The Works of Bastiat 3: The Paris Writings II 1848-1850

Part 3: The “Paris” Writings II: Bastiat the Politician, Anti-Socialist, and Economist (Feb. 1848 - Dec. 1850)

[Updated: 30 March, 2018 - a "work in progress"]

New: a revised translation of The Law.

Note: We have added final draft versions of material which will appear in the Collected Works, vol.3 "Economic Sophisms and WSWNS"; and the Collected Works, vol. 4 "Miscellaneous Writings on Economics."

Street Barricades in Paris, June Days 1848
The National Assembly in Paris

Introduction to the Collected Works in Chronological Order

Frédéric Bastiat’s 6 volume Collected Works published by Liberty Fund is a thematic collection.

  • Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics, translated from the French by Jane and Michel Willems, with an introduction by Jacques de Guenin and Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean. Annotations and Glossaries by Jacques de Guenin, Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean, and David M. Hart. Translation editor Dennis O’Keeffe (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2011). /titles/2393.
  • Vol. 2: The Law, The State, and Other Political Writings, 1843–1850, Jacques de Guenin, General Editor. Translated from the French by Jane Willems and Michel Willems, with an introduction by Pascal Salin. Annotations and Glossaries by Jacques de Guenin, Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean, and David M. Hart. Translation Editor Dennis O’Keeffe. Academic Editor, David M. Hart (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2012). /titles/2450.
  • Vol. 3: Economic Sophisms and “What is Seen and What is Not Seen”. Jacques de Guenin, General Editor. Translated from the French by Jane and Michel Willems, with a foreword by Robert McTeer, and an introduction and appendices by the Academic Editor David M. Hart. Annotations and Glossaries by Jacques de Guenin, Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean, and David M. Hart. Translation Editor Dennis O'Keeffe. (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2017). (Not yet online.)
  • Vol. 4: Miscellaneous Works on Economics: From “Jacques-Bonhomme” to Le Journal des Économistes (forthcoming)
  • Vol. 5: Economic Harmonies (forthcoming)
  • Vol. 6: The Struggle Against Protectionism: The English and French Free-Trade Movements (forthcoming)

There will also be an online edition of Bastiat’s writings in chronological order. We have divided Bastiat’s works into 4 parts based upon the key periods and events in his life:

  1. Early Writings: The Bayonne and Mugron Years, 1819–1844
  2. The “Paris” Writings I: Bastiat and the Free Trade Movement (Oct. 1844 - Feb. 1848)
  3. The “Paris” Writings II: Bastiat the Politician, Anti-Socialist, and Economist (Feb. 1848 - Dec. 1850)
  4. The Unfinished Treatises: The Social and Economic Harmonies and The History of Plunder (1850–51)

For further information, see:

The abbreviations used in this paper:

  • 1847.02.14 = the work was published on Feb. 14, 1847
  • ACLL = the English Anti-Corn Law League (1838-46)
  • AEPS = L'Annuaire de l'économie politique et statistique (published by Guillaumin)
  • ASEP = Annales de la Société d'Économie Politique. Publiées sous la direction de Alph. Courtois fils, secrétaire perpétuel, Tome premier 1846-1853 (Paris: Guillaumin,1889).
  • CRANC = Compte rendu des séances de l'Assemblée Nationale Constituante
  • CRANL = Compte rendu des séances de l'Assemblée Nationale Législative
  • CF = Le Courrier française
  • CH = Letters from Lettres d'un habitant des Landes, Frédéric Bastiat. Edited by Mme Cheuvreux. (1877)
  • CW = the Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat (Liberty Fund edition)
  • CW1 = volume 1 of The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat
  • OC = Oeuvres complètes de Frédéric Bastiat (Paillottet/Guillaumin edition)
  • OC1.9 = the 9th article in vol. 1 of the Oeuvres complètes
  • DEP = Dictionnaire d'économie politique
  • DMH = text discovered by David M. Hart which is not in Paillottet's OC
  • EH = Economic Harmonies
  • EH1 = Economic Harmonies - the incomplete edtion publlished by FB during his lifetime in Jan. 1850 (11 chaps.)
  • EH2 = Economic Harmonies - the expanded edtion with 22 chaps. publlished by Paillottet and Fontenay in July 1851
  • Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle (1846) = Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle: répertoire universel des sciences, des lettres et des arts avec la biographie de tous les hommes célèbres, ed. Ange de Saint-Priest (Impr. Beaulé, Lacour, Renoud et Maulde, 1846)
  • ES1 = Economic Sophisms. First Series (published Jan. 1846)
  • ES1.10 = the tenth essay in ES1
  • ES2 = Economic Sophisms. Second Series (published Jan. 1848)
  • ES3 = Economic Sophisms. Third Series (compiled and published by LF in 2017 in CW3)
  • FEE = Foundation for Economic Education
  • JB = the journal Jacques Bonhomme (June 1848)
  • JCPD = the original document was unpublished and is in the possession of Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean
  • JDD = Journal des débats
  • JDE = Journal des Économistes
  • LÉ = Le Libre-Échange
  • n.d. = no date of publication is known
  • OC1 = Oeuvres complètes de Frédéric Bastiat, ed. Prosper Paillottet in 6 vols. (1854–55)
  • OC2 = 2nd edition of Oeuvres complètes de Frédéric Bastiat, ed. Prosper Paillottet in 7 vols. (1862–64)
  • PES = Political Economy Society (Société d'économie politique)
  • PP = Prosper Paillottet, the editor of FB's OC
  • RF = La République française Feb.-March 1848)
  • Ronce = P. Ronce, Frédéric Bastiat. Sa vie, son oeuvre (Paris: Guillaumin, 1905).
  • SP = La Sentinelle des Pyrénées
  • PES = Political Economy Society (Société d'Économie Politique)
  • T = either means "volume" (tome) or "Text" ID number (as in T.28)
  • T.1 = text number one in the chronological table of contents of his writings
  • WSWNS = What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen

The full method of citation for Bastiat’s writings (which is sometimes abbreviated in this article for reasons of space):

  • T.102 (1847.01.17) "L'utopiste" (The Utopian) [Le Libre-Échange, 17 January 1847] [OC4.2.11, pp. 203–12] [ES2 11, CW3, pp. 187-98]
  • text number in chronological ToC, date, French title, English title, place and date of original publication, location in French OC, location in ES, location in LF's CW volume.
  • Letter 3. Bayonne, 18 March 1820. To Victor Calmètes [OC1, p. 3] [CW1, pp. 28-30]
  • letter number in CW1, place and date letter written, recipient, location in OC, location in LF CW

Table of Contents

Introduction to Part 3


Articles and Essays

Bastiat's Writings after the February 1848 Revolution

Bastiat's Writings in 1849

Bastiat's Writings in 1850

Posthumous Material

Books and Pamphlets

  • What is Seen and What is Not Seen (July 1850) [CW3 - final draft]

Introduction to Part 3: The “Paris” Writings II: Bastiat the Politician, Anti-Socialist, and Economist (Feb. 1848 - Dec. 1850)

Large armaments necessarily entail heavy taxes : heavy taxes force governments to have recourse to indirect taxation. Indirect taxation cannot possibly be proportionate, and the want of proportion in taxation is a crying injustice inflicted upon the poor to the advantage of the rich. This question, then, alone remains to be considered : Are not injustice and misery, combined together, an always imminent cause of revolutions?
(Speech to the Friends of Peace Conference, Paris, 22 Aug., 1849. CW3)

Key works from this period:

  • his revolutionary street journalism in La République française (Feb.-March 1848) and Jacques Bonhomme (June 1848):
    • his statement of Republican and liberal principles in T.186 “A Few Words about the Title of our Journal” (26 Feb. 1848)
    • his classic essay on “the great fiction”, T.212 “The State” (June 1848) and T.222 (Sept. 1848)
    • T.214 "Laissez-Faire" (June 1848)
    • T.219 “To Citizens Lamartine and Ledru-Rollin” (June 1848)
  • his T.238 “Statement of Electoral Principles” (April, 1849)
  • the 12 anti-socialist pamphlets or “Petits Pamphlets”, such as The State (June, Sept. 1848)
  • his plans for cutting taxes and the size of the military:
    • T.235 Peace and Freedom or the Republican Budget (February 1849) and
    • T.240 “Disarmament, Taxes, and the Influence of Political Economy on the Peace Movement” (Aug. 1849)
  • his writings on money and interest:
    • T.239 Damn Money! (April 1849) and
    • T.241 Free Credit (October 1849 - February 1850)
  • his important last works:
    • T.258 The Law (June 1850) and
    • T.259 What is Seen and What is not Seen (July 1850)

Beginning the day after the Revolution, Bastiat and some younger friends started a small daily newspaper, La République française, which they distributed on the streets of Paris for an entire month.[49] On the first page of the first issue Bastiat and his friends declared their fervent republican ideals and a long list of liberal reforms they wanted to see introduced in the new Republic: the complete freedom of working, an end to state funded religion and education, an end to all taxes on food, an end to conscription into the army, and the “inviolable respect for property” (especially that form of property which was one’s own labour).[50]

This began a new phase in Bastiat’s life which was focussed on national politics (he was elected to the Constituent Assembly in April 1848 and to the Legislative Assembly in May 1849 representing his home district of Les Landes), reforming the taxation and expenditure policies of the new government (via his position as VP of the Finance Committee of the Chamber), and countering the socialist movement which had become a powerful force during the revolution.

Concerning Bastiat’s more formal political activities, we have several examples of the material Bastiat circulated to the electors in his home town and electoral district of Mugron in his efforts to get elected, firstly unsuccessfully in July 1846 with “To the Electors of the Arrondissement of Saint-Sever”[51], and then successfully to the Constituent and then the National Assembly in a “Statement of Electoral Principles” (March, 1848),[52] “Letter on the Referendum for the Election of the President of the Republic” (Aug. 1848),[53] and “Statement of Electoral Principles” (April, 1849).[54] These provide some clues to his political ideas and his program for reform. In his address “To the Electors of the Arrondissement of Saint-Sever” (July 1846) he gave a clear statement of his belief in a very limited role for government, seeing it as a dangerous living power which was constantly trying to grow in size. It was up to informed voters to make sure that it stuck to doing its proper job of “administering justice, of repressing crime, of paving roads, of repelling foreign aggression.” He also has an impassioned denunciation of French colonial policy in Algeria, calling the colonial system, whether British or French, “the most disastrous illusion ever to have led nations astray.”

In his campaign to get re-elected to the Legislative Assembly in April 1849 he reminded the Landais voters that he had served with some distinction on the Finance Committee and had opposed the socialist policies of the new government which he described as “theft regularized by law and executed through taxes.” One of his arguments to counter criticism of his voting behaviour in the Assembly was that he sometimes supported the right (on cutting taxes) and sometimes the left (on the right to form unions) depending on who best supported the principle of individual liberty at any given moment. He usually sided with the right on economic issues, and with the left on civil liberties issues. We also have a couple of formal speeches which he gave in the Assembly on cutting the tax on alcohol and the right of workers to form unions.[55] Unfortunately we do not yet have a detailed account of his activities in the Chamber’s Finance Committee (of which he was repeatedly elected Vice-President) or of his full voting record in the Chamber. We do know that he voted to reduce the tax on salt and the mailing of letters, reducing the size of the military, and abolishing conscription. We also have a couple of pamphlets he wrote on matters before the Assembly which he wanted to have circulated in print because he could not make himself heard in the Chamber because of his worsening throat condition. This included pamphlets on reducing the tax on salt (Jan. 1849), ending state subsidies to education, cutting the size of the military budget, and ending conflicts of interest in the Chamber by forbidding civil servants from also being Deputies.[56]

He briefly returned to radical street journalism while an elected Deputy in June 1848 when he, Molinari, and a few other economists created another magazine directed at ordinary people called, Jacques Bonhomme,[57] which appeared for only 4 issues before the rioting and army crackdown of the June Days forced them to close for reasons of safety. In the middle of street demonstrations in favour of socialism Bastiat and his friends were handing out their newspaper with articles calling for laissez-faire economic policies and denouncing the welfare state as “that great fiction where everybody tries to live at the expence of everybody else.”[58] The earliest version of his great essay “The State” appeared as a short article in Jacques Bonhomme and it is quite likely that it was also pasted up all over the working class areas of Paris as a wall poster or placard. Bastiat also bravely wrote and circulated leaflets calling for the immediate closing down of the National Workshops which were bankrupting the French state.[59] It was the closure of the Workshops which prompted the June Days’ rioting and its brutal suppression by the Army and National Guard, when thousands were killed or arrested. In spite of opposing the demands of the rioters, Bastiat courageously intervened when he saw soldiers firing into the crowds by arranging a cease fire and helping carry the dead and wounded into the side streets where they could be attended to.[60]

Bastiat played an important part in the anti-socialist campaign undertaken by Guillaumin and the political economists. They published a large number of pamphlets and books during 1848 and 1849 to oppose the socialists’s support for the right to work (i.e. a right to a job guaranteed by the state) which they wanted to see included in the new Constitution which was being debated by the Constituent Assembly over the summer of 1848, the National Workshops unemployment relief program established by Louis Blanc, Proudhon’s plans for a Peoples’ Bank which would issue interest free credit to workers, and the greatly expanded demands on the state’s budget to provide all manner of what we would today call policies of the modern welfare state. This is the context of Bastiat’s anti-socialist pamphlet, The State (June, Sept. 1848),[61] which would become the first of a series of 12 anti-socialist pamphlets, marketed by Guillaumin as “Mister Bastiat’s Little Pamphlets” which he wrote over the next two years. These pamphlets include Property and Law (May 1848)[62] - which was a general defence of the right to property; Individualism and Fraternity (June 1848)[63] - where he defends the idea of individualism against socialist ideas of fraternity espoused by people like Louis Blanc; Property and Plunder (July 1848)[64] - where Bastiat discusses the difference between plunder, or the appropriation of other people’s justly acquired property, and non-violent trade where services are exchanged for other services to mutual advantage including rent charged for land use; two works which point out to conservative protectionists that their ideas are very similar to that of the socialists, that it was just another form of the communism, or legal plunder, Protectionism and Communism (January 1849)[65] and Plunder and Law (May 1850);[66] and Damn Money! (April 1849) in which he warns of the dangers of paper money.[67]

One of Bastiat’s major concerns as a Deputy was to cut the size of the government’s budget by eliminating programs and reducing expenditure to an absolute minimum. This would allow the abolition or cutting of most taxes and tariffs which weighed heavily on the poor and the average worker (especially on food and drink). Since expenditure on the military was the single biggest item in the budget (30%) Bastiat wanted to see it cut massively (he advocated an immediate cut of 50%). He lobbied in the Chamber but because of his failing voice he circulated his ideas by means of a printed pamphlet Peace and Freedom or the Republican Budget (February 1849). Connected to this was the idea pushed by the leading free traders in Europe, Richard Cobden in England and Bastiat in France, to reduce international tensions by cutting tariffs and putting pressure on governments to reduce the size of their military, and to create mechanisms for the arbitration of international disputes. Both Cobden and Bastiat gave important speeches at the big Friends of Peace meeting which was held in Paris in August 1849.[68] Bastiat’s was entitled “Disarmament, Taxes, and the Influence of Political Economy on the Peace Movement” and in it he denounced conscription as a form of “military taxation” of the poor and called for “absolute non-intervention” in the affairs of other nations and for “simultaneous disarmament” of both England and France. As a result of this speech and other writings, Bastiat was likely sent on a secret government mission in October or November to London to speak with Cobden about the possibilities of a disarmament treaty between Britain and France. President Louis Napoléon’s government reshuffle in December put an end to this effort.

In spite of all the political distractions he faced, Bastiat did not neglect his more theoretical economic interests completely, although these did suffer to some degree. Because of the criticisms of socialists of the very idea of the legitimacy or profit, interest, and rent, and the near bankruptcy of the French state, Bastiat turned for the first time to monetary matters and wrote a series of pamphlets and essays such as Capital and Rent (February 1849),[69] Damn Money! (April 1849),[70] and his important and very long debate with Proudhon over the legitimacy of profit, interest, and rent, Free Credit (October 1849 - February 1850),[71] in order to address these issues.

In Capital and Rent (Feb. 1847) Bastiat defended the payment of rent against the criticism of the socialists who argued that it was unjust because it was “unearned”. He also developed in more detail his own new theory of rent. He argued that there was nothing special about rent from agricultural land, compared to other returns on capital such as profits and interest, since they were all examples of the "mutual exchange of services." Maudit argent! (Damn Money) (April 1849) is Bastiat’s most extended discussion of money. It was written to counter the growing socialist demand for government measures to solve the economic crisis which followed the February Revolution. This came in the form of two demands: for banks to issue credit at very low or zero interest rates (especially from Proudhon), and to expand the money supply in order to cover the growing government debt which was used to fund unemployment measures and other government expenditures.

Some wealthy benefactors made it possible for Bastiat to spend the summer of 1849 in the seclusion of a hunting lodge in a Paris on the outskirts of Paris so he could work full-time and without distraction on completing his economic treatise. He was thus able to get together 10 chapters for the first edition of Economic Harmonies which was published in January 1850. Many of his ideas were so new and radical, especially those on population growth, exchange as the mutual exchange of services (including rent), and his ideas on subjective value, that the book was not well received by his colleagues in the PES.

As his health continued to fail, Bastiat took a leave of absence from the Chamber and in the summer of 1850, when he had completely lost the ability to speak and was suffering excruciating pain from a lump in his throat, and travelled to Mugron and a nearby spa in order to seek some relief from his affliction and probably say goodbye to his family and friends. While in Mugron and Eaux-Bonnes he managed to finish two of his best known works, The Law (June 1850)[72] and What is Seen and What is not Seen (July 1850),[73] with the famous chapter on “The Broken Window.” The Law (June 1850) is Bastiat’s clearest statement of his view of natural law as the basis for the right to life, liberty, and property; and that individuals had the right to organise themselves in such a way as to exercise a legitimate defence of these rights, and that this was the sole legitimate function of the state. As he put it, “the law (should limit) itself ”to ensuring that all persons, freedoms, and properties were respected“ and that it should be ”merely the organization of the individual Right of legitimate defense, the obstacle, brake and punishment that opposed all forms of oppression and plunder."

Unfortunately, he believed the state kept exceeding this strict limit on its power which allowed some people to plunder the property and liberty of others. This he defined as “legal plunder” and thought it was the main cause of “the disturbiong factors” which created so many of the economic problems which plagued humanity. The pamphlet “Property and Plunder” (June 1848) is Bastiat’s most extended treatment of plunder. He had planned to write another book on “The History of Plunder” once he had finished the Economic Harmonies but did not live long enough to do so. We can get some idea of what he might have written from the fragments he has left us. There is this pamphlet, several of the anti-socialist pamphlets also deal with plunder in its various forms, as well as the first two chapters of Economic Sophisms. Series II, “The Physiology of Plunder” and “Two Moralities”.[74] Bastiat believed that human history had progressed through various stages of organised plunder, such as Slavery, Theocracy, Monopoly, and Government Exploitation, and would soon move onto Communist plunder if the socialists of 1848 could have their way.

However, Bastiat may well have left his best to the very last. His French editor Paillottet tells us that Bastiat lost the first draft of What is Seen and What is Not Seen (July 1850) when moving house, rewrote it and threw it into the fire because he was not happy with it, and then wrote it a third time, in spite of his rapidly failing health. It is a collection of 12 essays which are connected by different treatments of the same theme, namely the opportunity costs of making economic decisions, or as Bastiat phrased it the “unseen” costs. This might be one of Bastiat’s most important insights, one for which he has not had due recognition.[75] As he cleverly illustrates the principle in the opening chapter on “The Broken Window”, what the poor shopkeeper Jacques Bonhomme has to spend on replacing his broken window is money he could have spent on something else. He thus loses twice because he has lost a capital good (the window) as well as being prevented from making another purchase he might have preferred to make had his window not been broken by his hooligan son.[76] Bastiat applies this important insight to such topics as dismissing large numbers of the armed forces and its impact on garrison towns, the state funding of theaters, government subsidies to colonists going to Algeria, and so on. He concluded the book, and perhaps his life since he was to die not long after this was published, that “not to know Political Economy is to let oneself be be blinded by the immediate effect of a phenomenon; to know Political Economy is to take into consideration all the effects, both immediate and future.”

A brief discussion of his unfinished magnum opus on Social and Economic Harmonies and Disharmonies will be provided in the next section.

In this final, all too brief period of Bastiat’s life, we see him move from being an almost full-time agitator for free trade to being a revolutionary street journalist, an elected politician, an expert on Government financial affairs, an anti-socialist pamphleteer, a peace campaigner, and a very determined man who wanted to finish his last work before he died.

  1. La République française. A daily journal. Signed by the editors: F. Bastiat, Hippolyte Castille, Gustave de Molinari. It appeared from 26 February to 28 March in 30 issues.  ↩

  2. T.186 "A Few Words about the Title of our Journal" La République française, (26 February 1848), in CW3, pp. 524–26.  ↩

  3. T.71 “To the Electors of the Arrondissement of Saint-Sever (Mugron, July 1, 1846)”, CW1, pp. 352–67.  ↩

  4. T.206 “Statement of Electoral Principles. To the Electors of Les Landes, 22 March, 1848,” CW1, p. 387.  ↩

  5. T.221 “Letter on the Referendum for the President of the Republic,” 13 August 1848, CW1, pp. 395–96.  ↩

  6. T.238 “Statement of Electoral Principles in April 1849,” CW1, pp. 390–95.  ↩

  7. T.243 "Speech on The Repression of Industrial Unions“ (17 November 1849), CW2, pp. 348–61; T.244 ”Speech on the Tax on Wines and Spirits" (12 December 1849), CW2, pp. 328–47.  ↩

  8. T.232 “The Consequences of the Reduction in the Salt Tax” (Jan. 1849), CW2, pp. 324–27; on state education, T.254 “Reflections on the Amendment of M. Mortimer-Ternaux” (1 April 1850), CW2, 362–65, and T.247 “Baccalaureate and Socialism” (early 1850), CW2, pp. 185–234; T.235 “Peace and Freedom or the Republican Budget” (February 1849), CW2, pp. 282–327; T.236 “Parliamentary Conflicts of Interest” (March 1849), CW2, pp. 366–400.  ↩

  9. Jacques Bonhomme. Editor J. Lobet. Founded by Bastiat with Gustave de Molinari, Charles Coquelin, Alcide Fonteyraud, and Joseph Garnier. It appeared approximately weekly with 4 issues between 11 June to 13 July; with a break between 24 June and 9 July because of the rioting during the June Days uprising. See "Bastiat’s Revolutionary Magazines," in Appendix 6, in CW3, pp. 520–22.  ↩

  10. T.214 "Laissez-Faire", Jacques Bonhomme, 11–15 June 1848, CW1, pp. 434–45; T.212 “The State”, Jacques Bonhomme, 11–15 juin 1848, CW2, pp. 105–6.  ↩

  11. T.219 “To Citizens Lamartine and Ledru-Rollin”, Jacques Bonhomme, 20–23 June 1848, CW1, pp. 444–45.  ↩

  12. This was the second time Bastiat got caught in the cross-fire during the 1848 Revolution. The first occasion was in February and then again in June. See, Letter 93 to Marie-Julienne Badbedat (Mme Marsan), 27 February 1848, [CW1, pp. 142–43]/titles/2393#lf1573–01_head_119); and Letter 104 to Julie Marsan (Mme Affre), Paris, 29 June 1848, CW1, pp. 156–57.  ↩

  13. This was an expanded version of his article from June 1848. T.222 “The State” (25 September 1848), CW2, pp. 93–104. See also, "Bastiat's Anti-Socialist Pamphlets" in Further Aspects of Bastiat's Thought, CW4 (forthcoming).  ↩

  14. T.208 “Property and Law,” JDE, 15 May 1848, CW2, pp. 43–59.  ↩

  15. T.209 “Individualism and Fraternity” (June 1848), CW2, pp. 82–92.  ↩

  16. T.220 “Property and Plunder,” Journal des débats, 24 July 1848, CW2, pp. 147–84.  ↩

  17. T.231 “Protectionism and Communism” (January 1849), CW2, pp. 235–65.  ↩

  18. T.257 “Plunder and Law”, Journal des Économistes, 15 May 1850, CW2, pp. 266–76.  ↩

  19. T.239 “Damned Money!” Journal des Économistes, 15 April 1849, in CW4 (forthcoming).  ↩

  20. Frédéric Bastiat’s Speech (T.240) on “Disarmament, Taxes, and the Influence of Political Economy on the Peace Movement”, pp. 49–52, in Report of the Proceedings of the Second General Peace Congress, held in Paris, on the 22nd, 23rd and 24th of August, 1849. Compiled from Authentic Documents, under the Superintendence of the Peace Congress Committee. (London: Charles Gilpin, 5, Bishopsgate Street Without, 1849), pp. 49–52; in Addendum: Additional Material by Bastiat, CW3, pp. 514–20.  ↩

  21. T.234 Capitale et rente (Paris: Guillaumin, 1849), in CW4 (forthcoming).  ↩

  22. T.239 “Damned Money”, Journal des Économistes, 15 April 1849, in CW4 (forthcoming).  ↩

  23. T.241 Gratuité du crédit. Discussion entre M. Fr. Bastiat et M. Proudhon (Free Credit. A Discussion between M. Fr. Bastiat and M. Proudhon) (Paris: Guillaumin, 1850) in CW4 (forthcoming).  ↩

  24. T.258 La Loi, par M. F. Bastiat. Membre correspondant de l'Institut. Représentant du peuple à l'Assemblée Nationale (Paris: Guillaumin, 1850). In CW2, pp. 107–46.  ↩

  25. T.259 Bastiat, Ce qu’on voit et ce qu’on ne voit pas, ou l’Économie politique en une leçon. Par M. F. Bastiat, Représentant du peuple à l’Assemblée nationale, Membre correspondant de l’Institut (Paris: Guillaumin, 1850), in CW3, pp. 401–52. FEE ed.](/titles/bastiat-selected-essays-on-political-economy#lf0181_label_033)  ↩

  26. T.161 ES2.1 "Physiologie de la Spoliation" (The Physiology of Plunder) and ES2.2 "Deux morales" (Two Moral Philosophies) in CW3 (in production). FEE ed.  ↩

  27. Anthony de Jasay believes this insight is original to Bastiat and is his main contribution to the development of economic science. Jasay wrote a two part article called “The Seen and the Unseen” which appeared on the Econlib website in December 2004 and January 2005 where he applies Bastiat’s idea and borrows the name for his own title. See He makes explicit reference to the greatness of Bastiat as an economist in the second article he wrote for Econlib, “Thirty-five Hours” (July 15, 2002) and credits him for inventing the idea of “opportunity cost”: “he anticipated the concept of opportunity cost and was, to my knowledge, the first economist ever to use and explain it.” See David M. Hart, "Negative Railways, Turtle Soup, talking Pencils, and House owning Dogs: "The French Connection" and the Popularization of Economics from Say to Jasay," (Sept. 2014) . A shortened version of this paper was published in the "Symposium on Anthony de Jasay" in The Independent Review, vol. 20, no. 1, Summer 2015, "Broken Windows and House-Owning Dogs: The French Connection and the Popularization of Economics from Bastiat to Jasay," pp. 61–84.  ↩

  28. See, T.259 WSWNS 1 “The Broken Window,” in CW3, pp. 405–7; and T.128 ES3 4 “One Profit versus Two Losses” (LE, 9 May, 1847), in CW3, pp. 271–76, in which Bastiat discusses what he termed “the double incidence of loss.”  ↩


Letter 91. Paris, 25 Feb. 1848. To Richard Cobden


Letter 91. Paris, 25 Feb. 1848. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 168-70) [CW1, pp. 139-41].


My dear Cobden, you already know our news. Yesterday we were a monarchy and today we are a republic.201


I have not the time to tell you about it, I simply want to put before you a point of view of the utmost importance.

France wants and needs peace. Her expenses are going to increase, her income to decrease, and her budget is already in deficit. She therefore needs peace and a reduction in her military undertakings.

Without this reduction no serious savings are possible, and therefore no financial reform and no abolition of odious taxes. And without these, the revolution will fall out of favor.

But France, as you will understand, cannot take the initiative of disarming. It would be absurd to ask her to do so.

You see the consequences. Because she does not disarm, she cannot reform anything; and because she does not reform anything, she will be killed by her finances.

The sole fact that foreigners are retaining their forces is obliging us to perish. But we do not wish to perish. Therefore, if foreign nations do not put us in a position to disarm by disarming themselves, if we have to keep three or four hundred thousand men in a state of readiness, we will be drawn into a war of words. This is inevitable. For in this case, the only means of being able to draw breath here would be to create embarrassment for all the kings of Europe.

If, therefore, foreigners understand our situation and its dangers, they will not hesitate to give us this proof of confidence by disarming significantly. In this way, they will put us in a position to do likewise, rebuild our finances, relieve the people, and accomplish the work which has been thrust upon us.

If, on the other hand, foreigners consider it prudent to remain armed, I do not hesitate to say that this so-called prudence is the greatest imprudence, since it will reduce us to the extremity which I have already mentioned.

Please heaven that England understands this and makes it understood. It would save the future of Europe. If she follows the traditions of old-style politics, I challenge you to tell me how we can escape the consequences.

Think carefully about this letter, dear Cobden, and weigh all its statements. See for yourself whether everything I have said to you is not inevitable.

If you remain armed, we will remain armed with no evil intentions. But because we remain armed, we will be overcome by the weight of unpopular taxes. No government could survive this. Governments can change as much as they like. Each will encounter the same problem and the day will come [141] when it will be said, “Since we cannot send the soldiers back to their homes, we will have to dispatch them to arouse the people.”

If you disarm to a significant extent and if you unite closely with us to advise Prussia to follow the same policy, under these conditions a new era may and will spring into being on 24 February.

Letter 92. Paris, 26 Feb. 1848. To Richard Cobden


Letter 92. Paris, 26 Feb. 1848. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 170-71) [CW1, pp. 141-42].


My dear Cobden, I would give a great deal of money (if I had it) to have M. de Lamartine as our minister of foreign affairs for a moment. But I cannot reach him.

I wanted to go to London, but not without having seen him, since I need to submit to him the ideas I have to communicate to you.

England can do an immense amount of good without damaging herself in the slightest. She can replace France’s disastrous prejudices with a sincere affection. She has only to will this. For example, why does she not quite freely abandon her veiled opposition to our sad conquest of Algeria? Why does she not quite freely abandon the dangers arising from the right of inspection?202 Why does she allow the idea that she wishes to humiliate us to take root here? Why wait for events to poison these matters? What a magnificent spectacle it would be if England said: “When France has chosen a government, England will make haste to recognize it, and as proof of her friendship she will also recognize Algeria as French and renounce the right of inspection, of which she moreover acknowledges the ineffectualness and drawbacks!”

Tell me, my dear Cobden, what would such acts cost your country if they were freely carried out as I describe?

Over here, we cannot divest ourselves of the idea held by the French that the English covet Algeria. This is absurd, but this is how it appears.

We cannot efface from people’s minds that the right to inspect is part of your policy. This is also absurd, but this is how it appears.

In the name of peace and humanity, bring about these great measures! Let us carry out popular diplomatic policies and let us do it in good time.


Write to me. Tell me frankly if a journey to London with this in mind, under the auspices of M. de Lamartine, would have any chance of bringing about a result. I will show him your letter.

Letter 93. Paris, 27 Feb. 1848. To Madame Marsan


Letter 93. Paris, 27 Feb. 1848. To Madame Marsan (Marie-Julienne Badbedat) (JCPD) [CW1, pp. 141-42].

My dear lady,

You must be anxious. I would like to reassure you. My cold has almost disappeared and in this respect I am in my normal state, with which you are familiar. On the other hand, the revolution has left me safe and sound.

As you will see in the newspapers, on the 23rd everything seemed to be over. Paris had a festive air; everything was illuminated. A huge gathering moved along the boulevards singing. Flags were adorned with flowers and ribbons. When they reached the Hôtel des Capucines, the soldiers blocked their path and fired a round of musket fire at point-blank range into the crowd. I leave you to imagine the sight offered by a crowd of thirty thousand men, women, and children fleeing from the bullets, the shots, and those who fell.203

An instinctive feeling prevented me from fleeing as well, and when it was all over I was on the site of a massacre with five or six workmen, facing about sixty dead and dying people. The soldiers appeared stupefied. I begged the officer to have the corpses and wounded moved in order to have the latter cared for and to avoid having the former used as flags by the people when they returned, but he had lost his head.

The workers and I then began to move the unfortunate victims onto the pavement, as doors refused to open. At last, seeing the fruitlessness of our efforts, I withdrew. But the people returned and carried the corpses to the outlying districts, and a hue and cry was heard all through the night. The following morning, as though by magic, two thousand barricades made the insurrection fearsome. Fortunately, as the troop did not wish to fire on the National Guard, the day was not as bloody as might have been expected.

All is now over. The Republic has been proclaimed. You know that this is good news for me. The people will govern themselves. I am convinced that for a long time they will govern themselves badly, but they will learn from [143] experience. Right now, ideas I do not share have the upper hand. It is fashionable to expand the functions of the state considerably, and I think they should be restricted. For this reason, I am outside the movement, although several of my friends are very powerful in it. Two friends and I produced a leaflet to inject some of our ideas into the intellectual to and fro.204

Do not worry about the sequel. My age and health have extinguished in me any taste for street campaigning. As for a situation, I will not be seeking one, and will wait until I am considered useful.

I am writing you just a hasty note. I still have repose in view, since age and duties are piling up.

Julie is not giving me as good news as I would like.

Please ask her to write to me from time to time. I embrace both her and her children warmly.

Letter 94. Paris, 29 Feb. 1848. To Félix Coudroy


Letter 94. Paris, 29 Feb. 1848. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, pp. 80-82) [CW1, pp. 143-45].


My dear Félix, in spite of the shabby and ridiculous conditions you have been given, I will wholeheartedly congratulate you if you reach a settlement. We are getting old; a little peace and tranquillity in our later years is the happy condition to which we should lay claim.

Since, dear friend, I cannot give you either consolation or advice on this sad outcome, you will not be surprised if I immediately tell you about the major events which have just occurred.

The February revolution has certainly been more heroic than that of July.205 There is nothing so admirable as the courage, order, calm, and moderation of the people of Paris. But what will the results be? For the last ten years, false doctrines that were much in fashion nurtured the illusions of the working classes. They are now convinced that the state is obliged to provide bread, work, and education to all. The provisional government has made a solemn promise to do so; it will therefore be obliged to increase taxes to endeavor to keep this promise, and in spite of this it will not keep it. I have no need to tell you what kind of future lies ahead of us.


There is one possible recourse, which is to combat the error itself, but this task is so unpopular that it cannot be carried out safely; I am, nevertheless, determined to devote myself to this if the country sends me to the National Assembly.

It is clear that all these promises will succeed in ruining the provinces to satisfy the population of Paris, since the government will never undertake to feed all the sharecroppers, workers, and craftsmen in the départements and, above all, in the countryside. If our country understands the situation, I say frankly that she will elect me; if not, I will carry out my duty with greater safety as a simple writer.

The scramble for office has started, and several of my friends are very powerfully placed. Some of them ought to understand that my special studies may be useful, but I do not hear them mentioned. As for me, I will set foot in the town hall only as an interested spectator; I will gaze on the greasy pole but not climb it. Poor people! How much disillusionment is in store for them! It would have been so simple and so just to ease their burden by decreasing taxes; they want to achieve this through the plentiful bounty of the state and they cannot see that the whole mechanism consists in taking away ten to give it back eight, not to mention the true freedom that will be destroyed in the operation!

I have tried to get these ideas out into the street through a short-lived journal206 which was produced in response to the situation; would you believe that the printing workers themselves discuss and disapprove of the enterprise? They call it counterrevolutionary.

How, oh how can we combat a school which has strength on its side and which promises perfect happiness to everyone?

My friend, if someone said to me, “You will have your idea accepted today but tomorrow you will die in obscurity,” I would agree to it without hesitation, but striving without good fortune and without even being listened to is a thankless task!

What is more, as order and confidence are the supreme aims at present, so we must refrain from any criticism and support the provisional government at all cost, making allowances even for its errors. This is a duty that obliges me to make an infinite number of allowances.

Farewell, the elections will take place shortly, and we will see what happens [145] then. In the meantime, let me know if you come across any attitudes favorable to me.

Letter 95. Paris, 4 March 1848. To M. Domenger, in Mugron


Letter 95. Paris, 4 March 1848. To M. Domenger, in Mugron (OC7, pp. 385-86) [CW1, pp. 145-46].

My dear Domenger,

You are quite right to remain calm. Apart from the fact that we will all need it, the tempest would need to howl furiously before it was felt in Mugron. Up to now, Paris is enjoying the most perfect peace, and this spectacle is in my view just as imposing in its way as courage in battle. We have just witnessed the funeral ceremony.207 I think that the entire universe was out in the street. I have never seen so many people. I have to say that the population appeared to be friendly but cold. Nothing can bring it to utter cries of enthusiasm. This is perhaps all to the good and appears to prove that time and experience have matured us. Are not unbridled demonstrations something of an obstacle to the proper management of affairs?

The political aspect of the future is not being given much attention. It seems that universal suffrage and other rights of the people are so unanimously agreed upon that they are given no further thought. But what is darkening our prospects are economic matters. In this respect, ignorance is so profound and widespread that severe experiences are to be feared. The idea that there is a scheme yet unknown but easy to find, which is bound to ensure the well-being of all by reducing work, is the dominant theme. As it is adorned with such fine terms as fraternity, generosity, etc., no one dares attack these wild illusions. Besides, no one would know how to do so. People instinctively fear the consequences which may arise from the exaggerated hopes of the working classes, but between this and being in a position to determine the truth there is a wide gap. For my part, I continue to think that the fate of the workers depends on the speed with which capital is built up. Anything that can, directly or indirectly, damage property, undermine confidence, or weaken security is an obstacle to the accumulation of capital and has an unfavorable effect on the working classes. This is also true for all taxes and irritating governmental interference. What should we therefore [146] think of the systems in fashion today which have all these disadvantages at once? As a writer, or in another capacity, if my fellow citizens call upon me, I will defend my principles to the last. The current revolution is not changing them any more than it is changing my behavior.

Let us say no more about the statements attributed to F——. This is far behind us. Frankly this meretricious program could not be sustained. I hope that people will be satisfied with the choices made in our département. Lefranc is a courageous and honest Republican who is incapable of making life difficult for anyone without serious and just reasons.

Letter 96. Mugron, 5 Apr. 1848. To Richard Cobden


Letter 96. Mugron, 5 Apr. 1848. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 171-731) [CW1, pp. 146-47].


My dear friend, here I am, all alone. Why can I not bury myself here forever and work peacefully on the economic synthesis208 I have in my head and which will never leave it! For, unless there is a change in public opinion, I am going to be sent to Paris with the responsibility of the awe-inspiring mandate of a representative of the people. If I had health and strength, I would accept this mission with enthusiasm. But what can my weak voice and my sickly and nervous constitution do in the midst of the revolutionary whirlwind? How much wiser it would have been to devote my final days to examining in silence the great problem of society and what the future holds in store for it, especially since something tells me that I would have found the answer. Poor village, the humble dwelling of my fathers, I am about to bid you an eternal farewell; I am going to leave you with the foreboding that my name and life, lost in the midst of storms, will not have even the modest usefulness for which you prepared me!

My friend, I am too far from the theater of events to tell you about them. You will learn about them before I do, and at the time I am writing to you, it may be that the facts on which I might base my reasoning are past history. If the overthrown government had left us finances in good order, I would have total faith in the future of the Republic. Unfortunately the treasury has been destroyed and I know enough about the history of our first revolution to realize the influence of financial chaos on events. An urgent measure leads to an arbitrary one, and it is above all in this situation that fate [147] exercises its power. At present, the people are behaving admirably, and you would be surprised to see how well universal suffrage is working right from the start. But what will happen when taxes, instead of decreasing, increase, when there is a shortage of jobs, and when bitter reality succeeds brilliant hopes? I had perceived a lifeline, on which it is true I scarcely placed much hope, since it presupposed wisdom and prudence in kings; this was the simultaneous disarmament of Europe. If this happened, finances would have been restructured everywhere, nations relieved and restored to order, industry would have developed, the number of jobs increased, and peoples would have waited calmly for the gradual development of administrative institutions. Monarchs, however, have preferred to stake their all or rather they were unable to assess present or future situations. They are pressing against a spring, without understanding that as their strength weakens that of the spring increases proportionately.

Imagine that they had disarmed everywhere and reduced taxes accordingly, and had, also, given to their nations institutions that are, moreover, not to be gainsaid. France, burdened with debt, would make haste to do likewise, only too happy to be able to found the Republic on the solid basis of a genuine relief of the burden on the people. Peace and progress would go hand in hand. However, the opposite has happened. People are arming everywhere, public expenditure (and taxes and hindrances) is increasing everywhere, when the taxes that exist are precisely what is causing revolutions. Will not all of this end in a terrible explosion?

What is wrong? Is justice so difficult to exercise and prudence so difficult to understand?

Since my arrival here, I have not seen an English newspaper. I do not know what is happening in your Parliament. I would have hoped that England would take the initiative in rational politics and would take it with the energetic boldness which she has shown so often in the past. I would have hoped that she would want to teach mankind how to live,209 by disarming, abandoning expensive colonies, ceasing threatening behavior, protecting herself from any possibility of being threatened, removing unpopular taxes, and presenting the world with a fine spectacle of union, strength, wisdom, justice, and security. But, alas! Political economy has not yet sufficiently pervaded the masses, even in your country.

Letter 97. Mugron, 12 Apr. 1848. To Horace Say


Letter 97. Mugron, 12 Apr. 1848. To Horace Say (OC7, pp. 381-82) [CW1, pp. 148-49].


My dear friend, I constantly look for your name in the newspapers, but they are not yet discussing the elections. They are probably too busy reporting on the political clubs. This is the only explanation I can give of the silence of the Paris press. Perhaps Paris is too stormy a theater, given your character and the life you are used to. I now regret that you have not considered moving to one of the départements. Socialist folly has whipped up such terror that because of your well-known antecedents you would have had wonderful opportunities there. Your candidature has the advantage of giving you the opportunity of putting about sane ideas. This is a great deal but not enough for our cause. For this reason, make a supreme effort, abandon your customary reserve for a few days, start something of a campaign, and leave no stone unturned to enter the Constituent Assembly. I sincerely believe that the salvation of the country depends on our principles gaining a majority.

If there is no change in public opinion here, my election is assured. I even think that I will gain all the votes except for those of a few traders in resin who are terrified of free trade.

All the committees210 in the cantons support me.

Next Sunday, we will be having a general central meeting. I would have to make a huge mess of things to change the attitudes of electors toward me.

A very strange fact is the ignorance of socialist doctrines of the people in this country. There is a horror of communism. But communism is seen only as the sharing out of land. Last Sunday, during a large public meeting, a general murmur arose when I said that communism was not a threat in this respect. People seemed to deduce from these words that I was only very tepidly opposed to this form of communism. The rest of my speech removed this impression. It is really very dangerous to speak before an audience that is so little informed. You risk not being understood. . . .

I must admit to you that I am very worried about the future. How can industry revive when it is accepted in principle that the scope for regulation [149] is unlimited? When every minute a decree on earnings, working hours, the cost of things, etc., can upset all economic decision making?

Farewell, my dear M. Say. Please remember me to Mme Say and M. Léon.

P.S. The central meeting of delegates took place yesterday; I do not know why it was brought forward. After answering questions, I withdrew and this morning learned that I have all of the votes except two. Having forgotten to post my letter before leaving, I have opened it to tell you this result which may please you. Try to make a supreme effort, my dear friend, to ensure that political economy, which is lifeless in the Collège de France,211 is represented in the Chamber by M. Say. Shame to the country, if it excludes a name of this eminence that is so nobly borne!

Letter 98. Paris, 11 May 1848. To Richard Cobden


Letter 98. Paris, 11 May 1848. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 173-74) [CW1, pp. 149-50].

My dear Cobden, it is impossible for me to write to you in any length. Besides, what would I say to you? How can I foretell what will come out of an assembly of nine hundred people who are not restricted by any rule or precedent, who do not know one another, who are under the sway of so many errors, who have to satisfy so many just and illusory hopes, and who, in spite of this, have difficulty in listening to each other and debating because of their numbers and the huge size of the hall? All that I can say is that the National Assembly has good intentions. A democratic spirit reigns there. I would have liked to say as much of the spirit of peace and nonintervention. We will know the outcome on Monday. This is the day set for discussions on Poland and Italy.

In the meantime, I will go straight to the subject of my letter.

You know that a workers’ commission used to meet at the Luxembourg Palace under the chairmanship of M. Louis Blanc. The presence of the National Assembly dispersed it, but it was quick to set up a commission responsible for carrying out an inquiry on the situation of industrial and agricultural workers and suggest ways of improving their lot.

This is a huge task, which the current illusions are making very hazardous.

I have been called upon to take part in this commission. I was fairly nominated, [150] after I set out my doctrines frankly, but above all from the point of view of property rights. I am having printed what I said, which succeeded in having me nominated, in an article entitled Property and Law, which will be appearing in the next issue of Le Journal des économistes. Please read it.212

I now want to use this inquiry to bring truth out into the open. Whether I am right or wrong, we need the truth. In France, we do not have much experience of the machinery known as a parliamentary inquiry. Do you know of any work which describes the art of organizing these inquiries so as to reveal the truth? If you know of one, please let me know, or better still send it to me.

Anti-British prejudices are still far from being extinguished here. People think that the English are devoting themselves on the continent to countering the republican policy of France and I would not put this past your aristocracy. For this reason, I will be following with great interest your new campaign in favor of political and economic reform, which may reduce the foreign influence of the squirearchy.213

Letter 99. abc


Letter 99. Paris, 17 May 1848. To Madame Schwabe (OC7, pp. 421-23) [CW1, pp. 150-51].


You must think me a very badly brought up Frenchman to have taken so long to thank you and your husband for the many gestures of affection you both showered on me during your stay in Paris. I certainly have not forgotten them. The memory of them will never be effaced from my heart, but you know that I made a journey to the Pyrenees I hold so dear. What is more, I did not know where to address my letters; this one will be sent in the hope it will be lucky.

