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Protest of M. Considérant and Reply of F. Bastiat. 14 - Frédéric Bastiat, Selected Essays on Political Economy 
Selected Essays on Political Economy, trans. Seymour Cain, ed. George B. de Huszar, introduction by F.A. Hayek (Irvington-on-Hudson: Foundation for Economic Education, 1995).
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Protest of M. Considérant and Reply of F. Bastiat.14
In serious public discussions concerning the social question, I am determined not to permit opinions that are not mine to be imputed to me or to allow my actual opinions to be presented in a light that misrepresents and distorts them.
I have not defended the right to property for twenty years against the Saint-Simonians, who deny the right of inheritance, against Babouvists, Owenists, and all varieties of Communists, in order to agree to my being placed among the adversaries of the right to property. I believe I have established the logical legitimacy of that right on foundations very difficult to destroy.
I have not fought, at the Luxembourg, the doctrines of M. Louis Blanc, I have not been many times attacked by M. Proudhon as one of the most tenacious defenders of property, in order to allow M. Bastiat, without protest on my part, to make me figure in your minds, with those two socialists, in a sort of anti-property triumvirate.
As I should not want to be forced to ask you to print, out of fairness, any very considerable specimens of my prose in your columns, and as you must be in agreement with my desire in this matter, I request of you permission to address to M. Bastiat, before he goes any further, certain observations designed to shorten greatly the replies that he may compel me to make to him and perhaps even spare me them entirely.
1. I do not want M. Bastiat, even when he believes he is analyzing my thought quite faithfully, to present within quotation marks, and as if they were textual citations from my pamphlet on the right to property and the right to employment, or from any other writings of mine, phrases which are his own, even though, notably in the next to the last of those that he attributes to me, they do render my ideas very exactly. This procedure is not a happy one and can lead the one who employs it very much further than he would want to go himself. Condense and analyze as you like—that is your right; but do not give the character of a textual citation to your analytic abbreviation.
2. M. Bastiat says: “They [the three socialists among whom I figure] seem to think that in the struggle that is going to take place, the poor have a stake in the triumph of the right to employment and the rich in the defense of the right to property.” I, for my part, do not believe, and I do not even believe that I seem to believe, anything of the kind. I believe, on the contrary, that the rich today have a greater stake than the poor in the recognition of the right to employment. That thought has dominated all my writing and was published for the first time, not today, but ten years ago, in an effort to give the government and property owners a salutary warning, and, at the same time, to defend property against the formidable logic of its adversaries. I believe, further, that the right to property is just as much in the interest of the poor as in that of the rich; for I regard the denial of this right as the denial of the principle of individuality; and its suppression, in any state of society whatever, would appear to me as the indication of a return to the state of savagery, of which I have never, to my knowledge, shown myself very partisan.
3. Finally, M. Bastiat expresses himself thus:
“But I do not intend to examine M. Considérant's theory in detail..... I want to deal only with what is important and serious in the basis of this theory: I mean the question of land rent. The system of M. Considérant may be summarized thus: An agricultural product exists by virtue of the co-operation of two actions: the action of man, or labor, which prepares the way for the right to property; and the action of Nature, which should be free of charge, and which the landowners turn unjustly to their profit. This is what constitutes usurpation of the rights of the human race.”
I demand a thousand pardons of M. Bastiat, but there is not a word in my pamphlet that authorizes him to attribute to me the opinions that he ascribes to me quite gratuitously here. In general I disguise my thought very little, and when I mean “noon,” I am not in the habit of saying “2:00 P.M.” Let M. Bastiat, then, if he wants to do me the honor of attacking my pamphlet, direct his criticism against what I have set down there, and not against what he has put into it. I did not write a word against land rent there; the question of land rent, which I am aware of as everyone else is, is not touched on there even remotely, either in substance or even in appearance; and when M. Bastiat has me say, “that the action of Nature.... should be free of charge,” and that the landowners turn it “unjustly to their profit,” and “this is what constitutes,” according to me, “usurpation of the rights of the human race,” he remains still and always in a realm of ideas very far from any that I have ever held; he attributes to me an opinion which I consider absurd, and which is even diametrically opposed to my whole doctrine. I do not, in fact, complain at all that the landowners profit from the action of Nature; I demand for those who do not profit from it the right to an employment that will permit them, along with the landowners, to be able to create products and to live by their labor when property (agricultural or industrial) does not offer them the means.
For the rest, sir, I will not make so bold as to demand the right, in opposition to M. Bastiat, to set forth my opinions in your columns. It is a favor and an honor to which I am not entitled. Let M. Bastiat, then, make what he will of my system: I believe I have the right to claim your hospitality for a rebuttal only in so far as it is necessary to correct misunderstandings occasioned by his attributing to me doctrines of which I have in no wise assumed the responsibility. I know quite well that it is often easy to win an argument by representing one's opponent as saying what one wants him to have said instead of what he actually said; I know too that it is easier to win a triumph over the socialists when one attacks them en masse than when one criticizes the particular proposals of each of them; but, rightly or wrongly, I hold myself accountable for none but my own.
The discussion that M. Bastiat has undertaken in your columns bears, Mr. Editor, on such very delicate and such very serious subjects that, in this respect at least, you must be of my opinion. Hence, I am quite certain that you will approve the justice of my reaction and that, in all fairness, you will give my protest a visible and prominent place in your columns.
July 24, 1848
M. Considérant complains that I have misrepresented or distorted his opinion on property. If I have committed this error, it is quite involuntarily, and to correct it I can do no better than to cite the texts.
After having established that there are two sorts of rights—natural rights, whic which are the expression of the relations resulting from the very nature of things, and conventional or legal rights, which exist only on condition that artificial relations be in force—M. Considérant continues thus:
This much being granted, we say flatly that property, as it has generally been constituted among all industrial peoples up to our day, is tainted with illegitimacy and sins.... against human rights..... The human race has been put upon this earth in order to live and develop there. The human race is, then, the usufructuary of the surface of the earth.....
Now, under the system of property established in all civilized nations, the common basis on which the human race has full rights to the usufruct has been trespassed upon; it is confiscated by the few to the exclusion of the many. Indeed, even if only one man were deprived of his rights, that deprivation would constitute in itself alone a violation of human rights, and the system of private property that consecrates it would certainly be unjust and illegitimate.
Could not every man who comes into the world in a civilized society, possessing nothing, and finding the land appropriated all around him, say to those who preach to him respect for the existing system of private property: “My friends, let us understand one another and make a few distinctions: I am a strong partisan of the right to property and am disposed to respect it in regard to others, on the sole condition that others respect it in regard to me. Now, in so far as I am a member of the human race, I have the right to the usufruct of the land, which is the common property of mankind, and which Nature has not, as far as I know, given to some at the expense of others. In virtue of the system of private property which I find established on arriving here, the common land has been appropriated and is very well guarded. Your system of private property is, then, founded on the theft of my right to the usufruct. Do not confuse the right to property with the particular system of property that I find established by your artificial right.”
The present system of property is, then, illegitimate, and rests basically on plunder.
M. Considérant finally gets around to formulating the basic principle of the right to property in these terms:
Every man legitimately possesses what his labor, his intelligence, or, more generally, his industry has produced.
To demonstrate the implication of this principle, he imagines a first generation cultivating an isolated island. The results of the work of this generation are divided into two categories.
The first comprises the products of the soil that belong to this first generation in its usufructuary capacity, increased, refined, and developed by its labor and industry: these raw or manufactured products consist either of consumers' goods or of tools of production. It is clear that these products belong, as fully legitimate property, to those who have produced them by their industry.....
Not only has this generation produced the aforementioned products, .... but it has added an extra value to the original value of the soil by cultivation, by construction, by all the work that it has performed on the land and the buildings erected on it.
This additional value evidently itself constitutes a product, a value due to the industry of the first generation.
M. Considérant recognizes that this second value is also a legitimate form of property. Then he adds:
We can, then, perfectly well realize that, when the second generation arrives, it will find two kinds of capital on the land:
A. The original or natural capital, which was not created by the men of the first generation, that is, the value of the virgin soil.
B. The capital created by the first generation, comprising, first, the products, commodities, and implements not consumed and used by the first generation; second, the extra value that the labor of the first generation will have added to the value of the virgin soil.
It is, then, evident and results clearly and necessarily from the basic principle of the right to property just established that each individual of the second generation has an equal right to the original or natural capital, whereas he has no right to the other capital, to the capital created by the first generation. Each individual of the latter can, then, dispose of his share of the created capital in favor of such individuals of the second generation as he pleases to select—children, friends, etc.
Thus, in this second generation there are two kinds of individuals, those who inherit created capital and those who do not. There are also two kinds of capital, the original or natural capital, and the created capital. The latter belongs legitimately to the inheritors, but the first belongs legitimately to everyone. Each individual of the second generation has an equal right to the original capital. Now, it has happened that the inheritors of the created capital have also taken possession of the noncreated capital, have encroached upon it, usurped it, appropriated it. That is why the present system of property is illegitimate, contrary to justice, and rests basically on plunder.
I can certainly be mistaken; but it seems to me that this doctrine reproduces exactly, although in other terms, that of Buchanan, McCulloch, and Senior on land rent. They, too, recognize the legitimacy of property produced by labor. But they regard as illegitimate the usurpation of what M. Considérant calls the value of the virgin soil, and what they call the productive powers of the soil.
Let us see now how this injustice can be remedied.
Savages living in forest and plain enjoy four natural rights: hunting, fishing, food-gathering, and pasturing. Such is the form of man's original rights.
In all civilized societies, the man of the people, the proletarian who inherits nothing and possesses nothing, is purely and simply robbed of these rights. It cannot, then, be said that the original right has here changed its form, since it no longer exists. The form has disappeared with the land.
Now, what would be the form in which this right could be reconciled with the conditions of an industrial society? The answer is easy. In the primitive state, in order to make use of his right, man is obliged to act. The labors of fishing, hunting, food-gathering, and pasturing constitute the conditions under which his right can be exercised. The original right, then, is only the right to these kinds of labor.
In that case an industrial society which has taken possession of the land, and which has taken from man the faculty of exercising at will and in freedom his four natural rights on the surface of the land, is obliged to recognize, on behalf of the individual, in compensation for these rights of which it has robbed him, the right to employment. Then, in principle, and save for a suitable application, the individual will have nothing more to complain about. In fact, his original right was the right to labor performed in a poor workshop, or in the wilds of Nature; his present right would be the same right exercised in a workshop better and more richly equipped, where individual industry would be more productive.
The condition sine qua non for the legitimacy of property is, then, that society grant the proletarian the right to employment, and that it assure him at least as much of a livelihood in return for a given amount of labor as it would procure for him if he were living the life of a savage.
Now I leave it to the reader to judge whether I have misrepresented or distorted the opinions of M. Considérant.
M. Considérant believes himself to be a tenacious defender of the right to property. Undoubtedly he defends that right as he understands it, but he understands it in his own way, and the question is whether it is the right way. In any case, it is not everybody's way.
He himself says that, although only a small dose of common sense would be required to solve the question of property, it has never been understood. I do not agree with this condemnation of human intelligence.
It is not only theory that M. Considérant condemns. This much I should grant him, agreeing with him that in this matter, as in many others, it often goes astray.
But he also condemns universal practice. He says flatly:
Property, as it has generally been constituted among all industrial nations up to our day, is tainted with illegitimacy and sins in a singular manner against human rights.
If, then, M. Considérant is a tenacious defender of property, it is at least of a concept of property different from that which has been recognized and maintained among men since the beginning of the world.
I am quite convinced that M. Louis Blanc and M. Proudhon also call themselves defenders of property as they understand it.
For my part, I make no other claim than to have given an explanation of property which I believe true, and which perhaps is false.
I believe that landed property, as it is naturally formed, is always the fruit of labor; that it rests, consequently, on the very principle established by M. Considérant; that it does not exclude the proletarians from the usufruct of the virgin soil; that, on the contrary, it increases that usufruct for them tenfold and a hundredfold; that it is, then, not tainted with illegitimacy; and that everything that undermines it in our actions and in our convictions is as much a calamity for those who do not own land as it is for those who do.
This is what I should like to try to demonstrate in so far as it can be done in the columns of a newspaper.
Protectionism and Communism
To M. Thiers
Do not be ungrateful to the February Revolution. It surprised you, perhaps shocked you, but it also prepared unexpected triumphs for you as author, as orator, and as privy councillor.1 Among these successes is one that is certainly very extraordinary. In recent days we read in La Presse:
The Association for the Defense of Domestic Industry [the former Mimerel Committee] has just addressed a circular to all its correspondents announcing that a subscription has been opened to contribute to the dissemination in the workshops of M. Thiers' book on property. The Association itself has subscribed for five thousand copies.
I should like to have been present when this flattering notice came to your attention. It must have afforded you some amusement.
There is good reason to say that the ways of God are as infallible as they are inscrutable. For if you will just grant me for a moment (what I shall very soon try to demonstrate) that protectionism, when it becomes widespread, becomes communism, just as a little carp becomes a big carp, provided that God lets it live, I shall show you how odd it is that a champion of protectionism should pose as the destroyer of communism; but what is still more extraordinary and still more reassuring is that a powerful organization that was formed to disseminate the theory and practice of communism (in so far as this is deemed profitable to its members) should today devote half of its resources to destroying the evil it has done with the other half.
This is, I repeat, a reassuring spectacle. It reassures us as to the inevitable triumph of truth, since it shows us the first authentic disseminators of subversive doctrines, frightened by their success, now concocting the antidote and the poison in the same laboratory.
This presupposes, it is true, the identity of the communist and protectionist principles, and perhaps you do not admit this identity, although, to tell the truth, it does not seem possible to me that you could have written four hundred pages on property without being struck by it. Perhaps you think that my few efforts devoted to the cause of free trade, my impatience with an inconclusive discussion, my ardor in combat, and the sharpness of the struggle have made me look at my adversaries' errors through a magnifying glass, as we polemicists are only too prone to do. Undoubtedly, you believe, it is my imagination that is blowing up the theory of the Moniteur industriel to the same proportions as that of the Populaire, in order to win the argument with the protectionists. What likelihood is there that the great manufacturers, respectable landowners, rich bankers, and able statesmen have made of themselves, without knowing or desiring it, the initiators and the apostles of communism in France? And why not, I pray you? There are many workers full of a sincere faith in the right to employment, and consequently communists without knowing or desiring it, who would not tolerate their being considered as such. The reason for this is that in all classes of society, self-interest influences the will; and the will, as Pascal says, is the principal organ of belief. Many industrialists, otherwise quite respectable, promote communism (under another name), as people always do, that is, on condition that only the goods of others are to be divided and shared. But as soon as the principle has gained ground, and it is a matter of sharing their own property too, oh, then communism strikes them with horror. Previously, they circulated the Moniteur industriel; now they are distributing the book on property. To be astonished at this, one must be ignorant of the human heart, its inner springs, and its proclivity toward clever casuistry.
No, sir, it is not the heat of the struggle that has made me see the protectionist doctrine in this light; on the contrary, it is because I saw the doctrine in this light in the first place, before the struggle, that I committed myself to engage in it.2 Please believe me, the motive that induced me to do so was never the hope of increasing our foreign trade a little, although this collateral result is surely not to be scorned. I believed and still believe that this is a question of property rights. I believed and still believe that our protective tariff, by virtue of the mentality that has brought it into being and the arguments by which it is defended, has opened a breach in the right to property through which all the rest of our legislation threatens to pass. In the existing state of public opinion, it seemed to me that a form of communism (unconscious of itself and of its extent, I must admit) was on the point of overwhelming us. It seemed to me that this form of communism (for there are several kinds) was availing itself of protectionist reasoning and doing no more than carrying it to its logical conclusion. Hence, it was on this ground that it seemed to me useful to fight communism; for, since it had armed itself with sophisms circulated by the Mimerel Committee,* there was no hope of overcoming it so long as these sophisms held sway in the public mind.
This was our point of view at Bordeaux, at Paris, at Marseilles, and at Lyons, when we established the Association for Free Trade. Commercial freedom, considered in itself, is undoubtedly a precious good for the nations of the world; but, after all, if this was all we had in mind, we should have called our organization the Association for Commercial Freedom, or, still more shrewdly, for the Gradual Reform of Tariffs. But the term free trade implies freedom to dispose of the fruit of one's labor, in other words, property, and that is the reason we preferred it.3 Certainly, we knew that this term would cause us many difficulties. It affirmed a principle, and hence it had to range among our adversaries all the partisans of the opposite principle. Moreover, it was extremely repugnant even to those who were the most disposed to side with us, that is, businessmen, who were more concerned at that time with reducing the tariff than with defeating communism. Le Havre, while entirely in sympathy with our views, refused to join us. People said to me from all sides: “We shall have a better chance of obtaining some reductions in our tariffs if we do not make any absolute demands.”
I replied: “If that is all you have in view, act through your chambers of commerce.”
They said to me further: “The term free trade is alarming and will hinder your success.”
Nothing was more true; but I drew from the very fright caused by this term my strongest argument for its adoption. “The more it terrifies,” I said, “the more this proves that the notion of property is being obliterated in people's minds. The protectionist doctrine has led to the acceptance of false ideas, and false ideas have produced protection. To obtain by deception or through the good will of the Minister of Commerce an adventitious improvement in the tariff, is to palliate an effect, not to destroy the cause.”
Hence, I retained the term free trade, not in spite of, but because of, the obstacles that it would create for us; obstacles, which, in revealing the sickness of men's minds, were the certain proof that the very foundations of the social order were being threatened.
It would not have sufficed just to indicate our goal with a slogan; we had also to define it. That is what we did, and I transcribe here, in confirmation, the first act or manifesto of this Association.
At the moment of uniting in defense of a great cause, the undersigned feel the need of setting forth their beliefs; of proclaiming the goal, the extent, the means, and the character of their association.
Exchange, like property, is a natural right. Every citizen who has produced or acquired a product should have the option of applying it immediately to his own use or of transferring it to whoever on the face of the earth agrees to give him in exchange the object of his desires. To deprive him of this option when he has committed no act contrary to public order and good morals, and solely to satisfy the convenience of another citizen, is to legitimize an act of plunder and to violate the law of justice.
It is, further, to violate the conditions of public order; for what order can exist in a society where each industry, aided and abetted by the law and the public police force, seeks its success in the oppression of all the others?
It is to disregard the providential design that presides over men's destinies, as revealed in the infinite variety of climates, seasons, natural powers, and aptitudes—gifts that God has unequally distributed among men only in order to unite them, through trade, in the bonds of universal brotherhood.
It is to thwart the development of public prosperity; since he who is not free to exchange is not free to choose his work, and finds himself compelled to misdirect his efforts, his faculties, his capital, and the forces that Nature has placed at his disposal.
Finally, it is to jeopardize international peace, because it ruptures the commercial relations that render wars impossible by rendering them onerous.
The Association, then, has free trade as its goal.
The undersigned do not contest the right of a nation to levy on the merchandise that crosses its borders taxes reserved for the common expense, provided that they are determined solely by the needs of the public treasury.
But as soon as the tax, losing its fiscal character, has for its object the exclusion of a foreign product, to the detriment of the treasury itself, in order to raise artificially the price of a similar domestic product, and thus to exact tribute from the community for the profit of one class, from that moment protection, or rather plunder, makes its appearance; and this is the principle that the Association seeks to discredit and to efface completely from our laws, independently of any reciprocity or of systems that prevail elsewhere.
From the fact that the Association aims at the complete destruction of the protectionist system, it does not follow that it demands that such a reform be accomplished in a day and result from a single election. Even to return from bad to good and from an artificial state of things to a natural condition, precautions may well be recommended by prudence. These details of execution are for the authorities to work out; the function of the Association is to disseminate and to popularize the basic principle.
As for the means that it intends to make use of, it will never seek them elsewhere than in constitutional and legal ways.
Finally, the Association is completely nonpartisan. It is not in the service of any industry, class, or region. It embraces the cause of eternal justice, of peace, of unity, of free communication, of universal brotherhood, the cause of the general welfare, which is everywhere and in all respects identical with that of the consumers.
Is there a word in this program that does not reveal the ardent desire to strengthen or even to re-establish in men's minds the idea of property, which has been perverted by the protectionist system? Is it not evident that the commercial interest is secondary, and the social interest primary? Note that the tariff, in itself, whether good or bad from the administrative or fiscal point of view, concerns us little. But as soon as it acts intentionally in the protectionist sense, that is, as soon as it reveals its purpose to be plunder and the negation, in principle, of the right to property, we combat it, not as a tariff, but as a system. “This,” we say, “is the idea that we are seeking to discredit, in order to make it disappear from our laws.”
No doubt it will be asked why, having in mind a general question of this importance, we have restricted the struggle to the area of a particular question.
The reason for this is simple. We had to pit organization against organization, to enlist support and soldiers for our army. We knew well that the debate between protectionists and freetraders could not be prolonged without raising and ultimately resolving all the questions, moral, political, philosophical, and economic, that are connected with property; and, since the Mimerel Committee, in concerning itself with a particular goal, had jeopardized the right to property, we hoped to reinstate it in principle by ourselves aiming directly at the opposite goal.
But what does it matter what I may once have said or thought? What does it matter that I may have perceived, or believed I perceived, a certain connection between protectionism and communism? The essential thing is to prove that this connection exists. This is what I propose to undertake.
You no doubt remember the day when, with your customary astuteness, you extracted from M. Proudhon this admission, which has become famous: “Give me my right to employment, and I will let you keep your right to property.” M. Proudhon did not conceal the fact that in his eyes these two rights are incompatible.
If property is incompatible with the right to employment, and if the right to employment is founded on the same principle as protectionism, what are we to conclude from this, if not that protectionism is itself incompatible with property? In geometry, it is regarded as an incontestable truth that two things equal to a third thing are equal to each other.
Now, it happened that an eminent orator, M. Billault,* believed he should make a speech in support of the right to employment. This was not easy in the face of the confession that M. Proudhon allowed to slip by. M. Billault understood very well that to make the state intervene to equalize wealth and keep everyone's standard of living at a given level is to set oneself on the road to communism. What, then, did he say in order to persuade the National Assembly to violate property rights? He told you quite simply that what he was asking you to do you were already doing through your tariffs. His demand did not go beyond a somewhat more extensive application of doctrines you have already accepted and applied.
Here are his words:
Look at our customs duties. By means of protective tariffs, discriminatory taxes, subsidies, and schemes of all kinds, society supports, retards, or advances all the plans of our national industry. [Very good!] Not only does it hold the balance between French labor, which it protects, and foreign labor, but it continually intervenes more and more in various domestic industries. Listen to the constant protests brought by some industries against others. Witness, for example, the industries that use iron complaining of the protection granted to French iron against foreign iron; those that use linen or cotton thread protesting against the protection granted to French thread by the exclusion of foreign thread; and so on with other industries. Society [he should have said, the government] finds itself, then, necessarily involved in all the struggles and all the difficulties of industry. It intervenes actively every day, directly and indirectly; and as soon as you have to deal with customs questions, you will see that you will be, whether you like it or not, compelled to take sides and to evaluate all these claims for yourselves.
It is no objection, then, against the idea that society owes a debt to the destitute worker, that this idea would require the government to intervene in the affairs of industry.
And please note that M. Billault, in resorting to this mode of argumentation, in no way intended to be ironic. He is no freetrader in disguise, taking delight in exposing the obvious inconsistency of protectionism. No, M. Billault is himself a bona fide protectionist. He is aiming at the equalization of wealth by law. In order to attain this goal, he deems the action of tariffs useful; finding the right to property an obstacle, he jumps over it, as you do. Next, the right to employment, which is a second step on the same road, is suggested to him. Again he finds the right to property an obstacle, and again he jumps over it. But when he looks back, he is quite surprised to see that you have not followed him. He asks you for the reason. If you were to reply to him, “I grant in principle that the law can violate property rights, but I find it inopportune that it should do so under the guise of the right to employment,” M. Billault would understand you and would discuss with you this secondary question of opportuneness. But you counter with an appeal to property rights themselves. This astonishes him, and he thinks himself entitled to say to you, “Don't start preaching to me at this late date; for if you reject the right to employment, at least let it not be on the grounds of the right to property, since you violate this right by your tariffs when it suits you to do so.” He could add with some reason: “By means of protective tariffs you often violate the property rights of the poor for the profit of the rich. By the right to employment you would violate the property rights of the rich for the advantage of the poor. Why are you so late in feeling any qualms of conscience?”4
There is, then, only one difference between M. Billault and you. Both of you travel along the same road, that of communism. But you have taken only one step, and he has taken two. In this respect, the advantage, at least in my eyes, is on your side. But you lose it when it comes to logic. For, since you proceed as he does, though more slowly, by turning your back on property, it is certainly quite ridiculous that you should pose as its champion. M. Billault has been able to avoid this inconsistency. But, alas, it is only to fall into a lamentable sophism! M. Billault is too enlightened not to feel, at least vaguely, the danger of each of his steps along a road that must end in communism. He does not make himself ridiculous in posing as a champion of property rights at the moment that he violates them. But what does he think of to justify himself? He invokes the favorite axiom of whoever wants to reconcile two things that are irreconcilable: There are no absolute principles. Private property and communism—let us have a little of each everywhere, according to circumstances.
In my view, the pendulum of civilization, which oscillates from one to the other principle, according to the needs of the moment, but which always keeps on indicating greater progress, is returning to the necessity of governmental action after having swung strongly towards the absolute liberty of individualism.
Thus, there is nothing true in the world, and there are no absolute principles, since the pendulum must oscillate from one principle to the other, according to the needs of the moment. O metaphor, where wouldst thou lead us, if only we let thee!5
As you said very judiciously on the rostrum, one cannot say—still less write—everything at once. It should be clearly understood that I am not examining here the economic aspect of the protective system, nor am I inquiring whether, from the point of view of our national wealth, it does more good than harm, or more harm than good. The only point that I want to prove is that it is nothing else than a manifestation of communism. Messrs. Billault and Proudhon have begun the demonstration. I am going to try to complete it.
In the first place, what must we understand by communism? There are several ways, if not of bringing about, at least of trying to bring about, the common ownership of goods. M. de Lamartine knows of four. You think that there are a thousand ways, and I agree with you. However, I think that all of them can be put into three general categories, of which only one, as I see it, constitutes a real danger.
First, two or more men can plan to work and live in common. As long as they do not try to disturb the security or restrict the liberty or encroach upon the property of others, directly or indirectly, then, if they do any harm at all, they do it only to themselves. The tendency of such men will always be to go into distant uninhabited places to make their dream come true. Whoever has reflected on these matters knows that these poor fellows will die of hardship, the victims of their illusions. In our day, communists of this kind have given to their fantastic Elysium the name of Icaria, as if they had had a sad forboding of the dreadful catastrophe toward which they were headed. We should lament their blindness; we should be obliged to warn them if they were prepared to listen to us; but society has nothing to fear from their fantasies.
Another form of communism, and certainly the most brutal, consists in putting all existing property into one heap and parceling it out ex aequo. This is plunder erected into a universal rule of law. It involves the destruction not only of property, but also of labor and of the very motive that impels a man to work. This kind of communism is so violent, so absurd, and so monstrous that I cannot really believe it to be dangerous. This is what I said some time ago before a considerable gathering of voters, the great majority of whom belonged to the suffering classes. An outburst of murmurs greeted my words.
I indicated my surprise at this. “What!” they said. “M. Bastiat dares to say that communism is not dangerous? Then he is a communist! Oh, well, we suspected as much, for communists, socialists, and economists are birds of a feather.” I had some difficulty in getting myself out of this predicament. But the interruption itself proved the truth of my thesis. No, communism is not dangerous when it appears in its most naive form, that of pure and simple plunder. It is not dangerous, because it inspires horror.
I hasten to add that if protectionism can be and should be compared to communism, it is not to this form of communism that I have just described.
But communism assumes a third form.
To make the state intervene, to give it the task of stabilizing profits and equalizing wealth by taking from some, without their consent, in order to give to others, without receiving anything in return on their part, to make the state responsible for achieving equality by means of plunder—this indeed is communism. The procedures employed by the state to attain this end do not matter, any more than the fancy names with which the idea is tricked out. Whether the state seeks to realize it by direct or by indirect means, by restrictive measures or by taxes, by tariffs or by the right to employment; whether it goes under the name of equality, solidarity, or fraternity, in no way changes the nature of things. The plunder of property is nonetheless plunder because it is accomplished in a regular, orderly, systematic way, through the action of the law.
