francs of taxes should be excluded on the simple conjecture that anyone who is not rich is not independent. Am I not aligning myself with its spirit when, since I have only one vote to allocate and am obliged to reject all the candidates except for one, I include among those I reject one who perhaps has financial resources but who, since he has gained them from the minister, seems to me to be more dependent than if he had none?
“I am in favor of the progressive adage sunt favores ampliandi, sunt odia restringenda.”
Sunt favores ampliandi! Ah, sir, I very much fear that under this dispensation there are too many people. Be that as it may, I ask whether deputation has been created for the deputies or for the general public? If it is for the general public, show me how they benefit by delegating civil servants. I can well see that this tends to expand the budget, but not without restricting the resources of taxpayers.
Sunt odia restringenda! Useless functions and expenditure, these are the odia that need to be restricted. Tell me how, therefore, we can expect this of those who carry out the first and gobble up the second?
In any case, there is one point on which we agree. This is on the extension of electoral rights. Unless you classify these among the odia restringenda, you have to include them in the number of the favores ampliandi, and your generous aphorism tells us that electoral reform can count on you.
“I have confidence in the workings of our institutions (in particular, I dare say, in the one which is the subject of this correspondence). I believe it to be conducive to the production of morality. This condition of society lies essentially in the electors; it is summed up in its representatives, it passes through the votes of majorities, etc.”
This is certainly a most touching picture, and I like this morality which rises from the base to the summit of the edifice. I could trace a less optimistic picture and show the political immorality that descends from the summit to the base. Which of the two would be more true to life? What! The disorderly placement of the voting and execution of laws and the voting and control of the budget in the same hands produces morality? Logically, I have difficulty understanding this. Evidentially, I have even greater difficulty.
You invoke the adage Quid leges sine moribus? I am doing nothing else. I have not called the law to account but the electors. I have uttered the hope that they will get themselves represented by deputies whose interests are in harmony with and not in opposition to theirs. This is very much a matter of mores. The law does not forbid us to elect civil servants but it does not oblige us to do so either. I do not hide the fact that it would seem to me to be reasonable for it to contain a few precautions in this respect. In the meantime, let us take them ourselves: Quid leges sine moribus?
I said, “Whether right or wrong, it is a deep-seated idea of mine that deputies are the controllers of power.”
You jeered at the words whether right or wrong. So be it. I give way to you on this. Let us substitute this sentence: I may be mistaken, but I have the conviction that deputies are the controllers of power.
“What power?” you ask. Obviously executive power. You say: “I acknowledge only three powers: the king, the Chamber of Peers, and the Chamber of Deputies.”
If we return to abstract principles, I will be forced to differ in opinion from you, as I fundamentally acknowledge only one power: national power. All the others are delegated, and it is because executive power is delegated that the nation has the right to control it. And it is in order that this control is not derisory that the nation, in my humble opinion, would be wise not to place in the same hands both power and control. Assuredly it is free to do so. It is free to draw down on itself, as it does, various impediments and taxes. In this it seems to me unwise and even less wise to complain about the result. You think that I hold a serious grudge against the government; not at all, I admire it and find it very generous, when the general public is so obliging, to limit itself to a budget of 1.4 to 1.5 billion. For the last thirty years taxes have scarcely doubled. This is something to be surprised at and it should be acknowledged that the avidity of the taxman has remained well below the rashness of the taxpayers.
You find the following thought vague: “The mission of deputies is to delineate the arena in which power should be exercised.” “This arena,” you say, “is clearly delineated; it is the Charter.”
I have to say that, in the Charter, I do not know of a single clause which relates to the question. It must clearly be the case that we do not understand each other, so I will endeavor to explain my thoughts.
A nation may be more or less subject to government. In France and under the dispensation of the Charter, there are a multitude of services which may leave the scope of private industry and be entrusted to public authority and vice versa. In past times, spirited arguments were held to find out in which of these two modes of activity the railway system would remain. Even more heated is the question concerning to which of these two education should belong. One day, perhaps, the same doubts will arise with regard to religions. There are countries, such as the United States, in which the state does not interfere and they are all the better for this. Elsewhere, in Russia or Turkey, for example, the contrary system has prevailed. In the British Isles, as soon as the conflict over freedom of trade is settled in favor of the latter, another conflict is in the offing in favor of the voluntary system in religious matters or the disestablishment of the established church. I mentioned freedom of trade; in our country, the government has made itself, through variations in tariffs, the regulator of industry. Sometimes it favors agriculture over manufacturing and sometimes manufacturing over agriculture, and it has even the singular pretension to make all the sectors of production prosper at the expense of each other. It is exclusively the government that operates the carrying of mail, the handling of snuff and tobacco, etc., etc.
There is therefore a division to be made between private activity and collective or governmental activity. On the one hand, many people are inclined to increase the attributions of the state indefinitely. The most eccentric visionaries, such as Fourier, come together on this point with the most practical of the men of state, such as M. Thiers. According to these powerful geniuses, the state must, under their supreme management, naturally, be the great administrator of justice, the great pontiff, the great teacher, the great engineer, the great industrialist, and the people’s great benefactor. On the other hand, many sound minds espouse the opposite view; there are even those who go so far as to want the government to be limited to its essential functions, which are to guarantee the security of people and property, to prevent and repress violence and disorder, to ensure for all the free exercise of their faculties and the proper reward for their efforts. It is already not without some danger, they say, that the nation entrusts to a hierarchically organized body the redoubtable responsibility for the police force. This is indeed necessary, but at least the nation should refrain from giving this body more jurisdiction over moral, intellectual, or economic life, if it does not wish to be reduced to the status of so much property or of a mere thing.
And it is for this reason that there is a Charter. And it is for this reason that in this Charter there is Article 15: “All tax laws must be first passed by the Chamber of Deputies.” For, note this well, every invasion by public authority into the field of private activity implies a tax. If the government claims that it will take over education, it will need paid teachers and therefore a tax. If it aspires to subjecting our moral life to some religion or other, it will need clergy and therefore a tax. If it has to operate the railways and canals, it will need capital and therefore a tax. If it has to make conquests in Africa and Oceania, it will need armies, a navy, and therefore a tax. If it has to weight the profits of various industries through the action of tariffs, it will need a customs service and therefore a tax. If it is responsible for providing work and bread for all, it will need taxes and even more taxes.
However, for the very reason that, according to our national law, the nation is not the property of its government and that it is for the nation and not the government that religion, education, industry, the railways, etc., exist, it is up to the nation, not the government, to decide which services should be entrusted to or removed from government. Article 15 of the Charter gives the nation the means to do this. It just needs to refuse a tax to acquire liberty by this very action.
But if it abandons to the state and its agents, to executive power and its instruments, the task of establishing this great divide between the fields of collective and private industry, if in addition it delivers Article 15 of the Charter to it, is it not likely that the nation will shortly afterward be administered to death, that an indefinite number of functions will be created to substitute forced service for voluntary service in each sector and also the taxes to finance these functions? And is it possible to perceive any end to this series of encroachments and taxes which are mutually necessary, for, without wishing to attack individuals nor exaggerate man’s dangerous leanings, can we not state that it is in the nature of any constituted and organized body to try to expand and absorb all forms of influence, power, and wealth?
Well, sir, the meaning of the sentence you found vague is this: when the nation nominates deputies, part of the mission it gives them is to circumscribe the government’s sphere of action, to establish the limits which this action must not exceed and to remove from it any means of taking over the liberties the nation intends to retain, through a perspicacious use of Article 15 of the Charter. It will inevitably fail in this objective if it abandons this restrictive power to the very people in whom there resides the force for expansion that needs to be contained and restricted. May you, sir, not find the commentary less clear than the text.
Finally, there is in my letter another sentence which must lead me into lengthy explanation, since it appears to have shocked you particularly and it is this:
“From the moment the deputies have the possibility of becoming ministers, it is a simple fact that those who are ambitious seek to carve themselves out a route to the minister’s position through systematic opposition.”
Here, sir, I am no longer blaming those who occupy office, but, on the contrary, those who seek it; not civil servants but clearly those who wish to supplant them. I hope that in your eyes this will be irrefutable proof that I am not imbued with any bitter jealousy of a particular individual or class.
Up to now, I have dealt with the question of the eligibility of civil servants to become deputies and, adopting the taxpayers’ point of view, I have tried to prove that they could scarcely (to use the expressions you quote with such insistence) hand over control to those being controlled without risking both their wealth and liberty.
The passage I have just quoted leads me to discuss the eligibility of deputies for public office and envisage the relationship of this wide-ranging question with government itself. In this way, the loop of the forms of conflicts of interest will come full circle.
Yes, sir, I regard the eligibility of deputies for public office, in particular in government, as essentially destructive of all effectiveness, stability, and consistency of governmental action. I do not think it possible to imagine a combination more adverse to the interests of the monarch and those who represent him or a pillow more lumpy for the king’s head or those of his ministers. Nothing in the world seems more likely to me to arouse the spirit of partisanship, fan the flames of factions, corrupt all the sources of information and publicity, distort the action of the tribune and press, mislead public opinion after having aroused it, hinder administration, foment national hatred, provoke external war, wear out and scorn those in government, discourage and corrupt those being governed, and, in a word, throw out of alignment all the springs of the representative system. As far as I am concerned, I know of no social plague that compares with this. Since this side of the question has never been discussed or even noticed by the partisans of parliamentary reform, as far as I know, since in all their draft laws, if Article 1 raises the principle of conflicts of interest, Article 2 swiftly creates exceptions in favor of governments and their ministries, embassies, and all of what are known as high political positions, I am obliged to develop my thoughts at some length.
Above all, I must reject your preemptively seeking to define my argument out of court. You state that my case contradicts the Charter. Not at all. The Charter does not prohibit a conscientious deputy from refusing a portfolio or prudent electors from selecting candidates from those who renounce this illogical pluralism. If it is not farsighted, it does not prohibit us from being farsighted. That having been said, I continue:
One of the predecessors of the current prefect of the Landes did me the honor of paying me a visit. The elections were close and conversation turned naturally to conflicts of interest and in particular on deputies’ noneligibility for government office. Like you, the prefect was astonished that I dared to profess a doctrine which appeared to him, as to you, to be excessively rigid, impractical, etc.
I told him: “I think, sir, that you would do justice to the General Council of the Landes by acknowledging that you found a highly independent spirit there with no personal and systematic opposition. The measures you put forward are examined on their own merit. Each member votes for or against, depending on whether he considers them good or bad. Each person takes account of the general interest as he perceives it and perhaps local or personal interest, but there is no one who can be suspected of rejecting a useful proposal from you just because it comes from you.”
“Never,” said the prefect, “has the notion crossed my mind.”
“Well, let us imagine that a regulation in the following terms were to be introduced into the law governing these councils: ‘If a measure proposed by the prefect is rejected, he will be dismissed. The Council member who raised the opposition will be appointed as prefect and he will be able to distribute all the leading positions, such as general tax collection, the management of direct and indirect contributions, etc., in the département to his chance companions.’
“I ask you, is it not probable or even certain that such an article would completely change the spirit of the Council? Is it not certain that this Chamber, in which independence and impartiality currently reign, would be transformed into an arena of intrigue and faction? Is it not likely that ambition would be fueled in line with the sustenance offered it? And whatever good opinion you have of the virtue of Council members, do you think that they will avoid succumbing to this test? In any case, would it not be highly imprudent to attempt this dangerous experiment? Can we doubt that each of your proposals would become a battlefield of personal strife, that they would no longer be examined for their relevance to the public good but solely from the point of view of the opportunities they would create for the parties? And now, you surely agree that there are newspapers in the département. It is clear that belligerent militants would not fail to attract them to their cause and their entire polemics would be infused with the passions engulfing the Council. And when election day arrives, corruption and intrigue, fanned by the flames of attack and defense, will know no limits.”
“I confess,” said the prefect to me, “that in such a state of affairs, I would not wish to retain my office, even for twenty-four hours.”
Well, sir, is not this fictional constitution of a general council which so frightened a prefect the genuine constitution of the Chamber? What difference is there? Just one. The arena is vaster, the theater higher, the battlefield wider, the feeding of passion more exciting, the prize for the combat more coveted, the questions used as the text or pretext for the combat more burning, more difficult, and therefore more apt to mislead the sentiments and judgment of the multitude. It is disorder organized on the same model but on a vaster scale.
Men have filled their minds with politics, that is to say, they have dreamed of grandeur, influence, wealth, and glory. Suddenly the winds of election blow them into the legislative enclosure, and what does the constitution of the country say to them? To one it says: “You are not rich. The minister needs to swell his ranks; all the positions are in his gift and none of them is forbidden to you by law. The decision is yours.” To a second it says: “You feel you have talent and daring. There is the ministerial bench. If you remove them, the place is yours. The decision is yours.” To a third: “Your soul is not up to this level of ambition but you promised your electors to oppose the government. However, there is still an avenue to the region of power open to you; here is a party leader, link your fortune to his.”
Then, invariably, this muddle of mutual accusations begins, these outrageous efforts to attract the power of transitory popularity to one’s side, this ostentatious display of unachievable principles when one is on the attack and abject concessions when one is on the defensive. These are just traps and countertraps, mines and countermines. You can see the most disparate elements forming alliances and the most natural alliances dissolving. People bargain, stipulate, sell, and buy. Here the party spirit enters into a coalition, there subterranean ministerial cunning causes another to fail. Any event that arises, even if it bears in its wake general conflagration, is always seized upon by the assailants if it offers ground on which the boarding ladders can rest. The public good or general interest is just words, pretexts, or means. The essential point is to draw from a question the power which will help one party to overthrow the government and walk over the body. Ancona, Tahiti, Syria, Morocco, fortifications, or visiting rights are all good pretexts. All that is needed is the proper arrangements for putting them into practice. At this point we are drenched in the eternal stereotyped lamentations; internally, France is suffering, anxious, etc., etc.; externally, France is humiliated, scorned, etc., etc. Is this true, is it untrue? No notice is taken. Does this measure bring us into conflict with Europe? Does it oblige us to maintain five hundred thousand troops on constant alert? Will it stop the march of civilization? Will it create obstacles for future administrations? This is not what it is all about; just one thing is of interest, the fall and the triumph of two names.
And do not think that this sort of political perversity pervades only base souls in the Chamber, those hearts consumed by low ambition or the prosaic lovers of highly paid positions. No, it also and above all attacks elite souls, noble hearts, and powerful intellects. To quell and subdue them, it just has to awaken in the secret depths of their consciences, in place of the following trivial thought: You will achieve your dreams of wealth, another no less attractive: You will achieve your dreams of public good.
We have a remarkable example of this. There is not in France a man’s head on which as many accusations, verbal abuses, and flagrant insults have been heaped as on that of M. Guizot. If the language used by the parties contained bloodier epithets than turncoat, traitor, or apostate, they would not have been spared him. However, there is one reproach that I have never heard formulated or even insinuated against him, that of having used parliamentary success to boost his personal wealth. I acknowledge that he pushes probity to the point of self-sacrifice. I accept that he will never seek personal triumph other than the better to ensure the triumph of his principles. This is, moreover, a form of ambition that he has formally admitted.
So, we have seen this austere philosopher and man of principle in opposition. What did he do there? Everything that might suggest a thirst for power. For example, he displayed democratic views that are not his own, he adopted a mantle of fierce patriotism of which he does not approve, he caused embarrassment to his country’s government, he contrived obstacles to the most important negotiations, he fomented coalitions, and he formed leagues with any individuals, even enemies of the throne, provided that they were enemies of some minister. Being out of office, he opposed matters he would have supported within office. He supported the direction of the batteries of Ancona against M. Molé, just as M. Thiers directs the batteries of Morocco against him. In short, he conjured up a ministerial crisis with all his determination and might and deliberately created for his own future government the difficulties that result from such precedents. That is what he did, and why? Because in the Charter there is an Article 46, a tempting serpent which told him:
“You will be equal to the gods; achieve power, by whatever route, and you will be the savior of the country!” And so the deputy, beguiled, made speeches, set out doctrines, and carried out acts which his conscience condemned, but he said to himself: “This is necessary to reach office; once I have reached it, I will adopt once more my genuine philosophy and true principles.”
Is there any need for further examples? My God, the history of the war for portfolios is the entire history of parliament.
I am not attacking anyone in particular; I am attacking the institution. If the prospect of power is offered to deputies, it is impossible for the Chamber to be other than a battlefield.
Let us see what is happening in England. In 1840 the government was on the point of bringing about free trade. However, there was one man in the opposition, imbued with the doctrines of Smith, a man who couldn’t sleep at the thought of Canning’s and Huskisson’s glory, who wished at all costs to be the instrument of this vast revolution. It was going to be accomplished without him. What did he do? He declared himself the protector of protection. He aroused every shred of ignorance, prejudice, and egoism in the country. He rallied the terrified aristocracy and aroused the popular classes who were so easy to mislead. He combated his own principles in Parliament and on the hustings. He ousted the reforming government. He came to office with the express mission of closing the ports of Great Britain to foreign goods. As a result, a deluge of ills, unprecedented in the annals of history and which the Whigs had hoped to avert, swamped England. Production stopped; inactivity desolated both town and country, escorted by its two faithful satellites, crime and illness. Everyone with intellect or heart rose up against this frightful oppression and Mr. Peel, in betrayal of his party and the majority, came to Parliament to admit: “I made a mistake, I was wrong, I renounce protection and give my country free trade.” No, he was not mistaken. He was as much of an economist in 1840 as he was in 1846. But he wanted glory and for that he delayed the triumph of truth, through countless calamities, for six years.
There are therefore very few deputies whom the prospect of positions and portfolios does not cause to swerve from the line of rectitude in which their constituents hope to see them walk. It would not be so bad if the harm did not go beyond the walls of the Palais Bourbon! But, as you know, sir, the two armies who dispute power carry their battlefield outside. The warlike masses are everywhere; only the leaders are in the Chamber and it is from there that they issue orders. They are fully aware that, to reach the center of the fort, they have to conquer the outer works, the newspapers, popularity, public opinion, and electoral majorities. It is thus fatal for all these forces, to the extent that they enroll under the banner of one of the line commanders, to become imbued and permeated with the same insincerity. Journalism, from one end of France to the other, no longer discusses the measures; it pleads their cause and not from the point of view of whether they contain good or evil points in themselves but from the sole viewpoint of the help they can temporarily provide to one or the other leader. It is well known that there are few eminent journalists whose future will not be affected by the outcome of this portfolio war. What policy is the prime minister pursuing in Texas, Lebanon, Tahiti, Morocco, or Madagascar? It does not matter. The progovernment press has a single motto, È sempre bene; while the opposition press espouses what the old woman in the satire had written on her petticoat for us to see: Argumentabor.
It would need a more experienced pen than mine to recount all the harm done in France by the partisan press, who (mark my words, this is the core of my thesis) disseminate their views solely to serve a particular deputy who wants to become a minister. You have access to the king, sir, I don’t like to involve him in these discussions. However, I am able to say, since this is the opinion held by Europe, that he has contributed to maintaining world peace. But perhaps you have witnessed what sweat in the form of moral exertions is needed to wrench out of him this success worthy of the acclaim of nations. What is the reason for all this sweat, these problems, this resistance to such a noble task? Because at a given moment, peace was not supported by public opinion. And why was it not supported? Because it did not suit certain newspapers. And why did it not suit certain newspapers? Because it was unwelcome to a particular deputy. And why finally was it unwelcome to this deputy? Because peace was the policy of the ministers, and therefore war was necessarily that of those deputies who wished to become ministers. Indubitably, this is the root of the evil.
Shall I make mention of Ancona, the fortifications of Paris, Algiers, the events in 1840, visiting rights, tariffs, anglophobia, and so many other questions in which journalism led public opinion astray, not because it was itself led astray but because this was part of a coldly premeditated plan whose success was of importance to a particular ministerial alliance?
I prefer to quote here the admissions that were themselves proclaimed by journalism in the most widely distributed of its outlets, La Presse (17 November 1845).
“M. Petetin describes the press as he sees it, as he prefers to dream it. In all good faith does he believe that, when Le Constitutionnel, Le Siècle, etc., attack M. Guizot, when in turn Le Journal des débats confronts M. Thiers, these broadsheets are campaigning uniquely on philosophical grounds, for truth as provoked by the interior needs of conscience? To define the press in these terms is to paint it as one imagines it, not as it really is. It does not cost us anything to state this, since while we are journalists, we are less so by vocation than by circumstance. Every day we see newspapers in the service of human passion, rival ambition, ministerial alliances, parliamentary intrigue, and political calculations of every hue, the most violently opposed and the least noble, and we see them closely involved in this. However, we rarely see them in the service of ideas, and when by chance a newspaper happens to espouse an idea, this is never on its own merits, it is always as a ministerial instrument with which to defend or attack. He who is penning these lines is speaking from experience. Every time he has attempted to draw journalism out of the rut of party politics and introduce it to the field of ideas and reforms, to the path of wholesome applications of economic science to public administration, he found himself alone and had to acknowledge that outside the narrow circle traced by the assembled letters of four or five names, there was no possibility of discussion. There was no policy. What good does it do to deny this evil? Does it stop it existing? When newspapers do not ally themselves with special interests, they ally themselves with passions and when these are themselves examined closely, in the majority of cases these passions are merely selfish interests. This is the truth of the matter.”
What, sir, are you not scandalized, not appalled by this terrible admission? Or do you still have some doubt as to the cause of a situation so fraught with humiliation and peril? It is not I who am speaking. It is not a misanthropist, a republican, or a seditionist. It is the press itself that has unveiled its secret and is telling you to what depths this institution whose morality inspires such confidence in you has reduced it. The place where laws are supposed to be debated has been transformed into a battlefield. The destiny of the country, war and peace, justice and iniquity, order and anarchy count for nothing, absolutely nothing in themselves; they are instruments of combat that are taken up and put down according to one’s own imperatives. What does it matter that at each turn of this impious struggle upheaval is experienced throughout the country? It has scarcely returned to calm when the armies change position and the combat is once more engaged with even more fervor.
Finally, do I have to demonstrate the existence of partisan spirit, this insidious worm, this devouring cancer which draws its life and strength from the eligibility of deputies for executive power, within the electoral college? I am not speaking here of opinions, passions, and political errors. I am not even speaking of the faintheartedness or venality of certain consciences; it is beyond the power of the law to make men perfect. I am targeting only the passions and vices which directly result from the cause I am discussing, which is linked to the portfolio war engaged in within the Chambers and waged over the entire range of the newspapers. Is it really so difficult to calculate its effect on the electoral body? And when, day after day, the tribune and press make a point of preventing anything but false glimmers, false judgments, false quotations, and false assertions reaching the public, is it possible to have any confidence in the verdict pronounced by the grand national jury thus misled, circumvented, and impassioned? What is it called upon to judge? Its own interests. Never does anyone speak of these to it, for ministerial battle is waged at Ancona, Tahiti, in Syria, wherever the public is not to be found. And what does it know of what is going on in these far-off regions? Only what it is told by orators and writers who, on their own admission, do not utter a single word either orally or in writing that is not inspired by the intense desire for personal success.
And then, suppose I wished to raise the veil that covers not only the errors but the turpitudes of the electoral urn! Why does the elector ensure that his vote is so valued, require it to be sought, and consider it as a valuable object of commerce? Because he knows that this vote contains the fortune of the fortunate candidate who is soliciting it. Why, for his part, is the candidate so flexible, so crawling, so generous with his promises, and so little concerned with any shred of dignity? Because he has ulterior motives, because the position of deputy is a stepping-stone for him, because the constitution of the country enables him to see in the distance, should he succeed, intoxicating prospects, positions, honors, wealth, power, and this golden cloak which hides all shame and absolves all base acts.
