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Section 3: Electoral Principles - 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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[vol. 7, p. 271]
I have made my commitments.
I am not supporting M. So and So because he has not asked for my vote.
I am voting for M. So and So because he has done me a good turn.
I am voting for M. So and So because he has rendered service to France.
I am voting for M. So and So because he has promised to do me a favor.
I am voting for M. So and So because I would like a position with him.
I am voting for M. So and So because I am worried about keeping my job.
I am voting for M. So and So because he comes from the region.
I am voting for M. So and So because he does not come from the region.
I am voting for M. So and So because he will speak up.
I am voting for M. So and So because if he is not elected, our prefect or subprefect will be dismissed.
Each of these sophisms has its own particular nature, but at the base of each of them there is a common thread which needs to be disentangled.
They all are based on this twin premise:
The election is being run in the interest of the candidate.
The elector is the exclusive owner of one thing, that is to say, his vote, which he is free to use as he pleases and in favor of whomever he wishes.
The error of this doctrine and its daily application will be made clear by our examination.
I am not voting for M. A—— because he has not asked for my vote.
This sophism, like all the others, is based on an attitude which, in itself, is not reprehensible, the sense of personal dignity.
When men seek encouragement in pursuit of some bad action, it is rare for the paradoxes with which they deceive themselves to be totally false. Such paradoxes make up a fabric. It is a fabric in which there are always a few threads of good sense to be seen. They always contain a grain of truth and this is why they impress. If they were totally false, they would not delude so many people.
The meaning of the one we are examining is as follows:
“M. A—— aspires to becoming my deputy. Being a deputy is the road to honors and wealth. He knows that my vote can contribute to his election. This is the least of what he is asking of me. If he behaves proudly, I in turn will behave proudly, and when I agree to use something as precious as my vote in someone’s favor, I am determined that he should show gratitude to me, that he should not disdain coming to my house, entering into a relationship with me, shaking my hand, etc., etc.”
It is very clear that the elector who reasons thus will make the twin mistakes we have pointed out.
In a word, he disregards all the public good and evil which may result from his choice.
For, if he considered that the aim of the entire electoral mechanism is to send to the Chamber of Deputies those who are conscientious and devoted, he would probably reason in a contrary manner and say:
“I will vote for M. A—— for this reason, among others, that he has not asked for my vote!”
In fact, in the eyes of anyone who does not lose sight of the object of the function of deputies, I do not think that there can be a stronger presumption against a candidate than his insistence on seeking votes.
For, in the end, what drives this man to come and torment me in my own house, to endeavor to prove to me that I ought to give him my confidence?
When I know that so many deputies, holding two balls,1 have dictated the law to ministers and have obtained good positions, should I not fear that this candidate has no other aim in view when he comes—sometimes from the other end of the kingdom—to beg for the trust of people he does not know?
One can doubtless be betrayed by the deputy one has freely selected. But if we, the electors, go to seek out a man in his retirement (and we can go to seek him out only because his reputation for integrity is perfectly established), if we drag him away from his solitary life to confer on him a mandate which he has not requested, do we not give ourselves the best possible chance of handing over this mandate into pure and faithful hands?
If this man had wanted to make a business out of being a deputy, he would have sought it. He has not done so and therefore has no base ulterior motives.
What is more, he to whom the mandate of deputy is freely given, as free evidence of general confidence and universal esteem, would feel so very honored, so grateful for his own reputation, that he would hesitate to tarnish it.
And, after all, would it not be natural for things to happen thus?
What are we discussing? Is it a question of rendering service to M. So and So, favoring him or setting him on the road to wealth?
No, it is a question of giving ourselves a representative who has our trust. Would it not be very simple to take the trouble to look for him?