The National Assembly has met. What will come out of this blazing furnace? Peace or war? Fortune or misfortune for the human race? Up to now, it has been like a child who stutters before speaking. Can you imagine a hall as big as the Place de la Concorde? In it, there are nine hundred members debating and three thousand onlookers. To have the opportunity of making yourself heard and understood, you have to utter high-pitched shouts accompanied by very emphatic hand movements, which rapidly result in an outburst of unreasonable fury in whoever is speaking. That is how we are conducting our internal proceedings. This takes up a lot of time and [151] the general public does not have the common sense to understand that this waste of time is inevitable.

You will have learned from the newspapers of the events of the 15th. The Assembly was invaded by a horde of the populace. The pretext was a demonstration in favor of Poland. For four hours, these people endeavored to wrest from us the most subversive votes. The Assembly bore this tempest calmly, and to do justice to our population and our century I have to say that we cannot complain of any personal violence. The result of this outrage has been to make known the wishes of the entire country. It enables the executive power to take prudent measures to which it cannot have recourse if there is no provocation. It is very fortunate that things were taken so far. Without this, the aims of the seditionists would never have been so clearly seen. Their hypocrisy brought them followers. They no longer have any; they have been unmasked, and once again the finger of Providence has been seen. There were ten thousand chances that things would not turn out so well.

I assume you are calling on Mrs. Cobden. Please convey to her the admiration I feel for her, following all you have said about her.

Farewell, dear lady. Can you not give me some hope of seeing you again? Your children do not know enough French and one of your daughters is a citizen of the Republic.214 She must be made to breathe the air of her fatherland.

I shake the hand of Mr. Schwabe with great affection.

Letter 100. Paris, 27 May 1848. To Richard Cobden


Letter 100. Paris, 27 May 1848. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 175-76) [CW1, pp. 151-52].


My dear Cobden, thank you for having given me the opportunity of making the acquaintance of Mr. Baines.215 I regret only having had just an instant to talk to such a distinguished man.

Forgive me for having caused you the trouble of writing to me on the subject of inquiries and their format. I have abandoned our working committee for the one on finance. When all is said and done, this is where all the questions and even all the utopian ideas will end up. Unless the country renounces the use of reason, it will need to subordinate even its foreign [152] policy to financial stringency to some extent. If only we can make the policy of peace triumph! For my part, I am convinced that, after the present war, nothing is more disastrous for my country than the system inaugurated by our government, which it calls “armed diplomacy.” From whatever point of view it is considered, a system of this sort is unjust, wrong, and ruinous. I am saddened to think that just a few simple notions of political economy would be enough to make it unpopular in France. But how do we manage this when the vast majority thinks that the interests of nations and even interests in general are at root naturally antagonistic? We must wait for this prejudice to dissipate, and this will take a long time. As far as I am concerned, nothing can change my belief that my role was to be a country magistrate as in the past or, at the very most, a teacher. It should not be my fate to have been born in an age in which my place is on the stage of active politics.

What would be apparently simpler than convincing France and England to agree to disarm simultaneously? What would they have to fear? How many genuine, imminent, and pressing difficulties would they then be capable of resolving? How many taxes could be reformed! How many sufferings could be relieved! How much popular affection could be gained! How many troubles and revolutions could be averted! But we will not achieve this. The physical impossibility of collecting taxes will not suffice, in either of our countries, to have disarmament accepted, even though this is advisable as the simplest of prudent measures.

However, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised to find the most favorable attitudes in our committee, made up of sixty members. May God enable the spirit animating it to be first diffused upon the Assembly and subsequently upon the general public. But alas! Out of fifteen committees there is one, responsible for ways and means, which has attained concepts of peace and economy. The other fourteen committees are preoccupied only with projects, all of which will lead to new expenditure; will they withstand the torrent?

I believe that at the present time you are enjoying the company of Mrs. Cobden and Mr. and Mrs. Schwabe. Please convey to them my affectionate good wishes. Since the departure of Mr. Schwabe, the Champs-Élysées seems to me to be a desert; before, I thought that they lived up to their name.216

Letter 101. Paris, 9 June 1848. To Félix Coudroy


Letter 101. Paris, 9 June 1848. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, pp. 82-84) [CW1, pp. 153-54].


My dear Félix, it has indeed been a very long time since I wrote to you; you must forgive me as I do not know which way to turn. This is how I live; I get up at six o’clock, dress, shave, have breakfast, and scan the newspapers, which takes me up to seven or half past seven. Around nine o’clock I have to leave, as the session of the finance committee217 to which I belong starts at ten. This lasts up to one o’clock and then the public session begins and lasts until seven. I return home for dinner, and it is very rare that after dinner there is not a meeting of subcommissions responsible for special matters.

The only time at my disposal is therefore between eight and nine in the morning, and this is also when visitors arrive. All of this means that not only do I have no time for my correspondence but I cannot study anything just at the time when, now that I am in contact with the practical side of matters, I realize that I have everything to learn.

For this reason, I am profoundly disgusted with this job and what is happening is not conducive to raising my spirits. The Assembly218 is certainly excellent from the point of view of its intentions; it has plenty of goodwill and wants to do good, but it cannot, first of all because it has no knowledge of the principles and secondly because there is no initiative anywhere. The executive commission is totally self-effacing; no one knows whether the members composing it agree with one another, because they emerge from their inertia only to express the most strangely incoherent of views. It is useless for the Chamber to express repeatedly its confidence in order to encourage them to act; it would appear that they have taken the decision to leave us to our own devices. Imagine what an assembly of nine hundred people responsible for debating and acting is like and add to this a huge hall in which one cannot be heard. For having wanted to say a few words today,219 I have left with a cold, which is why I am not going out and can write.

But other symptoms are much more terrifying. The dominant notion, the one that has permeated every class of society, is that the state is responsible [154] for providing a living for everyone. This has caused a general rush in which the workers have finally become involved. They are blamed, feared; and what do they do? What every class up to now has done. The workers have a better case; they say, “Give us bread in exchange for work.” Monopolists were and still are more demanding. But where will this lead us in the end? I dread to think.

Naturally the finance committee is resisting this, as its mission makes it thrifty and economical; it has therefore already become unpopular. “You are standing up for capital!” We are being killed by this word, since you ought to know that here “capital” is seen as a devouring monster.

Far from being dead, Duprat is not ill.

“The people you are killing off are in quite good health.”

In the riots of the 15th,220 I was neither struck nor threatened; I would even add that I did not feel the slightest emotion, except for the moment I thought that a public gallery was about to collapse under the feet of the seditionists. Blood would have flowed in the hall and then. . . .

Farewell, my dear Félix.

Letter 102. Paris, 24 June 1848. To Félix Coudroy


Letter 102. Paris, 24 June 1848. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, p. 84) [CW1, pp. 154-55].


My dear Félix, the journals will have told you of the frightful state of our sad capital. Cannon and rifle fire are the sounds that predominate; civil war has begun and with such ferocity that no one can foretell the outcome. While this sight distresses me as a man, you can only imagine what I am suffering as an economist; the real cause of the evil is certainly the false ideas of socialism.

You will perhaps be surprised, and many here are surprised that I have not yet set out our doctrine on the rostrum. They would doubtless forgive me if they were to cast a glance at this huge hall, in which you cannot make yourself heard. What is more, our Assembly is undisciplined; if a single word shocks a few members, even before the sentence is completed a storm breaks out. In these circumstances, you will understand my aversion to speaking. I [155] have concentrated my insignificant action on the committee of which I am a member (the finance committee), and up to now this has not been wholly unsuccessful.

I wanted to be able to give you the news of the outcome of the terrible battle that is raging around us. If the party of order wins, how far will reaction to this go? If the party of the riots wins, how far will its pretensions extend? We tremble to think. If this were some random struggle, I would not be discouraged. But the thing afflicting society is a manifest error, which will run its course to the end, since it is more or less shared by the very people who combat its exaggerated manifestations. May France never become like Turkey!

Letter 103. Paris, 27 June 1848. To Richard Cobden


Letter 103. Paris, 27 June 1848. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 176-78) [CW1, pp. 155-56].


My dear Cobden, you have learned of the huge catastrophe that has just afflicted France and which is afflicting the world. I believe you will be glad to have news of me but I will not go into many details. It is really too distressing for a Frenchman, even for a cosmopolitan Frenchman, to have to describe these dreadful scenes to an Englishman.

Allow me therefore to leave the task of giving you the facts to our journals. I will just say a few words about the causes. In my opinion, they are all rooted in socialism. For a long time our rulers have prevented a knowledge of economics from being widespread as far as they could. They have gone further. Out of ignorance, they have prepared people’s minds to accept the errors of socialism and false republicanism, since this is the obvious trend in classical and university education. The nation has been infatuated with the idea that fraternity can be established by law. The state has been required to provide for the welfare of its citizens directly. But what has been the outcome? Because of the natural leanings of the human heart, each person has begun to claim a greater share of the welfare for himself from the state. This means that the state or the public treasury has been plundered. Every class has demanded from the state the means of subsistence, as of right. The efforts made by the state to provide this have led only to taxes and restrictions and an increase in deprivation, with the result that the demands of the people have become more pressing. In my view, a protectionist regime has been the first manifestation of this disorder. Owners, farmers, manufacturers, and shipowners have called upon the law to intervene to increase their share of [156] wealth. The law has been able to satisfy them only by creating distress in the other classes, especially the working classes. These therefore raised a clamor, and instead of demanding that this plundering should cease, they demanded that the law should allow them to take part in the plundering as well. It has become general and universal. It has led to the ruin of all forms of industry. The workers, who are more deprived than ever, began to think that the dogma of fraternity had not been designed for them and took up arms. You know the rest: a frightful slaughter which, for four days, desolated the capital of the civilized world and which has still not been ended.221

It seems to me, my dear Cobden, that I am alone in the National Assembly to perceive the cause of the evil and consequently its remedy. However, I am obliged to keep quiet, for what is the use of speaking if I am not understood? I therefore sometimes ask myself if I am not a crank, like so many others, submerged in my old errors; but this thought cannot be right since I know too much, I think, about the problem in all its details. Besides, I tell myself: “In the end, what I am asking for is that the very harmonious and simple laws of Providence should triumph. Or are we to take it that Providence is in error?

I now profoundly regret that I accepted the mandate entrusted to me. I am not good for anything there, whereas, as a simple political writer, I might have been useful to my country.

Letter 104. Paris, 29 June 1848. To Julie Marsan (Mme Affre)


Letter 104. Paris, 29 June 1848. To Julie Marsan (JCPD) [CW1, pp. 156-57].

My dear Julie,

Cables and newspapers will have told you all about the triumph of the republican order after four days of bitter struggle.

I shall not give you any detail, even about me, because a single letter would not suffice.

I shall just tell you that I have done my duty without ostentation or temerity. My only role was to enter the Faubourg Saint-Antoine after the fall [157] of the first barricade, in order to disarm the fighters. As we went on, we managed to save several insurgents whom the militia wanted to kill. One of my colleagues displayed a truly admirable energy in this situation, which he did not boast about from the rostrum.

Your own letter arrived this morning precisely at the time the government was changed. I do not know M. ——, on whom the fate of Romain222 depends, but I got together with Duprat to try to prevent the creation of the position. This is the best hope there is for the time being, subject to something better turning up.

I am happy to learn that the health of your mother is improving.223 I hope that, as the children grow, her pain will be eased somewhat, because she is more and more attached to them. As far as I am concerned, I am longing to get acquainted with little Eugénie.

Mlle Marsan has been often writing to me in the last days. Her letters give such a picture of her. She tells me for example: “Three lines every three months, this is how you are treating me!” When I wrote to you, I wrote to her as well to tell her that I was not in any danger, and I added, “I tell you this to prevent any flights of fancy on your part.” In her answer, she resorts to the word “flights” five or six times.

I am very sorry indeed about what you tell me of your financial position, my dear Julie, all the more so given that mine is not so brilliant that I could help you at this moment.

On 1 September, M. Lagelouze and Co. will remit me 650 francs that I shall put at the disposal of your mother.

Letter 105. Paris, 7 Aug. 1848. To Richard Cobden


Letter 105. Paris, 7 Aug. 1848. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 178-79) [CW1, pp. 157-59].


My dear Cobden, I have left the Assembly to reply in a few lines to your letter of the 5th. I hoped to see our ministers to discuss your communication with them, but they did not come. While we are waiting for further details, this is what I know.

For 1848, we are facing a deficit that is impossible to make good through taxes. The minister of finance took the decision to solve this through a loan and to organize the budget in 1849 so as to balance the income and expenditure without having to call upon credit once again. The intention is good; what is needed is to remain faithful to it.

With this in mind, he acknowledged that ordinary income could meet expenditure in 1849 only if this was reduced by a rather significant amount. He therefore declared to all his colleagues that they set about making a reduction to be shared among all the departments. The Ministry of the Navy was targeted for thirty million of the proposed reduction and, since this department has sections that it is impossible to touch, such as expenditure on colonies, convict prisons, living expenses, salaries, etc., it follows that the reduction will bear only on the production of new armaments.

This resolution is not immutable. It does not come from a determination to reduce our military forces. However, it is certain that the government and Assembly would be strongly encouraged to continue down this road if England offered to follow us, and above all to precede us to a reasonable extent. It is to this that I shall be drawing Bastide’s attention.

Right now, rumors about Italy are circulating which are likely to foil the good intentions of the minister of finance. I very much fear that peace in Europe cannot be maintained. Please God that at least our two countries walk in step!

Farewell, my dear Cobden; I will write to you shortly.

Letter 106. Paris, 1 July 1848. To M. Schwabe


Letter 106. Paris, 1 July 1848. To M. Schwabe (OC7, pp. 423-25) [CW1, p. 159].

My dear Sir,

I thank you for the affectionate interest that made you think of me on the occasion of the terrible events which have afflicted this capital city. Thank heaven the cause of order and civilization won the day. Our excellent friends MM Say and Anisson were in the country, the first in Versailles and the second [158] in Normandy. Their sons took part in the combat and came through with honor and unscathed.

It was false socialist ideas that caused our brothers to take up arms. It also has to be said that deprivation was a major contributor, but deprivation itself can be attributed to the same cause since, from the time we wished to make fraternity a legal obligation, capital no longer dares to show its face.

This is a very good time to preach the truth. During the entire time of the troubles, I have been able to consult widely with the National Guard, trying to show that each person should call upon his own forces to provide his means of existence and expect the state to provide only justice and security. I assure you that, for the first time, this doctrine was well received and a few friends gave me the means of expounding it in public, which I will be starting to do on Monday.

You will perhaps ask me why I am not fulfilling this mission within the National Assembly, whose rostrum echoes widely. This is because the hall is so huge and the audience so impatient that any demonstration is impossible.

This is very unfortunate, since I believe that there has never been in any country an assembly with better intentions, that is more democratic, a more sincere advocate of good, and more devoted. It is an honor to universal suffrage, but it has to be said that it shares the dominant preconceived ideas.

If you glance at the map of Paris, you will see that the insurrection has been graver than you appear to think. When it broke out, Paris had troops of no more than eight thousand men which, in accordance with good tactics, had to be kept together, since their number was insufficient to carry out operations. For this reason, the riot quickly overcame the suburbs and in a matter of two hours later would have overrun our street. From another direction, it was attacking the Town Hall and through the Gros-Caillou224 was threatening the National Assembly to the extent that we also were reduced to erecting barricades. However, after two days, reinforcements reached us from the provinces.

You ask me whether this insurrection will be the last. I dare to hope so. We now have a government with determination and unity. The Chamber is imbued with a spirit of order and justice, but not vengeance. Today, our greatest enemy is deprivation and the lack of work. If the government reestablishes security, business will regenerate and this will be our salvation.


You should not doubt, my dear sir, the enthusiasm with which I would accept your and Mrs. Schwabe’s kind invitation, if I could. Two weeks spent with you in discussion, walks, music making, and playing with your lovely children would be true happiness for me. However, it very much appears that I will have to refuse myself this pleasure. I very much fear that our session will last a long time. You may be sure at least that, if I am able to get away, I will not fail to do so.

Letter 107. Paris, 18 Aug. 1848. To Richard Cobden


Letter 107. Paris, 18 Aug. 1848. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 179-80) [CW1, pp. 160-61].


My dear Cobden, I have received your letter and the fine speech by Mr. Molesworth. If I had enough time at my disposal I would have translated it for Le Journal des économistes. But I do not have the time and, what is more, the strength. This is slipping away from me and I must admit that I am now seized with the obsession of all writers. I would like to devote the little health left to me, first of all to set out the true principles of political economy as I see them, and then to show their links with all the other moral sciences. This is still my chimera of Economic Harmonies. If this work had been completed I think that it would draw to our cause a host of fine minds whose hearts are being drawn to socialism. Unfortunately, in order for a book to survive and be read, it has to be short, clear, accurate, and as full of feeling as of ideas, all at the same time. This means that it must not contain a single word that has not been weighed. It has to be formed drop by drop like crystal, and in silence and obscurity, also like crystal. This makes me sigh greatly for my beloved Landes and Pyrenees.

It has not yet seemed the right time to make overtures to Cavaignac on the subject of your letter.225 The time seems to me badly chosen. We must wait until the situation in Italy is clearer. Nothing would be more unpopular now than a reduction of the army. All the parties would unite in condemning it, the politicians because of the state of Europe and owners and traders because of demagogic passion. The French army is a model of devotion and discipline. For the moment, it is our anchor of salvation. Its most popular leaders are in power and would not accept anything that would alienate the affection felt for it.

As for the navy, it is not likely that France will enter into negotiations on the subject of proportional reduction. England would need to go further and I very much fear that it is not prepared for this. I would at least like to know what we might hope to obtain.

The spirit of the public on this side of the Channel makes negotiations of this kind extremely difficult, especially with England alone. We must endeavor to expand it to include all the powers.

This is why I have not dared to compromise success by asking Cavaignac [161] for an ad hoc audience. I will endeavor to sound out his ideas from time to time and will let you know.

It is impossible to set oneself a nobler aim. I was pleased to see that La Presse is going down this road. I will try to get the Débats226 to join in as well. The difficulty, however, will be in involving the popular journals, although I have not lost all hope of this.

Farewell, I must leave you now.

Letter 108. Paris, 26 Aug. 1848. To Félix Coudroy


Letter 108. Paris, 26 Aug. 1848. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, pp. 85-87) [CW1, pp. 161-63].


My dear Félix, I am very sorry to see that despite my wishes our correspondence is languishing. It would be very pleasant for me to continue by letter this exchange of feelings and ideas which, for so many years, was sufficient to maintain our happiness. Besides, your letters would be just what I need. Here, in the midst of events and the tumult of passions, I can feel the clarity of principles becoming blurred because of the compromises life demands. I am now convinced that the carrying out of business excludes the possibility of producing a work that is truly scientific, and yet I do not hide from you that I still have this old elusive fancy of writing my Social Harmonies, and I cannot suppress the idea that, had I remained in your company, I would have succeeded in coming up with a useful idea for the world. For this reason, I am longing to go into retirement.

This morning, we concluded the major inquiry which weighed so heavily on the Assembly and on the country. A vote by the Chamber authorized proceedings against Louis Blanc and Caussidière for the part they played in the uprising on 15 May.227 People will perhaps be surprised in our region that this time I voted against the government. It was once my aim to explain to my electors the reason for my votes. Lack of time and strength is the only reason I would fail in this duty, but this vote is so serious that I would like to explain what determined it. The government believed that the proceedings against these two colleagues were necessary. People went so far as to say that the support of the National Guard could be counted on only on this condition. I did not feel I had the right, even for this reason, to gag the [162] voice of my conscience. You know that perhaps in the whole of France there is no more determined an opponent of the doctrines of Louis Blanc than I. I have no doubt that these doctrines will have a disastrous influence on the attitudes of the workers and, consequently, on their actions. But were we being called upon to express an opinion on doctrines? Anyone who holds a belief must consider as disastrous a doctrine that contradicts this belief. When the Catholics had the Protestants burned, it was not because Protestants were in error but because this error was deemed to be dangerous. On this principle we would all kill each other.

We therefore needed to investigate whether Louis Blanc had really been guilty of the offenses of conspiracy and insurrection. I did not think so and anyone who read his defense could not think so. In the meantime, I cannot forget the situation in which we are: a state of siege228 is in force, ordinary justice is suspended, and the press is muzzled. Could I hand over two colleagues to political opponents at a time when no rule of law was assured? This was an act with which I could not associate myself, a first step which I did not wish to take.

I do not blame Cavaignac for having temporarily suspended all forms of freedom; I believe that this sad necessity was as painful for him as it is to us and it may be justified by what justifies everything, public safety. However, does public safety require two of our colleagues to be handed over? I did not think so. Quite the contrary, I believed that such an act could only sow discord among us, inflame hatred, and deepen the abyss between the parties, not only in the Assembly but also in the whole of France. I considered that in the face of the current internal and external circumstances, when the country is suffering and needs order, confidence, governing institutions, and unity, it was an ill-chosen moment to sow the seeds of discord among the representatives of the nation. I think that we would do better to forget our grievances and causes of bitterness in order to work for the good of the country, and I considered myself fortunate that there were no detailed charges against our colleagues, since it was because of this that I was spared the duty of handing them over.

The majority thought otherwise. I hope it is not mistaken! I hope this vote is not the death knell of the Republic.


If you consider it apposite, I authorize you to send an extract of this letter to the local journal.

Letter 109. Paris, 3 Sept. 1848. To M. Domenger


Letter 109. Paris, 3 Sept. 1848. To M. Domenger (OC7, pp. 386-88) [CW1, pp. 163-64].


Tomorrow we are starting to debate the constitution. However, whatever you say, this work will always carry within its heart an all-devouring canker, since it will be debated in an atmosphere of siege and in the absence of freedom of the press. As for us, the representatives, we feel that we are totally free, but that is not enough. The parties will exploit the abnormal nature of our situation to undermine and discredit the constitution. I therefore voted against the state of siege yesterday. I believe that Cavaignac is making the common and very natural mistake of sacrificing the future to the present. As disposed as I am to lending strength to this honest and well-intentioned government we have put in place, I cannot go beyond this. Here I am then, voting yet again with the Red Republic, but it is not my fault. People should not look at with whom one votes, but why.

I presume that a new effort will be attempted in favor of freedom of the press. I will join this; above all I want the constitution to be respected. If in Paris there are such great ferments of disorder that the rule of law cannot be maintained, I would prefer the combat to be renewed and the country to learn to defend itself.

All the rumors are of legitimist plots. I cannot believe them! The legitimists who were powerless in ’89 hope to be strong in 1848? May God prevent them from reawakening the beast of revolution! If you chance to see them, tell them clearly that they should be under no illusion. They are opposed by all the workers, all the socialists, all the republicans, and all the people, with leaders capable of prolonging events right up to the limit. Above all, the clergy should be circumspect. Men of principle who, like me, have faith in the power of truth ask only for a free debate and accept in advance the triumph of public opinion, even if (except for changing it) these men are few in number. Those who accept the struggle elsewhere, on the battlefield, are countless and determined to take things right to the end. Let the legitimists and clergy not give the signal for action; they would be overrun. Legitimists know that their principles have had their day, and as for the clergy, while they are not totally blind, they cannot ignore their vulnerable side. Let a degree of popular irritation arising from the industrial crisis and financial [164] problems not inspire dangerous and wild hopes in them, unless they want to play their trump card once and for all.

Use your influence to safeguard our beloved département from the consequences of a desperate struggle. God knows that I do not want to deprive anyone of the right to express and put across his ideas! But we should carefully avoid anything that might resemble a conspiracy.

Letter 110. Paris, 7 Sept. 1848. To Félix Coudroy


Letter 110. Paris, 7 Sept. 1848. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, pp. 87-88) [CW1, pp. 164-65].


My dear Félix, your letter did not leave me the choice of the course of action I had to take. I have just sent in my resignation as a member of the General Council; I have not resigned as a representative and you know the reason why. In the end, it was not a few people from Mugron who bestowed this title on me. When all is said and done, the people from Mugron who bestowed this title on me were not few in number.

I would like to know how many there are of those who blame me who have read the defense of Louis Blanc in the Moniteur,229 and, if they have not read it, it must be said that they are extremely presumptuous in speaking out.

It is said that I gave way to fear; fear was completely on the other side. Do these men think that less courage is needed in Paris than in the départements to confront the passions currently raging? We were threatened with the fury of the National Guard if we rejected the plan to start legal proceedings. This threat came from the sector that controls the might of the army. It was possible therefore for fear to influence the black balls but not the white ones.230 You need to be uncommonly absurd and foolish to believe that it is an act of courage to vote in favor of might, the army, the National Guard, the majority, the passions of the moment, and the government.

Have you read the inquiry? Have you read the deposition of Trélat, an ex-minister? It says, “I went to Clichy but did not see Louis Blanc and did not hear that he went there; but I recognized traces of his passage in the attitudes, gestures, facial expressions, and even the utterances of the workers.” [165] Have you ever seen such passions expressed by more dangerous trends? And three-quarters of the inquiry is in this vein!

In short, in all conscience, I believe that Louis Blanc has done a great deal of harm in conjunction with all the socialists, and there are many of these who are, without even knowing this, among those who are making an outcry against him. However, I do not think that he took part in the outrages of May and June and I have no other reasons to give as to my conduct.

Thank you for having made me aware of the state of people’s minds. I am too familiar with the human heart to blame anyone. From their point of view, those who blame me are right. May they be long preserved from this plague of socialism! I feel relieved of a great weight since I posted my letter to the prefect. The country will see that I want it to be represented as it wishes. When the by-election occurs, please ask M. Domenger urgently not to support my candidature. By accepting it, I was drawn by the desire to see my region once again; this was an entirely personal feeling and I have been punished for it. Now I want nothing more than to be rid of a mandate that is most painful.

Letter 111. Dover, 7 Oct. 1848. To M. Schwabe


Letter 111. Dover, 7 Oct. 1848. To M. Schwabe (OC7, pp. 425-26) [CW1, pp. 165-66].


I do not want to leave the soil of England, my dear sir, without expressing the gratitude I feel and also without asking your pardon for all the trouble my stay with you caused. You will perhaps be surprised to see the date on this letter. While I was looking for Mr. Faulkner at Folkestone, the steamer was impolite enough to sail, leaving me on the quay, undecided as to whether I should jump on board. Twenty years ago, I would have tried. But I just watched it and, learning that another steamer was leaving this evening from Dover, I came here and do not regret the misadventure, since Dover is well worth staying an extra day in England for. This is what I would do even if I were not without all my luggage. Finally, I was able to deliver your message to Mr. Faulkner without any hurry.

. . . The two days I spent with Mr. Cobden were very pleasant. His temporary unpopularity has not changed his joyful and equitable temper. He says, and I believe he is right, that he is closer to disarmament today than he was to free trade when he founded the League. He is a great man and I recognize it for this reason: that his own interests, his reputation and [166] glory are never weighed in the balance against the interests of justice and humanity.

Letter 112. Paris, 25 Oct. 1848. To M. Schwabe


Letter 112. Paris, 25 Oct. 1848. To M. Schwabe (OC7, pp. 426-27) [CW1, p. 166].


I thank you for your kind offers. One never leaves such good friends without planning to see them again. It would be too cruel not to nurture this hope. Alas, however! It is often just an illusion, as life is very short and Manchester very far away. Perhaps it will be given to me to do you the honors of my beloved Pyrenees. I often dream that your family, Cobden’s family, Say’s family, and I will all gather together in one of my cool valleys. These are plans which men would certainly carry out if they really knew how to live.

Paris continues to be calm. The boulevards are gay and sparkling, there are shows and spectacles to attract the crowds, and the French character is manifest in all its carefree lightness. This is a hundred times better than London, and if the revolutions in Germany continue231 I do not abandon the hope of seeing Paris become an asylum for those fleeing political storms. What do we lack that stops us from becoming the most fortunate of nations? A grain of common sense. I think that this is not very much.

I can see why cholera232 terrifies you, since you are surrounded by such a lovely and numerous family. The happier we are in our affections, the more we risk danger. He who is alone is vulnerable only through his least sensitive point, which is himself. Fortunately this dreadful scourge appears to be totally embarrassed by its impotence, like a tiger without teeth and claws. Because of my friends on the other side of the Channel, I rejoice to see from the journals that the most dreadful characteristic of cholera is its name and that, in fact, it causes less havoc than a head cold.

Letter 113. Paris, Nov. 1848. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 113. Paris, Nov. 1848. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 9-10) [CW1, p. 167].


At the Hôtel Saint-Georges, there are three forms of health that are so involved in each other that should one decline, the others are threatened. Allow me to ask how you are. At Mugron, at nine o’clock in the morning we have news of all of our friends. You know, provincial monotony has its compensations.

If you have to hand the name of the learned pharmacist who has discovered the art of making cod-liver oil palatable, please send it to me. I would also love it if this valued alchemist could teach me the secret of producing a pared-down version of political economy; this is a remedy that our sick society is very much in need of, but it refuses to take the smallest teaspoonful, so repulsive does it find the stuff.

Letter 114. Paris, 14 Nov. 1848. To Madame Schwabe


Letter 114. Paris, 14 Nov. 1848. To Madame Schwabe (OC7, pp. 427-28) [CW1, pp. 167-68].


If my thoughts, guided by the memory of such pleasant and cordial hospitality, often turn to Crumpsall House and Manchester, they did so with still more emphasis yesterday evening, because Sonnambula233 was being played at the Italiens and I could not stop myself from disobeying the doctor’s orders and going to see this production. Each scene and each tune took me back to England, and either through emotion or the weakness of my constitution, I felt my eyes constantly brimming with tears. Who can explain the intimate nature of music! While I listened to the very touching duet and the splendid finale of the first act, it seemed to me that several months had been swept away and that, with the two performances blending into one, I was experiencing one and the same emotion. However, I must tell you, without wishing to criticize your singers, the work was infinitely better performed here, and although your first tenor was as good as ours, Madame [168] Persiani infinitely surpasses your prima donna. And also the Italian language was invented and specially made for music. When I heard Madame Persiani cry out, “Sono innocente” in the recitative, I could not help remembering the singular effect produced by the rhythmic translation of this sentence, “I am not guilty.”

What can you do? The language of business, the sea, and political economy can never be that of music.

Letter 115. Paris, 26 Nov. 1848. To Félix Coudroy


Letter 115. Paris, 26 Nov. 1848. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, pp. 88-92) [CW1, pp. 168-70].


My dear Félix, you must all have been expecting me in Mugron. My initial plan was to go there; when I agreed to join the General Council, I must admit to my shame that I was somewhat influenced by the prospect of this journey. The air of my birthplace has always had such great attraction! And I would so liked to have shaken your hand. At that time, there was one thing that was taken for granted, that the Assembly would be prorogued during the Council session. Since then, things have changed; it was considered dangerous to dissolve the only authority standing in our country and, as I shared this opinion, I had to remain at my post. It is true that I have been ill and often confined to my room, sometimes even to my bed, but at least I was in Paris, ready to do whatever circumstances required, to the extent of my strength.

This deterioration in my health, which is revealed mostly by weakness and apathy, has come at a bad time. To tell you the truth, my friend, I believe I might have been useful. I always note that our doctrines provide us with the solution to the difficulties that arise and, what is more, that when these solutions are set out simply, they are always well received. If a wider and more witty version of political economy had found an outlet in the Assembly, it would have been a real force since, no matter how often it is said, while this Assembly may lack enlightenment, there has never been one with more goodwill. Errors and the most strange and threatening theories have been advocated from the rostrum, as though to construct a counterpedestal to political economy and put its light in the shade. I was there, a witness glued to my seat, I felt within me what was needed to rally the intelligent minds and even the sincere hearts, and my wretched health condemned me to silence. What is worse, in the committees, commissions, and offices, I had to be very careful to keep my counsel in the certainty that if I had to take the [169] stage I would not have been able to play my role. This is a cruel test. For this reason, I have to renounce public life and my total ambition is now to have three or four months of peace before me to write my Economic Harmonies. They are in my head but I am very much afraid that they will never come out.

Today’s journals will tell you about yesterday’s session. It went on until midnight. It was awaited with anxiety and even unease. I hope that it will produce a good effect on public opinion.

You ask my opinion on the forthcoming elections. I cannot understand how, with identical principles, the milieu in which we live is enough to make us see things from such different points of view. What journals or information do you receive for you to say that Cavaignac is leaning toward La Montagne?234 Cavaignac was put where he is to support the Republic and he will do this conscientiously. Would people like it better if he betrayed it? At the same time as he wants the Republic, he understands the conditions under which it will survive. Let us go back to the time of the general elections. What was the almost generally held feeling? There were a certain number of true and honest republicans and also a huge multitude that until then had been divided, neither requesting nor wanting the republic but whose eyes had been opened by the February revolution. They understood that the monarchy had outlived its time and wanted to join the new order, letting it prove its worth. I dare to say that this was the dominant feeling, as the result of the election shows. The masses have chosen their representatives from the republicans of whom I have spoken, and this is why we may consider these two categories as making up the nation. However, above and below this huge body, there are two parties. The one above is known as the Red Republic and is made up of men who make exaggerated assaults when they need to flatter popular passions, while the one below is known as Reaction. This gathers together all those who aim to overthrow the Republic, set traps for it, and shackle its progress.

This was the situation in the early days of May, and to understand what came after, you should not forget that power was then held by the Red Republic, still dominated by the most extreme and violent parties.

What point have we reached through time, patience, and many perils? We have succeeded in making the power homogeneous with this huge mass, [170] which forms the nation itself. In effect, whence has Cavaignac drawn his government? Partly from the honest republicans of yesteryear and partly from the men who rallied to him sincerely. Note that he could not neglect any of these elements, nor could he ascend as far as the Montagne nor descend as far as the Reaction. This would have been to lack sincerity and a proper policy. He has taken enough open republicans for no one to doubt the Republic, and from the men of another age he chose those whose proclaimed loyalty prevented them from being considered suspect, like Vivien and Dufaure.

In this downward progression toward the exact point which coincides with public opinion and the stability of the Republic, we have offended the party of exaggerations, which conveyed to us the level of its discontent on 15 May and 23 June and we have disappointed the reactionaries, who are taking revenge through their choice. . . .

Now, if this huge multitude, which had rallied the government, breaks up and abandons the aim it set itself, forgetting the difficulties that the Assembly has encountered, I do not know any longer where we will be going. If it continues to be loyal, it must prove this by nominating Cavaignac.

The Reds, who at least have the merit of being consistent and sincere, are giving their votes to Ledru-Rollin and Raspail. . . . What ought we to do? I defer to your wisdom.

Except for the days in June when, like all my colleagues, on returning from the barricades, I went to tell the leader of the executive power what I had seen, I have never spoken to Cavaignac. I have never been in his circles, and he very probably does not know that I exist. But I listen to his words, I have observed his acts, and although I have not approved of them all, while I have often voted against him, in particular each time I considered that the exceptional measures arising from the requirements of June were being continued for too long, I am able to say, at least in my soul and conscience, that I believe Cavaignac to be honest. . . .

Letter 116. Paris, 5 Dec. 1848. To Félix Coudroy


Letter 116. Paris, 5 Dec. 1848. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, p. 92) [CW1, pp. 170-71].


My dear Félix, I am taking advantage of a reply I am sending Hiard to write you a couple of lines.

The elections are approaching. I have written a letter to the newspapers in the Landes. I do not know whether it has been published. In my own interest it would have been more prudent to keep quiet, but I considered [171] that I ought to make my views known. If I am not nominated again, I will easily be consoled.

Up to now, we have had no news of the pope.235 This is a major question that has been raised. If the pope wishes to agree to become the first among bishops, Catholicism may have a great future. Whatever Montalembert236 says, temporal power is a major problem. We are no longer in an age in which it is possible to say, “All peoples will be free and will give themselves the government they wish, except for the Romans, because this suits us.”

Letter 117. Paris, 21 Dec. 1848. To M. le Comte Arrivabene


Letter 117. Paris, 21 Dec. 1848. To M. le Comte Arrivabene (OC7, pp. 416-18) [CW1, pp. 171-72].

My dear Sir,

The doubt you have expressed is very natural. It is possible that in pushing terms a little far I have gone beyond my ideas. The words, by anticipation, inserted in the passage you quote tell you that I intend to discuss the matter in detail. In a future article, I will cover exchange and then set out what I was bold enough to call my theory of value. I ask you to be kind enough to suspend your judgment until then. You may be sure that after this I will welcome your comments gratefully as they will enable me to explain better or to correct as needed.

You will acknowledge, I hope, that what appears to divide us is not very serious. I believe that value lies in the services exchanged and not in the things. Materials and physical forces are provided free of charge in nature and move free of charge from hand to hand. However, I do not say that two items of work, considered to be equal in intensity and duration, should be equally remunerated. He who is positioned to render a service that is more precious because of the materials or forces at its disposal is better remunerated; his work is more intelligent, more fortunate if you wish, but the value is in this work and not in things. The proof of this is that the same phenomenon occurs even where there is no physical object to mislead us and appear to take on value. In this way, if I feel the desire to hear the finest voice in the [172] world and am willing to make exceptional sacrifices to do this, I would call upon Jenny Lind. As she is the only one in the world who could render me this service, she could ask whatever price she wants. Her work would be better remunerated than that of another; it would have greater value, but this value lies in the service.

I believe that this is also true where a physical object is involved, and if we give it a value, it is through pure metonymy. Let us take one of your examples. A man grinds his wheat between two stones. Later he takes advantage of his situation on a hill exposed to wind and builds a mill. I request from him the service of grinding my wheat. Many others do likewise, and, as he disposes of a great force, he is able to render a great number of similar services. He is highly remunerated. What does this prove? That his intelligence is being rewarded, that his work is fortunate, but not that the value lies in the wind. Nature never receives any remuneration; I remunerate only a man and I do so only because he has rendered me a service. I appreciate this service because it would cost me more to do it for myself or to ask it from others. The value, therefore, lies in a comparative appreciation of a variety of services exchanged.

This is so true that, if competition is involved, the miller will lower his price; the service offered in future would have less value, even though the action of the wind remains the same and retains all of its usefulness. It is I, the consumer, who will profit freely from this decrease. It is not the usefulness of the wind that has changed, it is the value of the service.

You see that basically it is a quarrel of words. What does it matter, you tell me, if the value lies in a natural force or in the service rendered to me, by means of this force, by the person who has harnessed it? The result is the same for me.

I cannot tell you here what consequences, which according to me are very important, will result from this distinction. I sincerely believe that if I manage to put across my thesis I would have crushed all the socialist, communist, and other arguments, just as I would have removed many errors that have escaped economists with regard to property, income, credit, etc. It is perhaps an illusion of authorship, but I admit that it has taken over my entire being, and I regret that I have only a few moments to devote to this study.

I remain, my dear sir,
your devoted servant.

Letter 118. Paris, 28 Dec. 1848. To Madame Schwabe


Letter 118. Paris, 28 Dec. 1848. To Madame Schwabe (OC7, pp. 428-29) [CW1, p. 173].


I acknowledge your kindness and that of Mr. Schwabe in insisting on inviting me a second time to experience the hospitality of Crumpsall House. You must know that I do not need any other persuasion than that of my heart, even though you might not be offering me the happy prospect of shaking Cobden’s hand or hearing the great artist, Jenny Lind. But Manchester is really too far away. This is perhaps not a very gallant thing for a Frenchman to say, but at my age I can at least speak from reason. Please accept at least my deep gratitude.

Has Jenny Lind developed a hatred for my dear country? According to what you say, this vile sentiment must be foreign to her heart. Oh, let her come to Paris! She would be surrounded with tributes and enthusiasm. Let her come to cast a ray of joy over this desolate town, which so delights in anything that is generous and beautiful! I am sure that Jenny Lind would make us forget our civil discord. If I dared to express my thoughts in full, I can predict the finest palm that she could collect. She might be able to arrange things so as to bring back, if not a great deal of money, at least the sweetest memories of her life. Just appearing in two concerts and choosing for herself the benefits to spread around. What pure glory and what a noble way of avenging herself, if it is true, as it is said, that she was not acknowledged there! See, my good Mrs. Schwabe, if this great singer can be won over by this appeal to her heart. I will wager my head on this success.

We are approaching a new year. I formulate the wish that it will spread joy and prosperity over you and all those who surround you.

Letter 119. Paris, Jan. 1849. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 119. Paris, Jan. 1849. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 10-11) [CW1, pp. 173-74].


I have just been told that tomorrow, Tuesday, at two o’clock, some very curious music will be played in the Church of Saint Louis d’Antin. It consists of thirteenth-century songs found in the archives of the Sainte Chapelle, which are imbued with all the naiveté of the time. Other people say that these songs cannot be old, since in the thirteenth century the art of writing music down was unknown.


Be that as it may, the solemnity will be of great interest; this is a question that is less difficult to assess by impression than by erudition.

Yesterday evening, I again took this dreadful brew, not without a terrible struggle between my stomach and my willpower. Is it possible for something so horrible to do good, and are not medical practitioners making fun of us?

On the whole, all remedies are unpleasant.

What does my dear Mlle Louise need? A little more physical exercise and a little less mental exercise, but she does not want this. What does her mother need? To seek a little less drawing room martyrdom, but she does not want this. What am I prescribed? Cod-liver oil? Decidedly, the art of being in good health is the art of doing what you really don’t like.

Letter 120. Paris, 1 Jan. 1849. To Félix Coudroy


Letter 120. Paris, 1 Jan. 1849. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, pp. 92-94) [CW1, pp. 174-75].


My dear Félix, I want to give myself the pleasure of benefiting from the postal reform,238 since I also contributed to it. I wanted it to be radical and we have only the mere beginnings; as it stands, it will at least allow the effusions of friendship.

Since February, we have experienced difficult days, and I believe that the future has never been darker and very much fear that the election of Bonaparte will not solve the problems. At first, I was happy with the majority which raised him to the presidency. I voted for Cavaignac, because I am sure of his total loyalty and intelligence, but although voting for him I felt that power would be a heavy burden for him. He has faced up to a terrible storm, drawn inextinguishable hatred to himself, and the party of disorder will never forgive him. If it was an advantage to be a man whose republicanism was assured and who at the same time could not enter into pacts with the Reds, on the other hand this very history created major difficulties for him. For a moment, I hoped that the appearance on the scene of a new personality with no links to the parties might inaugurate a new era. . . . Be that as it may, I and all the other sincere Republicans have taken the decision of [175] supporting this product of universal suffrage. I have not seen the slightest sign of systematic opposition in the Chamber. . . .

On the other hand, though they may well later begin to fight among themselves, the supporters of fallen dynasties start by demolishing the Republic. They know full well that the Assembly is the anchor of our salvation; they are therefore striving with all their might to have it dissolved and are putting forward petitions to do this. A coup d’état is imminent. Where will it come from? What will it bring? What is worse is that the masses prefer the president to the Assembly.239

For my part, my dear Félix, I am keeping away from all these intrigues. As far as my strength permits, I am occupying my time with advocating my program. You know its general outlines. This is the practical plan: to reform the post and the taxes on salt and wine and spirits; hence, a deficit in the income budget reduced to 1.2 or 1.3 billions; require the government to adjust the expenditure budget accordingly. Declare to it that we will not allow it to spend a penny more, thus obliging it to abandon any interventions abroad and all the socialist utopian measures at home; in a word, require these two principles and obtain them out of necessity, since we have not been able to obtain them from public reason.

I am putting this project forward everywhere. I have spoken to ministers who are my friends about it, but they scarcely listened to me. I have preached it in meetings of deputies. I hope that it will prevail. The first two acts have already been accomplished; there remains the tax on wine. Credit will suffer for a while, the stock exchange is in turmoil, but we must not retreat. We are faced with a gulf which is growing ever larger; we cannot hope to close it without someone suffering. The time for compromise is past. We will lend our support to the president and all ministers but we want these three reforms, not so much for themselves, but as the sure and sole means of achieving our motto, peace and freedom.

Farewell, my friend; I send you my good wishes for the New Year.

Letter 121. Paris, 15 Jan. 1849. To M. George Wilson


Letter 121. Paris, 15 Jan. 1849. To M. George Wilson (OC7, pp. 412-16) [CW1, pp. 176-79].

Dear Sir,240

Please express to your committee my warmest gratitude for the kind invitation you have sent me in its name. I would have had much pleasure in attending as, sir, I say this loudly and clearly, nothing greater has been accomplished in this world in my opinion than this reform you are preparing to celebrate. I have the most profound admiration for the men I would have met at this banquet, George Wilson, Villiers, Bright, Cobden, Thompson, and so many others who have achieved the triumph of free trade or, rather, have given this great cause its initial and decisive impetus. I do not know which I admire more, the greatness of the aim you have pursued or the morality of the means you have used. I hesitate when I compare the direct good you have done with the indirect good for which you have prepared the ground, when I seek to assess on the one hand the actual reform you have carried out and on the other the art of pursuing all the reforms within the law and peacefully, a priceless art for which you have provided both the theory and the model.

I appreciate the benefits of free trade as keenly as anyone in the world. [177] Even so, I am unable to limit the hopes that humanity should place on the triumph of your campaigning to this question alone.

You have not been able to demonstrate the right to trade without debating and consolidating the right of property at the same time. And perhaps England owes to your discourse that it is not, unlike the continent, permeated at this time with the false communist doctrines which, like protectionism, are only the negation of the right of property in a variety of forms.

You have not been able to demonstrate the right to trade without shedding a bright light on the legitimate functions of the government and the natural limits of the law. However, once these functions have been understood and these limits set, the people governed will no longer expect prosperity, well-being, and absolute good fortune but equal justice for all from their governments. Once this is so, governments will have their ordinary action circumscribed, will no longer repress individual energy, will no longer dissipate public assets as they build up, and will themselves be freed from the illusionary hopes pinned on them by their peoples. They will not be overthrown at each inevitable setback and the principal cause of violent revolution will be eliminated.

In sum, you have not been able to demonstrate the doctrine of free trade from the economic point of view without removing from people’s minds the sad and disastrous aphorism, “The good of one person is at the expense of another.” As long as this odious maxim was an article of faith around the world, there was radical incompatibility between the simultaneous prosperity of nations and peace between them. Proving that vested interests can be in harmony is thus preparing the way to universal fraternity.