So, where are we now with all this? Where are the electors now? How many of them dare to remain and show themselves to be honest? How many will honestly deposit a ballot in the urn which faithfully expresses their political beliefs? Oh! They would be afraid of being seen as idiots and dupes. They are careful to trumpet loudly the bargain they have made of their vote and they will be seen to deposit their own ignominy at the door of the church rather than to cast doubt on their deplorable cunning. If there are still a few virtues that have survived this major shipwreck, these are negative virtues. They believe nothing, hope for nothing, and keep themselves from being contaminated, in the words of some poet or another:
- A calm indifference
- is the surest of virtues.
They let things happen, that is all. In the meantime, ministers, deputies, and candidates sink under the burden of promises and undertakings. And what is the result? This. The government and the Chamber change roles. “Do you wish to let me dispose of all jobs?” say the deputies. “Do you wish to let me decide on the laws and the budget?” reply the ministers. And each abandons the office for which he is responsible for one which does not concern him. I ask you, is this representative government?
But it does not stop there. There are other things in France than ministers, deputies, candidates, journalists, and electors. There is the general public, thirty million men who are being accustomed to being counted for nothing. They do not see this, you may say, and proof of this is their indifference. Ah, do not become confident in this seeming blindness. While they do not see the cause of the evil, they see its effects, the budget constantly increasing, their rights and titles trampled underfoot, and all favors becoming the price of electoral bargains from which they are excluded. Please God that they learn to link their suffering to its true cause, for irritation is growing in their hearts. They are seeking the means of enfranchising themselves and woe to the country if they make a mistake. They are seeking, and universal suffrage is taking hold of all minds. They are seeking, and communism is spreading like wildfire. They are seeking, and while you are drawing a veil over the hideous wound, who can count the errors, the theories, or illusions in which they think they have found a remedy for their ills and a brake against your injustices?
In this way, everyone is suffering from a state of affairs so profoundly illogical and vicious. However, if the full extent of the evil is appreciated somewhere, it must be at the summit of the social scale. I cannot believe that such statesmen as M. Guizot, M. Thiers, or M. Molé can be in contact with all these turpitudes for so long without having learned to recognize them and calculate their terrifying consequences. It is not possible for them to have been in turn in the ranks, facing systematic opposition, assailed by personal rivalry, and forced to struggle against artificial obstacles placed in their way by the urge to topple them, without saying to themselves that things would be different, administrative authority would be more steady, and the task of government much lighter if deputies could not become ministers.
Oh! If ministers were to deputies what prefects are to general councillors, if the law eliminated in the Chamber those prospects which foment ambition, I consider that a calm and fruitful destiny would be open to all the elements of the social body. The depositories of power might well still encounter errors and passions but never these subversive alliances for which any means are permitted and whose only aspiration is to overthrow one cabinet after another with the support of a fallacious and transitory unpopularity. Deputies could not have interests other than those of their constituents. Electors would not be made to prostitute their votes to selfish views. The press, freed from any links with leaders of parties which would no longer exist, would fulfill its proper role of enlightening public opinion and providing it with a mouthpiece. The people, wisely administered with consistency and economy, and who are happy or who cannot hold the authorities responsible for their sufferings, would not let themselves be beguiled with the most dangerous utopias. Finally the king, whose thoughts would no longer be a mystery to anyone, would hear during his lifetime the judgment that history reserves for him.
I am not unaware, sir, of the objections that may be made to parliamentary reform. There are disadvantages to it. But, my goodness, everything has its disadvantages. The press, civil liberty juries, and the monarchy have theirs. The question is never to see whether a reformed institution has disadvantages, but whether that institution without reform does not have even greater ones. And what calamities might emanate from a Chamber of taxpayers that are not equal to those which are disseminated over the country by a Chamber of ambitious deputies who are fighting each other for the possession of power?
It is said that such a Chamber would be too democratic, driven by passions that are too popular. It would represent the nation. Is it in the nation’s interest to be badly administered, invaded by foreigners, such that justice is not rendered?
The strongest objection, unceasingly repeated, is that the Chamber would lack enlightenment and experience.
There is a lot to say on this subject, However, if the exclusion of civil servants gives rise to dangers, if it appears to violate the rights of honorable men who are also citizens, if it circumscribes the liberty of electors, would it not be possible, while opening the gates of the Palais Bourbon to the agents of government, to circumscribe their presence with precautions dictated by the most elementary prudence?
You are not expecting me to formulate a draft law at this point. However, I consider that public good sense would approve a measure drafted in terms of this sort:
“All French citizens, without distinction of profession, are eligible (except for exceptional cases in which a high official position would imply direct influence on voting, such as that of prefect, etc.).
“All deputies would receive suitable, uniform remuneration.
“Elected civil servants would resign their functions for the period of their mandate. They would not receive payment. They may neither be dismissed nor promoted. In a word, their life in the administration would be totally suspended and start again only once their legislative mission has expired.
“No deputy may be called upon to fill a public position.”
Finally, far from admitting, as Messrs. Gauguier, Rumilly, Thiers, and others have done, that exceptions would be made on the principle of conflict of interest in favor of ministries, embassies, and all those functions known as political positions, it is exactly those that I wish to exclude, mercilessly and in the first place, since it is clear to me that it is the aspiring ambassadors and ministers who upset the world. Without wishing in the least to offend the leaders of parliamentary reform who put forward exceptions like these, I dare to say that they do not perceive or wish to perceive the millionth part of the evils that result from the eligibility of deputies for public office, that their so-called reform does not reform anything, and that it is just an underhand measure, one that is limited, with no social purchase, dictated by a narrow sentiment of base and unjust jealousy.
But, you say, what about Article 46 of the Charter? I have no answer to this. Is the Charter made for us or are we made for the Charter? Is the Charter the final expression of human wisdom? Is it a sacred Koran descended from heaven, whose effects may not be examined however disastrous they may be? Should we say: Let the country perish rather than change a comma in the Charter? If this is so, I have nothing to say, other than: Electors! The Charter does not forbid your using your vote for deplorable purposes, but it does not order you to do so either. Quid leges sine moribus?
In ending this all too long letter, I should reply to what you tell me of your personal position. I will refrain from doing so. You consider that the reform, if it takes place, cannot affect you since you do not depend on responsible power but in fact on irresponsible power. Good for you! The legislature has decided that this position does not lead to legal incapacity. It is up to the electors to decide whether this does not constitute the clearest imaginable form of moral incapacity.
I am, sir, your faithful servant.
To the Electors of the Landes
Mugron, 22 March 1848
[vol. 1, p. 506]
My dear Fellow Countrymen,
You are going to entrust the destiny of France and perhaps that of the world to the representatives of your choice, and I have no need to tell you how much I would be honored if you judged me to be worthy of your confidence.
You cannot expect me to set out here my views on the many and serious tasks which will have to be dealt with by the National Assembly. I hope you will find in my past record some form of guarantee for the future. I am also ready to provide answers, through the newspapers or in public meetings, to any questions I may be asked.
Here is the spirit in which I will support the Republic with wholehearted devotion:
War waged against all forms of abuse: a people bound by the ties of privilege, bureaucracy, and taxes is like a tree eaten away by parasite plants.
Protection for all rights: those of conscience like those of intelligence; those of ownership like those of work; those of the family like those of the commune; those of the fatherland like those of humanity. I have no ideal other than universal justice; no motto other than that on our national flag, liberty, equality, fraternity.
I remain your devoted fellow countryman.
Letter to a Group of Supporters
[vol. 1, p. 507]
To MM Tonnelier, Degos, Bergeron, Camors,
Dubroca, Pomede, Fauret, etc.
Thank you for your gracious letter. The constituency can dispose of me as it wishes; your enduring confidence will be an encouragement . . . or a consolation to me.
You say that I am being painted as a socialist. What can I answer? My writings are there. Have I not countered the Louis Blanc doctrine with Property and Law, the Considérant doctrine with Property and Plunder, the Leroux doctrine with Justice and Fraternity, the Proudhon doctrine with Capital and Rent, the Mimerel committee with Protectionism and Communism, paper money with Damned Money, and the Montagnard Manifesto with The State? I spend my life combating socialism. It would be very painful for me to have this acknowledged everywhere except in the département of the Landes.
My votes have been depicted as close to the extreme left. Why have the occasions on which I have voted with the right not equally been mentioned?
But, you will say, how have you been able to be alternatively in two such opposing camps? I will explain this.
For a century, the parties have taken a great many names and adopted a great many pretexts; basically, it has always been a matter of the same thing, the struggle of the poor against the rich.
Now, the poor demand more than what is just and the rich refuse even that which is just. If this continues, social war, of which our fathers witnessed the first act in ’93, and of which we witnessed the second act in June, this frightful fratricidal war is not nearing its end. The only possible conciliation is on the field of justice, in everything and for all.
After February, the people put forward a host of iniquitous and absurd pretensions mingled with some well-founded claims.
What was needed to avert social war?
- To refute in written form the iniquitous claims and rebuff them legally.
- To support the well-founded claims in written form and allow them legally.
That is the key to my conduct.
At the start of the revolution, popular hopes were highly exalted and knew no bounds, even in our département, and I remind you that I was not considered to be sufficiently red. It was much worse in Paris; the workers were organized, armed, and masters of the terrain, at the mercy of the most fiery demagogues.
The initial action of the National Assembly had to be one of resistance. It was concentrated above all in the finance committee, made up of men belonging to the rich class. Resisting mad and subversive demands, rebuffing progressively increasing taxes, paper money, the taking over of private industry by the state, and the suspension of national debts: such was its laborious task. I played my part, and I ask you, citizens, if I had been a socialist, would this committee have selected me eight times in a row to be its vice president?
Once the work of resistance was completed, the work of reform remained to be carried out in the 1849 budget. So many unevenly shared taxes needed to be changed! So many restrictions needed to be removed! Just take this business of conscription, for example (they have since renamed it “recruitment”), a tax of seven years on lives, drawn from a hat! Given these droits réunis (now known as indirect contributions), a regressive income tax affecting the poor disproportionately, are these not well-founded complaints from the people? After the days in June when anarchy was defeated, the National Assembly considered that the time had come to enter resolutely and spontaneously this avenue of reparation dictated by equity and even by prudence.
The finance committee, through its composition, was less inclined to this second task than the first. New people had been introduced into it by bielections, and it was constantly being said that, far from changing taxes, we would be very happy if we could have reestablished the situation just as it had been before February.
For this reason, the Assembly entrusted to a commission of thirty members the task of preparing the budget. It charged another commission with harmonizing the tax on drink with the principles of liberty and equality enshrined in the constitution. I was a member of both and, much as I ardently rebuffed utopian demands, I was equally ardent in carrying out just reform.
It would take too long to relate here how the good intentions of the Assembly were paralyzed. History will reveal this. But you can understand my line of conduct. What I am reproached for is precisely what I am proud of. Yes, I have voted with the right against the left when it was a matter of resisting the excesses of mistaken popular ideas. Yes, I have voted with the left against the right when the legitimate complaints of the poor, suffering classes were being ignored.
Because of this, I may have alienated both parties and will remain crushed in the center. No matter. I am conscious of having been faithful to my commitments, logical, impartial, just, prudent, and in control of myself. Those who accuse me doubtless feel strong enough to do better. If this is so, let the constituency nominate them in my place. I will endeavor to forget that I have lost its confidence by remembering that I obtained it once, and it is not a slight tremor of self-love that will efface the profound gratitude I owe it.
I remain, my dear fellow countrymen, your faithful servant.
Political Manifestos of April 1849
[vol. 7, p. 255]
My dear Fellow Countrymen,
You have given me a mandate which is drawing to its close. I have carried it out in the spirit in which it was given to me.
Do you remember the elections in 1848? What did you want?
Some of you had welcomed with delight the coming of the Republic, others had neither provoked nor wanted it, and yet others feared it. However, with an admirable surge of good sense, you united under this twin aim:
- to maintain the Republic and give it a chance loyally;
- to engage it in the path of order and security.
History will show that the National Assembly, in the face of immense dangers, has been faithful to this program. By dissolving itself it leaves anarchy and reaction conquered, security reestablished, subversive utopias made impotent, a steady government, a constitution that allows later ameliorations, peace established, and finances that have escaped the greatest dangers. Yes, although it has often been battered by storms, your Assembly has been the expression of your will. It seems to me to be an unexpected miracle of universal suffrage. To calumniate it is to calumniate yourselves.
For my part, I have always steeped myself in the spirit which imbued you all in April 1848. Very often when, under the pressure of terrible difficulties, I saw the flame which should have guided me flicker, I evoked the memory of the many meetings at which I appeared before you and I said to myself: “I have to want what my constituents have wanted, an honest Republic.”
Fellow countrymen, I am obliged to speak of myself and will limit myself to the facts.
On 23 February, I did not take part in the insurrection. By chance, I happened to find myself present during the gunfire at the Hôtel des Capucines. While the crowd fled in panic, I advanced against the current, and facing the battalion whose rifles were still hot, with the help of two workers, I gave help during this unhappy night to those who were mortally wounded.
As early as the 25th, I managed to guess at the subversive ideological excesses soon to be concentrated on the Luxembourg Palace. To combat them I founded a newspaper. Here is the judgment given of it by a review which I have come across, one which is not suspect, entitled A Catholic Bibliography Intended for Priests, Seminaries, Schools, etc. “La République française, a broadsheet which appeared soon after the Revolution, written with talent, moderation, and wisdom, opposed to socialism, the Luxembourg Palace, and circulars.”
There followed what has been called with reason the rush for positions. Several of my friends were very influential, including M. de Lamartine, who had written to me a few days before, “If ever the storm carries me to power, you will help me to achieve the triumph of our ideas.” It was easy for me to achieve high position; I have just never thought about it.
Almost unanimously elected by you, I entered the Assembly on 5 May. On the 15th, we were invaded. On that day, my role was limited to remaining at my post, like all my colleagues.
I was nominated as member and vice president of the finance committee, to which committee it was soon clear that we would have to fight against an extremely seductive proposal much vaunted at the time. On the grounds of satisfying popular demand, some people wanted to bestow an inordinate degree of power on the revolutionary government. They wanted the state to suspend the reimbursement of the savings bank and treasury bonds and take over the railways, insurance, and transport systems. The government was pushing in this direction, which does not appear to me to be anything other than theft regularized by law and executed through taxes. I dare to say that I have contributed to preserving my country from such a calamity.
However, a frightful collision was threatened. The genuine work carried out by individual workshops was replaced by the bogus production of national workshops. The organized and armed people of Paris were the plaything of ignorant utopians and fomenters of disorder. The Assembly, forced to destroy these deceptive illusions one by one through its votes, foresaw the storm but had few means of resisting it other than the moral strength that it received from you. Convinced that voting was not enough—the masses needed to be enlightened—I founded another newspaper which aimed to speak the simple language of good sense and which, for this reason, I entitled Jacques Bonhomme. It never stopped calling for the disbanding of the forces of insurrection, whatever the cost. On the eve of the June Days, it contained an article by me on the national workshops. This article, plastered over all the walls of Paris, was something of a sensation. To reply to certain charges, I had it reproduced in the newspapers in the département.
The storm broke on 24 June. One of the first to enter the Faubourg Saint Antoine following the removal of the formidable barricades which protected access to it, I accomplished a twin and difficult task, to save those unfortunate people who were going to be shot on unreliable evidence and to penetrate into the most far-flung districts to help in the disarmament. This latter part of my voluntary mission, accomplished under gunfire, was not without danger. Each room might have hidden a trap, each window or basement window a rifle.
Following victory, I gave loyal assistance to the administration of General Cavaignac, whom I hold to be one of the noblest characters brought to the fore by the Revolution. Nevertheless, I resisted anything I considered to be an arbitrary measure as I know that any exaggeration about success compromises it. Self-control and moderation in every sense have been my rule or rather my instinct. In the Faubourg Saint Antoine, I disarmed insurgents with one hand and saved prisoners with the other. This has been the symbol of my conduct in parliament.
Around this time, I was stricken with a chest ailment which, combined with the huge size of our debating chamber, barred me from the tribune. I did not remain idle for all that. The true cause of society’s ills and dangers lies, in my opinion, in a certain number of mistaken ideas, in favor of which those classes who have number and strength on their side unfortunately became enamored. There is not one of these errors that I have not combated. Of course, I knew that the action that one seeks to exercise over causes is always very slow and that such action is inadequate when the danger explodes. But can you reproach me for having worked for the future, after having done for the present all that I possibly could?
To the doctrines of Louis Blanc I opposed a treatise entitled Individualism and Fraternity.
When the very principle of ownership was threatened and efforts were made to direct the legislation against it, I wrote the brochure Property and Law.
The form of individual property which consists in the individual appropriation of land was under attack. So I wrote the brochure Property and Plunder, which, according to English and American economists, shed some light on the vexatious question of rent from land.
People wished to found fraternity on legal constraint. I wrote the brochure Justice and Fraternity.
Rivalry was stirred up between labor and capital; the population was deluded with the illusion of free credit. I wrote the brochure Capital and Rent.
Communism was overwhelming us so I attacked it in its most practical manifestation, through the brochure Protectionism and Communism.
The purely revolutionary school wanted the state to intervene in every matter and thus bring back a continuous increase in taxes. I wrote the brochure entitled The State, which was particularly directed against the manifesto of the Montagnards.
It was proved to me that one of the causes of the instability of government and the disorientating intrusion of false politics was the struggle for office. I wrote the brochure Parliamentary Conflicts of Interest.
I was convinced that almost all the economic errors that plague this country arise from a false concept of the functions of money. I wrote the brochure Damned Money.
I saw that financial reform was going to be carried out using illogical and inadequate procedures. I wrote the brochure Peace and Liberty or the Republican Budget.
In this way, through action in the street or appealing to the mind through controversy, as far as my health allowed, I did not let a single opportunity slip to combat error, whether arising from socialism or communism, the Montagne or the Plaine.
This is why on some occasions I had to vote with the left and on others with the right; with the left when it defended liberty and the Republic, with the right when it defended order and security.
And if I am criticized for this so-called double alliance, my answer is: I have not allied myself with anyone nor joined any coterie. On each question, I have voted according to my conscience. All those who have read my pamphlets carefully, whenever they were published, know that I have always had a horror of habitual majorities and oppositions.
The time came for the election for the president of the Republic. We still faced grave dangers, among which was foreign war. I did not know what we might expect from Napoléon, though I knew what we might expect from Cavaignac, who had made a declaration in favor of peace. I had my preferences and expressed them loyally. It was my right and even my duty to say what I was doing and why I was doing it. I limited myself to this. Universal suffrage proved me wrong. I rallied as I ought to its all-powerful wish. I challenge anyone to identify a systematic opposing vote of mine to the person elected on 20th December. I would consider myself to be a seditionist if, through ridiculous resentment, I blocked the grand and useful mission he had received from the country.
As a member of the finance committee and later of the budget commission, as far as our finances allowed, I worked to pursue the reforms which, as you know, have always been the object of my efforts. I contributed to reducing the taxes on salt and the post. I was a member of the commission on drink, which prepared a radical reform which the limited time of the Assembly postponed to a later date. I strongly campaigned for reducing the numbers of the army, and I would have liked to achieve a softening of the severe law on recruitment.
On the question of the dissolution of the Assembly, my views have never varied. We must pass fundamental laws indispensable for putting the constitution into practice, no more, no less.
Fellow countrymen, these have been my actions, which I subject to your impartial scrutiny.
If you think it appropriate to reelect me, I declare to you that I will persevere in the path you traced for me in April 1848, to maintain the Republic and lay the basis for security.
If, under the influence of the unhappy days you have endured, you have conceived other ideas and other hopes, if you wish to pursue a new goal and try new adventures, then I can no longer be your representative. I will not abandon the work we undertook together just when we are about to gather the fruit of our efforts. Security is without doubt the primary need of our era and the signal priority in any age. However, I cannot believe that it can be given a solid basis by triumphalist abuses, interference and harassment, violence and reactionary fury. The man you honor with your vote is not the representative of one class but of all classes. He should not forget that there is great suffering, destitution, and blatant injustice in the country. To hold things in check constantly is neither just nor even prudent. To search for the causes of suffering and produce all the remedies that are compatible with justice is a duty as sacred as that of maintaining order. Doubtless, truth must not be trifled with; false hopes must not be encouraged; popular prejudice must not be yielded to, even less when it is expressed through insurrection. My acts and writings are there to prove that, in this respect, I cannot be reproached. However, I should not be asked either to yield to outbursts of anger and hate against brothers who are unhappy and misguided, whose ignorance only too often exposes them to perfidious suggestions. The duty of a national assembly which results from universal suffrage is to enlighten them, to bring them back, to listen to their wishes, and to leave them with no doubt as to its strong sympathy. To love is the only law, as a great apostle said. We are in an era in which this maxim is as true in politics as in morals.
I remain, dear fellow countrymen,
your devoted servant.
Letter on the Referendum for the Election of the President of the Republic
[Article published in Le Journal des Landes,
13 August 1848. From the private collection
of Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean.]
We are called upon to elect the president of the Republic. I do not aspire to influence your votes, but since I have been in a position, as a result of your votes, to study both men and matters at close quarters, I am able to say frankly what I myself would do without exceeding my rights and duties.
I will not vote for Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte. To place at the helm a man about whom we know nothing, who has provided no proof of his abilities, whose intentions and projects are unknown, whose entire past record lies in two ludicrous dynastic ventures, appears to me to play fast and loose with voters’ rights and place in jeopardy the destiny of the country much beyond what can be done in all conscience. Whether his candidature is based on the cult of a name or on a secret desire to open the way for a new revolution, neither of these reasons could give me reason to support him.
I will vote for Cavaignac. This is not because, in my view, mistakes have not been made during his administration. I have never approved, and my voting record bears witness to this, the prolonged exceptional measures taken after the June Days, which went beyond the requirements of the conflict. But I will vote for him because I consider him to be a capable and trustworthy man, because he has resisted the undertow of warlike passions, because he has kept the government in harmony with the wishes of the people as shown in general elections, and because he wants to preserve loyally the charge entrusted to him, that is to say, the Republic. Because he has understood that a republic, which is the government of a country by the country, cannot be directed by extreme minorities without injustice and risk, because he bravely accepted the dreadful responsibility of power at a time of crisis, and finally because I would be afraid that if it did not acknowledge all these services rendered, the nation would end up discouraging all forms of such commitment.
Fellow countrymen, you may not share my judgment. But I do not want you to be able to doubt my impartiality. For this reason I think it would be relevant to say that I have never spoken to Cavaignac except during the June Days when, like all my colleagues, I had to make my report to the commander in chief on returning from the barricades.
Your devoted fellow countryman.
[vol. 7, p. 271]
I have made my commitments.
I am not supporting M. So and So because he has not asked for my vote.
I am voting for M. So and So because he has done me a good turn.
I am voting for M. So and So because he has rendered service to France.
I am voting for M. So and So because he has promised to do me a favor.
I am voting for M. So and So because I would like a position with him.
I am voting for M. So and So because I am worried about keeping my job.
I am voting for M. So and So because he comes from the region.
I am voting for M. So and So because he does not come from the region.
I am voting for M. So and So because he will speak up.
I am voting for M. So and So because if he is not elected, our prefect or subprefect will be dismissed.
Each of these sophisms has its own particular nature, but at the base of each of them there is a common thread which needs to be disentangled.
They all are based on this twin premise:
The election is being run in the interest of the candidate.
The elector is the exclusive owner of one thing, that is to say, his vote, which he is free to use as he pleases and in favor of whomever he wishes.
The error of this doctrine and its daily application will be made clear by our examination.
I am not voting for M. A—— because he has not asked for my vote.
This sophism, like all the others, is based on an attitude which, in itself, is not reprehensible, the sense of personal dignity.
When men seek encouragement in pursuit of some bad action, it is rare for the paradoxes with which they deceive themselves to be totally false. Such paradoxes make up a fabric. It is a fabric in which there are always a few threads of good sense to be seen. They always contain a grain of truth and this is why they impress. If they were totally false, they would not delude so many people.