Once there was a case of an important trusteeship. A family council of many members had met in the court. A man arrived out of breath, covered in sweat, having worn out several horses. No one knew him personally. All that was known was that he managed, somewhere far away, the properties of underage children and that he would soon have to account for these. This man begged them to appoint him as trustee. He spoke to the relatives on the father’s side and then to those on the mother’s side. He sang his own praises at length, speaking of his probity, wealth, and connections. He uttered prayers, promises, and threats. Deep anxiety could be read on his features, as well as an immoderate desire for success. Vain objections were raised that the trusteeship was a weighty burden, that it would take up much of the time and wealth of the person to whom it was entrusted and override his other businesses. He brushed aside each difficulty. He asked no more than to devote his time to serving the poor orphans. He was prepared to sacrifice his wealth, so heroic was the disinterestedness he felt in his heart! He would view with stoicism his businesses’ decline, provided that those of the underage children prospered in his hands! “But you manage their property!” “All the more reason, I will account to myself for this and who is more equipped to examine these accounts than he who has set them up?”
I ask you, would it be reasonable for the family council to entrust to this earnest lobbyist the functions he requested?
Would it not be wiser to entrust this task to a relative known for his probity and scrupulousness, especially if it were the case that the interests of this relative and the underage children were identical to the extent that he could not do anything to their advantage or disadvantage without similarly affecting his own situation?
. . . . . . .
I am voting for M. A—— because he has done me a favor.
Gratitude, it is said, is the only virtue that cannot be abused. This is wrong. There is a very common method of abusing it, and that is to settle the debt imposed on us by it at the expense of others.
I acknowledge that an elector, who has received frequent acts of kindness from a candidate whose opinions he does not share, is put in an extremely delicate and embarrassing position if this candidate is bold enough to ask for his vote. Ingratitude is itself a repugnant characteristic; to go so far as to make an official display of it, in so many words, can become genuine torment. In vain will you paint this defection in the colors of the most reasoned of political motives; in the depths of universal understanding there is an instinct that will condemn you. This is because political mores have not achieved nor been able to achieve the same progress as private mores. The public will always see your vote as a property of which you can dispose and it will censure you for not allowing it to be directed by a virtue as popular and honorable as gratitude.
However, let us examine this.
The question facing the electoral body, as raised in France, is in most cases so complex that it leaves great latitude in moral awareness. There are two candidates, one for the government, the other for the opposition. Yes, but if the government has committed a great many faults, so has the opposition. In addition, look at the manifestos of the two opponents: one wants order and liberty; the other demands liberty with order. The only difference is that one puts in second place what the other puts first; in essence they want the same thing. It was not worth the trouble, for such subtle differences, to betray the rights to your vote for one of the candidates because of the benefits received. You have no excuse for this.
But let us suppose that the question put before the electors is less vague and you will see that not only the rights but also the popularity and even the claim to gratitude are weakened.
In England, for example, long experience of representative government has taught electors that they should not pursue all types of reform simultaneously, but pass on to the second when the first has been carried out and so on.
As a result, there is always a central question facing the public on which all the efforts of the press, associations, and electors are focused.
Are you for or against electoral reform?
Are you for or against Catholic emancipation?
Are you for or against the emancipation of slaves?
At the moment, the sole question is:
Are you for or against free trade?
When this has been settled, doubtless this other question will be raised:
Are you for or against voluntary arrangements with regard to religion?
As long as there is campaigning with regard to any of these questions, everyone takes part, everyone seeks enlightenment, and everyone takes one side or another. Doubtless, the other major political reforms, although relegated to the shade, are not totally neglected. However, this is a debate which is engaged within each party and not between one party and the other.
Thus, at the present time, when free traders have to oppose a candidate to those supporting monopoly, they hold preparatory assemblies in which a person is proclaimed their candidate who, beyond the conformity of his principles with those of the free traders in matters of trade, is also more in line with the majority because of his opinions on Ireland or the Maynooth2 bill, etc., etc. However, on the day of the great combat, the only question put to candidates is this:
Are you free traders? Do you support monopoly?
Consequently, it is on this alone that the electors will be called upon to vote.
It is thus easy to understand that a question couched in such simple terms will not allow any of the sophisms dealt with in this book to creep into the parties, in particular that of gratitude.