I am convinced that in its more immediately practical aspects your trade reform is just the first link in a long series of reforms that will be even more valuable. For example, can it fail to extricate Great Britain from the violent, abnormal situation into which protectionism had drawn it, which is antagonistic to other peoples and consequently full of danger? The notion of monopolizing consumers had led you to pursue domination over the entire globe. Well then! I have no doubt that your colonial system is on the point of undergoing a most fortunate transformation. I do not dare forecast that you will come round to divesting yourself voluntarily of your colonies in your own interests, although I think you should, but even if you retain them, they will open up to world trade and will no longer reasonably be a source of jealousy and envy for anyone.


When this happens, what will happen to this famous vicious circle of an argument, “You need a navy to have colonies and you need colonies to have a navy.” The English nation will become tired of paying alone the costs of its numerous possessions, in which it will have no more privileges than it has in the United States. You will reduce the size of your armies and fleets, as, once the danger has been removed, it would be absurd to retain the expensive precautions that this danger alone justifies. This would be a double and firm guarantee of world peace.

I will stop there; my letter would take on unseemly proportions if I wanted to list all the benefits of which free trade is the seed.

I would have liked to take an active part in promoting this great cause in my country as I am persuaded of its fruitfulness. Nowhere else are there such lively minds, nowhere else are hearts so inflamed with the love of universal justice, absolute good, and ideal perfection. France was enthusiastically in favor of greatness, morality, simplicity, and true free trade. All that was needed was to overcome a preconceived idea that was purely economic; to establish a proper commercial accounting, if one may put it that way; and to prove that trade, far from damaging the national labor force, always expands as long as it is beneficial and ceases, by its very nature and by virtue of its own law, when it starts to do harm, from which it follows that it does not need artificial, legal obstacles. It was an exceptional opportunity, in the midst of the shock of conflicting doctrines in this country, to raise the flag of freedom here. It would certainly have rallied all hopes and persuasions to it. It was at this moment that it pleased Providence, whose decrees I nevertheless applaud, to withdraw what little health and strength I had been granted. It will therefore fall to another to accomplish the work of which I dreamed, and may he come forward soon!

It is this reason of health, as well as my parliamentary duties, that obliges me to refrain from being present at the democratic and solemn occasion to which you are inviting me. I deeply regret this, as it would have been one of the highlights of my life and a precious memory for the rest of my days. Please present my apologies to the committee and allow me, in closing, to associate myself in my heart with your festivity through this toast:


To free trade among peoples! To the free circulation of men, things, and ideas! To universal free trade and all its economic, political, and moral consequences!

I am, sir, your obedient servant.

Letter 122. Paris, 18 Jan. 1849. To M. Domenger


Letter 122. Paris, 18 Jan. 1849. To M. Domenger (OC7, p. 388) [CW1, p. 179].


We are almost all agreed here on the need to disband.241 However, a very large number (and were it not for fear of the elections, it would be all of us) would not want to bow to violent and artificial pressure. Many also fear for the very existence of the Republic. If there were only one pretender, it would be a matter of a revolution (from which God preserve us); but since there are several,242 it is a question of civil war. We have every right to hesitate.

Letter 123. Paris, Feb. 1849. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 123. Paris, Feb. 1849. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 11-12) [CW1, pp. 179-80].


I have just sent Faucher a reminder with regard to your protégé; he had lost touch with him, alas! How much compassion can he retain in a mind responsible for the destiny of the Republic! However, he has promised.

I did not see M. Say, Léon, or M. Cheuvreux at the Italiens yesterday; have you been ill? Was Mlle Louise tired of singing or writing letters? Or is it purely and entirely a matter of her fancy, such being the goddess, it is said, of Parisian women? Besides, the show was horribly gloomy; Alboni heavy, Ronconi out of tune, Bordogni243 useless, costumes dreadful, etc., etc.

Please would you let me know if on Sunday you would like to pay a brief visit to the Auxerrois gate and then the Sainte Chapelle? I think that Mlle [180] Louise, who loves everything that is beautiful, would like this monument. In my view it reaches the extreme point achieved by art in substituting the ethereal for the solid and daylight for stone, an art which appears to have been lost, judging from modern architecture.

Your devoted servant,
F. Bastiat

Letter 124. Paris, Feb. 1849. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 124. Paris, Feb. 1849. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 12-13) [CW1, p. 180].


It is with some confusion that I inform you of the result, closely resembling a fiasco, of my application to Faucher, but what do you expect, given that I am the worst petitioner in the world; it is perhaps a good thing. With regard to petitions, if I were habitually successful, who knows where I would stop, since everyone knows that I have no self-control.

M. Ramel may be granted 150 francs from the ministry of the interior. The administrative conventions require this to be given the name of assistance and not pension!

Yesterday evening’s music ran through my head all night: “Io vorrei saper perche” and other delightful songs.

Farewell, Madam; I remain your devoted servant and that of Mlle Louise.

Letter 125. Paris, 3 Feb. 1849. To M. Domenger


Letter 125. Paris, 3 Feb. 1849. To M. Domenger (OC7, pp. 388-90) [CW1, pp. 180-81].


I am going to deal with the Le Peyrat farm244 and the canal. For this reason, I will postpone speaking about this to you to another time.

My bad state of health coincides with the harsh exigencies of work. Since I hold, or think I do, a general view of the world of finance, I expounded it to my office colleagues. This was successful, since they almost unanimously nominated me to the budget commission. I wanted to perform the same demonstration again before this commission but, on the pretext of saving time, it forbade a general debate. It was thus necessary to discuss the details from the outset, which prevented an overall view being achieved. What would be your opinion of such a procedure in the face of a hopeless financial [181] situation, which could be saved only by a great theory if one were to be presented? For this reason, I felt it necessary to appeal to the Assembly and the general public by means of a brochure245 on which I have been working yesterday and this morning.

I do not hide from myself that this is unlikely to succeed. Great assemblies lack initiative. Opinions are too wide ranging and nothing of worth can be achieved if the cabinet is inert. Ours is systematically inert: I sincerely believe that it is a public disaster. The current government might do some good. I have several friends in it, and I know that they are capable. Unfortunately, it came to power with the preconceived idea that it would not have the support of the Assembly and that it would have to maneuver in order to have it dismissed. I am absolutely sure that it is mistaken, and in any case was it not its duty to try? If it had come to the chamber to say, “The election on 10 December has put an end to the revolutionary period; now let us work together for the good of the people and administrative and financial reform,” the chamber would have followed it enthusiastically, as it is passionately in favor of good and needs only to be guided. Instead of that, the government started by sulking. It presumed there would be disagreement, based on the sympathy shown by the Assembly to Cavaignac. But there is one thing that the Assembly prizes a thousand times above Cavaignac and that is the will of the people, as shown by universal suffrage. To show its absolute submission, it would have given its support to the head of the executive authority. How much good would have come of this! Instead of taking this course, the government retrenched itself in inertia and teasing. It proposes either nothing or else things that are unacceptable. Its tactic is to extend the stagnation of business through inertia, in the certainty that the nation will attack the Assembly for this. The country has lost a magnificent opportunity to move forward which it will not recover, since I very much fear that other storms are lying in wait for the next Assembly.

Letter 126. Paris, no date, 1849. To M. Domenger


Letter 126. Paris, no date, 1849. To M. Domenger (OC7, pp. 390-92) [CW1, pp. 181-83].


As my unfortunate cold has prevented me from taking the rostrum, I sometimes have recourse to the pen. I enclose two brochures. One does not have a great deal of interest for the provinces. It is entitled Capital and Rent. My aim is to refute a preconceived idea, which has done much damage [182] among the workers and even among the young students at schools. This preconceived idea consists in thinking that interest from capital is theft. I therefore sought to demonstrate the intrinsic nature and raison d’être of interest. I might have made this brochure provocative, as the subject was conducive to this. However, I thought it best to refrain from this so as not to irritate those whom I wished to win over. The result has been that I have fallen into sluggishness and boredom. If ever I produce a second edition, I will rewrite it.

The other brochure is a draft budget or rather the fundamental idea that, in my view, must be at the base of the gradual reform of our financial system.246 It shows the signs of having been written rapidly. There are portions that are too long, omissions, etc. Be that as it may, the prevailing idea is sufficiently highlighted.

I did not limit myself to writing down these ideas; I explained them in various workplaces and before the budget commission, of which I am a member. What I consider to be the most basic prudence was taken to be wild temerity. What is more, as the government is determined to remain inert, it is impossible for the commission to achieve anything worthwhile. A crowded meeting of men deprived of the resources provided by the administrative authority cannot pursue a systematic plan. Projects conflict with each other. General ideas are rejected as a waste of time, and they end up just dealing with details. Our budget for 1849 will be a fiasco. I believe that history will blame this on the Cabinet.

The elections are coming closer; I do not know what the Assembly will decide with regard to the notice period. Will I be able to come to see you? I would like to do so for various reasons: first of all, in order to breathe the air of my region and shake my friends’ hands; second, to combat a few false notions which may have arisen concerning my actions in parliament; and lastly, to inform the electors of my views on the spirit in which they should make their choices. In my opinion, they could not do better than to remain faithful to the spirit which prevailed over them in April 1848. They do not think they produced a good Assembly. I maintain the opposite. It was slightly changed by the partial elections, which sent us both several revolutionaries and a large number of plotters. God preserve my country from having recourse in this way to the extreme wings of both parties! A [183] violent clash would ensue. Doubtless, the country can nominate people only in accordance with its impressions and opinions of the moment. If it is reactionary, it will nominate reactionaries. But let it at least select new men. If it sends long-standing deputies with hearts full of bitterness and well versed in parliamentary intrigue, who are determined to overthrow everything, create traps for new institutions, and bring out as rapidly as possible all the faults that may sully our constitution, all will be lost! We already have the proof of this. Our constitution puts two equal powers into confrontation with each other without the means of settling any possible conflict. This is a great failing. And what has been the result? Instead of at least waiting for this failing to be revealed and for conflict to arise in due course, the government made haste to generate it needlessly. This is the thinking of a man in a hurry to derive criticism of our institutions from whatever happens. And why has this man acted in this way? Did he need to? No. But he is one of those who were deeply thwarted by the revolution and, without realizing it, he is taking pleasure in exacting his revenge at the expense of the country.

As for my personal fate, I do not know what this will be. The country might reproach me for not having done much! In effect, my health has been an invincible obstacle. It has paralyzed my physical and mental strength. I have thus disappointed my friends’ expectations. But is this my fault? Whatever happens, if my mandate is withdrawn, I will resume with no bitterness the solitary habits that are so dear to me.

Frédéric Bastiat

Letter 127. Paris, no date 1849. To M. Domenger


Letter 127. Paris, no date, 1849. To M. Domenger (OC7, pp. 392-94) [CW1, pp. 183-85].


Your letter has reached me attached to that from M. Dup——.247 The minister of trade had initially made me promises. Later, I learned that Dup—— had insisted with all his customary tenaciousness. Yesterday evening, I went to Buffet’s house, taking Turpin with me. As he had been present at the General Council, he could testify as to what had happened and he did so in very formal terms. We met Dampierre there and he helped us. [184] In spite of all this, I saw that the minister was uneasy; Duv——’s obsessions must have frightened him. He told us, “If I refuse Duv—— his farm, it will cause his death.”

I had already written Buffet a closely reasoned letter and will write another, which I will end as follows: France wants administrative decentralization. If the minister believes he can overlook the wishes of all the regular mouthpieces of the département and act as he wishes, when it is a matter of determining where a farm will be set up, he may as well eliminate the institution of the general councils, as they will then just be a mirage.

I ask you, my dear D., to apologize on my behalf to M. Dup—— for not replying to him today. I will do so when I have further information. You see how the law regarding political associations248 arouses Paris. The minister was very reckless to raise this matter. However, his unfortunate tactic is to disregard the Assembly, and I believe that he wished to have the law rejected in order to attribute full responsibility for the future to it.

No vote has ever cost me so dear as the one I cast yesterday. You know that I have always been in favor of freedom except for the repression of crime. I must admit that in the face of the political clubs this principle appears to have to give way. When I contemplate the fear they inspire in peace-loving people, the memories they resurrect, etc., etc., I tell myself that those who sincerely love the Republic must understand that they have to make it loved. It will be compromised if there is an intention to impose by force on the country an institution or even a liberty which appalls it. I therefore voted for the elimination of the clubs.

When I did this, I did not hide the disadvantages of this action. To succeed in politics, you have to join a party and, if possible, the strongest party. Voting according to your conscience with the right and the left according to the circumstances is to risk being abandoned by both. But before reaching this point, I had taken the decision only to consult my judgment and conscience and not vote according to party lines. This influenced the proposal I put forward. Systematic majorities and minorities are the death of representative government.

I believe that our government will make a considerable effort to avoid war. In previous times we might have feared that it would be carried along [185] by popular feelings in support of Italy, but things have changed a great deal. The disturbances in the peninsula have reduced this support. Charles Albert249 will probably be defeated before we have the time to debate the opportunity of what should be done. But once the Austrians have reached Turin, all will not be lost, far from it. I am not even sure that it is only then that serious problems will begin. Oh, how difficult is it for men to get along together, when it might be so easy!

Letter 128. Paris, March 1849. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 128. Paris, March 1849. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 13-15) [CW1, pp. 185-86].


I am quite positive that I have left something very precious at your house, something which men of my age should no longer leave behind, something which we should always feel when our hand strays to the left side of our chest, something whose loss reduces us to being scatterbrained or blind, in a word, my glasses.

If by any chance they have been found in your drawing room, please hand them to my messenger.

I am taking advantage of this opportunity to ask after the health of your Louisette, since this is the name you like to call her; I would be happy to learn that we will be able to hear her sweet voice tomorrow; admit that you are very proud of it.

Oh! You have good reason to be. I dare not repeat it too often, but I prefer a romantic song sung by her to an entire concert highlighted by musical trills and tours de force. After all, is it not good practice to judge things and especially the arts by the impression they give us? When your daughter sings, every heart pays attention and everyone’s breath is held, from which I conclude that it is true music.

I am intrepidly protecting my health. I value it highly, being weak enough to believe that it still has some use.

Yesterday I went to see Mme de Planat. Through a few Germanic mists her mind shows traces of a deep source of common sense and original judgment, with just enough erudition for it not to be too much and perfect impartiality; [186] our unfortunate civil disturbances do not trouble the sureness of her opinions. She is a woman who thinks for herself and I would like you to meet her. However, she made me talk too much.

I have not visited Victor Hugo because I thought he lived in the Marais;250 if I had known he lived in your district, then since the slope down to this area of Paris is easy, I would have made my entrance to his salon, which must be worth a visit.

Farewell. I shake the hands affectionately of those you call the Trio whom I love dearly.

Letter 129. Paris, 11 March 1849. To Madame Schwabe


Letter 129. Paris, 11 March 1849. To Madame Schwabe (OC7, pp. 429-30) [CW1, pp. 186-87].


I have been horribly negligent and horrible is the right word, since it is close to ingratitude. How can I excuse it after all the kindnesses with which I have been showered at Crumpsall House?

What is certain is that my activities exceed my strength. Perhaps I will be relieved of them soon. According to the opinions I am receiving from my region, I will not be returned. I was sent to uphold the Republic. I am now being reproached for being faithful to my mission. This will wound my feelings, as I have not deserved to be abandoned, and what is more we ought to weep for a country that discourages even honest action. What consoles me, however, is that I will be able to renew the ties of friendship and my work in solitude that is so dear to me.

It is with surprise and satisfaction that I learn of your forthcoming visit to Paris. I do not need to tell you with what pleasure I will shake your hand and that of Mr. Schwabe. My only fear is that this date coincides with that of our elections. If this is so, I will be two hundred leagues away, at least if I decide to subject myself to the risk of election. I have not yet made up my mind on this.

As you can well imagine, I am following the efforts of our friend Mr. Cobden with the keenest interest. I am even echoing it here. Yesterday, we obtained from our budget commission a reduction of two hundred thousand men in our armed forces. It is not very likely that the Assembly and the [187] government will accept such a radical change, but is this achievement with a commission nominated by the Assembly itself not a good sign?

. . . Farewell, madam, I am determined to write to you more regularly in the future. Today, I am busy with an important debate251 which I have raised in the Assembly and which obliges me to carry out some research.

Letter 130. Paris, 15 March 1849. To Félix Coudroy


Letter 130. Paris, 15 March 1849. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, pp. 94-97) [CW1, pp. 187-89].


My dear Félix, your letters are really very infrequent, but they give me the pleasant feeling you experience when you see the steeple of your village church after a long absence.

It is a thankless task being a patriot and wanting to remain one of some consequence. Through some unknown optical illusion, the changes that occur around you are attributed to you. I have carried out my mandate in the spirit in which I received it; my country has the right to change and consequently to change its representatives, but it does not have the right to say that it is I who have changed.

You will have read in the newspapers that I proposed my motion. Let representatives remain representatives, I said, since if the law makes other prospects more appealing in their eyes, the mandate instantly becomes vitiated and exploited and, because it is the very essence of representative government, this entire system is undermined at its source and in its fundamental principles.

It was an extraordinary thing! When I mounted the rostrum I did not have ten supporters, and when I left it I had the majority. It is certainly not my powers of oratory that caused this phenomenon, but the power of common sense. The ministers and all those who aspired to become ministers were in ecstasy. They were just about to vote when the commission, with M. Billault at its head, evoked the amendment. It was sent back as of right to this commission. On Sunday and Monday there was a reaction in public opinion, which besides had had very little preparation, with the result that on Tuesday everyone said, “Let representatives remain representatives! But this is a frightful danger, it is worse than the Terror!” All the journals had cut, distorted, and deleted my words and put absurd notions into my mouth. [188] All the meetings in the rue de Poitiers,252 etc., had emitted a cry of alarm; in a word all the usual means were employed.

In short, I was left with a minority made up of a few enthusiasts who no more understood me than the others, but one thing that is certain is that the impression was vivid and will be remembered for some time. More than one hundred members have told me that they were in favor of my proposal but voted against it for fear of making a mistake with such an important innovation on which they had not reflected sufficiently.

You know me well enough to think that I would not have liked to succeed through surprise. Later on, public opinion would have attributed all the calamities time would have brought on us to my amendment.

From a personal point of view, what is sad is the charlatanism that dominates newspapers.253 There is a bias in favor of exalting certain men and deprecating others. What are we to do? It would be easy for me too to have a great number of friends in the press, but to do this I would need to make an effort, which I refuse, since the resulting chains would be too heavy.

As for the elections, I do not know whether I will be able to be present; I will go only when the Assembly has been dissolved. As a member of the budget commission, I have to remain at my post; let the country punish me if it wishes, I will have done my duty. I have one thing only I can reproach myself for, and that is not to have worked enough, and my excuse for this is my very poor health and the inability of my poor lungs to compete with the storms in parliament. Because I could not speak out, I took the course of writing. There is not a single question of burning importance which has not produced a pamphlet from me. It is true that I discussed the practical aspect less than the principles; in doing this I was obeying the character of my mind, which is to go back to the source of error, each person making himself useful in his own way. In the midst of all the heated emotions unleashed, I could not influence the effects, I just pointed out the causes. Have I really remained inactive?

In opposition to the doctrine of Louis Blanc, I wrote Individualism and [189] Fraternity.254 When property was attacked, I wrote Property and Law. Income from land came under fire, so I wrote the five articles in the Débats.255 The practical source of communism was revealed, so I wrote the pamphlet Protectionism and Communism. Proudhon and his followers preached free credit, a doctrine which spread like wildfire, so I wrote Capital and Rent. It was clear that a balanced budget would be sought through additional taxes, so I wrote Peace and Freedom.256 We were faced with a law that encouraged parliamentary coalitions, so I wrote a pamphlet on conflicts of interest.257 We were threatened with paper money, so I wrote the pamphlet Damned Money. All these pamphlets were distributed free of charge and in great numbers, which cost me a great deal; from this point of view the electors have nothing to reproach me for. From the point of view of action, I did not betray their trust either. On 15 May and during the days of June I played my part in the troubles. After this, let their verdict condemn me; I will perhaps feel it in my heart but not in my conscience.

Letter 131. Paris, 25 March 1849. To M. Domenger


Letter 131. Paris, 25 March 1849. To M. Domenger (OC7, pp. 394-96) [CW1, pp. 189-91].


The last time I wrote to you I did so in haste, and I believe I forgot to speak to you about the elections. The time is coming closer, and since you are determined to put me on your list, I would be grateful if you would inform me regularly of what is being said and done. I am certain that there is a great deal of prejudice in the region against me and that these sentiments are sustained and perhaps inflamed by candidates or someone in their midst. I am aware that discussions with my proposers would be useful, but I cannot leave the National Assembly before it is dissolved. For this reason, I will shortly be sending a report.


I am sure that I will have little support from the district258 that would be most necessary to me, that is, Saint-Sever. If a bargain is struck among the three districts and each puts forward two candidates, I will probably not be on the Saint-Sever list, and while the two other districts would regret this somewhat, these regrets would not go so far as to break the agreement. I will therefore be, as they say, among three stools, etc.

As I am convinced that I have done my duty, this failure will be hurtful initially. I hope that I will be rapidly consoled. I do not lack other work to do outside the legislature.

But, from the political point of view, I would consider it a great misfortune if the elections produced a result that differed significantly from that of 1848. If you assess it with impartiality you would acknowledge that the Assembly has carried out its mission, overcome the greatest physical and moral difficulties, and finally restored order to events and peace to people’s minds, and that the most dangerous utopian ideas have been brought down before it, even though at the outset it was strongly imbued with illusionary hopes. This Assembly is on the right track. It would have accomplished for finance, if it had had the time, everything it was possible to do. Is it the right time to turn it out and replace it with different men imbued with a different spirit and with hearts full of bitterness? I can tell you that the government is very anxious about the future in this respect. Will we never cease to embark on adventures? I therefore think that, if there were anything better to do, it would be to continue in the electoral spirit of 1848, except for the removal of a few men, on the right and the left, who have shown a disruptive spirit of unruliness.

In our département, this reproach can scarcely be made to our representatives. Only one of them, probably in good faith, has produced a dangerous proposal, that of progressive taxation and the taking over by the state of several private industries. Keeping the Republic honest has been the motto of the job of a deputy. The question should thus be asked: are we going to send back the same representatives or will we make new choices with new purposes in view?

Experience has proved to me that the struggle between the districts will be a very small affair if it breaks out. I can assure you that the district of Saint-Sever is the one that gives me the least work. I do not remember having [191] received a single letter from the chief towns: Hagetmau, Amou, Geaune, or Aire. Even Mugron has sent me only three on matters that are not incompatible with the mandate of a deputy; Dax and Le Saint Esprit have sent me more. In all, I am edified to see just how far the spirit of lobbying has died out.

Letter 132. Paris, 8 Apr. 1849. To M. Domenger


Letter 132. Paris, 8 Apr. 1849. To M. Domenger (OC7, pp. 396-99) [CW1, pp. 191-93].


Your letters are always precious to me and it is a consolation to me to think that impartial and enlightened friends are not being influenced by the prejudices against me.

I have in fact spoken again to Buffet.259 I put the argument most likely to produce an effect to him. I said, “If, when it is a question of pure locality to ascertain where a model farm may render the most service, the unanimous wishes of thirty general councillors are set aside, do not talk to us any further of decentralization.” He replied, “I have made up my mind to give way to the wishes of the region in questions like these.” In spite of this he has not taken a firm decision; he fears our tenacious and obstinate opponents. I have been assured that he is spreading invective against me. He is a very singular type of liberal.

I have received a letter from M. Dup——. He is asking me to send a note to the minister. I have already sent him a memorandum. You can be sure that we will neglect nothing in ensuring the triumph of the general council’s note.

My friend, I would like to speak to you about the elections and politics. But in truth, there is so much to say that I do not dare start. The need for order, security, and confidence is dominant in the country. This is only natural. However, I am convinced that this is misleading the people with regard to the relationship between the government and the Assembly at the moment. I would very much like to go around the département to put right disastrous misunderstandings. The Assembly should be dissolved and thus allow the representatives to go out to explain themselves, not in their own interest but in the interest of the future. It is very important that the elections are not held under the influence of false preoccupations.

The current ministers are honest, well intentioned, and determined to [192] maintain order. They are my personal friends and I believe that they understand the meaning of true liberty. Unfortunately, they came into power with the preconceived idea that the Assembly, which came out in support of Cavaignac, would of necessity be opposed to Bonaparte. In my soul and conscience this was a mistaken assessment, and it has had the most disastrous consequences. The ministers thought of nothing other than dismissing the Assembly and, with this in view, discrediting it. They pretend to take no note of its votes, even when it demands the execution of laws. They refrain from any initiatives. They give us free rein. They are present at debates like strangers in the gallery. Since they feel that they are supported by the wind of public opinion they generate strife because they think that it will be advantageous to them in the eyes of the country. They thus accustom the country to having a low opinion of the principal power of any representative government. They go even further: they put forward unacceptable laws in order to provoke their rejection. This is what happened with regard to the clubs. You will say that my vote on this law will go some way to reconciling me with the electors. Well then! I have to tell you that this vote is the only one I have on my conscience, as it is contrary to all my principles, and if I had had a few minutes in which to reflect calmly I would certainly not have given it. What determined me to do this was this. I said to my neighbors, “If we want the Republic to remain in place, we must make it loved, not make it feared. The country is in fear of the clubs, it hates them, let us sacrifice them.” The results of the law have proved that it would have been better to stick to our principles, provide all the possible means of control, but not eliminate freedom. This law has done nothing other than organize secret societies.

Since then, I have voted three times and always to my regret against the government. I will be reproached for this in the region, but nevertheless these votes were conscientious.

  • 1. The Italian question. Like La Montagne, I rejected the agenda which pressed for an invasion of the Piedmont,260 but for the opposite reason. La Montagne did not find this agenda sufficiently warlike; I found it too much so. You know that I am [193]against intervention and this explains my vote. Besides, I do not approve of the diplomacy carried out in parliament. Foolhardy undertakings are entered into which subsequently prove to be an embarrassment. I preferred the pure and simple agenda for which I voted.
  • 2. The question of the prefects.261 If the government had made a frank admission, I would have overlooked it. However, it wished to claim that forty prefects became ill on the same day. Subtleties like this disgust common sense.
  • 3. The Changarnier affair.262 The same reason. If the government had demanded that a state of affairs contrary to the law should be prolonged, on the premise of the requirements of order, we might have agreed. However, it came to us to say, “We are asking for something arbitrary and the National Assembly is no judge of the length of time this arbitrary state should last!” The greatest despot in the world could not ask for anything different. I could not agree to this.

As for the elections, they will be what the good Lord wants them to be. If I have to fall, I have taken steps in advance and I have much work to do outside parliament. I have a work in my head and fear that I will not be able to deliver it. If the electors give me some leisure, I will console myself by working on this book, which is my chimera. My only wish is that they do not replace me in too unworthy a manner. There are some who, if put in my place, would not bring honor to the département.

Letter 133. Paris, 25 Apr. 1849. To Félix Coudroy


Letter 133. Paris, 25 Apr. 1849. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, pp. 97-99) [CW1, pp. 193-95].


My dear Félix, the elections may well be approaching, but I am not receiving any direct news of them. A nice, affectionate letter from Domenger is the sum of my pittance. I may presume that I am the only representative in this situation, and this gives me a premonition of my fate. Besides this, I have received a few bits of indirect information through Dampierre. He has left [194] me in no doubt that the region has formed a movement, which implies that the confidence it placed in me has been withdrawn. I am neither surprised nor upset by this, as far as I am concerned. We are in an age in which you have to fling yourself into one of the extremist parties if you wish to succeed. Whoever casts a cool eye on the exaggerations of the parties and combats them remains abandoned and crushed in the center. I am afraid that we are moving toward a social war, a war of the poor against the rich, which may be the dominant event of the end of this century. The poor are ignorant, violent, and riddled with illusionary and absurd ideas, and the movement which is carrying them along is unfortunately justified to a certain extent by genuine claims, since indirect taxes are a reverse form of progressive taxation for them. As this is so, I could have only one plan, to combat the errors of the people and anticipate well-founded complaints, in order never to leave justice on their side. This has given rise to the eight or nine pamphlets I have written and my votes for all the financial reforms.

However, it has happened that, taking advantage of the need for security, which is the salient characteristic of public opinion, the rich are exploiting this need to the benefit of their own injustice. They remain cold and selfish, and they weaken any effort made to save them, their sole dream being the restoration of the small number of abuses brought down by the Revolution.

In this situation a clash appears inevitable to me, and it will be terrible. The rich are counting a great deal on the army, but experience of the past should make them rather less confident in this regard.

As for me, I ought to have been out of favor with both parties for the very reason that I was more concerned with combating their errors than enrolling myself under their banner; I and all the other men of scientific good will, that is to say, that which is based on justice as explained by science, will remain on the sidelines. The new Chamber, which ought to have been the same as the present one without the extremes, will on the contrary be made up of the two extreme camps, and intermediate prudence will be banished from it.263 If this does happen, there is just one thing left for me to say: may God protect France! My friend, by remaining in obscurity, I would have reasons with which to console myself if at least my somber predictions fail to materialize. I have my theory to write down and I am receiving powerful encouragement just at the right time. Yesterday I read these words in an English review: in [195] political economy, the French school has gone through three phases encapsulated by the following three names, Quesnay, Say, and Bastiat.264

Of course, it is premature for me to be assigned this rank and role, but it is clear that I have a new, fertile idea that I believe to be true. This idea is one that I have never developed methodically. It has come through almost accidentally in a few of my articles, and since this has been enough to catch the attention of learned men, since it has already been given the honor of being considered as a milestone in science, I am now certain that when I produce the complete theory it will at least be examined. Is this not all I could wish for? With what ardor will I use my retirement to set out this doctrine, in the certainty that it will be scrutinized by judges who understand and who are waiting for it!

On the other hand, professors of political economy are trying to teach my Theory of Value265 but are no more than feeling their way. It has made an impression in the United States, and yesterday in the Assembly a delegation of Americans presented me with a translation of my works.266 The preface shows that they are waiting for the fundamental idea which up to now has rather been outlined than formulated. This situation is also true for Germany and Italy. It is true that all this is happening in the closed circle of professors, but it is through them that ideas make their entrance into the wider world.

I am therefore ready to accept with resolution the naturally very hard life that will be allocated to me. What gives me courage is not Horace’s “non omnis moriar,”267 but the thought that perhaps my life will not have been pointless for the human race.

Right now, where will I base myself in order to carry out my task, in Paris or in Mugron? I have not yet taken any decision but I feel that in your company the work would be better formulated. Having just one concept and subjecting it to an enlightened friend is certainly the best recipe for success.

Letter 134. Paris, 29 Apr. 1849. To M. Domenger


Letter 134. Paris, 29 Apr. 1849. To M. Domenger (OC7, pp. 399-401) [CW1, pp. 196-97].


I have been very dilatory in replying to your letter of the 14th, but what could I do? Nature has riddled me with the oddest afflictions and I appear to become increasingly inert just when I need to be most active. So, since the question of elections has arisen, I have become absorbed and fascinated by a purely theoretical work, which takes up all my waking hours.

The very rare items of news reaching me give me no doubt as to the result of the vote concerning me; I have lost the confidence of the region. Let me explain; my mistake, and this is only a personal point of view, has been to perceive the two conflicting exaggerations and associate myself with neither. My friend, they are leading us toward civil war, a war of the poor against the rich. The poor demand more than is just; the rich do not want to grant even what is just. This is the danger. Taxes that increase with wealth have been rejected, and this is right, but taxes that increase with deprivation have been maintained, and this has provided good arguments to the people. No one knows better than I how many absurd claims they are making, but I also know that they have well-founded complaints. Therefore simple prudence, in the absence of equity, traced out the line of conduct for me to follow: resist the illusionary demands of the people and acknowledge their legitimate claims. But alas! The notion of justice has been distorted in the minds of the poor and the sentiment of justice has been extinguished in the hearts of the rich. I have therefore had to alienate myself from both classes. All that is left to me is to be resigned to my fate.

I hope that I am a false prophet! Before February, I said: “Increasing resistance in the government and an increasingly active movement in the opposition could result only in a wrenching division. Let us seek out the point at which justice occurs as this will save us.” I was not mistaken. Both parties persisted in their ways and the result was a revolution.

Today, I say: The poor are demanding too much and the rich not granting enough; let us seek justice; this is where conciliation and security reside. But the parties persist, and we will have social war.

This will occur, I fear, in unfortunate conditions, as the more we refuse what is just to the populace the greater moral and material strength we give to its cause. This is why it is making terrifying progress. This progress is veiled by a transitory reaction, one determined by the general need for security, but it is genuine. The explosion will be delayed, but it will occur.


I had reached this point in my letter when I received one from our friends in Mugron. I left my letter to you to reply to them and naturally I repeated what I said above, since I can say only what is filling my heart. They are pressing me to return to the region, but what would I do there? Are people ready to organize major meetings? Without this, how could I make contact with such a large number of electors?

I received your letter of the 27th on the 30th. I will be going later to the Assembly and will see whether I can obtain leave of absence without any problem. I am very disinclined to do this just at the time when the budget for war will be debated and I will perhaps be called upon to defend it.

Everyone wants economy in general. But everyone resists each individual economy in particular.

Letter 135. Paris, 3 May 1849. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 135. Paris, 3 May 1849. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 16-18) [CW1, pp. 197-98].


Please allow me to send you a copy of my letter to the electors. This is certainly not to have your political opinion on it, but these documents are above all a matter of tact and delicacy. You have to talk about yourself a lot in them and how do you avoid either false modesty or outrageous vanity? How do you show yourself to be sensitive to ingratitude without falling into the ridiculous category of being misunderstood? It is very difficult to reconcile dignity with the truth. I think that a woman is above all suitable for pointing out any faults of this nature, provided that she is frank enough to say so. It is for this reason that I am sending you this piece of homework in the hope that you will be willing to read it and help me to avoid improprieties if they occur. I have learned that you are starting your salons again this evening. If I can escape from a meeting in which I will be kept a little late, I will come to receive your advice. Is this not a strange mission I am giving you and an opportunity to say with Faucher that “You really have to come from the wide Landes to be gallant in this style.”

Have you had the patience to read last night’s session?268 What a sad conflict! In my opinion, an act of more than doubtful morality would have [198] become excusable by a simple admission, especially as the responsibility for it lay with Faucher’s predecessors. It is the system of defense that is pitiful. And then the representatives who hope to become ministers came to inflame and exploit the fault. Ah, madam! Am I condemned to go from one setback to another? Will it be necessary for me, who left the region as a believer, to return to it as a skeptic? It is not my faith in humanity that I fear to lose, that is unshakeable, but I need also to believe in a few of my contemporaries, in the people I see and who surround me. Faith as a general principle is not enough for me.

Here is a pamphlet on Biarritz; I am sure that when you read it you will say, “That is where we ought to go269 to give my beloved Louise a strong constitution.”

The author of this pamphlet wanted me to hand it over to one of my friends in a position close to the president of the Republic (always this Proteus of lobbying); I could not carry out this commission because of the word Prince, clumsily deleted in front of the name Joinville; this author,270 a doctor, had also asked me to write a preface in the form of an apology. “But I do not know anything about medicine,” I said to him. “Well then, hide your science behind your feelings.” I then set about it. This introduction has no other merit than a certain sobriety of description, which is not very fashionable. As I am very fond of Biarritz, I am trying to do some advertising for it.

What a long letter this is! I will be outdoing M. Blondel.

Farewell, Madam.
Your devoted servant,
F. Bastiat

Letter 136. Paris, no date, 1849. To M. Domenger


Letter 136. Paris, no date, 1849. To M. Domenger (OC7, pp. 401-3) [CW1, pp. 198-200].


My election,272 which I learned of two days ago, will make me busier after it than before, for while I was able to neglect it a little, I must not at least forget to express my total gratitude to my friends, not for the service they [199] have rendered me, but for the devotion and confidence that they have demonstrated. You are in the front rank of these and I am most touched by the zeal you devoted to this, especially as it must have cost you a great deal. I know that you dislike electioneering and that for a long time you wished to take only a purely personal part in it. On the other hand, you must have put yourself into conflict with very many of your friends. I want you to know that these circumstances taken together have made me appreciate your devotion all the more.

What will be the fate of the new Assembly? People are pinning high hopes on it. God willing, these will not be pure illusions. It will certainly not be better intentioned than the one that has just passed on. But what do intentions achieve? Like La Presse, I think that the best assembly is good only for preventing evil. To do good, you need the initiative of a more concentrated power; we have had the proof of this for the last five months. The government has limited its role to arousing and sustaining a conflict, and the Chamber, with all its good intentions, was unable to do anything about this.

What makes the future fearful is ignorance. The poor classes are becoming regimented and are marching as one man to a senseless war, without the slightest premonition that they are committing suicide, since after they have destroyed capital and the very motive that builds it up, what will be their fate?

Fundamentally, the matter of taxation alone should stand between the two classes. Achieving proportional taxes is all that justice requires; beyond this, there is only injustice, oppression, and misfortune for all. But how do we put this across to men who combat the very principle of ownership?

I will tell you that in my head there is a thought that is absorbing me, distracts me from my work, and makes me neglect my friends. This is a new explanation of these two words: property and community.273 I think that I can show in the most obvious way that the natural order of society bases on ownership itself the most beautiful, wide-ranging, and progressive community. This may appear paradoxical to you, but I have total certitude in my mind. I am anxious to be able to put this thought to the general public as I think that it will reconcile sincere men in all schools of thought. It will doubtless not draw the leaders of sects, but it will prevent the young people [200] in schools from going to enroll themselves under the flag of communism. Am I in the coils of an illusion? This is possible, but the fact is that I am consumed with the desire to publish my idea. I am still afraid that I will not have the time, and when cholera was decimating the Assembly I said to God, “Do not take me from this world before I have accomplished my mission.”

Letter 137. Bruxelles, hôtel de Bellevue, June 1849. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 137. Bruxelles, hôtel de Bellevue, June 1849. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 19-24; also extract in CW7, pp. 432-33) [CW1, pp. 200-02].


You wanted me to send you my traveler’s impressions noted pell-mell on paper; do you not know that the diary has its dangers? It resembles memoirs in which you talk only about yourself. Oh, how much I would prefer to talk to you about yourself and your beloved Louise, about her occupations, her interests, her views, La Jonchère, and also a little about Le Butard; there, all is poetry, which cannot be said of the Brabant, this classic land of work, order, economy, and full stomachs. Besides, I can talk about it only through hearsay, as I arrived only yesterday evening and have seen it only through the window; in all truth this is serving me well, since it lays out before my gaze the king’s palace. Thus, a few hours ago I was breathing air infected by republicanism, and now I have been plunged into an atmosphere of monarchy. Well then, would you believe that I have not even noticed the transition? The last word I heard on the other side of the frontier was the same as I heard on this side, “your passport.” Alas, I did not have one. For a moment, I hoped that I would be sent back to Paris and my heart beat faster, but everything is becoming civilized, even gendarmes and customs officers, and in short I was allowed to pass with the recommendation that I should declare myself to the ministry of justice since, as the gendarme added, “We have been caught out several times, and only recently we nearly allowed M. Proudhon to escape.” “I am not surprised,” I replied, “that you have become so careful, and I will certainly go to make a declaration in order to encourage the gendarmerie to continue acting in this way.”

But let us take things to a higher level. On Saturday, when I left the session (you see that I am writing a conscientious diary), I mentioned the word Brussels. “I am going there tomorrow at half past eight,” said Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire; “let us go together.” Accordingly I went to the rue La Fayette, thinking that I was arriving at the agreed time, but the convoy had left and [201] I had to wait for the one at midday. What was I to do in the interval? The Butte Montmartre is not far and the view from it is boundless. Around five o’clock, we crossed from France into Belgium and I was surprised not to feel any emotion. This was not so when I crossed our frontier for the first time; then I was eighteen and I was entering Spain! It was at the time of the civil war, I was riding a superb steed from Navarre, and, ever a man of caution, I had put a pair of pistols in my portmanteau, since Iberia is the land of great adventures, distractions that are unknown in Belgium. Might it be true that good social order kills poetry? I can still remember the impression made on me by the proud Castilians when I met them on the road on horseback and equipped with a blunderbuss apiece. They seemed to be saying: “I am not paying anyone to protect me; I protect myself.” Among all races, it seems that civilization raises the level of the masses and lowers the value put on individual character. I fear that this country will confirm this observation.

It is impossible not to be struck by the appearance of comfort and well-being offered by Belgium. Huge factories that you meet at every step trumpet a happy confidence in the future to the traveler. I wonder if the industrial world, with its monuments, comfort, railways, steam, electric telegraphs, floods of books and journals, achieving the ubiquity, unpriced character, and common availability of material and intellectual goods, does not also have its own form of poetry, a collective form of poetry, of course. Does the ideal exist only in biblical, warlike, or feudal manners? Should we, in this respect, mourn the passing of wildness, barbarism, and chivalry? In this case, it is in vain that I seek harmony in civilization, since harmony is incompatible with the prosaic. However, I believe that what makes the past appear to us in such poetic colors, the Arab’s tent, the grotto of the anchorite, or the keep of the lord of the manor, is distance, an optical illusion. We admire what contrasts with our habits and life in the desert moves us, while Abd el-Kader goes into ecstasy over the marvels of civilization. Do you think that there has ever been as much poetry in one of the heroines of antique times as in a woman of our era? Or that their minds were as cultured, their feelings as delicate, and that they had the same tenderness of heart and grace of movement and language?

Oh, let us not denigrate civilization!

Forgive me, mesdames, for this essay, but you asked for this in requesting me to write freely about things as they occurred to me. This is what I am doing, and I have to give my mind free rein, since two sources of ideas are [202] closed to me: my eyes and my heart. My poor eyes do not know how to see as nature has refused them length of vision and rapidity; I cannot therefore describe towns or landscapes. As for my heart, it has been reduced to loving an abstraction, becoming passionate about humanity and science; others direct their aspirations toward God. This is not superfluous with respect to either; this is what I thought a short time ago when I left an asylum run by nuns devoted to caring for sick children, the mentally deficient, the deformed, and the scrofulous. What devotion! What selflessness! And after all, this life of sacrifice must not be full of suffering, since it leaves such expressions of serenity on their faces. Some economists deny the good done by these saintly women; what cannot be doubted is the influence for good that such a sight produces. It touches, induces tenderness, and raises the spirit; we feel ourselves to be better and capable of a faint imitation of this at the sight of such sublime and modest virtue.

I am running out of paper; otherwise you would not escape a lengthy dissertation on Catholicism, Protestantism, the pope, and M. de Falloux.

Please give me news of M. Cheuvreux; I hope he finds in the waters health and moral peace, so disturbed by the unrest caused by our miserable politics! Unlike me, he is not an isolated person without responsibility. He is thinking of you and his Louise; I understand his irritation at those causing trouble and reproach myself for not always having respected this sufficiently.

Farewell, I present my homage to both mother and daughter.

Your devoted servant,
F. Bastiat

Letter 138. Bruxelles, June 1849. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 138. Bruxelles, June 1849. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 25-27) [CW1, pp. 202-03].


The absence of your brother-in-law274 will have a bad effect on those in favor of peace;275 they are expecting a reception which they are not going to receive. M. Say is one of those who signed the invitation. On the basis of this circular several hundred foreigners are going to come to Paris, some crossing the Channel and others the ocean, and they will be expecting to find ardent zeal over here. What a disappointment they will have when they see that the cause of peace in France is represented by Guillaumin, Garnier, and Bastiat. [203] In England, it arouses entire populations, men and women, priests and the laity; does my country always have to be left behind?

I will be returning to Paris via Ghent and Bruges. I would like to arrive two days before the conference in order to find out what practical arrangements have been made since, I must admit, I am anxious about this. At the very least, I must carry out my duty of hospitality to Cobden, and to do this I may have to call on your boundless good nature; I will ask your permission to introduce to you one of the most remarkable men of our time. If I succeed, as I hope, in reaching Paris on Saturday, I will take the liberty of going to La Jonchère on Sunday. Will I find that nothing has changed there?

Will Mlle Louise be in full possession of her health and voice? It is a very pleasant although imperative habit to be informed as to what is interesting day by day and it makes even the shortest absence difficult.

Taking everything into account, mesdames, allow me not to take advantage of your indulgence and to hold back the telling of my tale of Antwerp. What is the use of sending it to you and giving you the trouble of reading it when I can shortly replace it with a few minutes of conversation? Besides, on rereading these notes, I see that they talk about everything except Antwerp. I have found the Belgians to be very proud of the common sense they have shown in the last two years of European troubles. They have hastened to put an end to their disagreements by mutual concessions; the king has set the example, and the Chamber and people have followed him. In short, they are all delighted with each other and with themselves. However, socialist and communist doctrines have continued their underground work and I think this is somewhat frightening for the people. This has brought to my mind a project that I will tell you about, but what in fact are projects? They resemble tiny bubbles, which appear and disappear on the surface of rough water.

Farewell, madam. Do not think that feelings act in the same way as projects. The affection I feel for you and your family is too deep and too solidly anchored not to last as long as my life and I hope beyond it.

Letter 139. Anvers, June 1849. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 139. Anvers, June 1849. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 27-31) [CW1, pp. 203-05].


The extremes have met. This is what you feel on the railways; the extreme multiplicity of impressions cancels them out. You see too many things to see any one thing. This is a singular way of traveling: you do not speak, your [204] ears and eyes fall asleep, and you are wrapped in your thoughts in solitude. The present, which ought to be everything, is nothing. But also, with what tenderness does the heart turn back to the past and with what eagerness does it leap forward toward the future. “A week ago . . . in a week’s time.” Are these not well-chosen texts for meditation when, for the first time, Vilvorde, Malines, and Brabant fly past under a gaze that does not see them!

This morning I was in Brussels, this evening at five o’clock I was once more in Brussels; in the intervening period I saw Antwerp, its churches, its museum, its port, and its fortifications. Is this really traveling? What I call traveling is to enter into the society you are visiting, finding out the state of people’s minds, their tastes, their occupations, their pleasures, the relationships between the classes, the moral, intellectual, and artistic level they have attained and what we can expect from them for the advancement of the human race. I would want to ask questions of their statesmen, their merchants, their laborers, their workers, their children, and above all their women, since it is the women who prepare future generations and control manners.