The meaning of the one we are examining is as follows:
“M. A—— aspires to becoming my deputy. Being a deputy is the road to honors and wealth. He knows that my vote can contribute to his election. This is the least of what he is asking of me. If he behaves proudly, I in turn will behave proudly, and when I agree to use something as precious as my vote in someone’s favor, I am determined that he should show gratitude to me, that he should not disdain coming to my house, entering into a relationship with me, shaking my hand, etc., etc.”
It is very clear that the elector who reasons thus will make the twin mistakes we have pointed out.
- 1. He believes that his vote is cast to be useful to the candidate.
- 2. He thinks that, when it comes to helping people he is free to do so to whomever he chooses.
In a word, he disregards all the public good and evil which may result from his choice.
For, if he considered that the aim of the entire electoral mechanism is to send to the Chamber of Deputies those who are conscientious and devoted, he would probably reason in a contrary manner and say:
“I will vote for M. A—— for this reason, among others, that he has not asked for my vote!”
In fact, in the eyes of anyone who does not lose sight of the object of the function of deputies, I do not think that there can be a stronger presumption against a candidate than his insistence on seeking votes.
For, in the end, what drives this man to come and torment me in my own house, to endeavor to prove to me that I ought to give him my confidence?
When I know that so many deputies, holding two balls, have dictated the law to ministers and have obtained good positions, should I not fear that this candidate has no other aim in view when he comes—sometimes from the other end of the kingdom—to beg for the trust of people he does not know?
One can doubtless be betrayed by the deputy one has freely selected. But if we, the electors, go to seek out a man in his retirement (and we can go to seek him out only because his reputation for integrity is perfectly established), if we drag him away from his solitary life to confer on him a mandate which he has not requested, do we not give ourselves the best possible chance of handing over this mandate into pure and faithful hands?
If this man had wanted to make a business out of being a deputy, he would have sought it. He has not done so and therefore has no base ulterior motives.
What is more, he to whom the mandate of deputy is freely given, as free evidence of general confidence and universal esteem, would feel so very honored, so grateful for his own reputation, that he would hesitate to tarnish it.
And, after all, would it not be natural for things to happen thus?
What are we discussing? Is it a question of rendering service to M. So and So, favoring him or setting him on the road to wealth?
No, it is a question of giving ourselves a representative who has our trust. Would it not be very simple to take the trouble to look for him?
Once there was a case of an important trusteeship. A family council of many members had met in the court. A man arrived out of breath, covered in sweat, having worn out several horses. No one knew him personally. All that was known was that he managed, somewhere far away, the properties of underage children and that he would soon have to account for these. This man begged them to appoint him as trustee. He spoke to the relatives on the father’s side and then to those on the mother’s side. He sang his own praises at length, speaking of his probity, wealth, and connections. He uttered prayers, promises, and threats. Deep anxiety could be read on his features, as well as an immoderate desire for success. Vain objections were raised that the trusteeship was a weighty burden, that it would take up much of the time and wealth of the person to whom it was entrusted and override his other businesses. He brushed aside each difficulty. He asked no more than to devote his time to serving the poor orphans. He was prepared to sacrifice his wealth, so heroic was the disinterestedness he felt in his heart! He would view with stoicism his businesses’ decline, provided that those of the underage children prospered in his hands! “But you manage their property!” “All the more reason, I will account to myself for this and who is more equipped to examine these accounts than he who has set them up?”
I ask you, would it be reasonable for the family council to entrust to this earnest lobbyist the functions he requested?
Would it not be wiser to entrust this task to a relative known for his probity and scrupulousness, especially if it were the case that the interests of this relative and the underage children were identical to the extent that he could not do anything to their advantage or disadvantage without similarly affecting his own situation?
. . . . . . .
I am voting for M. A—— because he has done me a favor.
Gratitude, it is said, is the only virtue that cannot be abused. This is wrong. There is a very common method of abusing it, and that is to settle the debt imposed on us by it at the expense of others.
I acknowledge that an elector, who has received frequent acts of kindness from a candidate whose opinions he does not share, is put in an extremely delicate and embarrassing position if this candidate is bold enough to ask for his vote. Ingratitude is itself a repugnant characteristic; to go so far as to make an official display of it, in so many words, can become genuine torment. In vain will you paint this defection in the colors of the most reasoned of political motives; in the depths of universal understanding there is an instinct that will condemn you. This is because political mores have not achieved nor been able to achieve the same progress as private mores. The public will always see your vote as a property of which you can dispose and it will censure you for not allowing it to be directed by a virtue as popular and honorable as gratitude.
However, let us examine this.
The question facing the electoral body, as raised in France, is in most cases so complex that it leaves great latitude in moral awareness. There are two candidates, one for the government, the other for the opposition. Yes, but if the government has committed a great many faults, so has the opposition. In addition, look at the manifestos of the two opponents: one wants order and liberty; the other demands liberty with order. The only difference is that one puts in second place what the other puts first; in essence they want the same thing. It was not worth the trouble, for such subtle differences, to betray the rights to your vote for one of the candidates because of the benefits received. You have no excuse for this.
But let us suppose that the question put before the electors is less vague and you will see that not only the rights but also the popularity and even the claim to gratitude are weakened.
In England, for example, long experience of representative government has taught electors that they should not pursue all types of reform simultaneously, but pass on to the second when the first has been carried out and so on.
As a result, there is always a central question facing the public on which all the efforts of the press, associations, and electors are focused.
Are you for or against electoral reform?
Are you for or against Catholic emancipation?
Are you for or against the emancipation of slaves?
At the moment, the sole question is:
Are you for or against free trade?
When this has been settled, doubtless this other question will be raised:
Are you for or against voluntary arrangements with regard to religion?
As long as there is campaigning with regard to any of these questions, everyone takes part, everyone seeks enlightenment, and everyone takes one side or another. Doubtless, the other major political reforms, although relegated to the shade, are not totally neglected. However, this is a debate which is engaged within each party and not between one party and the other.
Thus, at the present time, when free traders have to oppose a candidate to those supporting monopoly, they hold preparatory assemblies in which a person is proclaimed their candidate who, beyond the conformity of his principles with those of the free traders in matters of trade, is also more in line with the majority because of his opinions on Ireland or the Maynooth bill, etc., etc. However, on the day of the great combat, the only question put to candidates is this:
Are you free traders? Do you support monopoly?
Consequently, it is on this alone that the electors will be called upon to vote.
It is thus easy to understand that a question couched in such simple terms will not allow any of the sophisms dealt with in this book to creep into the parties, in particular that of gratitude.
Let us say that in private life I have done an elector some notable favors. However, I know that he is in favor of free trade, while I am standing as a candidate for the partisans of protection. It would not cross my mind to expect him, through gratitude, to sacrifice a cause to which I know that he has devoted all his efforts, one to which he has subscribed and in favor of which he has allied himself with powerful interests. If I did this, his reply would be clear and logical and it would obtain public approval not only from his party but also mine. He would say to me: “I have personal obligations to you. I am personally ready to carry these out. I do not expect you to ask me for them and I will take every opportunity to prove to you that I am not ungrateful. There is, however, a sacrifice I cannot make to you, that of my conscience. You know that I am committed to the cause of free trade which I consider to be consistent with public interest. You, on the other hand, uphold the opposite view. We have met here to ascertain which of these two principles is upheld by the majority. On my vote may depend the triumph or defeat of the principle I support. In conscience I cannot raise my hand for you.”
It is clear that, unless he were dishonest, the candidate would not be able to insist on proving that the elector is bound by a benefit received.
The same doctrine should prevail in our midst. Only, as the questions are very much more complicated, they give rise to a painful contest between the benefactor and the person in his debt. The benefactor will say: “Why are you refusing me your vote? Is it because a few shades of opinion separate us? But do you think in exactly the same way as my opponent? Do you not know that my intentions are pure? Do I, like you, not want order, liberty, and the public good? Are you afraid that I will vote for such and such a measure of which you disapprove; who knows whether it will be brought before the Chamber during this session? You can see perfectly well that you do not have sufficient reason to forget what I have done for you. You are just seeking a pretext to avoid offering any token of gratitude.”
I think that the English method, that of pursuing just one reform at a time, without considering one’s own advantages, also has the considerable advantage of invariably classifying the electors, sheltering them from bad influences, and preventing sophisms from taking hold, in short of shaping frank and firm political mores. This is why I would like it to be adopted in France. In the event, there are four reforms which are competing for priority.
- 1. Electoral reform
- 2. Parliamentary reform
- 3. Freedom of education
- 4. Trade reform
I do not know to which of these questions my country will give preference. If I have a voice in the matter in this respect, I would designate parliamentary reform as being the most important and urgent, the one for which public opinion is best prepared and which is most likely to lead to the triumph of the three others.
For this reason, I will say a few words about it at the end of this book.
. . . . . . .
I am voting for M. A—— because he has rendered great service to the country.
Once upon a time, an elector’s vote was sought for a general of great merit. “Who in the region,” it was said, “has given greater service to the country? He has shed his blood on countless battlefields. All his promotions in rank have been due to his courage and military talent. He is a self-made man and, what is more, he has raised to senior positions his brothers, nephews, and cousins.”
“Is our district threatened?” asked the elector. “Is there a mass uprising? Is it a matter of selecting a military leader? My vote is assured for the honorable general since all you tell me of him and what I know give him an irrefutable right to my trust.”
“No,” said the lobbyist, “it is a question of voting for a deputy, a legislator.”
“What will his functions be?”
“To make laws; to revise the civil code, the code on procedures, and the penal code; to restore order to the finances; and to supervise, contain, restrain, and if necessary indict ministers.”
“And what do the massive sword strokes made against the enemy by the general have to do with legislative functions?”
“That is not the question; it is a question of awarding him, through the office of deputy, a worthy recompense for his services.”
“But if, through ignorance, he passes bad laws and if he votes for disastrous financial plans, who will suffer the consequences?”
“You and the general public.”
“And can I in all conscience invest the general with the right to make laws if he is liable to make bad ones?”
“You are insulting a man of great talent and noble character. Do you think he is ignorant and of evil intent?”
“God forbid! My supposition must be that having been concerned all his life with the military training he is very knowledgeable on strategy. I am sure he insists on tip-top inspections and parades. But, here again, what is there in common between this area of knowledge and the kind required by a representative, or rather those being represented?” . . .
[vol. 7, p. 280]
Dialogue Between a Convinced Political Writer and a Countryman
the political writer
At long last you are going to benefit for the first time from one of the finest outcomes of the Revolution. You are going to assume a part of sovereignty itself; you are about to exercise one of the greatest of human rights.
I am quite simply going to give my vote to the man I believe most capable of managing the portion of my affairs that is common to all Frenchmen.
the political writer
No doubt. But this is to view the case from the most trivial point of view. No matter. I am assuming that you have given consideration to the solemn act you have come to carry out.
It seems to me to be so simple that I did not think I needed to devote much time to considering it.
the political writer
Is that what you think? Is it a simple matter to vote for a legislator? You clearly do not know how complicated our foreign policy is, how many mistakes our government has made, how many factions seek in a variety of ways to lead it astray. Selecting from among the candidates the man most able to grasp so many complexities, to reflect on the many laws we lack, and to distinguish the most patriotic of the parties in order to have it triumph over the others is not as easy a task as you might believe.
Fine. However, I have neither the time nor the capacity necessary for examining so many things.
the political writer
In that case, defer to those who have considered them. Come and dine with me at General B.’s house and I will tell you for whom you should cast your vote.
I beg to accept neither your offers nor your advice. I have heard it said that General B. is standing for office. I cannot accept his dinner as I am firmly resolved not to vote for him.
the political writer
That is very odd. Here, take this leaflet on M. B. . . . It is biographical. You will see how much he deserves your vote. He is a commoner like you. He owes his success solely to his bravery and his sword. He has rendered exceptional service to France. It is up to Frenchmen to reward him for this.
I do not query this. If he has rendered genuine service to France, let France give him medals, or even a pension. However, I do not see that I have to give him a mandate for matters for which I consider him to be unsuitable.
the political writer
The general not suited to attend to matters! He who has commanded army battalions, has governed provinces, has a profound knowledge of the politics of all the cabinets, and who is as eloquent as Demosthenes!
All the more reason I should not vote for him. The greater his capacity, the more he is to be feared by me, as I am convinced that he would use it against my interests.
the political writer
Are not your interests those of your country?
Probably. But they are not those of the general.
the political writer
Explain yourself. I do not understand you at all.
There is no difficulty about my explaining myself. As a farmer, I belong to the peaceful laboring class and I propose to have myself represented by a peaceful working man and not by a man whose career and habits have projected him toward power and war.
the political writer
The general insists that he will defend the cause of agriculture and industry.
Fine, but when I do not know people, their word is not enough for me. I need a more solid guarantee.
the political writer
What sort of guarantee?
Their material interests. If I vote for a man who is a farmer and taxpayer like me, I will be sure that he will defend my interests in defending his.
the political writer
The general is a landowner like you. Do you think he will make a sacrifice of ownership to power?
A general is above all a soldier. His interests as a taxpayer cannot be equated with his interests as a tax beneficiary.
the political writer
And when this happens, is not his devotion to his country well known? Is he not a child of the Revolution? He who has shed his blood for France, will he betray her for a handful of gold?
I admit that the general may be a perfectly honest man. But I cannot believe that a man who has done nothing in his life other than command and obey, who has risen only through the political stairway, and who has become rich only by way of taxes paid by others can perfectly represent a taxpayer. I think it absurd that when I find government overbearing I should vote for a man who is part of it, that when I find taxes too burdensome I should entrust the duty of reducing them to a man who lives off them. The general may have a great deal of self-denial, but I do not want to take the risk of testing this. In short, you are asking me to commit an absurdity which I am not prepared to do.
A Country Elector, a Parish Priest
the parish priest
Well, my friend, you have given me great satisfaction. I have been assured that you have nobly refused to give your vote to the candidate of the liberal faction. You have shown good sense in doing this. Is it possible that when the monarchy is in danger, when religion in distress stretches out its suppliant hands to you, you would agree to give new strength to the enemies of religion and the king?
Pardon me, Father, but if I refused to vote for the general, it was not because I considered him to be an enemy of religion or of the king. On the contrary, it is because I was convinced that his position did not allow him to maintain a just balance between the means of the taxpayers and the needs of government.
the parish priest
Your motives are not important. What is certain is that you were right to distrust the ambition of this man.
You do not understand me, Father. I am not passing judgment on the character of the general. I merely say that I consider it risky to entrust my interests to a man who could not defend them without sacrificing his own. This is a risk that no reasonable man would needlessly run.
the parish priest
I repeat that I am not scrutinizing your motives. You have just given proof of your devotion to the king. Well, finish your work. You have driven away an enemy and that is well worthwhile. However, it is not enough. Give the king a friend. He himself has designated him; vote for the worthy president of the college.
I think I would be committing an even greater absurdity. The king has the power of initiative and sanction with regard to the laws; he appoints the Chamber of Peers. Since the laws are made for the nation, he wanted the nation to contribute to making them, and so why then should I go on to vote for those whom the government designates? The result would be an absolute monarchy behind a constitutional facade.
the parish priest
Do you suppose, then, that the king would abuse his position and make bad laws?
Listen, Father, let us speak of things in their true light. The king does not personally know the 450 candidates he designates; it is the ministers who in fact submit them to our vote. Now the government’s interest lies in increasing its power and wealth. However, it can increase its power only at the expense of my liberty and its wealth at the expense of my purse. If I wish to prevent it from doing this, therefore, I have to vote for a deputy who is a taxpayer like me, who will supervise it and set limits to its encroachments.
the parish priest
In other words a deputy from the opposition?
None other. Between one who lives off taxes and one who pays them, the opposition appears to be natural to me. When I buy something, I endeavor to buy it cheaply, but when I sell I set the highest price on my goods. Between the buyer and seller there is inevitably some dispute. If I wanted to have a cart at cost price, would I give a mandate to the maker to set it?
the parish priest
Such a political outlook is small-minded and self-regarding. The issues are reduced to buying and selling, prices and producers. What nonsense! I am talking about the king, his dynasty, the peace of nations, and the upholding of our holy religion.
Indeed, and I still maintain my opinion that it is a matter of selling and prices. Government is constituted by men, and the clergy is also made up of men who form a body. Government and clergy are two bodies made up of men. Now, it is in the nature of all bodies to endeavor to expand. Taxpayers would be mad if they did not also form a body to defend themselves against the expansion of government and the clergy.
the parish priest
Wretched fellow! And if this latter body triumphs would you destroy the monarchy and religion? Goodness me, what is the world coming to!
Do not worry, Father! The people would never destroy government, because they need it. They would never overthrow religion because it is indispensable to them. They would simply contain both within the limits which they cannot exceed without endangering everyone.
In the same way as I covered my house with a roof to shelter myself from the sun and rain, I want to pay magistrates and police officers to protect me from wrongdoers. In the same way as I willingly engage a doctor to care for my body, I would engage a minister of religion to care for my soul. But also, in the same way as I ensure that my roof is built as economically and sturdily as possible and discuss the cost of the payment with my doctor, I want to discuss the cost of their services with the clergy and government since, thank God, I have the ability to do this. And when I cannot do this myself, you would surely agree, Father, that I should mandate a man who has the same interests as I and not someone who belongs, whether directly or indirectly, to the clergy or established government.
A Country Elector, a Constitutional Candidate
I do not think I have arrived too late to ask for your vote, sir, since I am convinced that you have not decided to give it to those who have preceded me. I have two opponents whose talent I acknowledge and whose personal character I honor but who, because of their position, I do not consider to be your natural representatives. I am a taxpayer like you; like you I belong not to the class that exercises power but that over which power is exercised. I am deeply convinced that what currently undermines order, liberty, and prosperity in France is the extravagant dimensions of government. Not only do my opinions make it a duty for me but my interests require me to make every effort to set limits to this terrifying expansion of the actions of government. I therefore consider that I would be useful to the cause of taxpayers if I joined their ranks; and if you share my ideas, I hope you will give me your vote.
I am firmly resolved to do so. I share your opinions and your interests are a guarantee to me that you will act according to your opinions, and you may count on my vote.
[vol. 7, p. 289]
As I wandered idly through the streets of one of our major towns, I met a friend of mine who seemed to be in a bad mood. “What is wrong with you,” I asked him, “to make you paler than a rentier faced with a decree that cuts off a quarter of his income?” (Under the Great King, a quarter of income was cut off.) At this, my friend drew from his pocket a bunch of papers; “I am,” said he, “a thousandth shareholder in a business project to build a canal. We have entrusted the execution of the business to a clever man who sends us his accounts each year. Each year, he makes fresh calls for funds, he increases the number of his agents, and the work does not progress. I am going to a meeting in which all the shareholders will elect a commission to check, verify, approve, or rectify our man’s accounts.” “And doubtless,” I replied, “you will pack this commission with your entrepreneur’s men and make its leader the entrepreneur himself.” “You are joking,” he replied; “no man on earth would be capable of such stupidity.” “Oh! Oh!” I said, “do not judge so quickly; in my country, this happens more than a hundred times a year.”
Letter to a Candidate
[vol. 7, p. 298. According to Paillottet’s
note below, this letter dates to about 1822.]
Letter to M.——
[In reply to his letter dated 12th January ]
I have received the letter, dated the 12th of this month, which you did me the honor of writing to me, with the aim, in your own words, of requesting my vote and those of my friends.
I cannot speak, sir, for the intentions of my friends; I do not hide from them how I intend to cast my vote but I do not seek to influence theirs.
As for mine, it does not belong to me to the extent that I can commit it. Public interest will determine it and up to the time it drops into the ballot box, my only commitment is to the public and my conscience.
Public opinion attributes to General Durrieu, your opponent, views that are favorable to the present government and as a result unfavorable, in my opinion, to the interests of France and, in particular, southern France. No action on his part requires me to consider public opinion mistaken in this respect; on the contrary his personal position leads me to consider him a very bad representative of our interests, whether general ones or with respect to viniculture. This means that I will not be giving him my vote.
However, for the same reason, I cannot give it to a candidate who, scarcely a year ago, called very earnestly for the candidature of General Durrieu, and still less if this same man now displays contrasting opinions, since either he was not sincere then or he is not now.
You tell me, sir, that the votes of the government will slip away from you. You have probably let them slip away; you sought them last year so earnestly that you did not shirk from influencing civil servants by means of those two drastic weapons, fear of dismissal and hope of advancement. I have in front of me a letter in which you solicited a civil servant’s vote under the auspices of his superior (which amounts to a threat) and in which you spoke of your influence in Paris (which amounts to a promise). Today, your promises are addressed to independent men; either those of today or those of yesterday are not sincere.
And then, what are you promising us? Favors. Favors do not conduce to the public good but to public disadvantage; otherwise they would not be favors.
The next thing is that to oblige the favorites, you have at least to want to do so while you say that you do not desire anything from ministers.
Finally, sir, in the last few days during which the electors have been exchanging the letters with which you are favoring them, we see some addressed to ministerialists and patriots, nobles and commoners, Carlists, Philippists, etc. In all of them, you solicit the electors’ goodwill, you ask for votes as one would request a service. We can be forgiven for thinking that, by voting for you, we would be rendering service to the candidate rather than the public.
Letter to Roger Dampierre
3rd July 1846
[vol. 7, p. 300]
Like you, I regret not having been at home when you did me the honor of coming to see me and I regret it all the more since I received your kind letter dated 30th June. I cannot thank you enough for all the nice things you say; my only fear is that the efforts I have been able to devote to what I considered to be the good of the country have been highly exaggerated. I will limit myself to answering what you say with regard to the forthcoming elections and I will do so with the frankness I owe to the sincere tone with which your letter is imbued.
I have decided to issue my declaration of principles as soon as the Chamber is dissolved and abandon the rest to the electors whom this concerns. I have to say to you that, as I do not solicit their votes for myself, I cannot commit them to the alliance of which you speak. As for my personal conduct, I hope that you will find the reason for it in the brochure I am sending you with this letter. Allow me to add a few explanations here. An alliance between your opinion and mine is a serious thing that I cannot agree to or reject without setting out for you, perhaps somewhat at length, the reasons that govern my decision.
You are a legitimist, sir, you say so frankly in your declaration of principles; and consequently I am more distant from you than from true conservatives.
Thus, if we had at the forthcoming elections a conservative candidate in opinion but who is independent by position, such as MM Basquiat, Poydenot, etc., etc., I could not entertain for a moment the thought that, should my party fail, I would join yours. The prospect of determining a ministerial crisis would not cause me to decide and I would prefer to see an opinion with which I differ only subtly triumph, than that from which I differ because of my principles.
I must admit to you, furthermore, that these alliances of extreme parties appear to me to be trickery artificially arranged by ambitious people for their own benefit. I situate myself exclusively at the standpoint of the taxpayer, the person being administered, and the general public and I wonder what they have to gain from alliances whose sole aim is to pass power from one hand to another. Allowing the success of an alliance between the two schools of opinion, to what can it lead? Obviously, they agree only for a moment by glossing over the points on which they differ and abandoning themselves to the only desire common to them: to overthrow the cabinet. But what happens next? When M. Thiers or anyone else is at the helm, what will he do with a minority of the left which will have been a majority only for a moment with the help of the legitimists, help which will henceforward be refused to them? I can see from here a new alliance forming between the right and M. Guizot. At the end of all this, I can see confusion, ministerial crises, administrative trouble, and satisfied ambition, but I do not see any benefit for the public.
For this reason, sir, I do not hesitate to say to you that I could not under any circumstances join you if it was genuinely a conservative opinion that would be presented at the forthcoming elections.