Let us say that in private life I have done an elector some notable favors. However, I know that he is in favor of free trade, while I am standing as a candidate for the partisans of protection. It would not cross my mind to expect him, through gratitude, to sacrifice a cause to which I know that he has devoted all his efforts, one to which he has subscribed and in favor of which he has allied himself with powerful interests. If I did this, his reply would be clear and logical and it would obtain public approval not only from his party but also mine. He would say to me: “I have personal obligations to you. I am personally ready to carry these out. I do not expect you to ask me for them and I will take every opportunity to prove to you that I am not ungrateful. There is, however, a sacrifice I cannot make to you, that of my conscience. You know that I am committed to the cause of free trade which I consider to be consistent with public interest. You, on the other hand, uphold the opposite view. We have met here to ascertain which of these two principles is upheld by the majority. On my vote may depend the triumph or defeat of the principle I support. In conscience I cannot raise my hand for you.”
It is clear that, unless he were dishonest, the candidate would not be able to insist on proving that the elector is bound by a benefit received.
The same doctrine should prevail in our midst. Only, as the questions are very much more complicated, they give rise to a painful contest between the benefactor and the person in his debt. The benefactor will say: “Why are you refusing me your vote? Is it because a few shades of opinion separate us? But do you think in exactly the same way as my opponent? Do you not know that my intentions are pure? Do I, like you, not want order, liberty, and the public good? Are you afraid that I will vote for such and such a measure of which you disapprove; who knows whether it will be brought before the Chamber during this session? You can see perfectly well that you do not have sufficient reason to forget what I have done for you. You are just seeking a pretext to avoid offering any token of gratitude.”
I think that the English method, that of pursuing just one reform at a time, without considering one’s own advantages, also has the considerable advantage of invariably classifying the electors, sheltering them from bad influences, and preventing sophisms from taking hold, in short of shaping frank and firm political mores. This is why I would like it to be adopted in France. In the event, there are four reforms which are competing for priority.
I do not know to which of these questions my country will give preference. If I have a voice in the matter in this respect, I would designate parliamentary reform as being the most important and urgent, the one for which public opinion is best prepared and which is most likely to lead to the triumph of the three others.
For this reason, I will say a few words about it at the end of this book.
. . . . . . .
I am voting for M. A—— because he has rendered great service to the country.
Once upon a time, an elector’s vote was sought for a general of great merit. “Who in the region,” it was said, “has given greater service to the country? He has shed his blood on countless battlefields. All his promotions in rank have been due to his courage and military talent. He is a self-made man and, what is more, he has raised to senior positions his brothers, nephews, and cousins.”
“Is our district threatened?” asked the elector. “Is there a mass uprising? Is it a matter of selecting a military leader? My vote is assured for the honorable general since all you tell me of him and what I know give him an irrefutable right to my trust.”
“No,” said the lobbyist, “it is a question of voting for a deputy, a legislator.”
“What will his functions be?”
“To make laws; to revise the civil code, the code on procedures, and the penal code; to restore order to the finances; and to supervise, contain, restrain, and if necessary indict ministers.”
“And what do the massive sword strokes made against the enemy by the general have to do with legislative functions?”
“That is not the question; it is a question of awarding him, through the office of deputy, a worthy recompense for his services.”
“But if, through ignorance, he passes bad laws and if he votes for disastrous financial plans, who will suffer the consequences?”
“You and the general public.”
“And can I in all conscience invest the general with the right to make laws if he is liable to make bad ones?”
“You are insulting a man of great talent and noble character. Do you think he is ignorant and of evil intent?”
“God forbid! My supposition must be that having been concerned all his life with the military training he is very knowledgeable on strategy. I am sure he insists on tip-top inspections and parades. But, here again, what is there in common between this area of knowledge and the kind required by a representative, or rather those being represented?” . . .
[vol. 7, p. 280]
Dialogue Between a Convinced Political Writer and a Countryman
the political writer
At long last you are going to benefit for the first time from one of the finest outcomes of the Revolution. You are going to assume a part of sovereignty itself; you are about to exercise one of the greatest of human rights.
I am quite simply going to give my vote to the man I believe most capable of managing the portion of my affairs that is common to all Frenchmen.
the political writer
No doubt. But this is to view the case from the most trivial point of view. No matter. I am assuming that you have given consideration to the solemn act you have come to carry out.