Instead of that, I am shown a hundred paintings, fifty confessionals, twenty steeples, I do not know how many statues in stone, marble, and wood, and I am told, “This is Belgium.”

To tell you the truth, there is just one resource for the observer and that is the dinner table. It gathered around it today sixty diners not one of whom was Belgian. You could see five Frenchmen and five long beards; the five beards belonged to the five Frenchmen or rather the five Frenchmen to the five beards, since the principal should never be taken for the accessory.

This being so, I asked myself this question, “Why do the Belgians, English, Dutch, and Germans shave? And why do the French not shave?” In each country, men like to have it thought that they possess the qualities that are the most highly prized. If fashion turned to blond wigs, I would say to myself that these people are effeminate; if I noticed in portraits an exaggerated development of the forehead, I would think that these people had dedicated a cult to intelligence; and when savages disfigure themselves to make themselves look frightening, I conclude that they prize brute force above all. This is why I experienced a dreadful feeling of humiliation today when I saw all the efforts of my fellow countrymen to make themselves look ferocious. Why did they have these beards and moustaches? Why this military tattooing? Whom do they want to terrify and why? Fear! Is this the tribute that my country is bringing to civilization?


It is not only traveling salesmen who are indulging in this ridiculous travesty; should it not be up to women to fight it? But is this all I have brought back from Antwerp? It was worth the trouble to travel for miles without end or purpose. I saw paintings by Rubens in their own country; you can well imagine that I sought in living nature the models for these ample studies in flesh tints that the master of the Flemish School reproduced with such pleasure. I did not find them since in truth I think that the Brabant race is inferior to the Norman race. I am told I should go to Bruges; I would go to Amsterdam if this was my type of attraction but this red flesh is not my ideal. Sentiment and grace, this characterizes woman or at least the type of woman worthy of the paintbrush.

Letter 140. Paris, Tuesday 13, summer 1849. To M. Domenger


Letter 140. Paris, Tues. 13, summer 1849. To M. Domenger (OC7, pp. 403-4) [CW1, pp. 205-06].


You ask me to give you some news. Do you know that I might well ask you for some? For the last few days I have made myself into a hermit and what has happened to me is like a dream. I was tired and ill; in short, I had decided to ask for a leave of absence and I am spending it at the lodge at Le Butard. What is Le Butard? It is this:

Do you know the area which extends from Versailles to Saint-Germain and which includes Bougival, La Celle-Saint-Cloud, Vaucresson, Marly, etc.? It is the most delightful, hilly region and one that is certainly the most wooded in the world after the forests in America. This is why, as he did not have a sufficiently extended view at Versailles, Louis XIV had the chateau de Marly built and why immediately Mesdames de Montespan, Maintenon, and later Dubarry277 had the delightful villas built at Louveciennes, Malmaison, La Jonchère, Beauregard, etc.

Today, these are all lived in by people I know. Near the center, in the middle of a thick forest, isolated like an eagle’s nest, there is the lodge of Le Butard, which the king sited at the convergent point of a thousand avenues as a hunting lodge. It takes its name from its elevated position.

However, a reactionary, who has known for a long time that I wanted to enjoy this picturesque and untamed place and that I was thinking about [206] producing something on property, allowed me to camp in his lodge at Le Butard, which he had rented from the state with the surrounding hunting rights. Here I am then, all alone, and I am enjoying this way of life so much that when my leave of absence is over I am proposing to go to the Chamber and return here every day. I read, go for walks, play the bass, write, and in the evening I go down one of the avenues which leads me to a friend. This is how I learned yesterday of the death of Bugeaud. He is a man who will be missed. His military frankness inspired confidence and in particular sorts of potential situations he might have been very useful to us.

I have come to Paris. There I have found things in a very sorry state. The senseless audacity of —— exceeds any belief. These men amuse themselves by trampling underfoot all the rules of representative government, constitution, laws, and decrees. They do not see that they are even making the monarchy they dream about impossible! What is more, they are playing with the honor, word, and even the security of France; they are compromising what she stands for and are drowning justice in blood. It is worse than madness.

Under these circumstances, I will be forced to leave my lodge in Le Butard or at least spend part of my days on the main roads. I will also have to interrupt the work I had begun to sketch out and which I had decided to publish, even in its rough form.

Letter 141. Paris, 14 July 1849. To M. Paillottet


Letter 141. Paris, 14 July 1849. To M. Paillottet (OC7, pp. 436-37) [CW1, pp. 206-07].


My dear Paillottet, I am very grateful that you remembered me in our Pyrenees and at the same time I am proud of the impression they made on you. How happy I would have been to accompany you on your outings! We would perhaps have brought a chill and a touch of vulgarity to these fine landscapes by adding political economy to them. Actually, no, since social laws have their harmonies just like the laws governing the physical world. This is what I am trying to demonstrate in the book that I am currently working on—I have to admit that I am not happy with it.278 I had a magnificent subject to which I have not done justice and have no time to rewrite, since the first pages are being printed. Perhaps this fiasco is not my fault. It is a difficult if not impossible thing to talk appropriately about social harmonies to an audience that is ignorant of, or which contests, the most elementary [207] notions. Everything has to be proved, right up to the legitimacy of interests, etc. It is as if Arago wished to demonstrate the harmony of the movement of the planets to people who know nothing of arithmetic.

What is more, I am ill disposed and do not know to what to attribute this given that I am in good health. I am living at Le Butard where I hoped to find inspiration; instead of this, inspiration has fled.

It is being said that the Assembly will be prorogued from 15 August to 1 October. Please God that this is so! I will try to retrieve myself in my second volume in which I will be drawing the consequences of the first with regard to our current situation. A social problem—a French problem. . . .

Political economy owes a great deal to you as do I for your zeal in recommending us. Please continue to do so. One convert produces others. The country has a great need of this science, which will be its savior.

Farewell, your very devoted
Frédéric Bastiat

Letter 142. Paris, 30 July 1849. To Félix Coudroy


Letter 142. Paris, 30 July 1849. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, pp. 99-100) [CW1, pp. 207-08].


My dear Félix, you have seen that the prorogation for six weeks has been passed with just a small majority. I am planning to leave on the 12th or 13th. I leave you to imagine with what happiness I will see Mugron, my relatives, and friends again. Please God that I will be left alone throughout this time! With your help perhaps I will finish the first part of my work.279 I care very much about this. It got off to a bad start; it is too controversial; it is too labored, etc., etc.; I am longing to present it to the world, but I am determined not to play any parliamentary role before it is able to provide me with support. The other day, M. Thiers put out a challenge to those who believed they had the solution to the social problem. I was on tenterhooks on my seat but felt myself to be anchored to it because of the impossibility of making myself understood. Once the book has been published, I will have a resource to which I can refer the men of little faith.

Since we should be having the joy of seeing each other and continuing our delightful conversations, there is no point my replying to the political part of your letter. We are of one mind regarding principles; it is simply impossible for us to have differed on the facts themselves and on people.


I will bring the books you have asked me for, and perhaps also those that I need. Would you please do me the service of telling my aunt that I am in excellent health and that I am preparing to leave?

Letter 143. Mont-de-Marsan, 30 Aug. 1849. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 143. Mont-de-Marsan, 30 Aug. 1849. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 31-34) [CW1, pp. 208-09].


Organizations that are somewhat ethereal are unfortunate in that they are highly sensitive to tiresome trials and disappointments, but how sensitive are they too to unexpected good fortune when it happens to them! Who would have told me that today I would receive news from La Jonchère? Space has the effect of time, and because I am many leagues away from my beloved Butard, I feel that I am also distant from it by many days both past and in the future. You and Mlle Louise, who are so indulgent, will forgive my outpourings on this subject; perhaps it is because I feel profoundly disgusted by political and social sentimentality that I have become somewhat sentimental in my affections. What can you do! The heart needs revenge; and also, I do not know how you, both mother and daughter, do it, but you have the gift and art of making all those who come into contact with you so content and happy that they can be excused for showing it a little. I was sure that M. Cheuvreux would be sorry not to have been able to join you in the fine welcome given to Cobden at his house. But I am happy to hear this. Would he not have found my manner of dispensing hospitality somewhat indiscreet? I wanted France and England to appear to each other in their best light. With the Cheuvreux ladies I was proud of Cobden; with Cobden I was proud of the Cheuvreux ladies. These insular peoples ought to know that each of the two countries has something to envy the other for.

It is a good sign that M. Cheuvreux is extending his stay at the spa; this proves that it is doing him good.

The journey ought to have tired me more. Two coaches always went together, with ours behind, that is to say in a cloud of dust. My traveling companions were dreary; thank God I talk to myself and imagination is enough for me; it has produced a plan that is the finest and most useful to humanity that you could imagine. It has only to be written down, but once again I will just have to rely on good intentions. If God takes account of this, I will be saved!


Just think, mesdames, how amusing I must find it to be kept here by the General Council, knowing that my aunt and friend280 are expecting me in Mugron. And that is not all: I am enduring the weight of my fame; had they not held back all the most troublesome matters in order to do me the honors of the session? It was a question of being modest and a Gascon; I was both of these and to relieve myself of this strange form of courtesy I spoke of my fatigue. I took the opportunity, however, of producing a little economiste propaganda, given that our prefect has just infected his speech with socialism; this leprosy is getting everywhere. Tomorrow I will know which of the two schools will gain the majority in the Council. My fellow citizens are first-rate in support of me, they do have some small peccadilloes with which to reproach me, but they treat me like a spoiled child and appear to understand that I must be left to act, work, and vote capriciously.

I would like to bring Mlle Louise back a souvenir from our Landes, but what? Shall I go to Bayonne to find a few very tender romances set in restoration times, or else some Spanish boleros?

Mesdames, take pity on a poor exile; is it not strange to be an exile when one is at home? At this, you will say that I love paradoxes and that is a genuinely felt truth. For this reason, please write to me from time to time; I do not greatly dare to ask this sacrifice of Mlle Louise.

Please remain assured, both of you, of my fondness.

Letter 144. Mugron, 12 Sept. 1849. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 144. Mugron, 12 Sept. 1849. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 34-39) [CW1, pp. 209-11].


It seems to me that twenty deliveries of letters have passed without bringing me any letters. Has time, like my watch, stopped since my return here? Or has Mlle Louise taken me at my word? However, a careful calculation which I have redone a hundred times tells me that it is not a week since my letter has gone. It is not your dear daughter who is in the wrong but my impatience. I would like to know whether M. Cheuvreux has returned to you in full health, if you yourself have recovered from your unpleasant insomnia, and in short if there is as much joy at La Jonchère as it deserves and [210] as I would wish. What a good invention the electric telegraph will be when it is put to the service of friendship! Perhaps one day it will have a telescope, which will enable it to see at two hundred leagues. Distance would then be bearable; for example, I would now turn it toward your drawing room. Mlle Louise is at the piano. I can guess from her expression the romantic song she is singing. M. Cheuvreux and you are experiencing the sweetest joy you can experience on this earth and your friends are forgetting that the last coaches are about to leave. This picture is heartwarming. Would it be unseemly and too provincial to tell you that this portrait of virtue, happiness, and union of which your family has given me such an example has been an antidote for me to the skepticism that is fashionable and a protection against anti-Parisian prejudice. What does this reproach by Rousseau mean, “Paris, a town of mud, etc.”? Not long ago I came across a novel by Jules Janin.281 What a dreary and disastrous portrait of society! “The stable and the church go together,” he says, meaning that esteem is gained in Paris only through the horse on which you parade in the wood or through hypocrisy. Tell me, pray, that you have never met this man or rather that he has never met you. Because they present wealth and selfishness as being the two sides of the same coin, novelists like him have supplied the grounds for socialist ranting. For my harmonies,282 I needed to be sure that wealth is not only compatible with the qualities of the heart but that it develops and perfects them. I am sure of this now and feel that I am proof, as the English say, against skepticism.

Right now, madam, do you want me to lend you my marvelous telescope for a minute? I would really like you to be able to see from behind the curtain the following scenes of provincial life. In the morning, Félix and I walk around my room reading a few pages of Madame de Staël or a psalm by David; when dusk falls I go to the cemetery to look for a tomb, my foot recognizes it, here it is! In the evening I spend four hours in intimate contact with my good aunt. While I am buried in my Shakespeare, she talks with the most sincere animation, being kind enough both to ask the questions and provide the answers. Here comes the chambermaid, however, who thinks that the hours are long and feels obliged to give them a bit of variety; she comes on the scene and tells us about her electoral tribulations. The poor girl has been giving me publicity; people have always challenged her on free trade and she [211] has argued with them. Alas, what arguments! She proudly repeats them to me and while she is giving her speech in Basque dialect, patois, and French, I remember this quotation from Patru, “There is nothing like a bad advocate for ruining a good cause.”283 Finally, suppertime arrives; dogs and cats rush into the room, escorting the garbure.284 My aunt becomes furious. “Dreadful animals,” she cries. “You see how bold they become when M. Bastiat arrives!” My poor aunt! This great fury is just artful tenderness and can be translated thus: “See what a nice person Frédéric is.” I do not say that this is true, but my aunt wants this to be believed.

I was rightly telling you, madam, that letters from villages are deadly things; we can find subjects to write about only in the environment in which we live or in our own selves.

What a milieu Paris is for someone who writes! The arts, politics, and news are all in abundance, but here the outside world is sterile. You have to have recourse to another world, the inner one. In a word, you have to talk about yourself, and this consideration ought to have made me choose the smallest of scales. Instead of this I am clumsily sending you an acre of chatter; what reassures me is that my indiscretion will find it impossible to exhaust your indulgence.

I think that the prorogation has calmed the political effervescence a little; this should be a good thing, and in this respect we should wish that it were not so near to the end of its term. On our return, I would like the government to deliver us a heap of laws on which to browse, to take up our time, and to distract us from discussions that are sterile, or rather fertile only in hatred and exaggeration.

Please convey to M. Cheuvreux and Mlle Louise the great pleasure that I will have when I meet them again soon. Perhaps I will be back at La Jonchère again on Sunday, 30th September.

If I am in Paris, I will offer to escort Mme Girard, happy to receive the confidence of her maternal joys and cares. As for the tourists, I will be writing shortly to M. Say.

Farewell, madam; allow me
to assure you of my respectful
F. Bastiat

Letter 145. Mugron, 16 Sept. 1849. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 145. Mugron, 16 Sept. 1849. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 39-43) [CW1, pp. 212-13].


You have probably returned from the spa, my dear M. Cheuvreux. I am somewhat surprised at being reduced to conjecture.

There are some dreary times in which disturbed imaginations are easily inflamed. Can anyone leave Paris without thinking that he has left cholera there? The silence of our friends, which is always hard, is now becoming difficult to bear.

The purity of the air at La Jonchère reassures me. However, you have many relatives in Paris, and are not you yourself kept there almost every day by your judicial duties? These ladies have doubtless not thought of sparing me this form of anxiety. I would like to attribute their silence to less-dismal causes: business matters, pleasurable activities, walks, visits, music, chats, etc., and they also have a great many correspondents! Everyone has to take his turn. However, I would be happy to learn that everyone in your house is in good health and that this is also true of M. Say, the Renouards, at Croissy, etc.

When I arrived here, I organized a shooting party. I am sharing the catch between the Hôtel Saint Georges and the rue Boursault.

Yesterday, to put this matter of the shoot in context, I spent the day in the countryside where I lived in the past, sometimes alone and sometimes with others. The countryside here is very similar to that in which you live, a chain of hills with a river at their foot and plains as far as the eye can see beyond. The village is on the top of the hill and my property on the opposite bank of the river. But if art has done more to the banks of the Seine, nature is more unspoiled on those of the Adour. It would be impossible for me to express to you the impression I felt when I saw these long avenues of old oaks, this house with its huge rooms with only memories for furniture, these peasants with clothing in clear colors who speak in a simple language which I cannot help associating with the pastoral life. In fact I always think that a man in an overall and cap who speaks French is not really a peasant, and then the benevolent relationship between an owner and his sharecropper seems habitually to me to be another essential condition in establishing the genuine countryside. What a sky! What nights! What shadows! What silence, broken only by the distant barking of dogs to each other or by the vibrant and prolonged note echoing through space of the melancholy voice of a belated cowherd! These scenes affect the heart more than the eyes.


But here I am, back at the village. The village! It has moved one step closer to Paris. They read the gazette. Depending on the weather, they discuss Tahiti, or Saint-Jean d’Acre, Rome, or Comorn.285 I was counting on the holidays to calm the political effervescence a little, but see how the wind of passions is getting up. France is once more between two impossible choices. The Republic has been led by guile and violence onto a terrain on which legitimism will beat it quite logically. It is sad to think that M. de Falloux matters and that the France of the nineteenth century does not. The population is nevertheless endowed with common sense; it wants what is good and understands this, but it has forgotten how to act of its own accord. A few horseflies always succeed in provoking it into inextricable difficulties. But let us not talk about such a dreary subject.

I hoped to have made progress with my book here,286 an additional disappointment. Besides, I am no longer in such a hurry as, instead of being a work of current interest, it has become a work of pure doctrine and can have an effect, if effect it has, only on a few theoreticians. The real solution of the social problem would need to be propagated by a journal while still being based on a major book. I have something of an idea of embarking on a monthly publication, such as those of Lamartine and Louis Blanc. I think that our doctrine would spread like a fire or rather like a light, since it is certainly not incendiary. Everywhere I have preached it, I have found minds marvelously disposed to receive it. I tried this out on my colleagues in the General Council. Two obstacles terrify me: my health and finding the down payment.287 We will discuss this soon, as I hope to spend the day of 30th September with you.

Farewell, my dear sir; if you have an extra moment, please spare your ladies the trouble of writing to me. Please assure them that the regime of privation to which they are subjecting me has not made me forget their boundless benevolence.

Letter 146. Mugron, 16 Sept. 1849. To Horace Say


Letter 146. Mugron, 16 Sept. 1849. To Horace Say (OC7, pp. 382-83) [CW1, p. 214].


See how our holidays, which have scarcely started, are coming to an end, even if they are not shortened for us. Are we going to be recalled to put an end to the Catholic muddle? Alas! It is to be feared that all we will do is muddle it a bit more. We are really in a blind alley. The Republic, through the determination of the government and disregard of the National Assembly, has put itself at the service of the inquisition. It now has two choices: either it goes the whole way, becoming more Jesuitical than the Jesuits, or it backs down, acknowledging the position of the Constituent Assembly, destroying the government and the current majority, and running the risk of internal upheaval and universal war. Like honor, principles are:

  • . . . like an island with steep hills and no shores;
  • You cannot go back to it once you have left it.288

And yet the political difficulties are what worry me the least. What is distressing for this country is to see the men in the public eye one after the other sacrificing every shred of moral dignity and all intellectual consistency. The result is that the people are losing all trust and yielding to the most irremediable of solvents, skepticism.

This is why I would like the solution to the social problem, as provided by the most severe form of political economy, that is to say self-government,289 to have a special mouthpiece all to itself. This idea should be put before the general public: that the government should guarantee security to each person and that it should not concern itself with anything else. A monthly publication with this aim and which would be distributed like those of Louis Blanc and Lamartine at a cost of six francs a year might be a useful sharpshooter for Le Journal des économistes. We will discuss this soon as I am planning to leave Bordeaux on the 28th if I can get a seat on the mail coach. . . .

Letter 147. Mugron, 18 Sept. 1849. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 147. Mugron, 18 Sept. 1849. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 43-48; extract also in CW7, p. 435 but dated July 1850) [CW1, pp. 215-17].


There is a note of sadness in your letter, madam, and this is very natural. You have just lost a childhood friend. In these circumstances, the initial feeling is one of regret, and then you look around your entourage with worry and end up looking in at yourself. Your mind asks questions of the great unknown and, on receiving no reply, panics. This is because there is a mystery there which is not open to the spirit but to the heart. Can you have any doubts when facing a tomb?

Madam, allow me to remind you that you have not got the right to mourn for very long. Your soul is a tuning fork for all those who love you and you have to be happy under pain of making miserable your mother, your husband, and the delightful child whom you love so much that you would force everyone to love her if she did not do so perfectly well on her own.

My ideas have taken the same road, since we too have our trials. Cholera has not visited this region but it has sent a distressing emissary: my aunt’s chambermaid is gravely ill, but they hope to save her. This has made my aunt appear to have lost twenty years, as she is on her feet night and day. For my part, I bow before such devotion to duty and I will always maintain that you, ladies, are worth a hundred times more than we. It is true that I do not agree with other economists on the meaning of the word value.290

Are you making fun of me, madam, in reproaching me for not writing? Five letters in four weeks! But what has happened to the precious missive which you mention? I will be inconsolable if it is lost definitively.

What was M. Augier talking about for you to have the kindness to send me his work? I like this young poet’s verses a great deal and will long remember the vivid impression we had at the reading of his drama.291 In any case, this play will be obtainable; he has doubtless kept the text and he will be happy to send it to me.

However, are your letter and that of Mlle Louise lost forever? In this case, will you be able to tell me what was in them? You may be sure that I will ask you to do this.


It is on Saturday that I am leaving for Bayonne; I have only four more days here. Although Mugron is monotony personified, I will miss this sojourn of peace, the total independence, and free disposal of my time and the hours that so resemble one another that they cannot be distinguished:

  • The uniform habits
  • that bind from day to day;
  • Neither fame nor study,
  • Nothing but solitude,
  • Prayer and . . .292

I have not finished the line as my literature master taught me that reason should never be sacrificed to rhyme.

19th. In two hours I will myself be going to Tartas293 to post the boxes containing ortolans.294 They will be leaving on Thursday morning and will arrive in Paris on Saturday. If, by chance, they are not delivered to the Hôtel Saint-Georges, you will have to take the trouble to go to the post office as punctuality is essential for these small creatures.

I hope that my fellow countrymen will not let themselves be corrupted on the way and that you will not have to echo the quotation from Faucher with regard to the conflicts of interest:295 “Can anything good come out of the Great Landes?” Our friend de Labadie is already a good contrary case; what do you think, Mlle Louise? Since I am addressing you, allow me to say that my poor ears are in a sort of vacuum here. They are hungering and thirsting for music. Please keep a pretty romantic song, the most minor possible, for me. Would you not also like to practice the “Tropical Night”? You will end up liking it.

From music to the Harmonies is a very tempting switch. But since it is a question of economic harmonies, it throws a bit of cold water on things. So I will not talk to you about it. I will simply admit that, because of developments into which I have been drawn, my book will no longer reach other people than those professionally engaged. I am therefore almost resolved, as [217] I said to M. Cheuvreux, to start a monthly publication. I will be calling on you to place advertisements. Where journals are concerned, placing advertisements is at least as important as composition of articles. This is what our colleagues are too apt to forget. You must interest women in this work.

Farewell, madam; please remember me to M. Cheuvreux. I am not surprised that he finds the air at La Jonchère is better than that at Vichy. I beg Mlle Louise to allow me the word friendship. One is always embarrassed faced with such charming creatures; homage is very respectful and affection is very familiar. There is a bit of all this here and I do not know how to express it. They will have to guess at it a little.

Your very devoted servant,
F. Bastiat

Letter 148. Paris, 7 Oct. 1849. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 148. Paris, 7 Oct. 1849. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 48-50) [CW1, pp. 217-18].


I have received from my beloved Landes this morning a carton that I assume contains some ortolan buntings. I am sending it to you without opening it. Supposing it contains woolen stockings! Oh, I would be very embarrassed, but when all is said and done I would be the butt of a few jokes. Yesterday evening, in my haste and with characteristic tact, I arrived at M. Say’s house right in the middle of dinner. To celebrate the reopening of the Monday gatherings, all our friends were there. The party was in full swing to judge from the bursts of laughter that reached me in the drawing room. The hall embellished with a number of black, white, and pink cloaks showed that there were not only economists present.

After dinner, I approached the sister-in-law of M. D—— and, knowing that she has just arrived from Belgium, I asked her if she had had a pleasant trip. This is what she answered: “Sir, I had the unspeakable pleasure of not seeing the face of a single Republican because I hate them.” The conversation could not continue for long on this subject, so I spoke to the person next to her, who started to tell me about the pleasant impressions made on her by Belgian royalism. “When the king passes,” she said, “everything is joyful: shouts of joy, heraldic figures, banners, ribbons, and lanterns.” I see that in order not to displease the ladies too much, we must make haste to elect a king. The embarrassment is to know which one, since we have three in the wings and who will win (after a civil war)?


I was obliged to take refuge with groups of men, since to tell you the truth political passions are grimaces on women’s faces. The men pooled their skepticism. They are splendid propagandists who do not believe a word of what they preach. Or rather, they do not doubt, they just pretend to doubt. Tell me which is worse, to pretend to doubt or to pretend to believe? Economists really must stop this playacting. Tomorrow, there will be many guests to dinner. I will ask about a journal intended to disseminate principled intellectual certainties. I regret that M. Cheuvreux cannot be with us. While I disagree with him on particular questions, opinions of people or circumstances, we agree on ideas and the fundamentals of things. He would support me.

Farewell, madam; allow me to
call myself the most devoted and
respectful of your friends.
F. Bastiat

Letter 149. Paris, 8 Oct. 1849. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 149. Paris, 8 Oct. 1849. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 50-52) [CW1, pp. 218-19].


Quite by chance the journal of the Landes has published the traditional recipe in the region for preparing ortolans; doubtless Lord Trompette would not be offended if I sent him, through you, so precious a document.

Yesterday, when I came to deliver my parcel at the rue Saint-Georges, M. Cheuvreux did not make an appearance, although it was an audience day. Today we had an appointment to visit the electric telegraph. He did not come; can he be ill?

The discussion on socialism has been very good, with Charles Dupin excelling himself. Dufaure was admirable and La Montagne violent, nonsensical, and ignorant. What a desolate arena the Chamber has become! How inferior it is, as far as intentions are concerned, to the Constituent Assembly! Then, the vast majority was passionately in favor of good. Now people just dream of revolution and the only thing that checks them is the choice. In spite of this, society is making progress. No one can be taken to task for individual accidents, and I am sorry that that upsets good Mme Alexandre, but it is clear that the general movement is toward order and security.

For you, mesdames, to meet any contingency, you have laid up resources [219] of good fortune in the affection of those close to you and will not both mother and daughter always be angels of consolation for each other?

Allow me also to hope that you
give just a little value to the
unshakeable devotion of your
respectful friend,
F. Bastiat

Letter 150. Paris, 14 Oct. 1849. To Madame Schwabe


Letter 150. Paris, 14 Oct. 1849. To Madame Schwabe (OC7, pp. 430-32) [CW1, pp. 219-20].


Do not be afraid, madam, that your advice is untimely. Is it not based on friendship? Is it not the surest sign of this?

It is in vain that you predict late flowering happiness for me in the future. This cannot happen for me, even in the pursuit or the triumph of an idea that is useful to the human race since my health condemns me to hate the struggle. Dear lady, I have poured into your heart just a drop from the chalice of bitterness that fills mine. For example, just look at my difficult political position and you will see whether I can agree with the prospects you offer me.

I have always had a political idea that is simple, true, and can be grasped by all, and yet it is misunderstood. What was I lacking? A theater in which to expose it. The February revolution occurred. It gave me an audience of nine hundred people, the elite of the nation given a mandate by universal suffrage with the authority to put my views into practice. These nine hundred people were full of the best intentions. They were terrified of the future. They hesitated and cast about for some notion of salvation. They were silent, waiting for a voice to be heard and to which they could rally. I was there; I had the right and duty to speak. I was aware that my words would be welcomed by the Assembly and would echo around the masses. I felt the idea ferment in my head and my heart . . . and I was forced to keep silent. Can you imagine a worse form of torture? I was obliged to keep silent because just at this time it pleased God to remove from me all my strength, and when huge revolutions are achieved such as to afford me a rostrum, I am unable to mount it. I was not only incapable of speaking but also even of writing. What a bitter disappointment! What cruel irony!

Here I am, since my return, confined to my room for simply having wanted to write a newspaper article.


That is not all; I had just one last hope. It was to put this thought down on paper before disappearing from this world so that it did not perish with me. I know very well that this is a poor resource as people today read only well-known authors. Cold print certainly cannot take the place of a speech delivered to the leading political theater in the world. But at least the idea that torments me would have survived. What can one do? The strength to write down and organize a whole theoretical treatise is failing me. It seems as though my mind is becoming paralyzed in my head. Is this not a poignant affliction?

But why am I telling you all this? I have to beg your indulgence. It is because I have bottled up my troubles for so long inside myself that, when I am in contact with a compassionate heart, I find all my private feelings longing to escape.

I would like to send your dear children a small French work that is full of feeling and truth and which has delighted almost all the generations of French young people. It was my childhood companion and later, not very long ago on winter evenings, a woman, her two children, and I wept together on reading it. Unfortunately, M. Heron has left and I do not know how to send it. I will try to send it to Mr. Faulkner in Folkestone.

Farewell, dear lady, I must leave you. Although I am not well, I have to go to defend the cause of the blacks in one of our committees296 and then return to my only friend, my pillow.

Letter 151. Paris, 17 Oct. 1849. To Richard Cobden


Letter 151. Paris, 17 Oct. 1849. To Richard Cobden (OC1, p. 181) [CW1, pp. 220-21].


My dear Cobden, you should not doubt my eagerness to attend the meeting on 30 October, if my parliamentary duties are not a total obstacle to this. To have the pleasure of shaking your hand and witnessing the progress of public opinion in England in favor of peace will be a double happiness [221] for me. It will also be very pleasant for me to thank Mr. B. Smith297 for his gracious hospitality, which I accept with gratitude.

Be assured that I will do all in my power to bring our excellent friend, M. Say. I am afraid his duties in the Council of State may retain him. I am all the more anxious to have him as a traveling companion since he does not totally believe in the peace conference.298 To witness your meetings will surely steel his confidence. I will be seeing him this evening.

My friend, nations, like individuals, are subject to the law of responsibility. England will have a great deal of trouble convincing people of the sincerity of her efforts for peace. For a long time, for centuries perhaps, it will be said on the continent that England is preaching moderation and peace, but it has fifty-three colonies and two hundred million subjects in India. This single sentence will neutralize many a fine speech. When will England be advanced enough to renounce voluntarily a few of its expensive conquests? This would be a fine means of propaganda.

Do you think it would be imprudent or out of place to touch on this delicate subject?

Letter 152. Paris, 24 Oct. 1849. To Richard Cobden


Letter 152. Paris, 24 Oct. 1849. To Richard Cobden (OC1, p. 182) [CW1, pp. 221-222].


My dear Cobden, Say must have written to you to say that we plan to leave on Sunday evening to be in London on Monday morning. He is bringing his son with him. As for Michel Chevalier, he is still in the Cévennes.

However, there is another thing. M. Say’s brother-in-law, M. Cheuvreux, who was absent when we went to spend a day at his house in the country, and who very much regretted having missed this opportunity of making your acquaintance, is planning to join us. In addition, he very much wants to be present at the movement of English public opinion in favor of peace and disarmament. However, as I do not want to be separated from M. Cheuvreux, [222] I am obliged to write to Mr. Smith to express my deepest gratitude and explain to him the reasons which prevent me from taking advantage of his generous hospitality.

While I am writing this letter, the repeal of the laws of banishment is being debated. I am very afraid that our Assembly will not have the courage to open France’s doors to fallen dynasties. In my opinion this act of justice would consolidate the Republic.

Letter 153. Paris, Nov. 1849. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 153. Paris, Nov. 1849. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 52-53) [CW1, p. 222].


Here is a document that will interest you. For my part, I have not been able to read it without being moved to tears (the nature of a mountain is not always a rocky nature). To whom could I turn to share my impressions if not you?

I will be obliged to contest the opinion of my friends and this costs me dearly. But some Greek, whose name I can’t recall, has said: “I love Plato, but I love truth better.” It seems a certainty now that political economy has opened its doors to communism and it is up to it to close them.

If you have five minutes to spare, may I dare to ask you to give me news of the trio?

Your devoted servant,
F. Bastiat

Letter 154. Paris, 13 Nov. 1849. To M. Domenger


Letter 154. Paris, 13 Nov. 1849. To M. Domenger (OC7, pp. 404-5) [CW1, pp. 222-23].


The High Court of Versailles has just rendered its verdict.299 We do not yet have all the details of this; we know only that eleven of the accused, including a member of the Assembly, have been acquitted. All the other representatives have been condemned to be deported, as well as Guinard. I have not followed the discussions sufficiently closely to have an opinion on them. [223] I bow to justice and regret only that the defense was limited as to its means. This is always a worrying precedent. The authority of the cause being judged is not enhanced by this.

You have doubtless heard about my short trip to England. I left on Monday evening after the session and was back on Saturday morning, and for four days I saw only great things and great men, at least in my view.

When I arrived, a sort of very courteous cartel of socialists came to see me. It was a question of detailed discussions before an audience of workers and against Proudhon on the question of whether interest on capital is legitimate, a question that is more difficult and dangerous than the one concerning property, in that it is more general. I believe that I did some good in accepting the contest.300

On this subject, I will tell you, my dear Domenger, that the electors in the Landes may well grow tired of my apparent inaction. It is true that my work is capricious; I have to be taken with all my faults. However, I sincerely believe that the current danger is neither from the authorities nor from the Assembly, but from the misguidedness of popular opinion. It is thus in this direction that I am devoting my weak efforts. I hope that the good sense of our fellow countrymen will make them understand that each person has his own mission in life and that I am fulfilling mine.

Letter 155. Paris, 13 Dec. 1849. To Félix Coudroy


Letter 155. Paris, 13 Dec. 1849. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, pp. 100-2) [CW1, pp. 223-25].


My dear Félix, it is sad that our correspondence has slowed down so much. Do not conclude from this, I beg you, that my long-standing friendship for you is cooling; on the contrary, it seems that time and distance, those two great poets, lend charm to the memory of our walks and conversations. I miss Mugron, its philosophical calm and fruitful leisure hours on many occasions. Here, life is worn out with our doing nothing, or at least producing nothing.

Yesterday I spoke during the debate on wines and spirits. As I rarely take the rostrum, I wanted to put forward our ideas. With a bit of perseverance, we will make them triumph. They must have been deemed worthy of examination, as the entire Assembly listened to them in silence, without anyone [224] being able to attribute this rare phenomenon to talent or to the reputation of the speaker. But what is appalling is that these efforts are wasted as far as the public is concerned, because of the poor condition of the journals. Each cloaks me in its own ideas. If they limited themselves to disfiguring or ridiculing my thought, I would accept my lot, but they attribute to me the very heresies that I am combating. What am I to do? Incidentally, I enclose Le Moniteur; enjoy yourself making comparisons.

I did not say all I wanted to say, nor in the way I wished to say it. Our southern volubility is an oratorical plague. When a sentence has been finished, we think of how the sentence should have been phrased. However, with the help of gestures, intonation, and action, we make ourselves understood by our audience. But this discourse written in shorthand is just slovenly and I myself cannot bear to read it.

We are really overworked301 here, as the English say. These long sessions, office meetings, and commissions weigh you down and do no good. They constitute ten wasted hours, which waste the rest of the day, since (at least for weak heads) they are enough to remove the faculty of work. This being so, when will I be able to write my second volume, on which I am relying far more for publicity than on the first? I do not know whether La Voix du peuple is available in Mugron. Socialism is today enclosed in a formula, free credit. It describes itself thus: I am this or I am nothing. For this reason, it is on these grounds that I have attacked it in a series of letters to which Proudhon is replying.302 I think they have done a great deal of good in removing the illusions of a great many misguided followers. But here is something that will astonish you: the bourgeoisie is so blind, so intense, and so confident in its natural strength that it considers it correct not to support me. My letters are in La Voix du peuple and this is enough for them to be despised by these people, as though they might do good elsewhere. Well! When it is a question of reconverting the workers, is it not better to tell the truth in the journal that they read?

On Tuesday, I will be starting my lectures to the young people in the schools. As you can see, there is no shortage of work and, just to make life simple, I am undergoing a treatment for my chest that takes up two hours of my day every day. It is true that it is making me feel very well indeed.

I am talking only about myself, my dear Félix. Please follow this example [225] and tell me a lot about yourself. If you wanted to follow my advice, I would strongly commit you to doing something useful, like producing a series of small pamphlets, for example. They take a long time to penetrate the masses but they end up doing their work.

Letter 156. Paris, 25 Dec. 1849. To M. Domenger


Letter 156. Paris, 25 Dec. 1849. To M. Domenger (OC7, pp. 405-6) [CW1, p. 225].


I can write you only a few words, as my cold has laid me low. I assure you that it makes my existence very hard to endure.

The hospice affair303 is one of those that make me decide to venture into the labyrinthine world of government. Yesterday, I ascertained that approval of the exchange would not encounter any difficulty and the decree authorizing it was drafted in front of me. However, it can be taken to the Élysée for signature only after the Council of State has approved it. One of my friends has promised me to expedite this affair as quickly as possible.

As for the subsidy, you will have something, but not one thousand francs. The fund handling this has only three hundred thousand francs for the whole of France and needs are unlimited, to the extent that each year the allocation for the following year is gobbled up in advance. I continue to believe that it would be better for the government not to become involved with this, because it would require a lot of senseless administrative work.

And is it not perfectly ridiculous that Mugron and M. Lafaurie are unable to exchange their houses without the approval of the Council of State and permission from the prisoner of Ham?304 Truly, France has created problems and obstacles, merely for the sake of generating additional costs.

It is impossible for me to send you my polemical exchanges with Proudhon, as I have not kept the issues of La Voix du peuple in which my letters were published; but I have been assured that they will be collected into a volume, which I will send to you. Anyway, they are rather boring.

Letter 157. Paris, 31 Dec. 1849. To Richard Cobden


Letter 157. Paris, 31 Dec. 1849. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 182-85) [CW1, pp. 226-28].


My dear Cobden, I am delighted with the Bradford meeting305 and congratulate you sincerely for having finally tackled the colonial question. I know that you have always considered this subject very delicate as it affects the most sensitive chords of patriotic hearts. Renouncing rule over a quarter of the globe! Never has such evidence of common sense and faith in science been displayed by any nation! It is surprising that you were allowed to finish your speech. For this reason, what I admired most about this meeting was not the orator (allow me to say this!) but the audience. What can you not achieve with a nation which cold-bloodedly analyzes its dearest illusions and allows, before its very eyes, investigations of the darker side of its glory?

I recall that I boldly intimated the advice to you in the past to direct your aim on the colonial regime, with which free trade is incompatible. You replied at the time that national pride is a plant that grows in all countries and especially in yours, that you should not try to rip it out roughly, and that free trade would gnaw gradually on its roots. I agreed with this good commonsense observation while deploring the necessity for you to keep quiet, since I was perfectly aware of one thing, which was that as long as England had forty colonies Europe would never believe the sincerity of her protestations. For my part, it was useless for me to say, “Colonies are a burden.” This assertion appeared as paradoxical as “It is a great misfortune for a gentleman to have fine farms.” Obviously it is necessary for the assertion and proof to come from England herself. Forward then, my dear Cobden, redouble your efforts, triumph, liberate your colonies, and you will have achieved the greatest thing that exists under the sun since it began to shed light on the follies and fine actions of mankind. The more Great Britain prides herself on her colonial colossus, the more you have to demonstrate the clay feet of this idol, which devours the substance of your workers. Do what is needed to enable England freely, maturely, and in full conscience of what she is doing to tell Canada, Australia, and the Cape, “Govern yourselves by yourselves.”306 Liberty [227] will have won its greatest victory and political economy in action will be taught to the entire world.

For it is essential for protectionists in Europe to have their eyes opened at last.

Initially, they used to say, “England allows manufactured articles to enter the country. What great generosity since she has uncontested superiority in this respect! But she will not remove protection from agriculture since, with regard to this, she cannot stand up to competition from countries where the soil and labor cost nothing.” You have answered this charge by removing the duty from wheat, animals, and all agricultural products.

They then said, “England is playacting and the proof of this is that she is not changing her laws on navigation, since rule over the seas is her life-blood.” And you have reformed these laws, not in order to destroy your navy but to strengthen it.

Now they say, “England may well decree free trade and freedom of the seas since, with her forty colonies, she has taken control of all the outlets in the world. She will never lay a hand on her colonial system.” Overturn the old system and I do not know behind what prophecy protectionists will take refuge. As to prophecy, I dared make one two years ago. It was in Lyons, before a large assembly. I said at the time, “In less than ten years, England will herself voluntarily dismantle the colonial regime.” Do not let me pass here for a false prophet.

Economic matters are as fiercely controversial in France as they are in England, but in a different direction. The basics of economic science are being stirred up. Property, capital, everything is being called into question; and what is deplorable is that good reasons are not always on the side of rationality. This is because of the universal ignorance of these matters. Communism is being combated with communist arguments. But at last the extremely lively intelligence of this country is being put to work. What will be the result of this work? It will doubtless be good for humanity, but will this good not be dearly purchased? Will we have to endure bankruptcies and paper money issued against the security of state landholdings, etc.? That is the question.307


You will doubtless be surprised to see me publish a purely theoretical work right now and I imagine that you will not be able to bear reading it. Nevertheless, I believe that it would have been of some use in this country if I had thought of issuing it in a cheap edition, and especially if I had been able to produce the second volume. Ma non ho fiato: in both physical and moral meanings, I lack the breath to do it.

I have sent a copy of this book to Mr. Porter. My friend, our reputations are like our wines; both need to cross the sea to acquire their full flavor. I would therefore like you to give me the names of a few people to whom I might send my volume so that, with your good offices, they might review it in the journals. It is of course understood that I am not seeking praise but a conscientious appraisal from my judges.

Letter 158. Paris, Jan. 1850. To Félix Coudroy


Letter 158. Paris, Jan. 1850. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, pp. 102-4) [CW1, pp. 228-29].


Never a day goes past, my dear Félix, on which I do not think of replying to you. Always for the same reason, my head is so weak that the slightest work wears me out. As soon as I am involved in one of these preemptive matters, the little time that I can devote to holding a pen is taken up, and I am forced to put off my correspondence day after day. But finally, if I have to seek indulgence somewhere, it ought to be from my friends.

In a previous letter you told me that you had a project that you would tell me about. I am waiting and very willing to give you support, but if it concerns newspapers, I have to warn you that I have very little contact with them, and you can guess why. It would be impossible to create ties to them without losing one’s independence. I have taken the decision that, whatever happens, I will not be a party man. With our ideas, that would be impossible. I am well aware that in these times to isolate yourself is to remove any influence you may have, but I prefer that. If I had the strength I had in the past, this would be the right time to carry out a real campaign to win over public opinion and my distance from any faction would be an advantage to me. But I can see the opportunity slipping away and this is very sad. Not a day goes by on which I am not given the opportunity to say or write some useful truth. The agreement between all the points of our doctrine will end up by making a strong impression on people’s minds, which have incidentally been made ready for this by the succession of deceptions with which they have been misled. I can see this. Many of my friends are pressing me to [229] enter the ring and I cannot. I assure you that I am learning resignation, and when I need it I will have laid up a good stock.

The Harmonies have passed unnoticed here, except for about a dozen connoisseurs. I was expecting this; it could not have been otherwise. I do not even have the support of the customary zeal of our small church, which accuses me of heterodoxy; in spite of this I am confident that this book will gradually carve out a place for itself. In Germany, it was received quite differently.308 It is examined, ploughed up, worked over, and examined for what is there and what is not. Could I have asked for anything better?

Now I would ask the heavens to grant me one year to write the second volume, which has not even been started, after which I will sing the “Nunc dimittis.”

Socialism is spreading at a frightening rate, but like all contagious diseases it is weakening as it spreads, and it is even mutating. This will be the death of it. The name may survive but not the thing. Today, socialism has become synonymous with progress; anyone who wants any form of change is a socialist. If you refute Louis Blanc, Proudhon, Leroux, or Considérant, you are nonetheless a socialist if you do not demand the status quo in all circumstances. This leads to a strange situation. One day, everyone will meet wearing this label in his hatband, and since, for all that, people will not be in any closer agreement on the reforms to carry out, other names will have to be invented and war will be declared among the socialists. This is already the case and it is this that is saving France.

Farewell, my dear Félix; please tell my aunt that I am well.

Letter 159. Paris, 2 Jan. 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 159. Paris, 2 Jan. 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 53-57) [CW1, pp. 229-31].


I have been aroused from my slumbers to be handed three volumes, which you sent me without a single word of explanation; have I been so unfortunate as to displease you?

Yesterday, you gathered your family and a few friends around your table to see in the New Year. This meal should have been only a joyful and cordial feast. Alas! Politics crept into it and it is all too true that, without me, even [230] politics might not have been able to cast its somber shadow over it, as perhaps everyone would have been in agreement.

But am I guilty? Did I not keep silent for a long time and did I not treat as general comments what I might have taken as personal ones? Words that resembled provocation? What would happen to me, madam, if this reserve were not enough?

Isolated, scarcely retaining for work the remnants of a strength that is deserting me, must I also lose the sweetness of intimacy, the one delight that binds me to the world?

Between M. Cheuvreux and me, what does a difference of opinion matter, especially when this does not concern our aims or any fundamental principle, but only the means of overcoming momentary difficulties?

It is as much through respect for him as for you, madam, that I drank the chalice that these people put to my lips. And after all, are the opinions for which I am reproached in fact so extravagant?

I would like people to agree to consider me as a hermit, a philosopher, a dreamer, if you like, who does not wish to join a party but who examines them all in order to see where danger lies and whether it can be averted.

In France, I can see two major classes, each of which can be divided into two. To use hallowed although inaccurate terms, I will call them the people and the bourgeoisie.

The people consist of a host of millions of human beings who are ignorant and suffering, and consequently dangerous. As I said, they are divided into two; the vast majority are reasonably in favor of order, security, and all conservative principles, but, because of their ignorance and suffering, are the easy prey of ambitious sophists. This mass is swayed by a few sincere fools and by a larger number of agitators and revolutionaries, people who have an inborn attraction for disruption or who count on disruption to elevate themselves to fortune and power.