I add that in our day this is the truly dangerous form of communism. Why? Because in this form we see it constantly ready to encroach on everything. Just look! Someone asks that the state furnish tools of production free of charge to craftsmen and farmers. This is tantamount to insisting that it steal them from other craftsmen and farmers. Another wants the state to make loans without interest. It could not do so without violating property rights. A third calls for gratuitous education at all levels. Gratuitous! That means at the expense of the taxpayers. A fourth demands that the state subsidize associations of workers, theatres, artists, etc. But these subsidies are just so much wealth taken away from those who have legitimately earned it. A fifth cannot rest until the state has artificially raised the price of a product for the advantage of the one who sells it. But this is to the detriment of the one who buys it. Yes, there are very few persons who, at one time or another, are not communists in this sense. You are, M. Billault is, and I fear that all of us in France are to some degree. It seems that the intervention of the state reconciles us to plunder by shifting the responsibility for it on everybody, that is, on nobody in particular, an arrangement that enables us to enjoy the property of others with a perfectly good conscience. Did not the honorable M. Tourret,* one of the most upright men who have ever occupied a ministerial post, begin his statement of the reasons for the proposed law on advances to agriculture with these words: “It is not enough to give instruction in order to cultivate the arts; we must, in addition, furnish the tools of production"? After this preamble, he submitted to the National Assembly a draft of a law of which the first article reads as follows:
Art. 1. A credit of ten million francs is granted to the Minister of Agriculture and Commerce in the budget of 1849, for the purpose of making advances to the owners and the associations of owners of rural lands.
Admit that if legislative language plumed itself on its precision, the article should have been worded thus:
The Minister of Agriculture and Commerce is authorized, during the year 1849, to take ten million francs from the pockets of farmers who have great need of them and to whom they belong, in order to deposit them in the pockets of other farmers who are in equal need of them and to whom they do not belong.
Is this not a communist act; and, if it becomes widespread, does it not amount to giving legal status to communism itself?
Similarly, the manufacturer who would rather die than steal a centime does not hesitate in the slightest to make this request of the legislature: “Make a law that will raise the price of my cloth, my iron, and my coal and will put me in a position to fleece my buyers.” Since the basis for his request is that he is not satisfied with the profit he makes by exchanging freely or by free trade (which I declare to be the same thing, whatever may be said about it); and since, on the other hand, we are all dissatisfied with our profits and inclined to appeal to the legislature; it is clear, to me at least, that if the legislature does not hasten to reply: “That is no concern of ours; we are not authorized to violate property rights, but to guarantee them,” we are plunged into complete communism. The means of execution set in operation by the state may differ, but they have the same end and stem from the same principle.
Suppose that I appear before the National Assembly and say: “I am engaged in business, and I find that my profits are insufficient. That is why I request you to issue a decree authorizing the tax collectors to take just one little centime from each French family.” If the legislature approves my request, one may, if one wishes, see in this only an isolated case of legal plunder, which does not yet deserve the name of communism. But if all Frenchmen, one after another, come to make the same petition, and if the legislature examines their requests with the avowed aim of equalizing wealth, it is in this principle, followed by its effects, that I see, and that you yourself cannot fail to see, communism.
It matters little whether, in order to attain this end, the legislature makes use of the customs officer or the tax collector, direct taxation or an indirect levy, restrictive measures or subsidies. Does it believe itself authorized to take and to give without compensation? Does it believe that its function is to equalize profits? Does it act in accordance with this belief? Does most of the public approve and favor this kind of action? In that case, I say that we are on the road to communism, whether we are aware of it or not.
And if I am told: “The state does not act thus on behalf of everyone, but only on behalf of a few classes,” I shall reply: “Then it has found the means to make even communism worse.”
I am aware, sir, that it is very easy to cast doubt on my reasoning by confusing the issue. Quite legitimate administrative facts will be cited, cases where the intervention of the state is as equitable as it is useful; then, an apparent analogy between these cases and those against which I protest having been established, I shall be placed in the wrong and told: “Either you should not see communism in protective tariffs, or you should see it in all governmental action.”
This is a trap into which I do not wish to fall. That is why I am obliged to seek for the precise circumstance that gives the intervention of the state a communist character.
What is the function of the state? What are the things that the citizens should entrust to the organized force of government? What are those that it should reserve for private activity? To answer these questions would be to give a course in political philosophy. Fortunately, I do not need to do this in order to solve the problem that concerns us here.
When the citizens, instead of performing a service for themselves, turn it into a public service, that is, when they judge it opportune to join together to get work done or to procure a satisfaction in common, I do not call this communism, because I do not see here the element that constitutes the hallmark of communism: leveling by means of plunder. The state takes, it is true, by way of taxation, but gives back by way of service. This is a particular but legitimate form of exchange, the foundation of all society. I will go further. In entrusting a special service to the state, the citizens may be performing a good or a bad action. They are performing a good one if, by this means, the service is done better and more economically; it is bad on the contrary hypothesis. But in neither case do I see the principle of communism making its appearance. In the first instance, the citizens succeeded; in the second, they were mistaken; that is all; and if communism is an error, it does not follow that all error is communism.
Political economists are in general quite suspicious of governmental intervention. They see in it inconveniences of all kinds—a diminution of individual liberty, energy, prudence, and experience, which constitute the most precious resources of any society. Hence, it often happens that they oppose this intervention. But it is not at all from the same point of view and for the same reasons that they reject protectionism. Therefore, our predilection, perhaps too pronounced, for liberty should not be cited as an argument against us, nor should it be said: “It is not surprising that these gentlemen oppose the protectionist system, for they oppose every form of state intervention.”
In the first place, it is not true that we oppose it in regard to everything. We grant that it is the function of the state to maintain order and security, to protect persons and property, to repress frauds and acts of violence. As for the services which have, so to speak, an industrial character, we have no other rule but this: that the state should assume the burden if it can thereby effect an aggregate saving in resources. But, for Heaven's sake, in making the reckoning, let us take into account all the innumerable inconveniences of a state monopoly.
Next, I am compelled to repeat, it is one thing to vote against a new grant of power to the state on the ground that, taking everything into account, it is disadvantageous and would constitute a national loss; and it is quite another to vote against this new grant of power because it is illegitimate and spoliative, and authorizes the government to do precisely what its rational function is to prevent and to punish. Now, against the protectionist system, as it is called, we have these two kinds of objections, but it is the latter that carries the greater weight in our determination to wage implacable war against it—by legal means, of course.
Thus, if, for example, the question is submitted to a municipal council whether it would be better to let each family send a half mile for its water, or whether it is preferable that the municipal authority should levy an assessment to bring the water to the village square, I should have no objection in principle to an investigation of this question. The calculation of the advantages and the disadvantages for all would be the sole element in the decision. There might be a mistake in the calculation, but an error that results in a loss of property does not itself constitute a systematic violation of property rights.
But if the mayor proposes to oppress one industry for the profit of another, to forbid wooden shoes for the benefit of the shoemakers, or something of the sort, then I should say to him that this is no longer a question of calculating advantages and disadvantages; what we are concerned with in this case is an abuse of authority, a perverse use of the public police force. I should say to him: “How can you, who are the trustee of the public authority, bound to enforce the law in order to punish plunder, dare to use that authority and force to protect and organize plunder?”
If the mayor's idea triumphs; if I see, following the precedent thus set, all the industries of the village agitating to solicit favors at the expense of one another; if in the midst of this tumult of unscrupulous ambitions I see the very idea of property foundering; it will be quite permissible for me to think that, in order to save it from going down, the first thing to do is to sound a warning against what is unjust about the measure that constituted the first link in this deplorable chain.
It would not be difficult for me, sir, to find in your work passages that bear on this subject and corroborate my views. In fact, it would suffice to open it at random. Yes, if, playing once again a childish game, I were to plunge a pin into this book, I should find on whatever page I chanced to hit, the condemnation, implicit or explicit, of the protectionist system, the proof that this system is identical, in principle, with communism. And why do I not make this test? Good; here I go. The pin has lighted on page 283. There I read:
It is, then, a grave error to lay the blame on competition and not to see that, if the nation is a producer, it is also a consumer, and that in receiving less, on the one hand [which I deny, and you yourself deny a few lines lower], and paying less, on the other, there remains then, to everyone's profit, the difference between a system that restrains human industry and one that gives it infinite scope by telling it never to stop.
I defy you to say that this does not apply as well to the competition that takes place across the Bidassoa* as it does to that which occurs across the Loire. Let us try sticking the pin in again. This time we are at page 325.
Either rights exist, or they do not exist. If they exist, they involve absolute consequences.... Furthermore, if a right exists, it exists at every moment. It is absolute today, yesterday, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, in summer as in winter, not when it pleases you to declare it in force, but when it pleases the worker to invoke it!
Would you maintain that an iron manufacturer has an unlimited, perpetual right to prevent me from producing indirectly two hundredweight of iron where I work, which is in a vineyard, for the advantage of producing directly only one hundredweight in his factory, which is an ironworks? This right too either exists or does not exist. If it exists, it is absolute today, yesterday, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, in summer as in winter, not when it pleases you to declare it in force, but when it pleases the iron manufacturer to invoke it!
Let us try our chances again. We find ourselves on page 63. There I read this aphorism:
Property does not exist if I cannot give it as well as consume it.
We, for our part, say: “Property does not exist if I cannot exchange it as well as consume it.” And permit me to add that the right to exchange is at least as precious, as socially important, as characteristic of property, as the right to make a gift. It is to be regretted that in a work designed to examine all aspects of property, you felt obliged to devote two chapters to gifts, which are hardly in danger, and not a line to exchange, the right to which has been so boldly violated under the very authority of the law.
Another prick of the pin. Ah! It puts us on page 47.
Man has a primary property right to his person and his labor. He has a second, less a part of his being but no less sacred, to the products of his labor, which comprise all that is called worldly goods, and which society has the highest interest in guaranteeing to him. For, without this guarantee, no work would be done, and without work, there would be no civilization, not even the necessities, but poverty, robbery, and barbarism.
All right, sir, let us expatiate, if you so desire, on this text.
Like you, I consider the right to property to consist in the freedom to dispose first of one's person, then of one's labor, and finally, of the products of one's labor—which proves, incidentally, that, from a certain point of view, freedom and the right to property are indistinguishable from each other.
I should hardly dare to say, as you do, that the right to own the products of our labor is less a part of our being than our productive skills themselves. Physically speaking, this is incontestable; but whether a man is deprived of the use of his labor or of its products, the result is the same, and this result is called slavery—a further proof of the essential identity between freedom and the right to property. If I use force to turn another man's labor to my profit, that man is my slave. He still is, if, though allowing him to work freely, I find the means, by force or by cunning, to get hold of the fruits of his labor. The first type of oppression is more odious; the second is more astute. When it was observed that free labor is more intelligent and more productive, the masters said: “Let us not directly pre-empt the labor of our slaves, but let us appropriate the more abundant products of their free labor, and let us give to this new form of servitude the fine name of protection.”
You say, besides, that society is interested in protecting property. We are in agreement; only I go much further than you, and if by society you mean the government, I say that its sole function in regard to property is to protect it; that if it tries to equalize it, by that very fact it violates property rights instead of guaranteeing them. This point deserves further examination.
When a certain number of men, who cannot live without labor and without property, join together to support a common police force, their aim is evidently to work and to enjoy the fruit of their labor in complete security, and not to put their labor and their property at the mercy of that force. Even before the institution of any form of regular government, I do not believe that the right to self-defense, the right of individuals to defend their persons, their freedom of labor, and their property, can be contested.
Without pretending to philosophize here on the origin and extent of the rights of governments, a vast subject quite frightening to my weak brain, permit me to submit an idea for your consideration. It seems to me that the rights of the state can be nothing but the regularizing of pre-existent personal rights. For my part, I cannot conceive a collective right that does not have its foundation in an individual right or presuppose it. Hence, to know whether the state is legitimately invested with a right, we must ask whether the individual has that right in virtue of his nature and in the absence of all government. It is on this basis that I rejected a few days ago the right to employment. I said: Since Peter does not have the right to require Paul directly to give him employment, he is not authorized to exercise this pretended right through the intermediation of the state; for the state is only the common police force created by Peter and by Paul, at their expense, for a definite end, which could never be to render just what is not just. It is by this touchstone that I also judge between the protection and the equalization of property by the state. Why does the state have the right to protect, even by force, each man's property? Because that right pre-exists in the individual. One cannot deny to individuals the right to legitimate self-defense, the right to employ force, if necessary, in order to repel aggression directed against their persons, their freedom of labor, or their property. It is understandable that this individual right, since it belongs to all the citizens, may assume a collective form and legitimize the common police force. And why does the state not have the right to equalize property? Because, in order to do so, we must take it away from some and bestow it on others. Now, since none of the thirty million Frenchmen has the right to take property by force under the pretext of equalizing wealth, we do not see how they could invest the common police force with this right.
And note that the right to equalize property is destructive of the right to have it protected. Take the case of savages who have not yet founded a government. Each of them has the right to legitimate self-defense, and it is not difficult to see that it is this right that will become the basis of a legitimate common police force. If one of these savages has devoted his time, his energy, and his intelligence to making a bow and arrows, and another tries to take them away from him, all the sympathies of the tribe will be for the victim; and if the case is submitted to the judgment of the elders, the despoiler will be condemned without fail. It is only one step beyond this to the organization of a public police force. But does this force have as its function, at least as its legitimate function, the task of regulating the act of the one who defends his property, in virtue of his right, or the act of the one who encroaches on the property of others, in violation of that right? It would be very strange if the collective force were to be based, not on the right of the individual, but on its permanent and systematic violation! No, the author of the book that I have before me cannot support such a thesis. But it is not enough that he does not support it; perhaps he should also fight against it. It is not enough to attack the crude and absurd form of communism that a few sectarians propose in some disreputable pamphlets. It would perhaps have been good to expose and discredit that other bold and subtle form of communism, which, by the simple perversion of the just idea of the rights of the state, has wormed its way into some branches of our legislation and threatens to invade all of them.
For, sir, it is indeed incontestable that, by the action of tariffs, by means of the so-called protectionist system, governments have brought about the monstrous situation that I have just described. They cease to uphold the right to legitimate self-defense preexisting in every citizen, which is the basis on which they are constituted and the essential function which they exist to perform, in order to arrogate to themselves a pretended right to equalize wealth by way of plunder, a right that, not residing previously in anyone, cannot, by the same token, reside in the community.
But what good is it to insist on these general ideas? What good is it to demonstrate here the absurdity of communism, since you have done so yourself (save for one of its manifestations, and, in my opinion, the most threatening in actual practice) much better than I could do?
Perhaps you will tell me that the protectionist system is not, in principle, opposed to the right to property. Let us look, then, at the procedures of that system.
There are two of them: export bounties and restrictions on imports.
As for subsidies, their effect is obvious. I defy anyone to maintain that the system of export bounties, if carried to its ultimate extreme, would not culminate in absolute communism. The citizens work under the protection of the common police force, responsible, as you say, for guaranteeing to each his own, suum cuique. But here is the state, with the most philanthropic intentions in the world, undertaking a responsibility that is quite novel, quite different from, and, as I see it, not only incompatible with, but destructive of, its primary responsibility. It is pleased to set itself up as the arbiter of profits, to decide that one type of labor is not adequately remunerated, and that another is too much so; it is pleased to play the role of stabilizer and to make, as M. Billault says, the pendulum of civilization swing to the side opposed to the liberty of individualism. Consequently, it levies a tax on the entire community in order to make a gift, under the name of subsidies, to the exporters of a particular kind of products. It professes to be promoting industry; it should rather say, one industry at the expense of all the others. I shall not stop to demonstrate that it stimulates the sterile branch at the expense of the fruitful branches; but, in entering on this path, does not the government authorize every worker to come clamoring for a subsidy if he can prove that he is not earning as much as his neighbor? Is it the function of the state to hear and evaluate all these requests and to do each one justice? I do not think so, but those who do think so should have the courage to give their thought its proper expression and to say: “The function of the government is not to protect property, but to equalize it. In other words, there is no property.”
I am concerned here only with a question of principle. If I wanted to examine the economic effects of export bounties, I should show them in the most ridiculous light, for they constitute nothing but a gratuitous gift by France to foreigners. It is not the seller who receives it, but the buyer, in virtue of that law which you yourself have stated in regard to taxes: It is the consumer who, in the last analysis, bears all the burdens, as he receives all the advantages, of production. Accordingly, the most mortifying and the most mystifying thing possible has happened to us in regard to these bounties. Some foreign governments have reasoned thus: “If we raise our customs duties by an amount equal to the subsidy paid by the French taxpayers, it is clear that nothing will be changed for our consumers, since the net price will be the same for them. Merchandise reduced by five francs at the French border will pay five francs more at the German border; this is an infallible means of making the French treasury bear the burden of our public expenditures.” But other governments, I am assured, have been still more ingenious. They have said to themselves: “The bounty paid by France is indeed a gift that it makes to us; but if we raise the duty, there is no reason for more of this merchandise to enter our country than in the past; we shall ourselves be setting a limit to the generosity of these excellent Frenchmen. Let us, on the contrary, provisionally abolish these duties; let us thus encourage an extraordinary importation of their cloth, since each yard of cloth brings with it an absolutely gratuitous gift.” In the first case, our bounties go to the foreign treasury; in the second, they profit the individual citizens, but on a much larger scale.
Let us proceed to restrictions on imports.
I am a craftsman—a woodworker, for example. I have a small workshop, tools, and some raw materials. All this is incontestably mine, for I have made these things, or, what comes to the same thing, I have bought them and paid for them. Moreover, I have strong arms, a certain amount of intelligence, and a great deal of determination. It is with these resources that I can provide for my needs and for those of my family. Note that I cannot produce directly anything that I need—neither iron nor wood nor bread nor wine nor meat nor cloth, etc.—but I can produce what they are worth. In the last analysis, these things must, so to speak, emerge in another form from my saw and my plane. It is to my interest to receive honestly the greatest quantity possible of these necessities for each given quantity of my labor. I say honestly, for I do not desire to encroach upon anyone's property or liberty. But no more, indeed, do I want anyone to encroach upon mine. The other workers and I, agreed on this point, impose sacrifices on ourselves and turn over a part of our labor to men called public officials because we entrust to them the special office of protecting our labor and its fruits from all encroachment, whether from without or from within.
With things arranged thus, I get ready to put my intelligence, my strength, my saw, and my plane to work. Naturally, I always keep my eyes fixed on the things that are necessary to my existence. These are the things that I must produce indirectly by producing what they are worth. The problem for me is to produce them in the most advantageous way possible. Consequently, I survey the world of values, as expressed in what are called current prices. I observe, on the basis of information concerning these current prices, that the way for me to obtain the greatest possible quantity of fuel, for example, with the smallest possible quantity of labor, is to make furniture and to sell it to a Belgian, who will give me coal in return.
But there is in France a worker who digs for coal in the bowels of the earth. Now, it has happened that the public officials to whose support both the miner and I have contributed so that they would protect for each of us our freedom to work and to dispose of our products (i.e., our property) have had another idea entirely and have taken upon themselves quite another function. They have got it into their heads that they must balance my labor and that of the miner. Consequently, they have forbidden me to warm myself with Belgian fuel, and when I come to the border with my furniture to receive the coal, I find that these public officials prevent the coal from entering, which comes to the same thing as if they prevented my furniture from leaving. I say to myself then: If we had not thought of paying public officials in order to spare ourselves the trouble of defending our property, would the miner have had the right to go to the border to forbid me an advantageous exchange, under the pretext that it was better for him that this transaction should not take place? Certainly not. If he had made such an unjust attempt, we should have come to blows on the spot, he impelled by his unjust claim and I strong in my right to legitimate self-defense. We have designated and paid a public official precisely to avoid such conflicts. How, then, does it happen that I find the miner and the public official agreed to restrict my freedom and my industry, to narrow the scope in which my productive capacities can be exercised? If the public official had sided with me, I should understand his right to do so; it would derive from my own, for legitimate self-defense is indeed a right. But whence does he derive the right to aid the miner in his injustice? I learn, then, that the public official has changed his role. He is no longer a simple mortal, invested with rights delegated to him by other men, who, consequently, possess them. No, he is a being superior to the rest of mankind, deriving his rights from himself; and among these rights, he arrogates that of equalizing profits, of keeping all stations of life and strata of society at an even level. “Very well,” I say. “In that case, I am going to overwhelm him with claims and requests, so long as I see a man richer than I anywhere in the land.”
“He will not listen to you,” is the reply; “for if he did, he would be a communist; and he takes good care not to forget that his function is to protect property, not to distribute property equally.”
What a disordered and confused policy! Yet what else could you possibly expect to result from disordered and confused ideas? You will get nowhere in your struggle against communism; as long as you are partial to it, pamper it, cherish it in that part of the law which it has invaded, your efforts will be in vain. It is a serpent that, with your approval, by your own solicitude for it, has slid its head into our laws and customs, and now you are indignant that the tail has appeared in its turn.
It is possible, sir, that you may grant me one concession. You will perhaps say to me: “The protectionist system is founded on the principle of communism. It is contrary to justice, to property rights, to liberty. It diverts the government from its proper path and invests it with arbitrary prerogatives that have no rational basis. All this is only too true. But the protectionist system is useful; without it, the country, succumbing to foreign competition, would be ruined.”
This would lead us to examine restrictions on imports from the economic point of view. Setting aside all considerations of justice, of morality, of equity, of property rights, of freedom, we should have to resolve the question of pure utility, the mercenary question, so to speak, and, as you know, that is not my subject here. Besides, take care lest, in relying on utility to justify your disdain for morality, you seem to be saying: “Communism, or plunder, condemned by justice, can nonetheless be accepted as an expedient.” Surely you will agree that such an avowal is full of danger.
Without my seeking to resolve the economic problem here, permit me one assertion. I affirm that I have made an arithmetical reckoning of the advantages and disadvantages of protectionism solely from the economic point of view, apart from every consideration of a higher order. I affirm, besides, that I have reached the conclusion that every restrictive measure produces one advantage and two disadvantages, or, if you will, one gain and two losses, each of these losses equal to the gain; whence there results a clear, net loss, which serves to confirm in a reassuring way the fact that in this, as in many other things, and I dare say in all, utility and justice are in accord.
This is only an assertion, it is true; but it can be supported by mathematical proofs.
What misleads public opinion on this point is that the gain from protectionist measures is visible to the naked eye, while of the two equal losses that it entails, one is infinitely divided among all the citizens, and the other appears only to the inquiring eye of the mind.
Without pretending to demonstrate this point here, let me indicate its basis.
Two products, A and B, have in France a normal value of 50 and 40. Let us postulate that A is worth only 40 in Belgium. On this hypothesis, if France adopts the protectionist system, it will get possession of A and B by diverting from the whole of its efforts a quantity equal to 90, for it will be forced to produce A directly. Under a system of free trade, this sum of efforts, equal to 90, will suffice for: (1) the production of B, which it will deliver to Belgium in exchange for A; (2) the production of another B for itself; (3) the production of C.
It is this portion of available labor applied to the production of C in the second case, that is, creating new wealth equal to 10, without thereby depriving France of either A or B, that causes all the difficulty. In place of A, put iron; in place of B, wine, silk, Parisian products; in place of C, any form of wealth that is lacking—you will always find that protectionist policies impair the national welfare.6
Would you like us to have done with all this tedious algebra? I certainly want to. You will not deny that if the protectionist system has succeeded in doing some good to the coal industry, it has done so only by raising the price of coal, nor will you deny that this increase in price, from 1822 to the present, has resulted in a greater expenditure, for each unit of heat produced, on the part of all those who use this fuel—in other words, that it represents a loss. Can it be said that the producers of coal have received, as a result of these restrictive measures, an extra benefit equivalent to this loss, beyond the interest on their capital and the ordinary profits of industry? This would have to be the case for protection, without ceasing to be unjust, odious, spoliative, and communistic, to be at least neutral from the purely economic point of view, for it to deserve to be likened simply to common plunder, which reallocates wealth without destroying it. But you yourself assert on page 236 “that the mines of Aveyron, Alais, Saint-Étienne, Creusot, and Anzin, the most famous of all, have not produced an income of four per cent on the capital invested"! For capital in France to yield four per cent, there is no need of protection. Where, then, is there the profit to offset the loss here indicated?
Nor is this all. There is another national loss involved. Since all the consumers of coal have suffered a loss as a result of the relative increase in the price of fuel, they have had to restrict their other consumption proportionately, and the whole of our national industry has necessarily been discouraged to that extent. It is this loss that is never taken into account, because it does not attract any attention.
Allow me again to make a point that I am surprised should not have been more widely observed, namely, that the protection of agricultural products shows itself in all its odious iniquity in the effect it has on the so-called proletarians, while ultimately harming the landed proprietors themselves.
Let us imagine an island in the South Seas on which the land has become the private property of a certain number of the inhabitants.
Imagine in this limited and already appropriated area a proletarian population always increasing or tending to increase.7
The members of this latter class will not be able to produce directly the indispensable necessities of life. They will have to sell their labor to men who are in a position to supply them, in exchange, with food and even with raw materials—cereals, fruits, vegetables, meat, wool, flax, leather, wood, etc.
It is obviously in the interest of the proletarians that the market where these things are sold should be as extensive as possible. The greater the abundance of these agricultural products available, the more the workers will receive for each given quantity of their own labor.
Under a system of free trade, a great number of boats will go in search of food and raw materials on the neighboring islands and continents, bringing them manufactured products in exchange. The landowners will enjoy all the prosperity to which they are entitled; a just balance will be maintained between the value of industrial labor and that of agricultural labor.
But in this situation the landowners of the island reckon thus: “If we prevent the proletarians from working for foreigners and from receiving provisions and raw materials from them in exchange, the workers will be forced to apply to us. As their number constantly increases, and as the competition among them becomes ever keener, they will clamor for that part of the food and materials which we have left to sell after we have taken what we need for ourselves, and we cannot fail to sell our products at a very high price. In other words, the balance between the relative value of their labor and of ours would be destroyed. They would devote a greater number of hours of labor to our satisfactions. Let us, then, make a law prohibiting this commerce, which is so obnoxious to us; and for the execution of that law let us create a body of public officials for whose remuneration the proletarians will pay taxes along with us.”
I ask you, would this not be the height of oppression, a flagrant violation of the most precious of all freedoms, of the first and most sacred of all property rights?
However, observe that it would perhaps not be difficult for the landowners to induce the workers to accept this law as beneficial by telling them:
“We have not done this for ourselves, but for you. We are little concerned with our own interests; we think only of yours. Thanks to this wise measure, agriculture is going to prosper; we landowners will become rich, which will put us in a position to give you much more work and to pay you good wages. Without this measure we should be reduced to poverty, and what would become of you? The island would be inundated with provisions and materials coming from abroad. Your boats would always be at sea. What a national calamity! You would, it is true, live in the midst of abundance, but would you share in it? Do not say that your wages would be maintained at their present height or raised because the foreigners would do nothing but increase the number of those bidding for your labor. Who assures you that it will not strike their fancy to give you their products for nothing? In that case, having no more labor or wages, you will perish from inanition in the midst of plenty. Believe us; accept our law with gratitude. Increase and multiply; whatever provisions remain on the island over and above those we ourselves consume will be given to you for your labor, which by this means will always be assured to you. Above all, avoid succumbing to the belief that what is at issue here is a dispute between you and us, in which your freedom and property are at stake. Do not ever listen to those who tell you that. Be assured that the dispute is between you and the foreigner, that barbarous foreigner—God curse him!—who obviously wants to exploit you by making you perfidious offers, which you are free to accept or to reject.”
It is not unlikely that such a discourse, agreeably seasoned with sophisms on legal tender, the balance of trade, our national industry, agriculture as the nurturer of the state, the prospect of a war, etc., etc., would obtain the greatest success and would induce the oppressed themselves, if they were consulted, to sanction the oppressive decrees. This has happened before and will happen again.
But the preconceptions of the landowners and of the proletarians do not change the nature of things. The result will be a poverty-stricken population, famished, ignorant, perverted, cut down by malnutrition, illness, and vice. The further result will be the sad destruction of the ideas of morality, property, freedom, and the true prerogatives of the state.
And what I would like very much to be able to demonstrate here is that the punishment will very soon redound upon the landowners themselves, who will have prepared their own ruin by the ruination of the consuming public; because the people of this island, as their circumstances became increasingly straitened, will be reduced to consuming food of the lowest quality. Here they will live on chestnuts, there on corn, elsewhere on millet, buckwheat, oats, or potatoes. They will no longer know what wheat or meat tastes like. The landowners will be quite dismayed to see agriculture decline. In vain will they bestir themselves, form committees, and repeat eternally the well-known adage: “Let us raise forage; with forage one can have animals; with animals, manure; with manure, wheat.” In vain will they create new taxes to distribute subsidies to the producers of clover and alfalfa. They will always come to grief on this obstacle: a poverty-stricken population unable to pay for meat and, consequently, unable to give the first impetus to this familiar cycle. They will come to learn in the end, at their own expense, that it is better to endure competition for rich customers than to be invested with a monopoly over impoverished customers.
