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.
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.