The bourgeoisie, it must never be forgotten, is very small in number. This class also has its ignorance and suffering, although to a different degree. It also offers dangers, but of a different nature. It too can be broken down into a large number of peaceful, undemonstrative people, partial to justice and freedom, and a small number of agitators. The bourgeoisie has governed this country, and how has it behaved? The small minority did harm and the large majority allowed them to do this, not without taking advantage of this when they could.


These are the moral and social statistics of our country.

Since I hold very little to and believe even less in various forms of politics, am I going to devote my efforts and speak out against the Republic or the monarchy? Plot to change the institutions which I consider to be of no importance? No! But when I have the opportunity to address the people, I tell them of their errors, illusions, and false aspirations, I seek to unmask the impostors who are misleading them, and I say to them: “Ask only for justice for only justice can be of some use to you.”

And when I speak to the bourgeoisie, I tell them: “It is not raging and ranting which will save you. In all encounters you must grant the people what justice demands, in order to be strong enough to refuse everything which exceeds justice.”

And this is why the Catholics tell me that I have a double-edged doctrine and why Le Journal des débats says that I have to become used to displeasing both parties. Goodness, would it not be easier for me to throw myself body and soul into one of the two camps, to espouse its hatreds and illusions, to make myself the toady either of the people or the bourgeoisie, and to affiliate myself to the evil elements of both armies?

Letter 160. Paris, Jan. 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 160. Paris, Jan. 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 57-58) [CW1, pp. 231-32].


I have just met Commander Matta,309 who claims that people will be ill tomorrow at the Hôtel Saint-Georges. I hope he is as bad a prophet as he is a brave soldier! Please be good enough to let me have the true state of affairs. You will not allow me to mention health without giving some news of mine. I am better and Charruau,310 like Sganarelle,311 declares that I must be cured. However, yesterday evening, a fatiguing coughing fit revealed the red symptom that is as terrifying in physiology as it is in politics.312 In spite of this, I would still be strong enough to take on whatever is left of your Louisette’s [232] cough if that were possible, but affection cannot do this miracle; this is one harmony that this world is lacking.

Farewell, madam,
F. Bastiat

Letter 161. Paris, Feb. 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 161. Paris, Feb. 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 58-59) [CW1, p. 232].


With some regret I am returning to you the speech delivered by M. de Boislembert to mark the unveiling of the bust of M. Girard, with the reminder that you had promised me a copy. I read it with enthusiasm and would like to reread it once a month to steep myself in it. This is a life of Plutarch proportions, in harmony with our century. How I admire a life so fine, so honorable, and so fulfilled! What a magnificent blend of all the qualities that most honor human nature: genius, talent, activity, courage, perseverance, unselfishness, greatness, and strength of character in adversity! Up to this point, however, the portrait is very impressive and reveals only pure but severe lines; we admire but do not yet love him. Shortly after this, though, we are totally won over when the author describes, perhaps with too much sobriety, the sparkling wit, gentle gaiety, and inexhaustible benevolence that M. Girard invariably brought to his home life, the most precious gifts of all from heaven, that your father has not carried with him to the tomb.

These noble figures, madam, make men appear very small and humanity very great.

Letter 162. Paris, 18 Feb. 1850. To M. Domenger


Letter 162. Paris, 18 Feb. 1850. To M. Domenger (OC7, pp. 406-7) [CW1, pp. 232-33].


The political future is still very somber. Unfortunately, much passion and artificial suspicion are mingled with genuine grievances; this is always the case in revolutions. I who see men from all parties can, as it were, measure what is false in their mutual accusations. But hatred, whether well founded or not, produces the same effects. I believe that the majority understands that the most prudent course is to retain the republic. Its mistake is not to come out with sufficient resolution on this side. What is the use of unceasingly [233] belittling and threatening that which you do not want to change? For its part, the minority is seeking to seize power again by means which will create a very heavy burden for it. It raises hopes which it will not be able to satisfy.

In the meantime I do not despair as debate clarifies a great many questions. The main thing is to gain time.

Letter 163. Paris, March 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 163. Paris, March 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 59-62) [CW1, pp. 233-34].


How can you hope to get better? Your cold is the prey of all those whom it pleases to make you speak in spite of it, and the number of these is great.

From Saturday up to yesterday morning, I have had just one coughing fit. It lasted twelve hours. I cannot understand how the fragile envelopes of breathing and thought do not burst under these violent and prolonged shocks. At least I have nothing to reproach myself for; I am meekly obeying my doctor. I have been kept in these last two days, but I will have to go to M. Say’s house this evening to join my coreligionists.313 It will be an effort. You would not believe how vividly my indisposition has brought out in me my old solitary and provincial inclinations. A peaceful room full of sunlight, a pen, a few books, a close friend,314 and warm affection; this is all I needed to live. Do I need more to die? This little was what I had in my village, and when the time comes in a great many years I will no longer find it.

I am sending Mlle Louise a few verses on women, which I liked. They are, however, by a poet who is an economist since he has been nicknamed the free trade rhymer.315 If I had the strength I would do a free translation of this piece in thirty pages of prose; this would do well in Guillaumin’s journal. Your sweet little tease (I do not forget that she possesses the art of teasing to a high degree, not only without wounding but almost caressing) does not greatly believe in poetry of production and she is perfectly right. It is what I ought to have called Social Poetry, which henceforth, I hope, will no longer take for the subject of its songs the destructive qualities of man, the exploits of war, carnage, the violation of divine laws, and the degradation of moral [234] dignity, but the good and evil in real life, the conflicts of thought, all forms of intellectual, productive, political, and religious combinations and affinities, and all the feelings that raise, improve, and glorify the human race. In this new epic, women will occupy a place worthy of them and not the one given to them in the ancient Iliad genre. Was their role really to be included in the booty?

In the initial phases of humanity, when force was the dominant social principle, the action of woman was wiped out. She had been successively beast of burden, slave, servant, and mere instrument of pleasure. When the principle of force gave way to that of public opinion and customs, she recovered her right to equality, influence, and power, and this is what the last line of the small item of verse I am sending Mlle Louise expresses very well.

You see how dangerous and indiscreet the letters of poor recluses are. Please forgive me this chatter; all I ask for in reply is reassurance as to the health of your daughter.

Letter 164. Paris, 22 March 1850. To M. Domenger


Letter 164. Paris, 22 March 1850. To M. Domenger (OC7, pp. 407-8) [CW1, pp. 234-35].


I have reason to believe that the decree that authorizes the exchange of buildings for the hospice in Mugron will reach the prefecture of the Landes on the day this letter reaches you. I have been assured that the president of the Republic has signed it, that the secretariat of the ministry of the interior has given it authority, and that the office for hospices is ready to act. The rest is up to you.

It is already two or three days since I gave the order to my publisher to send you three copies of my debate with Proudhon and three of my speeches on education, which have degenerated into a pamphlet since my cold has become a loss of voice. It is certainly not that I wish to have you swallow these lucubrations three times, but I would like you to give a copy each from me to Félix and Justine.316

The newspapers save me the trouble of having to talk politics with you. I believe that reactionary blindness is our greatest danger at the moment; we are being led straight into a catastrophe. What occasion have they selected [235] to carry out experiments of this nature? One in which the people appear to be becoming disciplined and giving up illegal means. The great party said to be in favor of order has met one hundred and thirty thousand opponents at the elections and has carried only one hundred and twenty-five thousand followers. What will be the result of the proposed laws? It will be to make forty or fifty thousand people on the right go over to the left and thus give the left greater strength and a feeling of being right and to concentrate this strength on a lesser number of newspapers, which will result in giving it greater homogeneity, continuity, and strategy. This appears to me to be pure folly. I predicted this on the day Bordeaux sent us Thiers and Molé, that is to say, enemies of the Republic. Today we are in the position we were just before 1830 and 1848: the same slope, the same wagon, and the same coachmen. But then people’s minds could understand the content of a revolution; now, who can say what will succeed the Republic?

Letter 165. Paris, 11 Apr. 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 165. Paris, 11 Apr. 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 62-64; also extract in CW7, pp. 433-34) [CW1, pp. 235-36].

Very dear Mme Cheuvreux,

Please forgive this address, which has escaped in a moment of effusion. We who suffer, like children, need indulgence, since the weaker the body, the more the spirit grows soft and it seems as though life, at its final as at its initial sunset, instills in the heart the need to seek attachments everywhere. These involuntary expressions of tenderness are the effect of all moments of decline, the end of the day, the end of the year, the basilica half-days, etc., etc. I experienced this yesterday in the shadowy alleys of the Tuileries. However, you must not become alarmed at this elegiac effusion. I am not at all Millevoie, and the leaves that have scarcely opened are not about to fall. In short, I am not worse, on the contrary, but only weaker and I can scarcely retreat in the face of an order that I take a holiday. What is in prospect is a solitude that is even more solitary; in the past I liked it, I knew how to people it with reading, work of a whimsical sort, and political dreams with interludes of cello playing. Temporarily, all these old friends have deserted me, even the faithful companion of isolation, meditation. This is not because my thought is slumbering, it has never been so active; at every instant it is grasping new harmonies317 and it seems as though the book of humanity is opening before [236] it. However, this is just one more torment since I cannot continue to transcribe the pages of this mysterious book onto a more palpable book published by Guillaumin. I am therefore chasing away these dear phantoms and, like the grumpy drum major who said, “I am handing in my resignation, let the government do what it can,” I too am resigning as an economist and let posterity get on with it if it can.

There it is, this is a lamentation to explain my tactlessness. It is said of misfortunes that they never come singly and this is truer still for actions lacking tact. How many words have I used to justify a single one which you would have pardoned without all these comments, since you would not hold it against me if, in this spate of idleness, my thoughts fly to the Hôtel Saint-Georges, where everyone is always so good to me. This dear house! It is now full of extremely serious preoccupations.318 The future of your Louise is perhaps being decided and consequently yours and that of M. Cheuvreux. The idea that so much peace, union, and happiness will be put to the test of a decisive revolution is truly frightening. But take courage, you have so many favorable opportunities!

Truly, my letters exceed by a hundred cubits those of M. B——. I beg you, madam, to accept my apologies for this. The most valid of these is that I scarcely dare to appear at your house this evening; is it not very selfish to seek distraction at a place to which you can bring only inopportune coughing fits? Of course, I do not say this about my friends; that would be ungrateful. But is society standing shoulder to shoulder with your benevolence?

Farewell, madam, I am your
devoted servant,
F. Bastiat

Mrs. Schwabe has just arrived without her children. I would like to introduce her to you.

Letter 166. Bordeaux, May 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 166. Bordeaux, May 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 65-69) [CW1, pp. 236-38].


Here I am in Bordeaux, plunged with delight in the atmosphere of southern France. Although I have left the bustle of Paris to find the peace of my family roof once more, I assure you that my thoughts throughout the journey [237] returned to the past more often than they envisaged the future. I therefore made haste to open the traveling case which I owe to the thoughtful consideration of M. Cheuvreux.

To be reduced to making my health the subject of the first chapter of my letters humiliates me somewhat but your kindness requires it. I can understand this: illnesses which involve coughs have the disadvantage of worrying our friends too greatly. They carry with them an intrusive bell, which unceasingly asks the question: which will gain the upper hand, the cold or the cold-ridden patient? Instead of tiring me, the trip made me feel better; it is true that for three days I had at my disposition an excellent remedy, silence, as it was only from Ruffec319 onward that I departed somewhat from your orders. My two companions, who took it in turn to move to the outside seat of the mail coach to savor the delights of a cigar, were curious enough to examine the travel document. It turned out that they were both keen followers of political economy, and when they resumed their seat, they made sure to let me know that they were familiar with my small works (since not even the title of the Harmonies had reached them), and so, taking advantage of the opportunity, the green grass, and probably prodded by some devil, I have clipped from this pasture (conversation) the width of my tongue.320 I had no right to do this since I had been forbidden to. But I yielded to it and my larynx did not fail to punish me. Do not scold me, madam; is silence not a regime that would suit you sometimes as much as it suits me and yet it is the last thing you do?

Let Mme Girard,321 who is now staying with you, assert her authority to sequester you; what good does it do you to remain in your room if you open its doors wide from ten o’clock in the morning? Could you not sacrifice a few moments of conversation to your health? However, you know that the sacrifice will fall on others and for this reason you do not wish to do this. As you can see, I know the old ploy, which is to scold first so as not to be scolded. After all, I can see that we all descend from our mother, Eve. Your daughter, herself, who is so reasonable, often allows herself to be caught in the trap of music. On the subject of music, it is a great mistake to think that a sound is stifled in the narrow space of a drawing room and a second; a note, or rather a cry from the heart which I heard on Saturday, has traveled [238] two hundred leagues with me. It is still vibrating in my ear, to say the very least.

Poor dear child, I think that I have guessed the thought with which she cloaked Pergolesi’s sad song; was this touching voice whose final accents seem to be lost in a tear not saying farewell to the illusions of youth, the fine dreams of an ideal happiness? Yes, it seemed as though your dear Louise felt herself carried along by circumstances to this fatal and solemn boundary, which separates the land of dreams from the world of reality. May real life bring her at least a calm and solid although slightly solemn happiness. What does she need for this? A good heart and common sense in the man who will be responsible for her destiny, that is the first condition; men whose fiery and artistic imagination casts a bright glow provide opportunities that are often dangerous, but we should not doubt that the noble aspirations of your child will find satisfaction one day.

How are you going to spend next month? Will you be staying in Paris? Will you be going to Auteuil, Saint-Germain, or London? I would more readily cast my vote for England, as it is there that you will find a pleasant blend of peace and amusement. To tell you the truth, my votes are not in good odor although their conscientious aim is to turn away the misfortunes that you fear; but let us not slide down the slope of politics. There is so much that is unforeseen in your resolutions that I am anxious to know what you will decide. I am afraid that I might learn that you are leaving for Moscow or Constantinople. Please, let me find you comfortably installed close to Paris. France is like Frenchwomen; she may have a few caprices but at the end of the day she is the most lovable, gracious, and finest woman in the world and so the most loved.

Farewell, mesdames, let these two months of absence not efface me from your memories; a further farewell to M. Cheuvreux and Mlle Louise.

Your devoted servant,
F. Bastiat

Letter 167. Mugron, 19 May 1850. To M. Paillottet


Letter 167. Mugron, 19 May 1850. To M. Paillottet (OC7, pp. 437-39) [CW1, pp. 238-40].


My dear Paillottet, thank you for the interest you take in my health and in my journey. This was completed very well and with fewer incidents than you foresaw. There was no misunderstanding between my seat and me. On the way, from Tours to Bordeaux, I met some ardent enthusiasts for political [239] economy, which gave me pleasure but which forced me to speak rather too much. At Bordeaux I could not avoid anything worse than simple conversation since reaction has reached such excesses there that you needed to be made of marble to listen coolly to such blasphemy. All this meant that my larynx arrived here rather tired and the outpourings of friendship, as delightful as they were, are not conducive to relieving it. However, taking things as a whole, I am feeling a little better; I have more physical and intellectual strength. This is certainly a long bulletin on my health; your friendship demanded it, so lay the blame on that.

Yesterday I received Le Journal des économistes at the same time as your letter and read my article322 in it. I do not know how you managed it, but I found it impossible to identify the reworkings, so well did they blend in with the original. Might I just suggest that the dominant idea of this article has not been sufficiently highlighted. In spite of this, it should attract sympathetic minds, and if I had been in Paris I would have had five hundred copies printed separately to distribute them in the Assembly. As the article was not long, I consider that La Voix du peuple ought to print it in one of its Monday editions.323 If you hear anything about this, please let me know what is being said.

Here you are, responsible for my public and private affairs. In any case, please do not devote any other than your spare moments to this. You are very eager for my poor Harmonies to acquire a reputation. You will find this difficult. Only time will succeed in this, if they are worth time taking any trouble over them. I have obtained all that I could reasonably want, that is to say, that a few young men of goodwill study the book. This is enough for it not to fall down if it deserves to remain standing. M. de Fontenay will have done a great deal for me if he succeeds in obtaining the insertion of an account of it in La Revue des deux mondes.324 He will do even more in the future through the developments he will be able to make from the principal idea. There is an entire continent to clear. I am just a pioneer, starting out with instruments that are very imperfect. Improved cultivation will come later and I could not encourage de Fontenay too strongly to prepare himself for this. In the meantime, try to gain M. Buloz’s favor through our friend Michel Chevalier.


I have probably forgotten a great many things, but they will return, because you will, I hope, be willing to write to me as often as possible. As for me, I will continue to provide you with my writing to decipher.

Letter 168. Mugron, 20 May 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 168. Mugron, 20 May 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 69-73) [CW1, pp. 240-41].


How I thank you, madam, for thinking of the exile in the Landes in the middle of all your occupations; I would scarcely dare to ask you to continue this charitable work if I did not know how persevering in your goodness you are. Please be certain that there is no cordial nor chest remedy that can equal a few lines from Paris, and my health is more dependent on the postman than the pharmacist. It is true that the pen is a heavy and tiring machine; do not send me long letters but just a few words as often as possible, so that I know what is being done, thought, felt, and resolved at the Hôtel Saint-Georges.

Here, for example, is a change of situation that I cannot say is completely unexpected. A short note from M. Cheuvreux made me think it was coming. Poor M. D—— has been dismissed; I am sure that the heart of your Louise is greatly relieved and that is already a good thing. If my wishes were granted, she would go through life without all these trials.

After I wrote to you from Bordeaux, I made some visits. Fortunately several of my friends were absent, as I would not have been able to avoid talking and shouting a great deal. The ones I saw are in such a state of exaltation that calm conversation with them is not possible. These unfortunate people are convinced that for the last two years no one has dared open the shops in Paris. Having taken this idea to heart, they want to escape a situation like this at any cost and, to do this, they do not recoil even from the idea of a civil or foreign war. My département has seemed to be more moderate; our prefect325 has devoted himself unceasingly to moderating public opinion and he was therefore discharged from office on the day I passed through Mont-de-Marsan. We are being sent one who will be better able to arouse the people.

I arrived on Friday. When I saw the church spire of my village I was surprised not to experience the vivid emotions that the sight of it never failed [241] to arouse in me in the past. Are we like plants, and do the strings of the heart become woody with age, or else do I now have two fatherlands? I remember that Mlle Louise predicted that country life would have lost a great deal of its charms for me.

In a family council made up of my aunt, her chambermaid, and me (and I might say, epitomized by her chambermaid), it was decided that Mugron was as good as Les Eaux-Bonnes and that, in any case, it was not yet warm enough for the Pyrenees. I am therefore staying in the Landes until further instructions. This being decided, our native of the Basque country began to unpack my trunk; we soon saw her return to the drawing room totally upset and crying out, “Madamoiselle, M. Bastiat’s linen is completely perrec, perrec, perrec!” I am sorry that de Labadie is no longer with you to explain the strength of the word perrec, which combines the three notions of shreds, rags, and tatters. What profound scorn must the poor girl feel for Paris and its laundrywomen! It is enough to make one resign as a representative!

On Saturday I went to see the rest of my family in the country and came back tired. The coughing fits have come back so strongly that breathing could not cope; I thought of the description of whale fishing that your cousin gave you. “Everything is fine,” he said, “when you can give a little line to the wounded animal.” Coughing is equally not much of a problem as long as the lungs can give it a little line, after which the situation becomes uncomfortable.

Truly, madam, these details prove to you that I am yielding to the affection I feel for you and that I am counting on yours, as long as this does not, I beg you, go beyond what we call the trio.

The post has brought me a letter; how can I express my gratitude to you! Did you guess my wishes then? My aunt and I have started to have arguments about the north and the south; she praises the superiority of the south, doubtless in order to keep me here, while I claim that everything of any good comes from the north, even the sun (we are receiving light from the north today). It is sending me your good wishes, giving me some reassuring news about Mlle Louise and a few details on these pleasant scenes in the home which I have often witnessed and which I appreciate so much.

Letter 169. Mugron, 23 May 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 169. Mugron, 23 May 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 73-76) [CW1, pp. 242-43].


Dear Mme Cheuvreux, my last letter had scarcely reached the other end of the long line that separates us, when along comes a second, ready to start out on the same road. Is there no indiscretion or unseemliness in this haste? I do not know, since I am not yet well versed in worldly manners, but please be indulgent; even more, please allow me to write to you as the whim takes me, without much regard for the dates and under the sway of impulse, the law that governs weak natures. If you knew how empty and dreary Mugron is, you would forgive me for always directing my gaze toward Paris. My poor aunt, who is more or less all my company, has aged a great deal and is losing her memory. All she has become is a heart; it seems as though her faculties of affection gain what the other faculties lose and I love her more than ever for this, but in her actual presence I cannot prevent my imagination from wandering; am I not ill, after all?

What good are illnesses if they do not give us the privilege of having our fantasies tolerated? This being so, it is agreed, I will attribute my indiscretion to my alleged sufferings; this is a trick that will always take in a woman’s heart, but this must not lead me to deceive you and present myself in the light of a dying man. This is my health report: my cough is less frequent and strength is returning. I can climb the stairs without becoming out of breath; I have found my voice again, which can hum a complete octave. The only thing that inconveniences me is a small pain in the larynx, but I do not think it will last four days. Lastly, although I am not yet ready to offer up my visage to the daunting and exacting gaze of Mlle Louise, I think I am looking better.

Here I am, at peace with my conscience and having obeyed your orders. With regard to Mlle Louise and the face in question, this dear child is always destined to be prey to a painful doubt for a young girl: not to know, in spite of her exquisite tact, if she is being sought for her own merits. This is one of the disadvantages of wealth, but what should reassure her is that if anyone were initially attracted by this wealth, very shortly she would be appreciated for herself. I have told you that goodness of the heart could replace all the other qualities, but I was mistaken; there is something that perhaps is worth even more and that is a sense of duty, a natural disposition to conform to the rule, which is something that goodness of heart does not always imply.

Whatever the number and merit of your friends, please keep me a place [243] in your affections; for my part, I can say this to you, to the extent that time and death are breaking the links around me, to the extent that I am losing the ability to take refuge in politics or study, your benevolence and that of your family are becoming increasingly necessary to me. This is the last light that shines on my life and this is doubtless why it is also the gentlest, purest, and most penetrating. After it will come the night, and let this at least be the night of the tomb.

Letter 170. Mugron, 27 May 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 170. Mugron, 27 May 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 76-80) [CW1, pp. 243-45].


I was confused about the calendar and now my exile has set things right; it is the 27th.

My holiday326 dates from the 12th, which means that a quarter of the two months has passed. After three times as long as this I will see Paris again.

I have done another calculation, madam, which is less attractive; your last letter was date-stamped the 17th. It is ten days since you wrote it and eight since I received it, eight days! This is nothing for you who spend them surrounded by your family or walking along the banks of the Seine or the Marne, chatting almost always delightfully with your daughter and husband! If at least I could be sure that no cold is stopping you from writing!

Yesterday, a telegraphed dispatch arrived announcing the vote on article 1;327 I thought that the telegraph might be better employed at least as far as I am concerned.

You have so many friends who, while recommending you to rest, pursue you from morning to night; how anxious I am to learn that you have put a few kilometers between their assiduity and your graciousness!

I have to admit, madam, that La Fontaine was right and that a good number of men are women when it comes to chattering; when I was coming to seek my health here I had not thought that I would find it totally impossible to avoid long conversations. The people of Mugron have nothing to do and so they do not take account of time, except for the times of lunch or dinner. They also resemble Pope a little; they are so many question marks. I [244] leave you to think of how many words you have to deliver. Through a clever maneuver, I lead them into the village gossips or on their pet subjects, their eccentric preoccupations. This gives me a small respite, but all in all, frankly I talk too much, and this has cost me a crisis, which fortunately had no aftermath. I am much better now and ready to leave for Les Eaux-Bonnes, when the sun is pleased to play its part, but it is lazy; we can see mountains covered with snow from here, which will not be habitable much before the month of June.

When I look at Mugron with what are now city dweller’s eyes, I believe I would be ashamed to show it to you; I would blush for it with its smoke-filled houses, its single, deserted road, its patriarchal furniture and neglected civil administration. Its only charm lies in a rustic naiveté, poverty that does not seek to hide itself, a nature that is always silent and peaceful, a total absence of rowdiness, all things that are appreciated and understood only through habit. Nevertheless, if in this uniform existence you place two objects of affection, I maintain that it becomes general happiness, just as when these objects of affection are absent it becomes general boredom and nothingness.328 There I found again the affection of Félix. It is impossible to say with what joy we started our interrupted conversations again and what pleasure is to be found in the communion of two spirits in harmony, two parallel minds born on the same day, cast in the same mold, fed on the same milk, and having the same opinion on all things, be they religion, philosophy, politics, or social economics. Everything is examined without our succeeding in finding on any subject the slightest difference of opinion between us. This identity of understanding is a great guarantee of certainty, especially since, only ever having just a few books, these are our own opinions which are in contact and not the opinion of a common master. However, in spite of the pleasantness of this company, there is an emptiness here; Félix and I are companions mainly through our minds, and something is lacking in feeling. Here I am, being totally egotistical. I am ashamed of myself, and as a punishment I will take leave of you until tomorrow.

28th. The mail has arrived empty-handed, for what is this pile of letters and journals? However, I recognize Paillottet’s writing; what has he got to say to me? He does not know you and will not have met M. Cheuvreux. I now regret not having dared to introduce him to you as I had the presentiment [245] that he would be punctual and that he would be good for me. Oh! I do hope that nothing dreadful has happened at the Hôtel Saint-Georges.

Farewell, mesdames, I feel that I am beginning to write in f minor. I had better stop while assuring you of my respectful and devoted attachment.

Letter 171. Mugron, 2 June 1850. To M. Paillottet


Letter 171. Mugron, 2 June 1850. To M. Paillottet (OC7, p. 439) [CW1, p. 245].


. . . My cousin left for Paris yesterday.329 He will arrive at just about the same time as this letter and will hand you more than half of the article I am writing to complete the pamphlet.330 However, the article has taken on such dimensions that we can no longer use it for this purpose. There will be nearly fifty pages of my writing, that is to say, enough to make a new pamphlet if it so merits. This is a trial. You know that I have always had the desire to know what would happen if I refrained from rewriting. This has been written almost by improvisation. For this reason I am afraid that it will lack the detail required for a pamphlet. In a few days’ time I will send you the rest. When you have the entire article, you will be able to decide.

Letter 172. Mugron, 3 June 1850. To Horace Say


Letter 172. Mugron, 3 June 1850. To Horace Say (OC7, pp. 384-85) [CW1, pp. 245-46].

My dear Friend,

Why have you confined the excellent letter you sent to the latest issue of Le Journal des économistes within such narrow limits? With regard to the events and causes, it is full of wisdom and reveals a level of business experience which we are often reproached for lacking, with some justification. Articles like this always satisfy readers and put forward principles without mentioning them. You ought to develop the thought that you indicate only at the end of your letter. Yes, because of the sluggishness of financial markets, the prices of cereals are lower than they ought to be, and it is inevitable that they will soon exceed the normal level. This is the general law of supply and demand. Busier trading would have brought the two extremes closer [246] to the average. What is more, it would have lowered the average itself as it would have prevented waste and reckless exports. A work by you on this subject would be very useful from both the practical and the scientific points of view. From the latter aspect, it would dissipate the disastrous prejudices against middlemen and the cornering of goods. Please undertake this work.

Although I take little interest in politics, I have been able to convince myself, and painfully, that our great statesmen have succeeded only too well in the first part of their campaign plan, which is to spread disquiet in order to exploit it. Everywhere I have been I have seen a truly morbid terror reign. It seems that we are threatened with an agrarian law.331 People think Paris is sitting on a volcano. They go so far as to talk about an imminent conflict or foreign invasion, not for perverse reasons but out of fear of the worst. The Republic, republicans, and even those who merely submit are cursed and the lower classes are insulted by a flood of outrageous epithets. In short, I believe that everything is being thrown to the wind, even caution. Please God that this paroxysm passes quickly! Where will it lead?

Letter 173. Mugron, 11 June 1850. To Mlle Louise Cheuvreux


Letter 173. Mugron, 11 June 1850. To Mlle Louise Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 80-84; also extract in CW7, p. 434) [CW1, pp. 246-48].

Dear Demoiselle,

It was my resolution, firmly taken, to let a full week go by before I wrote to you, for one may well count on the benevolence of friendship, but it should not be abused. However, I think that my haste may be excused, for you tell me that your mother is unwell and I am at the end of the world; I cannot send my rustic maid from the Franche-Comté to the Hôtel Saint-Georges to ask for news.

Here you are at last, finally settled in Fontainebleau, far from any noise. We must hope that a week of retirement and silence will restore all those with damaged health; it was yesterday that I learned of your departure from M. Say. This news had a strange effect on me at first; it was as though a hundred leagues more had come to separate us. This is because, since I have never been to Fontainebleau, my imagination was turned upside down.

I cannot thank you enough, dear demoiselle, for your most affectionate [247] words; you have sent me words that are so sweet that they resemble recollections of harmonies or perfumes which the senses sometimes suddenly remember, mingled with a few childhood memories.

But I sense from your letter that you have not yet recovered your gaiety; let us see if I am mistaken. You have such noble self-control that, when it is necessary, you overcome your emotions, but you lack the carefree spirit that makes people forget them. Your nature will always arouse sympathy and admiration, but it will find it hard in this world to come upon the calm which gives rise to long-lasting gaiety. What do you think of my efforts in psychology? Whether or not they are accurate, I will give them to you; please do not try to change yourself, you will gain nothing from this.

I am leaving tomorrow for Les Eaux-Bonnes; this is just another excuse for this letter. The name Eaux-Bonnes reminds me of the dreadful risk I am running; who knows whether I will not leave it just at the time you arrive? Who knows whether your post chaise will not pass the enormous vehicle which will carry me to Paris in the other direction? You must allow that it would be a big disappointment for me.

Oh, come to the Pyrenees! Come right now to breathe this pure and always fragrant air. Come and enjoy this peaceful corner of nature, such an impressive place. There you will forget the troubles of this winter and politics. There you will avoid the heat of the summer. Every day you will vary your walks and excursions; you will gaze on new marvels and combine strength, health, and moral adaptability with physical exercise. You will have the joy of seeing your father lose sight of all his uncertainties which are now an inseparable part of life in Paris. Take the decision, then. I will take you to Biarritz and Saint-Sebastian in the Basque country; compare the journeys; is this not better than Belgium and Holland?

One writer has said that there are just two types of people in the world, “those that drink beer and those that drink wine.” If you want to know how you earn money, go and see the people who drink beer; if you prefer to see how they laugh, sing, and dance, come and visit the people who drink wine.

I had adopted a few illusions about the effect of the air of my native region; although I am coughing less frequently, I have a slight fever every evening. However, fever and Les Eaux-Bonnes have never been compatible.

I would also like to be cured of a bout of low spirits which I cannot explain. Where has it come from? Is it the result of the doleful changes that Mugron has undergone in the last few years? Is it because ideas fly from me [248] without my having the strength to write them down on paper, to the great detriment of posterity? Is it because . . . is it because? But if I knew, this sadness would have a cause and it does not . . . I will stop there, before starting the boring jeremiads of splenetic dispositions, misunderstood souls or blasé ones, geniuses without recognition or those seeking soul mates, a cursed race that I detest. I prefer that people simply tell me, like Bazile:332 It is your fever, buona sera.

Farewell; tell your father and mother how much I appreciate their remembering me. Farewell; when will I see you all again? Farewell; I repeat this word which is never neutral, since it is the most painful or the most pleasant that can ever cross our lips.

Please be assured, dear demoiselle, of the tender attachment of your devoted servant,

F. Bastiat

Letter 174. Eaux-Bonnes, 15 June 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 174. Eaux-Bonnes, 15 June 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 85-89) [CW1, pp. 248-50].

My dear Mme Cheuvreux,

Having arrived yesterday evening in Les Eaux-Bonnes, I went this morning to the post office. Reason told me there would be nothing there, but I had the feeling there would be something; in fact, reason was wrong as often happens, in spite of its name.

Thus, thanks to your goodness, I feel a fundamental joy that had deserted me, and our delightful valley will lose nothing by my looking upon it in this light.

On Thursday I went to Pau at around seven o’clock. I was in the rue du Collège where I think I have identified the house where you lived. How joyful and impressive this view of Pau is; light clouds hid the mountain and you could enjoy the foreground only: the Gave, Gélos, Bizanos,333 and the slopes and villas of Jurançon.


If the star under which I was born had created me a poet instead of making me a cold economist, I would send you verses, as there was in me a little of Lamartine; have not you and your Louise distributed a great many smiles over this landscape and does it not appear to have kept the memory of these? But poetry enjoys a degree of license forbidden to prose.

In Les Eaux-Bonnes, I have taken a room at the junction of three roads, which is well ventilated and full of sunlight and with an admirable view. The first night, I slept for twelve hours to the murmur of the Valentin.334 When I arose I already felt in a better mood when I received the wonderful surprise of your letter. I took it with me on my morning walk and now I feel better in both mind and body than I have felt for a long time. This should be a warning to my friends; you should never take too much notice of the lamentations of a man under stress.

Mesdames, you scold me for having been unfaithful to my beloved Harmonies, but have they not set me a bad example? What evidence have they given me of their affection? For the last six months the only word they have addressed to me has been through the good offices of M. Paillottet; seriously, I can see that this book, if ever it is to be useful, will have its use only in the far distant future, and perhaps even this assessment is just a refuge for my amour propre. As the opportunity has arisen to write a small pamphlet335 that is more topical, I have taken it and have a second in my head: I would like to paint the moral state of the French nation as I see it; analyze and dissect the highly varied elements which make up our two major political movements, socialism and reaction; distinguish what is justifiable and reasonable in them from what is false, exaggerated, selfish, and reckless; and end it with a solution or view of what should be done or rather undone.

The elections will not take place until 1854; let us not look so far into the future. I know in what state of mind the electors nominated me and I have never strayed from this path. They have changed and that is their right. However, I am persuaded that they have been wrong to change. It had been agreed that the republican form of government, a form that I could personally live without if necessary, would be tried honestly, and perhaps this would not have stood up to the test, however sincere. In this case it would naturally have fallen under the weight of public opinion: instead [250] of this, people are trying to overthrow it by means of plots, lies, injustice, organized and calculated terror, and discredit. They are preventing it from working and imputing to it things for which it is not responsible, and in doing this they are acting contrary to agreements without having anything to replace it.

Would it not be singular if, after so many projects and hesitations, you quite simply returned to La Jonchère? This countryside has been somewhat denigrated; ask the gardener for her opinion. When all is said and done, you have spent a good summer there. I will go to see you as often as possible as M. Piscatore wishes to let me have Le Butard again.

Your next letter will tell me what has been decided. Do you know that, from this point of view, your letters are fearful? The previous one never lets me guess what the following will say; four days in Fontainebleau are all well and good, but I am afraid that you will end up writing to me from Rome or Spa.

Mlle Louise will have returned in time to enjoy the young cousins from whom she is unfortunately growing apart; why therefore does she not want to make sure of a closer, more direct, and permanent happiness in this connection? She must sometimes ask herself this simple question: what would my father and mother do if they did not have me?

In bidding you farewell, it is with great joy that I think this is not a farewell from a far distance or a farewell for several months; I will be in Paris when the holiday is over.

Your respectful and devoted friend,
F. Bastiat

Letter 175. Eaux-Bonnes, 23 June 1850. To M. Paillottet


Letter 175. Eaux-Bonnes, 23 June 1850. To M. Paillottet (OC7, p. 440) [CW1, pp. 250-51].


. . . Here I am at the so-called source of health. I am doing things conscientiously, which means that I am doing very little work. As I am not inclined to start further work on the Harmonies, I am finishing the pamphlet What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen and will probably be able to send it to you in a few days’ time.

Thank you for the article you had printed in L’Ordre. It has just been reprinted in the newspapers in my département. This is probably all that will ever be known about my book.


Another report has appeared in Le Journal des économistes.336 I cannot understand how M. Clément has thought it apposite to criticize my future chapter on population. What has been printed offers enough to work on without dealing in advance with what has not yet appeared. It is true that I have announced that I will be trying to prove the following thesis: The density of the population is equivalent to an increasing production capacity. M. Clément will have to agree with this or deny the virtues of trade and the sharing of work.

The criticism he has made of the chapter on landed property makes me think that it might be useful to reprint as a pamphlet the four or five articles which have appeared in the Débats337 entitled “Property and Plunder.” Besides, this would be another weapon in the armory of our manifesto, which those who do not have the patience to read the Harmonies will need.

Please remember me to MM Quijano and de Fontenay.

Letter 176. Eaux-Bonnes, 23 June 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 176. Eaux-Bonnes, 23 June 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 89-91) [CW1, pp. 251-52].


You have just joined forces with Mlle Louise, madam, to make me endure absence. In the midst of the problems of setting up home, you have found the time to write to me and, what is more, you give me the presentiment that those who are absent will not lose out to your leisure activities at La Jonchère. Oh, how good women’s hearts are! I know full well that I owe a great deal to my sickly health; do you remember that I once said that the moments I remembered with the greatest pleasure were those of suffering, because of the touching care it brought me from my good aunt. Truly, mesdames, you are such as could make one want to be ill, but I must not play the hypocrite here and, even if it delays your next letter by twenty-four hours, I really must admit that I am better. I take the waters cautiously, although without the assistance of a doctor, for what is their use? Spa doctors are like confessors; they always have the same remedy.


However, do not take advantage of my confession, and if you do not write to me on account of my health, write to me to tell me about your family.

There you are at La Jonchère. Since you are boasting of being properly countrified, try to get up earlier in the morning and gain a few extra minutes each day. Go for many walks, read a little, the newspapers as little as possible, and do not attract to yourselves more than a small number of friends at a time. This is the result of my consultation; it snaps its fingers at M. Chaumel’s as he has lost my confidence.

Les Eaux-Bonnes is beginning to be very crowded; my dinner table is, however, not as well composed as on my last journey. It may be that the effort to avoid politics cools the conversation. Today, two people arrived from Le Havre who quizzed me on the chapter about my solution to the social problem.338 I took advantage of the opportunity to put abroad some detailed publicity, reciting almost an entire pamphlet, which I wrote in Mugron. It was very strange! Everyone kept saying: “That’s right! That’s right!” until I spoke of applications; there, I was on my own. It is to be deplored that the classes who make the laws are unwilling to be just whatever that might cost, since, if this were so, each person would want to make the law, whether he be a manufacturer, farmer, shipowner, family man, taxpayer, artist, or worker. In the event, each person is a socialist as far as he himself is concerned and claims a share in the injustice, after which people are quite willing to grant others state charity, and this is a second form of injustice. As long as the state is regarded in this way as a source of favors, our history will be seen as having only two phases, the periods of conflict as to who will take control of the state and the periods of truce, which will be the transitory reign of a triumphant oppression, the harbinger of a fresh conflict. But may God forgive me, I am thinking myself still at the dinner table; I will go to bed, as it is better to put down the pen than use it too much.

Letter 177. Eaux-Bonnes, 24 June 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 177. Eaux-Bonnes, 24 June 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 92-94) [CW1, pp. 253-54].


You have seen the Pyrenees in Paris; I for my part am finding Paris in the Pyrenees. There are only beautiful women, fine outfits, countesses, and marquises; this morning some children chased one of their comrades away because he had come dressed in twill: you are not smart enough! These were the expressions used. His father, a doctor, was mortified by this.

Recently, I have been to the village of Aas; you know, you have to go down into the valley and up on the other side. I visited the cemetery; it is full of monuments: young men and women who came to Les Eaux-Bonnes to seek an end to their suffering and succeeded far beyond their hopes. Should we envy their fate? Oh, no. Not yet. I met two women and came back with them. The daughter was weak, slim, thoughtful, and fearful of the ride she was taking on horseback; her mother was in good health and indefatigable. Add to this the purest of language, the most distinguished manners, and you will understand that this necessarily reminded me of an outing at La Jonchère.

Yesterday, Sunday, we had a few joys, but alas, all the local color is leaving; the mountain folk were making their rounds to the sound of violins and Spaniards danced the fandango in smocks: tambourines, castanets, striped jackets, and mantillas, what will become of you? Violins are invading everywhere, and as for smocks, there are no more Pyrenees.339 Oh, the smock will become the symbol of the next century! But after all, is not what appears to us to be a profanation in fact progress? It is funny that we, civilized people, so proud of our arts and outfits, should want people elsewhere to preserve knickerbockers and the Provençal flute forever and ever, to entertain the tourists.

Did I read correctly, mesdames? You tell me that I must not return to Paris until I am cured, that I must spend the winter in Mugron! You must find my absence very pleasant then!

Ah, there is no point in your saying this. I take your words as evidence of interest since I am the most obliging interpreter in the world. I am therefore hoping to return to Paris on 20 July, unless the Chamber is prorogued; this will be an extension of a week to my holiday. It would be amusing if the [254] Assembly inflicted a penalty on me for having returned too late while you scolded me for returning too soon.

I am anxious to receive a letter from La Jonchère to know whether M. Cheuvreux has decided to take a little rest or if you were pursuing your projects alone? Solitude for three! That is a universe; and is not Croissy close at hand, and the Renouard and Say families and Mme Freppa? In all conscience, I cannot pity you your fate!

Goodness, how I am overusing M. Cheuvreux’s fine writing desk; it has solved the problem of pens for me and I have never written such incommensurate letters!

Please persuade Mlle Louise to pardon me and please call what others might call indiscretion, friendship.

Farewell, your devoted servant,
F. Bastiat

Letter 178. Eaux-Bonnes, 28 June 1850. To M. Paillottet


Letter 178. Eaux-Bonnes, 28 June 1850. To M. Paillottet (OC7, p. 441) [CW1, pp. 254-55].


. . . Here is the first part of the pamphlet entitled The Law.340 I have added nothing to it. I suppose that the other part is on the way. This is very serious for a pamphlet. However, the experience has taught me that what you count on the least is sometimes the most successful and that the mind is harmful to the idea.

I wanted to send you What Is Seen341 but I do not think it is very successful. I ought to have adopted a lighter tone instead of resorting to a serious tone and, what is worse, a geometric form.342

I will be delighted to receive Michel Chevalier’s work.343 While he does me the honor of borrowing a few points of view, he provides me with a great [255] many facts and examples; this is free trade. Our manifesto is in sore need of his pen.

Letter 179. Eaux-Bonnes, 2 July 1850. To M. Paillottet


Letter 179. Eaux-Bonnes, 2 July 1850. To M. Paillottet (OC7, pp. 441-42) [CW1, p. 255].


. . . Your comment on The Law is accurate. I have not proved that the selfishness that distorts the law is unintelligent. However, there is now no time to do this. Besides, this proof is shown by all of the preceding pamphlets and will be shown even better by those that follow. People will see that the severe hand of providential justice will sooner or later weigh cruelly on these demonstrations of selfishness. I very much fear that the middle classes of our time will pay the penalty. This is a lesson that has not spared kings, priests, the various forms of aristocracy, the Romans, members of the National Convention, or Napoléon.

I would write to M. de Fontenay to thank him for his kind letter if he had not told me he was leaving for the country. This colleague is made of stern stuff. What is more, the young people of our time have a flexible style which they will use to surpass us. This is how the world goes and should go. I am happy that this is so. What good would it do for an author to make a discovery if others did not come along to fertilize it, correct it if necessary, and above all spread it widely?

I intend to leave here on the 8th and to arrive in Paris around the 20th. I will subject my health to your ruling.

Letter 180. Eaux-Bonnes, 3 July 1850. To M. de Fontenay


Letter 180. Eaux-Bonnes, 3 July 1850. To M. de Fontenay (OC1, pp. 204-5) [CW1, pp. 255-56].


. . . Perhaps you are too ardently in favor of the Harmonies in the face of opposition from Le Journal des économistes. Middle-aged men do not easily abandon well-entrenched and long-held ideas. For this reason, it is not to them but to the younger generation that I have addressed and submitted my book. People will end up acknowledging that value can never lie in materials and the forces of nature. From this can be drawn the absolutely free characteristic of gifts from God in all their forms and in all human transactions.


This leads to the mutual nature of services and the absence of any reason for men to be jealous of and hate each other. This theory should bring all the schools together on a common ground. Since I live with this conviction, I am waiting patiently, since the older I become the clearer I perceive the slowness of human evolution.

However, I do not conceal a personal wish. Yes, I would like this theory to attract enough followers in my lifetime (even if only two or three) for me to be assured before dying that it will not be abandoned if it is true. Let my book generate just one other and I will be satisfied. This is why I cannot encourage you too strongly to concentrate your thinking on capital, which is a huge subject and may well be the cornerstone of political economy. I have no more than touched upon it; you will go further than I and will correct me if need be. Do not fear that I will take offence. The economic horizons are unlimited: to see new ones makes me happy, whether it was I that discovered them or someone else that is showing them to me.

. . . Yes, you are right. There is a complete avenue of science to be explored with regard to the dread word consumption; this is what I will be establishing at the start of my second volume. As for population, it is incomprehensible that M. Clément can attack me on a subject that I have not yet tackled! And basically, to deny the axiom that the density of the population is an advantage for production is to deny all the power of trade and the division of labor.345 What is more, it is to deny facts that are blindingly obvious. Doubtless, populations naturally organize themselves so as to produce as much as possible, and to do this they divide or merge as circumstances require; they obey a double tendency to spread out and to concentrate, but the more they increase, ceteris paribus, that is to say, all virtues, forward planning, and dignity being equal, the more the services divide and are mutually rendered and the more each person is rewarded for the least of his particular qualities, etc. . . .

Letter 181. Eaux-Bonnes, 4 July 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 181. Eaux-Bonnes, 4 July 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 95-100) [CW1, pp. 257-59].


At last I have a letter from La Jonchère, my dear madam, and I am now certain that you are somewhere definite. What is more, you tell me that your first few days in the country have been happy, that you are taking long walks in the woods, and that you are having some lovely visits, since today the Say family have come to call.

Just as I have your first letter from La Jonchère, this is, I think, my last from Les Eaux-Bonnes. I will be leaving on the 8th, unless in the meantime I learn that the Assembly is going on holiday. However, if there is any doubt, I will have to leave. It is not that I have been fundamentally cured; while my health has improved, my larynx stubbornly continues to suffer.