That is why I say: Not only is protection communism, but it is communism of the worst kind. It begins by putting the skills and the labor of the poor, their sole property, at the disposition of the rich; it involves a clear net loss for the entire population and ends by involving the rich themselves in the common ruin. It invests the state with the peculiar right to take from those who have little in order to give to those who have much; and when, invoking the same principle, the disinherited of the world call upon the state to bring about a more equitable distribution by an act of intervention in the opposite direction, I really do not know what reply can be made to them. In any case, the first reply, and the best, would be to renounce oppression.
But I am anxious to have done with these calculations. After all, what is the issue on which the debate turns? What do we say, and what do you say? There is one point, and it is the main point, on which we agree: it is that the intervention of the legislator to distribute property equally by taking from some what he bestows on others, is communism, which means the end of all labor, of all thrift, of all well-being, of all justice, of all society.
You, for your part, perceive that this harmful doctrine has found its way into newspapers and books of all kinds—in a word, into the domain of pure thought—and there you attack it vigorously.
I, for my part, believe that I have discovered that it had previously penetrated, with your assent and assistance, into our laws and into the domain of policy and action, and it is there that I seek to combat it.
Next, I would have you note the inconsistency into which you would fall if, while opposing communism in theory, you were to spare—and even encourage—communism in practice.
If you reply to me: “I act thus because the kind of communism brought about by means of tariffs, although opposed to freedom, property rights, and justice, is nonetheless in accord with general utility, and this consideration makes me disregard all the others,” do you not feel that you undermine in advance the whole success of your book, that you nullify its message, that you deprive it of its force and side with the communists of all shades, at least in regard to the philosophical and ethical part of the question?
And then, sir, could a mind as enlightened as yours admit the hypothesis of a radical antagonism between the useful and the just? Do you wish me to speak frankly? Rather than risk so subversive, so impious an assertion, I should say: “This is a special question in which, at first glance, it seems to me that utility and justice are in conflict. I am glad that all those who have spent their lives in examining this question judge otherwise. Undoubtedly, I have not studied it enough.” I have not studied it enough! Is this, then, so painful an admission that, in order not to make it, one is prepared to be so far inconsistent as to deny the wisdom of the providential laws that preside over the development of society? For what more arrant denial of divine wisdom can there be than to declare justice and utility to be essentially incompatible? It has always seemed to me that the cruelest agony with which an intelligent and conscientious person can be afflicted is to go astray at this point. What side to take, indeed, how to make up one's mind in the face of such an alternative? Shall one decide in favor of utility? This is what men who call themselves practical are disposed to do. But unless they are unable to see the connection between one idea and another, they will undoubtedly be frightened at the consequences of systematized plunder and iniquity. Shall one decide to embrace the cause of justice resolutely, whatever the cost, saying: “I will do what is right, come what may"? This is what upright men are inclined to do. But who would want to take the responsibility of plunging his country and the whole of mankind into misery, desolation, and death? I defy anyone, if he is convinced of this antagonism, to make a decision one way or the other.
I am mistaken. The decision will be made, and the human heart is so constituted that self-interest will be put before conscience. This is what the facts demonstrate, since wherever the protectionist system was believed to be favorable to the welfare of the people, it was adopted, in spite of all considerations of justice; but then the inevitable consequences occurred. Respect for property was destroyed. People said, as did M. Billault: Since property rights have been violated by protectionist measures, why should they not be violated as well by the right to employment? Others, following M. Billault, will take a third step, and still others, following these, a fourth, until communism has triumphed completely.8
Good, sound thinkers, like you, are horrified by the swiftness of this descent. They try to climb back up; they do indeed climb back, as you have done in your book, as far as the protectionist system, which is the first step and the only step taken by society down the fatal slope. But if, when confronted with this living denial of the right to property, in place of the maxim stated in your book: “Either rights exist, or they do not exist. If they exist, they involve absolute consequences,” you substitute this one: “Here is a special case in which the national welfare requires the sacrifice of a right,” at that moment all the strength and logic that you have tried to put into this work becomes only weakness and inconsistency.
That is why, sir, if you want to complete your work, you must declare your position in regard to the protectionist system, and to do so it is indispensable to begin by solving the economic problem. You must concentrate on the alleged utility of that system. For, even supposing that I obtain from you a judgment of condemnation on it from the point of view of justice, that would not suffice to kill it. I repeat, men are so constituted that, when they think they have to choose between a concrete good and abstract justice, the cause of justice runs a great danger. If you want palpable proof of this, consider what happened to me.
When I came to Paris, I found myself confronted with schools of thought that call themselves democratic and socialist, and that, as you know, make great use of the words “principle,” “altruism,” “self-sacrifice,” “fraternity,” “equity,” and “harmony.” They treat wealth with haughty disdain, as something, if not despicable, at least secondary; so much so that, because we hold it of great account, we are treated as cold economists, egoists, individualists, bourgeois, heartless men, grateful to God only for base self-interest.9 “Good!” I said to myself; “here are men of noble heart, with whom I do not need to discuss the economic point of view, which is very subtle and requires more application than Parisian political theorists are generally able to give to a study of this kind. But, with these people, the question of self-interest could not be an obstacle; either they believe it, through faith in the divine wisdom, to be in harmony with justice, or they will sacrifice it gladly, for they are anxious to be self-sacrificing. If, then, they once grant me that free trade is an abstract right, they will enroll resolutely under its standard. Accordingly, I shall address my appeal to them.” Do you know what answer they gave me? Here it is:
“Your free trade is a beautiful utopia. It is founded on morality and justice; it establishes liberty; it consecrates property; it would result in international harmony, in peace and fraternity among men. You are right, a thousand times right, in principle, but we shall fight implacably and by all means against you, because foreign competition would be fatal to the industry of the nation.”
I took the liberty of replying to them thus:
“I deny that foreign competition would be fatal to the industry of the nation. In any case, if it were so, you would have to choose between self-interest, which, according to you, is on the side of a policy of protectionism, and justice, which, as you admit, is on the side of freedom! Now, when I, the worshipper of the golden calf, leave the choice to you, how is it that you, who profess to be self-denying, trample principles underfoot in order to hold fast to self-interest? Do not declaim, then, so much against a motive which governs you just as much as it governs ordinary mortals.”
This experience taught me that first of all we must solve this awesome problem: Is there harmony or antagonism between justice and utility?—and, consequently, we must investigate the economic aspect of the protectionist system. For, since the apostles of brotherhood themselves waver when faced with a possible loss of money, it is clear that it is not enough to safeguard the cause of universal justice; we must also satisfy that unworthy, lowly, despicable and despised, but all-powerful motive, self-interest.
This was what occasioned a little dissertation in two volumes which I take the liberty of sending to you with the present letter,10 thoroughly convinced, sir, that if, as the economists do, you judge the protectionist system adversely as far as its morality is concerned, and if we differ only in so far as its utility is concerned, you will not refuse to inquire carefully whether these two great elements of the definitive solution are mutually incompatible or are in harmony.
That harmony exists, or at least it is as evident to me as the light of day. May it be revealed to you as well! Then, applying your eminently persuasive talents to the struggle against communism in its most dangerous manifestation, you will inflict a mortal blow upon it.
Look at what is happening in England. It would seeem that, if communism ought to have found any place in the world favorable to it, that place should have been the soil of Great Britain. Feudal institutions there, placing extreme poverty and extreme luxury side by side, should have rendered men's minds susceptible to infection by false doctrines. And yet, what do we see? While they throw the Continent into turmoil, such doctrines have not even caused a ripple on the surface of English society. Chartism has not been able to take root there. Do you know why? Because the organization that for ten years has been discussing the protectionist system has succeeded in throwing a clear light on the right to property and on the rational functions of the state.11
Undoubtedly, if to unmask protectionism is to injure communism, for the same reason and because of their close connection, both of them can also be struck down by following, as you have done, the opposite procedure. Protectionism could not very long resist a good definition of the right to property. And so, if anything has surprised and gladdened me, it is to see the association for the defense of monopolies devoting its resources to distributing your book. It is a most piquant spectacle, and it consoles me for the futility of my past efforts. This resolution of the Mimerel Committee will undoubtedly oblige you to publish many editions of your work. In that case, permit me to observe that, good as it is, it involves a serious omission. In the name of science, in the name of truth, in the name of the public welfare, I adjure you to supply the deficiency and urge you to reply to these two questions:
1. Is there an incompatibility in principle between the protectionist system and the right to property?
2. Is it the function of government to guarantee to each person the right to use his productive capacities and to dispose of the fruits of his labor as he pleases, that is, the right to property, or rather to take from some to give to others, so as to equalize profits, opportunities, and the standard of living?
Ah, sir, if you were to arrive at the same conclusions as I; if, thanks to your talent, to your fame, to your influence, you were to make these conclusions prevail in public opinion; who can calculate the extent of the service that you would render to French society? We should see the state restricted to its proper role, which is to guarantee to each person the right to use his productive capacities and to dispose of his property as he pleases. We should see it relieved both of its colossal illegitimate prerogatives and of the frightful responsibility that goes with them. It would confine itself to repressing the abuses of liberty, that is, to establishing liberty itself. It would assure justice to all and would no longer promise success to anyone. Citizens would learn to distinguish between what it is reasonable and what it is childish to ask of it. They would no longer overwhelm it with claims and demands; they would no longer blame it for their misfortunes; they would no longer base chimerical hopes upon it; and, in the ardent pursuit of a good of which the state is not the bestower, we should not see them at each disappointment accusing the legislator and the law, replacing men and changing the forms of government, piling institutions on institutions and debris on debris. We should see the abatement of the universal fever for reciprocal plunder through the costly and dangerous intervention of the state. The government, limited in its function and its responsibility, simple in its action, inexpensive, not making the costs of their own chains weigh down upon the governed, supported by the good sense of the public, would have a solidity that it has never had in our country, and we should have finally solved the great problem of ending forever the threat of revolution.
Plunder and Law1
To the Protectionists of the General Council of Manufacturers:
Sirs: Let us have a little talk in a spirit of moderation and friendliness.
You do not want political economists to believe in and to teach free trade.
It is as if you were to say: “We do not want political economists to be concerned with society, trade, value, morality, law, justice, or property. We recognize only two principles: oppression and plunder.”
Is it possible for you to conceive of political economy without society, of society without exchange, of exchange without some relation between the two objects or the two services exchanged in regard to the value placed upon them? Is it possible for you to conceive of this relation, called value, otherwise than as the result of the free consent of those who are parties to the exchange? Is it possible for you to conceive how one product can be worth another if one of the parties to the transaction is not free? Is it possible for you to conceive of the free consent of the two parties in the absence of freedom? Is it possible for you to conceive of one of the parties as deprived of freedom without being oppressed by the other? Is it possible for you to conceive of exchange between oppressor and oppressed without the equivalence of services being impaired, and hence without violating law, justice, and property rights?
But what do you want? Speak frankly.
You do not want exchange to be free!
Then you want it not to be free?
So you want it to take place under the influence of oppression? For if it does not take place under the influence of oppression, it will take place in freedom, and that is what you do not want.
Admit that what embarrasses you is equity, i.e., justice; what embarrasses you is property—not yours, of course, but that of others. You are unwilling to allow others to dispose freely of their property (which is the only way of being a property owner); but you want to dispose of yours—and of theirs.
And then you require the economists to arrange this mass of absurdities and monstrosities into a systematic doctrine; to construct, for your use, the theory of plunder.
But that is what they will never do; for in their eyes plunder is a source of hatred and disorder, and an especially odious form of it is the legal form.2
Here, M. Benoît d”Azy,* I must take you to task. You are a moderate, impartial, generous man. You are not preoccupied with your own interests or your own fortune; that is what you incessantly proclaim. Recently, at the General Council, you said: “If all that were needed to make the people rich were for the rich to give up their possessions, we should all be ready to do so.” (Yes, yes! It's true!) And yesterday, in the National Assembly, you said: “If I thought it depended only on me to give all the workers the jobs that they need, I should give all I possess to accomplish this; .... unfortunately, it's impossible.”
Although the futility of the sacrifice gives you the great pain of not making it and of saying, like Basile, “Money! Money! I despise it—but I hold on to it,”† certainly no one could doubt a generosity so resounding, although so sterile. This is a virtue that likes to cover itself with a veil of modesty, especially when it is purely latent and negative. You do not, for your part, lose any opportunity to display it before the whole of France on the rostrum, at the Luxembourg, and at the Legislative Palace. This shows that you cannot restrain your generous impulses, although you do regretfully repress their practical application.
But, after all, nobody asks you to give up your fortune, and I agree that it would not solve the social question.
You would like to be generous and you cannot be so effectively; what I venture to ask of you is that you be just. Keep your fortune, but let me keep mine. Respect my property as I respect yours. Is this too bold a request on my part?
Suppose that we were in a country where freedom of exchange prevailed, where everyone could freely dispose of his labor and his property. Your hair stands on end? Don't worry; it's only a hypothetical case.
We are, then, each of us equally free. There is, indeed, one law in the legislative code, but that law, fully impartial and just, far from impairing your freedom, guarantees it. It goes into effect only when we try to practice oppression, you against me or I against you. There is a body of public officials empowered to use force—magistrates and policemen—but they only execute the law.
This being the case, let us assume that you are an ironmaster and I am a hatter. I need iron for my personal use or for my shop. Naturally, I ask myself this question: “How can I procure the iron that I need with the least possible amount of work?” In considering my situation and the available data, I discover that it is best for me to make my hats and sell them to a Belgian, who will give me iron in return.
But you are an ironmaster, and you say to yourself: “I can certainly force that rascal [it's of me you're speaking] to come to my shop.”
Consequently, you fill your belt with sabers and pistols, you arm your numerous servants, you appear on the border, and there, at the moment when I am about to make my exchange, you cry out to me: “Stop, or I'll blow your brains out!”
“But, sir, I need iron.”
“I have some to sell.”
“But, sir, your price is too high.”
“I have my reasons for that.”
“But, sir, I also have my reasons to prefer iron at a low price.”
“Oh, well, here is what will decide between your reasons and mine. Men, take aim!”
In short, you prevent the Belgian iron from coming in, and, at the same time, you prevent my hats from going out.
On our present hypothesis, that is, under a system of free exchange, you cannot deny that this is on your part a flagrant act of oppression and plunder.
So I hasten to invoke the law, the magistrate, the public police force. They intervene; you are judged, condemned, and justly punished.
But all this suggests to you a brilliant idea.
You say to yourself: “I was indeed a fool to put myself to so much trouble. What! To risk killing or being killed! To have to leave my home, mobilize my servants, incur great expense, give myself the character of a plunderer, deserve to be punished by the courts of the country, and all this to force a wretched hatter to come to my shop to buy iron at my price! Suppose I were to put the law, the magistrate, and the police force on my side! Suppose I were to have them perform that odious act on the frontier which I went to do myself!”
Excited by this seductive prospect, you have yourself named a legislator, and you vote for a law set forth in these terms:
Article 1. A tax shall be levied on everyone, and especially on that damned hatter.
Article 2. The men who guard the frontier in the interest of the ironmasters shall be paid with the revenue from this tax.
Article 3. They shall see to it that no one exchanges hats or other merchandise with the Belgians for iron.
Article 4. The cabinet ministers, state prosecutors, customs officials, tax collectors, and jailers are charged, each in his own capacity, with the execution of the present law.
I acknowledge, sir, that in this form plunder would be infinitely easier, more profitable, and less dangerous than in the form in which you at first thought of it.
I acknowledge that this would be a most agreeable course for you to follow. Certainly you could laugh in triumph, for you would have shifted all the expense onto my shoulders.
But I assert that you would have introduced into society a source of ruination, immorality, disorder, hatred, and perpetual revolutions; that you would have opened the door to experiments of all kinds with socialism and communism.
No doubt you find my hypothesis too bold. All right, turn it against me. I agree to it for the sake of the argument.
Let us assume now that I am a worker; you are still an ironmaster.
It would be advantageous for me to get my tools cheaply, and even for nothing. Now, I know that there are axes and saws in your warehouse. Hence, without further ado, I break into your place and pick up everything I can use.
But you, availing yourself of the right to legitimate self-defense, first use force against force; then, calling to your aid the law, the magistrate, and the police, you have me thrown into jail—and you do rightly.
“Oh,” I say to myself, “I have been clumsy in all this. When you want to appropriate other people's property, you must act, not in spite, but in virtue, of the law, if you are not an idiot.” Consequently, as you became a protectionist, I become a socialist. As you arrogated to yourself the right to profit, I invoke the right to employment or to the tools of production.
Besides, while in prison I have read my Louis Blanc, and I know this doctrine by heart: “What the proletarians lack in order to emancipate themselves are the tools of production; it is the function of the government to furnish them to the workers.” And again:
Once it is admitted that, to be truly free, man must have the power to use and develop his productive capacities, it follows that society owes each of its members both education, without which the human mind cannot develop, and the tools of production, without which industry cannot be carried on. Now, by whose intervention will society give to each of its members suitable instruction and the necessary tools of production, if not by the intervention of the state?3
Hence, I too, since this requires revolutionary changes in my country, force my way into the legislative chamber. I pervert the law and make it perform, for my profit and at your expense, the same act for which it had punished me up to now.
My decree is modeled on yours.
Article 1. A tax shall be levied on all citizens, and especially on ironmasters.
Article 2. With the revenue from this tax the state shall pay an armed body of men that will take the title of fraternal police.
Article 3. The fraternal police shall enter the warehouses where axes, saws, etc., are stored, appropriate these tools, and distribute them to the workers who want them.
Thanks to this ingenious device, you see, sir, that I shall no longer incur the risks, the expense, the odium, or the guilt of plunder. The state will steal for me as it does for you. Both of us will play that game.
It remains to be seen what would happen to French society if the second of my hypothetical cases were to be made an accomplished fact, or at least what has already happened to it now that the first has been almost completely realized.
I do not want to treat here the economic aspect of the question. People believe that, when we demand free trade, we are motivated exclusively by the desire to allow labor and capital to take the direction most advantageous to them. Public opinion is mistaken on this point; this is merely a secondary consideration with us. What grieves us, afflicts us, horrifies us in the protectionist system is that it is the negation of law, justice, and property rights; that it turns the law, which should guarantee justice and the right to property, against them; that it both subverts and perverts the conditions under which society exists. And it is to this aspect of the question that I direct your most serious consideration.
What, then, is the law, or at least what should it be? What is its rational and moral function? Is it not precisely to maintain an exact balance among all rights, all freedoms, all forms of property? Is it not to make justice prevail among them all? Is it not to prevent and repress oppression and plunder, from whatever quarter they may come?
And are you not appalled by the immense, radical, and deplorable innovation which will be introduced into the world on the day when the law itself is authorized to commit the very crime that it is its function to punish—on the day when it is turned, in theory and in practice, against liberty and property?
You deplore the symptoms that modern society exhibits; you shudder at the disorder that prevails in institutions and ideas. But is it not your principle that has perverted everything, both ideas and institutions?
The law is no longer the refuge of the oppressed, but the arm of the oppressor! The law is no longer a shield, but a sword! The law no longer holds a balance in its august hands, but false weights and false keys! And you want society to be well ordered!
Your principle has placed these words above the entrance of the legislative chamber: “Whosoever acquires any influence here can obtain his share of legal plunder.”
And what has been the result? All classes have flung themselves upon the doors of the chamber, crying: “A share of the plunder for me, for me!”
After the February Revolution, when universal suffrage was proclaimed, I hoped for a moment that its great voice would be heard saying: “No more plunder for anyone. Justice for everyone.” For this is the true solution of the social problem. But that is not the way things happened; protectionist propaganda for centuries had too deeply corrupted men's feelings and ideas.
No; invoking your principle, every class came bursting into the National Assembly to make of the law an instrument of plunder. People demanded a progressive income tax, interest-free credit, the right to employment, the right to relief, guaranteed interest, a minimum wage, education free of charge, capital advances to industry, etc., etc. In short, everyone wanted to live and to develop at the expense of others.
And by what authority did they make these demands? On the basis of the precedent you set. What sophisms did they make use of? Those that you have been propagating for centuries. Like you, they spoke of equalizing the conditions of labor. Like you, they protested against anarchistic competition. Like you, they scoffed at laissez faire, that is, at freedom. Like you, they said that the law should not confine itself to being just, but that it should come to the aid of industries on the verge of failure, protect the weak against the strong, assure profits to individuals at the expense of the community, etc., etc. In short, socialism came in and developed, to use the expression of M. Charles Dupin, the theory of plunder. It did what you do, and what you want the professors of political economy to join with you in doing on your behalf.
It is in vain that you protectionists have been so astute, that you have softened your tone, boasted of your latent generosity, and bested your adversaries with emotional appeals; you still will not prevent logic from being logic.
You will not prevent M. Billault from saying to the legislator: “You grant favors to some; you must grant them to all.”
You will not prevent M. Crémieux* from saying to the legislator: “You enrich the manufacturers; you must enrich the proletariat.”
You will not prevent M. Nadaud† from saying to the legislator: “You cannot refuse to do for the suffering classes what you have done for the privileged classes.”
You cannot even prevent your leader, M. Mimerel, from saying to the legislator: “I demand a 25,000 franc subsidy for the workers' retirement fund,” and from defending his motion in these terms:
Is this the first law of this nature that our legislature has passed? Is it your doctrine that the state may encourage everything, defray the expenses of a scientific education, subsidize the fine arts, support the theatre, give to classes already favored by fortune higher education, the most varied forms of recreation, the enjoyment of the arts, security in old age—all this to those who do not know what it means to suffer privation—and make those who have nothing pay their share for the benefits they do not receive, while you refuse them everything, even the necessities of life?
.... Gentlemen, our French society, our customs, our laws are so constituted that the intervention of the state, regrettable as we may consider it, is encountered everywhere, so that nothing appears stable, nothing appears permanent, unless the state has a hand in it. It is the state that makes Sèvres porcelains and Gobelin tapestries; it is the state that exhibits periodically and at its expense the products of our artists and our manufacturers; it is the state that compensates those who raise our livestock and those who breed our fish. All this costs a great deal; still another tax that everyone pays—everyone, you understand. And what direct good do the people get from it? What direct good do your porcelains, your tapestries, your exhibitions do them? I can well appreciate your desire to resist, as a matter of principle, what you call a state of overenthusiasm, although only yesterday you voted a subsidy for linen; I can appreciate it, but only if you consult the spirit of the times, and if, above all, you give evidence of your impartiality. If it is true that, by all the means I have just indicated, the state has appeared up to now to favor more directly the needs of the well-to-do classes than of those less well favored, this appearance of favoritism must be brought to an end. Will this be done by our ceasing to manufacture Gobelin tapestries and by prohibiting our expositions? Certainly not, but by giving a direct share to the poor in this distribution of benefits.4
In this long enumeration of the favors accorded to a few at the expense of all, one notes the extreme discretion displayed by M. Mimerel in glossing over the cases of tariff favoritism, although they are the most evident manifestation of legal plunder. All the orators who supported or opposed him showed the same reserve. This is very astute! Perhaps they hope, by giving a direct share to the poor in this distribution of benefits, to preserve the great iniquity by which they profit, but of which they do not speak.
They delude themselves. Do they think that after they have committed partial plunder by the device of customs barriers, other classes will not try to commit universal plunder by other devices?
I know, indeed, that you always have a sophism ready. You say:
The favors that the law grants us are not for the benefit of the industrialist, but of industry. The commodities which it permits us to withdraw from the general market at the expense of the consumers are only deposits in our hands.
They enrich us, it is true; but our wealth, since it places us in a position to spend ever more, to expand our operations, returns, like a refreshing dew, to the working class.5
Such is your language; and what I deplore is that your wretched sophistries have so perverted the public mind that they are relied upon today to justify all the processes of legal plunder. The suffering classes also say: “Let us take the possessions of others by way of legislation. We shall have more of the comforts and conveniences of life; we shall buy more wheat, more meat, more cloth, more iron, and what we shall receive by way of taxation will return, like a beneficial rain, to the capitalists and landowners.”
But, as I have already said, I am not discussing today the economic consequences of legal plunder. When the protectionists wish it, they will find me ready to examine the sophism of chain reactions,6 which, besides, can be used to justify all types of thefts and frauds.
Let us confine ourselves to the political and moral effects of exchange deprived of freedom by legal enactment.
I say, the time has come to know definitively what the law is, and what it ought to be.
If you make of the law the palladium of the freedom and the property rights of all citizens, and if it is nothing but the organization of their individual rights to legitimate self-defense, you will establish on a just foundation a rational, simple, economical government, understood by all, loved by all, useful to all, supported by all, entrusted with a perfectly definite and very limited responsibility, and endowed with an unshakable solidity.
If, on the contrary, you make of the law an instrument of plunder for the benefit of particular individuals or classes, first everyone will try to make the law; then everyone will try to make it for his own profit. There will be tumult at the door of the legislative chamber; there will be an implacable struggle within it, intellectual confusion, the end of all morality, violence among the proponents of special interests, fierce electoral struggles, accusations, recriminations, jealousies, and inextinguishable hatreds; the public police force will be put at the service of unjust rapacity instead of restraining it; the distinction between the true and the false will be effaced from all minds, as the distinction between the just and the unjust will be effaced from all consciences; government will be held responsible for everyone's existence and will bend under the weight of such a responsibility; there will be political convulsions, fruitless revolutions, and ruins upon which all the forms of socialism and communism will be tried out. Such are the plagues that the perversion of the law cannot fail to let loose.
Such, consequently, are the calamities to which you protectionists have opened the door in making use of the law to suppress freedom of trade, that is, to suppress the right to property. Do not declaim against socialism; you are helping to build it. Do not declaim against communism; you are helping to build it. And now you ask us economists to make you a theory that will take your side and justify you! No, thank you! Do it yourselves!7
Academic Degrees and Socialism
I have submitted to the Assembly an amendment that has as its object the abolition of university degrees.* My health does not permit me to present it orally on the rostrum. Allow me to have recourse to a written communication.1
The question is an extremely serious one. However imperfect the law that has been drafted by your commission may be, I believe that it would mark a distinct advance over the present state of public education if it were amended as I propose.
The university system of academic degrees has the threefold inconvenience of making education uniform (uniformity is not unity), of imposing upon it the most disastrous administration, and then of making it inflexible.
If there is anything in the world that is progressive by nature, it is education. What is education, in fact, if not the transmission from generation to generation of the knowledge acquired by society, that is, of a treasure that is refined and increased every day?
How does it happen that education in France has remained uniform and stationary since the darkness of the Middle Ages? Because it has been monopolized and enclosed in an enchanted circle by university degrees.
There was a time when, in order to acquire any knowledge whatsoever, it was as necessary to learn Latin and Greek as it was indispensable to the Basques and the Bas-Bretons to begin by learning French. Living languages were not fixed; printing had not been invented; the human mind had not applied itself to penetrating the secrets of Nature. To be educated was to know what Epicurus and Aristotle had thought. People of the upper classes boasted of not being able to read. The only class that possessed and transmitted knowledge was the clergy. What, then, could that knowledge be? Evidently it had to be limited to the knowledge of dead languages, and principally of Latin. There were only Latin books; writing was done only in Latin; Latin was the language of religion; the clergy could teach only what they had learned—Latin.
Hence, it is understandable that in the Middle Ages education was confined to the study of the dead languages, quite improperly called the learned languages.
Is it natural, is it good, that the same should be true in the nineteenth century? Is Latin a necessary means for the acquisition of knowledge? Can religion, physics, chemistry, astronomy, physiology, history, law, ethics, industrial technology, or social science be learned from the writings left to us by the Romans?
Knowing a language, like knowing how to read, means having possession of an instrument. And is it not strange that we should spend our whole youth in making ourselves masters of an instrument that is good for nothing—or not good for much, since nothing is more urgent when one begins to know it than to forget it? Alas, if one could only forget as quickly the impressions that this wretched study has left!
What should we say if at Saint-Cyr,* in order to prepare our youth for modern military science, all they were taught was to throw stones with a slingshot?
The law of our country decrees that the most honorable careers are to be closed to whoever does not have a bachelor's* degree. It decrees, further, that in order to earn that degree, one must have so far crammed his head with Latinity that nothing else can enter it. Now, what is the result? As everyone knows, young people have calculated the exact amount strictly necessary to earn the degree, and they rest content with that. You find all this deplorable. Well, do you not understand that this is the protest of the public conscience against the imposition of so much useless effort?