But this is not so. I see in a secretary under orders the representative not of a political opinion but of an individual thought and of this very thought to which electoral law should serve as a barrier. A candidature like this would remove us from a representative regime; it is more than a deviation from it, it casts derision on it, and it seems that by putting it forward, the government has resolved to see just how far the simplemindedness of the electoral body will go. Without having any personal objection to M. Larnac, I have such a serious one against his position that I will not vote for him, whatever happens, and, what is more, if necessary, I will vote for his opponent, even if he is a legitimist.
Whatever the secret thought of the partisans of the senior branch of royalty may be, I fear it less than the intentions of the present government as witnessed in the support it gives to such a candidature. I hate revolutions, but they take a variety of forms and I consider as a revolution of the worst kind this systematic invasion of national representation by the agents of government and, what is worse, of irresponsible government. If therefore I am faced with the cruel alternative of choosing between a secretary under orders and a legitimist, my mind is made up: I would choose the legitimist. If the ulterior motives attributed to this party are in any way the case, I deplore this, but I do not fear it, for I am convinced that the principle of national sovereignty has enough life in France to triumph once more over its adversaries. But with a Chamber peopled with the creatures of government, the country, its wealth and liberty, are defenseless and there is in this a germ of revolution that is more dangerous than that which your party can contemplate.
To sum up, sir, as a candidate I will limit myself to issuing a declaration of principles and attending public meetings if I am invited to them. As an elector, I will first vote for a man of the left; failing that, for an independent conservative; and failing that again, for a frank and loyal legitimist, such as you, rather than for a secretary under the orders of the duc de Nemours.
I remain, sir, etc., . . .
Articles on Politics
On a New Secondary School to Be Founded in Bayonne
[vol. 7, p. 4. According to Paillottet, this article, probably
extracted from a copybook of Bastiat’s, and written by
him, was published in a Bayonne newspaper in 1834.]
The question was raised in the municipal council of providing Bayonne with a secondary school. But what can you do? You cannot do everything at once; the most pressing needs must be met and the town has ruined itself in order to provide a theater. Pleasure first; education can wait. Anyway, is not the theater also a school and even more a school of morals? Ask anyone in vaudeville or musical comedy.
As it happens, Bayonne’s fiscal capacity represents the high point of civilization and we can properly hope that the question of finance will prove no obstacle. Confident of this, I beg leave to submit a few ideas on public instruction to the city.
When I first heard of the municipal project, I asked myself if a secondary school whose curriculum focused on science and work which would dispense scientific and industrial instruction would not have some small chance of success. There is no lack of establishments close to Bayonne that teach or, to be more accurate, pretend to teach Greek, Latin, rhetoric, or even philosophy. Larresole, Orthez, Oléron, Dax, Mont-de-Marsan, Saint-Sever, and Aire provide classical education. There, the young generation which will succeed us behind the counter or in the workshop, in the fields and vineyards, in the night watch, and on the upper deck, is preparing to take on its rough task by being bored to death with the declension and conjugation of languages which were spoken some two or three thousand years ago. There, our sons, while waiting for machines to operate, bridges to build, moorland to clear, ships to deliver to the four corners of the earth, or strict accounts to keep, are learning to chant nicely using the tips of their fingers . . . Tityre, tu patuloe recu, etc. Let us be just, however; before sending them out into the world and as they approach their majority, they should be given a vague idea of counting and even perhaps a glimpse or two of natural history in the form of commented texts from Phaedrus and Aesop, it being understood, of course, that they will not miss a comma of the Lexicon and the Gradus ad Parnassum.
Let us suppose that, through an unheard-of singular occurrence, Bayonne in fact followed an opposite method, that it made science, the knowledge of what exists and a study of cause and effect, the founding principle and the reading of the ancient poets an accessory and ornament of education, do you not think that this idea, as ridiculous as it may appear at first glance, might prove attractive to many heads of families?
What is it basically that we are discussing? The composition of intellectual baggage which will nourish these children during their harsh journey through life. Some of them will be called upon to defend, enlighten, and teach morals; to represent and administer the people; to develop and perfect our institutions and laws, with the greater number by far having to seek through work and industry the means of earning a living for themselves and of supporting their wives and children.
And tell me, is it in Horace and Ovid that they will learn all of this? To be good farmers, do they have to spend ten years learning and reading the Georgics? To win their stripes in the army, do they need to wear out their youth in deciphering Xenophon? To become statesmen, to become imbued with the mores, ideas, and needs of our time, do they need to immerse themselves for twenty years in Roman life, make themselves the contemporaries of Lucullus and Messalina, and breathe the same air as Brutus and the Gracchi?
Not only does the long period of childhood spent in the past not initiate them into the present, but it inspires dislike of it in them. It warps their judgment and prepares only a generation of orators, seditionists, and idlers.
For what is there in common between ancient Rome and modern France? The Romans lived from plunder and we live from production, they scorned and we honor work, they left to slaves the task of producing and this is exactly the task for which we are responsible, they were organized for war and we aim for peace, they were for theft and we are for trade, they aimed to dominate and we tend to bring peoples together.
And how do you expect these young men who have escaped from Sparta and Rome not to upset our century with their ideas? Will they not, like Plato, dream of illusory republics; and like the Gracchi, have their gaze fixed on the Aventine Mount; and like Brutus, contemplate the bloody glory of sublime devotion?
I would countenance a literary education if we were, like the Athenians, a people of idlers. To talk at length on metaphysics, eloquence, mythology, fine arts, or poetry is, I believe, the best use of their leisure that a people of patricians can make, as they move above a host of slaves.
But for those who have to create the nutritium, the vestitum, and the tectum for themselves, what is the use of the subtleties of the school and dreams of the seven sages of Greece? If Charles has to be a ploughman, he has to learn what water, the earth, and plants are in reality and not what Thales and Epicurus said about them. He needs the physics of facts and not the physics of poetry, science and not erudition. Our century is like Chrysale:
- He lives off good soup and not fine language.
- I can hear Belise protest: Is it possible to encounter a man as prosaic and as vulgar as this,
- A spirit composed of such bourgeois atoms?
And is it not sad to see, to use the current jargon (which rather resembles that of Belise), facts smothering ideas?
I would reply that the idea of the heroic age, that of domination, plunder, and slavery, is neither greater nor more poetic than the idea of the industrial age, with its concept of work, equality, and unity, and I have the authority of two great poets, Byron and Lamartine, on my side.
Be that as it may, if man does not live by bread alone, he lives still less by ambrosia and I dare to say (asking you to forgive the play on words) that in our system of education it is the idea, and a false idea, that smothers facts. It is the idea that perverts our young people, which closes off the avenues to wealth to them and impels them toward a career by way of various positions or a desperate idleness.
And tell me, my native town, you whom corrupt laws (also the offspring of erroneous education) have stripped of your trade, you who are exploring new trade routes, who spin wool and linen, who smelt molten iron, dig up kaolin from your native soil, and do not know how to use it, you who build ships, maintain a model farm, and, in a word, you who draw power from a little boiling water and seek light in a little jet of gas, if you need hands to accomplish your undertakings and intellects to direct them, are you not obliged to call upon the children of the north for help, while your own sons, so full of courage and sagacity, walk the cobbles of your streets because they have not learned what it is essential to know today?
But let us allow that a classical education is really the most useful. We will at least agree that this is so only if it puts buyers in possession of the goods it produces. However, are these dead languages so generally taught widely known? You who are reading this, and who were perhaps first in your class, do you often walk on the banks of the Nive and the Adour with a work of Perseus or Sophocles in your hand? Alas! In the fullness of our age, after such lengthy studies we are scarcely left with enough knowledge to decipher the meaning of a simple epigraph. I remember that in a large meeting once, a woman actually dared to ask what the famous motto of Louis XIV, Nec pluribus impar, meant. The construction was worked out, followed by a word for word translation; a discussion was held on the force of the two negatives; each person had his own interpretation; no two were identical.
And it is for this result that you weary children. You saturate them with syntax for ten hours a day and for seven years in succession. You suffocate them with declensions and conjugations, you make them insipid and out of breath, you give them nausea, and then you say: “My son is charming, full of intelligence; he understands and catches half meanings, but he is frivolous, lazy, and does not want to take an interest.” Poor little boy! Why is he not wise enough to reply: “You see, nature gave me the taste and need for diversion, it made me curious, with a questioning mind ready to learn everything and what have these precious dispositions become in your hands? You enslaved all my moments to a single study, a study that was repellent and arid, one that explained nothing to me, taught me nothing, neither the origin of the sun that moves, the rain that falls, the water that flows, and the seed that germinates, nor what force supports ships in the water or birds in the sky, nor whence comes the bread that feeds me and the clothes I wear. No facts have entered my head. Words, just words, hour after hour, day after day, always and forever, from one end of my childhood to the other! To be determined that my noble will should be wholly concentrated on these miserable formulae, determined that I should not watch the butterfly that flutters by, the grass that grows green, or the ship that moves with neither oar nor sail, determined that my young instincts should not seek to penetrate the mystery of these phenomena, the food of my sensations, and substance of my thoughts, is to exact more than I can give. Oh, my father, if you tried this experiment on yourself, if you imposed this straitjacket on yourself, just for one month, you would see that it cannot be suitable to the energetic activities of childhood.”
Therefore, if Bayonne were to establish a secondary school in which Latin occupied one hour a day, which befits a useful accessory, in which the rest of the time was devoted to mathematics, physics, chemistry, history, living languages, etc., I think that Bayonne would be meeting a widely felt social need and that the current administration would deserve the benediction of the coming generation.
Freedom of Teaching
[vol. 7, p. 231. According to Paillottet,
this essay was originally published in
La République française, 4 March 1848.]
All the acts of the provisional government relating to public education are designed, we are annoyed to say, in a spirit that supposes that France has abandoned freedom of teaching.
The circular from the minister to the rectors convinces us of this.
Here is a decree that creates a commission for scientific and literary studies.
Out of the twenty members who make it up, fifteen of them at least, if we are not mistaken, belong to the university.
In addition, the final article of the decree lays down that this commission will add another ten members, chosen by itself, as it says, from civil servants in primary and secondary education.
We cannot help noticing here that, of all the branches of national activity, that which has made perhaps the least progress is the teaching profession. It is still approximately at the stage it was in the Middle Ages. The idylls of Theocrates and the odes of Horace are still the basis of the instruction we give to the youth of the nineteenth century. This appears to indicate that there is nothing less progressive and more immutable than that carried out by government monopoly.
In France, there is a large school of opinion that thinks that, apart from legal repression or abuse, every citizen should have the free exercise of his faculties. This is both the prerogative of progress and its necessary condition. This is how they view liberty in the United States, and empirically this experiment is just as revealing as our experiences with monopoly in Europe. It should be noted that none of the men who belong to this school, known as the économiste school, has been called upon to join any of the commissions that have just been organized.
It is not surprising that they have been kept away from paid public office. They have kept themselves away and they had to, since their ideal is to reduce the number of positions to those that are essential for maintaining order, internal and external security, respect for persons and property, and, at the very least, the creation of a few projects of national importance.
However, that their contribution to simple surveys is systematically overlooked is a significant eventuality; it proves that we are being swept along by a hypertrophy of government, one which threatens an endless diminution of true liberty.
Freedom of Trade
[vol. 7, p. 14. According to Paillottet, this was an
unpublished article that appears to have been intended for
a newspaper in the south of France. It dates from 1844.]
During the session on 29th February last, M. Guizot said: “We constantly speak of the weakness of the king’s government with respect to England. I cannot allow this calumny.
“In Spain, no one can say that we have merely supported what England has done or simply got rid of the same things as she.
“There has been talk of a treaty on trade which is to be imposed by England; has this happened?
“Did we not revoke the regulations which have changed trade relations between England and France with respect to linen thread and cloth?
“Did not the prime minister pass a law on Algerian tariffs which has materially harmed in more than one respect real British interests?”
From all of this it results that, if the authorities are not under the yoke of England, they are certainly under the yoke of monopoly. All this shows that while the government may not be England’s creature it is certainly a creature of monopoly.
Is the public really not going to open its eyes finally to this shameful misrepresentation and duplicity?
A few years ago, one might have thought that protectionism had very few years left to live.
Theoretically in ruins, it slipped into our legislation only as a transitory measure. The very minister who did most to let it linger on, M. de Saint-Cricq, constantly warned us that these mutual taxes, which workers paid each other, were basically unjust and, to the little extent that they were reasonable, were so only on the grounds of their supporting infant industries. Indeed, even the beneficiaries of these arrangements saw them not as a prerogative but as an essentially temporary privilege.
The actions being accomplished in Europe were such as to increase the hopes of the lovers of freedom.
Switzerland had opened its frontiers to products of all origins and this was working well.
Sardinia also went down this road and found no reason to regret it.
Germany had replaced a host of internal barriers with a single ring of customs posts based on a moderate tariff.
In England, the most vigorous effort ever attempted by the middle classes was on the point of overthrowing a system of restrictions which in that country represented another aspect of feudal power.
Even Spain seemed to understand that its fifteen agricultural provinces were unjustly sacrificed in favor of one manufacturing province.
Lastly, France was preparing for free trade by way of negotiating treaties of transition and by joining a customs union with Belgium.
Thus was labor to be set free. Wherever on the globe that fate had caused them to be born, men were going to reconquer the natural right to exchange with each other the fruits of their labors and we were reaching the moment of seeing the achievement of a holy alliance of nations.
How did France allow herself to be turned away from this path? How did it come about that its children, who took pride in being the leaders of civilization, were suddenly seized with Napoleonic ideas and embraced the cause of isolation, antagonism between nations, theft carried out by its citizens one against the other, restrictions laid down on the right of ownership, in short, all that is barbarous in the bosom of protectionism?
To seek an explanation of this sad phenomenon, it would seem that we have to move away from our subject for a moment.
If, within a General Council, a member succeeded in creating a majority against the administration, it would not necessarily follow that the prefect would be dismissed and still less that the leader of the opposition would be appointed prefect in his place. In the same way, although general councillors are made of the same clay as deputies, their ambition is not satisfied by the maneuvers of systematic opposition, which explains why these maneuvers are not seen to happen in these meetings.
This is not the case in the Chamber. It is a maxim of our public law that if a deputy is cunning enough to mount a majority in opposition to a government, he will himself ipso facto become minister and will deliver the government as a prey to his colleagues who allied themselves to his undertaking.
The consequences of such an organization leap to the eye. The Chamber is no longer an assembly of those governed, who come to take note of measures projected by those who govern, to admit, modify, or reject these measures in line with the public interest which they represent; it is rather an arena in which government, dependent on the support of members’ votes, is competed for.
Therefore, to overturn the government it is necessary only to remove its majority. To remove its majority, it is necessary to discredit it, make it unpopular, and debase it. The law itself, aided and abetted by the irremediable weakness of the human heart, has arranged things thus. It is useless for M. Guizot to cry: “Will we never learn to attack each other, combat each other, and overthrow each other without attributing shameful motives to each other?” I must say that I find these complaints puerile. You allow that your adversaries aim to replace you and yet you advise them charitably to neglect the means of success! In this respect, M. Guizot, the leader of the opposition, would do to M. Thiers, the minister, what M. Guizot, the minister, reproaches M. Thiers, the leader of the opposition, for doing.
We have therefore to admit that our mechanism of representation is organized in such a way that the opposition and all forms of opposition united have not and cannot have other than one single aim, namely to discredit the government, whichever one it is, in order to overthrow it and replace it.
But the most certain way, in France, to discredit the government is to represent it as treacherous, cowardly, in the pay of foreigners, and forgetful of national honor. Against M. Molé, this was the tactic used by M. Guizot in coalition with the legitimists and the Republicans; against M. Guizot, this was the tactic of M. Thiers, in coalition with the Republicans and the legitimists. One used Ancona as the other used Tahiti.
However, opposition parties do not limit themselves to acting within the Chamber. They also feel the need to take some account of public opinion and the views of the electorate. All the opposition newspapers are thus obliged to work in concert, to exalt, irritate, and mislead national feeling, to represent the country as having descended to the lowest level of degradation and opprobrium as a result of the work of the government; and it has to be said that our national susceptibility to the memory of Empire and to the wholly Roman education which has prevailed among us gives this parliamentary tactic considerable chances of success. This being the situation, it is easy to predict all the gains that pampered lines of production would inevitably extract from it.
At a time when monopoly was about to be cast aside and the free communication of peoples gradually established, what could the cosseted groups do? Waste their time establishing protectionist principles at the very heart of their outlook, opposing such principles to the theory of free trade? It would have been a fruitless venture; on the soil of free and fair discussion, error stands little chance against truth.
No, the privileged groups had a clearer view of what might prolong their existence. They understood that they could continue peacefully to pick the pockets of the public so long as contrived antagonisms would prevent the drawing together and merging of nations. This being so, they harnessd their forces, influence, capital, and activity to national hatred. They, too, adopted the mask of patriotism. They bribed such newspapers as had not yet adopted the banner of false national honor, and it may rightly be said that this monstrous alliance stopped the march of civilization.
In these strange circumstances, the local press, especially in the south, might have been of great service. However, either because it did not perceive the motive behind these Machiavellian intrigues or feared to appear weak in the eyes of the enemy, the fact is that it foolishly added its voice to those of the newspapers funded by the privileged groups and today may well fold its arms at the sight of us, the men of the south, robbed and exploited, doing its work, the work it should have done itself, and devoting all the resources of our intelligence and all the energy of our feelings to consolidating the shackles and perpetuating the extortions it inflicts on us.
This weakness has borne fruit. To repudiate the accusations heaped on it, the government had one thing only to do and it did it: it sacrificed us.
The words of M. Guizot, which I quoted at the beginning, did they not mean in essence:
“You say that I am subjecting my policy to that of England, but consider my actions.
“It was just to return to French citizens the right to trade, appropriated by a few privileged people. I wished to go down this path through trade treaties, but there were shouts of Treason! and I broke off negotiations.
“I thought that if French citizens needed to buy linen thread and cloth abroad, it was better to obtain more rather than less for a given price, but there were shouts of Treason! and I created differential dues.
It was in the interest of our young African colony to be provided with everything at a low cost in order to grow and prosper. However, there were shouts of Treason! and I handed over Algeria to monopolistic interests.
“Spain aspired to shake off its submission to a single province. This was in its interest. It was in ours and also in that of the English. There were shouts of Treason! and, to stifle this inopportune cry, I maintained what England wished to overturn, the exploitation of Spain by Catalonia.”
This is our present position. The engine of war of all the parties is the hatred of foreigners. Left and right alike use it to disparage the government; in the center they go further, translating it into action to prove their independence and the monopolists fasten on to this uncertain outlook, fanning discord in order to perpetuate their situation.
Where will all this lead us? I do not know, but I believe that this game by the parties hides danger and I ask myself why, in a period of total peace, France maintains four hundred thousand men under arms, increases its navy, fortifies its capital city, and pays a billion and a half in taxes.
The Parisian Press
[vol. 7, p. 226. According to Paillottet, this
article was originally published in
La République française, 1 March 1848.]
The Parisian press offers a spectacle that is no less extraordinary or less imposing than the population on the barricades.
What has happened to the burning and often brutal controversy of late?
The lively discussions will doubtless return. But is it not very consoling to see that at the moment of danger, when the country has an overwhelming need for security, order, and confidence, all forms of bitterness are forgotten and even the most eccentric doctrines endeavor to present themselves in a reassuring light?
Thus, Le Populaire, the communist newspaper, shouts “Respect for ownership!” M. Cabet reminds his followers that they should seek triumph for their ideas only through discussion and by convincing the public.
La Fraternité, the workers’ newspaper, publishes a lengthy program that economists might adopt in its entirety, except perhaps for one or two maxims that are more illusionary than dangerous.
L’Atelier, another newspaper edited by workers, beseeches its brothers to stop the ill-considered movement that in the first instance led them on to smash machinery.
All the newspapers vie with one another in trying to moderate or anathematize another barbarous sentiment that unfortunately the partisan spirit had worked for fifteen years to bolster: chauvinism. Apparently a single day of revolution has caused this engine of war incarnate, to which all the opposition parties have recourse, to disappear, simply by making it irrelevant.
External peace, internal order, confidence, vigilance, and fraternity: these are the watchwords for the entire press.
Petition from an Economist
[vol. 7, p. 227. According to Paillottet,
this article was originally published in
La République française, dated 2 March 1848.]
At the moment a petition is being signed that asks for: A Ministry of Progress or for the Organization of Production. On this subject, La Démocratie pacifique has this to say:
“In order to organize production in French society, you have to know how to organize it at the village level, in the living and breathing workshops of the nation. Any serious doctrine of social development must therefore succeed at the level of the basic workshop and be tried out initially on a small parcel of land. Let the Republic therefore create a Ministry of Progress and Organization of Production whose function will be to examine all the plans put forward by the various socialist doctrines and to favor over them a local, free, and voluntary experiment carried out in a territorial unit, the square league.”
If this idea is put into practice, we will ask that we too be given our square league to try out our ideas. Why, after all, should the various socialist schools of thought be the only ones to have the privilege of having at their disposal square leagues, basic workshops, and everything which constitutes a locality, in short, villages?
They say that it is a matter of free and voluntary experiments. Are we to understand that the inhabitants of the commune who will be subjected to socialist experimentation will have to agree to it and that, on the other hand, the state should not take part with revenue raised from other communes? If so, what is the use of the petition, and what prevents the inhabitants of communes from carrying out freely, voluntarily, and at their own expense social experiments on themselves? Or is the intention that the experiment be forced or at the very least supported by funds raised from the entire community?
This in itself will provide a highly inconclusive result for the experiment. It is quite clear that having all the nation’s resources at our disposal, we might squander a great deal of welfare on a square league of land.
In any case, if each inventor in the field of social organization is called upon to carry out his experiment, let us register ourselves and formally request a commune to organize.
Our plan is otherwise very simple.
We will claim from each family and through a single tax a very small part of its income, in order to ensure the respect of persons and ownership, the elimination of fraud, misdemeanors, and crimes. Once we have done this, we will carefully observe how people organize themselves.
Religion, teaching, production, and trade will be perfectly free. We hope that, under this regime of liberty and security, with each inhabitant having the facility, through free trade, to create the largest sum of value possible, in any form which suits him, capital will be built up with great speed. Since all capital is intended to be used, there will be fierce competition between capitalists. Therefore earnings will rise; therefore workers, if they are far-sighted and thrifty, will have a great opportunity to become capitalists; and therefore it will be possible to create alliances or associations whose ideas are conceived and matured by themselves alone.
As the single tax will be modest in the extreme, there will be few civil service posts and few civil servants, no wasted efforts, and few men withdrawn from production.
As the state will have very restricted and well-defined powers, its inhabitants will have total freedom to choose their work. Here it should be noted clearly that any wasteful civil service post is not only a burden on the community but an infringement of the freedom of citizens. About the public services imposed without debate on the citizens, there are no half measures; either they are useful or else essentially harmful; they cannot be neutral. When a man exercises an action with authority, not over things but over his fellow men, if he does not do them good, he must necessarily do them harm.
With taxes thus reduced to the minimum required to procure security for all, lobbyists, abuses, privileges, and the exploitation of laws for individual interests will also be reduced to a minimum.
Since the inhabitants of this experimental commune will have, through free trade, the opportunity of producing the maximum value with the minimum work, the square league will provide as much welfare as the state of knowledge, activity, order, and individual economy allows.
This welfare will tend to spread out in an ever-more egalitarian manner, since, as the highest paid services will be the most sought after, it will be impossible to amass huge fortunes, especially since the minimum level of tax will not allow great public contracts, loans, nor speculation, all sources of the scandalous fortunes we see accumulating in a few hands.
Since this small community will be interested in attacking no one and all the others will have an interest in not attacking it, it will enjoy the most profound peace.
Citizens will feel loyal to the country because they will never feel slighted or held back by the agents of the government, and to its laws because they will recognize them as based on justice.
