Front Page Titles (by Subject) 4.: Draft Preface for the Harmonies - The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics
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4.: Draft Preface for the Harmonies - 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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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. . . .”
[4 ]“About every knowable matter and certain other things.”