To learn an instrument which, as soon as one knows how to play it, gives out no further sound, is hardly rational. Why has this practice been perpetuated up to now? The explanation is to be found in a single word: monopoly. Monopoly is so constituted that it paralyzes all that it touches.
Hence, I wanted the Assembly to ensure the freedom, that is, the progress, of education. It has now decided that this is not to be. We shall not have complete freedom. Allow me to make an effort to save at least a shred of it.
Freedom may be considered from the point of view of persons and in relation to material things—ratione personae et ratione materiae, as the legal scholars say; for to abolish competition in methods of instruction is no less a violation of freedom than to abolish competition among men.
There are some who say: “Teaching as a career is going to be free, for everyone will be able to enter upon it.” This is a great illusion.
The state—or rather, the party, the faction, the sect, the man, that is in momentary and even quite legal possession of the governmental power—can give to education the desired direction and mold men's minds at will solely by means of the system of academic degrees.
Give a man the power to confer academic degrees and, while leaving anyone free to teach, education will be, in fact, in servitude.
I, the father of a family, and the teacher whom I hire for the education of my son, may both believe that genuine education consists in teaching what things are and what effects they produce, in the physical order as well as in the moral order. We may think that he is the best educated who has the most exact idea of phenomena and best understands the connection between causes and effects. We should like to base education on this assumption. But the state has another idea. It thinks that to be learned is to be able to scan the verses of Plautus and to cite the opinions of Thales and Pythagoras on fire and air.
Now, what does the state do? It says to us: “Teach what you want to your student; but when he is twenty years old, I shall question him concerning the opinions of Thales and Pythagoras; I shall have him scan the verses of Plautus; and if he is not good enough in these matters to prove to me that he has devoted the whole of his youth to them, he will be able to become neither a physician nor a barrister nor a magistrate nor a consul nor a diplomat nor a teacher.”
From that moment I am forced to submit, for I will not take upon myself the responsibility of closing to my son so many fine careers. You may tell me that I am free; but I say that I am not, since you reduce me to making a pedant of my son, at least from my point of view—perhaps a frightful little rhetorician—and unquestionably an unruly rebel.
If only the knowledge required for the bachelor's degree still bore some relation to the needs and the interests of our age! If at least it were merely useless! But it is deplorably harmful. To pervert the human mind—that is the problem which seems to have been posed and which has been solved by those to whom the monopoly of education has been handed over. This is what I am going to try to demonstrate.
Since the beginning of this dispute, the university and the clergy have been firing accusations at each other as if they were bullets.
“You pervert our young people with your philosophic rationalism,” says the clergy.
“You stupefy them with your religious dogmatism,” replies the university.
Conciliators enter, saying: “Religion and philosophy are sisters. Let us combine free inquiry and authority. University, clergy, each of you has had the monopoly in turn; share it, and let this dispute come to an end.”
We have heard the venerable Bishop of Langres* address the university in these terms: “It was you who gave us the socialist generation of 1848.”
And M. Crémieux was not long in retorting to this rebuke in these terms: “It was you who educated the revolutionary generation of 1793.”
If there is truth in these allegations, what must we conclude? That the two systems of education have been harmful, not in what differentiates one from the other, but in what they have in common.
Yes, that is my conviction; these two systems have one point in common: the abuse of classical studies, and it is by this means that both of them have perverted the judgment and the morality of the country. They differ in that the one makes religion the predominant element; the other, philosophy. But each of these elements, far from having caused the harm, as they are accused of doing, has, in fact, mitigated it. We owe it to them that we have not become as barbarous as the barbarians who are constantly held up to us by the Latinists for our imitation.
Permit me a supposition which is perhaps a bit forced, but which will make my thought understood.
Suppose, then, that a nation exists somewhere, at the antipodes, which, hating and despising labor, has based its whole mode of life on the successive pillage and enslavement of all its neighbors. That nation has founded its politics, its morality, its religion, and its public opinion on the brutal principle that maintains and develops it. Since France has given the monopoly of education to the clergy, the latter find nothing better to do than to send all of French youth among this people to live its life, to become inspired with its sentiments and filled with its enthusiasms, and to breathe in its ideas like the air. But care is taken that each student who leaves is provided with a small volume called The Gospels. The generations raised in this way return to the homeland, and a revolution breaks out. I leave it to the reader to imagine the role that they will play in it.
Seeing what has happened, the state takes the monopoly of education away from the clergy and hands it over to the university. Faithful to tradition, the university, too, sends the young to the antipodes, among the plundering, slave-owning people, after having provided each of them with a little volume entitled Philosophy. Five or six generations thus educated have hardly touched their native soil again before a second revolution breaks out. Reared in the same school as their predecessors, they show themselves worthy emulators of them.
Then war breaks out between the monopolists.
“It is your little book that has caused all the evil,” says the clergy.
“It is yours,” replies the university.
No, gentlemen, your little books count for nothing in all this. What has caused the evil is the strange idea, conceived and put into practice by both of you, of sending the youth of France, with the intention of preparing them for labor, peace, and freedom, to drink in, and become imbued and saturated with, the feelings and the opinions of a nation of brigands and slaves.
I say that the subversive doctrines called socialism or communism are the fruit of classical education, whether provided by the clergy or by the university. I add that the bachelor's degree will forcibly impose a classical education even on those schools supposedly free, which should, it is said, come into existence as a result of the law. That is why I ask for the abolition of university degrees.
The study of Latin is much praised as a means of developing the intellect. This is purely a conventional judgment. The Greeks, who did not learn Latin, were not lacking in intelligence, and we do not see that French women are deprived of it any more than they are deprived of common sense. It would be strange that the human mind could not be strengthened without becoming perverted. Will it never be understood that the altogether problematic advantage that is alleged to exist in a classical education, if it exists at all, is very dearly paid for by the terrible consequence of having allowed the soul of France to be penetrated, along with the language of the Romans, by their ideas, their sentiments, their opinions, and a caricature of their manners and customs?
Ever since God pronounced this judgment on men: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread,” earning a living has been for them so great, so absorbing an affair that, depending upon the means that they employ to provide for their existence, there must be great differences in their manners, their opinions, their ethics, and their social customs.
People that live by hunting cannot be like people that live by fishing, nor can a nation of shepherds be like a nation of sailors.
But even these differences are nothing in comparison with those that must characterize two nations of which one lives by labor and the other by theft.
For among hunters, fishermen, shepherds, farmers, merchants, and manufacturers, there is this in common: that all seek the satisfaction of their wants in the action that they exert on things. What they want to subject to their control is Nature.
But those who live by plunder exert their action on other members of their species; what they ardently aspire to dominate are their fellow men.
In order for men to exist, it is necessary to exert upon Nature the action called labor.
The fruits of this action can profit the nation that devotes itself to it, but it is also possible that they may reach, at second hand and by force, another people that has the laboring nation under its control.
I cannot develop this idea fully here; but if one reflects on it, he will be convinced that, between two masses of men placed in conditions so opposed, everything—manners, customs, opinions, social organization, morality, and religion—must so far differ that even the words used to express the most fundamental relations, like the words “family,” “property,” “freedom,” “virtue,” “society,” “government,” “republic,” and “people,” cannot represent the same ideas to both nations.
A nation of warriors understands quite soon that family life can weaken military ardor (we feel it ourselves, since we forbid it to our soldiers). Yet the population cannot be allowed to stop growing. How is the problem to be solved? As Plato did in theory and Lycurgus in practice: by promiscuity. Yet Plato and Lycurgus are names that we are accustomed to pronounce only with idolatry.
As for property, I defy anyone to find in all antiquity a tenable definition of it. Nowadays we say: “Every man owns himself, and consequently his labor, and, accordingly, the product of his labor.” But could the Romans conceive such an idea? As owners of slaves, could they say: “Every man belongs to himself"? Despising labor, could they say: “Every man is the owner of the product of his labor"? This would have been tantamount, in effect, to collective suicide.
On what, then, did antiquity base the right to property? On the law—a disastrous idea, the most disastrous that has ever been introduced into the world, since it justifies the use and abuse of everything that it pleases the law to declare property, even the fruits of theft, even man himself.
In those barbarous times, freedom could be no better understood. What is freedom? It is the sum total of all our freedoms. To be free, on one's own responsibility, to think and to act, to speak and to write, to labor and to exchange, to teach and to learn—this alone is to be free. Can a nation disciplined for endless battle conceive of freedom thus? No, the Romans prostituted this name to a certain boldness in the civil wars that the distribution of the spoils provoked among them. The leaders wanted everything; the people demanded their share. Hence the tumults in the forum, the refuges on Mount Aventine, the agrarian laws, the intervention of the tribunes, and the popularity of conspirators; hence the maxim: Malo periculosam libertatem,* etc., which has passed into our language, and with which I embellished all my textbooks in school:
Admirable examples, sublime precepts, precious seeds to plant in the soul of French youth!
What is to be said of Roman morality? And I am not speaking here of the relations of father and son, of husband and wife, of patron and client, of master and servant, of man and God—relations that slavery, by itself alone, could not fail to transform into a whole network of depravity; I wish to dwell only on what is called the admirable side of the Republic, i.e., patriotism. What was this patriotism? Hatred of foreigners, the destruction of all civilization, the stifling of all progress, the scourging of the world with fire and sword, the chaining of women, children, and old men to triumphal chariots—this was glory, this was virtue. It was to these atrocities that the marble of the sculptors and the songs of the poets were dedicated. How many times have our young hearts not palpitated with admiration, alas, and with emulation at this spectacle! It is thus that our teachers, venerable priests, full of years and of charity, prepared us for the Christian and civilized life. So great is the power of conventional opinion!
The lesson has not been lost; and it is from Rome undoubtedly that this adage comes to us, true in regard to theft, false in regard to labor: one nation's loss is another nation's gain—an adage that still governs the world.
To acquire an idea of Roman morality, imagine in the heart of Paris an organization of men who hate to work, determined to satisfy their wants by deceit and force, and consequently at war with society. Doubtless a certain moral code and even some solid virtues will soon manifest themselves in such an organization. Courage, perseverance, self-control, prudence, discipline, constancy in misfortune, deep secrecy, punctilio, devotion to the community—such undoubtedly will be the virtues that necessity and prevailing opinion would develop among these brigands; such were those of the buccaneers; such were those of the Romans. It may be said that, in regard to the latter, the grandeur of their enterprise and the immensity of their success has thrown so glorious a veil over their crimes as to transform them into virtues. And this is precisely why that school is so pernicious. It is not abject vice, it is vice crowned with splendor, that seduces men's souls.
Finally, in regard to society, the ancient world has bequeathed to the modern world two false ideas that undermine its stability and will do so for a long time to come.
The first is that society is a condition outside of Nature, the result of a contract. This idea was not as erroneous in the past as it is in our day. Rome and Sparta were indeed two associations of men having a common and definite end: pillage; they were not exactly societies, but armies.
The second, a corollary of the preceding idea, is that law creates rights, and that, consequently, the legislator and the rest of mankind are in the same relation to each other as the potter and the clay. Minos, Lycurgus, Solon, and Numa molded the Cretan, Lacedemonian, Athenian, and Roman societies. Plato was the manufacturer of imaginary republics designed to serve as models for future founders of peoples and fathers of nations.
Now, observe that these two ideas constitute the characteristic feature, the distinctive mark, of socialism, taking this word in the unfavorable sense and as the common label of all social utopias.
Whoever, unaware of the fact that the body politic is, like the human body, constituted by virtue of the operation of natural laws, dreams of creating an artificial society and sets about manipulating the family, property, law, and mankind in any way he pleases, is a socialist. He is not studying physiology; he is wielding the sculptor's chisel on his fellow man. He is not making observations; he is inventing. He does not believe in God; he believes in himself. He is not a scientist; he is a tyrant. He does not serve his fellow men; he disposes of them. He does not study their nature; he changes it, following the advice of Rousseau.2 He is inspired by antiquity: he follows in the footsteps of Lycurgus and Plato. In a word, he is, without a doubt, the holder of a bachelor's degree.
“You exaggerate,” I shall be told. “It is not possible that our studious young men acquire such deplorable opinions and sentiments from beautiful antiquity.”
And what else do you expect them to acquire than what is there? Make an effort to recall what state of mind you were in when, on leaving school, you entered the practical world. Did you not burn with the desire to imitate the despoilers of the earth and the agitators of the forum? For my part, when I see present-day society casting young people, by dozens of thousands, into the mold of Brutus and the Gracchi, in order to launch them forth later, incapable of all honest labor (opus servile), into the mob in the street, I am astonished that they withstand this ordeal. For classical education not only has the imprudence to plunge us into Roman life; it plunges us into it while accustoming us to become enthusiastic about it, to consider it as the ideal model for all mankind, the sublime type, too exalted for modern men, but one that we must strive to imitate without ever pretending to attain it.3
Will it be objected that socialism has taken possession of the classes that do not aspire to the bachelor's degree?
I reply with M. Thiers:
Secondary education teaches the ancient languages to the children of the well-to-do classes..... It is not only words that are taught to the children when they learn Greek and Latin; it is also noble and sublime things [plunder, war, and slavery]; it is the history of mankind in simple, great, indelible images..... Secondary instruction forms what are called the enlightened classes of a nation. Now, although the enlightened classes do not constitute the entire nation, they do give it its character. Their vices, their qualities, their good and evil propensities soon become those of the entire nation; they determine its form by the contagion of their ideas and their sentiments.4
Nothing is truer, and nothing better explains the harmful and unnatural perversities of our revolutions.
“Antiquity,” M. Thiers adds,
let us dare to say it to a century full of self-pride: antiquity is what is most admired in the world. Please, gentlemen, let childhood abide in antiquity, as in a calm, peaceful, and healthful sanctuary, so that it may be kept fresh and pure.
The calm of Rome! The peace of Rome! The purity of Rome! Oh, if the long experience and the remarkable common sense of M. Thiers have not been able to preserve him from so strange an infatuation, how do you expect our ardent youth to defend itself from it?5
Recently the National Assembly witnessed a comic dialogue, surely worthy of the pen of Molière.
M. Thiers, addressing himself from the height of the rostrum, and without laughing, to M. Barthélemy de Saint-Hilaire:* “You are wrong, not in regard to art, but in regard to morality, to prefer Greek to Latin letters, especially for the French, who are a Latin nation.”
M. Barthélemy de Saint-Hilaire, also without laughing, “What about Plato?”
M. Thiers, still not laughing: “They have been wise, they have been very wise, to encourage Greek and Latin studies. I prefer Latin studies for a moral purpose. But they have also required these poor young people at the same time to know German, English, the exact sciences, the physical sciences, history, etc.”
To know what is, is evil. To be steeped in Roman ways is morality!
M. Thiers is neither the first nor the only one who has succumbed to this illusion—I might almost say, to this mummery. Let me indicate briefly how profound an impression classical education has left on French literature, morality, and politics. I have neither the leisure nor the intention to paint the whole picture, for what writer would not have to be included in it? I shall content myself with a sketch.
I need not cite Montaigne.* Everyone knows how Spartan he was in his velleities, little as he was so in his tastes.
As for Corneille, of whom I am a sincere admirer, I believe he performed a disservice to the spirit of his age in clothing in beautiful verse, in giving a stamp of sublime grandeur, to strained, unnatural, fierce, antisocial sentiments such as the following:
And I confess that I feel disposed to share the feeling of Curiace, not in regard to a particular fact, but with respect to the whole history of Rome, when he says:
Today communism fills us with horror because it frightens us; but did not long association with the ancients make a communist of Fénelon, the man whom modern Europe rightly regards as the most admirable typification of moral perfection? Read his Télémaque, the book that parents are so quick to place in the hands of their children. There you will see Fénelon, in the borrowed robes of Wisdom herself, laying down the law to the legislators. And on what plan does he propose to organize his model society? On the one hand, the legislator reflects, invents, acts; on the other, society, impassive and inert, allows itself to be acted upon. The moral impulse, the principle of action, is thus forcibly taken from all men to become the prerogative of only one man. Fénelon, the precursor of the boldest of our modern proponents of an artificially planned social order, is the one who decides on the food, clothing, housing, diversions, and occupations of all the inhabitants of Salente. He is the one who says what they shall be permitted to eat and drink, on what plan their houses are to be constructed, how many rooms they are to have, and how they are to be furnished.
He says—but I shall let him speak for himself:
Mentor set up magistrates to whom the merchants were accountable for their stock, their profits, their expenses, and their business ventures..... In other respects, there was complete freedom of trade..... He forbade the importation of any foreign products that might lead to luxury and soft living..... He eliminated a great number of merchants who sold brocade, etc..... He established rules and regulations regarding clothing, food, furniture, and the size and ornamentation of houses for all the different degrees and conditions of men.
“Set up rules for the various ranks established by birth,” he said to the king; “.... those of the first rank, after you, will be dressed in white; .... those of the second rank, in blue; .... the third, in green; .... the fourth, in yellow; .... the fifth, in pale red or pink; .... the sixth, in gray linen; .... and the seventh, which will be the last, in a mixture of white and yellow. These are the clothes of the seven different degrees of free men. All the slaves will be dressed in dark gray. No alteration is to be6 tolerated either in the type of cloth used or in the shape of the garments.”
He regulated in the same way the food of both the citizens and the slaves.
He then eliminated soft and effeminate music.
He set simple and gracious standards of architecture. He wanted every house of any consequence to have a parlor and a peristyle, with little rooms for all the free people.
Yet the moderation and frugality of Mentor did not prevent him from authorizing the construction of large buildings to be used for horse and chariot races and for wrestling and boxing matches.
Painting and sculpture seemed to Mentor to be arts that should not be allowed to die out, but he wanted only a few practitioners of these arts to be permitted in Salente.
Does one not recognize here an imagination inflamed by the reading of Plato and by the example of Lycurgus, amusing itself by making experiments on men as if they were so much raw material?
One should not seek to justify such idle fancies by saying that they are the fruit of an excessive benevolence. There is as much of it here as there is in any of those who propose to organize or disorganize societies.
Rollin is another, almost the equal of Fénelon in intelligence and depth of feeling, and concerned to an even greater extent than Fénelon with education. Alas, to what depths of intellectual and moral degradation was this good man not reduced by his long association with antiquity! One cannot read his books without a feeling of sorrow and pity. One cannot tell whether he is Christian or pagan, so impartial is he between God and the gods. He is as ready to believe the legends of the heroic age of antiquity as he is the miracles recounted in the Bible. Over his placid countenance one always sees passing the shadow of warlike passions; he speaks of nothing but javelins, swords, and catapults. For him, as for Bossuet, one of the most interesting of social problems was whether the Macedonian phalanx was better in battle than the Roman legion. He extols the Romans for being devoted only to sciences that have domination for their object: eloquence, politics, war. In his eyes, all other knowledge is a source of corruption, fit only to incline men towards peace; hence, he is careful to ban it from his schools, to the plaudits of M. Thiers. All his homage is paid to Mars and Bellona; he can hardly spare more than a few grains of incense for Christ. Sad dupe of the conventional judgment that has given classical education the predominant position, he was so set on admiring the Romans that, where they were concerned, he took simple abstention from the most heinous offenses as a manifestation of the highest virtue. Alexander, in having regretted assassinating his best friend, and Scipio, in not taking a woman away from her husband, give proof, in his eyes, of inimitable heroism. In short, if he has made of each of us a living contradiction, surely he is himself the most perfect example of it.
Rollin is thought to be an admirer of communism and of Spartan institutions. Yet let us do him justice; his admiration is not entirely unqualified. With suitable circumspection, he reproves the Spartan legislator for having marred his work with four slight imperfections: idleness, promiscuity, infanticide, and the mass slaughter of slaves. But once having expressed these four reservations, the good man, again falling under the spell of conventional opinion concerning classical antiquity, sees in Lycurgus, not a man, but a god, and finds his polity perfect.
The intervention of the legislator in all things seemed to Rollin so indispensable that he quite seriously congratulates the Greeks on the fact that a man named Pelasges came to show them how to eat acorns. Before that, he says, they grazed on the land like cattle.
Moreover, he says:
God gave the Romans their empire as a reward for their great virtues, which cannot but be obvious. He would not have done them justice if He had accorded to these virtues, which have nothing materialistic about them, any less compensation.
Does one not see clearly here conventional opinion and Christianity in conflict over a poor lost soul in the person of Rollin? The sentence we have quoted sums up the very essence of all the works written by the founder of education in France. To contradict oneself, to make God contradict Himself, and to make us learn to contradict ourselves—this is the whole of the teaching of Rollin and the sum and substance of the kind of education that leads to the bachelor's degree.
If promiscuity and infanticide caused Rollin to have certain qualms about the institutions of Lycurgus, he was enthusiastic about everything else, and he even found a way of justifying theft. This is a curious fact and one sufficiently relevant to my subject to warrant being reported. Here is how he did it.
Rollin begins by assuming, in principle, that the law creates property—a deplorable principle, common to all the proponents of artificial social orders, and one that we shall find repeated by Rousseau, Mably, Mirabeau,* Robespierre, and Babeuf. Now, since property has its basis in the law, could the law not also be the basis of theft? How oppose this argument?
Theft was permitted in Sparta. It was severely punished among the Scythians. The reason for this difference is obvious: the law, which alone determines the right to property and the use of goods, granted a private individual no right, among the Scythians, to the goods of another person, whereas in Sparta the contrary was the case.
Then, the good man, in the ardor of his plea on behalf of theft and of Lycurgus, invokes the most incontestable of authorities, that of God:
Nothing is more common than the existence of similar rights to the goods of another person; thus, God has not only given the poor the power to gather grapes in the vineyards and to glean in the fields and to take away whole sheaves but has also granted to every passer-by without distinction the freedom to enter as often as he likes the vineyard of another person and to eat as many grapes as he wants, in spite of the owner of the vineyard. God Himself gives the first reason for this. It is that the land of Israel belonged to Him and that the Israelites enjoyed possession of it only on that onerous condition.
No doubt it will be said that this doctrine is peculiar to Rollin. This is precisely what I say. I am trying to demonstrate to what a state of moral infirmity the habit of consorting with the frightful society of antiquity can reduce the most admirable and the most honest of intellects.
It has been said of Montesquieu that he rediscovered the rights of man. He is one of those great writers whose every phrase has the privilege of being authoritative. God forbid that I should seek to diminish his glory! But what is to be thought of classical education if it so far succeeded in misleading that noble mind as to induce him to admire in antiquity the most barbarous institutions?
The ancient Greeks, imbued with the necessity of training in the virtues those who were to live under a popular government, designed institutions peculiarly fitted for this end..... The laws of Crete served as the model for those of Sparta, and those of Plato corrected the latter.
I invite the reader's attention to the great genius these lawgivers must have had: in flying in the face of all accepted customs, in confounding all the virtues, they showed the world their wisdom. Lycurgus, in combining larceny with the spirit of justice, the harshest slavery with extreme liberty, the most atrocious sentiments with the greatest moderation, gave stability to his city. He seemed to be depriving it of all its resources, arts, commerce, money, and defenses; there was ambition, but no hope of being better off; there were natural affections, and yet no man was either child or husband or father; even chastity was no longer regarded as respectable. This is the way that Sparta was led to grandeur and glory; but so infallible were its institutions that nothing was gained in winning battles against it if the victor did not succeed in depriving it of its polity.7
Those who would like to have similar institutions will set up a regime in which property is communally owned, as in Plato's republic, and in which there will be the respect that he demanded for the gods and the separation of the natives from foreigners for the preservation of morality, with the state, not the citizens, engaging in commerce; they will give us our arts without our luxury and will satisfy our needs rather than our desires.
The great influence that the ancients attributed to music Montesquieu explains in these terms:
I believe I can explain this. One has to put oneself into the spirit of the Greek city-states, especially those that had war as their chief object. All the gainful occupations and professions were regarded as unworthy of a free man. “Most of the arts,” says Xenophon, “weaken the body; those who practice them must sit in the shade or by the fire; they have time neither for their friends nor for the republic.” It was only with the corruption of certain democracies that artisans attained the status of citizens. This is what Aristotle teaches us, and he maintains that a good republic will never grant them civil rights.
Agriculture was still a servile occupation and was ordinarily carried on by a conquered people: the helots among the Spartans, the Perioecians among the Cretans, the Penestaeans among the Thessalians, and other enslaved peoples in other republics.
In short, all commerce was ignoble in the eyes of the Greeks. It would have required that a citizen render services to a slave, to a tenant, to a stranger, an idea repugnant to the spirit of Greek liberty. Hence, Plato wants the laws to punish any citizen who engages in commerce.
There were considerable inconveniences and difficulties involved in putting these ideas into practice in the Greek republics. On the one hand, the citizens were not supposed to engage in commerce, agriculture, or the arts; on the other, they were not supposed to be altogether idle, either. They occupied their time in gymnastic exercises and in those relating to war. Their institutions allowed them no other occupations. The Greeks must, then, be regarded as a society of athletes and warriors. Now, these exercises, so well fitted to make people fierce and hardy, needed to be tempered by others that could polish and refine their manners. Music, which touches the spirit by way of the organs of the body, was very well suited to this end.8
This is the idea that classical education gives us of liberty. And now let us see how it teaches us to understand equality and thrift:
Although equality of wealth is the very essence of the democratic state, it is, nevertheless, so difficult to establish that it is not always expedient to aim at extreme exactitude in this regard. It suffices to reduce and fix the differences within certain limits, after which it will be the function of particular laws to equalize, so to speak, the remaining inequalities by the taxes that they impose on the rich and the relief they grant to the poor.9
It is not enough, in a good democracy, that all land allotments be equal; they must be small, as among the Romans.....
As equality of wealth involves thrift, so thrift maintains equality of wealth. The two things, although different, are such that one cannot subsist without the other.10
The Samnites had a custom which, in a small republic, and, above all, in one situated as theirs was, was bound to produce admirable results. All the young people were assembled and judged. He who was declared the best took whatever girl he liked as his wife; then the next best after him was allowed his choice, and so on..... It would be difficult to imagine a reward more noble, more magnificent, less costly to a small state, more capable of acting as an incentive for both sexes.
The Samnites were the descendants of the Spartans; and Plato, whose laws are but the perfection of those of Lycurgus, hardly equaled this in his own system.11
No man exerted a greater influence on the French Revolution than Rousseau. “His works,” says Louis Blanc, “were on the table of the Committee of Public Safety. His paradoxes, which his own age took for literary extravagances, soon came to be regarded in the public assemblies of the nation as dogmatic truths as incisive as a sword.” And, so that the moral link that connects Rousseau with antiquity may not be overlooked, the same panegyrist adds: “His style recalls the moving and passionate language of a disciple of Corneille.”
Who does not know, besides, that Rousseau was one of the most ardent admirers of the ideas and the customs generally attributed to the Romans and the Spartans? He himself said that the reading of Plutarch made him what he was.
His first essay was directed against the human mind. Its very first pages bear his characteristic stamp:
Shall I forget the city that once flourished in the heart of Greece and that we long to see raised up again, as famous for its happy ignorance as for the wisdom of its laws, that republic of demigods rather than men, so superior their virtues seem to those of ordinary humanity? O Sparta, eternal shame of an empty doctrine! While the vices fostered by the fine arts found their way into Athens, while a tyrant collected there with so much care the work of the prince of poets, thou didst banish from thy confines the arts and the artists, the sciences and the scholars!12
In his second work, the Discours sur l'inégalité des conditions, he inveighed with even greater vehemence against all the foundations of society and civilization. He did this because he believed himself to be the interpreter of classical wisdom:
I shall imagine myself in the Lyceum at Athens, repeating the lessons of my masters, having Plato and Xenocrates as my judges, and the human race as my auditors.
The essential idea of this famous work can be summarized as follows: The most frightful fate awaits those who, having the misfortune of being born after us, will add their knowledge to ours. The development of our productive capacities already makes us very unhappy. Our ancestors were less so, since they were more ignorant. Rome came near to perfection; Sparta realized it—so far, that is, as perfection is at all compatible with living in society. But man's true bliss is to be found in living in the woods, alone, naked, without ties, without affections, without language, without religion, without ideas, without family—in short, in a condition in which he was so little different from the beasts that it is really doubtful whether he stood upright and whether he did not have paws rather than hands.
Unhappily, that golden age did not last. Mankind passed through an intermediate stage, which was not without certain charms:
As long as they were content to live in rustic cabins, to clothe themselves in skins, to adorn themselves with feathers and shells, to paint their bodies different colors .... as long as they engaged in occupations that an individual could carry on alone, they were free, healthy, good, and happy.
Alas, they did not know enough to stop at this first stage of civilization!
.... From the moment when one man needed the help of another [society made its fatal appearance]; from the moment when it became apparent that it was useful for a lone individual to have resources for two, equality disappeared, property was introduced, labor became a necessity.....