In the conviction that this system, which has the merit at least of being simple and respecting human dignity, is all the better if it applies to a wider territory and a greater number of people, since it is there that the most security is obtained with the least taxes, we conclude that if it succeeds in a commune, it will succeed at the level of the nation.
Article in La République française
[vol. 7, p. 223. According to Paillottet,
this article was originally published in
La République française, dated 1 March 1848.]
A newspaper does not achieve high circulation figures without echoing a few ideas dominant in the country. We acknowledge that La Presse has always been able to speak to the interests of the moment and even that it has often given good advice; in this way it has been able to sow in the soil of the country, along with the good grain, a great deal of chaff which will take a long time to remove.
Since the Revolution, it must be said, its attitude has been frank and resolute.
We are in complete agreement, for our part, with the two clarion calls which it is broadcasting today, No diplomacy! No rush for positions!
No diplomacy! What has the Republic to do with this institution, which has done so much harm and which perhaps has never done any good, where sharp practice is so traditional that it is used in the most simple matters and where sincerity is considered foolishness? It was by a diplomat and for diplomacy’s sake that it was first observed that speech was given to man to disguise his thoughts.
One of the purest English democrats, Mr. Cobden, on a visit to Madrid, was visited by Mr. Bulwer. He said to him: “Ambassador, in ten years Europe will no longer need you.”
When on principle nations are the property of kings, diplomacy and even diplomatic trickery are conceived. Events must be prepared well in advance, as must alliances and wars to expand the domain of the master.
However, what does a people which belongs to itself have to negotiate? All its diplomacy is carried out in the open in deliberating assemblies; its traders are its negotiators, the diplomats of union and peace.
It is true that, even for free peoples, there is a territorial question of the highest importance, that of natural borders. But does this question require the intervention of diplomacy?
Nations know full well that it is in the common interest and in the interest of order and peace that each should have borders. They know that if France withdrew within its limits, that would be one more guarantee of security for Europe.
What is more, the principle that peoples belong to themselves guarantees that, if there has to be a merger, it will take place with the free consent of those involved and not by armed invasion. The Republic has only to proclaim its rights, wishes, and hopes in this respect. There is no need for either ambassadors or trickery to do this.
Without ambassadors and kings, we would not in recent times have had the question of Spanish marriages. Has anyone ever given attention to the marriage of the president of the United States? As for the rush for positions, our desire echoes that of La Presse. We would have liked France in February not to give the world this sad and disgusting spectacle. But we have little hope of this, as we have no illusions about the weakness of the human heart. The means of reducing the rush is to reduce the number of positions themselves. It is puerile to expect lobbyists to restrain themselves; it is up to the public to restrain them.
For this reason, we must constantly repeat: Let us eliminate all superfluous positions. We advise children to think twice before saying something rash. We, for our part, say to the government: Break thirty quills before endorsing the creation of new positions.
A sinecure eliminated will thwart its holder but not enrage him. A sinecure passed from hand to hand exasperates him who has lost it, disappoints ten would-be placemen, and angers the public.
The most difficult part of the task handed down to the provisional government will probably be resisting the flood of requests for such sinecures.
All the more so because several schools of thought, which today are much in favor, hope to increase indefinitely the scope of the government, by repeated taxation, and to have the state do everything.
Other people say: The state needs to spend a great deal in order to provide a living for a great many people.
Is it therefore really so difficult to see that, when the government spends taxpayers’ money, it is not the taxpayers who spend it?
The Scramble for Office
[vol. 7, p. 232. According to Paillottet,
this article was originally published in
La République française, dated 5 March 1848.]
All the newspapers, without exception, are speaking out against the scramble for office of which the Town Hall is given a sad example. Nobody could be more indignant about, or more disgusted by, this frenzied greed than we.
But at the end of the day we have to find the cause of the evil, and it would be puerile to expect the human heart to be other than it has pleased nature to make it.
In a country in which, since time immemorial, the labor of free men has everywhere been demeaned, in which education offers as a model to all youth the mores of Greece and Rome, in which trade and industry are constantly exposed by the press to the scorn of citizens under the label profiteering, industrialism, or individualism, in which success in office alone leads to wealth, prestige, or power, and in which the state does everything and interferes in everything through its innumerable agents, it is natural enough for public office to be avidly sought after.
How can we turn ambition away from this disastrous direction and redirect the activity of the enlightened classes toward productive careers?
Obviously by eliminating a great many public posts, limiting government action, leaving a wider, freer, and more prestigious role to private activities and reducing the salaries for high public office.
What should our attitude be then to those theories, so fashionable currently, which propose the transfer into the world of paid public service, of activities still in the realm of private industry? La Démocratie pacifique wants the state to provide insurance, public transport, and haulage, and also to handle the trading of wheat, etc., etc., etc.
Do these ideas not provide fresh fuel for this disastrous mania which so offends honest citizens?
We do not want to discuss the other disadvantages of these proposals here. Examine one after the other all the industries managed by the state and see if these are not, indeed, the ones through which citizens are the most badly and most expensively served.
Take education, obstinately limited to the study of two languages dead these two thousand years.
See what kind of tobacco is provided to you and at what price.
Compare in terms of regular supply and proper market price the distribution of printed matter by the public authority in the rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau with that by individual enterprises in the rue de la Jussienne.
However, setting aside these considerations, is it not evident that the scramble for office is and will always be proportional to the enticement to it?
Is it not evident that having industry run by the state is to remove work from honest activity in order to deliver it to lazy and indolent intrigue?
Finally, is it not clear that it will make the disorder which the Town Hall exemplifies, a disarray which saddens the members of the provisional government, permanent and progressive?
Impediments and Taxes
[vol. 7, p. 234. According to Paillottet,
this article was originally published in
La République française, dated 6 March 1848.]
While a movement, possibly an irresistible one, is pushing us toward the hypertrophy of the state, and an increase in the number of taxes as well as of the irritating encumbrances such an increase inevitably entails, a very pronounced change in the opposite direction is apparent in England, one which will perhaps lead to the fall of the government.
There, every experiment and every effort to achieve good through the intervention of the state results in disappointment. It will soon be realized that good is not being achieved and that the experiment leaves behind it just one thing: tax.
Thus, last year, a law was passed to regulate the work of factories and the execution of this law required the creation of a body of civil servants. Today, entrepreneurs, workers, inspectors, and magistrates agree in acknowledging that the law has encroached upon all the interests in which it has interfered. Only two things remain: disorder and taxes.
Two years ago, the legislature dashed off a constitution for New Zealand and voted for considerable expenditure to implement it. In spite of this, the said constitution collapsed badly. The only thing that did not fall, however, was taxation.
Lord Palmerston believed he had to intervene in the affairs of Portugal. He thus brought down on the name of England the hatred of an allied nation, and that at a price of fifteen million francs, or a hefty tax.
Lord Palmerston persists in seizing Brazilian ships engaged in the slave trade. To do this, he endangers the lives of a considerable number of English sailors, subjects British subjects living in Brazil to affronts, and makes a treaty between England and Rio de Janeiro impossible; all this damage is paid in ships and legal actions, that is to say, in the form of taxes.
The result is that the English are paying, not for receiving benefits, but for suffering damages to England.
The conclusion that our neighbors appear to wish to draw from this phenomenon is this: that the people, after having paid what is necessary to their political masters to guarantee their security, keep the rest for themselves.
This is a very simple thought, but it will sweep the world.
[vol. 7, p. 235. According to Paillottet, this article
was originally published in the first issue of
Jacques Bonhomme, dated 11-15 June 1848.]
I have lived a long time, seen a great deal, observed much, compared and examined many things, and I have reached the following conclusion:
Our fathers were right to wish to be free, and we should also wish this.
It is not that freedom has no disadvantages, since everything has these. To use these disadvantages in argument against it is to say to a man trapped in the mire: Do not get out, as you cannot do this without some effort.
Thus, it is to be wished that there be just one faith in the world, provided that it is the true one. However, where is the infallible authority which will impose it on us? While waiting for it to manifest itself, let us maintain the freedom of discussion and conscience.
It would be fortunate if the best method of teaching were to be universally adopted. But who has it and on what authority? Let us therefore demand freedom of teaching.
We may be distressed to see writers delight in stirring up all forms of evil passion. However, to hobble the press is also to hobble truth as well as lies. Let us, therefore, take care never to allow the freedom of the press to die.
It is distressing that man should be reduced to earning his bread by the sweat of his brow. It would be better for the state to feed everyone, but this is impossible. Let us at least have the freedom to work.
By associating with one another, men can gain greater advantage from their strength. However, the forms of association are infinite; which is best? Let us not run the risk that the state imposes the worst of these on us; let us seek the right one by trial and error, and demand the freedom of association.
A people has two ways of procuring something. The first is to make it; the second is to make something else and trade it. It is certainly better to have the option than not to have it. Let us therefore demand the freedom to trade.
I am throwing myself into public debate; I am trying to get through to the crowd to preach all the freedoms, the total of which make up liberty.
[vol. 7, p. 237. According to Paillottet, this article
was originally published in the first issue of
Jacques Bonhomme, dated 11-15 June 1848.]
Laissez-faire! I will begin by saying, in order to avoid any ambiguity, that laissez-faire is used here for honest things, with the state instituted precisely to prevent dishonest things.
This having been said, and with regard to things that are innocent in themselves, such as work, trade, teaching, association, banking, etc., a choice must be made. It is necessary for the state to let things be done or prevent them from being done.
If it lets things be done, we will be free and optimally administered most economically, since nothing costs less than laissez-faire.
If it prevents things from being done, woe to our freedom and our purse. Woe to our freedom, since to prevent things is to tie our hands; woe to our purse, since to prevent things requires agents and to employ agents takes money.
In reply to this, socialists say: “Laissez-faire! What a disaster!” Why, if you please? “Because, when you leave men to act, they do wrong and act against their interests. It is right for the state to direct them.”
This is simply absurd. Do you seriously have such faith in human wisdom that you want universal suffrage and government of all by all and then you proclaim these very men whom you consider fit to govern others unfit to govern themselves?
Under the Republic
[vol. 7, p. 210. According to Paillottet,
this article was originally published in
La République française, dated 27 February 1848.]
No one can say what the repercussions of the Revolution will be in Europe. Please heaven that all the peoples will be able to withdraw from the sad necessity of launching an attack on each other at a signal from the aristocracy and their kings.
But let us suppose that the absolutist powers retain their means of acting abroad for a short time.
I put before you two facts which seem to me incontestable and whose consequences will then be seen:
- 1. France cannot take the initiative of disarming.
- 2. Without disarmament, the revolution can fulfill the hopes of the people only imperfectly.
These two facts are, as we say, incontestable.
As for disarmament, the greatest enemy of France could not advise her to do this as long as the absolutist powers are armed. There is no point insisting on this.
The second fact is also obvious. Keeping oneself armed so as to guarantee national independence is to have three or four hundred thousand men under the flag and thus to find it impossible to make any significant cuts in public expenditure such as would permit a restructuring of the tax system immediately. Let us allow that, by means of a tax on luxury articles, we might reform the salt tax and a few other exorbitant ones. Is this something that might content the French people?
Bureaucracy will be reduced, they say. This may be so. However, as we said yesterday, the probable reduction in revenue will outweigh these partial reforms, and we should not forget that the last budget ended in a deficit.
But if the revolution finds it impossible to restructure an iniquitous tax system whose incidence is unfair, and which oppresses the people and paralyzes work, it will be compromised.
However, the revolution has no intention of perishing.
Here are the necessary consequences of this situation with regard to foreigners. We, of course, will never advise wars of aggression, but the last thing that can be asked of a people is to commit suicide.
For this reason, if the armed bellicosity of foreigners forces us to keep three or four hundred thousand men in a state of readiness, even if they do not attack us directly, it is as though they were asking us to commit suicide.
In our view, it is perfectly clear that if France is placed in the situation we have just described, whether she wishes to or not, she will scatter the lava of revolution across Europe.
This will be the only way to create embarrassment for kings within their own territory, which will enable us to breathe more freely at home.
Let foreigners understand this clearly. They can escape danger only by taking the initiative and disarming straightforwardly. This advice will seem foolhardy to them. They will hasten to say, “This is rash.” And we, for our part, say, “This is the most consummate prudence.”
It is this which we will undertake to demonstrate.
Paris, 27 February 1848
[vol. 7, p. 215]
Today, Le National is looking at our situation with regard to the outside world.
It asks, “Will we be attacked?” and, after having taken a look at the problems faced by Austria, Prussia, and Russia, it answers in the negative.
We agree entirely with this opinion.
What we fear is not being attacked but that the absolutist powers, with or without premeditation and simply through maintaining the military status quo, will reduce us to seeking the salvation of the revolution in armed propaganda.
We do not hesitate to repeat what we have said, since we wish to be understood both here and elsewhere. What we say with total conviction is this: We cannot take the initiative of disarming, and yet the simple military status quo gives us the alternative of perishing or fighting. It is for the kings of Europe to calculate the consequences of this fatal alternative. There is just one salvation for them: to disarm themselves first and immediately.
Readers will perhaps allow us a little useful fiction.
Let us imagine a small island, for many years more exploited than governed, with countless taxes and life insufferably curtailed, economically and politically. The nation is bent under the weight of this taxation and what is more it has to withdraw a significant part of its healthy population from the labor force to defend the realm and arm and feed it.
Out of the blue, this nation overthrows its oppressive government, with the aim of freeing itself from burdensome taxes and intolerable politics.
But the government, as it falls, leaves it with a huge burden of debt.
Initially, then, aggregate expenditure increases.
In parallel, however, all sources of revenue have diminished.
Now taxes are so odious that it is morally and materially impossible to maintain them, even provisionally.
Faced with this situation, the great and the good, who run all the nearby islands, anxiously entreat caution on the fledgling Republic:
“We hate you but we do not wish to attack you, in case we suffer harm ourselves. We will make do with surrounding you with a ring of soldiers and guns.”
At this the young Republic is forced to come up with many soldiers and guns in like measure.
It cannot cut back on taxes, even the most unpopular ones.
It cannot keep any of its promises to its people.
It cannot fulfill any of the hopes of its citizens.
It flounders about in its financial straits, increasing taxes with all the burden that that entails. No sooner is the people’s capital—the source of all paid employment—accumulated than it confiscates it.
In this desperate situation, nothing in the world could prevent our government from replying, “Your so-called moderation is killing us. Forcing us to maintain huge armies at the ready is to propel us toward social upheaval. We do not wish to perish and, rather than suffer this, we will stir up within your borders all the elements of disaffection that you have engendered in your own people, since you leave us no other path to salvation.”
This illustrates rather precisely our position with regard to the kings and aristocracies in Europe.
We fear that the kings will not understand this. When have we ever seen them save themselves through prudence and justice?
Nevertheless, we should tell them this. They have just one resource, to act justly toward their people, relieve them from the weight of oppression, and immediately take the initiative and disarm.
Other than this, their crowns run the risk of a huge and prolonged struggle. This is not a question of revolutionary fever, but of historical understanding and the actual nature of the things which conduce to such fever.
The kings will say, “Is it not our right to remain armed?”
Probably so, but at their own risk and peril.
They will also say, “Does not simple prudence require us to remain armed?”
Prudence requires them to disarm immediately and today rather than tomorrow.
In fact all considerations which will impel France to break her bounds, if she is forced to arm, will retain her within them if she is put into a position to reduce her military forces.
In this event the Republic will have a good reason for swiftly eliminating the most odious of the taxes, allowing the people to breathe, giving capital and labor the opportunity to develop, and abolishing the restrictions and encumbrances that are inseparable from heavy taxation.
It will welcome with joy the chance to put into practice the great principle of fraternity it has just emblazoned on its flag.
The Kings Must Disarm
[vol. 7, p. 221. According to Paillottet,
this article was originally published in
La République française, dated 29 February 1848.]
If only the kings of Europe were prudent, what would they do?
England would freely renounce the right of search. She would freely recognize that Algeria is French. She would not wait for these burning questions to be raised, and she would disband half her navy and use these savings to benefit her people by reducing the duties on tea and wine accordingly.
The king of Prussia would liberalize the half-baked constitution of his country, and by giving notice to two-thirds of his army he would ensure the devotion of the people by relieving them of the weight of taxes and military service.
The emperor of Austria would quickly evacuate Lombardy and by reducing his army would put himself in a position to increase Austria’s proverbial power.
The tsar would return Poland to the Poles.
All this done, France, no longer anxious as to her future, would concentrate on internal reform and let moral considerations take charge.
The kings of Europe, however, would expect to lose out if they followed this policy, the only one that can save them.
They will do exactly the opposite; they will want to stifle liberalism. So they will arm and the republics will arm too. Lombardy, Poland, and perhaps Prussia will become the theater of war. The alternative laid down by Napoléon, that Europe will be Republican or Cossack, will have to be resolved to the sound of guns. In spite of her ardent love of peace, expressed unanimously by the newspapers, but forced by her evident interest, France will not be able to avoid throwing her sword into the balance and . . . kings perish but nations do not.
Articles in La République française on the Political Situation
26 February 1848
[vol. 7, p. 212]
When we go through the streets of Paris, which are scarcely wide enough to contain the throngs of people, and remember that in this immense metropolis at this moment there is no king, no court, no municipal guard, no troops, and no civil administration other than that exercised by the citizens over themselves, when we reflect that a few men, only yesterday emerged from our ranks, are taking care of public affairs on their own, then, judging by the joy, the sense of security, and the confidence shown on every face, our initial feelings are admiration and pride.
We soon return to the past, however, and say to ourselves, “So popular self-government is not as difficult as certain people tried to persuade us it was, and economy in government is not utopian.”
There is no getting round the fact that in France we have become accustomed to excessive and grossly intrusive government. We have ended up believing that we would tear each other to pieces if we had the slightest liberty and if the state did not regulate all our movements.
This great experiment reveals indestructible principles of order within the hearts of men. Order is a need and the first of the needs, if not of all, at least of the vast majority. Let us be confident therefore and draw from this the lesson that the great and extravagant government machine which those involved called indispensable can and should be simplified.
27 February 1848
[vol. 7, p. 213. According to Paillottet,
this article was originally published in
La République française, dated 28 February 1848.]
Let us share this thought in La Presse:
What we need to ask a provisional government, those men who devote themselves to public salvation amid incalculable difficulties, is not to govern in exact accord with all of our ideas, but to govern. We should help it, support it and make its rough task easy, and postpone any doctrinal discussion. The agreement of all the newspapers on this will not be among the least glorious events in our revolution.
We can all the more render to ourselves this homage to abnegation in favor of the common cause, because it is deep within us.
In a few of the decrees which follow one another, we see signs of the application of a doctrine which is not ours. We have combated this and will do so again when the time permits.
Two systems are confronting one another, both of which are born of sincere convictions and both having the common good as their objective. But, it has to be said, they emanate from two quite different ideas, which moreover oppose one another
The first, more seductive and popular, consists in taking a great deal of the people’s earnings, in the form of taxes, in order to spread largesse among the people by way of philanthropic institutions.
The second wants the state to take very little, give very little, guarantee security, and give free rein to the honest exercise of every faculty; one consists in expanding indefinitely, the other in restricting as far as possible, the prerogatives of power. The one of these two systems to which we are attached through total conviction has few outlets in the press; it could not have had many representatives in government.
However, full of confidence in the rectitude of the citizens, to whom public opinion has entrusted the mission of building a bridge between our fallen monarchy and our burgeoning and well-ordered republic, we are willing to postpone the manifestation of our doctrine, and we will limit ourselves to sowing ideas of order, mutual trust, and gratitude to the provisional government.
27 February 1848
[vol. 7, p. 218]
All our cooperation, all our poor portion of influence, is devoted to the provisional government.
Certain of the purity of its intentions, we do not need to discuss all its measures in detail. It would be extremely demanding and even unjust, we might say, to demand perfection in emergency measures whose weight almost exceeds the limits of human strength.
We find it perfectly natural, at a time when the municipality needs so many resources, that local taxes be maintained, and it is an obligation for all citizens to ensure that this revenue is used wisely.
We would have liked the provisional government, however, not to appear to prejudge a major question with these words, “This tax must be revised and it will be shortly; it must be modified so as to make it less burdensome for the laboring classes.”
We consider that we should not seek to modify the city toll but aim to eliminate it.
Paris, 28 February 1848
[vol. 7, p. 218. According to Paillottet,
this article was originally published in
La République française, dated 29 February 1848.]
The general good, the greatest sum possible of happiness for everyone, and the immediate relief of the suffering classes are the subjects of every desire, every wish, and every preoccupation.
Such, moreover, constitute the greatest guarantee of order. Men are never better disposed to help one another than when they are not suffering, or at least when they cannot accuse anyone, especially not the government, of those sufferings inseparable from human imperfection.
The revolution began with a cry for reform. At that time, this word was restricted just to one of our constitutional arrangements. Today, it is still reform that we want, but of the fundamental kind, reform of our economic organization. The people, their complete freedom restored, are going to govern themselves. Does this mean the realization of all their hopes? We cannot bank on this chimera. The people will choose the measures that appear best suited to their purposes, but choice entails the possibility of error. However, the great advantage of government of the nation by the nation is that it has only itself to blame for the results of its errors and that it can always benefit from its experience. Its prudence now should consist in not allowing system builders to experiment too much on it and at its expense.
So, as we have said, two systems, discussed at length by polemicists, now confront one another.
One aspires to create the happiness of the people through direct measures. It says: “If someone suffers in any way, the state will be responsible for relieving him. It will give bread, clothing, work, care, and instruction to all those who need it.” If this system were possible, one would need to be a monster not to embrace it. If somewhere, on the moon perhaps, the state had an always accessible and inexhaustible source of food, clothing, and remedies, who could blame it for drawing on it with both hands for the benefit of those who are poor and destitute?”
But if the state does not have in its possession and does not produce any of these things, if they can be created only by human labor, if all the state can do is to take them by way of taxation from the workers who have created them in order to hand them over to those who have not created them, if the natural result of this operation must be, far from increasing the mass of these things, to discourage their production, if from this reduced mass the state is obliged to keep a part for its agents, if these agents who are responsible for the operation are themselves withdrawn from useful work, and if, finally, this system which appears so attractive at first sight, generates more misery than it cures, then it is proper to have doubts and seek to ascertain whether the welfare of the masses might not be generated by another process.
The one we have just described can obviously be put into practice only by an indefinite extension of taxes. Unless we resemble children who sulk when they are not given the moon when they first ask for it, we have to acknowledge that, if we make the state responsible for spreading abundance everywhere, we have to allow it to spread taxes everywhere, since it cannot give what it has not taken.
However, major taxes always imply major restrictions. If it were only a question of asking France to provide five or six hundred million, you might conceive an extremely simple financial mechanism for gathering it. But if we need to extract 1.5 to 1.8 billion, we need to use all the ruses imaginable in the operation of the tax laws. We need the town taxes, the salt tax, the tax on drink, and the exorbitant tax on sugar; we need to restrict traffic, burden industry, and limit consumers. An army of tax collectors is needed, as is an endless bureaucracy. The liberty of the citizens must be encroached upon, and all this leads to abuse, a desire for civil service posts, corruption, etc., etc.
It can be seen that, if the system of abundance drawn by the state from the people in order to be spread over the people by it, has its attractive side, it is also a medal that has its reverse side.
We, for our part, are convinced that this system is bad, and that there is another for achieving the good of the people, or rather for the people to achieve their own good; this consists in our giving the state all it needs to accomplish its essential mission, which is to guarantee internal and external security, respect people and property, the free exercise of faculties, and the repression of crime, misdemeanors, and fraud, and, after having given this liberally to the state, in keeping the rest for ourselves.
Finally, since the people are called upon to exercise their right, which is to choose between these two systems, we will often compare these before them, in all their political, moral, financial, and economic aspects.
To Citizens Lamartine and Ledru-Rollin
[vol. 7, p. 246. According to Paillottet, this
article was originally published in the third issue of
Jacques Bonhomme, dated 20-23 June 1848.]
