Front Page Titles (by Subject) 6.: Political Manifestos of April 1849 - The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics
Return to Title Page for The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
6.: Political Manifestos of April 1849 - 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).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
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:
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.41 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.42 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.43
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.44
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,