Metallurgy and agriculture were the two arts whose invention produced this great revolution. For the poet, it is gold and silver, for the philosopher, it is iron and wheat, that have civilized man and led to his perdition.
It then became necessary to leave the state of nature and enter society. This is the subject of Rousseau's third work, The Social Contract.
It would not be pertinent to my topic for me to analyze this work here; I shall confine myself to pointing out that virtually every page of it reproduces Greco-Roman ideas.
Since society is a covenant, every man has the right to make his own terms.
Only those who associate together have the right to regulate the conditions of their association.
But this is not easy.
How shall they regulate these conditions? Shall it be by common agreement, or by a sudden inspiration?.... How is a blind multitude of men, who often do not know what they want, to accomplish of themselves such a great and difficult enterprise as that of devising a system of legislation?.... Hence the necessity of a lawgiver.
Thus, universal suffrage is no sooner accepted in theory than it is scuttled in practice.
For how will this lawgiver begin, who has to be, in every respect, an extraordinary man, who, in daring to undertake the founding of a nation, has to feel himself capable of changing human nature, of altering the physical and moral constitution of man, who has, in a word, to invent the machine for which men are the raw material?
Rousseau demonstrates very clearly here that the lawgiver cannot rely on either force or persuasion. How, then, is he to proceed? By imposture.
This is what, in all times, forced the founding fathers of nations to have recourse to the intervention of Heaven and to give credit to the gods for their own wisdom..... The decrees of sublime reason, which is above the reach of the common herd, are imputed by the lawgiver to the immortal gods, so as to win by divine authority the support of those whom human wisdom could not move. But it is not for every man to make the gods speak. [The gods! The immortal gods! A reversion to classical ideas.]
Like Plato and Lycurgus—his masters—like the Spartans and the Romans—his heroes—Rousseau gives the words “labor" and “liberty" a meaning according to which they express two incompatible ideas. In society, it is necessary to make a choice: either one must renounce freedom, or one must die of hunger. Yet there is a way out of the difficulty; namely, slavery.
From the moment the people of a nation elect representatives, they are no longer free.
Among the Greeks, all that the populace had to do it did for itself. The people were constantly assembled in the market place; slaves did all their work; their great concern was their liberty. No longer enjoying these advantages, how preserve the same rights? You concern yourself more with the improvement of your material well-being than with your liberty, and you fear slavery less than poverty.
What! Liberty can be preserved only if supported by slavery? Perhaps. The two extremes meet. Everything that is unnatural has its inconveniences, and civil society even more than anything else. There are unfortunate situations in which one man's liberty can be preserved only at the expense of another's, and where the citizen can be perfectly free only on condition that the slave be abjectly a slave. This was the case with Sparta. You nations of the modern world have no slaves, but you yourselves are slaves, etc.
Here we have a fine example of the conventional opinion of classical antiquity. The ancients were impelled to adopt slavery by their brutal instincts. But as it is a foregone conclusion, a tradition, in academic circles to find everything that they did admirable, all sorts of sophisticated reasoning on the essential nature of liberty are imputed to them.
The opposition that Rousseau set up between the state of nature and society is as fatal to private morality as it is to public morality. According to his system, society is the result of a contract that gives rise to the law, which in turns produces, ex nihilo, justice and morality. In the state of nature there is neither justice nor morality. The father has no duty to his son, nor the son to his father, the husband to his wife, the wife to her husband. “I do not owe anything to anybody to whom I have not promised anything; I recognize as belonging to another only what is not useful to me; I have an unlimited right to everything that tempts me and that I can acquire.”
It follows from this that if the social contract, once agreed upon, is later dissolved, everything is at once destroyed—society, law, morality, justice, duties. “Each,” says Rousseau, “regains his pristine rights and his natural liberty in losing the conventional liberty for the sake of which he renounced them.”
Now, we must know that it takes very little to dissolve the social contract. It happens every time any individual violates his agreements or commits any unlawful act whatsoever. The moment a condemned criminal escapes when society says to him, “It is fitting that you die"; the moment a citizen refuses to pay his taxes; the moment an accountant dips his hand into the public till; the social contract is forthwith broken; all moral duties come to an end; justice no longer exists; fathers, mothers, children, husbands and wives owe one another nothing; each has an unlimited right to everything that tempts him—in a word, the whole population reverts to a state of nature.
I leave it to the reader to imagine the havoc such doctrines must wreak in times of revolution.
They are no less fatal to private morality. What young man, going out into the world full of ardor and passion, does not say to himself: “The impulses of my heart are the voice of Nature, which is never mistaken. The institutions that stand in my way are man-made and are only arbitrary conventions to which I have never given my consent. In trampling these institutions underfoot, I shall have the double pleasure of satisfying my inclinations and of believing myself a hero.”
Need we recall here that lamentable and melancholy page from the Confessions?
My third child was then sent to the foundling hospital, as were the first two, and the same was done with the two following; for I have had five altogether. This arrangement seemed to me to be so good that, if I did not publicly boast of it, the motive by which I was withheld was merely my regard for their mother..... In abandoning my children to public education .... I regarded myself as a member of Plato's republic!
There is no need of quotations to prove the Greco-Roman mania of Abbé Mably. A man who was all of a piece, with a narrower mind and a less responsive heart than Rousseau, he accepted the idea with fewer qualifications and alien admixtures. Convinced, like all the classic authors, that mankind is raw material for the social planners, he preferred, like them, being the planner to being the raw material for the plan. Consequently, he set himself up as a lawgiver. In this capacity he was first called upon to found Poland, but he does not appear to have been successful. Then, he offered the Americans the black broth of the Spartans, but he failed to persuade them of its merits. Incensed by this blindness on their part, he predicted the collapse of the Union and gave it no more than five years to exist.
Let me introduce a qualification here. In citing the absurd and subversive doctrines of men like Fénelon, Rollin, Montesquieu, and Rousseau, I certainly do not mean to say that we do not owe to these great writers many pages full of wisdom and morality. But what is false in their works is derived from their acceptance of the conventional view of classical antiquity, and what is true is derived from quite another source. My thesis is precisely that exclusive instruction in Greek and Latin literature makes of all of us living contradictions. It turns us violently towards a past of which it glorifies even the worst horrors; while Christianity, the spirit of the present age, and that fund of good common sense which cannot be denied its rights show us the ideal as something to be realized in the future.
I spare the reader quotations from Morelly, Brissot,* and Raynal justifying—nay, extolling—the love of war, slavery, the impostures practiced by the priesthood, the common ownership of property, and idleness. Who could be mistaken about the impure source of such doctrines? That source, I must repeat, is the classical education imposed upon us in the course of acquiring the baccalaureate degree.
It is not only works of literature that antiquity—so calm, peaceful, and pure—has infected with its poison, but also the works of the jurists. I defy the reader to find in any of their writings anything that even approaches a rational conception of the right to property. And yet what must be the character of any legislation from which such a conception is absent? Recently I had occasion to open Vattel's*Traité du droit des gens. I note that the author has devoted a chapter to the examination of the following question: Is the abduction of women permissible? It is clear that we are indebted to the legend of the Romans and the Sabines for this precious tidbit. After having weighed the pros and the cons with the utmost gravity, he decides in favor of the affirmative. He owed this to the glory of Rome. Were the Romans ever wrong? There is a conventional opinion that prohibits us from thinking so. They are Romans; that is enough. Fire, pillage, rape, and all that flows from them are calm, peaceful, and pure.
Will it be objected that what I have been attacking here are just personal opinions peculiar to these writers? For the uniform action of classical education, reinforced by the concurrence of Montaigne, Corneille, Fénelon, Rollin, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Raynal, and Mably, not to have contributed to the formation of the general opinion in favor of antiquity, our society would have to have enjoyed some happiness. That remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, we have the proof that the idea of communism gained ascendancy, not just over certain individuals, but over whole bodies of men, among them the most learned as well as the most influential. When the Jesuits wanted to organize a social order in Paraguay, what were the plans that their studies suggested to them? Those of Minos, Plato, and Lycurgus. They established a communist society, which, in its turn, did not fail to have its unhappy consequences. The Indians sank several degrees below the state of savagery. Nevertheless, such was the inveterate prepossession of the Europeans in favor of communist institutions, which had always been presented to them as typifying perfection, that the happiness and the virtue of these creatures without a name (for they were no longer men), vegetating under the crosier of the Jesuits, was everywhere extolled.
Did those great proponents of the missions, Rousseau, Mably, Montesquieu, and Raynal, ever take the trouble to verify the facts? Not in the least. Could the Greek and Latin books be wrong? Could anyone go astray in taking Plato as his guide? Then, the Indians of Paraguay were happy, or they should have been, on pain of being miserable against all the rules. Azara,* Bougainville,† and other travelers started out on their voyages under the influence of these preconceived opinions in order to admire so many marvels. When the sad reality first struck their eyes, they could not believe it. But they had to accept the evidence, and they ended by declaring, to their great regret, that communism, seductive in fancy, is frightful in reality.
Given the premise, the conclusion is inescapable. It is perfectly obvious that the authors I have just cited did not dare to push their doctrine to its logical conclusion. Morelly and Brissot took it upon themselves to correct this lack of consistency. As true followers of Plato, they openly preached common ownership of property and of women; and they did so, be it noted, by constantly invoking the examples and the precepts of that wonderful age of classical antiquity which everyone agrees is so admirable.
Such was the state to which the education provided by the clergy had reduced public opinion in France in regard to the family, property, liberty, and society, when the Revolution broke out. No doubt it is explicable in terms of other causes than classical education. But can it be doubted that this education was a mélange of false ideas, brutal sentiments, subversive utopias, and fatal experiments? One has only to read the speeches delivered in the legislative assembly and at the National Convention. Their language is that of Rousseau and of Mably. They are nothing but prosopopoeias, invocations, and apostrophes to Fabricius, to Cato, to the two Brutuses, to the Gracchi, and to Catiline. If an atrocity is to be committed, a Roman example is always found to glorify it. What education has put into the mind expresses itself in action. It is agreed that Sparta and Rome are paragons; then, they must be imitated or parodied. One wants to bring back the Olympic games; another, the agrarian laws; and a third, black broth in the streets.
I cannot hope to exhaust this subject here, for it deserves a practiced hand and something more than a pamphlet on “The Influence of Greek and Roman Literature on the Mentality of our Revolutions.” I must confine myself to a few salient points.
Two great figures dominate the French Revolution and seem to personify it: Mirabeau and Robespierre. What were their views on the question of property?
We have seen that those nations which, in antiquity, had based their way of life on plunder and slavery were never able to establish property on its true foundation. They were obliged to regard property as a matter of convention; and they based the right to it on the law, thereby making it possible to justify slavery and theft, as Rollin so naively explains.
Rousseau too had said: “Property is a human convention and institution, whereas liberty is a gift of Nature.”
Mirabeau professed the same opinion:
Property is a social creation. The laws not only protect and maintain property; they constitute it as such and bring it into being; they determine its scope and the extent that it occupies in the rights of the citizens.
And when Mirabeau expressed himself thus, it was not simply to formulate a theory. His real aim was to persuade the legislator to limit the exercise of a right that was altogether dependent upon his discretion, since he had created it.
Robespierre repeats the definitions of Rousseau:
In defining liberty, the first of man's needs, the most sacred of his natural rights, we have said, quite correctly, that its limit is to be found in the rights of others. Why have you not applied this principle to property, which is a social institution, as if natural laws were less inviolable than human conventions?
After this prologue, Robespierre proceeds to the definition:
Property is the right that each citizen has of enjoying and disposing of the goods that are guaranteed to him by the law.
Thus, we have a sharply defined antithesis between liberty and property. These are two rights of different origin. One comes from Nature; the other is a social institution. The first is natural; the other artificial, a matter of convention.
Now, who makes the law? The legislator. He can therefore impose upon the exercise of the right to property, since he confers that right, whatever conditions he pleases.
Hence, Robespierre is not long in deducing from his definition the right to employment, the right to poor relief, and the progressive income tax.
Society is obliged to provide for the support of all its members, whether by giving them work or by assuring a livelihood to those who are out of work.
The aid needed to support the indigent is a debt that the rich owe to the poor. It is for the law to determine the manner in which this debt is to be discharged.
The citizens whose income does not exceed what is necessary for their subsistence are exempt from the obligation to contribute to the public expenses. The rest are obliged to make their contribution on a progressive basis, according to their wealth.
Robespierre, says M. Sudre,* thus adopted all those measures which, in the minds of their proponents, as well as in reality, make possible the transition from the system of private property to communism. By the application of the principles expounded in Plato's Laws, he proceeded, without realizing it, to establish the society described in the Republic.
(It is well known that Plato wrote two books: one, the Republic, to describe the ideal society [common ownership of property and of women]; the other, the Laws, to describe the steps in the transition to it.)
Robespierre can be considered, besides, as an enthusiastic admirer of the calm, the peaceableness, and the purity of classical antiquity. Even his speech on property is full of eloquent praises for these qualities: Aristides would not have envied the treasures of Croesus! The thatched hut of Fabricius has no need to envy the palace of Croesus! Etc.
Once Mirabeau and Robespierre grant the legislator, in principle, the prerogative of fixing the limits of the right to property, the point at which they judged it expedient to set these limits is of little importance. They might find it opportune not to go further than the right to employment, the right to poor relief, and the progressive income tax; but others, more consistent, did not stop there. If the law that creates and disposes of property can take one step toward equality, why should it not take two? Why not achieve absolute equality?
And so, as was inevitable, Saint-Just went beyond Robespierre, and, no less inevitably, Babeuf went beyond Saint-Just. If one takes this path, there can be only one reasonable stopping place. It has been pointed out by the divine Plato.
Saint-Just—but I have narrowed the scope of my subject too much in confining it exclusively to the question of property. I am forgetting that I have undertaken to show how classical education has perverted all our moral ideas. In the conviction that my reader is perfectly prepared to take my word for it when I say that Saint-Just went beyond Robespierre on the way to communism, I return to my theme.
First, it should be understood that the errors of Saint-Just are connected with his classical studies. Like all the men of his age and ours, he was imbued with the spirit of antiquity. He liked to think of himself as a Brutus. Kept far from Paris by his political commitments, he wrote:
O God! Brutus must languish, forgotten, far from Rome! I have committed myself, nevertheless, and if Brutus does not kill others, he will kill himself.
To kill! This seems to be man's destiny here on earth.
All the admirers of ancient Greece and Rome are agreed that the basis of a republic is virtue, and God knows what they mean by that word! That is why Saint-Just wrote:
A republican government is founded on virtue, if not on terror.
It was also the prevailing opinion in antiquity that industry is ignoble. Accordingly, Saint-Just condemns it in these terms:
Trade ill becomes the true citizen. The hand of man was made only to till the soil and to bear arms.
And it was to prevent anyone from debasing himself by practicing a trade that he wanted to distribute land to everyone.
As we have seen, the legislator, according to the ideas of the ancients, bears the same relation to mankind as the potter does to the clay. Unfortunately, when this idea prevails, nobody wants to be the clay, and everyone wants to be the potter. Saint-Just, quite understandably, assigned this fine role to himself:
On the day when I become convinced that it is impossible to give the French virtues conducive to peace and a spirit alert and inexorably resistant to tyranny and injustice, I shall die by my own hand.
If the people are virtuous, everything will go well. Institutions are needed to refine the moral fiber of the public. The first step toward improving their morality is to satisfy their needs and their interests. Everyone must be given land.
Children are to be dressed in linen throughout the year. They are to lie on mats and sleep for eight hours. They are to be fed in common; and they are to live only on roots, fruit, vegetables, bread, and water. They are not to eat meat until after the age of sixteen.
Men twenty-five years of age will be required every year to make a public declaration, in the temple, of the names of their friends. Whoever abandons his friends without good and sufficient reason will be banished!
Thus, Saint-Just, in imitation of Lycurgus, Plato, Fénelon, and Rousseau, arrogates to himself, in regard to the morals, the feelings, the wealth, and the children of the French people, more rights and more power than all of them have together. How insignificant mankind is beside him! Or rather, it lives only in him. His brain is the brain, and his heart is the heart, of mankind.
This, then, was the course imposed upon the Revolution by the conventional preconception in favor of classical antiquity. Plato had indicated the ideal to be realized; and both priests and laymen, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, set to work extolling it. When the time for action came, Mirabeau took the first step; Robespierre, the second; Saint-Just, the third; Antonelle,* the fourth; and Babeuf, more consistent than all his predecessors, went all the way down to the last, to absolute communism, to pure Platonism. I could cite quotations from his works here, but I shall confine myself to pointing out, for this is characteristic of him, that he signs them Gaius Gracchus.
The whole mentality of the Revolution, as regards what concerns us here, can best be seen from certain quotations. What did Robespierre want? “To raise men to the level of republican virtue attained by the nations of antiquity.”13 What did Saint-Just want? “To offer us the happiness of Sparta and of Athens.”14 He wanted, besides, “all citizens to carry on their persons the dagger of Brutus.”15 What did the bloodthirsty Carrier† want? “That every youth henceforth contemplate the fire of Scaevola, the hemlock of Socrates, the death of Cicero, and the sword of Cato.” What did Rabaut Saint-Étienne* want? “That, following the example of the Cretans and the Spartans, the state take charge of every man from his cradle and even from his birth.”16 What did the section of the Quinze-Vingts† want? “That a church be consecrated to liberty, and that an altar be erected on which will burn an eternal fire tended by vestal virgins.”17 What did the whole Convention want? “That the population of our towns henceforth consist only of Brutuses and Publicolas.”†18
Yet all these sectaries were acting in good faith, and this made them all the more dangerous; for a sincere commitment to error is fanaticism, and fanaticism is a potent force, especially when it acts on masses of men prepared to submit to its influence. Universal enthusiasm for a particular type of society can hardly be without issue; and public opinion, whether enlightened or misguided, is nonetheless mistress of the world. When one of these fundamental errors, such as the glorification of classical antiquity, implanted by education in every mind from the very first moments of its intellectual awakening, becomes firmly established as a conventional judgment, unquestionably accepted and agreed to by everybody, it tends to proceed from theory to practice, from thought to action. And when a revolution strikes the hour for the theory to be put to the test, who can say in what frightful guise he who a hundred years earlier was called Fénelon will make his appearance? He had expressed his idea in the form of a novel; now he dies for it on the scaffold. He had been a poet; now he is made a martyr. He had amused society; now he subverts it.
Yet there is in reality a power superior to the most widely held conventional judgment. When education has sown a fatal seed in the soil of public opinion, there is in the body politic a force of self-preservation, vis medicatrix, that enables it to rid itself, at long last, after many sufferings and tears, of the baneful germ with which it has become infected.
Thus, after communism had sufficiently frightened and imperiled society, a reaction became inevitable. France began to retreat toward despotism. In its ardor it did not even spare the legitimate conquests of the Revolution. It had the Consulate and the Empire. But alas, need I point out that its infatuation with everything Roman persisted even in this new phase? Antiquity is always there to justify all forms of violence. From Lycurgus to Caesar, how many models there are to choose from! Then—and I here borrow the language of M. Thiers—“we who, after having been Athenians with Voltaire, tried for a while to be Spartans under the Convention, ended by becoming soldiers of Caesar under Napoleon.” Is it possible to be unaware of the imprint that our love affair with Rome has left on our age? Merciful heavens, the signs of it are to be found everywhere—in our houses, in our monuments, in our literature, in the very styles of the Empire period, in the absurd names we have given all our institutions! It was certainly no accident that we saw arising on every hand consuls, an emperor, senators, tribunes, prefects, senatusconsulta, eagles, Trajan's arches, legions, Champs de Mars, prytaneums, and lyceums.
The struggle between revolutionary and counterrevolutionary principles, it would seem, should have come to an end after July of 1830. The intellectual energies of this country were thereafter turned toward the study of social questions—in itself a perfectly natural and beneficial pursuit. Unfortunately, the University still sets the course of our intellectual life and is directing it once again toward the poisoned springs of classical antiquity; so that our unhappy country has been reduced to repeating its past, starting all over again from the beginning, and going through the same trials anew. It seems to be condemned to keep on going round in the same circle: utopia, experimentation, reaction; literary Platonism, revolutionary communism, military despotism; Fénelon, Robespierre, Napoleon! How can it be otherwise? With the reappearance of literature and journalism, our young men, instead of seeking to discover and expound the natural laws of society, confine themselves to supporting the Greco-Roman axiom: The social order is a creation of the legislator—a lamentable principle that opens up a limitless field for the imagination and is nothing but the perpetual rebirth of socialism. For, if society is something invented, who does not wish to be its inventor? Who does not wish to be either Minos or Lycurgus or Plato or Numa or Fénelon or Robespierre or Babeuf or Saint-Simon or Fourier or Louis Blanc or Proudhon? Who does not find it glorious to be the founder of a nation? Who is not delighted to be called father of nations? Who does not aspire to combine, as if they were chemical elements, the family and property in some fancied mixture?
But in order to give free scope to such imaginings beyond the columns of a newspaper, it is necessary to have power, to be in command of the central point from which all the lines of political power radiate. This is the indispensable prerequisite of every social experiment. Every sect, every school of thought will therefore bend all its efforts to drive the dominant school or sect from its seat of power in the government; so that, under the influence of classical education, political life cannot be anything but an interminable series of struggles and revolutions to determine which utopian is to have the prerogative of making experiments on the people as if they were so much raw material!
Yes, I accuse the course of instruction leading to the baccalaureate degree of wantonly preparing the whole of the youth of France for socialist utopias and social experiments. And this is undoubtedly the reason for a very strange phenomenon; I mean the inability of the very people who believe themselves threatened by socialism to refute it. Men of the middle classes, landowners, capitalists, the systems of Saint-Simon, of Fourier, of Louis Blanc, of Leroux, and of Proudhon consist, after all, in nothing but doctrines. They are false, you say. Why do you not refute them? Because you have drunk from the same cup; because association with the ancients and your infatuation with everything Greek or Roman have imbued you with socialism.
Your soul is a little tainted with it.
Your proposals for equalizing wealth by means of tariffs, your poor-relief laws, your demands for free public education, your bounties and incentive subsidies, your centralization, your faith in the state, your literature, your theatre—all testify that you are socialists. You differ from the apostles of socialism only in degree, but you are all of the same bent. That is why, when you feel that you have been outdone, instead of offering a refutation, which you do not know how to do and could not do without condemning yourselves, you wring your hands, you tear your hair, you call for repressive measures, and you say piteously: “France is done for!”
No, France is not done for. For this is what is happening: While you indulge in fruitless lamentations, socialism is refuting itself. Its proponents are at loggerheads with one another. The phalanstery has had its day; the triad* has had its day; the national workshop has had its day; and your equalization of wealth will have its day. What is there still standing? Interest-free credit. Why have you not demonstrated its absurdity? Alas, because it is you yourselves who have invented it. You have been preaching it for these many years. When you were not able to eliminate interest entirely, you regulated it. You fixed a maximum rate of interest in your usury laws, thereby giving the impression that property is a creation of the law, which is precisely the idea of Plato, of Lycurgus, of Fénelon, of Rollin, of Robespierre, and which is, I venture to say, the very essence and quintessence not only of socialism, but of communism. Do not tell me, then, how good a course of instruction is which has taught you nothing of what you ought to know and which leaves you dumbfounded and mute in face of the first wild idea that it pleases some fool to conjure up. Since you are not in a position to oppose truth to error, at least let the errors destroy one another. Refrain from muzzling the utopians and thereby setting up their propaganda on the pedestal of persecution. The great mass of the workers, if not the middle classes, have taken an interest in the great social questions, and they will resolve them. They will succeed in finding for the words “family,” “property,” “liberty,” “justice,” and “society" other definitions than those provided by our system of education. They will rout not only the socialism that proclaims itself such, but also the socialism that does not know it is socialism. They will destroy your system of totalitarian state intervention, your centralization, your artificial national unity, your protectionist system, your official philanthropy, your usury laws, your barbarous diplomacy, and your monopolistic education.
And that is why I say: No, France is not done for. It will emerge from the struggle happier, more enlightened, better organized, greater, freer, more moral, and more religious than you have made it.
After all, please keep this in mind: When I attack classical studies, I do not demand that they be forbidden; I demand only that they not be imposed. I do not call upon the state to compel everyone to accept my opinion, but rather, not to force me to accept anybody else's opinion. There is a great difference between the one and the other; let us make no mistake about it.
M. Thiers, M. de Riancey,* M. de Montalembert, and M. Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire think that the atmosphere of Rome is excellent for shaping the heart and the mind of youth. Very well; let them plunge their own children into it; I leave them free to do so. But let them leave me free to remove my own children from it as from pestiferous air. What seems sublime to you conservatives seems odious to me; what satisfies your conscience alarms mine. All right! Follow your ideals, but let me follow mine. I do not force you. Why would you force me?
You are quite convinced that from the social and moral point of view the ideal model is to be found in the past. I, for my part, see it in the future. “Let us dare to say to a century full of self-pride,” M. Thiers declared, “antiquity is what is most admirable in the world.” As for me, I am happy not to share that distressing opinion. I say distressing, for it implies that by a fatal law, mankind is continually in process of deterioration. You place perfection at the beginning of time; I put it at the end. You believe that society is retrogressing; I believe it is progressing. You believe that our opinions, our ideas, our whole way of life should be, as far as possible, cast in the antique mold; I, who have studied the social order of Sparta and of Rome, see in them only acts of violence, injustice, fraud, perpetual wars, slavery, degradation, false politics, false morality, and false religion. What you admire, I abhor. But you hold to your judgment, and let me hold to mine. We are not lawyers here, one pleading for, the other against, classical education, before an assembly obliged to render a decision that will violate either my conscience or yours. I demand of the state only its neutrality. I demand liberty for you as well as for me. I at least have the advantage over you of impartiality, moderation, and modesty.
Three sources of education are going to be made available: that of the state, that of the clergy, that of the so-called free teachers.
What I ask is that the latter be free, in fact, to try new and fruitful methods in their instruction. Let the state university teach what it cherishes, Greek and Latin; let the clergy teach what it knows, Greek and Latin. Let both of them produce Platonists and demagogues; but let them not prevent us from training, by other methods, men for our country and for our century.
For, if this freedom is forbidden to us, what a bitter mockery it is to come and say to us at every moment: “You are free!”
In the session of February 23, M. Thiers declared for the fourth time:
I shall keep on repeating what I have said: The freedom that the law which we have drafted gives is freedom in accordance with the Constitution.
I defy you to prove anything else. Prove to me that it is not freedom; I, for my part, maintain that there is no other kind possible.
Formerly, one could not teach without the permission of the government. We have abolished prior authorization; everyone will be free to teach.
Formerly it was said: Teach such and such things; do not teach such and such others. Today, we say: Teach what you want to teach.
It is a painful thing to hear such a challenge and to be condemned to silence. If the weakness of my voice had not prevented my mounting the rostrum, I should have replied to M. Thiers in these terms:
Let us see, then, from the viewpoint of the teacher, of the father of a family, and of society, to what this freedom which you call so complete has been reduced.
In virtue of your law, I establish a preparatory school. With the students' tuition fees I must buy or lease the premises, provide food for the pupils, and pay the teachers. But next door to my school, there is a state school. It does not have to trouble itself about finding the means to pay for its premises and teachers. The taxpayers, including me, take care of these expenses. The state school, then, can reduce the students' tuition fees so as to render my enterprise impossible. Is this freedom? One recourse, however, remains to me: to provide an education so superior to yours, so sought after by the public, that students come to me in spite of the relatively high fees which you have forced me to charge. But at this point you intervene, and you say to me: “Teach what you want; but, if you depart from my methods and curriculum, all the learned professions will be closed to your students.” Is this freedom?
Now, suppose I am the father of a family. I put my sons in a “free" institution. What situation do I face? As their father, I pay for the education of my children, without anyone coming to my assistance; as a taxpayer and as a Catholic, I pay for the education of the children of others, for I cannot avoid the tax that pays for the state schools or exempt myself in the Lenten season from throwing into the hat of a mendicant friar the coin that must support the clerical schools. In the latter respect, at least, I am free. But am I free in regard to the tax? By no means! Say that you are establishing solidarity, in the socialist sense, but do not profess to be establishing freedom.
And this is only a minor aspect of the question. What is more serious is this. I prefer free education, because your official education (to which you force me to contribute, without my profiting from it) seems to me communist and pagan; my conscience is unwilling to have my sons imbued with Spartan and Roman ideas which, in my eyes at least, are nothing but a glorification of violence and brigandage. Consequently, I submit to paying tuition fees for my own children and to paying the tax for the children of others. But what do I find? I find that your mythological and martial education has been indirectly imposed on the free school through the ingenious mechanism of your academic degrees, and that I must bend my conscience to your views, on pain of making of my children social pariahs. You have told me four times that I am free. If you say it to me a hundred times, I shall reply to you a hundred times: I am not free.