It seems to me to be so simple that I did not think I needed to devote much time to considering it.
the political writer
Is that what you think? Is it a simple matter to vote for a legislator? You clearly do not know how complicated our foreign policy is, how many mistakes our government has made, how many factions seek in a variety of ways to lead it astray. Selecting from among the candidates the man most able to grasp so many complexities, to reflect on the many laws we lack, and to distinguish the most patriotic of the parties in order to have it triumph over the others is not as easy a task as you might believe.
Fine. However, I have neither the time nor the capacity necessary for examining so many things.
the political writer
In that case, defer to those who have considered them. Come and dine with me at General B.’s house and I will tell you for whom you should cast your vote.
I beg to accept neither your offers nor your advice. I have heard it said that General B. is standing for office. I cannot accept his dinner as I am firmly resolved not to vote for him.
the political writer
That is very odd. Here, take this leaflet on M. B. . . . It is biographical. You will see how much he deserves your vote. He is a commoner like you. He owes his success solely to his bravery and his sword. He has rendered exceptional service to France. It is up to Frenchmen to reward him for this.
I do not query this. If he has rendered genuine service to France, let France give him medals, or even a pension. However, I do not see that I have to give him a mandate for matters for which I consider him to be unsuitable.
the political writer
The general not suited to attend to matters! He who has commanded army battalions, has governed provinces, has a profound knowledge of the politics of all the cabinets, and who is as eloquent as Demosthenes!
All the more reason I should not vote for him. The greater his capacity, the more he is to be feared by me, as I am convinced that he would use it against my interests.
the political writer
Are not your interests those of your country?
Probably. But they are not those of the general.
the political writer
Explain yourself. I do not understand you at all.
There is no difficulty about my explaining myself. As a farmer, I belong to the peaceful laboring class and I propose to have myself represented by a peaceful working man and not by a man whose career and habits have projected him toward power and war.
the political writer
The general insists that he will defend the cause of agriculture and industry.
Fine, but when I do not know people, their word is not enough for me. I need a more solid guarantee.
the political writer
What sort of guarantee?
Their material interests. If I vote for a man who is a farmer and taxpayer like me, I will be sure that he will defend my interests in defending his.
the political writer
The general is a landowner like you. Do you think he will make a sacrifice of ownership to power?
A general is above all a soldier. His interests as a taxpayer cannot be equated with his interests as a tax beneficiary.
the political writer
And when this happens, is not his devotion to his country well known? Is he not a child of the Revolution? He who has shed his blood for France, will he betray her for a handful of gold?
I admit that the general may be a perfectly honest man. But I cannot believe that a man who has done nothing in his life other than command and obey, who has risen only through the political stairway, and who has become rich only by way of taxes paid by others can perfectly represent a taxpayer. I think it absurd that when I find government overbearing I should vote for a man who is part of it, that when I find taxes too burdensome I should entrust the duty of reducing them to a man who lives off them. The general may have a great deal of self-denial, but I do not want to take the risk of testing this. In short, you are asking me to commit an absurdity which I am not prepared to do.
A Country Elector, a Parish Priest
the parish priest
Well, my friend, you have given me great satisfaction. I have been assured that you have nobly refused to give your vote to the candidate of the liberal faction. You have shown good sense in doing this. Is it possible that when the monarchy is in danger, when religion in distress stretches out its suppliant hands to you, you would agree to give new strength to the enemies of religion and the king?
Pardon me, Father, but if I refused to vote for the general, it was not because I considered him to be an enemy of religion or of the king. On the contrary, it is because I was convinced that his position did not allow him to maintain a just balance between the means of the taxpayers and the needs of government.
the parish priest
Your motives are not important. What is certain is that you were right to distrust the ambition of this man.
You do not understand me, Father. I am not passing judgment on the character of the general. I merely say that I consider it risky to entrust my interests to a man who could not defend them without sacrificing his own. This is a risk that no reasonable man would needlessly run.
the parish priest
I repeat that I am not scrutinizing your motives. You have just given proof of your devotion to the king. Well, finish your work. You have driven away an enemy and that is well worthwhile. However, it is not enough. Give the king a friend. He himself has designated him; vote for the worthy president of the college.