It is clear that in Les Eaux-Bonnes this year, ridicule of the gentlefolk has risen to such a height that it is ruining everything. People adopt accents, figures, and manners worthy of Molière’s pen; the only person who continues to be unaffected here is Mme de Latour-Maubourg. If she is giving a lesson to the précieuses around her, this lesson has gone unnoticed. Of course, I do not frequent these circles overly much, since I have noticed that they welcome only those people who give them the opportunity of saying, “I was with M. de ——, we were on a walk with the Count of ——, etc.” My company is made up of a very ill lieutenant, a young Spaniard who is at death’s door, and a Parisian aged twenty-three, as ill as the two others.

I am surprised that this time of exile, whose end I have desired so ardently, has seemed so short: “Everything that has to end passes quickly.” This saying is as true as it is sad. In fact, the provincial habits I rediscovered have had a certain charm. Independence, free time, work, and leisure at will, reading at odd times, thoughts that wander on impulse, solitary walks, scenery that is admirable, peace and quiet, this is what you can find in our mountains, and the power of a piece of music in b, a single piece in b, would make it a paradise. What else would you need, other than a drop of the ambrosia that perfumes all the details of life that is called friendship?

You have seen the success and ovations given to MM Scribe and Halévy in the newspapers. This will have pleased you and doubtless made you regret that you were not there to witness it. Mlle Louise had the feeling that pleasant amusements were awaiting her in London. We should congratulate ourselves on everything that brings peoples together and unites them: in this respect your friends’ attempt will bear good fruit. It will increasingly [258] encourage our neighbors to study French. Reciprocity would be very useful, for we have a lot to learn from the other side of the Channel. I was happy to see that Richard Cobden, in difficult circumstances which must have been a cruel test for him, neither slipped nor stumbled.346 He has remained true to himself, but these are things that our newspapers do not notice.

Have you read the article by M. de Broglie on Chateaubriand in La Revue des deux mondes? I was not displeased to see this chastisement inflicted on vanity that is inflated to a childish level. With such exclusive selfishness of heart one can be a great writer, but do you believe one can be a great man? For my part, I detest these blind and proud men who spend their lives striking postures and attitudes, who put humanity on one side of the scales with themselves on the other and believe they win the day. I regret that M. de Broglie did not seek to appreciate the value of Chateaubriand’s philosophy; he would have found that it was very slight. From the eleventh volume of his memoirs, I copied out this paradox, “The perception of good and evil is obscured in proportion to the enlightenment of the mind; the conscience shrivels in proportion to the expansion of ideas.”

If this is so, the human race is condemned to fatal and irremediable degradation; the man who has written these lines is a soul condemned.

5 July

Here is another letter from La Jonchère, but one that does not confirm its predecessor. In the meantime, I have had news from M. Say and I thought that you were all in good health. I see that sleep is eluding you, that Mlle Louise is fatigued by the heat, and that M. Cheuvreux himself is unwell! What a well-organized trio! What upsets me considerably is that I will have no news of you from now until 20 July, unless you are good enough to write to me once more, if only a note to Mugron. I am definitely leaving Les Eaux-Bonnes repeating the chorus of our ballad:

  • Aigues caoutes, aigues rèdes,
  • Lou mein maou n’es pot guari.347

“Hot water, cold water, nothing can cure my ill.” It is true that the good cavalier was doubtless speaking of some strange wound on which all the springs [259] of the Pyrenees had no effect. I was better placed to count on them for my larynx; it resisted them; what should I do?

I will probably have some strong battles to confront at Mugron to get any holiday there as well. But I will resist these assaults as I cannot allow myself not to be present at the Assembly.

Do you wish to visit Les Cormiers?348 It is a place that is very peaceful, cool, and solitary. If I spend two months there, I will perhaps reach the stage of starting out in the world of the Harmonies. I have not done anything about them here; my publisher is pressing me and I tell him that the coolness of the public is cooling my ardor. In this respect, I am committing the sin of lying. Authors do not lose courage over so little. In these types of mis-adventures, the angel or demon of pride calls out to them, “It is the public which is mistaken, it is too scatterbrained to read you or too backward to understand you.” “That is all very well,” I say to my angel, “but in this case I can dispense with working for it.” “It will appreciate you in a century and that is enough for fame,” replies the stubborn tempter.349

Fame! Heaven is my witness that I did not aspire to it and if one of its stray rays, ever so weak, should fall on this book, I would be delighted for the advancement of the cause and also a little for the satisfaction of my friends; let them love me without this and I will not give it another thought.

Your devoted servant,
F. Bastiat

Letter 182. Eaux-Bonnes, 4 July 1850. To Horace Say


Letter 182. Eaux-Bonnes, 4 July 1850. To Horace Say (OC1, pp. 200-1) [CW1, pp. 259-60].

My dear Friend,

. . . I have read the article by M. Clément on the Harmonies. If I thought a controversy useful, I would accept it, but who would read it? M. Clément appears to think that it is a lack of respect for our masters to go deeper into problems that they have scarcely touched on, because at the time they were writing these problems had not been raised. According to him, they have [260] said everything, seen everything, and have left us nothing to do. This is not my opinion and it was certainly not theirs. Between the first and last pages of your father there is too significant a degree of progress for him not to have seen for himself that he had not reached the horizon and that no one would ever reach it. For me, even if the Harmonies were ever completed to my satisfaction (which they will not be), I would still see them only as a point from which our successors will draw a whole new world. How can we make progress when we are obliged to devote three-quarters of our time to elucidating the simplest questions for a misguided public?

. . . If you write the article on insurance for Guillaumin’s Dictionary,350 please make it clear that it is not only the companies that join together in association but also and above all those who are insured. It is they that form, without suspecting this, an association which is no less real for being voluntary and something one enters and leaves at will.

Letter 183. Mugron, July 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 183. Mugron, July 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux (OC7, pp. 435-36) [CW1, p. 260].


. . . You had just lost a childhood friend. In these circumstances, your first feeling is one of regret. You then cast a worried look around you and end up looking introspectively into yourself. The mind asks questions of the great unknown, and, as it receives no reply, it becomes terrified. This is because there is a mystery that is not accessible to the mind, but only to the heart. Can you doubt on a tomb? . . .

Letter 184. Mugron, 14 July 1850. To M. Cheuvreux


Letter 184. Mugron, 14 July 1850. To M. Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 100-103; also extract in CW7, pp. 435-36) [CW1, pp. 260-62].


Your kind letter, my dear M. Cheuvreux, has just been handed to me. A few hours later and it would have had to retrace its journey to Paris in the same mail coach as the person to which it was addressed, since I am preparing [261] to leave tomorrow. I am doubtless making a mistake; this must be so since everyone says so and I have already endured countless verbal and epistolary assaults. I do not claim to be right in the face of everyone, although Mme Cheuvreux is calling me a sophist in advance. The truth is that I could scarcely excuse myself from putting in an appearance in the Chamber before the holidays; after this I admit that I am yielding a bit to caprice. For some time now, I have had a very local pain in the larynx that is unbearable because it is continuous. I think I will find relief by changing my environment.

Mlle Louise may fear that her letter has gone astray in the Pyrenees. Please reassure her, it was given to me here on my arrival. Truly, it would have been a great privation for me, since your dear child has the art (if art it is) of infusing her letters with her soul and goodness. She spoke to me of the impression English literature had on her and then deplores the loss of belief that characterizes ours.

I was getting ready to write an essay in reply, on this text, but I will spare her this. Since I am leaving tomorrow, I will take my revenge face to face.

You are quite right, my dear M. Cheuvreux, to encourage me to continue these elusive Harmonies. I too feel that I have the duty to complete them, and I will endeavor to devote my holidays to them.

The field is so vast that it terrifies me.

When I said that the laws of political economy are harmonious, I did not mean only that they harmonize with each other, but also with the laws of politics, the moral laws, and even those of religion (granted the making of generalizations as to the particular rules of each cult). If this were not so, what good would it be for a set of ideas to promote harmony if this set clashed with other sets no less essential?

I do not know whether I am deluding myself, but it seems to me that it is through this and only through this that the lively and fertile beliefs whose loss Mlle Louise deplores will be regenerated within the human race. Extinguished beliefs will no longer be revived, and the efforts made in times of terror and danger to give society this anchor are more meritorious than effective. I believe that an inevitable ordeal is lying in wait for Catholicism. Acquiescence in form alone, which each person requires from others and from which acquiescence each person allows himself dispensation, cannot be a permanent state of affairs.

The plan I had conceived required political harmony to be first of all brought down to rigorous certainty, since this is its basis. It appears that I [262] have not established this certainty adequately, since it has not struck anyone, even professional economists. Perhaps the second volume will provide more consistency for the first. I am subjecting myself to your and Mme Cheuvreux’s advice to stop me in the future from doing anything else.

This letter will precede me by so little that I find it almost incorrect to send it to you. However, I did not want to leave Mugron without thanking you for all the kindnesses that you and your family have shown me during this absence.

Farewell, my dear sir,
Your devoted servant,
F. Bastiat

Letter 185. Paris, 3 Aug. 1850. To Richard Cobden


Letter 185. Paris, 3 Aug. 1850. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 185-86) [CW1, pp. 262-63].


My dear Cobden, since the departure of our dear friends, the Schwabes, I no longer have the opportunity of talking about you. However, I have not altogether lost sight of you, and recently I noted with joy, but no surprise, that you had disassociated yourself from your friends in order to remain faithful to your convictions. I am referring to the vote on Palmerston.351 The upsurge in British pride that characterized this episode is not in step with the natural sequence of events and the progress of public reasoning in England. You were right to resist this. It is this perfect coherence of all of your actions and votes that will in the future give your name and example an unassailable authority.

I have spent some time in my native region to see whether my poor lungs, which serve me in a highly unreliable fashion, might be cured. I have returned somewhat better but suffering from an ailment of my larynx coupled with a total loss of my voice. My doctor has ordered me to keep total silence. For this reason, I am going to spend two months in the country not far from Paris. There, I will endeavor to write the second volume of the Economic Harmonies. The first went almost unnoticed in scholarly circles. I would not be an author if I accepted this judgment. I call on the future to correct this [263] for I am convinced that this book contains an important idea, a core concept. Time will prove me right.

Today, I wanted to say a few words in support of our colleague in political economy, A. Scialoja. You know that he was a professor in Turin. Events caused him to become a minister of trade in Naples for a few days. This was in the days of the constitution. When absolute authority was reinstated, Scialoja, thinking that a ministry of trade was not sufficiently political to compromise its holder, did not wish to flee. He was to regret this. He was arrested and imprisoned. For ten months now, he has been clamoring to be released or put on trial.

I have taken a few steps here to arouse the interest of our diplomatic service. (Let diplomacy be good for something for once in its life!) I received the reply that our embassy would do what it could but that it stood little chance. It is said that Scialoja would be much better protected by English goodwill. Could you therefore please obtain support for him from your ambassador in Naples?

Scialoja is asking to be put on trial! I would much prefer for him to be given a passport for London or Paris, since I do not think that a Neapolitan trial would guarantee much equity, even for the most shining innocence.

Will you be going to Frankfurt?352 For my part, it is no good my attending the Congress, since I have become dumb, but I would be very pleased to see you when you pass through Paris and my apartment at 3, rue d’Alger is at your disposal.

Letter 186. Paris, 17 Aug. 1850. To Richard Cobden


Letter 186. Paris, 17 Aug. 1850. To Richard Cobden (OC, pp. 187-881; also CH, pp. 104-107) [CW1, pp. 263-64].


My dear Cobden, as you know about my poor health, you will not have been surprised at my absence from the Congress in Frankfurt, especially since you will not have attributed it to a lack of zeal. Apart from the pleasure of being one of your colleagues in this noble enterprise, it would have been very pleasant for me to meet in Frankfurt friends that I rarely have the occasion to see and to meet a host of distinguished men from these two excellent races, the Anglo-Saxon and the Germanic. In a word, I have been deprived of this consolation like many others. For a long time now, mother nature has [264] gradually been making me accustomed to all sorts of deprivations, as though to familiarize me with the final one which includes them all.

As I have had no news of you, for a time I did not know whether you were going to the Congress; since it did not occur to me that you could go from England to Frankfurt without going through Paris, and since I did not think either that you would pass through our capital city without letting me know, I concluded that you yourself had been prevented from doing so. I have been told that this is not so and I am happy for the Congress. Try to deal a mighty blow to this monster of war, an ogre that is almost as voracious when digesting as it is when eating, for I truly believe that arms cause almost as much harm to nations as war itself. What is more, they hinder good. For my part, I constantly return to what seems to me to be as clear as daylight: as long as disarmament prevents France from restructuring her finances, reforming her taxes, and satisfying the just hopes of the workers, she will continue to be a nation in convulsion . . . and God alone knows what the consequences will be.

A man whom I would have liked to see because of all the interest he has shown in me is M. Prince Smith, from Berlin. If he is at the Congress, please convey to him my great desire to meet him personally. How happy I would be, my dear Cobden, if you decided to pass through Paris and if you persuaded M. Prince Smith to accompany you on this excursion! But I do not dare to formulate such hopes. Good fortune does not seem to be made for me. For a long time now, I have been endeavoring to take advantage of good things when they come but not to expect them.

I consider that a short stay in Paris must be of interest to politicians and economists. Come and see the profound peace we are enjoying here, whatever the newspapers might say. Certainly, internal and external peace in the face of such a tumultuous past and such an uncertain future is a phenomenon that shows great progress in public common sense. Since France has survived this, it will survive a great many other difficulties.

Say what you like, the human mind is making progress, interests in the best sense of the word are prevailing, disagreements are less profound, and long-lasting harmony is establishing itself.

Letter 187. Paris, 17 Aug. 1850. To the President of the Congrès de la Paix


Letter 187. Paris, 17 Aug. 1850. To the President of the Congrès de la Paix (OC1, pp. 197-200) [CW1, pp. 265-66].

Mr. President,

An ailment of the larynx would not have been enough to keep me away from the Congress, especially as my role would rather have been to listen than to speak, if I were not undergoing a treatment that obliges me to remain in Paris. Please convey my regret to your colleagues. Much taken as I am with all that is grand and new in the spectacle of men of all races and languages who have come from all corners of the globe to work together for the triumph of universal peace, I would have joined my efforts to yours in favor of such a holy cause with zeal and enthusiasm.

In truth, universal peace is considered in many places an illusion, and as a result the Congress is considered to be an honorable effort but with no far-reaching effect. Perhaps this feeling is more prevalent in France than elsewhere because this is a country in which people are more weary of utopias and where ridicule is the more to be feared.

For this reason, if it had been given to me to speak at the Congress, I would have concentrated on correcting such a false assessment.

There was doubtless a time when a peace congress would have had no chance of success. When men made war to acquire loot, land, or slaves, it would have been difficult to stop them by moral or economic considerations. Even various forms of religion have failed to do this.

But today, two circumstances have changed the question radically.

The first is that wars no longer have vested interest as their cause or even their pretext, since they are always contrary to the real interests of the masses.

The second is that they no longer depend on the whims of a leader, but on public opinion.

The result of the combination of these two circumstances is that wars are due to become increasingly rare and finally disappear through the force of events and independently of any intervention by the Congress, since an event that harms the general public and which depends on the general public is bound to cease.

What, therefore, is the role of the Congress? It is to hasten this inevitable [266] result by showing, to those who do not yet perceive this, how and why wars and arms are harmful to the general interest.

What element of utopia is there in such a mission?

For the last few years, the world has experienced circumstances which, in other eras, would have caused long and cruel wars. Why have these been avoided? Because, although there is a party in favor of war in Europe, there are also those who love peace. Although there are men who are ever ready to make war, in whom a stupid form of education has imbued ancient ideas and barbaric prejudices and who attach honor to physical courage alone, seeing glory only in military exploits, fortunately there are other men who are more religious, more moral, more farsighted, and who can work things out better. Is it not only natural that this latter category should endeavor to gain recruits from the former? How many times has civilization, as in 1830, 1840, and 1848, been, so to speak, in suspense faced with this question: which of the war or peace parties will gain the upper hand? Up to now, the peace party has triumphed and, it must be said, it is perhaps less through fervor or numbers than because it had political influence.

So peace and war depend on public opinion and opinion is divided. There is therefore a constantly imminent danger. In these circumstances, is not the Congress undertaking something that is useful, serious, effective, and even, I dare say, easy by trying to gain support for those in favor of peace so as to give them at last a decisive weight?

What is utopian in this? Does it mean saying to the people, “We are coming to enjoin you to trample your interests underfoot, to act henceforward in accordance with the principles of devotion, sacrifice, and self-renunciation?” Oh, if this were so, the enterprise would indeed be risky!

But on the contrary, we are coming to tell them: “Do not consult only your interests in the next life, but those in this one. Examine the effects of war. See whether they are not disastrous for you. See whether wars and heavy arms do not lead to interruptions in work, crises of production, the loss of strength, crushing debt, heavy taxes, impossible financial situations, discontent, and revolutions, not to mention deplorable moral habits and reprehensible violations of religious law.”

Are we not allowed to hope that this language will be heard? Take courage, then, you men of faith and devotion, have courage and confidence! The gaze and hearts of those who are now unable to join your ranks will be following you.

I remain, Mr. President, your most
respectful and devoted servant.

Letter 188. Paris, 9 Sept. 1850. To Richard Cobden


Letter 188. Paris, 9 Sept. 1850. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 188-91) [CW1, pp. 267-69].


My dear Cobden, I am grateful for the interest you are good enough to take in my health. It is still shaky. At the moment I have a severe inflammation and probably ulcers on the two tubes that take air to the lungs and food to the stomach. The question is to know whether this disease will stop or whether it will get worse. In the latter case, there will no longer be any means of breathing or eating, a very awkward situation indeed.355 I hope not to be subjected to this ordeal for which, however, I am not neglecting to prepare myself by practicing patience and resignation. Is there not an inexhaustible source of consolation and strength in these words, “Non sicut ego volo sed sicut tu”?356

One thing that distresses me more than these physiological prospects is the intellectual weakness whose progression I see so clearly. I will doubtless have to abandon the completion of the work I have started. But, at the end of the day, has this book as much importance as I like to give it? Will posterity not get along very well without it? And if one should combat the unseemly love of material possessions, is it not also good to stifle the upsurges of author’s vanity that come between one’s heart and the only thing worthy of one’s aspirations?

Besides, I am beginning to think that the principal idea that I am seeking to disseminate is not lost; yesterday a young man sent me in a letter an article entitled “An Essay on Capital.”357 It included these sentences:


“Capital is the characteristic sign and measure of progress. It is the sole and necessary vehicle for it, with the special mission of aiding the movement from priced goods to free ones. Consequently, instead of augmenting natural prices, as it is alleged, its unchanging role is to lower them persistently.”

These sentences encompass and summarize the most fertile of the economic phenomena that I have endeavored to describe. They include a guarantee of the inevitable reconciliation between the property-owning and the proletarian classes. Since this point of view on social order has not been defeated, since it has been perceived by others who will set it out for all to see better than ever I could, I have not entirely wasted my time and I am able to sing my “Nunc dimittis,” with slightly less distaste.

I have read the report on the Congress in Frankfurt. You are the only one to know how to give this work a practical character, an influence on the world of business. The other speakers limit themselves to well-worn commonplaces. But I continue to think that the association will end up having a significant indirect influence by awakening and molding public opinion. Doubtless, you will not obtain the official declaration of universal peace, but you will make wars more unpopular, difficult, rare, and odious.

However, we should not hide the fact that the affair in Greece358 has dealt a body blow to the supporters of peace and they will need a great deal of time to recover. Which French deputy, for example, will be sufficiently bold to speak merely of partial disarmament in the presence of the international principle involved in this Greek affair, with the consent (and it is above all this that is serious) of the British nation? Disarm! Could this be their cry when a formidable power is openly acting according to the principle that when it considers itself in confrontation, however slight the grounds of complaint, with another government, it will not only employ force against this government but also seize the private property of its citizens? As long as such a principle remains standing, whatever its cost, we will need to remain armed to the teeth.

There was a time, my friend, when diplomacy itself tried to have respect for individual property prevail at sea in time of war. This principle has entered our military mores. In 1814, the English took nothing in the south of France without paying for it. In 1823, we made war in Spain under the same conditions, and however unjust this war was from the political point of view, it made an admirable distinction, now acknowledged, between the public [269] domain and personal property. M. de Chateaubriand tried at this time to have the elimination of privateering and letters of marque,359 in a word, respect for private property, included in international law. He failed, but his efforts reveal great progress in civilization.

How far back into the past Lord Palmerston360 is taking us! It is therefore now admitted that if England has a grievance against King Othon, no Greek can claim ownership of a bark or a keg of goods. For the same reason, if France has any complaint against Belgium, Switzerland, or Piedmont, it may send battalions to seize houses, harvests, cattle, etc. This is barbaric. I repeat, with a system like this, everyone will need to remain armed to the teeth and be ready to defend his property, for, my friend, men are not yet Quakers. They have not renounced the right to personal defense, and they will probably never renounce this.

If, moreover, everything was limited to the doctrines and acts of Lord Palmerston, this would be one more iniquity for which to reproach diplomacy, but that would be all. But what is serious and threatening is the unexpected approval given to this policy by the English nation. One hope is left to me: that this approval is not typical.

But while making politics, I am forgetting to tell you that, in order to obey my doctors’ prescriptions, with no great belief in them, I am leaving for Italy. They have condemned me to spend this winter in Pisa in Tuscany. From there, I will doubtless visit Florence and Rome. If you have any friends there who are close enough for me to introduce myself to them, please let me know, without taking the trouble to send introductory letters. If I knew where to find Mr. and Mrs. Schwabe, I would warn them of this journey in order to take their instructions. When you have occasion to write to them, please tell them about this trip.

Letter 189. Paris, 9 Sept. 1850. To Félix Coudroy


Letter 189. Paris, 9 Sept. 1850. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, p. 104) [CW1, pp. 269-70].


My dear Félix, I am writing to you on the point of starting a long journey. The illness which I had when I saw you has settled on my larynx and throat. [270] The constant pain and weakness it causes has made it a genuine torture. However, I hope that I will not lack resignation. My doctors have ordered me to spend the winter in Pisa and I am obeying, although these gentlemen have not habitually inspired trust in me.

Farewell, I must stop because my head is preventing me from writing any more. I hope that I will have more vigor during my journey.

Letter 190. Lyon, 14 Sept. 1850. To M. Paillottet


Letter 190. Lyon, 14 Sept. 1850. To M. Paillottet (OC7, pp. 442-43) [CW1, p. 270].


I do not wish to start out on the second half of my journey without telling you that everything has gone quite well up to now. I became a little tired only during the stage between Tonnerre and Dijon, but that was almost inevitable. I think that it would have been better to sacrifice a night and take the mail coach. It is always the best way. Spending the night on the way always obliges you to take stage carts and old crocks or be cast in among drunken men, etc., and you arrive at a bad inn only to repeat the procedure the next day.

I have not told you, my friend, how much I appreciated the idea that occurred to you for a moment to accompany me to Italy. I am as grateful to you as if you had in fact carried out this project. But I could not have agreed to this. This would have deprived Mme Paillottet of one day seeing this beautiful country or at least have reduced her chances of doing so. Besides, as I cannot talk, all the delight of traveling together would have been lost. Either we would have often disobeyed orders, which would have caused us regret, or we would have obeyed them only after a difficult and constant struggle. Be that as it may, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and if Mme Paillottet feels up to the journey, come and fetch me in the spring, when I will no longer be dumb.

Please remind M. de Fontenay of my advice or, to put it more strongly, my pressing invitation to have his Capital printed

Letter 191. Lyon, 14 Sept. 1850. To Melle Louise Cheuvreux


Letter 191. Lyon, 14 Sept. 1850. To Melle Louise Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 107-113) [CW1, pp. 270-73].

Dear Demoiselle Louise,

Here I am in Lyons since yesterday evening; at a stretch you might have had this letter twenty-four hours earlier, but on my arrival I hesitated between the writing desk and bed. My heart encouraged me to favor the first [271] and my body the second; who would ever have told me that my body would win in a conflict of this kind? However, scarcely was I in bed than it fell victim to a high fever, which explains its victory and justifies me in my own eyes. However, do not worry about this fever; it was very temporary and has completely gone this morning.

On Tuesday, after leaving you, I went to the Économistes dinner. M. Say was in the chair. Following the fatigue I always suffer in the evening, I could not go to bid farewell to Mme Say, for which I am very sorry.

On Wednesday, I set out at half past ten. Up to Tonnerre, the journey went extremely well. We went so quickly that we were scarcely able to enjoy the scenery, with the result that since my eyes were fixed on a cloud probably visible from La Jonchère, I remembered that you were not very happy with the words set to the pretty melody by Félicien David.

I addressed other words to my cloud. Unfortunately they did not rhyme and therefore are not worth my copying them down here. From Tonnerre to Dijon, troubles of all sorts began. If you follow this route, as I hope you will, M. Cheuvreux must contact M. G—— in writing to procure mail coaches.

As I was responsible only for myself, I trusted to luck, which could have looked after me better. There were six of us in the seating space of a stagecoach made for four. Out of these six people, four were women, which meant that under our feet, on our knees, and up against our sides we had a multitude of parcels, bags, baskets, etc.; truly, women, who are such adorable models of self-sacrifice in domestic life, appear not to understand that they owe something to others, even people they do not know, when in public.

From Châtillon to Dijon, I was crowded onto the top deck as the fourteenth passenger. It was during this stage that we crossed the watershed, one side of which looks to the ocean, the other the Mediterranean. When this line is crossed, it seems as though you are leaving your friends for a second time, as you no longer breathe the same air and are no longer under the same sky. Finally, from Dijon to Châlon, you have only two hours on the train and from Châlon to Lyons there is a delightful excursion by water.

But can I say that I am traveling? I am going through a succession of landscapes, that is all. I have no communication with anyone, whether in coaches, in boats, or in hotels. The more attractive people’s faces appear, the more I shun them. The chapter of random adventures or unforeseen meetings does not exist for me. I am going through space like a bale of goods, except for a few visual delights of which I am soon tired.

You told me, dear demoiselle, that poetic Italy would be a source of new emotions for me. Oh, I very much fear that it will be unable to extricate [272] me from this numbness which is gradually taking over all of my faculties. You gave me a lot of encouragement and advice, but for me to be sensitive to nature and art, you would have needed to lend me your soul, the soul that longs to blossom with happiness, which so quickly becomes attuned to everything that is beautiful, graceful, sweet, and lovely and which has such great affinity with all that is harmonious in light, color, sound, and life. Not that this need for happiness reveals any selfishness in your soul; on the contrary, if it seeks, attracts, or desires it, it is to concentrate it in itself as in a hearth and from there radiate it around you in wit, a fine mischief, constant good deeds, consolation, and affection. It is with this disposition of the soul that I would like to travel, as there is no prism that embellishes external objects more. However, I am changing surroundings and skies under a totally different influence.

Oh, how fragile is the human frame! Here I am, the plaything of a tiny pimple growing in my larynx. It is the thing that is driving me from the south to the north and from north to south. It is the thing that makes my knees buckle and empties my head. It is the thing that makes me indifferent to the Italian landscapes of which you speak. I will soon have no thought or concentration for anything other than it, like the old invalids who fill their entire conversations and all their letters with one single idea. It seems as though I am well down this path already.

To escape this, my imagination has one route still open to me and that is to go to La Jonchère. I imagine that you are enjoying with delight the fine days that September stores up. Here you are, all together! Your dear father and M. Edouard361 have returned from Cherbourg delighted with the magnificent things they have seen and full of tales to tell. Just the presence of Marguerite would be enough to make your mountain a charming place to stay. Here is one who might boast of having been caressed! I love to hear parents reproaching each other for spoiling their children, a very innocent small conflict, since the most spoiled, that is to say the most loved, are those that succeed the best.

Dear demoiselle, allow me to remind you that you should not sing for too long a time, especially with the windows open. Be careful of the autumn chills and avoid catching cold in this season. Remember that if you caught one through your own fault it would be as though you were making all those who love you ill. Be careful of returning from Chatou362 at eleven o’clock at [273] night. To combine care for your health and your love of music, might not your evenings be turned into mornings? Farewell, dear Mlle Louise.

Allow me to express my
deep affection,
F. Bastiat

Letter 192. Lyon, 14 Sept. 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 192. Lyon, 14 Sept. 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 113-115) [CW1, pp. 273-74].

Dear Mme Cheuvreux,

I am leaving tomorrow for Marseilles. If you take the boat at eleven o’clock you have only the inconvenience of spending the night in Valence and this will not be inconvenient for me since I will have the pleasure of taking news to your brother, the captain.

If you go to Lyons, do not fail to climb Fourvières! This is an admirable viewpoint from which you can see the Alps, the Cévennes, the mountains of Forez, and those of the Auvergne. What an image of the world Fourvières gives! Down below, there is work and its insurrections,363 halfway up, cannons and soldiers, and at the top religion with all its sad excrescenes. Is this not the story of the human race?

Contemplating the theater of so many bloody conflicts, I thought that there is no more pressing need in man than that for confidence in a future that offers some stability. What troubles the workers is not so much how low their wages are but their uncertainty, and if men who have achieved wealth were prepared to take a look at themselves, seeing with what ardor they love security, they would perhaps be somewhat indulgent toward the classes which always, for one reason or another, have the specter of unemployment before them. One of the most beautiful of economic harmonies is the ever-increasing tendency for all classes in succession to achieve stability. Society achieves this stability as civilization is attained, through earnings, fees, rent, and interest, in short everything that the socialists reject; to such an extent that their plans bring the human race back precisely to its point of departure, that is to say the time when uncertainty is at its highest for everyone. There is a subject here for new research for political economy . . . But what shall I tell you about Fourvières! What poetry, heavens, for the delicate ear of a [274] woman! . . . Farewell once more, forgive this torrent of words; I am taking revenge for my silence, but is it fair that you should be the victim?

Letter 193. Marseille, 18 Sept. 1850. To M. Cheuvreux


Letter 193. Marseille, 18 Sept. 1850. To M. Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 115-117) [CW1, pp. 274-75].

My dear M. Cheuvreux,

It was painful for me to leave Paris without shaking your hand, but I could not delay my departure on pain of missing the mail boat here. In fact, I arrived here yesterday and have just one day to make all my arrangements, obtain a passport, etc.

It is not even certain that I will be embarking; I have learned that travelers who go by sea are welcomed in Italy by quarantine. Three days in a quarantine station is not very attractive!

When I arrived in Marseilles, my first visit was to the post office, as I hoped to find a letter there; to know that all three of you were enjoying good health at La Jonchère would have made me so happy! There was no letter. Thinking about it made me realize that I was being too demanding since it is scarcely a week since I left the dear mountain. Silence makes time seem so long that it is not surprising that I attach so much importance to receiving a letter.

How anxious I am to reach Pisa. How anxious I am to know whether this fine climate will make my head strong and give it two hours of work a day. Two hours! This is not too much to ask, and yet this is still a vanity.

Doubtless, like André Chénier and like all authors, I think I have something there, but this upsurge of pride scarcely lasts long. Whether I transmit to posterity two volumes or just one, the progress of human affairs will remain unchanged.

No matter, I claim my two hours, if not for future generations, at least in my own interest. For if the prohibition to work has to be added to so many others, what will become of me in this tomb of my anticipation? I spent the night of Sunday to Monday in Valence. In spite of the desire I had to see the captain and the efforts I made to do this, I was not able to do it.

The 19th. I am definitely leaving tomorrow and by land. Here I am embarked upon an adventure whose outcome I cannot see.

This morning I was still hoping for a letter; I would have left happier. [275] Now only the good Lord knows where and when I will have news of you all; will I have to wait two weeks?

Dear M. Cheuvreux, please remember me to both mother and daughter and assure them of my profound friendship. Do not forget to remember me also to M. Edouard and Mme Anna, who will allow me to embrace their delightful child, although from afar.

Farewell, dear M. Cheuvreux,
F. Bastiat

Letter 194. Marseille, 22 Sept. 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 194. Marseille, 22 Sept. 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 117-120) [CW1, pp. 275-76].

Dear Mme Cheuvreux,

Before leaving France, allow me to send you a few lines. The date of this letter will surprise you; here is the explanation.

As you know, since I was determined to go by land, I allowed the boat on the 19th to leave. At the time, a day sooner or later was of little importance and I was not willing to leave Marseilles knowing that one of your letters was on the point of arriving. I waited and was right to do so, since I have at last received your very benevolent and affectionate encouragement, and what is more, I know the major decision that has been taken at La Jonchère.

In short, I should have been taking the coach yesterday, but I was perfectly aware that, to avoid the quarantine station, I would encounter other inconveniences, such as going through clouds of dust, going from inn to inn, cab to cab, and using my larynx to argue with porters; all this was scarcely an attractive prospect. At eleven o’clock, while reading the Marseilles journal, I saw that the Castor was leaving for Leghorn in the afternoon. Although you advised me to avoid making unplanned decisions, I booked and paid for a ticket, thinking that the quarantine would be swallowed at a gulp if I closed my eyes. In the evening, the sea was so rough that the boat did not leave, and this is how I come to be scribbling this epistle while they are raising the anchor.

Since my arrival on board, I have noticed that it is a great mistake to be the last to book your ticket. Instead of having a good single cabin, you have a bed in a joint cabin.

Oh, what an improvident man! You are going to cross the Mediterranean in the joint cabin of a packet-boat; you will die in the general ward of a hospital and will be thrown in the common grave of a Campo Santo! What [276] difference does it make, if the happiness I have dreamed of in this world is waiting for me in the next? However, it is better to have a single cabin, and this is why I am writing to you so that you can take the necessary steps.

Your journey is worrying me. At first, I thought I had the answer (who does not seek answers today?). I thought that His Holiness, who subjects his infallibility to the protection of our bayonets, should spare his soldiers an insulting quarantine. If this were so, it would have been easy for M. Cheuvreux and M. Edouard Bertin to obtain passages on a state vessel going to Civitavecchia. It seems, however, that even our troops are subject to the health regulations (a bad solution). The final consideration, then, is that a journey across the Apennines seems to me to be a risky venture at the end of October.

I meant to write to Mlle Louise since, just as a good government is very willing to raise a great many taxes but distributes them evenly, I feel the necessity to divide the weight of my lamentations; alas, my letter would not have been very pleasant! On my journey, I have been able to see only the side of things that is reprehensible and can be criticized. I am fully aware that colors are not in objects but in ourselves. According to whether we are in a rosy or black mood, we see everything in rosy or black hues.

Farewell, I cannot hold the pen any longer under the vibration of the steam engine.

Your devoted servant,
F. Bastiat

Letter 210 to Paillottet (Pisa, 30 Sept. 1850)


Letter 210. Pisa, 30 Sept. 1850. Letter to Paillottet in P. Ronce, Frédéric Bastiat. Sa vie, son oeuvre (Paris: Guillaumin, 1905), pp. 253-55. [CW4]

Editor's Introduction

Bastiat's health continued to get worse throughout 1850. His last attendance at a session of the Chamber of Deputies was on 9 February after which he took a leave of absence. The first volume of his treatise Economic Harmonies was published in January 1850 with 10 chapters but he was too ill to work much on completing volume 2 which was eventually reconstructed from his notes and drafts by his friend Prosper Paillottet. 50 This enlarged edition of Economic Harmonies with an additional 15 chapters appeared posthumously in July 1851.

In May 1850 Bastiat left Paris and returned to his home town Mugron in Les Landes, and then went to the spa town of Les Eaux-Bonnes in June and July to recuperate and work on his two pamphlets The Law and What is Seen and What is Not Seen . He briefly returned to Paris in August but was told by his doctor that he could not survive another winter in Paris and advised him to go to Italy where the climate was less harsh. He attended his last meeting of the Political Economy Society on 10 September so he could say farewell to his friends and colleagues. 51

He took 6 weeks travelling to Rome, spending time along the way in Lyon and Marseilles (September), Pisa (October), before arriving in Rome in early November, where he stayed until his death on 24 December. His friend Prosper Paillottet went to Rome to see him during his last days, as did the Cheuvreux family who had become close friends and supporters of Bastiat. Madame Hortense Cheuvreux 52 ran an important liberal salon in Paris which Bastiat had attended over the previous two years.

One of the things Bastiat and Paillottet discussed at this time was the completion of his treatise Economic Harmonies and the editing of his Complete Works after his death. Bastiat appointed Paillottet his literary executor and with the assistance of Roger Fontenay 53 carried out Bastiat's wishes.


My dear Paillottet, I left Paris on the 11th and here it is the 30th. So there you have it. Twenty days away and I have still only received a single letter from Marseilles. I keep asking at the post office and the usual answer is "there is nothing for you." I fear that they have the wrong address and there is a misunderstanding about this, as I cannot imagine my friends leaving me without any news. They must know that in this life of hardships to which I have been condemned, not being able to speak or write or to make friends, their memory is all I have to soothe my soul. How happy I would be if only they thought to write to me often! But are absent friends always in the wrong? No! I much prefer to think that it is the Post Office which is not doing its job properly. And anyway, how can they be mistaken with such a simple address: M. F. B., poste restante, Pisa, Tuscany?

My dear Paillottet, I am waiting for the arrival of what you wrote to me about from Marseilles, that is the dispatch of the box of books. 54 Sadly, I now see that they will not be of much use to me, either for reading or for working with, because the Italian climate instills in me a great feeling of far niente (doing nothing). And then, without feeling that I am sicker, it is clear that I am weaker. I do not sense it by comparing one day to the next, but if I turn my mind back one or two months I cannot fail to see my decline. If this continues for much longer I will not be able to do anything.

I suppose M. de Fontenay has returned from the countryside. Next time you see him, give him a kick in the pants to get his book on Capital published. 55 Without that, I think he is a man who will let the days and months slip by.

Pisa is a delightful place, at least the quarter where foreigners and the sick live. The Arno river forms a large semi-circle along which are houses. From my window I can see the sun from sunrise to sunset. The warmth, the light, the view of the river, the activity on the quay, makes any sad thoughts seem far away. There is not even time for boredom. One has to think that the sound morale influence of this location augurs well for my physical recovery.

Mme Cheuvreux told me that they have decided to travel here from Florence. I received this news from Marseilles. But not having received any more letters I am in an agony of uncertainty not knowing if they will change their minds. You would do me a very great service if you could make inquiries upon receipt of this letter and let me know by return mail. At the same time, tell M. Cheuvreux that, according to what I have been told, quarantine would not last longer than October 19, which is the day the State packet-boat departs. In addition, assure him that the quarantine station at Livorno is quite comfortable. Therefore I think the best plan is to board the Post ship. If I had had advance warning I would have gone to the quarantine station to reserve the best places, on the assumption that this hoax which is quarantine takes longer than expected.

Farewell my dear Paillottet. I will have your reply in only 12 days time. Like a good schoolboy I will cross myself every morning at matins.

Farewell, your devoted friend.


50 Prosper Paillottet (1804-78) was a successful businessman in the jewelry industry and was active in the French Free Trade Association. He became a close friend of Bastiat and in his final days spent time with him in Rome and agreed to become his literary executor, forming a group called the "Société des amis de Bastiat" (Society of the Friends of Bastiat) which would preserve his papers and edit his collected works.

51 See below, pp. 000.

52 Hortense Cheuvreux (née Girard) (1808-1893) was married to Jean Pierre-Casimir Cheuvreux (1797-1881), who was a wealthy textile merchant and was active in liberal circles in Paris, helping to fund their activities. Hortense ran an important salon from their Paris home and became a close friend of Bastiat's. In 1877 she published Bastiat's letters to her family in Lettres d'un habitant des Landes which are quite personal and show a very different side to Bastiat.

53 Roger de Fontenay (1809-91) was a member of the PES and an ally of Bastiat in their debates in the Société on the nature of rent (they rejected the orthodox Ricardian view) and Malthus's theory of population (they rejected his pessimism). Fontenay worked with Prosper Paillottet in publishing Bastiat's 2nd edition of Economic Harmonies in 1851 and his Œeuvres complètes in 1854 for which he wrote a lengthy introduction.

54 Ronce says that Bastiat had asked Paillottet to send him some books he had forgotten to bring with him from Paris, namely Jeremy Bentham's Essay on Political Tactics: Containing Six of the Principal Rules Proper to be Observed by a Political Assembly (1791) and a copy of the Constitution , "in case he had a chance to reflect on the changes that were taking place there."

55 Bastiat is referring to Roger de Fontenay, Du revenu foncier (Paris: Guillaumin, 1854).

Letter 195. Pisa, 2 Oct. 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 195. Pisa, 2 Oct. 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 120-124) [CW1, pp. 276-78].

My dear Mme Cheuvreux,

Doubtless, we are both complaining about each other, you of the flood of letters with which I am overwhelming you and I who am desolate at not receiving any. However, I am not accusing you of not writing; it is not possible that you have let all this time go by without writing to me. I attribute my disappointment to some mismanagement by the Italian postal service. This explanation is all the more likely since I am also without news of my family and Paillottet.

I do not know whether you are continuing to plan your journey, what route you will be taking, etc. I have been to Leghorn to find out about the conditions at the quarantine station. The large apartments lack furniture, [277] but as soon as I am sure of the date of your arrival, I will see that two rooms are prepared. A decent caterer will supply food and then, if you permit, I will put myself with pleasure into quarantine . . . “and Phaedra in the labyrinth.” Poor man! I am forgetting that I cannot speak and that my company will be only a nuisance.

If only you knew, madam, how your enterprise worries me with regard to Mlle Louise. It is not that it offers the slightest danger; I even hope for fine weather in October, since the wind blows in September, but I fear that you will both be unwell. I entreat the influence of the heavens and the sea to be favorable!

At last, a moment of pleasure! I have read your letter of the 25th, which arrived accompanied by a missive from my aunt and another from Cobden. I wish you could see me; I am no longer the same person.

Is it really dignified for a man to be so wholly dependent on an external event, an accident of the post? Are there no extenuating circumstances for me? My life is just one long deprivation. Conversation, work, reading, plans for the future, all this I find lacking. Is it surprising that I am becoming attached, perhaps too much so, to those who are willing to take an interest in this ghost of an existence? Oh, their affection is more astonishing than mine. So you are leaving on the 10th? If this letter reaches you, please reply immediately.

You advise me to speak to you as I would to a court, to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; I am very willing to do this but it is impossible to know whether I am better or worse. The progress of this illness, whether it moves forward or back, is so slow, so imperceptible that you see no difference between the day before or the day after. You have to take points of comparison that are further apart. For example, how was I a year ago at Le Butard? How was I there this year and how am I now? Here are three periods, and I have to admit that the results of this examination are not good.

The departure of your brother and his family will have left a great emptiness in La Jonchère. It needs only one lovely child like Marguerite to fill an entire house.

Farewell, dear Mme Cheuvreux.

Come, and come soon, to bring a little life to the Italy that seems dead to me. When you are all here, I will appreciate more its sun, climate, and arts. Until then, I will follow your advice and just take care of my body, make it an [278] idol, dedicate a cult to it, and prostrate myself in adoration before it. If only I might recover speech when you arrive, for, madam, dumbness is painful in your presence! You have a collection of paradoxes in whose defense you are highly skilled, but to which it is a pleasure for me to reply.

Farewell; M. Cheuvreux will not be the least busy of the three. Please accept my great and respectful affection.

Your devoted servant,
F. Bastiat

Letter 211 to Paillottet (Pisa, 7 Oct. 1850)


Letter 211. Pisa, 7 Oct. 1850. Letter to Paillottet in P. Ronce, Frédéric Bastiat. Sa vie, son oeuvre (Paris: Guillaumin, 1905), pp. 255-56). [CW4]

Editor's Introduction

In a last flurry of activity towards the end of his life, Bastiat had to respond to the charge made against him by the American economist Henry Carey 56 that he had plagiarised Carey's work on the idea of "the harmony of interests" and his criticism of Ricardo's idea of the natural productivity of land. Bastiat's book on Economic Harmonies was circulating among the economists in Paris in manuscript form by the end of 1849 and was published by Guillaumin early the following year, in January or February. It was reviewed quite critically by Ambroise Clément in the JDE in June 1850 57 after a delay which Bastiat thought was a slight on him because of his radical new ideas. Although he lived in America, Carey read Clément's review and this provoked him into writing a letter of complaint to the Editors of the JDE in August 1850 but which was not published until January 1851, two weeks after Bastiat's death. In the letter he argued that he had expressed his ideas on harmony and land rent in his book Principles of Political Economy which was published in 1837 and that Bastiat should have cited this in his book, especially since he not not started writing about economic matters until 1844. 58

Carey's next book, with the strikingly similar title, The Harmony of Interests, was published in Philadelphia in 1851 59 but Carey's book was available in proofs at the end of 1850, probably sent by him to the Parisian economists to prove his case against Bastiat. The difficulty was in getting a copy of the proofs to the dying Bastiat in Rome in time for him to look at them. They arrived sometime in November and Bastiat wrote a reply to Carey's criticisms and sent it to the JDE just a couple of weeks before he died. They published Carey's original August 1850 letter, along with Bastiat's response, and a letter in support of Bastiat by Clément in the 15 January 1851 issue of the JDE. 60 In essence, Bastiat said he got his ideas from many sources, only one of whom was Carey (he listed in his correspondence and elsewhere that J.B. Say, Charles Comte, and Charles Dunoyer had been the major influences on his thinking) and that the idea of "the harmony of interests" was not "une individuelle invention" (an invention of an individual) of Carey or anyone else.

In spite of being saddened by Bastiat's death in December Carey continued the debate with another letter to the JDE which was published in May 1851 61 in which he responded to Bastiat and denied that he was seeking any "brevet d'invention de ces lois" (patent on these (economic) laws) but just wanted due recognition of his prior work. There was some venom in these letters back and forth which was complicated by feelings of national pride, with Bastiat not liking criticisms of French institutions by an American, and Carey in turn not liking French criticism of America, citing the work of Tocqueville and Beaumont in particular.