Be inconsistent, since you cannot avoid it, and I shall grant you that in the present state of public opinion you could not close the official preparatory schools. But set a limit to your inconsistency. Do you not complain every day about the socialistic mentality and tendencies of our young men, of their estrangement from religious ideas, of their passion for martial expeditions, a passion so great that, in our deliberative assemblies it is hardly permitted to utter the word peace, and one must take the most ingenious oratorical precautions in order to speak of justice when it has reference to foreigners? Such deplorable attitudes have a cause, undoubtedly. Is it not possible that precisely your mythological, Platonic, bellicose, and seditious education had something to do with this situation? However, I do not tell you to change the curriculum; that would be asking too much of you. But I do say to you: Since you allow so-called free schools to spring up beside your state schools and in conditions already quite difficult, permit them to try, at their own peril and risk, a Christian and scientific curriculum. The experiment is worth making. Who knows? Perhaps it would be an advance. And you want to nip it in the bud!
Finally, let us examine the question from the point of view of society, and observe, first of all, that it would be strange for society to be free in regard to education if the teachers and the fathers of families are not.
The first sentence of the report of M. Thiers on secondary education, in 1844, proclaimed this terrible truth:
Public education is perhaps the greatest concern of a civilized nation; and, for this reason, control over it is the foremost objective of political parties.
It seems that the conclusion to draw from this is that a nation that does not want to be the prey of political parties should hasten to abolish public education, that is, education by the state, and to proclaim freedom of education. If the educational system is in the power of the government, political parties will have one more reason for seeking to gain power, since, by the same token, they will have control over the educational system, which is their foremost objective. Is not the ambition to govern inspired enough by covetousness already? Does it not provoke enough struggles, revolutions, and disorders? And is it wise to arouse it further by the lure of such a potent influence?
And why do political parties aspire to take over the direction of education? Because they know the saying of Leibnitz: “Make me the master of education, and I will undertake to change the world.” Education by governmental power, then, is education by a political party, by a sect momentarily triumphant; it is education on behalf of one idea, of one system, to the exclusion of all others. “We have made the Republic,” said Robespierre; “it remains for us to make republicans”—an attempt that was renewed in 1848. Bonaparte wanted to make only soldiers; Frayssinous,* only religious zealots; Villemain,† only orators; Guizot,‡ only doctrinaires; Enfantin,* only Saint-Simonians; and I, who am indignant to see mankind thus degraded, if I were ever in a position to say: “I am the state,” would perhaps be tempted to make only economists. Shall we never realize the danger of furnishing political parties, as they seize power, with the opportunity to impose their opinions—nay, their errors—universally and uniformly by force? For it is indeed using force to forbid by law every other idea than that with which one is oneself infatuated.
Such a demand is essentially monarchist, although no one proclaims it more resolutely than the republicans; for it rests on the assumption that the governed are made for the governors, that society belongs to the wielders of political power, and that they must make society in their own image; whereas, according to our law, so dearly won, political power is only an emanation of society, one of the manifestations of its thought.
For my part, I cannot conceive, especially as coming from republicans, a more absurdly vicious circle than this: From year to year, by means of universal suffrage, national opinion will be embodied in the magistrates, and then the magistrates will mold national opinion as they like.
This doctrine implies the following two propositions: National opinion is wrong. Governmental opinion is infallible.
If this is so, then, republicans, re-establish at the same time autocracy, state education, monarchy, the divine right of kings, and the power of the government as absolute, irresponsible, and infallible, since all these are institutions having a common principle and emanating from the same source.
If there is in the world an infallible man (or sect), then turn over to him (or to it) not only education, but complete and plenary power, and have done with it. If not, let us enlighten ourselves as well as we can, but let us not abdicate.
Now, I repeat my question: From the social viewpoint, does the law that we are discussing establish freedom?
Formerly there was a state university. Its permission was required in order to teach. It imposed its ideas and its methods, and one had to be satisfied with them. It was, then, according to Leibnitz's view, the mistress of the ages, and it was for that reason undoubtedly that its leader took the significant title of Grand Master.
Now all this has been brought to an end. Only two prerogatives are to be left to the state university: first, the right to say what one must know in order to obtain an academic degree; second, the right to close off innumerable careers to those who will not comply.
That is hardly anything at all, we are told. And I say it is everything.
This leads me to say something about a word that has often been used in this discussion: the word unity; for many people see in the bachelor's degree the means of turning all minds in a single direction, if not reasonable and useful, at least unitary, and therein good.
The admirers of unity are very numerous, and that is understandable. By a providential decree, we all have faith in our own judgment, and we believe that there is only one right opinion in the world, namely, our own. Therefore we think that the legislator could do no better than to impose it on everyone; and, the better to be on the safe side, we all want to be that legislator. But legislators come and go, and what is the result? With every change, one kind of unity replaces another. State education, then, makes uniformity prevail, if we consider each period separately; but, if we compare successive periods, for example, the Convention, the Directory, the Empire, the Restoration, the July Monarchy, and the Republic, we rediscover diversity, and, what is worse, the most subversive of all diversities, that which produces in the intellectual domain, as in a theatre, changes of scene at the whim of the stagehands. Shall we always allow the national mind and the public conscience to descend to this depth of degradation and indignity?
There are two kinds of unity. One is a point of departure. It is imposed by force, by those who momentarily have force at their command. The other is an end result, the great consummation of human perfectibility. It results from the natural gravitation of men's minds toward the truth.
The first kind of unity is based on contempt for the human race, and despotism is its instrument. Robespierre was a proponent of this kind of unity when he said: “Now that I have made the Republic, I am going to set about making republicans.” Napoleon was a partisan of this kind of unity when he said: “I love war, and I will make all Frenchmen warriors.” Frayssinous was committed to this kind of unity when he said: “I have a faith, and by means of education I will mold all consciences in that faith.” Procrustes was enamored of this kind of unity when he said: “I will shorten or lengthen whoever is too long or too short for the dimensions of this bed.” The bachelor's degree imposes this kind of unity when it says: “Life in society will be forbidden to whoever does not follow my curriculum.” And let no one allege that the Supreme Council will be able to change this curriculum every year; for, certainly, one could not imagine a more vexatious circumstance. Well, then, is the entire nation to become like the clay that the potter breaks when he is not satisfied with the form that he has given to it?
In his report of 1844, M. Thiers showed himself an ardent admirer of this kind of unity, though regretting that it was hardly in conformity with the spirit of modern nations.
The country in which freedom of education does not prevail would be one in which the state, animated by an absolute will, wishing to cast the whole of the country's youth in the same mold and to stamp it, like the coinage, with its own image, would permit no diversity in the system of education, and for several years would make all the children wear the same clothing, eat the same food, apply themselves to the same studies, submit to the same exercises, bow, etc.....
Beware of denigrating this demand on the part of the state to impose unity of character on the nation and of regarding it as an inspiration of tyranny. One might almost say, on the contrary, that this resolve on the part of the state to make all citizens conform to a common type is proportionate to the patriotism of each country. It was in the republics of antiquity, where the fatherland was most adored and best served, that it showed itself most rigorous and exacting in regard to the morals and ideas of the citizens..... And we, who in the last century experienced every type of human society, we, who after having been Athenians with Voltaire, tried for a while to be Spartans under the Convention and soldiers of Caesar under Napoleon, if we once dreamed of imposing the yoke of the state in an absolute manner over education, it was under the National Convention, at the moment of the greatest patriotic exaltation.
Let us do M. Thiers justice. He did not propose to follow such examples. “We must,” he said, “neither imitate nor stigmatize them. It was delirium, but the delirium of patriotism.”
The fact remains, nevertheless, that M. Thiers still shows himself here faithful to the judgment he pronounced earlier: “Antiquity is what is most admirable in the world.” He reveals a hidden predilection for the absolute despotism of the state, an instinctive admiration for the institutions of Crete and of Sparta, which gave the legislator the power to cast the whole of the country's youth in the same mold, to stamp it, like the coinage, in his image, etc., etc.
And I cannot but point out here, for it well accords with my subject, the vestiges of that conventional judgment in favor of classical antiquity which would have us admire in it as virtue what was the result of the harshest and most immoral of necessities. Those ancients that are so frequently extolled, I cannot repeat too often, lived by brigandage and would not for anything in the world have laid their hands on a tool. They had the whole human race as their enemy. They were condemned to perpetual warfare and faced the alternative of either always winning or perishing. Consequently, there was and there could be for them only one occupation, that of the soldier. The community had to concentrate on developing the military virtues in all its citizens uniformly, and the citizens submitted to the unity that was the guarantee of their existence.19
But what is there in common between those times of barbarism and our own age?
For what precise and definite object are all the citizens today to be stamped, like the coinage, with the same image? Is it because they are all destined for different careers? On what basis would they be cast in the same mold? And who will possess the mold? A terrible question, which should give us pause. Who will possess the mold? If there is a mold (and the bachelor's degree is one), everyone will want to have control of it: M. Thiers, M. Parisis, M. Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire, I, the Reds, the Whites, the Blues, the Blacks. We must fight, then, to settle this preliminary question, which will arise again continually. Is it not simpler to break this fatal mold and honestly proclaim freedom?
For freedom is the soil in which genuine unity grows and the atmosphere that makes it fruitful. The effect of competition is to encourage, bring to light, and diffuse good methods and to eliminate bad ones. It must be recognized that the human mind has a more natural affinity with the truth than with error, with what is good than with what is evil, with what is useful than with what is harmful. If this were not the case, if what is true were necessarily doomed to failure and what is false were predestined to succeed, all our efforts would be vain; humanity would be headed, as Rousseau believed, for inevitable and progressive degradation. We should have to say with M. Thiers: “Antiquity is what is most admirable in the world,” which is not only an error but a blasphemy. Men's interests, rightly understood, are harmonious with one another, and the inner light that reveals them to men shines with an ever more vivid brilliance. Hence, their individual and collective efforts, their experience, their gropings, even their disappointments, their competition—in a word, their freedom—make men gravitate toward that unity which is the expression of the laws of their nature and the consummation of the common good.
How has it happened that the liberal party has fallen into the strange contradiction of disregarding the liberty, the dignity, the perfectibility of man, and of preferring to them an artificial, stationary, degrading unity, imposed by turns by all despotic regimes on behalf of the most diverse systems?
There are several reasons for this: First, the liberal party too has been imbued with the Roman character by classical education. Do they not have holders of bachelor's degrees as their leaders? Secondly, they hope, through parliamentary upsets, to see that precious instrument fall into their hands—that intellectual mold which is, according to M. Thiers, the object of all ambitions. Finally, the necessities of defense against the unjust aggression of Europe in 1792 contributed not a little to popularize in France the idea of a powerful national unity.
But of all the motives that impel the liberals to sacrifice freedom, the most powerful is the fear that the encroachments of the clergy in the matter of education inspire in them.
I do not share that fear, but I understand it.
Consider, say the liberals, the situation of the clergy in France: its learned hierarchy, its strong discipline, its militia forty thousand strong (all unmarried and occupying the most prominent posts in their respective communities), and the influence it has on people's daily lives in the exercise of its functions. Speaking from the pulpit with uncontradicted authority and murmuring commands in the confessional, it draws ever tighter the bonds which tie it to the state, which assure it of funds from the national budget, and which at the same time subject it to a spiritual head who is a foreign king. It has further resources in contributions from an ardent and devoted membership and in the alms it distributes. Consider that it regards as its primary duty the control of education. Now, tell me whether under these conditions freedom of education is not a trap.
A volume would be necessary to treat this vast question and all the rest that go with it. I shall confine myself to one consideration:
Under a free system, it is not the clergy who will take command of education, but education that will take command of the clergy. It is not the clergy that will stamp the century with its image, but the century that will make the clergy in its image.
Can it be doubted that education—once freed from the shackles of the state university by virtue of the abolition of its academic degrees and from the conventional prepossession in favor of classical antiquity—would venture, under the stimulus of competition, into new and fruitful paths? The free institutions, which will with difficulty arise beside the state schools and church schools, will feel the necessity of giving the human mind its true nourishment; namely, the knowledge of what things are, and not the knowledge of what was said about them two thousand years ago. Antiquity is the childhood of the world, says Bacon, and, properly speaking, it is our time that is antiquity, the world having acquired knowledge and experience in growing old.* The study of the works of God and of Nature in the moral order and in the material order—this is genuine education, and this is what will prevail when the schools are free of government control. The young people who receive this kind of education will show themselves superior in force of understanding, sureness of judgment, and aptitude for practical life to the frightful little rhetoricians that the state university and the clergy will have saturated with doctrines as false as they are out of date. While the former will be prepared for the social responsibilities of our age, the latter will be forced at first to forget, if they can, what they have learned, and then to learn what they need to know. In face of results like these, the fathers of families will tend to prefer the unregimented schools, full of vigor and life, to those that succumb to the slavery of routine.
What will happen then? The clergy, too, always eager to preserve its influence, will have no other recourse than to substitute the kind of education that concerns itself with things rather than words, with the study of positive truths rather than with conventional doctrines, and with the substance rather than the appearance of things.
But to teach, one must know; and to know, one must learn. The clergy will, then, be forced to change the direction of its own studies, and reforms will be introduced even in the seminaries. Now, do you think that a different diet will not produce different temperaments? For, let us not forget, what will have to be changed is not only the content but also the method of clerical education. Knowledge of the works of God and of Nature is acquired by other intellectual methods than those needed in the study of theogonies. To observe facts and their concatenation is one thing; to accept without inquiry a sacred text and to draw consequences from it is another. When science replaces intuition, inquiry is substituted for authority, and the method of philosophy takes the place of mere reliance on dogma; another end requires another procedure, and other procedures give other dispositions to the mind.
It is not to be doubted, then, that the effect of introducing science into the seminaries, which must be the inevitable result of freedom of education, cannot fail to modify even the intellectual habits prevalent in those institutions. And this is a change that, I am convinced, will herald the dawn of a great and desirable revolution—one which will achieve religious unity.
I said just now that the conventional prepossession in favor of classical antiquity makes living contradictions of all of us—French by necessity and Romans by education. Could it not also be said that from the religious point of view we are living contradictions?
We all feel in our hearts an irresistible power that impels us toward religion, and, at the same time, we sense in our minds a force no less irresistible that alienates us from it—the more so, in point of fact, the more we have cultivated our minds, so that a great scholar* has said: Literati minus credunt: “Learned men are those who have the least faith.”
Oh, what a sad spectacle! For some time now, we have been hearing doleful lamentations about the weakening of religious beliefs; and, what is most strange, the very ones who have allowed the last spark of faith to be extinguished in their souls are the most disposed to find skepticism—on the part of others—in bad taste. “Surrender your reason,” they say to the people. “Unless you do, all is lost. It is all right for me to rely on my reason, for mine is of a special temper; and, in order to observe the Decalogue, I have no need to believe it to be revealed. Even when I deviate from it somewhat, the evil is not great; but you—that's different: you cannot violate it without imperiling society .... and my tranquillity.”
It is thus that fear seeks refuge in hypocrisy. One does not believe, but one makes a pretense of believing. While skepticism lurks in the depths, a calculated religiosity shows itself on the surface, and a new conventional opinion, of the worst kind, dishonors the human mind.
And yet all is not hypocrisy in this kind of talk. Even though everything is disbelieved, even though there is no formal religious observance, there is in the depths of men's hearts, as Lamennais says, a root of faith that never dries up.
How does this strange and dangerous situation come about? Could it not be that, to religious truths, primordial and fundamental, to which all sects and all schools of thought agree in adhering, there are added, with the passage of time, institutions, practices, and rites that the understanding, in spite of itself, cannot accept? And have these human additions any other support, even in the minds of the clergy, than the dogmatism by which they are connected with primordial truths that are not contested?
Religious unity will be achieved, but only when each sect abandons those parasitical institutions to which I have alluded. It may be recalled that Bossuet made short shrift of them when he discussed with Leibnitz the means of restoring to unity all the Christian confessions.* Would what appeared possible and good to the great scholar of the seventeenth century be regarded as too daring by the scholars of the nineteenth? In any case, freedom of education, in making new intellectual habits permeate the clergy, will undoubtedly be one of the most powerful instruments of the great religious revival that alone can henceforth satisfy men's consciences and save society.
Men have such a need of morality that the institution that has been made, in the name of God, the guardian and dispenser of morality, acquires an unlimited authority over them. Now, it is a matter of experience that nothing corrupts men more than unlimited authority. A time comes, then, when, far from the priesthood remaining only an instrument of religion, it is religion that becomes the instrument of the priesthood. From that moment a fatal antagonism is introduced into the world. Faith and reason will each try to prevail over the other. The priest will constantly add to sacred truths errors that he proclaims no less sacred, thereby providing the lay opposition with more and more valid objections, more and more serious arguments in support of its stand. The former will seek to pass off the false along with the true; the latter, to destroy the true along with the false. Religion becomes superstition; and philosophy, incredulity. Between these two extremes the masses drift in doubt, and it can be said that mankind is passing through a critical period. Meanwhile, the abyss becomes ever deeper, and the struggle is carried on not only between man and man, but even within the conscience of each man, with varied results. If a political disturbance happens to terrify society,* it rushes in fear to the side of faith. A sort of hypocritical religiosity gains the ascendancy, and the priest believes himself the victor. But no sooner does calm reappear, no sooner does the priest try to take advantage of his victory, than reason reassumes its rights and sets to work again. When, then, will this anarchy cease? When will the alliance between reason and faith be ratified? When faith is no longer a weapon; when the priesthood, having become again what it should be, the instrument of religion, abandons the formulas and rituals, which are its chief concern, for the essence, which is what chiefly concerns mankind. Then it will not be enough to say that religion and philosophy are sisters; it will have to be said that they are indissolubly united.
But—to come down from these lofty heights and return to the subject of university degrees—I wonder whether the clergy will not be strongly averse to abandoning the routine methods of classical education. They will, in any case, be in no way obliged to do so.
Would it not be ironic indeed if Platonic communism, paganism, the ideas and the moral principles fashioned by slavery and brigandage, the Odes of Horace, and the Metamorphoses of Ovid, were to find their last defenders and teachers in the priests of France? It is not for me to give them advice. But they will allow me to cite here an extract from a newspaper which, if I am not mistaken, is edited by churchmen:
Who, then, among the doctors of the Church, are apologists for pagan education? Is it Saint Clement, who wrote that profane science is like the fruits and preserves which ought to be served only at the end of the meal? Is it Origen, who wrote that in the golden cup of pagan poetry there are deadly poisons? Is it Tertullian, who calls the pagan philosophers the patriarchs of the heretics: Patriarchae hoereticorum? Is it St. Irenaeus, who declared that Plato has been the seasoning of all the heresies? Is it Lactantius, who observed that in his time learned men were those who had the least faith? Is it St. Ambrose, who said that it is very dangerous for Christians to occupy themselves with profane rhetoric? Is it, finally, St. Jerome, who, in his letter to Eustachius, vehemently condemning the study of pagan authors, said: “What is there in common between the light and the darkness? What agreement can exist between Christ and Belial? What has Horace to do with the Psalter, or Virgil with the Gospel? ....” St. Jerome regrets keenly the time that he devoted in his youth to the study of pagan letters: “Wretch that I was, I deprived myself of nourishment in order not to leave Cicero; early in the morning I had Plautus in my hands. If sometimes, returning to myself, I began the reading of the prophets, their style seemed to me uncouth; and because I was blind, I denied the light!”
But let us hear what Saint Augustine has to say:
The simple books that taught me to read and write were actually much more useful and solid than those I was later forced to apply myself to—books about the adventures of a certain Aeneas, that made me weep over the fate of Dido, dying of love, while I, forgetting my own sins, found my own death in these harmful readings..... And this sort of madness is considered a more honorable and more fruitful kind of literature than that by which I was taught to read and write! Tales dementiae honestiores et uberiores litterae putantur. .... Let them cry out against me, these merchants of fine literature; I am not afraid of them, and I am doing everything I can to depart from the evil ways I have followed..... It is true that from these studies I have retained many expressions that it is useful to know, but these can be learned elsewhere than in such frivolous readings, and children should be led on a less dangerous road. But who dares to stay thy course, O evil torrent of custom!.... Is it not in order to follow your course that I read the story of Jupiter, who at the same time unleashes the thunder and commits adultery? We know well that these things are contradictory; but with the aid of this false thunder the horror that adultery inspires is diminished, and young people are influenced to imitate the actions of a criminal god.
And yet, thou stream of Hell, all the sons of men are cast into thy current, and much is made of this blameworthy custom, which goes on publicly, under the very eyes of the magistrates, for an agreed salary..... It was the wine of error that was presented to us in our childhood by our inebriated teachers; they punished us when we refused to drink of it, and we could not appeal from their sentence to any judge who was not as drunk as they. My soul was thus the prey of impure spirits, for there is more than one way of offering sacrifices to the demons.*
Are not these very eloquent lamentations, adds the Catholic paper, this bitter criticism, these harsh reproaches, these touching regrets, these judicious counsels, addressed as much to our century as to the one for which St. Augustine wrote? Is not the same system of studies, against which St. Augustine inveighed with such vehemence, preserved under the name of classical education? Has not that torrent of paganism inundated the world? Are not thousands of children cast each year into its current, where they lose their faith and moral principles, the feeling of human dignity, the love of freedom, and the knowledge of their rights and their duties? Do they not emerge completely imbued with the false ideas of paganism, with its false ethics, its false virtues, as well as its vices and its deep contempt for mankind?
And this frightful moral disorder does not spring from the perversity of individuals abandoned to their own free will. No; it is imposed by law by means of university degrees. M. de Montalembert himself, while regretting that the study of ancient literature did not go far enough, cited the reports of the inspectors and the deans of the university faculties. They are unanimous in observing the resistance, I would almost say the revolt, of public sentiment against so absurd and so harmful a tyranny. All observe that the young people of France calculate with mathematical precision what they are required to learn and what they are allowed not to know about classical studies, and that they stop just at the point at which the degrees are obtained. It is by no means the same in the other branches of human knowledge. Is it not notorious that for ten admissions, one hundred candidates present themselves, all superior to what the courses of study require? Let the legislator, then, show some consideration for public opinion and the spirit of the age.
Is it a barbarian, a Goth, a Pict, who dares to speak here? Is he ignorant of the supreme beauty of the literary monuments bequeathed by antiquity or the services rendered to the cause of civilization by the Greek democracies?
Certainly not; it cannot be too often repeated that he is not asking that the law proscribe, but that it not prescribe. He asks that it leave the citizens free to do as they will. They will be able to see history in its true light, to admire what is worthy of admiration, to stigmatize what merits contempt, and to free themselves from that conventional prepossession in favor of classical antiquity that plagues modern nations so disastrously. Under the influence of freedom, the natural sciences and profane letters, Christianity and paganism will be able to play in education the part that rightfully belongs to them; and in this way there will be reestablished among men's ideas, interests, and ways of life that harmony which is the condition of order as much for the individual conscience as it is for society.
Declaration of War against the Professors of Political Economy1
We know how bitterly the men who restrict the trade of others for their own advantage complain that political economy obstinately refuses to sing the praises of these restrictions. If they do not hope to obtain the suppression of this discipline, they at least seek the dismissal of those who profess it, taking from the Inquisition the wise maxim: “Do you want to win the argument with your opponents? Just shut their mouths.”
Hence, we were not all surprised to learn that, on the occasion of the draft of a law for the organization of the university faculties, they addressed a very lengthy memorandum to the Minister of Public Education, from which we reproduce a few extracts.
“Do you realize what you are doing, sir? You want to introduce the teaching of political economy into the university curriculum! But then it is a foregone conclusion that our privileges are to be brought into disrepute!
“If any maxim is venerable, it is certainly this: In all countries education must be in harmony with the system of government. Do you think that at Sparta or Rome the public treasury would have paid professors to declaim against the loot taken in war or against slavery? And in France you would permit them to discredit restrictions on trade!2
“Nature, sir, has willed that nations can exist only by the products of their labor, and at the same time it has made labor painful. That is why we observe among men in all ages and in all countries an incurable disposition to despoil one another. It is so agreeable to place the burden of pain on one's neighbor and to keep the remuneration for oneself!
“War was the first means to be thought of. There's no quicker and simpler way to get hold of other people's property.
“Slavery came next. It is a more refined means, and it has been demonstrated that it was a great step towards civilization to make a slave of the prisoner instead of killing him.
“Finally, the passing of time has substituted for these two crude modes of plunder a much more subtle one, which, precisely because of its subtlety, has much more chance of enduring, the more so as its very name, protection, is admirably fitted to conceal its odiousness. You have no idea how much names sometimes deceive us about things.
“You see, sir, to preach against protection in modern times would be the same as preaching against war and slavery in antiquity. It would mean disturbing the social order and troubling the peace of a very respectable class of citizens. And if pagan Rome showed great wisdom, a foresighted spirit of conservatism, in persecuting that new sect that had come into its midst to proclaim the dangerous words peace and fraternity, why should we have more pity today for the professors of political economy? Still, our ways are so gentle, our moderation so great, that we do not require that you throw them to the lions. Just keep them from talking, and we shall be satisfied.
“Or, at least, if they have such a passion for discussion, can they not carry it on with some impartiality? Can they not adjust their science a little to our wishes? By what fatality have the professors of political economy in all countries been given the right to turn the weapon of reason against the protectionist system? If this system has some inconveniences, certainly it also has some advantages, for it is convenient for us. Cannot the professors gloss over the inconveniences and emphasize the advantages?
“Besides, of what use are scholars if not to make scientific discoveries? Who keeps them from inventing a political economy just for us? Evidently there is some ill will on their side. When the Holy Inquisition at Rome deemed it bad that Galileo had made the earth turn, that great man did not hesitate to make it motionless. He even made his declaration on his knees. It is true that on arising he murmured, it is said: E pur si muove. (‘And yet it moves.’) Let our professors also declare publicly and on their knees that freedom is worthless, and we shall pardon them if they mutter, provided it is under their breath: E pur è buona. (‘And yet it is good.’)
“But we wish, besides, to push moderation still further. You will not deny, sir, that one must be impartial above all. All right, since there are two conflicting doctrines in the world, one bearing the motto: Allow trade, and the other: Prevent trade, for heaven's sake, keep the balance equal and have both doctrines professed. See to it that our variety of political economy is also taught.
“Is it not very discouraging to see science always siding with freedom, and ought it not to share its favors a little? But, no, a chair is no sooner set up than there appears, like a Medusa head, the face of a freetrader.
“It is thus that J. B. Say has set an example that Messrs. Blanqui,* Rossi,† Michel Chevalier,‡ and Joseph Garnier§ have hastened to follow. What would have become of us if your predecessors had not taken great care to restrict this harmful teaching? Who knows? This very year we might have had to suffer the consequences of a low price for bread.
“In England, Adam Smith, Dugald Stewart,* Nassau Senior, and a thousand others have produced the same scandal. Moreover, the University of Oxford creates a chair of political economy and puts in it .... whom?—a future archbishop;3 and thereupon Mr. Archbishop sets about teaching that religion agrees with science in condemning that part of our profits which comes from the protective system. And so, what has been the result? Little by little public opinion has let itself be seduced, and within two years the English will have the misfortune to be free in their selling and buying. May they be ruined as they deserve!
“The same thing is happening in Italy. Kings, princes, and dukes, great and small, have had the imprudence to tolerate instruction in economics, without imposing on the professors the obligation to make science produce views favorable to restrictions on trade. Innumerable professors, like Genovesi,† Beccaria,‡ and, in our day, Sr. Scialoja,§ as might have been expected, set themselves to preaching freedom; and now Tuscany has free trade, and Naples is cutting its tariffs.
“You know what have been the results in Switzerland of the intellectual movement that has always in that country directed men's minds towards economic knowledge. Switzerland is free and seems placed in the center of Europe, like a light in a chandelier, expressly to embarrass us. For when we say: “The consequence of free trade is to ruin agriculture, commerce, and industry,” people never fail to point to Switzerland. For a moment we did not know what to reply. Thank heaven, La Presse relieved us of our embarrassment by furnishing us this precious argument: Switzerland has not been ruined because it is small.
“Science, accursed science, threatens to let loose the same calamity in Spain. Spain is the classic land of protection. And look how it has prospered! And, without taking account of the treasures it has drained from the New World or of the richness of its soil, the protectionist system is enough to explain the degree of splendor to which it has attained. But Spain has professors of political economy, men like La Sagra* and Florez Estrada;† and now the Minister of Finance, Sr. Salamanca,‡ proposes to restore the credit of Spain and increase its income solely by the power of free trade.