Dissolve the national workshops. Dissolve them with all the care that humanity requires, but dissolve them.
If you want a reborn confidence, dissolve the national workshops.
If you want production to revive, dissolve the national workshops.
If you want shops to empty and fill, dissolve the national workshops.
If you want factories to reopen, dissolve the national workshops
If you want the countryside to become peaceful, dissolve the national workshops.
If you want the National Guard to have some rest, dissolve the national workshops.
If you want the people to bless you, including one hundred thousand workers out of the one hundred and three thousand in these workshops, dissolve the national workshops.
If you have not concluded that the stagnation of business followed by the stagnation of employment, followed by poverty, followed by starvation, followed by civil war, followed by desolation will become the Republic’s funeral procession, dissolve the national workshops.
If you have not decided to ruin the finances, crush the provinces, and exasperate the peasants, dissolve the national workshops.
If you do not want the entire nation to suspect you of deliberately having the specter of riots hanging over the National Assembly, dissolve the national workshops.
If you do not want to starve the people after having demoralized them, dissolve the national workshops.
If you do not want to be accused of having imagined a means of oppression, fright, terror, and ruin which exceeds anything the greatest tyrants have ever invented, dissolve the national workshops.
If you do not have the ulterior motive of destroying the Republic by making it hated, dissolve the national workshops.
If you do not want to be cursed in the present and if you do not want your memory to be reviled from generation to generation, dissolve the national workshops.
If you do not dissolve the national workshops, you will draw down onto the country every plague simultaneously.
If you do not dissolve the national workshops, what will happen to the workers when you have no more bread to give them and private production is dead?
If you retain the national workshops with sinister intent, posterity will say of you, “It was doubtless by cowardice that they proclaimed the Republic, since they killed it by treason.”
Report Presented to the 1849 Session of the General Council of the Landes, on the Question of Common Land
[vol. 7, p. 263]
You have referred the question of common land to your third commission. It has charged me with making its report to you. I beg leave to regret that it was not possible for this work to be completed by the colleague of yours who, last year, began it so well.
Two diametrically opposed ideas have always dominated this question.
Some people, struck by the spectacle of infertility widely offered by these withered fields known as heath or common land and knowing, moreover, that what belongs to everyone is properly exploited by all, but taken care of by no one, are in a hurry to see the common domain become part of the private domain and invoke the help of the law to bring their system to fruition.
Others point out to us that agriculture, and consequently all the means of existence of this country, rest on common land. They ask what would become of the private domain without the resources of the common domain. Unless we find a system of crop rotation which enables us to do without fertilizer (an agricultural revolution that is not within sight), they consider alienation a public calamity and, in order to prevent it, they also invoke the help of the law.
Your commission considered that neither of these conclusions took enough account of a fact that dominates the entire subject and considerably simplifies the task of the legislator. This fact is property, before which the legislator himself has to give way.
In effect, does not the question whether the law should force or prevent alienation begin by giving communes property rights?
We have been struck by the lack of attention paid to this right, either in the questions asked by the ministers or in the replies given by the Council before the February revolution.
This is how the ministerial circular set out the problem in 1846:
“What is the best use to which common land should be put? Should it be left as it is today? Or should it be let under a short or long lease? Should it be shared or sold?”
Is this a question that could be asked when it is a matter of a given property, short of its status as such being denied?
And what was the answer from the Council?
After speaking in justificatory and almost laudatory terms of the ancient means of appropriation, such as confiscation or usurpation, means which do not exist today, it concluded with the necessity of alienating, adding:
“The consent of municipal councils, which will nevertheless always be consulted, would not be absolutely essential for alienating common land which is either heath land or vacant. . . .”
And further on:
“The Municipal Council would be consulted on the necessity of alienation, and, whatever its opinion, would the proposal, communicated to the District Council, submitted to the General Council, and approved by it, legitimate the order authorizing the act of sale?”
It must be admitted that this dialogue between the minister and the Council totally misunderstood the rights of property. However, it is dangerous to let it be thought that this right is subordinate to the wish of the legislator. Doubtless, reasons of public good and progress were invoked, but do not those whom we have since seen take such little note of private property also invoke these reasons?
And here it was all the more worrying that the right of the commons was lost to sight, since it is precisely in this right that the solution to a number of the difficulties linked to the question of common land is to be found.
What is, in fact, the most notable of these difficulties? It is the extreme difference observed between the situations and the interests of the various localities. We would like to draw up a general law, but when we turn our hand to it, we seem to be pitting ourselves against the impossible and begin to understand that, in order to satisfy all requirements, we would have to draw up as many laws as there are communes. Why is this? Because each commune, depending on its antecedents, agricultural methods, needs, customs, the condition of its communications, and the market value of the land, has different interests with regard to its common land.
The deliberation of the General Council in 1846 accepted this in the following terms:
“The development of a policy entailing consultation as to the situation of individual interests for each département and each village would be going too far. Here, we are content to state that nothing is possible if this first law is not observed, and it is above all in this matter that local custom must play an important part in the law and that the main arrangements of the law itself must leave a great deal of liberty and authority to the electoral bodies which are responsible for representing or protecting the commune.”
The impossibility of drawing up a general law comes out in each page of the report made to you last year by M. Lefranc.
“Among the purposes that we may allot to our communal assets,” he said, “in each département it is necessary to choose the one which will allow one place to be dried out and irrigated, another to provide easy and prompt transport, sowing and plantation in the Landes, advanced agriculture in the Chalosse, etc.”
In fact, it seems to me that this means: since there are as many separate interests as there are communes, let us leave each commune to administer its common land. In other words, what should be done is not to violate common property but respect it.
Therefore, the one that has common lands only, which are essential for the grazing of livestock or for making fertilizer, will keep them.
The one that has more heath land than it needs will sell it, lease it out, or enhance its value depending on the circumstances and opportunity.
Is it not a good thing that, on this occasion, as on many others, respect for the law, in harmony with public utility, is in the end the best policy?
This policy may appear very simple, perhaps too simple. These days, we are inclined to want to carry out experiments on others. We do not allow them to decide for themselves, and when we have fathered a theory, we seek to have it adopted in order to go faster, using coercive means. To leave communes to dispose of their common land would seem to be folly both to partisans and to opponents of improvement. Communes are people of habit, the first will say; they would never want to sell. They are improvident, the others will say, and will not be able to keep anything.
These two fears are mutually destructive. Besides, nothing justifies them.
In the first place, the facts prove that communes do not oppose alienation absolutely. In the last ten years, more than fifteen thousand hectares have moved into the private domain and we can predict that this movement will accelerate with the improved viability, the growth of the population, and the rise in the market value of the land.
As for the fear of seeing the communes hurry to strip themselves of their wealth, this is even more of an illusion. Each time that administrative zeal has been directed to alienations, has it not met with resistance from the communes? Is it not this resistance, allegedly customary, that constantly provokes the legislator and all our deliberations? Did not M. Lefranc remind you last year that the Convention itself was not able to put across in this country a method of alienation truly attractive to people in the communes: sharing! I cannot stop myself from quoting the words of our colleague at this point:
“In order for a legislator, as powerful in his deeds and radical in his determination as the legislator of 1793, to have hesitated both to prescribe sharing in a uniform manner and to do violence to what he called the retrograde ideas of the provinces, he must have had a deep and irresistible sense of some sacred right, some imperative necessity hidden under the routine of tradition. In order for populations so violently dragged into the revolutionary current not to have found almost unanimously within their ranks a third of the votes favorable to the new procedure, eager for immediate and personal satisfaction and forgetful, given the price proffered, of the common interests and duties attaching to this common land, individuals determined, in the face of resistance, to introduce a standard, uniform law, the state of things that they wanted to destroy must have had its raison d’être elsewhere than in routine and ignorance.”
From the above, sirs, you will guess the conclusion: that the interfering law should be limited to acknowledging communal rights of property with all their consequences.
But communal property is not placed under the sole safeguard of the municipal councils. These councils are frequently renewed. A majority may occur in one of them that is the result of a momentary upset, especially under the effect of a brand-new law which is, so to speak, at the experimental stage. An intrigue ought not to result in irremediable damage for the commune. Even though the municipal councillors are the natural administrators of the commons, your commission considered that with regard to important measures, such as alienation, the General Council might be armed with a temporary veto, without the right of property being compromised. It would have the right to adjourn the execution of the Municipal Council’s conclusions until an election had given the inhabitants of the commune the opportunity of making their own opinion on the importance of the measure known.
We cannot end this report without drawing your attention to the opinion issued by the prefect, not that we share all of his views, but because they are imbued with the most generous sentiments toward the poor classes and show all his care for the public good.
The prefect bases great hope on the common lands, not as a means of increasing the wealth of the region, since he agrees that personal appropriation would achieve this aim better, but as a means of rendering it more equal.
I have to say I find it difficult to understand how it can be the case that the exploitation of common lands, although this produces less wheat, less wine, less wool, and less meat than personal appropriation, nevertheless achieves the result that the whole community, even the poor, is better provided with all these things.
I do not wish to discuss this conception here, but I have to make the following remark: the belief of the prefect in the power of the common land is such that he is in favor, not only of absolute inalienability, but even of the setting up of common land where it no longer exists. What next? Are we now going down the path of moving land from the private to the common domain when so many years have been spent by the government in moving land from the common to the private domain?
Nothing is more likely, it seems to me, to give us confidence in the solution we have put before you than a respect for property with all its consequences. The law must stop at the point where it encounters the rights it is responsible for maintaining and not destroy them. For lastly, if for a few years the law forces common lands to be alienated because of the prevalence of the idea that common land is harmful, and if for another few years the law forces common land to be restored because it is thought to be useful, what will become of the poor inhabitants of the countryside? Will they have to be pushed in opposite directions by external forces, in line with the theory of the moment?
Note that the question is worded wrongly when you are asked, “What should be done with common lands?” It is not up to the legislator but the owner to dispose of it.
However, the commission is in full agreement with the views of the prefect when he speaks of the usefulness to the communes of adding value to the heath land that is not needed by agriculture. The council will probably second his efforts in this direction and the region will reward him with gratitude.
For these reasons, the third commission has charged me with submitting to you the following draft proposal:
The General Council considers that a law on common lands cannot do other than recognize properties of this type and regulate the method by which they are administered;
It considers it natural that the Municipal Council should be charged with this administration in the name of the inhabitants of the commune;
It is of the opinion that, should the Municipal Council vote for a land sale, the General Council should have the right to suspend the implementation of this vote, if it considers this to be appropriate, until it is confirmed by the Municipal Council at the next election.
[vol. 7, p. 237. According to Paillottet, this article
was originally published in the first issue of
Jacques Bonhomme, dated 11-15 June 1848.]
“Master Jacques, what do you think of the National Assembly?”
“I think it is excellent, well intentioned, and devoted to the good. It is a product of the people; it loves the people and wants them to be happy and free. It brings honor to universal suffrage.”
“But how hesitant it is! How slow! How many storms in a teacup there are! How much time wasted! What good has it done? What evils has it prevented? The people are suffering, production is failing, work is at a standstill, the treasury is ruining itself, and the Assembly spends its time listening to boring speeches.”
“What are you saying? The Assembly cannot change the nature of things. The nature of things is at variance with nine hundred people governing with a will at once determined, logical, and swift. This being so, you must see how the Assembly is waiting for a government that will reflect its thought, how it is ready to give it a compact majority of seven hundred votes in favor of democratic ideas. However, no such government is in the offing at present and could hardly be so in the interim situation in which we find ourselves.”
“What should the Assembly do?”
“Three things: deal with the emergency, draw up the constitution, and make itself scarce.”
Parliamentary Conflicts of Interest
[This letter and the next one were sent to La Sentinelle des Pyrénées,
which published them on 21 and 25 March 1843, respectively. We
have grouped them under the new title, “Parliamentary Conflicts of
Interest.” From the private collection of Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean.]
We draw the attention of our readers to the following letter, which has been sent to us by one of our friends from the département of the Landes. This letter seems to us to envisage from an accurate viewpoint the current composition of our Chamber of Deputies, to which so many people bring just one preoccupation, that of climbing the greasy pole to power.
The Chamber has been presented for the third time with a huge question: the incompatibility of civil service functions with the function of a deputy or rather the inaccessibility of high positions to members of the National Assembly. Would you be willing, sir, to open the columns of your journal to a few reflections on this most serious matter? Above all, I would like to identify the class of readers to which these are addressed.
Two ideas are embossed on the July flag, and it will forever give shade to two major political parties, one which prefers to devote itself to the word freedom and the other which has made itself the principal defender of public order.
Parliamentary reform forms a natural part of the views of the Progressive Party. “How is it,” they say, “that public freedoms are not in danger when they are entrusted to men whose existence is at the mercy of the authorities? How can we count on the independence of deputies who are civil servants when an independent vote may lead to their ruin? Is it wise to put men in the position where they have to choose between their interest and their duty? Besides, if we hand over the purse strings to the hands that take from the contents of the purse, should we expect the purse to be well managed? If we entrust the right to create positions of power to those who will be occupying them, should we not fear that the number of these will increase unreasonably? And what is the extension of the field of civil service functions if not a restriction of the field of private activity, in other words a restriction of freedom itself? Is it reasonable to expect deputies who are engineers, customs officers, or members of the university staff to hand back to us the freedom to oversee major public works, the freedom to trade, and the freedom of education?”
From the Progressives’ point of view, these ideas seem to me to be too clear and obvious for it to be worth my while developing them. I would therefore like to address the Conservatives and examine with them whether public order is not as concerned with parliamentary reform as freedom itself, whether the principal cause of the instability they deplore and which rightly worries them is not the easy access to positions of power of those who control power.
What is the Chamber, as it is constituted at the present time? An arena in which the parties, or rather cliques, combat each other for public power. To lay siege to ministerial portfolios and to defend them, that is the sole business of parliamentary tactics.
A deputy comes to the Palais Bourbon. What is the attractive image that meets his gaze? It is power, flanked by its shining cortege of wealth, authority, influence, reputation, and consideration; I would be happy if these assets did not undermine his stoic virtue, but even if this man has no ambition, he has at least an idea which he wants to have accepted and it will not be long before he seeks advancement, if not in his own individual interest at least in the interest of his political beliefs. Our constitution has made power accessible to him and our parliamentary customs show him two avenues for achieving it. One is easy and regular: he just has to give his allegiance to a government and he will be rewarded with a good position for his pains. The other is steep and rough, but it leads higher and suits powerful ambitions; he must attack the government, place obstacles in its path, hinder its administration, decry its actions and make it unpopular, whip up the press and public opinion against it until at length, with the assistance of those who have hitched themselves to his star, he finally achieves a majority for a day and enters into the council of the crown as a victor.
But the conflict does not abate for all that; the roles merely change. He who was a defender the day before becomes an assailant in his turn. On leaving his position, he discovers the weapons that were used against him and takes control of them; it is his turn to make pompous speeches, seek popularity, paint a picture of France being shamefully propelled toward an abyss, revive in the depths of people’s souls the ancient love of freedom and national independence and mislead them if necessary, and finally turn all these powerful missiles against his enemy. For his enemy, the aggressor of yesterday, is now on the defensive. All he can do is to struggle painfully against constantly renewed attacks and abandon attention to business to devote himself wholeheartedly to parliamentary conflict. His fragile majority soon escapes him. To achieve it he did not bargain with promises; to retain it, he has to be able to avoid bargaining with demands. Little by little the cliques distance themselves and go to swell the ranks of the besieging coalition. In this way, as with the famous routs in our military celebrations, power is taken over and retaken perhaps up to twenty times in the space of ten years.
Is this order? Is this stability? And yet I challenge anyone to accuse me of having drawn a fanciful picture. These are facts, this is history, and even our constitutional history is nothing other than a narrative of conflicts like these.
And can it be otherwise? Our constitution can be summed up in these words: “Power is in the hands of deputies who know how to take hold of it. Those of them who are clever enough to seize the majority from the government will become ministers and will distribute all the high positions in the army, the treasury, the law, and the bench to their followers.”
Is this not indeed a species of organized war, anarchy, and disorder? In another article, I will examine how parliamentary reform might change this order of things.
I am, sir, your obedient servant
In a previous letter, I endeavored to point out the vice that is degrading our national representation. With regard to freedom, handing over positions to those who finance them, and with regard to order, handing over the reins of government to those who overturn it, these are concepts, as I have said, whose twin danger leaps to the eye. I would add that this line of reasoning is borne out by experience. If the limits of a journal allowed this, I would now tell the tale of our countless ministerial crises; with Le Moniteur in my hand, I would compare M. Thiers, the chairman of the council, with M. Thiers, the leader of the opposition; and M. Guizot, the instigator of the coalition, with M. Guizot, the minister of foreign affairs. We would see whether these assaults on ministerial portfolios, these formal sieges that we call questions to the government, reintroduced several times a year, are motivated by a love of the public good or a thirst for power. We would see whether or not this determination to overturn in order to rebuild retreats in the face of any contingency, whether it does not welcome auxiliaries to the point where a general conflagration becomes likely, and whether this is not provoked where necessary. We would finally see whether this constant struggle, not of opinions but of rival ambitions, is not overshadowed by risk, which, while weakening the country, causes it in the profoundest peace to be forever ready for war.
There are, however, several objections to parliamentary reform.
Ambition, it is said, is innate in the hearts of men, and reform will not uproot it.
Faith probably cannot destroy ambition, but it can destroy what gives it sustenance.
The members of general councils are sons of Adam just as the deputies are; why then does ambition not give rise to the same crises in these councils as it does in the Chamber? Solely because it finds nothing to feed on.
But if you introduce into the law that governs them an article with the following wording:
“If the prefect loses his majority in the General Council, he will be replaced by the leader of the opposition, who will distribute to his followers all the leading positions in the département, the headships of financial services, general and individual tax collecting, and seats on the bench and in the public prosecutor’s department. These new civil servants will continue to be members of the Council and will retain their positions until a new majority snatches these from them.”
I ask you, will a disposition like this not transform these deliberating bodies that are now so calm into hotbeds of intrigue and cliques? Will it not remove any spirit of continuity from the administration and any freedom of action from the prefect, and in sum all stability from the authority?
And what reason do we have for thinking that what would cause trouble in the sphere of the prefecture does not throw the governmental sphere into disarray? Is it because the stage is larger or because the passions whipped up by more powerful bait grow with more energy on it?
The objection having been voiced against reform that human ambition is an irremediable ill, reform is rejected because ambition in the Chamber is not even admissible.
Support for this reform, it is said, would be a condemnation of parliament; it would be a calumny pronounced against itself and would imply that there existed base passions in this Assembly that should not have access to it. In a word, it would be a law of suspects.
In the first place, however, I do not see that the fact that the law declares two functions incompatible by nature must sully those who occupy them. Mayors cannot be national guards, judges do not participate in juries, and nobody has heard it said that in these instances of incompatibility there is any form of personal discredit wished upon them by the law.
All that might be said is that the law takes account of the incurable and incontrovertible weaknesses in human nature.
And, to tell the truth, is the entire structure of the law anything other than a set of precautions taken against the weakness and perversity of mankind? We require guarantees from ministers and from the king, and the charter is merely a series of obstacles put in the path of possible encroachments and rivalries in the major offices of the state. And would society not be allowed to require the most rational of guarantees from its direct representatives?
It has to be agreed that parliamentary reform, as understood by the absolute prohibition for any civil servant to achieve national representation, presents two major disadvantages.
The first is that it restricts the rights of election and eligibility.
The second is that it lessens the consultative experience of the nation.
Would it not be dangerous in fact, at least in the current state of our legislative structure, to exclude magistrates, financiers, soldiers, and sailors from an assembly that is principally concerned with legislation, finance, and military and naval organization? Would a reform like this have any chance of being accepted?
This being so, does the problem consist not in setting out particular exclusions but in establishing general guarantees?
It may be formulated in these words:
“Placing the representatives of the nation in a situation in which they have no personal interest in giving their allegiance to a government or in overturning it.”
If it is true that a well-phrased question is halfway to being resolved, a law that satisfies this double requirement should not be difficult to find.
It is not in my brief to go further and I will end this by noting that M. de Sade is far from facing up to the problem. He does not seem to have even noticed it. What is he proposing? To forbid deputies from taking up civil service appointments . . . except for ministries, embassies, general departments, etc.
He thus accepts that high positions must continue to arouse the cupidity of the nation’s representatives, that they can continue to dispute the possession of power among themselves, even if the conflict reduces this power to shreds. But it is precisely in this that the danger lies. And can we embellish with the title of parliamentary reform a measure that, while it restricts the domain of a few minor ambitions, leaves the way open to ambitions that throw the world into disarray?
I am, sir, your obedient servant.
[vol. 7, p. 289. According to Paillottet, this
outline, as Bastiat describes it in the margin and
which survives as a fragment, is later than 1840.]
The July revolution has placed the soil of the country under a flag on which are emblazoned two words, liberty and order.
If we set aside certain completely eccentric theories, apocalypses of our modern luminaries, what forms the basis of common desires and general opinion is the longing for the simultaneous realization of these two goods, liberty and order. They include, in fact, everything that man must ask of government. The eccentric schools of which I was just speaking go much further, it is true. They require governments to provide riches for all, morality, education, well-being, happiness, and who knows what else? As if the government were itself anything other than a product of society and as if government, far from being able to give society wisdom and instruction, were not itself more or less wise and enlightened, in proportion to the virtue and enlightenment of society.
Be that as it may, the point on which the majority of men agree is this: allow any reform that extends liberty at the same time as it consolidates order; reject any innovation that compromises both one and the other of these benefits.
But what forms the greatest gulf between minds is the preference, or rather the preeminence, they give to either liberty or order. I have no need to say that I am not at all discussing the men who rally behind doctrines to satisfy their ambition. These make themselves the apostles of order or liberty, depending on whether they will gain or lose by a particular innovation. I am referring only to those minds that are calm, impartial, and which, after all, form public opinion. I am saying that what these minds have in common is that they all want liberty and order; they differ on one point, however: some concentrate more on liberty and others are concerned above all with order.
For this reason parliamentary debating chambers have centers, extreme rights and lefts, the liberals and the conservatives, the progressives and those who have been inaccurately labeled the “narrow-minded.”
We should note in passing that the mutual accusations between those conscientious men who, for the most part, fix their gaze on just one of the words of the July motto are really puerile. Among the friends of liberty, there are none who would agree to a change in the law if it were shown that this change would result in disorder in society, especially if this was permanent. On the other hand, within the party of order, there is no one so narrow-minded that he would not welcome a reform that favored the development of liberty if he were totally reassured that order would be maintained and all the more if he thought that it would also have the effect of rendering government even stronger, more stable, and more capable of fulfilling its mission and guaranteeing the security of both people and property.
Thus, if among the reforms on which the public mind has been so concentrated in the last few years, there had been one which might satisfy both these twin conditions whose manifest result was first to limit government to its genuine prerogatives, tearing from its hands everything it held by way of encroachments on public freedoms, and second to restore to this properly limited authority a stability, a permanence, a freedom of action, and a popularity that it does not have today, this reform, I am emboldened to say, might well be rejected by those who benefit from the political wrongs whose reversal is the issue, although it should be welcomed by conscientious men on all the benches of the House and, in the public arena, by all the sectors of opinion that these men represent.
I consider parliamentary reform to be constituted thus:
To know what liberty and order would have to gain or lose from this reform, we need to examine how they are affected by the current state of affairs.
Under our electoral dispensation, about a hundred and fifty to two hundred civil servants entered the legislative chamber, and this number may be increased still further. It remains to be seen what influence this will have on liberty.
What is more, this legal dispensation also means that deputies who are not civil servants and who, by virtue of their backgrounds or their commitments to the electors, cannot become such, by allying themselves to a government, may break into the circle of government through another route, that of opposition. We will ponder the result of this state of affairs in connection with the stability of government and the question of social order.
