Front Page Titles (by Subject) 4.: Letter to a Candidate - The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics
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4.: Letter to a Candidate - 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 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.
[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.