“Well, sir, what more do you want? In Russia there is only one economist, and he is for free trade.
“You see, the conspiracy of all the scholars in the world against trade barriers is flagrant. And what self-interest impels them? None. They could just as well preach protection if they liked; they would be no nearer starvation. It is, then, pure spitefulness on their part. This unanimity has the gravest dangers. Do you know what people will say? Seeing economists so completely in agreement, people will conclude that they are united in the same belief for the same reason that all the geometers in the world think the same way, since the days of Archimedes, about the square of the hypotenuse.
“When, sir, we beg you to have two contradictory doctrines taught impartially, this can be only a makeshift on our part, for we foresee what will happen: he whom you entrust with the teaching of the protectionist doctrine may well be led by his studies to embrace the doctrine of freedom.
“The best thing is to proscribe, once and for all, economics and economists, and to return to the wise traditions of the Empire. Instead of creating new chairs of political economy, simply do away with those, fortunately few in number, that still remain. Do you know how political economy has been defined? The science that teaches workers to keep what belongs to them. Obviously a good fourth of the human race would be lost if this fatal science were to be widely propagated.
“Let us hold fast to the good old classical education, which can do nobody any harm. Let us cram our young people with Greek and Latin. When they scan the hexameters of The Eclogues on their fingertips from morning to night, what harm can that do us? Let them live in Roman society, with the Gracchi and Brutus, in the midst of a Senate whose members always speak of war, and in a Forum where booty is always in question; let them be imbued with the gentle philosophy of Horace:
“What need is there to teach them the laws of labor and exchange? Rome teaches them to despise labor, servile opus, and not to recognize as legitimate any other exchange than the vae victis! (‘Woe to the conquered!’), the cry of the warrior slaveowner. In this way we shall prepare our youth well for life in our modern society. There are, to be sure, a few small dangers. Our young people will be somewhat republican; they will have strange ideas about freedom and property; in their blind admiration for brute force, they will be found, perhaps, a little disposed to pick quarrels with all Europe and to settle political questions in the street with the aid of paving stones. It is inevitable, and frankly, sir, thanks to Titus Livy, we have all more or less wallowed in that sink. After all, these are dangers of the kind you can take care of with a few good policemen. But what police force can you oppose to the subversive ideas of the economists, who have brazenly written at the head of their program the following atrocious definition of property: When a man has produced a thing with the sweat of his brow, since he has the right to consume it, he has the right to exchange it.4
“No, no, with such people it is labor lost to have recourse to refutation.
“Quick—a gag, two gags, three gags!”
Speech on the Suppression of Industrial Combinations1
I am here to support the amendment of my honorable friend, M. Morin; I cannot support it without also examining the proposal of the committee. It is impossible to discuss the amendment of M. Morin without entering involuntarily, so to speak, into the general discussion; this requires us to discuss the committee's conclusions as well.
In fact, M. Morin's amendment is more than a mere modification of the principal proposition; he is opposing one system to another system, and, to decide between them, we must compare them carefully.
Citizens, I do not bring into this discussion any partisan spirit or any class prejudice. I shall not seek to play upon your emotions, but the Assembly sees that my lungs* cannot struggle against parliamentary tumults; I need its kindest attention.
To evaluate the committee's system, let me recall some words of its honorable reporter, M. de Vatimesnil.† He said: “There is a general principle in Article 44 and those that follow it in the Penal Code; namely: Combination, whether between employers or between workers, constitutes an offense only when an attempt or a beginning has been made to put it into effect.” This is written into the law, and it is this that gave rise to an immediate response to an observation concerning it made by the honorable M. Morin. He said to you: “The workers, then, cannot join together, cannot come to their employer and honorably discuss their wages with him!” (That is the expression he used: “honorably discuss with him.”)
“Pardon me; they can join together,” interjects M. Vatimesnil; “they can decidedly do so, either by all coming to the employer together or by naming committees to come; the offense, according to the terms of the Code, begins only when an attempt or a beginning has been made to effect a combination, that is, when, after having discussed the conditions, and despite the spirit of conciliation that the employers in their own interest always bring to this kind of thing, the workers say to them: ‘since you will not give all that we ask of you, we are going to quit, and, by using our influence, by exerting pressures that are well known and that depend upon our identity of interests and our comradeship, we are going to get all the other workers in other shops to go on strike.’”
After reading this, I ask myself what the offense consists in; for in this Assembly there cannot be, it seems to me, what is called a systematic majority or minority on such a question. We all wish to repress offenses; we all aim at not introducing fictitious, imaginary offenses into the Penal Code, just to have the pleasure of punishing them.
I ask myself what the offense consists in. Is it in the combination, in the strike, or in the pressure to which allusion has been made? It is said: “It is the combination itself that constitutes the offense.” I cannot accept this doctrine, because the word combination* is synonymous with association; it has the same etymology and the same meaning. Combination in itself, aside from the end it aims at and the means it employs, cannot be considered as an offense, and the honorable reporter feels that himself; for, replying to M. Morin, who asked whether the workers could discuss wages with their employers, the honorable M. de Vatimesnil said: “They certainly can; they can come separately or all together to name committees.” Now, to name committees, they must certainly come to an understanding, plan together, associate; they must form a combination. Strictly speaking, then, it is not in the mere fact of combination that the offense consists.
Nevertheless, some would like to make this the offense, and they say: “A beginning has to be made in effecting a combination.” But can the fact of beginning to put an innocent action into effect render that action culpable? I do not believe so. If an action is bad in itself, certainly the law cannot deal with it until it has been begun. Indeed, I say that it is the beginning of the action that brings the action into existence. Your language, on the contrary, is tantamount to saying that a look is an offense, but it does not become an offense until one begins to look. M. de Vatimesnil himself recognizes that it is not possible to seek for the thought behind a culpable action. Now, when the action is in itself innocent and is manifested by innocent deeds, it is evident that it is not incriminating and cannot change its nature.
Now, what is to be understood by the words “beginning to effect a combination"?
A combination can occur, can begin to be put into effect, in a thousand different ways. But no, the concern is not with these thousand different ways, but with the strike. In that case, if it is the strike that is necessarily the beginning of the combination, then say that the strike is in itself an offense, punish the strike, and say that the strike will be punished, that whoever refuses to work at wage rates that he does not accept will be punished. Then your law will be honest.
But is there any conscience that can admit that the strike is an offense in itself, independently of the means employed? Does a man not have the right to refuse to sell his labor at a rate that does not suit him?
The reply to me will be: “All this may be true when only a single individual is involved, but it is not true when men have associated together for this purpose.”
But, gentlemen, an action that is innocent in itself is not criminal because it is multiplied by a certain number of men. When an action is bad in itself, I admit that if that action is performed by a certain number of individuals, one may say that it is aggravated; but when it is innocent in itself, it cannot become criminal because it is the deed of a great number of individuals. I do not understand, then, how one can say that a strike is criminal. If one man has the right to say to another: “I don't want to work under such and such conditions,” two or three thousand men have the same right; they have the right to quit. This is a natural right, which should also be a legal right.
However, my opponents need to impose a stigma of criminality on the strike. And how do they go about it? They slip between parentheses these words: “Since you will not give us what we ask of you, we are going to quit; we are going, by exerting pressures that are well known and that depend upon our identity of interests and our comradeship....”
This, then, is the offense: the well-known pressures—violence and intimidation. This is the offense; this is what you ought to punish. And, in fact, that is precisely what the amendment of the honorable M. Morin does. How can you refuse him your support?
But they adopt another line of reasoning and say: “Combination has two characteristics that can put it in the category of offenses; combination is culpable in itself, and it produces consequences that are harmful to the worker, to the employer, and to the whole of society.”
In the first place, that combination is culpable is precisely the point in question, quod erat demonstrandum; it is or is not culpable, depending on the end it proposes and, above all, on the means it employs. If the means are limited to mere inertia, to passivity, if the workers are in accord, have reached agreement, and say: “We do not want to sell our merchandise, which is labor, at such a price. We want another rate; and if you refuse, we are going to return to our homes or seek work elsewhere,” it seems to me that it is impossible to say that this is a culpable action.
But you contend that it is harmful. Here, despite all the respect that I profess for the talent of the honorable reporter, I believe that he has ventured into a type of reasoning that is confused, to say the least. He says: “The strike is harmful to the employer, since the absence of one or of several workers is troublesome for him. A strike has an adverse effect on his production, so that the strikers violate the freedom of the employer, and, consequently Article 13 of the Constitution.”
This is, in fact, the complete reverse of the truth.
I meet with an employer, we discuss the rate of pay, what he offers me does not suit me, I commit no violence, I leave—and you say that it is I who infringe on the employer's freedom, because my refusal to work on his terms has an adverse effect on his production! Note that what you proclaim is nothing else than slavery. For what is a slave, if not a man forced by law to work under conditions that he rejects? [The Left: “Hear! Hear!”]
You ask that the law intervene because I violate the property rights of the employer; do you not see that, on the contrary, it is the employer who violates mine? If he has the law intervene to impose his will on me, where is freedom, where is equality? [The Left: “Hear! Hear!”]
Do not say that I misrepresent your reasoning, for it is there in its entirety in the report and in your speech.
Next, you say that the workers harm themselves when they combine, and you conclude from this that the law should prevent strikes. I am in agreement with you that in most cases the workers do harm themselves. But it is precisely for this reason that I desire that they should be free, because freedom would teach them that they harm themselves. Yet you deduce the consequence that the law must intervene and bind them to the workshop.
You thus force the law to enter upon a very broad and dangerous road.
You accuse the socialists every day of wanting to make the law intervene in all things, of wanting to abolish personal responsibility.
You complain every day that wherever there is evil, suffering, or sorrow, man constantly invokes the law and the state.
I, for my part, do not want the law to say to a man, because he strikes and thereby consumes a part of his savings: “You must work in that shop, although they will not give you the wage rate that you ask for.” I cannot accept such a theory.
Finally, you say that the strike has a harmful effect on the whole of society.
There is no doubt that it does; but the reasoning is the same: a man judges that, by quitting work, he will obtain a better rate of wages in a week or ten days; undoubtedly this involves a loss of labor for society, but what would you do? Do you want the law to cure everything? It is impossible; in that case, we must say that a merchant who waits for a better time to sell his coffee or his sugar harms society. Then we must always invoke the law and call upon the state to intervene.
Against the proposal of the committee an objection has been made that, it seems to me, has been treated too lightly, for it is very serious. It has been said: “What is the issue? On the one side are employers, and on the other, workers; what is in question is the determination of wage rates. Evidently, what is desirable, if wages are determined by the natural play of supply and demand, is that the demand and the supply be equally free, or, if you will, equally constrained. To this end there are only two means: either we must allow combinations perfect freedom, or we must suppress them completely.”
It is objected—and you admit it—that it is absolutely impossible by means of your law to hold the balance equal; for combinations of workers, since they are formed on a very large scale and in full view, are much more easy to deal with than combinations of employers.
You admit the difficulty; but you also add: “The law cannot stop to consider these details.” I reply that it should stop to consider them. If the law can repress a supposed offense only by committing the most shocking and enormous injustice against an entire class of citizens, it should stop to consider what it is doing. There are a thousand analogous cases which the law does stop to consider.
You admit yourself that under the rule of your legislation supply and demand are no longer on an even footing, since combinations of employers cannot be apprehended; and it is evident that if two or three employers dine together and form a combination, no one knows anything about it. That of workers, on the other hand, will always be perceived, since it is made openly.
Since one side escapes your law, and the other does not, the law has the necessary consequence of bearing down on supply, but not on demand, i.e., of changing, at least in so far as it is effective, the natural rate of wages, and this in a systematic and permanent manner. This is what I cannot approve of. I say that since you cannot make a law equally applicable to all interests involved, since you cannot give them legal equality, then allow them freedom, which includes equality.
But if equality is not actually attainable as a result of the committee's proposal, is it at least achieved on paper? Yes, I certainly believe that the committee has made great efforts to attain at least apparent equality. However, it has not yet succeeded; and, for us to be convinced of this, it suffices to compare Article 414 with Article 415, that which concerns the employers with that which concerns the workers. The first is exceedingly simple: there can be no mistake; justice when it pursues the offender—and the latter when he defends himself—will know perfectly what the rule is.
“1. Any combination between employers of workers that tends to force the lowering of wages, if an attempt or a beginning has been made to put it into effect, will be punished.”
I call your attention to the word “force,” which gives great latitude to the employers' defense. “It is true,” they will say, “that two or three of us united; we took steps to lower wages, but we did not try to force the issue.” This is a very important word that is not found in the following article.
In fact, the following article is extremely elastic; it comprises not just one act, but a great number of acts.
“Any combination of workers to stop work simultaneously, to forbid work in the shops, to prevent appearing there before or after certain hours, and, in general, to suspend work in order to influence or raise the price of labor [it does not say ‘force’], if an attempt or beginning has been made to put it into effect, etc....”
And if it be said that I cavil about the word “force,” I call the attention of the committee to the importance that it has itself given to this word. [Uproar.]
[A member on the Left]: The Right will not grant you silence. When good things are said, they always interrupt. Say something false, and they will listen to you.
M. Frédéric Bastiat: In its desire to arrive at a certain impartiality, at least on paper, since it is impossible in fact, the committee had two ways to take in regard to the expressions “unjustly" and “abusively" that Article 414 contains.
Either the words that open so wide an area of defense for employers must evidently be suppressed in Article 414, or they must be introduced into Article 415 to open the same door to the workers. The committee has preferred the suppression of the words “unjustly" and “abusively.” On what basis has the committee taken this action? Precisely on the basis of what immediately follows these words—the word “force"; and this word, underlined five times on one page of its report, proves that the committee attaches great importance to it. Indeed, the committee has expressed itself categorically on this point:
When an agreement for measures contrary to law has been made to force the reduction of wages, it is impossible to justify it. Such a deed is necessarily unjust and abusive; for to force the reduction of wages is to produce, by a pact as illicit as it is merciless, a reduction of wages that would not have resulted from the circumstances of industry and free competition; from which it follows that the use of the words “unjustly" and “abusively" offends good sense.
Thus, how have they justified the elimination they have made of the words “unjustly" and “abusively"? They have said: “The words are redundant; the term ‘force’ replaces all that.”
But, gentlemen, when the workers were concerned, the word “force" was no longer inserted, and hence the workers do not have the same chance of defense; it has merely been set down that the workers cannot raise wages, no longer unjustly and abusively by forcing the raise, but solely by raising them. There is again, at least in the drafting, a flaw, an inequality, which has simply been grafted onto the greater inequality that I have just spoken of.
Such, gentlemen, is the system proposed by the committee, a system that, in my opinion, is vicious in every way, vicious theoretically and vicious practically, a system that leaves us in complete uncertainty as to what the offense is. Is it combination, is it striking, is it abuse, or is it force? We are not told. I defy anyone, even the most logical mind, to see where impunity begins and where it ends. You say to me: “Combination is an offense. Yet you may name a committee.” But I am not sure of being able to name a committee and to send delegates when your report is full of considerations from which it follows that combination is the very essence of the offense.
Next, I say that from a practical point of view your law is full of inequalities; it is not applied exactly and proportionately to the two parties whose antagonism you would like to abolish. A peculiar way to abolish antagonism between two parties, to treat them in an unequal manner!
As for the system of M. Morin, I shall not spend much time on it. It is perfectly clear, perfectly lucid; it rests on an unshakable principle, admitted by everyone: freedom for use and suppression of abuse. There is no intellect whatsoever that does not give its assent to such a principle.
Ask the first comer, whomever you will, whether the law is unjust or partial when it confines itself to repressing intimidation and violence. Everyone will tell you: “These are the true offenses.” Besides, laws are made for the ignorant as well as for the learned. Men's minds must instantly grasp the definition of an offense; the conscience must give its assent. While reading the law, one must say: “Truly, that is an offense.” You speak of respect for the law; this immediate response is a constituent of that respect. How do you expect people to respect an unintelligent and unintelligible law? That is impossible. [Approval on the Left.]
What is happening here, gentlemen, seems to me to derive some importance from the perfect analogy with what has happened in another country of which M. de Vatimesnil spoke yesterday, England, which has had so much experience with combinations, labor disputes, and difficulties of that nature. I believe that that experience is worthy of being considered here.
You have been told of the numerous and formidable combinations that have appeared there since the abrogation of the relevant law or laws; but you have been told nothing of those that took place formerly. We must speak of them too; for, in order to judge the two systems, we must compare them.
Before 1824, England had been desolated by combinations so numerous, so terrible, so violent, that thirty-seven statutes were passed against this scourge in a country where, as you know, tradition constitutes, so to speak, a part of the law, and where even absurd laws are respected just because they are ancient. That country must indeed have been exhausted and tormented by the evil of combination to decide to pass one after another, and in a brief period of time, thirty-seven statutes, each more forceful than the one before. And what was the result? They did not achieve their end; the evil became more and more aggravated. One fine day they said to themselves: “We have tried many systems. Thirty-seven statutes have been passed. Let us try to see whether we can succeed by a very simple means: justice and freedom.” I should like to see this reasoning applied to many questions. Then their solution would not be so difficult as is thought. In short, this time such reasoning prevailed and was applied in England.
Hence, in 1824, a law was introduced in accordance with the proposal of Mr. Hume,* a proposal that resembled very strongly that of Messrs. Doutre,† Greppo,‡ Benoît,§ and Fould: it decreed the total repeal of the laws on combinations that had been passed up to that time. Justice in England thus found itself disarmed in face of combinations, even against violence, intimidation, and threat—deeds which, however, aggravate combination. To these deeds, only the laws relating to threats or to incidental street brawls could be applied; so that the next year, in 1825, the Minister of Justice asked for a special law that would allow complete freedom to combinations, but would increase the punishment for ordinary acts of violence. This is the essence of the law of 1825.
Article 3 declares: “Whosoever by intimidation, threats, or acts of violence does.... etc..... will be punished by imprisonment and a fine, etc.....
The words “intimidation,” “threats,” and “acts of violence,” reappear in each phrase. The word “combination" is not even mentioned.
And then come two other extremely remarkable articles that would probably not be allowed in France, because they are virtually comprised in the maxim: “What the law does not forbid is allowed.”
The law of 1825 says: “Those who unite or combine to seek to influence the rate of wages, or those who enter into verbal or written agreements, etc..... will not be subject to this penalty.”
In short, the broadest and most complete freedom is expressly granted there.
I say there is an analogy in the situation, for what the committee proposes for your consideration is the old English system, that of the statutes. The proposal of M. Doutre and of his colleagues is the proposal of Mr. Hume, which repealed all the statutes and allowed no increased penalties for acts of violence that were planned in common; although one cannot fail to see that acts of violence planned by a certain number of men involve more danger than individual acts of violence committed in the street. In short, the proposal of the honorable M. Morin corresponds perfectly to the one that brought forth in England the definitive law of 1825.
Now, you are told: “Since 1825, England has not fared well with this system.” It has not fared well with it! I can only say that, for my part, I think that you make pronouncements on this question without having pondered it deeply enough. I have traveled through England several times, and I have asked a great number of manufacturers about this law. I can assert that I never met a person who did not praise it, and who was not quite satisfied that England in this case had dared to adopt freedom. And it is perhaps because of this that later it dared again to adopt freedom in regard to many other questions.
You cite the strike of 1832, which indeed was a formidable one; but we must take care not to present facts out of context. That year in England was one of scarcity: wheat was worth ninety-five shillings per quarter; there was a famine that lasted for several years.
M. de Vatimesnil, reporter: I cited the strike of 1842.
M. Bastiat: There was a famine in 1832 and another, severer one, in 1842.
Reporter: I spoke of the strike of 1842.
M. Bastiat: My argument applies with even more force to the year 1842. In times of scarcity like those, what happens? The income of nearly the whole population is used to buy necessities. They do not buy manufactured goods; the workshops are idle; many workers must be laid off; the labor market is glutted; and wages are lowered.
Indeed, when a great fall in wages occurs, and when this is connected with a terrible famine, it is not astonishing that in a country of complete freedom combinations are formed.
This is what took place in England. Did they change the law because of that? Not at all.
They knew the causes of these combinations, but they faced them. They punished threats and acts of violence wherever these appeared, but they did nothing else.
A frightful picture of these associations has been presented to us, and it is said that they tended to become political.
Gentlemen, at the time of which I speak, England was concerned with a great question, and that question was made more critical by the circumstances, by scarcity. There was a struggle between the industrial population and the landed proprietors, that is, the aristocracy, which wanted to sell wheat as dearly as possible, and therefore prohibited the importation of foreign wheat. What was the result? Those unions which yesterday were genially called “trade-unions,” those unions which enjoyed freedom of combination, seeing that all the efforts made by their combination had not succeeded in raising the rate of wages....
A voice: That is what is bad.....
M. Bastiat: You say it is an evil; I say, on the contrary, that it is a great good. The workers perceived that the rate of wages does not depend on the employers, but on other social laws, and they said to themselves: “Why have not our wages risen? The reason for it is simple: it is because we are forbidden to work for export or at least to receive foreign wheat in payment. It is, then, wrong for us to blame our employers; we must blame the aristocratic class, which not only owns the soil but makes the laws, and we shall have an influence on wages only when we shall have won our political rights.”
[The Left: “Hear! Hear!”]
M. Bastiat: Really, gentlemen, to find something extraordinary in this very simple and natural conduct on the part of the English workers is almost to bring to this tribunal a protest against universal suffrage in France. [More approval on the Left.]
It follows from this that the English workers have learned a great lesson by virtue of their freedom; they have learned that their employers are not always responsible for raising or lowering the rate of wages. Today England has just passed through two or three very difficult years following the potato blight, the poor harvest, the mania for railroads, and the revolutions that have desolated Europe and closed the outlets for England's industrial products. Never has it passed through such crises. Yet there has not been a single reprehensible act of combination or one deed of violence. The workers have renounced such acts after their experience; we have there an example to cite and to ponder on in our country. [Approval on the Left.]
In short, there is one consideration that strikes me as more important than all the rest. You want respect for the law, and you are quite right; but we must not obliterate the meaning of justice among men.
We are confronted by two systems: that of the committee and that of M. Morin.
Imagine alternatively that, by virtue of one or the other system, the workers are indicted. Suppose the workers are indicted in accordance with the present law on combinations. They do not even know what is required of them; they believed they were right up to a certain point to combine and to plan together, and you recognized it yourself in a certain measure. They say: “We have gone through our savings; we are ruined. It is not our fault; it is that of society which torments us, of bosses who harass us, of justice which pursues us.” They come before the tribunals with resentment in their hearts; they present themselves as victims; and not only do they resist, but those who are not prosecuted sympathize with them: our young people, always so ardent, as well as the leading publicists, take up their cause. Do you believe that this is a good situation, favorable for the justice of the country?
On the other hand, prosecute the workers according to the system of M. Morin. Let them be indicted; let the Prosecutor of the Republic say: “We do not prosecute you because you combined; you are perfectly free to do so. You demanded an increase in wages; we said nothing. You planned together; we said nothing. You wanted to strike; we said nothing. You tried to use persuasion on your comrades; we said nothing. But you used arms, violence, threats; we have indicted you.”
The worker whom you prosecute thus will bow his head, because he will feel he is wrong, and will acknowledge that the justice of his country has been impartial and equitable. [“Well said!”]
I will conclude, gentlemen, with one further consideration:
In my opinion, there are a number of questions now being discussed among the working classes about whose deep importance the workers are being misled. I call your attention to this point: whenever a revolution breaks out in a country where there are different ranks and classes and social strata, and where the uppermost class has arrogated to itself certain privileges, it is the class next lower in the social scale that gains the ascendancy; naturally, it calls the others to its aid by appealing to notions of fairness and justice. After the revolution, the second class comes to power. Usually it too is not long in granting itself privileges. The same is true of the third and the fourth class. All this is odious, but it is always possible, as long as there is a lower class that can pay the costs of the privileges involved.
But as a result of the February Revolution, the whole nation, the whole people, including the lowest strata of the population, reached the point, or could reach it, through election, through universal suffrage, where it governed itself. And then, in a spirit of imitation which I deplore, but which seems to me natural enough, the people thought they could cure their sufferings by granting themselves privileges too; for I regard the right to interest-free credit and the right to employment and many other demands as really privileges. [Unrest.]
And in fact, gentlemen, these privileges can be granted to it, if there is beneath it, or within sight, another, even more numerous class, three hundred million Chinese, for example, who can bear the costs of it. [Laughter of agreement.] Now, such a class does not exist; that is why each of the privileges will have to be paid for by our own people, out of their own pockets, not only without any possible profit to them, but by means of a complicated apparatus of which they will have to bear all the cost.
Thus, the Legislative Assembly may be called upon to struggle against these demands, which it must not treat too lightly, because, after all, they are sincere. You will be obliged, I say, to struggle. How will you do so successfully if you refuse the working class when it asks only what is reasonable, when it asks purely and simply for justice and freedom? I believe that you will gain great strength by here giving a proof of your impartiality; you will be looked upon as the guardians of all classes and especially of this class, if you show yourselves completely impartial and just towards them. [Strong approval on the Left.]
To sum up: I reject the committee's proposal because it is only an expedient, and the characteristic of all expedients is weakness and injustice. I support M. Morin's proposal because it is based on a principle; and only principles have the power to satisfy men's minds, to win their hearts, and to gain the consent of their consciences. They have asked us: “Do you wish to proclaim freedom simply out of platonic love of freedom?” I, for my part, reply, “Yes.” Freedom may entail trials for nations, but it alone enlightens, teaches, and edifies them. Outside of freedom, there is only oppression; and friends of order should bear in mind that this is no longer the time, if there ever was one, when the union of classes, respect for the law, security of interests, and the tranquillity of nations can be founded on oppression.
To the Democrats
No, I am not mistaken; I feel, beating within my breast, a democratic heart. How, then, does it happen that I find myself so often in opposition to those who proclaim themselves the exclusive representatives of democracy?
Yet we must understand one another. Has this word two opposite meanings?
For my part, it seems to me that there is a connection between the aspiration that impels all men towards the improvement of their material, intellectual, and moral condition, and the faculties with which they are endowed to realize this aspiration.
Hence, I should like each man to have, on his own responsibility, the free disposition, administration, and control of his own person, his acts, his family, his transactions, his associations, his intelligence, his faculties, his labor, his capital, and his property.
This is how they understand freedom and democracy in the United States. There each citizen is vigilant with a jealous care to remain his own master. It is by virtue of such freedom that the poor hope to emerge from poverty, and that the rich hope to preserve their wealth.
And, in fact, as we see, in a very short time this system has brought the Americans to a degree of enterprise, security, wealth, and equality of which the annals of the human race offer no other example.
However, there as everywhere, there are men who do not scruple to violate for their personal advantage the freedom and property rights of their fellow citizens.
That is why the law intervenes, through the instrumentality of the public police force, to prevent and repress such aggressive inclinations.
Everyone co-operates, in proportion to his means, in the maintenance of this force. This is not a case, as has been said, of sacrificing a part of one's liberty to preserve the rest; it is, on the contrary, the most simple, just, efficacious, and economical means of guaranteeing the freedom of all.
And one of the most difficult problems of politics is to keep the trustees of this public police force from doing themselves what they are charged with preventing.
The French democrats, so it seems, see things in an entirely different light.
Undoubtedly, like the American democrats, they condemn, reject, and hold in contempt the acts of plunder that citizens might be tempted to commit on their own authority against one another—every act of aggression committed against the property, labor, and freedom of one individual by another individual.
But plunder, which they reject between individuals, they regard as a means of equalizing property, and, consequently, they entrust plunder to the law, to the public police force, which I thought was instituted to prevent it.
Thus, while the American democrats, having empowered the public police force to punish individual plunder, are very much concerned that this force should not itself become spoliative; the French democrats, on the contrary, make of this force an instrument of plunder, and this seems to be the very foundation and essence of their system.
To this system they give the grand names of organization, association, fraternity, and solidarity. They thereby remove all scruples from the most brutal appetites.
“Peter is poor; Mondor is rich. Are they not brothers? Are they not answerable for one another? Must they not be associated, organized? Then, let them share, and all will be for the best. It is true that Peter should not take from Mondor. That would be wrong. But we will make laws and create forces that will be charged with carrying out that operation. Thus, the resistance of Mondor will be treated as rebellion, and Peter's conscience can be at ease.”
In the history of this legislature there have been occasions when plunder appeared under an especially hideous aspect. This has been so whenever the law has worked to the advantage of the rich and the detriment of the poor.
But even in such cases the Montagnards have been known to applaud. Is it not because they want above all to see the principle of legal plunder securely established as a precedent? Once the legal plunder of the poor for the profit of the rich is made legitimate by the support of the majority, how reject the legal plunder of the rich for the benefit of the poor?