We will examine the objections made to the principle of conflicts of interest.
Lastly, we will endeavor to put forward the grounds of a proper legal arrangement, taking account of those objections which have some foundation. . . .
On the Influence on Liberty of the Eligibility of Deputies for Public Office
In the eyes of the class of men who call themselves liberals, who are far from believing that all the progress made by society toward liberty is made at the expense of public order, who, on the contrary, are convinced that nothing is more suited to strengthening peace, security, respect for property and rights, than those laws which conform to absolute justice, for this class of men, I say, the proposal which I have to substantiate here appears so obvious that it seems unnecessary to lay much stress on its demonstration.
What is, in fact, the basis of representative government? It is that the men who make up a people are not the property of a prince, a family, or a caste; they are their own masters. It is that the government has to be carried out, not in the interest of those who govern, but in the interest of those who are governed. It is that the taxpayers’ money should be spent for the benefit of the taxpayers and not for the benefit of the agents among whom this money is distributed. It is that the laws should be made by the mass who are subject to them and not by those who lay them down or who apply them.
It follows from this that this huge section of the nation which is governed has the right to keep an eye on the small section to whom government is entrusted, that it has the right to decide in what direction, within what limits, and at what price it wants to be governed, to stop government when it usurps prerogatives, either directly by rejecting those laws which shape these prerogatives or indirectly by refusing to make any payments to the agents by whom these pernicious prerogatives are exercised.
As the nation as a whole cannot exercise these rights, it has this done by its representatives. It chooses from within its ranks deputies to whom it entrusts this mission of control and supervision.
Does it not plainly follow that this control risks becoming totally ineffective if the electors choose as deputies the very men who administer, manage, and govern, that is to say, if power and control are placed in the same hands?
Our total tax burden exceeds 1.5 million and there are 34 million of us. We therefore pay an average of 45 francs each, or 225 francs for each family of five people. This is certainly exorbitant. How have we come to this in peacetime and under a regime in which we are supposed to hold all the purse strings? Heavens, the reason is simple; it is that if we, the taxpayers, are supposed to hold the purse strings, we do not genuinely hold them. We have them in our fingers for a moment in order to unfasten them very kindly and, once this has been done, we put them into the hands of those who draw on them. What is funny is that we are then astonished to find the purse lighter each day. Are we not like the cook who, as she went out, said to the cat, “Take good care of the buntings and, if the dog comes along, show him your claws.”
What I have said about money applies equally to liberty! To tell you the truth, and even though this seems a bit prosaic, money and liberty are just the same. Let us develop this idea . . .
Suppose I am the king. Suppose that, as I have been led by events to provide a constitution for my people, I nevertheless want to retain as much influence and power as possible, what should I do?
I would begin by saying, “Deputies will not be paid any fee.” And in order to have this article passed I would not hesitate to be sentimental, to vaunt the moral beauty of self-sacrifice, devotion, and sacrifice. However, in fact, I would understand perfectly that the electors could send only two classes of men to the Chamber, those who have a considerable fortune, as M. Guizot says, and these are always willing to ally themselves with the court, and then a host of adventurers incapable of resisting the allure of Parisian life, the dazzle of riches, positioned between their inevitable ruin and that of their family and an assured ascension to the upper realms of fortune and prestige. I am aware that a few exceptional natures would emerge triumphant from the test, but in the end, a disposition like this would enable me to hope at least for considerable influence over the shaping of majorities.
But how could I attract these deputies? Should I offer them money? But it should be acknowledged at once, to the credit of our country, that corruption in this form is not practicable at least on a wide scale—anyway, a civil list would not be sufficient for this. It is much cleverer and more amusing to have corruption paid for by the very people who suffer from it and to take from the pockets of the public what is needed to purchase the apostasy of its defenders. It will therefore suffice for a constitution to include these two strategies:
- The king decides on all appointments
- Deputies are eligible for all posts
I would have to be very clumsy or human nature of surpassing sophistication if, given these two lines in the charter, I were not master of the parliament.
Note, in fact, how slippery the step is for the deputy. It is not a question here of abject corruption, votes formally bought and sold. “You are skillful, M. Deputy; your speeches reveal a wide knowledge of diplomacy. France would be only too happy to have you represent her in Rome or Vienna.” “Sire, I have no ambition; what I like most of all is retirement, rest, and independence.” “Sir, one has a duty to one’s country.” “Sire, you are imposing on me the hardest of sacrifices.” “The whole nation will be grateful to you.”
Another fellow is a simple justice of the peace in his town and is content with this.
“Really, sir, your position is scarcely befitting to your legislative mandate. The procurator of the king who is now flattering you may be criticizing you tomorrow.” “Sire, I value my modest position; it was the sole ambition of the great Napoléon.” “You must, however, leave it. You must become a counsellor to the royal court.” “Sire, my interests will suffer; there is all the travel, expenses. . . .” “You have to know how to make sacrifices,” etc.
Sentimentality is all in vain; you have to have no knowledge of the human heart, to have never examined yourself sincerely, to have never followed the advice of the oracle: Nosce te ipsum, and to know nothing of the subtleties of passions to imagine that deputies, who are called upon to cut a certain figure in the world, on whom all eyes are fixed and of whom exceptional liberality is required, would constantly reject the means to provide themselves with comfort, wealth, influence, the wherewithal to raise and introduce their sons, all this by an opening carefully presented to them as honorable and meritorious. Do we need to spell out here the secret argument that in the depths of their heart dooms them to fall?
It is said that we should have confidence in those who govern. This position is puerile. If caution is not admissible, what good is representative government? Political writers of great talent, among them M. de Lamartine, have rejected parliamentary reform and the conflict-of-interest rule, on the pretext that France is a country of honor, generosity, and disinterestedness, such that it cannot be supposed that a deputy, qua deputy, would extend the authority invested in him as a civil servant or seek larger emoluments, that the conflict-of-interest rule would constitute a new law of suspicion, etc.
Oh really! Is there in our seven codes a single law which is not a law of suspicion? What is the Charter if not a whole system of barriers and obstacles to possible encroachments by the king, the peers, and ministers? Was the law on forced tenure made for the convenience of judges or in view of the dreadful consequences which their dependent position might have?
I must say I cannot accept that instead of scrupulously examining a measure we should repudiate it with flowery words and sonorous sentences which are, in any case, in flagrant contradiction of the entire set of acts constituting our private lives. I would very much like to know what M. de Lamartine would say to his steward if this man tried to talk this kind of language to him: “I have brought you the accounts of my stewardship but bad faith is not presumed. Consequently, I hope that you will leave me to check the accounts on my own and to have them checked over by my son.”
You really need to close your eyes deliberately to the light, and refuse to see the human heart and the motives for our actions, such as they are, to say that since honor, delicacy, and virtue should always be presumed, it makes no difference if the control over government is assumed by government itself. It would be much simpler to eliminate the control. If you are so confident, take this confidence to the limit. This would still be a good calculation since, and I say this with the utmost sincerity, we would certainly be less misled by men who were fully responsible for their acts than if they were able to say to us, “You had the right to stop me and you let me continue. I am not the really guilty person.”
Now I ask whether, once the majority has achieved power, not by free competition or the reasoned consent of the deputies, but because the latter has been successively enrolled in the ranks of government, can one still say sincerely that we have a representative government?
Imagine a particular law, running against the interests and ideas of those it is intended to govern. They are called upon to declare through the mediation of their representatives whether they accept or reject it. Obviously they will reject it if these representatives represent in fact those whom the law is intended to govern. But if they represent those who are proposing it, supporting it, and who are called upon to execute it, it will be accepted without difficulty. Is this representative government?
Letter to an Ecclesiastic
Mugron, 28 March 1848
[vol. 7, p. 351. According to Paillottet, this
letter was published in L’Économiste belge,
dated 14 January 1860.]
Sir and Honorable Fellow Countryman,
When I arrived from Bayonne, I found your letter dated the 22nd in which you tell me that your vote in my favor will be subject to an issue you are now raising with me. At the same time I am put to the same test in the Maransin.
I would be a very odd representative if I entered the National Assembly after rejecting, indeed because I had in fact rejected, freedom of trade and religion. The only remaining thing I would need to do to win a few other votes is to disavow freedom of teaching. In any case, my dear sir, I thank you for believing in the sincerity of my answer. You want to know my opinion on the emoluments given to the clergy; I must not disguise my thoughts even to gain votes I might legitimately be proud of.
It is true that I have written that each person should contribute freely to support the religion he professes. I have expressed this opinion and I will support it as a political writer and as a legislator, although not in any spirit of obstinacy, until good reasons make me change my mind. As I have said in my statement of principles/election manifesto, my ideal is universal justice. The relations between the church and the state do not appear to me to be currently based on justice: on the one hand Catholics are forced to pay the pastoral stipends to the Protestant and Jewish religions (before long you will perhaps be paying Abbé Chatel, and that will upset a few sensibilities); on the other hand, the state takes advantage of whatever part of your budget it controls to intervene in the affairs of the clergy and to exercise an influence to which I am opposed. It plays a part in appointing bishops, canons, and parish priests, though of course the Republic can take this sort of direction, even if fetters like this put some of us out of sorts. It seems to me, for instance, contrary to freedom and likely to increase the number of points of conflict between the temporal and spiritual powers.
I believe, furthermore, in a future merger of all the Christian religions or, putting it another way, in the absorption of the dissenting sects by Catholicism. For this to happen, however, the churches must not be political institutions. It is undeniable that the roles attributed to Victoria in the Anglican Church and to Nicholas in the Russian Orthodox Church are a serious obstacle to the reuniting of the entire flock under a single shepherd.
As for the objection arising from the situation in which thirty thousand priests would be placed by a measure such as the elimination of their payments by the state, you are arguing, I believe, on the assumption that this step would be taken violently and not in a spirit of charity. As I see it, it implies the total independence of the clergy and, moreover, in decreeing this, we would have to take account of the treaty concluded in ’89, one which you will remember.
I would need a whole volume to develop my thesis, but, after having expressed my views so frankly and in a way intended to preserve all my independence as a legislator and political writer, I hope that you will not cast doubt upon the sincerity of what remains for me to tell you.
I believe that the reform which I am discussing with you must and will be a subject for discussion rather than a matter for legislation, for many years and perhaps for many generations to come. The forthcoming National Assembly will have the straightforward mission of conciliating minds and reassuring consciences, and I do not think it will want to raise and even less to resolve the question you are putting to me in any way that will offend public opinion.
Take note, in fact, that even if my opinion is correct, it is held only by a very small number of men. If it triumphed now in the sphere of legislation, this would be so only at the price of alarming and arousing the opposition of the vast majority of the nation. It is, therefore, for those who share my views a belief to be defended and propagated and not a measure amenable to immediate realization.
I differ from many others in that I do not think I am infallible. I am so struck by the native infirmity of individual reason that I neither seek nor will ever seek to impose my ideas. I set them out and develop them. As to their realization, I wait for public reason to pronounce its verdict. If they are right, their time will certainly come; if they are wrong, they will die before I do. I have always thought that no reform can be considered mature, with deep roots, and therefore useful, unless a lengthy debate has brought mass public opinion round to it.
It is on this principle that I have acted with regard to free trade. I have not addressed myself to those in power but to the general public and I have striven to bring it round to my opinion. I would consider free trade a lamentable gift if it were decreed before a reasoning public had called for it. I swear to you on my honor that if I had left the barricades as a member of the provisional government, with an unlimited dictatorship, I would not have taken advantage of it, as did Louis Blanc, to impose my personal views on my fellow citizens. The reason for this is simple: in my view, a reform introduced in this way, by surprise, has no solid foundation and will fall at the first test. This is also true for the question you put to me. If it depended on me, I would not accomplish the separation of the church and state violently, not because this separation does not seem to me to be a good thing in itself, but because public opinion, which is the queen of the world according to Pascal, still rejects it. This is the opinion that needs to be won over. On this question and on a few others, it will cost me nothing to remain, perhaps for the rest of my life, in an obscure minority. The day will come, I believe, when the clergy itself will feel the need to regain its independence through a new agreement with the state.
In the meantime, I hope that my opinion, which may be considered purely speculative and which in any case is far from being hostile to religion, will not lose me the honor of your vote. If, however, you feel obliged to withdraw it from me, I will in no sense regret that I have replied sincerely to you.
I remain your devoted fellow
[vol. 7, p. 355]
I always thought that the religious question would continue to move the world. The legitimate religions of today, however, retain too much of the spirit and methods of exploitation to be reconciled with the inevitable progress of enlightenment. On the other hand, corrupt religious practice will put up a long and terrible resistance, being based on, nay confused with, the greatest need of humanity, that is to say with religious morality.
It appears, therefore, that humanity has not done with this sad pendulum swing which has filled the pages of history. On the one hand religious abuse is attacked, and in the heat of the conflict people are led on to dislodging religion itself. On the other hand, people stand as the champions of religion, and in the zeal of defense abuses are justified.
This long tearing apart was decided upon on the day a man used God to make another man his intellectual slave, the day one man said to another, “I am the minister of God. He has given me total power over you, your soul, your body, and your heart.”
But, leaving aside these general reflections, I want to draw your attention to two facts referred to by the newspapers of today which prove how far from resolution are the problems surrounding the unity or separation of the spiritual and the temporal.
It is said that it is this complete separation which will solve all the difficulties. Those who put forward this assertion should begin by proving that the spiritual and the temporal can follow independent destinies and that the master of the spiritual is not the master of all.
Be that as it may, here are the two facts, or perhaps there is only one fact.
His Lordship, the Bishop of Langres, having been chosen by the electors of the département of —— to represent them, did not think he had to regard this election as sufficient, or even rely on his own decision. He has a superior who is neither French nor in France and, it should be said, who is at the same time a foreign king. It is to this superior that His Lordship the Bishop of Langres refers. He says to him, “I promise you full and gentle obedience; will I do well to accept?” His spiritual superior (who is at the same time a temporal king) replies, “The state of religion and the church is so alarming that your services may be more useful on the political stage than in the midst of your flock.”
At this, His Lordship of Langres lets it be known to his electors that he accepts their mandate. As a bishop he is obliged to leave them, but they will receive in compensation an apostolic blessing. Thus all was arranged.
Now, I ask you, is it to defend religious dogmas that the pope confirmed the election of ——? Is his Lordship of Langres going to the Chamber to fight heresies? No, he is going there to pass civil laws and to occupy himself exclusively with temporal matters.
What I want to point out here is that we have fifty thousand people in France, all highly influential in character, who have sworn total and gentle obedience to their spiritual leader, who is at the same time a foreign king, and that the spiritual and temporal are so intertwined that these fifty thousand men can do nothing even as citizens without consulting this foreign king whose decisions are unquestionable.
We would shudder if someone said to us, “We are going to endow a king, whether Louis-Philippe, Henri V, Bonaparte, or Leopold, with spiritual power.” We would think that this might establish a boundless despotism. However, whether you add spiritual power to temporal power or superimpose one upon the other, is it not the same thing? How is it that we would not consider without horror the usurpation of the government of souls by the civil authorities while we find quite natural the usurpation of civil government by priestly authority?
After all, His Holiness Pius IX is not the only man in Europe in whom is vested this twin authority. Nicholas is both tsar and pope and Victoria is queen and female pope.
Let us suppose that a Frenchman professing the Anglican faith is elected as a representative. Supposing that he writes and has published in the newspapers a letter that goes as follows:
I owe you nothing as queen, but as you are placed at the head of my religion, I owe you my total and gentle obedience. Please would you let me know, after consulting your government, if it is in the interests of the state and the Church of England for me to be a legislator in France.
Let us suppose that Victoria replies and has her reply published as follows:
My government is of the opinion that you should accept the office of deputy. Through this you would be able to render great service directly to my spiritual power and, consequently, indirectly to my temporal power, for it is very clear that each of these serves the other.
I ask you, could this man be considered a loyal and sincere representative of France? . . .
On the Separation of the Temporal and Spiritual Domains (an unpublished outline)
[vol. 7, p. 357. According to Paillottet,
this extract from one of Bastiat’s notebooks
was probably written in 1849.]
“Is there a possible solution to the affairs of Rome?” “Yes.” “What is it?” “If we met a pope who says, ‘My kingdom is not of this world.’ ” “Do you think that would be the solution to the Roman question?” “Yes, and to the Catholic question and to the religious question.”
If in 1847 someone had proposed to abolish the Charter and invest Louis-Philippe with absolute power, there would have been a general outcry against such a proposal.
If, in addition, someone had proposed to give Louis-Philippe spiritual power in addition to temporal power, the proposal would not have been slain by a mere outcry but by the utter disdain it would provoke.
Why? Because we consider that the right to govern men’s acts is already great enough and that we should not add to it that of dictating to their consciences.
What? Is giving spiritual power to a man with temporal power really so very different from giving him who is the spiritual leader temporal power? And is not the result absolutely the same?
We would rather let ourselves be chopped into pieces than let such a combination be imposed on us, and yet we impose it on others!
“But, see here, this state of things that you are criticizing has been going on for centuries!”
“That is true, but it ended by inducing the Romans to revolt.”
“Do not speak to me of the Romans. They are brigands, assassins, degenerate, cowardly, without virtue, good faith, or enlightenment, and I do not see how you can take their side against the Holy Father.”
“And I, for my part, cannot understand how you can side with an institution that has made a people become what you have described.”
The world is full of honest people who would like to be Catholic and who cannot. Alas! They scarcely dare to appear to be.
Not being allowed to be Catholic, they are nothing. They have a root of faith within their heart, but they do not have faith. They aspire to a religion but don’t have a religion.
What is worse is that this desertion is growing day by day. It pushes everyone out of the church, beginning with the most enlightened.
In this way, faith is dying out with nothing to replace it and the very people who, for political reasons or because they are terrified of the future, defend religion, have no religion. To any man whom I hear declaiming in favor of Catholicism, I ask this question: “Do you go to confession?” And he bows his head.
Of course, this is a situation that is not natural.
What is the reason for it?
I will tell you frankly, in my opinion it is entirely due to the union of both fields of power in the same person.
From the moment the clergy has political power, religion becomes a political instrument for it. The clergy no longer serves religion; it is religion that serves the clergy.
And soon the country will be covered with institutions whose aim, religious in appearance, is in fact material interest.
And religion is profaned.
And no one wants to play the ridiculous role of letting himself be exploited right to the depths of his conscience.
And the people reject what truth there is in religion along with the errors mingled in with it.
And then the time comes when priests cry in vain, “Be devout!”; people do not even want to be pious.
Let us suppose that the two powers were separate.
Religion would then not be able to procure any political advantage.
The clergy would then not need to overload it with a host of rites and ceremonies likely to stifle reason.
And each person would feel the root of faith, which never dries up completely, sprout in the depths of his heart.
And since religious forms would no longer be degrading, priests would not have to struggle against human respect.
And the merger of all the Christian sects into one communion would encounter no obstacles.
And the history of humanity would present no finer revolution.
But the priesthood would be the instrument of religion; religion would not be the instrument of the priesthood.
That says it all.
One of the greatest needs of man is the need for a moral code. As a father, husband, master, and citizen, man feels that he has no guarantee if a moral code does not form a brake for his fellow men.
Because this need is generally felt, there are always people inclined to satisfy it.
At the origin of each society, the moral code was encapsulated in a religion. The reason for this is simple. The moral code, in the correct sense of the term, is something which one is obliged to reason over; people have the right to put their maxims into quarantine. In the meantime, the world ——. Religion appeals to people most in a hurry. It speaks with authority. It does not advise, it imposes. “Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not steal.” “Why?” “I have the right to say it,” replies religion, “and I have the right not to say it, because I speak in the name of God, who neither makes mistakes nor is mistaken.”
The basis of religion is therefore the moral code. In addition it has dogmas, facts, a history, ceremonies, and finally ministers.
Within the bosom of the people, ministers of religion are very influential men. Independently of the respect they attract as interpreters of the will of God, they are, in addition, the distributors of one of the things of which man has the greatest need, a moral code. . . .
Are things in religion not the same as in political economy? And are we not mistaken in seeking the solution in a unity that is false, imposed, intolerant, persecuting, socialist, and in addition incapable of producing its right to domination and its proofs of truth?
Unity in all things is the supreme consummation, the point toward which the human spirit gravitates and will eternally gravitate, without ever attaining it. If it were to be achieved in humanity, it would be only at the end of all spontaneous social evolution.
It is variety and diversity which are at the beginning, the origin, and the point of departure of humanity, for the diversity of opinions must be all the greater if the treasure of truths acquired is smaller and the spirit of man has reached agreement, through science, on a smaller number of points. . . .
The Three Pieces of Advice
[vol. 7, p. 361. According to Paillottet, this
outline was published in L’Économiste belge,
3 June 1860. Based on internal evidence in the
text, it was probably written in early 1850.]
“When the country is in danger, each individual owes it the tribute of what he may have acquired of enlightenment and experience.”
This is how every giver of advice begins. A tax on advice! Is there any tax more abundant or more spontaneous?
I also wish to pay this tax, as well as all the others, in order not to be in debt in any way to my country.
Although the millions and millions of pieces of advice it receives differ from one another, they do have a point in common. Each has the pretension of saving society and those who give advice limit themselves to saying, “This is my approach; everything would be marvelous if everyone thought as I do.” All this means that if we all agreed, we would come to an agreement.
“Let us all enter a phalanstery,” says one, “and all our disputes will stop.” “That’s all very well, but 9,999 out of 10,000 Frenchmen have a horror of phalansteries.” “Let us organize a social workshop in unanimous concert,” says another, “and society will run like clockwork.” “Doubtless, but those whom we are aiming at would sooner go to jail.” “Let us bow down to the constitution,” cries a third; “even if it is bad, if everyone carries it out it will be good.” There is no truer word and I believe that this is the wisest and most plausible solution. But how do we persuade those who, although they detest the constitution, submit to it when anarchy threatens them and threaten it as soon as order raises their morale?
Some people say, “Evil arises as a result of the extinction of faith. Let us be good Catholics and social wounds will heal over.” “You say this because you yourself are a Catholic . . . and yet. But what do we do to make those who are not become Catholic?”
Others, depending on their tastes, will repeat, “Let us all unite with the republic!” “Let us all rally to the monarchy!” “Let us all by common accord return to the past!” “Let us all go forward with courage toward the future!”
In the end, everyone follows his own advice, nothing is more natural, and proclaims that the world will be saved if it is followed, and nothing is more certain.
But none of these wins the day nor can any of them triumph, for all these efforts cancel each other out and the status quo remains.
Among these myriads of doctrines, there is a single one—I do not need to say that it is mine—which would have the right to generate common agreement. Why is it the only one with this privilege? Because it is the doctrine of liberty, because it is tolerant and just toward all the others. Found a phalanstery if that is what you want, form a group in a social workshop if that pleases you, discuss the constitution as much as you want, demonstrate your preference for the republic or monarchy openly, go to confession if your heart so dictates, in a word make use of all the rights of the individual; provided that you acknowledge these same rights in others, I will be satisfied and, such is my conviction, society, in order to be just, ordered, and progressive, asks nothing else of you.
But I do not presume now to develop this approach which ought, in my view, be adopted as soon as it is put forward. Is there anything more reasonable? We cannot agree on the doctrines, well then, let each of us retain and put forward our own and agree to banish all oppression and violence from among us.
Adopting the point of view that facts are as they are and the situation is as events have made it, let us suppose, as I must, that I am addressing people who above all want France to be at peace and happy. In which case I would like to issue three pieces of practical advice, one to the president of the Republic, the second to the majority in the Chamber, and the third to the minority.
I would like the president of the Republic to go before the National Assembly and make the following solemn speech:
The greatest plague at the present time in our country is the uncertainty of the future. Insofar as this uncertainty may concern my projects and my views, my duty is to eliminate it and this is also my wish.