I think I would be committing an even greater absurdity. The king has the power of initiative and sanction with regard to the laws; he appoints the Chamber of Peers.3 Since the laws are made for the nation, he wanted the nation to contribute to making them, and so why then should I go on to vote for those whom the government designates? The result would be an absolute monarchy behind a constitutional facade.
the parish priest
Do you suppose, then, that the king would abuse his position and make bad laws?
Listen, Father, let us speak of things in their true light. The king does not personally know the 450 candidates he designates; it is the ministers who in fact submit them to our vote. Now the government’s interest lies in increasing its power and wealth. However, it can increase its power only at the expense of my liberty and its wealth at the expense of my purse. If I wish to prevent it from doing this, therefore, I have to vote for a deputy who is a taxpayer like me, who will supervise it and set limits to its encroachments.
the parish priest
In other words a deputy from the opposition?
None other. Between one who lives off taxes and one who pays them, the opposition appears to be natural to me. When I buy something, I endeavor to buy it cheaply, but when I sell I set the highest price on my goods. Between the buyer and seller there is inevitably some dispute. If I wanted to have a cart at cost price, would I give a mandate to the maker to set it?
the parish priest
Such a political outlook is small-minded and self-regarding. The issues are reduced to buying and selling, prices and producers. What nonsense! I am talking about the king, his dynasty, the peace of nations, and the upholding of our holy religion.
Indeed, and I still maintain my opinion that it is a matter of selling and prices. Government is constituted by men, and the clergy is also made up of men who form a body. Government and clergy are two bodies made up of men. Now, it is in the nature of all bodies to endeavor to expand. Taxpayers would be mad if they did not also form a body to defend themselves against the expansion of government and the clergy.
the parish priest
Wretched fellow! And if this latter body triumphs would you destroy the monarchy and religion? Goodness me, what is the world coming to!
Do not worry, Father! The people would never destroy government, because they need it. They would never overthrow religion because it is indispensable to them. They would simply contain both within the limits which they cannot exceed without endangering everyone.
In the same way as I covered my house with a roof to shelter myself from the sun and rain, I want to pay magistrates and police officers to protect me from wrongdoers. In the same way as I willingly engage a doctor to care for my body, I would engage a minister of religion to care for my soul. But also, in the same way as I ensure that my roof is built as economically and sturdily as possible and discuss the cost of the payment with my doctor, I want to discuss the cost of their services with the clergy and government since, thank God, I have the ability to do this. And when I cannot do this myself, you would surely agree, Father, that I should mandate a man who has the same interests as I and not someone who belongs, whether directly or indirectly, to the clergy or established government.
A Country Elector, a Constitutional Candidate
I do not think I have arrived too late to ask for your vote, sir, since I am convinced that you have not decided to give it to those who have preceded me. I have two opponents whose talent I acknowledge and whose personal character I honor but who, because of their position, I do not consider to be your natural representatives. I am a taxpayer like you; like you I belong not to the class that exercises power but that over which power is exercised. I am deeply convinced that what currently undermines order, liberty, and prosperity in France is the extravagant dimensions of government. Not only do my opinions make it a duty for me but my interests require me to make every effort to set limits to this terrifying expansion of the actions of government. I therefore consider that I would be useful to the cause of taxpayers if I joined their ranks; and if you share my ideas, I hope you will give me your vote.
I am firmly resolved to do so. I share your opinions and your interests are a guarantee to me that you will act according to your opinions, and you may count on my vote.
[vol. 7, p. 289]
As I wandered idly through the streets of one of our major towns, I met a friend of mine who seemed to be in a bad mood. “What is wrong with you,” I asked him, “to make you paler than a rentier faced with a decree that cuts off a quarter of his income?” (Under the Great King,4 a quarter of income was cut off.) At this, my friend drew from his pocket a bunch of papers; “I am,” said he, “a thousandth shareholder in a business project to build a canal. We have entrusted the execution of the business to a clever man who sends us his accounts each year. Each year, he makes fresh calls for funds, he increases the number of his agents, and the work does not progress. I am going to a meeting in which all the shareholders will elect a commission to check, verify, approve, or rectify our man’s accounts.” “And doubtless,” I replied, “you will pack this commission with your entrepreneur’s men and make its leader the entrepreneur himself.” “You are joking,” he replied; “no man on earth would be capable of such stupidity.” “Oh! Oh!” I said, “do not judge so quickly; in my country, this happens more than a hundred times a year.”
