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Section 1: Articles of Biographical Interest - Frédéric Bastiat, The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics 
The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics, translated from the French by Jane and Michel Willems, with an introduction by Jacques de Guenin and Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean. Annotations and Glossaries by Jacques de Guenin, Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean, and David M. Hart. Translation editor Dennis O’Keeffe (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2011).
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Articles of Biographical Interest
Two Articles on the Basque Language
[Articles published in La Chalosse, 1 and 8 April 1838.
On the Basque Language1
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,
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:
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)2
[vol. 7, p. 10. Originally published
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.3
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
[vol. 7, p. 103. Originally published in
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,
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,4 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
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,5 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.6 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 Lords7 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,8 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.9
It had the House of Commons. It still has, but democracy has entered Parliament through the breach of the Reform Bill,10 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 churches11 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.12
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 slavery13 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,14 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.15
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 sophism16 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.17
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,18 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,19 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