People ask, “What will happen in two years’ time? Before my country, under the eye of God, and by the name I carry, I swear that on —— May 1852, I will relinquish the chair of president.
I have received a mandate from the people by virtue of the constitution. I will hand this mandate back to the people in accordance with the constitution.
There are some who say, “But what if the people choose you again?” To this I reply, “The people will not do me the injury of electing me against my wishes, and if a few citizens forget their duty to this extent, I will in advance consider null and void the votes that bear my name at the next election.”
Others, considering themselves to be much wiser, think that my presidency can be prolonged by changing the constitution in accordance with the forms it has itself established.
It is not up to me to impose limits on the legal exercise of the rights of the Assembly. However, if it is the mistress of its regular resolutions, I am master of mine, and I formally declare that, should the constitution be modified, my first presidency would not immediately be followed by a second.
I have thought about this and this is the basis of my opinion:
The rule governing our action is contained in these words, France before all. What ails France? Uncertainty. If this is the case, citizens, is calling everything into question a way of removing uncertainty? Good God! The constitution is just one year old and already you would hurl this burning question, do we need to draw up a new constitution? If your reply is negative, will the passions outside be calmed? If it is affirmative, another constitution will need to be convoked, the foundations of our national existence will once more be disturbed, we will rush headlong into a new unknown and, in a few months, undergo three general elections.
This extreme option appears to me to be the height of folly. I have no right to oppose it other than by declaring in the most decisive manner that it will not profit my followers, since, I repeat, I will not accept the presidency in whatever form or in whatever manner it happens to me.
This is my first resolution. I have taken it out of duty; I proclaim it with joy since it may contribute to the tranquillity of our country. I will be sufficiently rewarded if it provides me with a successor who is an honest republican who brings to the first function of the state neither bitterness nor utopia nor commitment to the political parties.
I now have a second resolution to put before you. Through the will of the people I must carry out executive power for two years more.
I understand the meaning of the words executive power and I am resolved to restrict myself to it absolutely.
The nation has handed down two delegations. On its representatives it has conferred the right to make laws. To me, it has entrusted the mission of having them executed.
Representatives, make the laws you consider to be the best, the most just, and the most useful to the country. Whatever they are, I will carry them out to the letter.
If they are good, their execution will prove this; if they are bad, their execution will reveal their faults and you will reform them. I have not the right and do not accept the responsibility of judging them.
I say all this in accordance with the faculty attributed to me by Article —— of the constitution.
I will execute your decrees, therefore, without distinction. There are some, however, to which I consider myself to be bound, by national wish, to give particular attention. These concern the repression of misdemeanors and crimes, order in the streets, respect for persons and property, using this word property in its widest meaning, which includes both the free exercise of faculties and labor and the peaceful enjoyment of acquired wealth.
So, representatives, make laws. Let citizens discuss all the political and social questions in meetings and in the newspapers. But let no one disturb the order reigning in the city, peace within families, and the security of industry. At the first sign of revolt or uprising, I will be there. I will be there together with all good citizens and with the true republicans. I will be there with the brave Republican Guard and with our admirable army.
Some people say, “Can we count on the zeal of the National Guard and on the loyalty of the army?”
Yes, in the path I have just traced we can count on them. I trust them as I trust myself, and no one has the right to insult our armed forces by believing that they would take sides with the disturbers of public peace.
I wish, and I have the right to wish, since the people have given me this express mission, and my will in this is the same as theirs, I wish order and security to be respected everywhere. I want this and it shall be so. I am surrounded by loyal soldiers and tested officers. I have on my side force, the law and public common sense, and if I did not fear to wound the just susceptibilities of those of whose assistance I am assured by appearing to doubt them, I would say that even defection would not make me hesitate. Legal order will reign, if it costs me the presidency and my life.
This, citizens, is my second resolution. And here is the third.
I wonder what is the cause of these incessant and passionate conflicts between the nation and the government it gave itself.
Perhaps it should be attributed to the ingrained habit of opposition. Combating power is to give oneself a role considered to be heroic because in the past it might have been glorious and dangerous. I know that there is no other remedy for this than time. But, as these perpetual conflicts and the language of hate and exaggeration that they generate are one of the great plagues of our Republic, I have had to examine whether they had causes other than irrational tradition, in order to eliminate any cause over which I had any power.
I sincerely believe that the legislative and executive powers mix up and confuse their roles too much.
I am resolved to limit myself to mine, which is to see that the laws you have voted are executed. In this way, I would have only a restricted responsibility, even in the eyes of the most susceptible. If the nation is badly governed, they will not be able to blame me, provided that I execute the laws. The government and I will be blameless in the debates in the tribune and in the press.
I will choose my ministers outside the Assembly. In this way there will be a logical separation between the two powers. In this way, I will put an end to the alliances and portfolio wars within the Chamber which are so disastrous to the country.
My ministers will be my direct agents. They will come to the Assembly only when they are called, in order to answer questions asked in advance by means of regular messages.
In this way, you will be perfectly free and enjoy perfectly impartial conditions in which to draft laws. My government will not exercise any influence on you in this respect. For your part, you will have none over their execution. You will doubtless have to check them, but their execution as such is my responsibility.
This being so, citizens, is it possible to imagine a collision? Would you not have the greatest interest in seeing that only good laws result from your deliberations? Could I have any other interest than ensuring their proper execution?
In two years the nation will be called upon to elect another president. Its choice will doubtless fall upon the most worthy, and we will not fear any attack on freedom and the laws from him. In any case, I will have the satisfaction of leaving him precedents that will bind him. When the presidency is not set on the name of Napoléon, on the person elected by seven million votes, is there anyone in France who is able to dream of a coup d’état in his favor and aspire to empire?
Let us therefore banish vain fears. We will live through a first, second, and third presidency free from danger. . . .
This article is the only one in Bastiat’s writings treating such a subject. It reflects the immense culture and curiosity of a man who had studied some Latin and Greek and was fluent in English, Spanish, and Italian. It is believed that, as a child in Bayonne, he had a chance to practice Basque, the local language spoken at home by some of his school friends.
(Paillottet’s note) At that time, Bastiat and his friend, M. Félix Coudroy, the author of a pamphlet on dueling, both believed they were destined for obscurity. It was only seven years later that the former was called upon to demonstrate the qualities of his mind on the national stage. To follow in Bastiat’s footsteps, M. Coudroy lacked only one thing, health. We can see Bastiat’s opinion of his friend’s merit in the letters included in this volume. Here is an additional letter written in 1845:
My dear Félix,
Because of the difficulty of reading, I cannot properly judge the style, but my sincere conviction (you know that here I set aside the usual modesty) is that our styles have different qualities and faults. I believe that the qualities of yours are such that, when it is used, it shows genuine talent; I mean to say a style that is lively and animated with general ideas and glimpses that are luminous. Always make copies on small sheets; if one needs to be changed, it will not cause much trouble. When you are copying you will perhaps be able to add polish, but, for my part, I note that the first draft is always faster and more accessible to today’s readers who scarcely go into anything in depth.
Do you not have an opinion of M. Dunoyer?
We have not been able to track down the two pamphlets mentioned by Bastiat. It appears that Bastiat and Coudroy opposed the criminalization of dueling by the state on the basis that the practice was a voluntary activity between consenting adults. See Kevin McAleer, Dueling: The Cult of Honor in Fin-de-Siècle Germany (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1994), p. 248, note 36.
“About every knowable matter and certain other things.”
In Sparta, every newborn child was examined by the elders. If he was judged fit, he was left with his mother; otherwise, he was thrown into a pit.
On the night of 4 August 1789, the National Assembly suppressed all the privileges of the nobility and the clergy, with their agreement, in a moment of great enthusiasm.
The House of Lords was composed of hereditary peers, twenty-six Anglican prelates, sixteen Scottish peers, and an indefinite number of peers appointed by the king.
Great Britain had been at war with France from February 1793 to March 1802, at the head of two European coalitions.
The Corn Laws were abolished in February 1846. The story leading up to this abolition is related in Cobden and the League.
The Reform Bill of 1832 put an end to the most unfair rules of the previous electoral law and permitted some elements of the middle class to vote for the first time. The franchise was further extended in 1867 and 1885.
The Anglican faith was a national church, the Church of England, the religion of the state itself. All other churches, called dissenting, had been legally tolerated since 1689.
Bastiat wrote about “two Englands” in an article in Le Libre échange, 6 February 1848. (OC, vol. 3, p. 459, “Deux Angleterres.”)
The bill abolishing slavery was voted in 1833, and it was to come into effect fully in 1838.
The First Reform Act of 1832 allowed middle-class people to vote for the first time in England. The Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 removed many but not all restrictions on Catholics in the United Kingdom.
The Uniform Penny Post system was introduced throughout the United Kingdom in 1840.
(Paillottet’s note) One might plead an attenuating circumstance on behalf of French newspapers. It was, I think, particular ignorance, defensiveness, or inadvertence rather than calculation which figured in the majority of the misdeeds for which Bastiat reproaches them. If we examine, for example, the letters which he had to send to two of the leaders of Parisian journalism, the editors of La Presse and Le National, it will be clear that these two papers did not grasp either the progress or the importance of the debate on the Corn Laws in England. See letters to the editors of La Presse. [OC, vol. 7, p. 143, “Au redacteur de La Presse”; and p. 152, “Au redacteur du National.”]
The Globe and Traveller.
In English in the original.
The agronomist Mathieu de Dombasle had created a model farm with a school in the village of Roville, in the département of La Meurthe. The farm published an agricultural journal, Les Annales de Roville. Hofwill (in Switzerland), as well as the French villages of Petit-Bourg and Mettray, mentioned below, also had agricultural schools.
What Bastiat himself did not appreciate, as we know from other documents, is that the foundation did not feel able to do both jobs: the salvation of the dropouts and the training of the most gifted.
Bastiat’s original French for “political manifestos” is professions de foi, which is literally translated as “professions of faith.” We have chosen instead to translate professions de foi as “political manifestos,” which better conveys his true intention in these pieces, namely, the expression of his beliefs and political program to his electors if he were to be elected.
(Paillottet’s note) In support of the candidature of M. Faurie.
To a threatening speech from the throne, 221 deputies replied with an address strongly condemning the government chosen by the king.
A law of 1820 specified that at each election of deputies one-fourth of the electors, those paying the most taxes, would be allowed to vote twice.
In 1824 the ministry of justice introduced laws limiting the freedom of the press, which the ministry presented as “laws of justice and love.” They were derisively called les lois d’amour (the laws of love).
A law voted in 1825 inflicted the death penalty on authors of sacrileges. It was never enforced.
A civil servant in charge of initiating appeals against the state.
A reference to the amount of the state budget.
Government-appointed head of all public education in an académie (a group of departments in the context of public education).
These were a combination of taxes introduced by Napoléon.
The comte de Martignac (J. B. Gay), minister of the interior from 1828 to 1829, planned to have the members of the general councils (councils of the département) and of the city councils elected by an appropriate electoral college instead of being appointed by the king.
Taxes on wine and spirits were especially opposed by Bastiat, as he came from and represented a wine-growing region.
The black and white balls the deputies would drop into an urn for voting.
Bastiat has in mind Algeria and Tahiti.
Bastiat is probably alluding to the works of Adam Smith, Jean-Baptiste Say, Charles Comte, and Charles Dunoyer, whose writings on economics and social theory had a profound impact on his thought, especially Comte and Dunoyer’s theory of industrialism.
Bastiat is referring to the opposition of many members of parliament to the government of the prince de Polignac, prime minister in 1829 (under Charles X). This opposition led to the fall of the Bourbon dynasty and to the accession of the Orléans dynasty with Louis-Philippe, which ruled from 1830 to 1848.
Here Bastiat is referring to the problem of the conflict of interest that occurs when a civil servant continues to work for the government and sits in parliament as well.
Jean-Baptiste Say took the more radical position that all coercive government activities were “unproductive.” Only voluntary exchanges could be called truly “productive.” According to Say, all government activities were “ulcerous” and thus harmful to the free market and civil society. This view was taken up and further developed by Charles Comte (who married Say’s daughter) and Charles Dunoyer, two theorists who considerably influenced Bastiat’s intellectual development. However, on this issue, the magistrate Bastiat broke with his teachers. Gustave de Molinari (1819-1912) continued the Say-Comte-Dunoyer tradition, thus placing Bastiat in the middle ground on this matter.
The French invaded Algeria in 1830, and their rule lasted until Algeria achieved independence in 1962, after eight years of civil and guerrilla war. Bastiat, like Cobden with regard to British colonialism, opposed the French conquest and colonization of Algeria. However, the conservative liberal Alexis de Tocqueville was a convinced defender of France’s mission civilatrice in Algeria.
“After that, therefore because of that.”
The idea of a canal linking the Garonne and Adour rivers dated back to 1808 and was designed to serve and bring fresh life to the vast forest region of the Landes. Bastiat was in favor of the project. The final layout was drawn up in 1832, but the project was never carried out owing to dissension within the département of the Landes.
Bastiat, always a staunch defender of property rights, was attempting to convince the wine growers to accept a politically achievable compromise to reduce the number and complexity of taxes while maintaining some government controls.
On 28 March 1831, Bastiat was appointed a justice of the peace of Mugron County.
“Favors ought to be extended; disagreeable things ought to be restricted.”
Reference to a proposed electoral reform intended to widen the electorate by lowering the required level of tax payment and admitting candidates exercising certain professions previously restricted.
“What are laws without customs?”
In order to stop disturbances in the papal states, Pope Gregory XVI called upon Austria for assistance. On 28 June 1832, Austrian troops entered Bologna, Italy. For reasons of diplomatic balance, a French garrison was sent to the seaport of Ancona, about 120 miles southeast of Bologna. The garrison remained in Ancona until 1838.
In 1842 Tahiti was a French protectorate. Following incidents with English ships, Admiral Dupetit-Thouars transformed it into a territory of “direct sovereignty.” This created tension between London and Paris. The latter disavowed the admiral on 24 February 1844.
France supported Mehmet Ali, pasha of Egypt, over Syria, part of the Ottoman Empire. England and Russia supported the sultan.
A brief conflict arose between France and Morocco in 1844 because Morocco refused to sign the Treaty of Tangiers, allowing cruisers of the signatory states to control merchant ships in order to ascertain the absence of slaves. This “right of search” did not fail to raise trouble between France and England for a while, as English cruisers, outnumbering those of other nations, exerted a de facto policing of the seas.
In 1844 the U.S. Congress accepted the entrance of Texas into the Union. The French and English governments had advised the Texas governor against it.
“It is always good.”
“I shall prove it.”
See note 27, p. 371.
The revolution of 1848.
See “To the Electors of the Département of the Landes,” p. 341, and note 10, p. 345.
A so-called bielection is an election held in a district to replace a deputy who died or resigned.
The Luxembourg Palace in Paris was the seat of the Government Commission for the Workers, created on 28 February 1848 to improve the condition of the workers. It consisted of 242 worker delegates and 231 employer delegates and was chaired by the socialist Louis Blanc. The commission was dissolved on 28 March 1848.
The national workshops were created on 27 February 1848 ostensibly for the purpose of employing retired workers. The workers received two francs a day, soon reduced to one franc because of the tremendous increase in their numbers (29,000 on 5 March; 118,000 on 15 June). Struggling with financial difficulties, irritated by the inefficiency of the workshops, the Assembly dissolved the workshops on 21 June.
OC, vol. 5, p. 407, “Paix et liberté ou le budget républicain.”
The deputies without any strong ideology.
In order to vote for or against a law, deputies used to put a white or a black ball in an urn. (See also Letter 110, note 230.) Therefore, the reference to “holding two balls” implies that the deputy is withholding his vote in order to get political favors.
In 1845 Robert Peel proposed a subsidy of thirty thousand pounds to rebuild the Irish college of Maynooth for young priests. The bill was adopted in spite of numerous petitions against it.
There existed a Chamber of Peers in France between 1814 and 1848. It had the same role as the English House of Lords.
Presumably Louis XIV (1638-1715), the Sun King.
(Paillottet’s note) There was a fair copy made of this letter, written in an exercise book about thirty years ago, and sent to its recipient, whose name I have suppressed. I am not sure, but I think it useful to reproduce it if only to show once again how seriously Bastiat took representative government and how much he liked to align his acts with his theories. I follow it with a letter addressed a few years later to M. Dampierre.
After 1840 there was sporadic campaigning in the wine country of southern France to protest against tariffs on exports of wine.
See “To the Electors of the District of Saint-Sever,” p. 352.
(Paillottet’s note) It is easy to infer from this passage and several others that Bastiat made two judgments on what is known today as official candidatures. 1. He would have seen in it scorn for the representative regime. 2. This scorn would have appeared to him more sad than new.
Secondary education took place in royal “colleges” (former Napoleonic lycées), or municipal “colleges.” The construction cost of the latter was borne by the town. The Theater of Bayonne had been built in 1840.
Virgil’s first Eclogue begins, “Tityre, tu patulae recubans sub tegmine fagi.” (“Tityrus, reclining beneath the cover of a spreading beech tree.”)
“Steps to Parnassus” (title).
“Nourishment,” “clothing,” “housing.”
From Molière’s Les Femmes savantes.
Belise was one of “les femmes savantes” (the learned ladies).
Bayonne is located at the confluence of the Adour and Nive rivers.
“No unequal match for many.”
On 29 February 1848, a High Commission for Education was set up to help the minister of education.
Spain was the setting for several Franco-British rivalries.
In 1843 France signed a trade treaty with the kingdom of Sardinia.
A customs union, the Zollverein, was constituted after 1818 at the initiative of Prussia. In 1834 it comprised thirty-four German states.
A customs union between Belgium and France was contemplated as a counterbalance to the Zollverein but never realized. Instead, a less ambitious Franco-Belgian commercial treaty was ratified in 1845.
In order to quell disturbances in the papal states, Pope Gregory XVI called upon Austria. On 28 June 1832, Austrian troops entered Bologna, Italy. For reasons of diplomatic balance, a French garrison was sent to Ancona, southeast of Bologna. In 1832 the Austrian troops left Bologna and the French troops left Ancona.
In 1842 Tahiti was a French protectorate. Following incidents with English ships, Admiral Dupetit-Thouars transformed it into a territory of “direct sovereignty.” This created tension between London and Paris. The latter disavowed the admiral on 24 February 1844.
(Paillottet’s note) From the second issue of La République française, that of 27 February, until the fifth dated 1 March 1848, Bastiat’s name figures on the last line of the newspaper with the names of its other editors. This is no longer the case in the following issues. Bastiat no longer gave his signature to the newspaper, but limited himself to signing his own articles.
The title of the petition was “A Ministry of Progress, Work Organization, and Abolition of the Exploitation of Man by Man.”
(Paillottet’s note) In the sense that they attract competition the most.
The Town Hall of Paris was the seat of the temporary government after the “three glorious days” of February 1848.
The sale of tobacco products was a state monopoly in France.
On 3 May 1847, the Whig government of John Russell adopted the Factory Bill (Ten Hours’ Bill), which limited the work of women and young people under eighteen to ten hours on weekdays and eight hours on Saturday.
By the treaty of Waitangi, the Maoris acknowledged English sovereignty but did not accept the constitution.
The queen of Portugal, Maria II, was threatened by rebels. Palmerston imposed a compromise that was not observed.
In 1845 Brazil had not yet abolished slavery. Palmerston decided that suspicious Brazilian ships would be inspected, even in territorial waters, and that guilty shipowners and captains would be prosecuted by British tribunals (Aberdeen Bill). The bill was applied.
(Paillottet’s note) In vol. 2, pp. 459 to 465, is shown the contingent supplied by Bastiat to the Petites affiches de Jacques Bonhomme. [OC, vol. 2, p. 459, “Petites affiches de Jacques Bonhomme”; and p. 462, “Circulaires d’un ministère introuvable.”] Through the kindness of M. G. de Molinari, we are now able to reproduce short articles written by Bastiat for two other public broadsheets, which had a short existence in 1848, La République française and Jacques Bonhomme.
At the outset of the revolution of February 1848, the memory of the Revolution of 1789 was still very fresh, at least in the literature. In this article and the two following ones, Bastiat betrays the fear that the proclamation of the Republic will trigger a resumption of wars on the part of the monarchies. Later on, he wholeheartedly approves a subtle note sent to French embassies by Lamartine, the great poet and statesman, then minister of foreign affairs of the provisional government, aimed at soothing foreign concerns.
The revolution of 1848.
The 1847 budget foresaw 1,357,253,000 francs of revenues and 1,458,725,000 francs of expenses, out of which 335,898,000 were for the army and 108,315,000 for the navy.
This piece was untitled in the original.
Bastiat’s letter is dated 27 February (1848). On 23 February the prime minister, François Guizot, resigned and a number of demonstrators were shot. On 26 February the liberal opposition organized a provisional government and declared the Second Republic, leading to the abdication of King Louis-Philippe.
The Austrian empire, ruled by Metternich under the nominal authority of Ferdinand I; Prussia of Frederick William IV; and the Russian empire of Tsar Nicholas I were the three great absolutist powers in Europe.
The revolution of 1848.
Under the honorable pretext of fighting the trade in slaves, the “right of search” in practice gave control of the seas to England. See “On Parliamentary Reform,” note 31, p. 378.
In fact, the kingdom of Prussia did not have a constitution but a set of laws.
We have grouped the following four articles under the new title, “Articles in La République française on the Political Situation.”
A provisional government was formed on 24 February 1848 and presided over by Jacques Charles Dupont de l’Eure, who was a liberal deputy under the restoration and a minister of justice under the July Monarchy. Among the government’s most famous ministers were Lamartine (Foreign Affairs), Ledru-Rollin (Interior), Cremieux (Justice), and two socialists without portfolios: Alexandre Martin (called Albert) and Louis Blanc.
(Paillottet’s note) Here and elsewhere the use of the plural shows that Bastiat was speaking for his colleagues as well as himself. At this time, his signature appears in the paper as a mark of solidarity.
The revolution of 1848.
The revolution of 1848.
(Paillottet’s note) M. Adolphe de Lajonkaire.
The Constituent Assembly, elected on 23 April 1848, adopted the Constitution on 4 November and dissolved itself by the end of April 1849.
The lois de suspects (law of suspects), passed 12 August 1793 and enlarged by the decree of 17 September 1793, made way for the Terror phase of the Revolution. Directed at first toward the nobility, it allowed the immediate arrest of suspects, without cause or proof of a crime.
Since 29 October 1840, Guizot, then minister of foreign affairs, had been the key man of a government whose prime minister was Marshal Soult.
A part of the Landes.
See “To the Electors of the Landes,” p. 387.
In 1789 the National Assembly put the properties of the church “at the disposal of the Nation.” In exchange, the nation took over the payments to the clergy.
(Paillottet’s note) This draft article indicates its date itself. [There are references in this piece to Pope Pius, who was pope from 1846 to 1878. Also there is a reference to “His Lordship, the Bishop of Langres” (Pierre-Louis Parisis), who was elected to the Constituent Assembly of 4 May 1848. Thus, we estimate that this article could be dated sometime in mid-1848.]
The name given by the absolutists to the count of Chambord, son of Charles X. He never reigned.
Following a political crisis in Italy, Pope Pius IX took refuge in Gaeta, in the kingdom of Naples. The Italian Republic was proclaimed in 1849. To please the French Catholics and to prevent Austria from intervening, the National Assembly sent troops to restore the pope in Rome while protecting the new republic. The new Roman republic fell nevertheless after a month of fighting. See also “Pius IX” in the Glossary of Persons.
(Paillottet’s note) The next word is missing in the manuscript. It is possible that the insertion of would perish would be in line with the thinking of the author.
This paragraph and the preceding two paragraphs were found on a separate piece of paper.
A Fourier-type commune. See also “Fourier” in the Glossary of Persons.
The irony is that Louis-Napoléon seized power in a coup d’état in December 1851 and was made emperor in December 1852.