Letter to a Candidate
[vol. 7, p. 298. According to Paillottet’s
Letter to M.——
[In reply to his letter dated 12th January5 ]
I have received the letter, dated the 12th of this month, which you did me the honor of writing to me, with the aim, in your own words, of requesting my vote and those of my friends.
I cannot speak, sir, for the intentions of my friends; I do not hide from them how I intend to cast my vote but I do not seek to influence theirs.
As for mine, it does not belong to me to the extent that I can commit it. Public interest will determine it and up to the time it drops into the ballot box, my only commitment is to the public and my conscience.
Public opinion attributes to General Durrieu, your opponent, views that are favorable to the present government and as a result unfavorable, in my opinion, to the interests of France and, in particular, southern France. No action on his part requires me to consider public opinion mistaken in this respect; on the contrary his personal position leads me to consider him a very bad representative of our interests, whether general ones or with respect to viniculture.6 This means that I will not be giving him my vote.
However, for the same reason, I cannot give it to a candidate who, scarcely a year ago, called very earnestly for the candidature of General Durrieu, and still less if this same man now displays contrasting opinions, since either he was not sincere then or he is not now.
You tell me, sir, that the votes of the government will slip away from you. You have probably let them slip away; you sought them last year so earnestly that you did not shirk from influencing civil servants by means of those two drastic weapons, fear of dismissal and hope of advancement. I have in front of me a letter in which you solicited a civil servant’s vote under the auspices of his superior (which amounts to a threat) and in which you spoke of your influence in Paris (which amounts to a promise). Today, your promises are addressed to independent men; either those of today or those of yesterday are not sincere.
And then, what are you promising us? Favors. Favors do not conduce to the public good but to public disadvantage; otherwise they would not be favors.
The next thing is that to oblige the favorites, you have at least to want to do so while you say that you do not desire anything from ministers.
Finally, sir, in the last few days during which the electors have been exchanging the letters with which you are favoring them, we see some addressed to ministerialists and patriots, nobles and commoners, Carlists, Philippists, etc. In all of them, you solicit the electors’ goodwill, you ask for votes as one would request a service. We can be forgiven for thinking that, by voting for you, we would be rendering service to the candidate rather than the public.
Letter to Roger Dampierre
3rd July 1846
[vol. 7, p. 300]
Like you, I regret not having been at home when you did me the honor of coming to see me and I regret it all the more since I received your kind letter dated 30th June. I cannot thank you enough for all the nice things you say; my only fear is that the efforts I have been able to devote to what I considered to be the good of the country have been highly exaggerated. I will limit myself to answering what you say with regard to the forthcoming elections and I will do so with the frankness I owe to the sincere tone with which your letter is imbued.
I have decided to issue my declaration of principles as soon as the Chamber is dissolved and abandon the rest to the electors whom this concerns. I have to say to you that, as I do not solicit their votes for myself, I cannot commit them to the alliance of which you speak. As for my personal conduct, I hope that you will find the reason for it in the brochure I am sending you with this letter.7 Allow me to add a few explanations here. An alliance between your opinion and mine is a serious thing that I cannot agree to or reject without setting out for you, perhaps somewhat at length, the reasons that govern my decision.
You are a legitimist, sir, you say so frankly in your declaration of principles; and consequently I am more distant from you than from true conservatives.
Thus, if we had at the forthcoming elections a conservative candidate in opinion but who is independent by position, such as MM Basquiat, Poydenot,8 etc., etc., I could not entertain for a moment the thought that, should my party fail, I would join yours. The prospect of determining a ministerial crisis would not cause me to decide and I would prefer to see an opinion with which I differ only subtly triumph, than that from which I differ because of my principles.