Unhappy country, where the sacred forces that were meant to support each man's rights are perverted to accomplish themselves the violation of these rights!
Yesterday at the Legislative Assembly, we witnessed a scene from that abominable and distressing spectacle which may well be called the comedy of dupes.
Here is what it was about.
Every year 300,000 children reach the age of twelve. Of these 300,000 children, perhaps 10,000 enter the state collèges and lycèes. Are their parents all rich? I know nothing about that. But it can most certainly be affirmed that they are the richest in the nation.
Naturally, they must pay the costs of feeding, instructing, and bringing up their children. But they find them too high. Consequently, they have demanded and obtained a law that, by taxes on drinks and salt, takes money from the poor parents of 290,000 children, to be distributed to them, the rich parents, by way of gratuity, encouragement, indemnity, subsidy, etc., etc.
M. Mortimer-Ternaux has demanded that this monstrous situation be brought to an end, but he has failed in his efforts. The extreme Right finds it very convenient to make the poor pay for the education of rich children, and the extreme Left finds it very politic to seize such an occasion to have the system of legal plunder established and sanctioned.
At which I ask myself: Where are we going? The Assembly must direct itself by some principle; it must commit itself to justice everywhere and for everybody, if it is not, in fact, to rush headlong into the system of legal and reciprocal plunder, to the point of completely equalizing all classes, that is, to the point of communism.
Yesterday it declared that the poor must pay taxes to relieve the rich. How can it have the cheek to reject taxes that will soon be proposed to it to “soak the rich" in order to relieve the poor?
For my part, I cannot forget that when I presented myself before the voters, I said to them:
“Would you approve a system of government which was based on the following arrangement: You would have the responsibility for your own existence. You would demand, in exchange for your labor, your effort, and your industry, the means of feeding, clothing, lodging, and enlightening yourselves, of attaining affluence, well-being, and perhaps prosperity. The government would concern itself with you only to guarantee you against all disturbance and unjust aggression. For its part, it would ask of you only the very modest tax indispensable for accomplishing this task.”
And all cried out: “We ask nothing else of it.”
And now, what would be my position if I had to present myself anew before those poor farmers, those honest artisans, those fine workers, to say to them:
“You are going to pay more in taxes than you were expecting to pay. You are going to have less freedom than you hoped for. It is to some extent my fault, for I have departed from the system of government you had in view when you elected me. On April 1, I voted for an increase in the tax on salt and drinks, in order to come to the aid of the small number of our countrymen who send their children to the state schools.”
Whatever happens, I hope never to put myself in the sad and ridiculous position of having to make such a speech to those who have placed their trust in me.
The Balance of Trade1
The balance of trade is an article of faith.
We know what it consists in: if a country imports more than it exports, it loses the difference. Conversely, if its exports exceed its imports, the excess is to its profit. This is held to be an axiom, and laws are passed in accordance with it.
On this hypothesis, M. Mauguin* warned us the day before yesterday, citing statistics, that France carries on a foreign trade in which it has managed to lose, out of good will, without being required to do so, two hundred million francs a year.
“You have lost by your trade, in eleven years, two billion francs. Do you understand what that means?”
Then, applying his infallible rule to the facts, he told us: “In 1847 you sold 605 million francs' worth of manufactured products, and you bought only 152 millions' worth. Hence, you gained 450 million.
“You bought 804 millions' worth of raw materials, and you sold only 114 million; hence, you lost 690 million.”
This is an example of the dauntless naïveté of following an absurd premise to its logical conclusion. M. Mauguin has discovered the secret of making even Messrs. Darblay† and Lebeuf‡ laugh at the expense of the balance of trade. It is a great achievement, of which I cannot help being jealous.
Allow me to assess the validity of the rule according to which M. Mauguin and all the protectionists calculate profits and losses. I shall do so by recounting two business transactions which I have had the occasion to engage in.
I was at Bordeaux. I had a cask of wine which was worth 50 francs; I sent it to Liverpool, and the customhouse noted on its records an export of 50 francs.
At Liverpool the wine was sold for 70 francs. My representative converted the 70 francs into coal, which was found to be worth 90 francs on the market at Bordeaux. The customhouse hastened to record an import of 90 francs.
Balance of trade, or the excess of imports over exports: 40 francs.
These 40 francs, I have always believed, putting my trust in my books, I had gained. But M. Mauguin tells me that I have lost them, and that France has lost them in my person.
And why does M. Mauguin see a loss here? Because he supposes that any excess of imports over exports necessarily implies a balance that must be paid in cash. But where is there in the transaction that I speak of, which follows the pattern of all profitable commercial transactions, any balance to pay? Is it, then, so difficult to understand that a merchant compares the prices current in different markets and decides to trade only when he has the certainty, or at least the probability, of seeing the exported value return to him increased? Hence, what M. Mauguin calls loss should be called profit.
A few days after my transaction I had the simplicity to experience regret; I was sorry I had not waited. In fact, the price of wine fell at Bordeaux and rose at Liverpool; so that if I had not been so hasty, I could have bought at 40 francs and sold at 100 francs. I truly believed that on such a basis my profit would have been greater. But I learn from M. Mauguin that it is the loss that would have been more ruinous.
My second transaction had a very different result.
I had had some truffles shipped from Périgord which cost me 100 francs; they were destined for two distinguished English cabinet ministers for a very high price, which I proposed to turn into pounds sterling. Alas, I would have done better to eat them myself (I mean the truffles, not the English pounds or the Tories). All would not have been lost, as they were, for the ship that carried them off sank on its departure. The customs officer, who had noted on this occasion an export of 100 francs, never had any re-import to enter in this case.
Hence, M. Mauguin would say, France gained 100 francs; for it was, in fact, by this sum that the export, thanks to the shipwreck, exceeded the import. If the affair had turned out otherwise, if I had received 200 or 300 francs' worth of English pounds, then the balance of trade would have been unfavorable, and France would have been the loser.
From the point of view of science, it is sad to think that all the commercial transactions which end in loss according to the businessmen concerned show a profit according to that class of theorists who are always declaiming against theory.
But from the point of view of practical affairs, it is even sadder, for what is the result?
Suppose that M. Mauguin had the power (and to a certain extent he has, by his votes) to substitute his calculations and desires for the calculations and desires of businessmen and to give, in his words, “a good commercial and industrial organization to the country, a good impetus to domestic industry.” What would he do?
M. Mauguin would suppress by law all transactions that consist in buying at a low domestic price in order to sell at a high price abroad and in converting the proceeds into commodities eagerly sought after at home; for it is precisely in these transactions that the imported value exceeds the exported value.
Conversely, he would tolerate, and, indeed, he would encourage, if necessary by subsidies (from taxes on the public), all enterprises based on the idea of buying dearly in France in order to sell cheaply abroad; in other words, exporting what is useful to us in order to import what is useless. Thus, he would leave us perfectly free, for example, to send off cheeses from Paris to Amsterdam, in order to bring back the latest fashions from Amsterdam to Paris; for in this traffic the balance of trade would always be in our favor.
Yet, it is sad and, I dare add, degrading that the legislator will not let the interested parties decide and act for themselves in these matters, at their peril and risk. At least then everyone bears the responsibility for his own acts; he who makes a mistake is punished and is set right. But when the legislator imposes and prohibits, should he make a monstrous error in judgment, that error must become the rule of conduct for the whole of a great nation. In France we love freedom very much, but we hardly understand it. Oh, let us try to understand it better! We shall not love it any the less.
M. Mauguin has stated with imperturbable aplomb that there is not a statesman in England who does not accept the doctrine of the balance of trade. After having calculated the loss which, according to him, results from the excess of our imports, he cried out: “If a similar picture were to be presented to the English, they would shudder, and there is not a member in the House of Commons who would not feel that his seat was threatened.”
For my part, I affirm that if someone were to say to the House of Commons: “The total value of what is exported from the country exceeds the total value of what is imported,” it is then that they would feel threatened; and I doubt that a single speaker could be found who would dare to add: “The difference represents a profit.”
In England they are convinced that it is important for the nation to receive more than it gives. Moreover, they have observed that this is the attitude of all businessmen; and that is why they have taken the side of laissez faire and are committed to restoring free trade.
notes to chapter 1
notes to chapter 2
notes to chapter 3
notes to chapter 4
notes to chapter 5
notes to chapter 6
notes to chapter 7
notes to chapter 8
notes to chapter 9
notes to chapter 10
notes to chapter 11
notes to chapter 12
notes to chapter 13
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[*][A businessmen's association headed by P. A. R. Mimerel de Roubaix (1786–1871), a textile manufacturer. Cf. note on p. 59 supra.—Translator.]
[*][Auguste Adolphe Marie Billault (1805–1863), French lawyer and politician. Eloquent and ambitious rather than possessing any firm political convictions, he was an influential figure during both the February Revolution of 1848 and the Second Empire. For the latter he served as Minister of Interior, Senator, and Minister without Portfolio.—Translator.]
[*][Charles Gilbert Tourret (1795–1857), engineer and politician, Deputy in 1837, Minister of Agriculture and Commerce under Cavaignac.—Translator.]
[*][River forming the frontier between France and Spain in Guipúzcoa.—Translator.]
[*][Denis Benoît d'Azy (1796–1880), French politician, Deputy under Louis Philippe, Vice President of the Legislative Assembly of 1849. He was an arch conservative and protectionist. As a financier and railroad administrator he rendered notable services to the nation.—Translator.]
[†][One of several quotations Bastiat makes from Beaumarchais' The Barber of Seville. In this instance he apparently quoted from memory, for approximately these words are spoken by old Bartolo, the guardian, not by the music master.—Translator.]
[*][Adolphe Isaac Moïse Crémieux (1796–1880), a Deputy from 1842 to 1848. A moderate, he joined the revolutionary governments of 1848 and of 1870–71 as Minister of Justice. One of the most prominent Jews of his time, he secured voting rights for the Algerian Jews and founded the Alliance Israélite Universelle. Under the Second Empire he was imprisoned for a time for his opposition to Napoleon III. He became Senator for life in 1875.—Translator.]
[†][Martin Nadaud (1815–1898), French politician and a follower of Cabet. Elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1849, he voted with the “Mountain" (cf. p. 149 supra), was exiled by Napoleon in 1853, returned in 1870, and served several terms as Deputy thereafter.—Translator.]
[*][It is important to distinguish between the American system of independent colleges and universities, free, within very broad limits, to establish their own requirements for academic degrees, and the French system, established by the First Empire, against which Bastiat protests. In France all higher education was completely unified under a university corps, the “University” (l'Université), headed by a “Grand Master” (le grand maître) and a “Supreme Council” (le Conseil Supérieur). This corps had full control over curriculum, methods, and requirements leading to the various academic degrees in all the schools and universities in the country. Bastiat does not exaggerate, therefore, the monopolistic power held by the “University.” Reforms in the direction of liberalization did not come until the decade of 1875–1885 under the Third Republic.—Translator.]
[*][The French West Point.—Translator.]
[*][The French baccalauréat, corresponding roughly, in time, to the first two years of college in America, is conferred by the secondary schools (the collège or the lycée). The standards, however, are high, and the work is intensive, so that the student, on receiving his baccalauréat, is presumed to have completed his general education and to be qualified to study for more advanced degrees in the universities.—Translator.]
[*][Pierre Louis Parisis (1795–1866), French prelate and politician, Bishop of Langres, 1835–1851, and of Arras, 1851–1866. Elected a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1848, he showed himself an outspoken monarchist and champion of reaction; also from 1848 on, he served as a member of the Supreme Council of the “University,” although Napoleon's coup d'état in 1852 ended his political career in other respects.—Translator.]
[*][“I prefer liberty, even though fraught with peril.”—Translator.]
[*][Jules Barthélemy de Saint-Hilaire (1805–1887), French scholar and author, professor of Latin and Greek in the Collège de France, Minister of Education under Cousin in 1840. He entered politics in 1848, serving as first head of the Secretariat of the Provisional Government, then as Deputy. During this time he publicly defended the existing “University" system against the attacks of Bastiat and others on the occasion of the “Law of 1850.” Known as very conservative and even reactionary, he became much more liberal in his later political career. As a protest against Napoleon III, he resigned his professorship and administrative duties at the Collège de France. After 1870, as a supporter of Thiers, he was elected to the National Assembly, became a member of the Thiers cabinet, was elected Senator for life in 1875, and, in 1880, served as Minister of Foreign Affairs.—Translator.]
[*][Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592), famed humanistic essayist of the Renaissance.—Translator.]
[*][Horace, II, iii.—Translator.]
[*][Charles Rollin (1661–1741), educator, defender of the privileges of the University, and champion of classical studies. He was the author of Traité des Études (1726).—Translator.]
[*][Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, Comte de Mirabeau (1749–1791), one of the great figures of the early years of the French Revolution, whose plan to set up a constitutional monarchy failed, owing to the resistance of the King and the Queen and to the radically changed political situation after 1789. He was president of the Jacobin Club, which included some of his inveterate opponents, and of the National Assembly, as well as reporter of the diplomatic committee of the Assembly.—Translator.]
[*][Jacques Pierre Brissot (1754–1793), pamphleteer, journalist, social reformer, and revolutionary. In the early years of the First French Republic he was an influential Jacobin Deputy and editor of the Patriote français. Active in the French movement to abolish the slave trade, he was the leader of the Girondins, a moderate group of republicans whose members were at first called Brissotins. He was evicted with them from the Convention and was guillotined in 1793.—Translator.]
[*][Emerich de Vattel (1714–1767), Swiss jurist, whose Law of Nations (1758) sought to apply the natural law to international relations. Liberal and humanitarian in temper, he defended the rights of neutrals in time of war, and his work influenced the subsequent development of international law.—Translator.]
[*][Don Felix de Azara (1746–1811), for twenty years Spanish commissioner for delimiting the boundaries between the Spanish and the Portuguese territories of South America, and author of Voyage dans l'Amérique méridionale depuis 1781 jusqu'en 1801 (Paris, 1809), incorporating observations on the natural history of South America and an account of the discovery and history of Paraguay.—Translator.]
[†][Louis Antoine de Bougainville (1729–1811), French navigator and explorer, who described his circumnavigation of the globe (1767–1769) in his Voyage autour du monde (1771). The largest of the Solomon Islands, which he sailed by on this voyage, is named after him.—Translator.]
[*][Théodore Rose Léon Alfred Sudre (b. 1820), publicist and economist, author of Histoire du communisme, ou Réfutation historique des utopies socialistes (1848).—Translator.]
[*][Pierre Antoine, Marquis d'Antonelle (1747–1817), journalist and politician, author of Catéchisme du tiers état (1789). He presided at the trial of Marie-Antoinette and the Girondins.—Translator.]
[†][Jean Baptiste Carrier (1756–1794), one of the most notorious administrators of the Terror. To make Nantes safe against the Vendée revolt, he set up a revolutionary tribunal that condemned masses of prisoners to the guillotine, the firing squad, and—most ingenious and efficient—the noyades, vessels with trapdoors for bottoms in which he had prisoners sunk in the Loire. He himself ended on the guillotine in December, 1794.—Translator.]
[*][Jean Paul Rabaut Saint-Étienne (1743–1793), political leader active in securing the removal of legal disabilities from non-Catholics. A Girondin, he was guillotined with the downfall of his party.—Translator.]
[†][Hospice de Quinze-Vingts, originally founded as an almshouse for three hundred blind poor. It was later placed under the jurisdiction of a special administration of that name and established as a workshop for the inmates.—Translator.]
[†][Publius Valerius Publicola, Roman general who took a leading part in the expulsion of the Tarquins in 510 B.C. and successfully defended Rome against the Volscians, the Etruscans, and the Sabines.—Translator.]
[*][One of the divisions of Fourier's phalanges.—Translator.]
[*][Henri Léon Camusat de Riancey (1816–1870), French publicist and politician with Catholic and royalist leanings, editor of the journal L'Union which he founded in 1850. Elected to the Assembly in 1845, he was outspoken in his opposition to republican government and to change in the educational system.—Translator.]
[*][Denis de Frayssinous (1765–1841), an ardent churchman and Grand Master of the University (1822).—Translator.]
[†][François Villemain (1773–1854), a Sorbonne professor, literary critic, and Minister of Public Education (1839–1844).—Translator.]
[‡][François Pierre Guillaume Guizot (1787–1874), French statesman and historian, professor of history at the Sorbonne. He began his long political career as Secretary-General of the Ministry of the Interior under the Restoration government, became Minister of Public Education in 1832 under the Louis Philippe government, and finally, 1840–1848, its head. Although he was a liberal in his earlier years, his growing conservatism made him unacceptable to the leaders of the 1848 Revolution, and, from that date on, his political influence waned rapidly. As an historian and organizer of historical research, he was one of the eminent figures of his day.—Translator.]
[*][Barthélemy Prosper Enfantin (1796–1864), an engineer and also one of the founders of Saint-Simonianism.—Translator.]
[*][“And to speak the truth, antiquity, as we call it, is the young state of the world; for those times are ancient when the world is ancient; and not those we vulgarly account ancient by computing backwards; so that the present time is the real antiquity.” Advancement of Learning, Book I.—Translator.]
[*][Bossuet's proposal was simply for all dissenting sects to return to the authority of the Roman Catholic Church.—Translator.]
[*][Like the Revolution of 1848.—Translator.]
[*][St. Augustine, Confessions, Bk. I, xiii-xvii.—Translator.]
[*][Jérôme Adolphe Blanqui (1798–1854), French economist and head of the Paris École de Commerce.—Translator.]
[†][Pellegrino Luigi Eduardo Rossi (1787–1848), politician, jurist, and distinguished political economist. Exiled for fighting for Italian unification, he became (1819) professor of law at the Academy of Geneva, as well as Deputy from Geneva to the Federal Diet. He became professor of political economy in the Collège de France in 1833, and professor of constitutional law at the Sorbonne in 1834. He was assassinated in 1848. Along with J. B. Say, he represented the practical idealism which for Bastiat was the essence of political economy.—Translator.]
[‡][Michel Chevalier (1806–1879), French economist and publicist. After an early period of enthusiasm for Saint-Simonianism, during which he was editor of Le Globe, he became the champion of enlightened industrialism as the means of assuring both social progress and individual liberty. In this respect, and also in his advocacy of free trade, he was an associate of Bastiat. Along with Cobden he negotiated the famous Anglo-French commercial treaty of 1860.—Translator.]
[§][Clement Joseph Garnier (1813–1881), commentator on Adam Smith and generally recognized as one of the ablest of the French economists. Professor in the Paris École de Commerce.—Translator.]
[*][Dugald Stewart (1753–1828), Scottish philosopher of the “common sense" school, initiated by Thomas Reid, and political economist of the classical school.—Translator.]
[†][Antonio Genovesi (1712–1769), Italian philosopher and economist, professor at the University of Naples. As a liberal and a disciple of Locke, he reflected the spirit of the French Enlightenment.—Translator.]
[‡][Cesare Bonesana de Beccaria (1738–1794), Italian philosopher, criminologist, and economist. He was an ardent disciple of the French Enlightenment and in his own country an eloquent and beloved advocate of justice and more humane criminal procedures. His work Crimes and Punishments (1764) is a classic treatise on criminal justice.—Translator.]
[§][Antonio Scialoja (1817–1877), Italian economist and statesman, professor of political economy at the University of Turin, and advocate of free trade. After 1860 he served the Italian government as Deputy and cabinet minister.—Translator.]
[*][Ramón de La Sagra (1798–1871), botanist, member of the Cortes, and economist. His important works in the last capacity include Lecciones de economia social (1840), Organización de trabajo (1848), and Banco del pueblo (1849).—Translator.]
[†][Alvaro Florez Estrada (1765–1833), Spain's most distinguished economist of the first half of the nineteenth century—Translator.]
[‡][José de Salamanca y Mayol (1811–1883), Spanish banker and politician. In addition to serving as Minister of Finance, he was later both Deputy and Senator. He was also a builder of Spanish railroads.—Translator.]
[*][The reader will recall that only a little more than a year later Bastiat died of tuberculosis.—Translator.]
[†][Antoine François Henri Lefebure de Vatimesnil (1789–1860), magistrate and politician of reactionary clerical sympathies. Minister of Public Education in 1828, he supported Louis Philippe after the July revolution.—Translator.]
[*][Original French: la coalition.—Translator.]
[*][Joseph Hume (1777–1855), British statesman and Liberal reformer, a follower of James Mill and Jeremy Bentham, active in opposing the old combination laws that favored the employers and in bringing about the repeal of the laws prohibiting the export of machinery and the emigration of workers.—Translator.]
[†][Paul Émile Doutre, a lawyer who published a treatise on electoral rights in 1846.—Translator.]
[‡][Louis Greppo (1810–1890), a politician of the extreme Left.—Translator.]
[§][Adrien Théodore Benoît-Champy (1805–1872), judge, diplomat, Deputy, and Senator.—Translator.]
[*][Louis Mortimer-Ternaux (1808–1871), French politician and historian. A political reactionary, he served at various intervals from 1830 to 1871 in government posts and as a member of the Assembly and as Deputy. His views are best expressed in his Histoire de la Terreur.—Translator.]
[*][François Mauguin (1785–1854), French lawyer and orator. A liberal by conviction, he won fame as legal defender of numerous individuals whom he considered the victims of governmental oppression. First elected Deputy in 1827, he rose to his greatest prestige under the government of Louis Philippe.—Translator.]
[†][Auguste Adolphe Darblay (1784–1873), industrialist, and Deputy from 1840 to 1848.—Translator.]
[‡][Louis Lebeuf (1792–1854), financier, and Regent of the Banque de France in 1835. One of the leaders, along with Messrs. Odier and Mimerel, of the protectionist Committee for the Defense of Domestic Industry, he was elected Deputy in 1837 and Senator in 1852.—Translator.]
[14.][Published by the Journal des débats, July 28, 1848.—Editor.]
[1.][At the moment when this pamphlet appeared, that is, in January, 1849, M. Thiers was held in high esteem at the Elysée Palace (the residence of Louis Napoleon as President of the Republic).—Editor.]
[2.][See, in Vol. I (of the French edition), the letters addressed to M. de Lamartine in January, 1845, and October, 1846, and, in Vol. II, the article entitled “Communism,” dated June 27, 1847.—Editor.]
[3.][See, in Vol. II (of the French edition), the article entitled “Free Exchange,” dated December 20, 1846.—Editor.]
[4.][This idea, with which, according to the author, M. Billault could strengthen his argument, was soon to be adopted by another protectionist. It was developed by M. Mimerel in a speech given on April 27, 1850, before the General Council of Manufacturing, Agriculture, and Commerce. See the passage in this speech cited in the pamphlet, “Plunder and Law" (chap. 8 in this volume).—Editor.]
[5.][See chap. 18 of Economic Sophisms.—Editor.]
[6.][See, in Vol. II (of the French edition), “One Profit against Two Losses, Two Losses against One Profit.”—Editor.]
[7.][See the third letter of “Property and Plunder" (chap. 6 of this volume).—Editor.]
[8.][See the last pages of the pamphlet entitled “Plunder and Law" (chap. 8 of this volume).—Editor.]
[9.][See, in Vol. II (of the French edition), most of the articles comprised under the rubric, “Polemic against the Newspapers,” and notably the article entitled “The Democratic Party and Free Trade.”—Editor.]
[10.][These two small volumes, which the author actually sent to M. Thiers, were the first and second series of Economic Sophisms.—Editor.]
[11.][See the Introduction to Vol. II (of the French edition).—Editor.]
[1.][On April 27, 1850, following a very curious discussion, published in the Moniteur, the General Council of Manufacturing, Agriculture, and Commerce passed the following resolution:
[2.][The author had expressed this opinion three years before in the November 28, 1847, issue of the paper Le Libre Échange. Replying to the Moniteur industriel, he had said:
[3.]Organisation du travail, Introd., pp. 17 and 24.
[4.]Moniteur of April 28, 1850.
[5.]Moniteur of April 28. See the opinion of M. Devinck.
[6.][It is implicitly refuted in chap. 12 of the first series, and chaps. 4 and 13 of the second series, of Economic Sophisms.—Editor.]
[7.][In this reply to the protectionists, which he addressed to them at the time of his departure for the department of Landes, the author, obliged to indicate briefly his views on the rational domain of legislation, felt the need to set them forth at greater length. That is what he did, a few days later, during a short stay at Mugron, by writing “The Law" (chap. 2 of this volume).—Editor.]
[1.][Twenty years before, the author, in his first essay, had already pointed to freedom of education as one of the reforms that the nation should strive to obtain. See, in Vol. I (of the French edition), the pamphlet entitled “To the Electors of the Department of Landes.”—Editor.]
[2.]“He who ventures to found a nation must feel himself capable of changing, so to speak, human nature, .... of altering the physical and moral constitution of man, etc.” (Social Contract, chap. 7.)
[3.][See “The Law" (chap. 2 of this volume).—Editor.]
[4.]Report of M. Thiers on the Law of Secondary Education, 1844.
[5.]Distance contributes not a little to give to ancient figures a quality of grandeur. If someone speaks to us of the Roman citizen, we ordinarily do not picture to ourselves a brigand occupied with acquiring booty and slaves, at the expense of peaceful peoples; we do not see him half-naked, shockingly dirty, going about muddy streets; we do not surprise him in the act of flogging a slave until the blood flows or putting him to death if he shows a bit of energy and spirit. We prefer to picture to ourselves a beautiful head crowning an impressive and majestic body draped like an ancient statue. We like to think of him as meditating on the high destinies of his country. He seems to us to be seeing his family gathering around the hearth, which is honored by the presence of the gods; the wife preparing the simple repast of the warrior and glancing with confidence and admiration at her husband's face; the young children attentive to the discourse of an old man who whiles away the hours by recounting the exploits and the virtues of their father.....
[6.]Those who would like to knead society as if it were dough sometimes are too modest to say, “I shall do, I shall arrange.....” They prefer to make use of the indirect, but equivalent form: “It is to be done, it is to be arranged.....”
[7.]Spirit of the Laws, Bk. IV, chap. 6.
[8.]Op. cit., Bk. IV, chap. 8.
[9.]Op. cit., Bk. V, chap. 5.
[10.]Op. cit., Bk. V, chap. 6.
[11.]Op. cit., Bk. VII, chap. 16.
[12.]Discours sur le rétablissement des sciences et des arts.
[14.]23 Nivôse, Year III.
[16.]December 16, 1792.
[17.]November 21, 1794.
[18.]March 19, 1794.
[19.][In the fragment from which we borrowed note 5 above, the author examines these two questions: First, whether self-sacrifice is a preferable political motive to self-interest. Second, whether the ancient peoples, and notably the Romans, practiced this self-sacrifice better than modern peoples.
[1.][Three years before the resolution that provoked the pamphlet “Plunder and Law" (chap. 8 of this volume), the dismissal of the professors and the abolition of the chairs of political economy had been formally demanded by the members of the Mimerel Committee, which soon became more moderate and limited itself to demanding that the theory of protection must be taught as well as that of free trade.
[2.][That this is evidently the germ of “Academic Degrees and Socialism" (chap. 9 of this volume) will become even more apparent in the following pages.—Editor.]
[3.][Mr. Whateley, Archbishop of Dublin, who established a chair of political economy in that city, had a professorship at Oxford.—Editor.]
[4.][See, in Vol. II (of the French edition), the declaration of principles of the Society for Free Trade.—Editor.]
[1.][Articles 413, 415, and 416 of the Penal Code punish, though in a very unequal manner, combinations of employers and of workers. A proposal to repeal these three articles had been referred by the Legislative Assembly to a committee, which judged repeal inadmissible and thought that it was absolutely necessary to maintain the repressive provisions, while modifying them, however, to make them impartial.
[1.][At the Legislative Assembly's session of April 1, 1850, during the discussion of the budget for public education, M. Mortimer-Ternaux, one of the Representatives, proposed an amendment to decrease by 300,000 francs the expenditures on lycées and colléges, institutions attended by the children of the middle class.
[1.][At the time of the discussion of the general budget of expenditures in 1850, M. Mauguin naïvely expounded the old and false theory of the balance of trade. (Moniteur of March 27.) Bastiat, who had already refuted it in his Economic Sophisms, believed he ought to attack it anew; and as his health no longer permitted him to mount the rostrum, he sent to a daily newspaper, on March 29, 1850, the reflections which we here reproduce. It is to be noted that he simplifies the hypothetical calculations whereby he elucidates his thesis, excluding some of the items that he had employed in 1845. (See chap. 6 of Economic Sophisms, First Series.)—Editor.]
[*][Nivôse was the fourth month in the French revolutionary calendar.—Translator.]