In the absence of his friend, Proposer Paillottet jumped in with a letter to Carey published in the June 1851 issue of the JDE 62 in which he pointed out that Bastiat had been writing on economic matters, especially on the relative contributions to the creation of "value" made by labour or land itself, as early as 1834 and could not have plagiarised Carey's 1837 work. 63

Carey's final word on the matter was penned in December 1851. 64 By then he had come to accept the idea that "the word" harmony had been used independently by many writers but that "la chose" (the thing or the theory) which lay behind its meaning could be very different. Whereas Bastiat thought that what lay behind the idea of value, including the value produced by land, was the exchange of "service for service," 65 Carey thought it was the exchange of "labour for labour." However, Carey's bigger concession was to come to realise during the course of the debate that Bastiat's views were also strongly opposed by the more orthodox economists at the JDE, like Joseph Garnier, who were staunch Ricardians and Malthusians. Thus, although he may have resented Bastiat's claim to have independently discovered the idea of "the harmony of interests," Bastiat was in fact an ally of his with his radical rethinking of the Ricardian theory of rent and Malthusian pessimism which ran along very similar lines to his own.

Another thing we learn from this letter is the real excitement Bastiat felt at the immanent arrival of the Cheuvreux family, in particular Madame Hortense Cheuvreux whose salon Bastiat had attended in Paris and to whom he was very close. She and Paillottet were the only people from his circle of Parisian economist friends who visited him in Rome as he was dying.


My dear Paillottet,

I intended to reply to your kind note of 27 September but at the moment my head and my hand are tired from scribbling down the pages which are included below. I will write back you in the next day or so to discuss Carey, the books, etc. and what concerns me the most, your plans to travel in Italy with Mme Paillottet. In the meantime, I will say to you that since one has a trip like this only once in one's life, it is necessary to do this in the best possible conditions. If I get better between now and the spring, and if chatting to you is not forbidden, I don't need to tell you how much pleasure it would give me if I could be a tourist with you. But if I am like I am now, pray don't let my presence here influence your plans. I would only be a hindrance to you and thus completely ruin your plans; and you yourself, by trying to be kind to me, would cause me harm by encouraging me to talk. You can understand how delighted I am to see the arrival of the Cheuvreux family. Well, reason tells me that their presence here will be painful for me. I will suffer terribly knowing that they are so close and not being able to follow them; or at least, if I give in to this feeling I can say goodbye to what little have left of my larynx.

But whatever may happen, this is not what I am writing to you about today. My letter has a special purpose. Mme Cheuvreux writes that she leaves Paris on 14 October. Now, it is that very day that the letter I inclose will arrive in Paris. Will she receive it? Will her concierge know where to send it?

This is what I am going to ask you to do. Since I am giving Mme Cheuvreux some information about her travels, would you see that it is forwarded to her upon receipt of this letter ?

If she has already left, would you address the letter to M. Auguste Girard, Captain of Artillery at Valence and the brother of Mme Cheuvreux, and attach stamps to it so the barracks porter doesn't get it into his head to refuse to accept it.

Farewell, my dear Paillottet, your devoted friend.


56 Henry C. Carey (1793-1879) was an American economist who argued that national economic development should be promoted by extensive government subsidies and high tariff protection. There were several topics on which he was close to the French economists, most notably his idea that economies are governed by the operation of natural laws which are observable by men, and that there is no inherent reason why the interests of economic actors are not "harmonious" in a free society. His best known book is The Harmony of Interests, Agricultural, Manufacturing, and Commercial (1851).

57 Harmonies économiques , par M. Frédéric Bastiat. (Compte-rendu par M.A. Clément), JDE, T. 26, N° 111, 15 juin 1850, pp. 235-47.

58 Henry Charles Carey, Principles of Political Economy (Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Blanchard, 1837-1840), 3 vols.

59 Henry Charles Carey, The Harmony of Interests agricultural, manufacturing, and commercial (Philadelphia: J. S. Skinner, 1851).

60 "Les Harmonies Économiques. Lettre de M. Carey; Réponse de MM. Bastiat et A. Clément," JDE, T. 28, no. 117, 15 Jan. 1851, pp. 38-54. Bastiat's Letter can be found in CW1, Letter 209, pp. 297-302.

61 "Observations de M. H.C. Carey, au sujet de la dernière note de Frédéric Bastiat," JDE, T. 29, N° 121, 15 May 1851, pp. 43-51.

62 P. Paillottet, "Correspondance. Au sujet des reclamations de M.H. Carey," JDE, T. 29, N° 122, 15 June 1851, pp. 156-60.

63 Paillottet cites Réflexions sur les pétitions de Bordeaux, le Havre et Lyon, concernant les douanes, par Frédéric Bastiat, membre du Conseil général du département des Landes. (A Mont-de-Marsan, chez Delaroy, imprimeur de la Préfecture et de l'Echévé, Avril 1834). 16 pp. This can be found in CW2.1, pp. 1-9.

64 "Lettre de M. Carey," JDE, T. 21, no. 129, 15 Jan. 1852, pp. 81-83.

65 See the glossary entry on "Service for Service."

Letter 196. Pisa, 8 Oct. 1850. To M. Domenger


Letter 196. Pisa, 8 Oct. 1850. To M. Domenger (OC7, pp. 408-10) [CW1, pp. 278-79].


Who would have told us on the last occasion, when I had the pleasure of seeing you, that my first letter would be dated in Italy? I have come here strictly on doctor’s orders. In fact, I have no doubt that if there is still time for my throat to be helped by anything, it will be by the pure, warm air of Pisa. Unfortunately, this is just one aspect of the question. The finest climate in the world cannot alter the fact that, when you cannot talk, write, read, or work, it is very sad to be alone in a foreign country. This makes me miss Mugron and I think that I would prefer to shiver in Chalosse than be warm in Tuscany. I am experiencing all sorts of disappointments here. For example, it would be easy for me to have contact with all the distinguished men in this country. This is because, as political economy is included in the study of law, this science is cultivated by almost all educated men. Do you want a singular proof of this? In Turin, although the principal language spoken is Italian, more copies of my Harmonies (in the French edition)364 have been sold than in Marseilles, Bordeaux, Lyons, Rouen, and Lille combined, and this is true of all works on economics. You see, my dear friend, in what a state of illusion we live in France when we think we are in the vanguard of intellectual civilization. This being so, I was able to gain access to all the leading figures and eminent people and was perfectly placed to study this country in depth. Unfortunately, my constant preoccupation is to see nobody and to avoid people I know. What is more, close friends are going to come to see me from Paris; they will be visiting Florence and Rome as genuine connoisseurs, as they appreciate the arts and know a great deal about them. In any other [279] circumstances or with any other illness this would be such a pleasant event! But dumbness is an abyss that isolates you, and I will be obliged to flee them. Oh, I assure you that I am learning patience very well.

Let us talk of Mesdames X. I have always noticed that customary devotion does nothing to change the way men act and I very much doubt that there is more probity, gentleness, or mutual respect and consideration among our highly devout populations in the south than among the indifferent populations in the north. Young and amiable people will attend the bloody sacrifice of their Redeemer every day and will promise Him a great deal more than simple equity, and every evening they will deck altars to Our Lady with flowers. At every instant they will repeat: deliver us from evil, lead us not into temptation, thou shalt not take away or keep what belongs to another, etc., etc., and then when the opportunity occurs, they take as much as they can from their father’s inheritance at the expense of their brothers, just as the sinners do. Why not? Are they not quits with an act of contrition and a firm purpose of amendment? They do good work; they give a half farthing to the poor and thus gain absolution. So what do they have to fear? What do they have to reproach themselves for, since they have succeeded in making accomplices of the ministry of God and God Himself?

I seem to think that Mme D—— had the notion of spending Holy Week in Rome. If she carried out this plan, I would perhaps make my devotions in her company; her presence and consequently yours would be very pleasant for me, at least if I succeeded in articulating a few words. Otherwise, considering only myself, I would rather you stayed where you are, since knowing that you were close to me and being reduced to avoiding you would be just one extra torture.

Letter 212 to Paillottet (Pisa, 11 Oct. 1850)


Letter 212. Pisa, 11 Oct. 1850. Letter to Paillottet in P. Ronce, Frédéric Bastiat. Sa vie, son oeuvre (Paris: Guillaumin, 1905), pp. 256-59). Only part of this letter was included in Paillottet's edition of the Oeuvres complètes and in our CW1: Letter 197. Pisa, 11 Oct. 1850. To M. Paillottet (OC1, pp. 443-44). [CW4]

Editor's Introduction

We can only speculate about the reasons why Paillottet left out this part of Bastiat's letter from his edition. In it Bastiat talks about his illness and his doctors, his worries about not being able to fulfill his duties to his electorate and the Chamber of Duties where he had been Vice-president of the Finance Committee, his fussing about the Cheuvreux's travel plans to come visit him in Italy, his embarrassment at not having said farewell to some of his friends in Paris, and matters concerning the sending of Henry Carey's manuscript to him so he could evaluate for himself the reasons for Carey's accusation of his plagiarising his work on "the harmony of interests" and the productivity of land.

Concerning his activities in the Chamber of Deputies during the Second Republic, after the Revolution of February 1848 Bastiat was elected on 23 April as a Deputy in the Constituent Assembly representing the département of Les Landes. He was soon after appointed Vice-President of the Finance Committee to which he was re-appointed 8 times. He was re-elected on 13 May as a Deputy in the Legislative Assembly representing the département of Les Landes on the "Social Democratic" list. As his health deteriorated Bastiat lost his voice and was unable to speak in the Chamber as there were 900 Deputies in a very large hall with no amplification. He tried writing his speeches as pamphlets and circulating them among the Deputies so he could reach more people. He also began taking leaves of absence from the Chamber to let his voice recover. He gave his last formal speech in the Chamber on 12 Dec. 1849, on "The Tax on Wine and Spirits" and he last spoke in the Chamber in a debate on plans to give money to Workers' Associations on 9 February 1850. 66 Shortly after this he took another leave of absence, returned to his home town of Mugron and the local spa town of Eaux-Bonnes to rest, and never returned to the Chamber.


[The following passage concludes the first paragraph of Letter 197 in OC and our CW1, p. 280. The following paragraphs were cut by Paillottet and then the letter continues in CW1, pp. 280-81]:

Thank God I am not dead, nor even sicker … But in the end, if the news had been true it would have been necessary to accept it and resign oneself to it. I would like all my friends to be able to adopt the philosophy I myself have adopted in this regard. I assure you that I would surrender my last breath without pain, almost with joy, if I could be sure to leave behind for those who love me, not bitter regrets but soft, affectionate, and melancholy memories. I want to prepare them for the time when I will get sicker.

[The following lines were cut by Paillottet in his edition of OC but were included in an Appendix in Ronce's book.]:

Mme Paillottet shared your worries. Tell her how much I appreciate this show of concern for me. I hope that in the spring she can reassure herself in person that my body and soul are holding together quite well, and that they will not be separated without fierce resistance. Concerning this journey, I beg you to make up you mind without any consideration regarding me. If I am better, I will let you know, and then I'm sure it would be a pleasure for both of us to be tourists together. But if I am in the same state as I am now, then your trip would be completely ruined. Even in the first situation, I have to avoid making my stay in Italy anything other than purely therapeutic. What would my electorate say, what would my colleagues say, if I, supposedly under care for my health, went to admire the marvels of Naples and Venice in the middle of the parliamentary session and after having taken a year of successive sick leave? No, that would not be acceptable. M. Andral 67 prescribed Pisa or Rome and I will limit myself to that, and I will try to spend the month of April with my family in Mugron. 68 As for the rest, we have plenty of time to talk about all these other projects. 69

When you see M. de Fontenay thank him for the recommendations he made. The one for Livorno was not useful. I hope never to have anything more to do with that town. As for a doctor, I have met one who appears to me to be a prudent and educated man. He is professor Mazzoni. After he examined me he told me that his observation was that what was suitable for my condition was healthy living rather than any remedies. Here is a doctor who doesn't want to impose himself on you.

The Cheuvreux left Paris on the 14th. It seems that their travel plans were very different from my way of undertaking a journey. Not only did they not follow my advice but their letters prove to me that they didn't even read them. There they are, leaving Paris on the 14th, just in time to miss the Post Ship which leaves Marseilles on the 19th. Now, from every perspective that was their best way to make the crossing. They will now be reduced to travelling partly by land, partly by sea, in ships loaded down with cargo, where people smoke, where there is neither first nor second class berths, no security, etc. 70 The worst is that they will remain at sea for so long, despite the portion of the journey which they will take on land. I spelled out all of this to them like so many As, Bs, and Cs. They certainly skipped over all these passages in my letters. I am really upset.

My cousin 71 hasn't written to me. However, he should have received one of my letters, one of the first letters I sent from here. If you see him, remind him about me and tell him not to neglect me in this way.

I would also be very much obliged if you could visit on my behalf M. and Mme de Planat 72 whom I was not able to visit to say my goodbyes. I don't excuse myself for this omission which only you can carry out now if you are willing to do so.

When Guillaumin 73 sends me Carey's article I will be able to see what I have to reply to. 74 I said a word or two about this to M. Say 75 yesterday. Unfortunately, I fear that our communication and the shipping of the proofs of Carey's book will be impossible because of the price. Each letter I write costs 12 sous in stamps and those I receive cost 30 sous in shipping costs. My conclusion is that shipping large parcels would be exorbitant. As for the rest, as I am nowhere near being on the road to recovery in my ability to work, the postal reform of Tuscany will have to wait. 76


66 His last formal speech in the Chamber was on 12 Dec. 1849, on "The Tax on Wine and Spirits", CRANL, vol. 4, p. 159-65. OC5, pp. 468-93. CW2.16, pp. 328-47. He last spoke in the Chamber in a debate on plans to give money to Workers' Associations on 9 Feb. 1850, CRANL, vol. 5, p. 452; also see below pp. 000.

67 Andral was Bastiat's doctor in Paris.

68 Bastiat's estranged wife Clotilde Hiard had died on 10 February 1850 and it was rumoured that they had had a son, but Bastiat never mentioned either in his correspondence. His aunt Justine who had raised him when his own parents had died when he was quite young still lived in Mugron and Bastiat visited her frequently.

69 Bastiat would die on 24 December.

70 See Bastiat's letter to Richard Cobden about his own trip to Italy for similar stories, Letter 199 to Cobden (Pisa, 18 Oct. 1850), CW1, pp. 282-83.

71 Eugène de Monclar (1800-1882) was Bastiat's first cousin and a priest. Like Bastiat, he worked in the family commercial firm, which he left to study law. Shortly after becoming a lawyer, he studied for the priesthood. He visited him in Rome and gave Bastiat the last rites when he died on December 24, 1850.

72 Bastiat is possibly referring to Charles Planat (1801-1858) who had been a businessman in Cognac and its mayor 1838-1848. During the revolution he was elected a Deputy representing Charente. He sat on the right in the Chamber, possibly with the moderate Republicans, and probably got to know Bastiat then.

73 Gilbert-Urbain Guillaumin (1810-1864) was a mid-19th century French classical liberal publisher who founded a publishing dynasty which lasted from 1835 to around 1910 and became the focal point for the classical liberal movement in France. His firm became the major publishing house for liberal ideas in the mid nineteenth century. Guillaumin helped found the JDE in 1841 with Horace Say (Jean-Baptiste's son) and Joseph Garnier. The following year he helped found the PES which became the main organization which brought like-minded classical liberals together for discussion and debate.

74 See above for information about the controversy between Carey and Bastiat over a charge of plagiarism, pp. 000.

75 Horace Say (1794-1860) was the son of Jean-Baptiste Say. He married Anne Cheuvreux, sister of Casimir Cheuvreux, whose family were friends of Bastiat. Say was a businessman and was very active in liberal circles, participating in the foundation of the PES, the Guillaumin publishing firm, the JDE , and was an important collaborator in the creation of the Dictionnaire de l'économe politique (1852-53) and the Dictionnaire du commerce et des marchandises (1837, 1852).

76 This is a wry reference to his earlier efforts to reform the postal system in France during 1848. He wanted to drastically cut the cost of sending and receiving letters so ordinary people could afford to communicate with each. He wanted to eliminate the tax on sending letters, and charge a flat rate for pre-paid stamps paid by the sender (not the recipient) which was modeled on the British Uniform Penny Post which had been introduced in 1840. See below for some essays he wrote on this topic, pp. 000.

Letter 197. Pisa, 11 Oct. 1850. To M. Paillottet


Letter 197. Pisa, 11 Oct. 1850. To M. Paillottet (OC1, pp. 443-44) [CW1, pp. 279-81].


I feel the desire to live, my dear Paillottet, when I read your account of your anxiety at the news of my death.365 Thank heaven, I am not dead, not even more seriously ill. This morning, I saw a doctor who is going to try to rid me, at least for a few minutes, of this pain in my throat, whose constancy is so distressing. But in any case, if this news had been true, you would have had to accept it and be resigned to it. I would like all my friends to acquire [280] the philosophy I have myself acquired in this respect. I assure you that I will yield my last breath with no regret and almost with joy, if I could be sure to leave behind me, to those who love me, no searing regrets but a sweet, affectionate, and slightly melancholic memory. When I am no longer ill, this is what I will prepare them for. . . .

I do not know how long the current legislation on the press and obligatory signatures will last.366 In the meantime, here is a good opportunity for our friends to make an honorable name for themselves in the press. I have noted with pleasure the articles by Garnier, well thought out and carefully written, and in which you see that he does not want to compromise the honor of the teaching profession. I urge him to continue. From all points of view, the situation is opportune. He can establish a fine position for himself by disseminating a doctrine in favor of which public sympathy is ready to be aroused. Tell him from me that, if the occasion arises, he should not allow either M. de Saint-Chamans or anyone else to identify my position with that of M. Benoist d’Azy with regard to tariffs. There are three essential differences between us:

  • 1. First, although it is true that I am driven by the love of my region, this is not the same thing as being driven by the love of money.
  • 2. Everything I have inherited and all my worldly assets are protected by our tariffs. Therefore, the more M. de Saint-Chamans deems me to be self-seeking, the more he has to consider me sincere when I state that protectionism is a plague.
  • 3. But what totally precludes the protectionists’ position in the Assembly from being identified with that of the free traders is the abyss that separates their demands. What M. Benoist d’Azy is asking of the law is that it should fleece me for his benefit. What I ask of the law is that it should be neutral between us and that it should guarantee my property in the same way as that of the blacksmith.

From what La Patrie appears to say, Molinari is responsible for a party that is livelier and more salient. For heaven’s sake, let him not treat it lightly. How much good might he not do by showing how many leaflets there are [281] that are unknowingly steeped in socialism! How could he have let pass the article in Le National on the book by Ledru-Rollin and these sentences?367

“In England, there are ten monopolies stacked one on top of the other; therefore it is free competition that is doing all the harm.”

“England is enjoying a precarious prosperity only because it is based on injustice. For this reason, if England returns to the ways of justice, as Cobden is proposing, her economic decline is inevitable.”

And it is for having made these great discoveries that the National has awarded Ledru-Rollin the title of Great Statesman!

Farewell, I am tired.

Frédéric Bastiat

Letter 213 to M. Soustra (Pisa, 12 Oct. 1850)


Letter 213. Pisa, 12 Oct. 1850. Letter to M. Soustra, in P. Ronce, Frédéric Bastiat. Sa vie, son oeuvre (Paris: Guillaumin, 1905), pp. 225-27). [CW4]

Editor's Introduction

Bastiat was surprised and hurt by the poor reception his book on Economic Harmonies received, even by his colleagues in the Political Economy Society, when it appeared in print in January 1850. This should not have surprised him as he had published a number of articles which later became chapters in Economic Harmonies , such as the articles on competition 77 and population 78 in 1846, the opening chapters of Economic Harmonies in the JDE in January, September, and December 1848, 79 and two pieces on rent in 1849. 80 So he knew his very different views on the Malthusian population trap, the Ricardian theory of rent, and the orthodox view of the nature of value had upset some of the other economists and that they had expressed their reservations in personal conversations and at meetings of the Political Economy Society several times. 81

The Journal des Économistes was slow to publish a review of his book perhaps knowing that it would hurt Bastiat especially as his health was rapidly deteriorating. His friend Ambroise Clément 82 reviewed it some six months after it had appeared in print which was rather unusual as the JDE was quick to bring new books to the attention of its readers. 83 After making some brief remarks about his skill as a writer and complimenting him on his chapters of "Natural and Artificial organisation" and "Exchange" Clément attacked as "graves erreurs" (grave errors) Bastiat's opinions on several key issues, namely his rejection of Malthusian population theory, his rejection of the idea that land and other raw materials create "unearned" income for the owner, and his new argument value is created by the reciprocal exchange of "service for service." 84 In a posthumous review of the second enlarged edition (which appeared in July 1851) in the JDE in August 1851 Joseph Garnier 85 reprimanded Bastiat for continuing to ignore "the masters" of political economy (as well as his colleagues) whose views on value and land rent he rejected. 86 Garnier had hoped Bastiat might have left some notes or drafts written during his final year to address these criticisms. But he did not.

Another close friend, Gustave de Molinari, shared Garnier's criticism of Bastiat's theories in the obituary he wrote for the JDE which appeared in February 1851. 87 He considered Bastiat's attempts to rethink Ricardo's and Malthus' ideas to be "fâcheuse" (unfortunate), that his reformulation of the theory of value as the exchange of "service for service" a mere play on words, and that ultimately Bastiat was a popularizer of economic ideas like Benjamin Franklin, rather than an innovative theorist like J.B. Say. 88 Among his professional colleagues, only Michel Chevalier thought highly of it.

In several other letters Bastiat's expresses his frustration with the responses of what he called "middle-aged men (who) do not easily abandon well-entrenched and long-held ideas" and sadly came to believe that he was only speaking to a future generation of thinkers who might understand his ideas and develop them further. 89

This letter also gives an interesting insight into Bastiat's very critical views about the practice of journalism in France. His series of witty and clever articles known as the "economic sophisms" showed that in just a few years (1844-48) Bastiat had become a master of the craft of journalism becoming perhaps one of the greatest economic journalists who has ever lived. Many of his friends and colleagues were also journalists so he knew the profession very well.


… My dear Soustra, 90 don't think that the indifference shown by the journals towards my book has affected me very much. What has affected me a little (and again I begin to bore myself by talking about it) is the impossibility of seeing myself continuing to work on it. As for journalism, I have seen it too close up. It is a trade, the most trade-like thing imaginable. A man overburdened with tasks, who does not have time to read, who cannot and will not correct his ideas, who has a party line to follow, runs the business. Five or six beardless youths, who are crassly ignorant, who have no other skill than knowing how to turn a nice phrase, compose the article line by line. They never read, they never study, and they attach no importance even to the things they write. One can only compare them to a student doing his homework. Such is the Parisian press, with only a very few exceptions. Also, the signature of a well-known author confuses them. If this system can be helped, it will renew the blood of journalism which it needs very much.

Whatever the case may be, upon reflexion, I understand that in our present time, few of these young writers have been able to penetrate very far in understanding enough of my theory to review it. I would be consoled on the day when some pen or another has grasped the key idea, because then I would be sure that it has not been lost. My regret is that I have left this work in draft form. 91 There remains a lot for me to do, but this work demands strength …


77 Bastiat,"On Competition,"which first appeared in l'Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle (no date given) and then rewritten with a very different first half for the JDE , May 1846. It was then revised again and appeared as Chap. X "Competition" in the first edition of Economic Harmonies . See below, pp. 000.

78 Bastiat, "Population" which first appeared in Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle (probably mid-1846) and then republished as "On Population" in JDE , Oct. 1846. A revised version of this article appeared as chap. 16 in the 2nd, posthumous edition of Economic Harmonies (1851), with extensive explanatory notes by Fontenay. See below, pp. 000.

79 Bastiat, "Natural and Artificial Organisation", JDE , January 1848, which was republished with minor changes as the opening to the 1st edition of EH ; "Economic Harmonies: I., II., and III. The Needs of Man" JDE , 1 Sept. 1848 and "Economic Harmonies IV", JDE , 15 Dec. 1848. These 4 articles on "Economic Harmonies" were slightly changed and appeared as chapters 1-3 in the 1st edition of EH . See below, pp. 000.

80 Bastiat, Capital and Rent (published as a pamphlet in February 1849), and his lengthy discussion with Proudhon on Free Credit which appeared between October 1849 and March 1850. See below, pp. 000.

81 See in particular the discussion of Bastiat's ideas on land credit and rent in the April 10, 1850 meeting of the Political Economy Society, as reported in the JDE , 15 April 1850, T. XXVI, pp. 99-101. See below, pp. 000.

82 Ambroise Clément (1805-86) was an economist and secretary to the mayor of Saint-Étienne for many years. He was a member of the PES from 1848, a regular writer and reviewer for the JDE , and was made a corresponding member of the Académie des sciences morales et politiques in 1872.

83 Harmonies économiques , par M. Frédéric Bastiat. (Compte-rendu par M.A. Clément), JDE , T. 26, N° 111, 15 June 1850, pp. 235-47.

84 See the glossary entry on "Service for Service."

85 Joseph Garnier (1813-81) was a professor, journalist, politician, and activist for free trade and peace. He was appointed the first professor of political economy at the École des ponts et chaussées in 1846 and was one of the leading exponents of Malthusian population theory. Garnier was one of the founders of L'Association pour la liberté des échanges and (with Bastiat) of the 1848 liberal broadsheet Jacques Bonhomme .

86 "La deuxième édition des Harmonies économiques de Frédéric Bastiat," par M. Joseph Garnier, JDE , T. 29, N° 124, 15 August 1851, pp. 312-16.

87 Molinari, "Nécrologie. Frédéric Bastiat, notice sur sa vie et ses écrits," JDE , T. 28, N° 118, 15 février 1851, pp. 180-96.

88 Molinari, "Nécrologie," pp. 195-96.

89 See Letter 180 To Fontenay 3 July 1850, CW1, p255-56. Also, Letter 158 to Félix Coudroy (Jan. 1850), Letter 167 To Prosper Paillottet (19 May 1850), Letter 174 To Hortense Cheuvreux (15 June 1850), Letter 175 To Prosper Paillottet (23 June 1850), Letter 180 To Fontenay (3 July 1850), Letter 181 To Hortense Cheuvreux (4 July 1850), Letter 182 To Horace Say (4 July 1850), Letter 184 To Casimir Cheuvreux (14 July 1850), Letter 185 To Richard Cobden (3 Aug. 1850), Letter 188 To Richard Cobden (9 Sept. 1850), Letter 196 To Bernard Domenger (8 Oct. 1850), Letter 203 To Félix Coudroy (11 Nov. 1850), Letter 206 To Prosper Paillottet (8 Dec. 1850), Letter 209 Bastiat's long letter to JDE (no date).

90 Nothing is known about M. Soustra other than Ronce describes him as one of Bastiat's friends.

91 By the end of 1849 Bastiat had completed 10 chapters of a much longer work and decided to published what he had as Economic Harmonies . This appeared in print in January 1850. He died before he could complete his project and his friends Prosper Paillotttet and Roger de Fontenay edited his papers and published a longer second edition of the work with 25 chapters in July 1851.

Letter 198. Pisa, 14 Oct. 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 198. Pisa, 14 Oct. 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 124-27) [CW1, pp. 281-82].

My dear Mme Cheuvreux,

At last! If nothing has upset your plans, if there has not been a coup d’état in Paris, if Mlle Louise has not been overcome by some cursed indisposition or M. Cheuvreux by a migraine, if he has settled his affairs with his court, if . . . if you have now taken the first step, the most difficult one, the one that costs the most, you will be on the railway en route for Tonnerre. Each evening, I will be able to say: “There are fifty leagues fewer between us.” Oh, how happy our descendants will be to have electric telegraphs which will tell them: “Departure took place one minute ago.” And now, madam, why are wishes based on friendship totally useless? If mine could be heard, your journey would be just a series of pleasant impressions; you would have beautiful sunshine as a constant companion, not to mention pleasant meetings all along your way. Mlle Louise would feel her strength increasing hourly and her gaiety and friendly interest in everything would not flag for a minute. This disposition would be caught by her father and mother, and this is how you would reach Marseilles. There, you would find a mirror-like sea, quarantine waived, etc. But all the wishes in the world will not prevent your having chosen a date for your departure that greatly increases the difficulties of your journey. This is somewhat due to my bad reputation. You are so convinced, having constantly repeated it, that I do not know my left from my right, your convictions in this respect are so deeply rooted, that I am taken to be totally [282] incapable of properly executing the slightest maneuver, let alone of advising others. This is why you have not read a single word of what I have written on this subject. From what you say, it is as clear as daylight that you have leaped with both feet over all the passages in my letters where I set myself up as an adviser. However, it is pointless going over this again, since this advice, presuming you take account of it, will arrive too late.

Instead of a good French mail boat, will you not have a small Sardinian boat, loaded with goods, crowded with all kinds of passengers subject neither to control nor discipline, where the second-class passengers invade the first-class seats and come to smoke under the noses of women? No complaint can be made, least of all to the captain, since he sets the example of breaking all the rules. At least, this pilgrimage is beginning by the grace of God and it has to end under the same auspices.

Very dear madam, how can I end this letter without begging a pardon of which I am in great need? I have complained loudly of your silence; I was very ungrateful and very unjust, since I have received more letters, not than I wished but than I dared to hope for. The only thing was that the first was delayed and was a little laconic, and this was the cause of all this noise. Please be indulgent toward the complaints of patients: people with your goodness pity and excuse them but do not become annoyed by them.

Farewell, your devoted servant,
F. Bastiat

Letter 199. Pisa, 18 Oct. 1850. To Richard Cobden


Letter 199. Pisa, 18 Oct. 1850. To Richard Cobden (OC1, pp. 192-3) [CW1, pp. 282-83].


My dear Cobden, thank you for the interest you take in my health. I cannot say whether it is better or worse. Its progress is so imperceptible that I scarcely know the fate to which it is leading me. All that I ask of the heavens now is that the tubes that go from my mouth to my lungs and stomach do not become more painful. I have never given thought to the immense role they play in our lives. Drinking, eating, breathing, talking, all pass through them. If they do not work, we die; if they work badly it is very much worse.

The first sight of Italy, and in particular of Tuscany, has not had the same effect on me as it had on you.368 This is not surprising; you arrived here in [283] triumph after having made the human race take one of its most remarkable steps forward. You were welcomed and feted by all the most enlightened and liberal men in the country who love the public good; you saw Tuscany from the summit. For my part, I have entered it from the opposite extreme; all my contacts up to now have been with boatmen, coachmen, waiters in inns, beggars, and facchini,369 who constitute the most rapacious, tenacious, and abject race of men you could ever meet. I often tell myself that we should not be quick to judge and that very probably my interior disposition clouds my view of things. It is true that it is very difficult for a man who cannot speak and who can scarcely stand upright not to be very irritable, and therefore unjust. However, my friend, I do not think I am mistaken in saying this: when men disregard their dignity, when they acknowledge no other law than carelessness, and when they refuse to submit to any form of order or voluntary discipline, there is no hope. Here men are very well disposed to one another, and this disposition is taken to such lengths that it becomes a fault and an insuperable obstacle to any serious attempt to achieve independence and freedom. In the streets, in steamboats, on the railway, you will constantly see rules being flouted. People smoke where it is forbidden to do so, second-class passengers invade first class, and those that have not paid take the places of those who have. These are accepted events that do not annoy anyone, not even their victims. They seem to say: he has dared to do this, he was right and I would do as much in his place. As for officialdom and police constables and captains, how can they ensure that the rules are respected when they are always the first to break them?

Nevertheless, my dear Cobden, do not take these words for more than the tirade of a misanthropist. In the evening of the day before yesterday, boredom took me to Florence. I arrived at three o’clock in the afternoon. As I had no other luggage than an overnight bag, no one wanted to allow me into his hotel. I was overcome with tiredness and could not explain my situation since my voice had gone. Finally, in a more hospitable inn, I was given a cold, dark room in the attic. For this reason, yesterday I was in a hurry to leave this city of flowers, which for me had been just a city of worries. However, I did have the pleasure of meeting the marquis de Ridolfi. We talked a great deal about you. Later, if my vocal cords recover some of their sound, I will return to reconcile myself with the city of the Medici.

Letter 200. Pisa, 20 Oct. 1850. To Horace Say


Letter 200. Pisa, 20 Oct. 1850. To Horace Say (OC1, pp. 201-3) [CW1, pp. 284-85].


My dear friend, we wrote to each other at almost the same time on the day of the monthly dinner, which made our letters cross between Paris and Pisa. Since then, I have noticed no change, either for better or for worse, in my illness. Only, the feeling of pain is wearing because of its constancy. Weakness, isolation, and boredom I could overcome, if only it were not for this cursed tearing in the throat which makes all the numerous and essential functions that pass through it so painful. Oh, how much I would like to have one day of respite! But all the invocations on earth are powerless. From the strange dreams I have and the perspiration that always follows sleep, I can see that I have a slight fever every night. However, since I do not cough any more than before, I think that this fever is rather an effect of my continuous state of indisposition than a symptom of a constitutional illness.

. . . I believe in fact that political economy is more widely known here than in France because it is included in the law. It is a great thing to give a gloss of this science to the men who are more or less closely concerned with the execution of the laws, since these men contribute greatly to their drafting and in addition they form the basis of what is known as the enlightened class. I have no hope of seeing political economy taking root in the school of law in France. In this connection, the blindness of governments is incomprehensible. They do not want us to teach the only approach to economic science that guarantees them durability and stability. Is it not typical that the minister of trade and the minister of education, by passing me from one to the other like a ball, have effectively refused me a location in which to give lectures free of charge?

Since you are our cappoletto, our leader, you ought to indoctrinate our friends Garnier and Molinari in order that they take advantage of this unique occasion of the signature370 which, whatever people say, is giving dignity to the newspaper. It is up to them, I believe, to give La Patrie something it has never had, which is color and character. They will have to act with great prudence and circumspection, since the paper is not an économiste publication either with respect to its director, its shareholders, or its subscribers. Its cachet should become apparent only gradually. I believe that our friends should not act as though they were in an overtly économiste journal and one [285] which displayed the flag. This would be to cross swords with our opponents. But in La Patrie the tactic should not be the same. First of all, questions of free trade should be discussed only now and then, in particular the most controversial (such as the laws on navigation). It would be better to deal with the question on a higher plane, one that embraces politics, political economy, and socialism at the same time, that is to say, state intervention. In my view, they should also not put forward nonintervention as a theory or set of principles. All they should do is draw the attention of the reader to it each time the opportunity arises. In order not to generate mistrust, their role is to show for each individual case the advantages and disadvantages of intervention. Why should we hide the advantages? There have to be some if this intervention is so popular. They will therefore have to admit that, when there is good to be done or an evil to be combated, a call for government enforcement appears at first to be the shortest, most economic and effective means. In this very respect, in their place, I would show myself to be very broad-minded and conciliatory to government supporters, since they are very numerous and it is less a question of refuting them than winning them over. But after having acknowledged the immediate advantages, I would draw their attention to later disadvantages. I would say: This is how new functions, new civil servants, new taxes, new sources of discontent, and new financial problems are created. Then, by substituting government enforcement for private activity, are we not removing the intrinsic value of individuality and the means of acquiring it? Are we not making all citizens into men who do not know how to act individually, take a decision, and repulse unexpected events and surprise attacks? Are we not preparing elements of society for socialism, which is nothing other than one man’s thought taking the place of everyone else’s will?

If the various special questions that may arise are discussed from this point of view with impartiality, with the arguments for and against being correctly made, I believe that the public would take a greater interest in them and would soon recognize the true cause of our misfortunes. M. Dumas’ circulars provide a good text to start with.

Farewell, my dear friend, would you believe that I am tired from having scribbled these few lines? However, I still have the strength to ask you to remember me to Mme Say and Léon.

Letter 201. Pisa, 28 Oct. 1850. To M. le Comte Arrivabene


Letter 201. Pisa, 28 Oct. 1850. To M. le Comte Arrivabene (OC7, pp. 419-20) [CW1, p. 286].


I was profoundly touched, my dear sir, by the quite unforced and tactful interest you have shown me in sending me a letter of introduction to Mme Primi. You accurately guessed what suits my position and, above all, my character and I must admit that not only Tuscany but paradise as well would have less attraction for me if I did not meet a friendly soul there. You can therefore imagine with what enthusiasm I would have met Mme Primi. Unfortunately, she is away on holiday and I very much fear that I will have no further opportunity to pay her my respects as I am planning to move my quarters to Rome for the coming winter. It is exactly the need for a few friends that has persuaded me to do this. In Rome, I will meet one of my relatives, an excellent priest, and M. Say’s brother-in-law with his family.371 Not being able to frequent society and, what is much worse, not being able to work, I would be faced with enforced isolation and idleness, unbearable without a few friends willing to bear with me and my miseries.

All that you tell me about Mme Primi and her sister makes me very much regret missing this opportunity of making their acquaintance. If I am better in the spring, I will probably be going through Tuscany again on my return to France, since you can scarcely avoid examining a region that has such interesting institutions and history when you have undergone so much to come here. In this case, I will compensate for the disappointment that my sudden departure has given me today.

I remember that at our last meeting in Paris, you spoke to me of M. Gioberti. I have been to see him and am in debt to him for some excellent recommendations for which my gratitude extends to you.

Farewell, my dear sir;
your devoted servant,
F. Bastiat

Letter 202. Pisa, 29 Oct. 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 202. Pisa, 29 Oct. 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 127-30) [CW1, pp. 287-88].

Dear Mme Cheuvreux,

How difficult your journey from Florence to Rome must have been!372 In spite of that philosophical strength with which you encounter setbacks, in spite of the good humor that each one of you will have brought to the company, it is not possible for you not to have suffered from such terrible weather, traveling on potholed roads and in a region with no resources. My imagination scarcely dares follow you in this odyssey; all M. Sturler’s forecasts rise up before it. However, how I bless the happy inspiration that made you take the sea route in Marseilles on the 19th! Two days later, the crossing became dangerous as the Mediterranean became rough enough to disrupt all the services, and when the boat that followed you arrived in Genoa, it was not able to reach Leghorn. It abandoned the journey at La Spezzia, where it put its passengers ashore. You escaped these perils, thank heaven, and this idea comforts me a little in the face of your current deprivations which, fortunately, will end this evening. The sight of the Eternal City makes you forget everything. I am counting on arriving in this Eternal City on Saturday, 2 November. I will leave Leghorn by the state mail boat (tempo permettendo) and you will understand why I will not be stopping in Civitavecchia.

Dear madam, let us not talk about my health; this is a sonata which I will have ample time to deafen you with in Rome. When I think that you have come to provide your husband and especially your daughter with pleasures and amusements, I have some remorse in leaping into your midst like some killjoy, since I am fully aware that for a long time I have been turning to Victor Hugo and his “Last Days of a Condemned Man,” which is not much fun for my friends. I still find Victor Hugo’s hero very fortunate, since he could at least think and speak; he was in the same situation as Socrates, so why did he not have the same attitude to things?

This small book that I asked you for shows us this Athenian philosopher, condemned to death, speaking about his soul and future. Socrates, however, was a pagan and reduced to creating for himself uncertain hopes through a process of reason. A condemned man who is a Christian does not have to [288] go down this road. Revelation spares him this, and his point of departure is precisely this hope, become a certainty, which was a conclusion for Socrates. This is why Victor Hugo’s condemned man is just a coward. Is it not better to have in front of one a single month of strength and health, one month of vigor in body and soul with hemlock at the end, rather than one or two years of decline, increasing weakness and distaste, during which every link breaks and nature no longer appears to do other than detach one from earthly existence? In fact, however, it is for God to ordain and for us to be resigned.

I really think that I am a little better; I have been able to spend quite long sessions with M. Mure and in addition I have received a great many visits.

Paillottet has written to me. He is always the same person, good, obliging, devoted, and, what is more, unaffected, which is rather rare in Paris. My family has also given me news of itself.

Farewell, dear Mme Cheuvreux, till Saturday or Sunday. In the meantime, please assure M. Cheuvreux and your daughter of my wholehearted friendship, not forgetting the captain, and please express my compliments and respects to M. Edouard and Mme Bertin.

Letter 214 to Paillottet (Rome, 8 Nov. 1850)


Letter 214. Rome, 8 Nov. 1850. Letter to Paillottet in P. Ronce, Frédéric Bastiat. Sa vie, son oeuvre (Paris: Guillaumin, 1905), pp. 260-61). [CW4]

Editor's Introduction

Ronce tells us that Bastiat's spirits were lifted by the early arrival of his friends from Paris, the Cheuvreux and Bertin 92 families, to Pisa on October 22. He felt well enough to spend a day or so travelling with them to Florence. The Cheuvreux then accompanied him to Rome where he would remain until his death. He relates to Paillottet how he now suffers from boredom as he is no longer able to work on projects like rewriting his pamphlet on "Parliamentary Conflicts of Interest" (March, 1849) which the Guillaumin publishers wanted to reprint.

One interesting fact we learn from the letter is that, even at this very late stage in his illness, Bastiat still has the capacity to joke and laugh at himself, on this occasion a joke about the inefficiency of the "Roman Revenue Service" and "the seen and the unseen."


It would give me great pleasure to write to you, my dear Paillottet, a long letter. But I will have to content myself (and perhaps you as well) with a short one in the style of Girardin, 93 because even though I could write for a long time I would have to confront my great physical difficulties.

I am very happy to have come to Rome where I enjoy the loving and constant care of the Cheuvreux family. Furthermore, I have been able to shake off a second illness which was growing upon the first one while I was in Pisa. It goes by the name of boredom . At last, I have had the good fortune to find here a close relative and friend (Eugène de Monclar). You can see how pleased I am with my move here. However, I ought to say that my larynx 94 does not appear ready to move into the next phase of convalescence.

You can tell Guillaumin to go ahead and reprint my pamphlet "Parliamentary Conflicts of Interests" 95 and that I approve of the measures you have taken together. However, don't think that if I were not prevented from doing so, I wouldn't resist correcting the pamphlet. I would want to cut the first part, lengthen all the examples I gave on the constitutional history of Britain, and above all correct something which I attributed to M. Thiers. 96 I was so angry to have made this mistake that, when the public discussion of it was taking place, I would have retracted my statement from the rostrum, if I hadn't forgotten to do so. But let us not dwell on the impossible.

As for the book by Carey, send it to me when and as you can. 97 If Guillaumin had some contacts in the French embassy, this way of contacting me would be convenient. As for the other matters, getting copies of the Journal des Économistes costs me in Tuscany no more than a standard letter. I don't know what it is like in the Roman States. But sending it via the Embassy is more convenient from the point of view of security than that of cheapness.

Concerning the delivery of letters, I have just learned that those which come from France in envelopes cost double. This is absurd, but it is true. If you fold it and seal it in the old fashioned manner you would save me 75 centimes that I can see and which the Roman Fisc (revenue service) does not see . 98

Our dear friend Michel Chevalier 99 has not failed us in writing a strong review in favour of my book. 100 I plan to write to him to thank him for his article which, as you can imagine, has made me very happy.

Tell me about M. de Fontenay. Is he hard at work? What is he busy with? Perhaps he should avoid concentrating all his energy for too long on a single subject. Experience has shown many thinkers that a single object of study disappears in the face of too determined research. By examining several topics at once one can see the connections between them. When he has finished working on Capital , then could work hard on something else, like Wages , or this wonderful subject which I have been busy with, the importance of the consumer .

Farewell, my dear Paillottet. Don't don't forget to mention me to our friends, and give my news to Justin.

Your devoted friend.


92 Armand Bertin (1801-1854) was the son of François Bertin who founded Le Journal des débats. He began working for his father's journal in 1822, took over as editor when he died in 1841, and remained with it until his death. The journal became one of the leading journals in France with authors like Hector Berlioz, Chateaubriand, Victor Hugo writing for it. Politically it was rather conservative, opposing many liberal reforms during the July Monarchy . After 1848 it took a more moderate conservative position and economists like Michel Chevalier and Bastiat were able to have some essays published in it, most notably Bastiat's essay "The State" in September 1848, most likely because of their strong anti-socialist position.

93 Possibly a reference to Saint-Marc Girardin (1801-1873) who was a literary critic, professor of history at the Sorbonne (succeeding François Guizot), and a Deputy during the July Monarchy. During Bastiat's time he wrote multi-volume works on "passion in drama" and collections of criticism.

94 In his correspondence Bastiat complained about "un petit bouton" (a pimple or lump) in his larynx which made it difficult for him to swallow and talk. It might have been throat cancer. See, Letter 191. To Louise Cheuvreux (Sept. 14, 1850), CW1, p. 272.

95 It was written in March 1849 when the Chamber was debating whether or not public servants could also sit in the Chamber as elected representatives, and whether Ministers should be chosen from among the Deputies or outside the Chamber (Bastiat opposed both as "conflicts of interest"). It was also published as a pamphlet, Incompatibilités parlementaires (Parliamentary Conflicts of Interest) (1849). OC5, pp. 518-61; CW2.19, pp. 366-400. See also Bastiat's speeches in the Chamber on amending the electoral law, below, pp. 000.

96 Bastiat mentions Thiers on two occasions in the pamphlet, once on the matter of proposals for parliamentary reform, and once on colluding with Guizot to overthrow the government of Molé. It is not clear which one he is referring to here.

97 See note 000 above on the matter of Carey's charging Bastiat with plagiarism.

98 Even at this late stage in his illness Bastiat is able to joke about his well known theory of "the seen" and "the unseen."

99 Michel Chevalier (1806-87) was a liberal economist and alumnus of the École polytechnique and a Minister under Napoleon III. Initially a Saint-Simonist, he was appointed to the chair of political economy at the Collège de France in 1840 and became a senator in 1860. He was an admirer of Bastiat and Cobden and played a decisive role in the free trade treaty signed between France and England in 1860 (Chevalier was the signatory for France, while Cobden was the signatory for England).

100 We have not been able to locate this review by Chevalier.

Letter 203. Rome, 11 Nov. 1850. To Félix Coudroy


Letter 203. Rome, 11 Nov. 1850. To Félix Coudroy (OC1, pp. 104-6) [CW1, pp. 288-89].