I must admit to you, furthermore, that these alliances of extreme parties appear to me to be trickery artificially arranged by ambitious people for their own benefit. I situate myself exclusively at the standpoint of the taxpayer, the person being administered, and the general public and I wonder what they have to gain from alliances whose sole aim is to pass power from one hand to another. Allowing the success of an alliance between the two schools of opinion, to what can it lead? Obviously, they agree only for a moment by glossing over the points on which they differ and abandoning themselves to the only desire common to them: to overthrow the cabinet. But what happens next? When M. Thiers or anyone else is at the helm, what will he do with a minority of the left which will have been a majority only for a moment with the help of the legitimists, help which will henceforward be refused to them? I can see from here a new alliance forming between the right and M. Guizot. At the end of all this, I can see confusion, ministerial crises, administrative trouble, and satisfied ambition, but I do not see any benefit for the public.
For this reason, sir, I do not hesitate to say to you that I could not under any circumstances join you if it was genuinely a conservative opinion that would be presented at the forthcoming elections.
But this is not so. I see in a secretary under orders the representative not of a political opinion but of an individual thought and of this very thought to which electoral law should serve as a barrier. A candidature like this would remove us from a representative regime; it is more than a deviation from it, it casts derision on it, and it seems that by putting it forward, the government has resolved to see just how far the simplemindedness of the electoral body9 will go. Without having any personal objection to M. Larnac, I have such a serious one against his position that I will not vote for him, whatever happens, and, what is more, if necessary, I will vote for his opponent, even if he is a legitimist.
Whatever the secret thought of the partisans of the senior branch of royalty may be, I fear it less than the intentions of the present government as witnessed in the support it gives to such a candidature. I hate revolutions, but they take a variety of forms and I consider as a revolution of the worst kind this systematic invasion of national representation by the agents of government and, what is worse, of irresponsible government. If therefore I am faced with the cruel alternative of choosing between a secretary under orders and a legitimist, my mind is made up: I would choose the legitimist. If the ulterior motives attributed to this party are in any way the case, I deplore this, but I do not fear it, for I am convinced that the principle of national sovereignty has enough life in France to triumph once more over its adversaries. But with a Chamber peopled with the creatures of government, the country, its wealth and liberty, are defenseless and there is in this a germ of revolution that is more dangerous than that which your party can contemplate.
To sum up, sir, as a candidate I will limit myself to issuing a declaration of principles and attending public meetings if I am invited to them. As an elector, I will first vote for a man of the left; failing that, for an independent conservative; and failing that again, for a frank and loyal legitimist, such as you, rather than for a secretary under the orders of the duc de Nemours.
I remain, sir, etc., . . .
[1 ]In order to vote for or against a law, deputies used to put a white or a black ball in an urn. (See also Letter 110, note 230.) Therefore, the reference to “holding two balls” implies that the deputy is withholding his vote in order to get political favors.
[2 ]In 1845 Robert Peel proposed a subsidy of thirty thousand pounds to rebuild the Irish college of Maynooth for young priests. The bill was adopted in spite of numerous petitions against it.
[3 ]There existed a Chamber of Peers in France between 1814 and 1848. It had the same role as the English House of Lords.
[4 ]Presumably Louis XIV (1638-1715), the Sun King.
[5 ](Paillottet’s note) There was a fair copy made of this letter, written in an exercise book about thirty years ago, and sent to its recipient, whose name I have suppressed. I am not sure, but I think it useful to reproduce it if only to show once again how seriously Bastiat took representative government and how much he liked to align his acts with his theories. I follow it with a letter addressed a few years later to M. Dampierre.
[6 ]After 1840 there was sporadic campaigning in the wine country of southern France to protest against tariffs on exports of wine.
[7 ]See “To the Electors of the District of Saint-Sever,” p. 352.
[8 ]Local personalities.
[9 ](Paillottet’s note) It is easy to infer from this passage and several others that Bastiat made two judgments on what is known today as official candidatures. 1. He would have seen in it scorn for the representative regime. 2. This scorn would have appeared to him more sad than new.