5.: Letter to a Group of Supporters - Frédéric Bastiat, The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics 
The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics, translated from the French by Jane and Michel Willems, with an introduction by Jacques de Guenin and Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean. Annotations and Glossaries by Jacques de Guenin, Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean, and David M. Hart. Translation editor Dennis O’Keeffe (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2011).
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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.
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.