If I put off writing to you from day to day, my dear Félix, it is because I always think that in a little while I will have the strength to indulge in a long chat. Instead of this, I am obliged to make my letters ever shorter, either because my weakness is increasing or because I am losing the habit of writing. Here I am in the Eternal City, my friend, unfortunately very little disposed to visit its marvels. I am infinitely better than in Pisa, surrounded by excellent friends who wrap me in the most affectionate solicitude. What is more, I have met Eugene again and he comes to spend part of the day with me. So, if I go out, I can always give my walks an interesting aim. I would ask for one thing only, and that is to be relieved of this piercing pain in the larynx; this constant suffering distresses me. Meals are genuine torture for me. Speaking, drinking, eating, swallowing saliva, and coughing are all painful operations. A stroll on foot tires me and an outing in a carriage irritates my throat; I cannot work nor even read seriously. You see the state to which I am reduced. Truly, I will soon be just a corpse that has retained the faculty of suffering. I hope that the treatment that I have decided to undergo, the [289] remedies I am given, and the gentleness of the climate will improve my deplorable situation soon.

My friend, I will speak only vaguely about one of the subjects you have discussed with me. I had already thought about this, and among my papers there should be some outlines of articles in the form of letters addressed to you. If my health returns and I am able to write the second volume of the Harmonies, I will dedicate it to you. If not, I will insert a short dedication in the second edition of the first volume. In the second of these cases, which will imply the end of my career, I will be able to set out my plan to you and bequeath to you the mission of completing it.

Here we have trouble getting papers. I have come across an old one, from the time when people were enthusiastic about improving the lot of the working classes. The future of workers, the condition of workers, and the eternal virtues of workers formed the text of all the books, pamphlets, reviews, or journals. And to think that these are the same writers who shower the people with insults, committed as they are to one of the three dynasties that are fighting over our poor France, and who are wholly responsible for this bad situation. Can you think of anything more dismal?

Thank you for having sent some biographical information to M. Paillottet. My life is of no interest to the general public, except for the circumstances that drew me out of Mugron. If I had known that people were interested in this account, I would have related this interesting fact.

Farewell, my dear Félix; unless I am completely unable to travel or completely cured, I am counting on spending the month of April in Mugron, since I have been forbidden to return to Paris before May. I groan at not being able to fulfill my duties as a representative, but it is unfortunately clear that it is not my fault. In Italy as well as in Spain, we often see how little influence external devotion has on morals.

Please remember me to all our friends and give news of me to my aunt. Please assure your sister of my friendship.

Letter 204. Rome, 26 Nov. 1850. To M. Paillottet


Letter 204. Rome, 26 Nov. 1850. To M. Paillottet (OC1, pp. 206-7) [CW1, pp. 290-91].


My dear Paillottet, each time I receive a letter from Paris, it seems to me that my correspondents are Toinettes and that I am Argan:373

The cheeky girl has claimed for an entire hour that I was not ill! You know, my love, what is really the case.

All of you are taking a friendly interest in my illness, but you then treat me as a healthy man. You plan things for me to do, you ask my opinion on various serious subjects, and then you tell me just to write you a few lines. I would have liked you to have included the secret of saying everything in a few words, along with your advice, in your letter. How can I discuss the parliamentary conflicts of interest with you, the corrections to be made to it, and the reasons that make me think that this subject cannot be combined, either in substance or form, with the speech on the tax on wines and spirits—all of this in a single line? And then I have to say something about Carey, since you are sending me his proofs here in Tuscany—and the Harmonies, since you tell me that the current edition is out of print.374

In your fine letter, which I received today, you express the fear that, at the sight of Rome, I will be overcome with enthusiasm and that this will undermine my healing by shattering my nerves. In this, you are still assuming that I am a healthy man. You should understand, my friend, that there are two reasons, which are just as strong as each other, that Rome’s monuments do not trigger an outburst of dangerous enthusiasm in me. The first is that I do not see any of these monuments, since I am more or less confined to my room, surrounded by ashes and coffeepots; the second is that the source of enthusiasm has completely dried up in me, since all the strength of my concentration and imagination are centered on the means of swallowing a little food or drink and getting a little sleep between two coughing fits.

In spite of my writing to Florence, I have no news of Carey’s proofs.375 God alone knows when they will arrive.


Farewell; I will end abruptly. I would have a thousand things to say to you for M. and Mme Planat, M. de Fontenay, and M. Manin. Shortly, when I am better, I will chat longer with you. Now, it is all I can do to reach this page.

Letter 205. Rome, 28 Nov. 1850. To M. Domenger


Letter 205. Rome, 28 Nov. 1850. To M. Domenger (OC7, pp. 410-12) [CW1, pp. 291-92].


I am very happy to have come to Rome where I have found a degree of medical treatment as well as some medicines; I do not know how I would have got on in Pisa. My throat has become so painful that just eating and drinking has become a major operation. Special preparations have to be made for me, and for this my friends have been very useful to me. I cannot say whether I am better. I do not notice any change from one day to the other, but if I compare myself on a month to month basis, I cannot avoid noticing a definite gradual weakening. May I have the strength in February, my dear D., to return to Mugron! However much the virtues of the climate are praised, they cannot replace home. Besides, I envisage two outcomes for my illness, a cure or the final conclusion. If I have to die, I would like to be laid to rest in the common resting place in which my friends and parents lie. I would like our circle of friends to accompany me to this final resting place and our excellent parish priest in Mugron to say for me this sublime request: “Lux perpetua luceat ei!377 etc., etc. Also, if I can, I intend to take advantage of the fine days of February to go to Marseilles, where Justin can come to fetch me.

If ever I return home, it will be a very sharp disappointment to have spent several months in Rome and not seen anything. I have visited Saint Peter’s only, because its temperature never changes. I limit myself to taking the sun every day on Mount Pincio, where I cannot stay very long because there are no benches. I will therefore have seen Rome only as the crow flies. In spite of this, you always gain some information through reading, conversation, and [292] the atmosphere. What strikes me the most is the solidity of the Christian tradition and the abundance of irrefutable evidence of this.

My friend, the recent political outcome has given me much pleasure, since it gives some respite to our France. It seems to have justified totally my line of conduct. At the first elections, I promised to give an honest Republic a loyal trial, and I am sure that this was the general wish. For one reason or another, priests, nobles, and plebeians were in agreement on this although with different expectations. The Legitimists and Orleanists disappeared completely as such. But what happened? As soon as they were able, they began to belittle, cheat, calumniate, and embarrass the Republic in favor of Legitimism, Orleanism, or Bonapartism. All of this has failed, and now they are doing what they promised to do, which is what I have done and from which they diverged for two years. They have caused commotion in France for no good reason.

I was very mistaken, I admit, to talk to you as I did about Mesdames X——. I was under the influence of the idea that devotion, when it takes charge of detailed practices, overlooks genuine morals, and I had striking examples of this in view. But it is certain that this was nothing to do with these ladies.

Letter 206. Rome, 8 Dec. 1850. To M. Paillottet


Letter 206. Rome, 8 Dec. 1850. To M. Paillottet (OC1, pp. 207-9; also CH, pp. 130-32) [CW1, pp. 292-94].


Dear Paillottet, Am I better? I cannot say; I feel constantly weaker. My friends think that my strength is returning. Who is right?

The Cheuvreux family is leaving Rome immediately because of Mme Girard’s illness. You can imagine my sorrow. I like to think that it is above all because of the sorrow of such very good friends, but certainly more selfish motives have the upper hand.

Quite providentially, yesterday I wrote to my family asking them to send me a sort of Michel-Morin, a man full of gaiety and also resourceful, a coachman, cook, etc., etc., who has often served me and who is totally devoted to me. As soon as he arrives, I will be free to leave whenever I like for France. For you have to know that the doctor and my friends have taken a solemn decision on this matter. They consider that the nature of my illness has created so many problems that all the advantages of the climate do not outweigh the care provided at home. Given these opinions, my dear Paillottet, you will not be coming to Rome to carry out works of mercy for me. The [293] affection you have shown me is such that you will be annoyed by this, I am sure. But console yourself with the thought that, because of the nature of my illness, you would have been able to do very little for me other than coming to keep me company for two hours a day, something that is more pleasant than reasonable. I would have liked to be able to give you some explanation of this. But heavens above! To explain would require a great deal of writing and I cannot do this. My friend, in a multitude of ways I am undergoing the torture of Tantalus. Here is a new example: I would like to express my thoughts to you in detail and I have not the strength. . . .

What you and Guillaumin will have done for the conflicts of interest378 will be well done.

As for the Carey matter,379 I must admit that it seems a little odd to me. On the one hand, Garnier has announced that the journal has taken the side of property and monopoly. On the other, Guillaumin tells me that M. Clément is going to take part in the conflict. If Le Journal des économistes wants to punish me for having treated a question in economic science independently, it is not very generous of it to choose a time when I am on my sickbed, unable to read, write, or think and seeking to retain at least the ability to eat, drink, and sleep which is escaping me.

As I feel that I cannot take up the conflict, I have added to my reply to Carey a few considerations addressed to Le Journal des économistes. Let me know how they have been received.

Will Fontenay then never be ready to enter the arena? He must understand how much I would need his assistance. Garnier says, “We have the support of Smith, Ricardo, Malthus, J. B. Say, Rossi, and all the economists except for Carey and Bastiat.” I very much hope that belief in the legitimacy [294] of landed property will soon find other defenders and I am especially counting on Fontenay.

Please write to Michel Chevalier to tell him how grateful I am for his excellent article on my book. His only fault is to be too benevolent and to leave too little room for criticism. Tell Chevalier that I am waiting only for a little strength to return to convey to him myself my deep gratitude. I sincerely hope that he will inherit M. Droz’s380 chair; this would be no more than belated justice.

Letter 207. Rome, 14, 15, 16, 17 Dec. 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux


Letter 207. Rome, 14, 15, 16, 17 Dec. 1850. To Madame Cheuvreux (CH, pp. 132-35) [CW1, pp. 294-95].

Very dear Mme Cheuvreux,

I hope to sit on occasion at this desk, adding one line to another to send you a souvenir.

I have never been so close to nothingness and I would like to be all-powerful in order to make the sea as calm as a lake.

What emotions and duties await you in Paris! My only consolation is for you to tell me that you are ready, with courageous energy, to go down the road that God will have prepared for you, however painful it is.

My health remains the same. If I started to speak about it, it would be through a series of small details only, which would not be of any importance the following day.

Basically, I think Doctor Lacauchy is right not to listen to a word I say.

I am very pleased to think that M. Cheuvreux will shortly be seeing our excellent, all too excellent friend, Paillottet, and will persuade him to abandon an act of devotion that is now totally unnecessary. I very much fear that his presence in Paris will be absolutely essential for me if the Harmonies are reprinted. I cannot be involved with this and everything will be on his shoulders.381


Sunday, 15 December

Here you are in Genoa and with just a little more patience you will be in France. It is five o’clock, the time you used to come to see me. Then I knew what gallery Mlle Louise had visited, what ruin or painting had interested her. This was a ray of sunshine in my life. Everything is ended, I am alone for twenty-four hours a day, except for the two visits from my cousin, de Monclar. The time to which I am referring has become bitter because it used to be too sweet; you proved to me with the scientific approach of your father that I was right to be the most grumpy, stupid, irritable, and often the most unjust of men. Besides, I think that I am learning resignation and am acquiring a certain taste for it.

Monday, 16 December

When Joseph came to say goodbye, the poor man dissolved into thanks. Alas! No one owes me any thanks and I owe them to everyone, especially to Joseph, who has been such a help to me.

A new discovery! A sudden movement removed all breath from me. With one breath being unable to join another, the pain was unbearable. I have concluded that I will have to make all movements slowly like an automaton.

Tuesday, 17 December382

Paillottet has arrived. He has announced the dreadful news to me.383 Oh! You poor woman, poor child! You have received the most terrible and unexpected blow of all. How can you have borne it with a soul so little made for suffering? Louise will be able to control her sorrow better. Throw yourself into the arms of this divine strength, the only strength that can sustain you in such times of trial. May this strength never desert you. Dear friends, I do not have the fortitude to continue these disconnected words and fractured thoughts.

Farewell; in spite of my state of prostration, I still find bright sparks of sympathy for the misfortune that has come upon you.

Farewell, your friend,
Frédéric Bastiat

Letter 208. Letter from Prosper Paillottet to Mme Cheuvreux, Rome, 22 Dec. 1850


Letter 208. Letter from Prosper Paillottet to Mme Cheuvreux, Rome, 22 Dec. 1850 (CW1.208) (CH, pp. 135-39) [CW1, pp. 296-97].


I am settling a personal debt and carrying out the wishes of our friend in giving you news of him. You had few illusions when you left him, and yet you could not have imagined that his strength would have declined so rapidly. This decline is very noticeable since my arrival here. The poor invalid is aware of it and is pleased within himself, as though it were a favor from heaven to shorten his suffering.

At first he protested in word and gesture at what he called my folly. M. de Monclar and I had difficulty persuading him that this was the right thing to do. However, I soon realized that my presence was a consolation and I am infinitely grateful to you, madam, for having made it possible to give him this. “Since you have made this long journey, I am very glad that you are here,” he said to me on the third day. Besides, he never fails to ask me when I leave: “At what time will I see you tomorrow?”

This is how M. de Monclar, whose agreement I naturally sought, and I have divided his days. M. de Monclar visits him in the morning and leaves when I arrive, at half past eleven. I keep him company up to five o’clock in the afternoon, and after supper M. de Monclar returns.

It is an extremely painful spectacle that I am witnessing, but I would be very sorry, both through affection and duty, if I were not there. Death is almost always the third person present in our talks. Both he and I refrain from mentioning his name; he in order not to upset me and I in order not to give him the example of breaking down and weeping when he is such an example of courage. He is dying in fact just as I have always thought he ought to die, staring death in the face with total resignation.

The subjects we discuss are absent friends, among whom you and yours have the pride of place, followed by his beloved science, political economy, for which he has done so much and for which he would have wanted to do still more. I have no need to tell you that these discussions are very short and that I put my ear close to his lips from time to time. The few sentences he pronounces are received by me with a religious respect.

Yesterday, we went on an outing that enchanted him. Leaving by the Popolo [297] gate, we went to the ponte Molle and returned through the Angelica gate. The sites we saw were bathed in fine sunshine. He repeatedly said to me, “What a delightful outing! How successful we have been!” The serenity of the sky had entered his soul. He was expressing a final farewell to the splendors of nature, which had so often aroused his enthusiasm.

Since the 20th, he has made his confession. “I want,” he told me, “to die in the religion of my forefathers. I have always loved it, even though I have not followed its external practices.”

I am limiting myself to these few details and perhaps I should even apologize for sending them to you, when you are in the throes of the most legitimate affliction caused by the most cruel of losses.

I missed meeting you in Leghorn by a whisker, since it appears that we were there on the same day, as I later found out. Anyway, I was glad that this encounter did not take place, since you still had a shred of hope, which I would have found it difficult to remove from you.

Please convey, madam, my affectionate sentiments to M. Cheuvreux and I assure you and Mlle Louise of my homage and respectful devotion.

P. Paillottet

Letter 209. Undated letter, "Les Harmonies économiques. Lettre de M. Carey; réponse de MM. Frédéric Bastiat et A. Clément"


Letter 209. [1851.??] "Lettre non datée" (Undated letter), "Les Harmonies économiques. Lettre de M. Carey; réponse de MM. Frédéric Bastiat et A. Clément", JDE, T. 28, no. 117, 15 Jan. 1851, pp. 38-54. [OC1, pp. 209-16] [CW1, pp. 297-302].


My book385 is in the hands of the general public. I do not fear that it will encounter a single person who, after reading it, will say, “This is the work of a plagiarist.” A slow assimilation, the fruit of lifelong meditation, is only too evident, especially if it is compared with my other writings.

But whoever mentions assimilation admits that he has not drawn all his material from his own resources.

Oh, yes! I owe a great deal to Mr. Carey; I owe something to Smith, J. B. Say, Comte, and Dunoyer; and I owe something to my opponents and something to the air I have breathed. I owe something to the intimate discussions I have had with a close friend, M. Félix Coudroy, with whom for twenty years I have investigated all these questions in solitude, without there appearing the slightest disagreement in our assessments and ideas, something [298] that is very rare in the history of the human mind and very propitious to the enjoyment of the delights of certainty.

This means that I do not claim the title of inventor with regard to harmony. I even believe that it is the mark of a small mind, one that is incapable of linking the present to the past, to imagine that it invents principles. Sciences and academic disciplines grow like plants; they spread, grow, and become refined. But what successor owes nothing to those that went before him?

In particular, the “harmony of interests” could not be the invention of one person only. Is it not the presentiment and aspiration of the human race, the aim of its eternal evolution? How can a political writer dare to claim for himself the invention of an idea that is the instinctive belief of all men?

This harmony has been proclaimed by economic science from the outset. This is proved by the very title of the physiocrats’ books. Doubtless, scholars have often demonstrated this badly, they have allowed a great many errors to creep into their works which, for the very reason that they were errors, contradicted their beliefs. What does that prove? That scholars make mistakes. However, by dint of much trial and error, the core idea of the harmony of interests has always shone over the economist school, like its pole star. The only proof I want of this is the motto it has been criticized for: laissez-faire, laissez-passer.386 It certainly implies a belief that interests achieve justice among themselves, under freedom’s dispensation.

That having been said, I do not hesitate to give justice to Mr. Carey. I have known his works for a short time only; I have read them very superficially because of my occupations, my illness, and especially because of the singular divergence that, both in fact and in method, characterizes the English and French minds. We make generalizations, which our neighbors disdain. They go into detail in thousands and thousands of pages, which our attention cannot cope with. Be that as it may, I acknowledge that we owe this great and consoling cause, the conformity between the interests of the various classes, to no one more than to Mr. Carey. He has pointed it out and proved it from a great many and varied angles in such a way that there can be no further doubt of the general law.


Mr. Carey complains that I have not acknowledged him. This is perhaps a mistake on my part, but it is not intentional. Mr. Carey has been able to show me new views and supply me with arguments but he has not revealed any principle to me. I could not quote him in my chapter on trade, which is at the root of all, nor in those on value, the progressive society, or competition. The time to base myself on his authority would have been in connection with landed property, but in this first volume I treated the question through my own theory of value, which is not that of Mr. Carey. At this time, I was planning to write a special chapter on rent from land, and I firmly believed that my second volume would follow the first closely. It was in this that I would have quoted Mr. Carey, and not only would I have quoted him, but I would have given way to him to allow him the leading role on the stage; this was in the interest of the cause. In fact, on the question of land, Mr. Carey cannot fail to be a major authority. To study the primitive and natural development of property, all he has to do is open his eyes. To set it out, he has only to describe what he sees, more fortunate in this than Ricardo, Malthus, Say, and all of us European economists, who can see only a landed property that is subject to the thousand artificial combinations of conquest. In Europe, to go back to the principle of landed property you have to use the difficult process used by Cuvier to reconstruct a mastodon. It is not very surprising that most of our writers made mistakes in this attempt at analogy. In America, every career reveals its genuine mastodons; one has only to open one’s eyes. Therefore, I had everything to gain, or rather the cause had everything to gain, from my quoting the evidence of an American economist.

Finally, I cannot prevent myself from observing to Mr. Carey that a Frenchman can scarcely do him justice without a great effort at impartiality, and, as I am French, I was far from expecting him to deign to concern himself with me and my book. Mr. Carey professes the deepest scorn for France and the French and a hatred that borders on frenzy. He has expressed these sentiments in a good third of his voluminous writings and has taken the trouble to gather together, with no discernment it is true, a number of statistical documents to prove that we scarcely rank above the Hindus in the scale of humanity. To tell the truth, in his book Mr. Carey denies this hatred.387 But in denying it, he proves it, for how can such a denial be explained? What provoked it? It is Mr. Carey’s own conscience, when he himself was surprised [300] by all the proofs of hatred toward France that are accumulated in his book, that impelled him to proclaim that he did not hate France. How many times have I not told M. Guillaumin, “There are excellent points in Mr. Carey’s works and it would be a good thing to have them translated. They would contribute to advancing political economy in our country.” However, I was obliged to add, “Can we cast before the French general public diatribes like this against France and do we not risk missing our aim? Will the public not reject the good that is in these books because of what is wounding and unjust?”

May I be allowed to end with a reflection on the word plagiarism, which I used at the start of this letter? The people from whom I may have borrowed a view or an argument think that I am greatly in their debt. I am convinced of the contrary. If I had not allowed myself to be drawn into any controversy, if I had not examined any theory, if I had not quoted anyone’s name, if I had limited myself to establishing these two proposals: Services are exchanged for other services; value is the relationship between services exchanged, if I had then used these principles to explain all the highly complicated categories of human transactions, I believe that the monument I sought to raise would have gained a great deal (too much, perhaps, for the period) in clarity, grandeur, and simplicity.

P.S. I am leaving the subject of Mr. Carey and addressing, perhaps for the last time, with feelings of deep-seated goodwill, our colleagues on the editorial staff of Le Journal des économistes. In the note by this journal that provoked the complaint from Mr. Carey, the management announces that, with regard to landed property, it is siding with Ricardo’s theory. The reason it gives is that this theory has the authority of Ricardo himself, as well as Malthus, Say, and all the economists, “except for MM Bastiat and Carey.” The epigram is sharp and it is certain that the American economist and I are humbled in this antithesis.

Be that as it may, I reiterate that the journal’s management has passed a decisive resolution for its scientific authority.

Do not forget that Ricardo’s theory can be summed up thus: “Landed property is an unjust but necessary monopoly whose effect is to render the rich inevitably richer and the poor ever poorer.”

The first disadvantage of this formula is that its very enunciation arouses an invincible distaste and conflicts in people’s hearts, not with everything I would call generous and philanthropic, but with what more simply and [301] bluntly I would see as honest. Its second mistake is that it is based on incomplete observation and consequently runs counter to logic.

This is not the place to demonstrate the legitimacy of rent from land, but since I have to provide a useful aim for this text, in a few words I will set out how I understand it and how my opponents err.

You have certainly known traders in Paris whose profits increase annually without anyone being able to conclude that they are overcharging for their goods each year. They are far from doing this, and there is nothing more commonplace and more true than this proverb: Compensate through quantity. It is even a general law governing the flow of trade, that the greater it becomes, the greater the discount that the trader gives his customers, while at the same time making more profit. To persuade you of this, you have only to compare what a hatter in Paris and one in a village earn per hat. This is a well-known example of a case in which, when public prosperity grows, the sellers become ever richer and so does the buyer.

Now, what I say is that it is not only the general law of profit, but also the general law of capital and interest, as I have proved to M. Proudhon, and the general law of land rents, as I would prove if I were not exhausted.

Yes, when France prospers, there is a consequent general rise in land rents and “the rich become ever more rich.” To this extent Ricardo is right. But it does not follow that each agricultural product is increased in price at the expense of the workers. It does not follow that each worker is reduced to giving a greater proportion of his work to acquire a hectoliter of wheat. In a word, it does not follow that “the poor become ever poorer.” It is exactly the opposite that is true. As rent increases, through the natural effect of public prosperity it becomes less and less of a burden on products that are more abundant, exactly like the hatter who favors his customers all the more when he is in a milieu in which there is a greater demand.

Believe me, my dear colleagues, let us not incite Le Journal des économistes to reject these explanations lightly.

Lastly, the third and perhaps the greatest mistake, in terms of economic science, of the Ricardo theory is that it is belied by all the individual and general events that occur around the globe. According to this theory, for a century we should have seen industrial and commercial movable assets drawn into rapid and fatal decline compared with landed fortunes. We ought to have witnessed the onset in our towns of barbarous behavior, of darkness and filth, and of difficulties in the means of transport. What is more, with merchants, artisans, and workers reduced to giving an ever-increasing proportion [302] of their work to obtain a given quantity of wheat, we ought to be seeing wheat used less or at least no one being able to allow himself the same level of consumption of bread without curtailing other things he enjoys. I ask you, my dear colleagues, does the civilized world show any evidence of such a situation?

And then, with what purpose would you endow the journal? Would it say to landowners: “You are rich because you are enjoying an unjust but necessary monopoly, and, since it is necessary, enjoy it without scruple, especially since it ensures you ever-increasing riches”? Then turning to workers of all classes, would you say: “You are poor; your children will be poorer than you and your grandchildren even more so, until you die of starvation. This is because you are subject to an unjust but necessary monopoly, and since it is necessary, resign yourselves wisely and let the ever-increasing riches of the rich console you”?

I certainly do not ask for my ideas to be adopted without examination, but I believe that Le Journal des économistes would do better to subject the matter to study rather than issue an opinion right now. Oh, let us not readily believe that Ricardo, Say, Malthus, and Rossi, such eminent and well-founded minds, are mistaken. But let us not, either, lightly admit a theory that leads to such monstrosities.388

Endnotes to the Letters

Louis-Philippe abdicated on 24 February 1848, thus bringing the July Monarchy to an end.


As part of the British campaign against the slave trade, British vessels would inspect foreign ships on the high seas to see if they were carrying slaves.


Fifty-two people were killed by the military.


Bastiat wrote a number of articles in February 1848 for La République française on these events.


The revolution of February 1848 brought an end to the July Monarchy, which in turn had come to power by revolution in 1830.


Jacques Bonhomme.


The ceremony that took place on Saturday, 4 March, organized by the provisional government in honor of the citizens who died for the Republic during the days of 23 and 24 February.


Bastiat is referring here to his posthumously published Economic Harmonies.


In English in the original.


Candidates to the elections of deputies were heard, then nominated, by county committees who then gathered to establish a list of candidates for the district. Each district would then discuss its candidates with the other districts in order to arrive at a single list for the département.


(Paillottet’s note) The chair occupied by M. Michel Chevalier had been withdrawn and not yet reinstated.


OC, vol. 4, p. 275, “Propriété et loi.”


That is, the nobility and the gentry. In English in the original.


One of the daughters of Mrs. Schwabe was born in Paris shortly after the Revolution.


Edward Baines.


Bastiat is making a play on words with the name of the Schwabes. In German, der Schwabe is a Swabian and schwabenstreich means “tomfoolery.” Perhaps he is hinting that the Schwabes threw good parties.


Bastiat was vice president of the finance committee of the Constituent Assembly. On 9 May the Assembly elected the five members of an executive commission, a sort of joint presidency, above the ministers. General Cavaignac was nominated minister of war on 17 May.


Constituent Assembly.


On 8 June a proposition was made to raise by 5 percent the export subsidy of woollen cloth. The following day, Bastiat argued against the proposal.


A demonstration had been organized on 15 May in order to support Poland, but it degenerated into a revolt against the government elected by the Assembly. The rioters invaded the Assembly, proclaimed its dissolution, and “formed” a revolutionary government. They were dispersed the same evening, and their leaders were arrested.


Bastiat is referring to the so-called June Days, when, after the government attempted to close the national workshops, an uprising took place in Paris between 21 and 26 June. This was brutally crushed by the army under General Cavaignac, whose troops killed fifteen hundred workers.


Romain Affre, Julie’s husband, had a temporary position as the head doctor at the Biarritz bains de mer. The position was to be made permanent for a candidate supported by political connections.


Her health had deteriorated following the death of her husband, Julie’s father.


An area of Paris, then semiagricultural, near the Invalides.


(Paillottet’s note) This refers to a simultaneous reduction of armaments by France and England.


Le Journal des débats.


Caussidière was active in the revolutions of 1830 and 1848. He was accused, with Louis Blanc, of being an agitator in the “conspiracy” of 15 May.


The state of siege was decreed on 4 June. A proposal to repeal it was discussed at the Assembly on 2 September. It was rejected by 529 deputies against 140. Bastiat was among the 140. The state of siege was repealed only on 19 October.


Le Moniteur industriel.


In order to vote yes or no to a specific question, the deputies dropped white or black balls into a ballot box.


Revolution broke out in February 1848 in France and in March in the German states. These uprisings resulted in the formation of the Frankfurt parliament and an attempt to create a liberal constitution, which ultimately failed.


In autumn 1848 there was an epidemic of cholera in Paris, but it was less severe than the epidemic of 1832.


La Sonnambula (The Sleepwalker), an opera by Vincenzo Bellini (1801-35).


“The Mountain,” a reference to “the Left.” During the French Revolution, the deputies from the “Left” had been sitting on the top rows of the Assembly, “the mountain.”


Pius IX.


Charles Forbes.


(Paillottet’s note) The letter from the Count Arrivabene, to which Bastiat is replying, relates to a passage in chapter 3 of the Harmonies, published in December 1848 in Le Journal des économistes. [OC, vol. 6, p. 73, “Des besoins de l’homme.”]


This reform, inspired by the English reform dating back to 1840, introduced a single payment in the form of a twenty-centime stamp for a standard letter for the whole of the country, plus Algeria. Previously, a fee had been paid by the addressee.


In January 1849 Bastiat seems to be foretelling the coming of a dictatorship. Louis-Napoléon seized power in a coup d’état in December 1851 and was made emperor in December 1852.


(Paillottet’s note) Here is the text of the invitation to which Bastiat is replying. [The following letter is in English in the original.]

George Wilson
Wilson, George
9 January 1849


Newall’s Buildings,
9 January 1849
My dear Sir,

The act for the repeal of our corn laws will come into operation on the 1st February next, and it has been resolved to celebrate the event by a banquet in the Free Trade Hall in this City on the 31 January.

The prominent part you have taken in your own country, in the adversary of the principles of commercial freedom, and the warm sympathy you have always manifested in our movement, has induced the Committee to direct me respectfully to invite you to be present as a guest.

In conveying this invitation, permit me to hope that you may be able to make it convenient to make one among us at our festival.

Believe me, dear sir,

Your faithful and obedient servant,
George Wilson, Chairman

The Assembly had been elected to draw up a constitution. It was voted on 4 November. On 10 December, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte was elected president of the Republic and formed a new government. There was no reason to maintain the Constituent Assembly. Finally, in late January, the Assembly set the date for the election of the new Legislative Assembly provided for in the constitution for 19 May 1849.


There were three groups of pretenders to the restoration of the monarchy, or empire: the Legitimists (for the descendant of Charles X), the Orleanists (for the descendant of Louis-Philippe), and the Bonapartists.


Marietta Alboni, Giorgio Ronconi, Giulio Marco Bordogni: opera singers.


A candidate for the experimental farm mentioned in Letter 127.


OC, vol. 5, p. 407, “Paix et liberté ou le budget républicain.”


Ibid. Possibly a reference to the pamphlet Paix et liberté; ou le budget républicain.


On 3 October 1848, a decree established that there would be a farm school in each département. The General Council of the Landes decided that the school would be in the Chalosse. On 15 October, Aristide Dupeyrat declared his candidacy for the direction of the school. He was eventually chosen from among several candidates.


Léon Faucher had submitted a law forbidding clubs of political orientation because some clubs were engaging in vigorous campaigning and fomenting trouble. The law was passed (404 votes for, 303 against).


On February 1849, in Rome, the Assembly decided to end the temporal authority of the papacy and proclaim the republic in Tuscany. The same year, Charles Albert, king of Sardinia, invaded Lombardy but was defeated by Austria and had to abdicate.


District in the center of Paris.


The debate concerned a potential conflict of interest when serving civil servants could also be elected to the Chamber of Deputies.


A group of deputies of the extreme right used to meet in a building on the rue de Poitiers.


For example, the following comment was made in La Revue des deux mondes: “M. Bastiat is keen to extend truths as far as paradoxes. This time, he has gone to the most paradoxical extreme of a false idea” (14 March 1843).


The pamphlet Individualism and Fraternity was written to refute Louis Blanc’s socialist interpretation of the first French Revolution, Histoire de la révolution française, the first volume of which appeared in 1847. (OC, vol. 7, p. 328, “Individualisme et fraternité.”)


Property and Plunder.


See Letter 126, note 246.


OC, vol. 5, p. 518, “Incompatibilités parlementaires.”


There are three electoral districts in the département: Mont de Marsan, Dax, and Saint-Sever.


See Letter 127, pp. 183-84.


See Letter 127, note 249. After its victory over Charles Albert, the Austrian government spoke of reestablishing the principles prevailing in Europe after the treaty of Vienna, in 1815. That was interpreted in France as a threat to the Republic, and a military intervention “of solidarity with the Italian republic” was decided on.


Some prefects, retired for reasons of illness or infirmity, were recalled because of their hostility to the Republic.


Refers to Nicolas Anne Theodule Changarnier (1793-1877).


Bastiat’s prediction was right: the extreme right got 53 percent of the seats; the extreme left, 35 percent; and the moderate republicans, 9.3 percent.


That is, the physiocrats, the Smithians, and now the followers of Bastiat.


Bastiat could be referring to chapter 5 of Economic Harmonies, “On Value.” (OC, vol. 6, p. 140, “De la valeur.”)


An example of an American translation of one of Bastiat’s works is an 1848 translation of Economic Sophisms, titled Sophisms of the Protective Policy. See Letter 63, note 142.


“All of me shall not die.”


The discussion in the Chamber on the subject of a telegram sent by Léon Faucher, minister of the interior, to the prefects a few days before the elections on 18 May 1849.


Quotation from Mignon by Goethe.


Romain Affre.


Most probably 15 or 16 May 1849.


Bastiat, who was the deputy representing the Landes in the Constituent Assembly of 1848, was reelected in 1849 to the Legislative Assembly.


Chapter 8 of Economic Harmonies deals with that very subject. (OC, vol. 6, p. 256, “Propriété, communauté.”)


Horace Say.


The peace congress held in Paris, starting on 22 August 1849.


No month given.


Madame de Montespan, mistress of Louis XIV; Madame de Maintenon, second wife of Louis XIV; and Madame Dubarry, mistress of Louis XV.


Economic Harmonies.




Félix Coudroy.


Possibly a reference to Jules Gabriel Janin (1804-74), the author of Pictures of the French.


Economic Harmonies.


Possibly a reference to Olivier Patru, a seventeenth-century author.


A local cabbage and bacon soup.


A fortress in Hungary.


Economic Harmonies.


This may be a reference to the fact that Bastiat had to make a down payment to publishers to cover some of the costs of having his books and pamphlets published. See also Letter 68, note 155.


Source unknown.


In English in the original.


Bastiat is referring to his chapter on value in Economic Harmonies. (OC, vol. 6, p. 140, “De la valeur.”)




Source unknown.


A small town in the Landes.


A type of bird; a table delicacy.


Bastiat is mockingly comparing French political corruption with the potential spoiling of the Ortolans.


Slavery was abolished twice in France, once during the first revolution, when Haiti declared its independence from France. This was supported by leading abolitionists in Paris, such as the Abbé Grégoire and Brissot, through the Society of the Friends of the Blacks. Napoléon reintroduced slavery after a bloody repression of the Haitian revolution in 1802. Slavery was abolished a second time on 27 April 1848, during the 1848 revolution.


John Benjamin Smith.


It is not clear what peace conference Bastiat was referring to, possibly a domestic British conference. International peace congresses were held in Brussels in September 1848, Paris in August 1849, Frankfurt in August 1850, and London in July 1851. Classical liberals came from all over the world to discuss ways to disarm and cut taxes. See the Report of the Proceedings of the Second General Peace Congress and the Report of the Proceedings of the Third General Peace Congress.


On 13 June there was a demonstration against the Roman expedition. It was easily dispersed, but sixty-seven people were arrested for inciting civil war and were brought to the High Court in Versailles. The normal rights of the accused had not been entirely respected.


Bastiat discusses this in his letters to Proudhon. (OC, vol. 5, pp. 94-335, “Gratuité du crédit.”)


In English in the original.


OC, vol. 5, pp. 94-335, “Gratuité du crédit.”


To extend the size of Mugron’s hospice, a M. Lafaurie had agreed to exchange his large house for the existing hospice building. This operation, however, required a government decree.


Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte. In 1840 he attempted to provoke a military uprising in Boulogne. It failed, and he was condemned to life in the fortress of Ham by the House of Peers. He escaped in 1846.


Bastiat and Cobden were both active members of an international association called the Friends of Peace. This association had a congress in Brussels in 1848, one in Paris (chaired by Victor Hugo) in 1849, and one in Frankfurt in 1850. Cobden organized follow-up meetings in London, Birmingham, Manchester, and Bradford, all of which Bastiat attended.


After a rebellion in 1837 the Durham Report of 1839 recommended that the Canadian provinces be granted responsible government, which was put into effect by 1849. Responsible government (i.e., the Westminster system) was also introduced a little later in the Australian colonies: Victoria (1855); New South Wales, South Australia, and Tasmania (1856). New Zealand was granted this right in 1856 as well. The Cape Colony followed in 1872.


In English in the original.


See Letter 133, note 265.


An army medical officer.


A physician.


One of Molière’s characters, borrowed from the Commedia dell’arte. He appears in particular in Le Médecin malgré lui.


Another reference to the fatal illness that would eventually kill Bastiat.


The economists living in Paris met for a dinner once a month.


Félix Coudroy.


Ebenezer Elliot.


Félix Coudroy and Justine Bastiat.


Bastiat had plans for writing a book titled Social Harmonies.


Allusion to a plan of marriage for Louise Cheuvreux, which had no follow-up. See letters 166, 168, and 169.


Small town in the département of La Charente, between Paris and Bordeaux.


Allusion to a well-known fable of La Fontaine, Les Animaux malades de la peste.


Mother of Mme Cheuvreux.


Plunder and Law.


La Voix du peuple did not publish Bastiat’s article.


The review did not publish any account of Economic Harmonies.


Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte appointed his supporters to the highest military and administrative positions in the country.


Bastiat had been given a two-month leave of absence for health reasons.


Article 1 of a law restricting universal suffrage, opposed by 197 deputies, including Bastiat. The law was approved by the majority on 31 May.


He is referring to his fondness for his Aunt Justine and his friend Félix Coudroy.


Eugène de Monclar.


(Paillottet’s note) This work, instead of being used as an addition to the pamphlet Plunder and Law, became a separate pamphlet titled The Law.


The rise of socialism during the 1848 revolution made this a serious problem for many classical liberals. See the article by Courcelle-Seneuil on “Lois agraires,” in the Dictionnaire de l’économie politique.


A character in Beaumarchais’ plays Le Barbier de Seville and Le Marriage de Figaro.


The Gave de Pau River, running through Pau; Gélos, a small town in the vicinity of Pau; Bizanos, a small town in the vicinity of Pau.


A mountain brook flowing through Les Eaux-Bonnes.


The Law, written in Mugron a few days earlier.


Bastiat published a short version of Economic Harmonies with only ten chapters in 1850. After Bastiat’s death Paillottet and Fontenay went through his papers and put together a larger edition with twenty-five chapters. The shorter first edition was reviewed by Ambroise Clément in Le Journal des économistes 26 (April-July 1850).


Le Journal des débats.


In his discussions of social problems in various places in his works, for example, in The Law, Property and Law, Property and Plunder, and Economic Harmonies, Bastiat often elaborated on those discussions by writing that liberty was “the solution to the social problem.”


An allusion to a phrase of Louis XIV’s uttered when the king of Spain, Charles II, decided to make Philippe d’Anjou (grandson of Louis XIV) his heir.


(Paillottet’s note) No longer in manuscript form but as a printed proof.


What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen.


(Paillottet’s note) See the note on page 336 of vol. 5. [Paillottet is referring to a footnote he wrote to What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen in which he describes how Bastiat lost the original manuscript in a house move and had to rewrite it. See also the Glossary of Subjects and Terms, What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen.]


Bastiat could be referring to one of several books that Chevalier published in 1850: Les Questions politiques et sociales; Cours d’économie politique fait au Collège de France: La Monnaie; or Lettres sur l’organisation du travail.


See Letter 175, note 336.


Bastiat seems to be anticipating an argument that would be taken up by Julian Simon in the twentieth century. Simon saw population as “the ultimate resource.” See Julian P. Simon, The Ultimate Resource (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1981).


Cobden was opposed to the foreign policy of Palmerston.


This is the Gascony dialect, which evolved from the langue d’oc, from which Catalan and Provençal also evolved.


Le Butard.


For most of the first half of the twentieth century the works of Bastiat lay forgotten. It was not until the Foundation for Economic Education published a translation of “La Loi” in 1950, the centenary of Bastiat’s death, that his work became known to another generation.


Horace Say did write the article on insurance in the Dictionnaire de l’économie politique (published in 1854). The Say family was very much involved in compiling the various dictionaries of political economy published by Guillaumin. In the first edition, of 1852, a number of articles carried the name “Jean-Baptiste Say” (obviously selected from his books, as Say had died in 1832); his son Horace contributed twenty-seven articles, and his grandson Léon also wrote some articles. A second version, the Nouveau dictionnaire de l’économie politique, which appeared in 1891 and 1900, was edited by Léon Say.


Palmerston got a vote of censure from the Lords for having blocked the harbor of Piraeus to defend the interests of a British citizen named Pacifico. A few days later, Palmerston made a speech to defend his position and won approval—but not from Cobden. See Letter 188.


International peace congresses were held in Brussels in September 1848, Paris in August 1849, Frankfurt in August 1850, and London in July 1851.


For the Peace Congresses, see Letter 157, note 305. The Frankfurt Congress took place on 22, 23, and 24 August 1850. Among the 600 delegates, 250 were British, 31 American, and 15 French.


This letter was also contained in the book published by Mme Cheuvreux, preceded by the following note:

After having left the Pyrenees in July, Bastiat settled in the vicinity of Paris. He spent his mornings alone at Le Butard, and his evenings at La Jonchère. But his very painful laryngitis worsened, and regular work became more and more difficult. His friends, who the year before saw him write several chapters of The Harmonies amid noise and movement in a corner of their living room, on a table edge, dipping his pen in a bottle of ink drawn from his pocket, caught him then pushing away his paper with an impatient gesture; idle and bowing his head, Bastiat kept silent until the moment when his ardent thinking erupted like a meteor in eloquent sentences. But his words quickly brought back the pain in his throat and forced him to be silent.

On 9 September 1850, the sick man, with a stoical self-control, informed Richard Cobden about the dreadful consequences of his situation.


In English in the original.


“Not my will but Thine be done.”


An unpublished paper by M. de Fontenay. See Letter 180.


See Letter 185, note 351.


Privateering (la course) refers to the expeditions of the corsairs, or privateers. The letter of marque was a commission given by a country to a privateer, in time of war, to capture ships of the hostile nation.


During the blockade of the Piraeus, two hundred Greek soldiers were captured.


Edouard Girard.


Small town on the Seine, near Paris, in which La Jonchère was located.


Allusion to the revolts of 1830 and 1834 of the “canuts,” the textile workers who lost their jobs because of the growing use of machinery. The revolts were severely repressed.


(Paillottet’s note) Two months later, I encountered in Leghorn the counterfeit Belgian edition, which was selling well.


An Italian newspaper had announced Bastiat’s death.


A law of 8 June 1850 increased the postage cost, reestablished the surety (see Letter 68, note 155), and made the journalist’s signature compulsory for all articles of political, philosophical, or religious discussion.


Bastiat is possibly referring to Ledru-Rollin’s work De la décadence de l’Angleterre, which was reviewed in Le Journal des économistes, August 1850, by Coquelin.


Cobden journeyed to Italy in 1847.




Signatures of Garnier and Molinari, who started to write articles in La Patrie.


Eugène de Monclar; Cheuvreux family.


After having spent two days with him in Pisa, Bastiat’s friends went to Rome to wait for him.


Toinettes and Argan, characters from Molière’s play Le Malade imaginaire.


Carey’s book, The Harmony of Interests, Agricultural, Manufacturing, and Commercial, was sent to Bastiat as proofs in November 1850, before it appeared in print.




(Paillottet’s note) Here the exact date is important because of the political assessments which follow, and Bastiat left the day blank. However, the address carries the clear Sardinia date stamp of 1 December, from which it follows that the letter was probably written and posted in Rome on 28 November.


“May perpetual light shine on him.”


See Letter 204, note 374


In a letter sent on 31 August 1850 to Le Journal des économistes, Carey criticized Bastiat’s use of the word harmony in the title of his book and accused Bastiat of having been influenced by his own works on harmonies of interests without acknowledging it. This event prompted a storm of debate in the journal and in the Société d’économie politique during the first half of 1851. Numerous articles appeared in Le Journal des économistes in the 28 (January-April) and 29 (May-August) issues.

Bastiat replied indirectly in a letter to the journal written on 8 December 1850 and published after his death, on 15 January 1851 (see Letter 209). The controversy continued after Bastiat’s death. In June 1851, in Le Journal des économistes, Paillottet quoted some writings of Bastiat dating back to 1834, which showed the originality of Bastiat’s ideas. An exchange of letters between Paillottet and Carey put an end to the debate, and Carey acknowledged Bastiat’s honesty (13 January 1852).


Droz was appointed to the Académie française in 1813 and to the Académie des sciences morales et politiques in 1833. His death on 9 November 1850 would have left the vacancy to which Bastiat is probably referring.


A shortened version of Economic Harmonies with ten chapters had been printed in Bastiat’s lifetime. Bastiat was working on additional chapters when he died. Paillottet found these unfinished chapters in Bastiat’s papers and edited them for a new, larger edition of the book.


This letter, the last he wrote, preceded his death by just eight days.


The death of Mme Cheuvreux’s mother.


Although this letter is not by Bastiat, it is included because it is an essential piece for an understanding of his last days.


(Paillottet’s note) After the death of Bastiat, it was easy for his friends to inform Mr. Carey of his total loyalty. However, we consider that this letter is worthy of preservation, especially since the postscript contains the elements of a major exposition.


Bastiat wrote a short article titled “Laissez-faire” for the first issue of the short-lived journal Jacques Bonhomme in June 1848 (see “Laissez-faire,” p. 434. Joseph Garnier discusses the origin of the expression in the work of the physiocrats Gournay and Turgot (see “Laisser-faire, laissez-passer,” in Dictionnaire de l’économie politique).


In an article of 15 May 1851, Carey claimed that it was not France as such he hated but rather war, and according to him, France was the great warrior nation of Europe.


The text of this letter up to the postscript was published as “Note de M. Bastiat,” in Le Journal des économistes 28 (January-April 1851): 50-52. The “Note” was preceded by Carey’s letter and followed by a reply by Ambrose Clément. The postscript, however, appeared only in the Œuvres complètes.

Articles and Essays

Bastiat's Witings in 1848 after the February Revolution

T.293 (post-1848) "On Experience and Responsibility"


T.293 (post-1848) "On Experience and Responsibility" (no date). This previously unpublished sketch was discovered by the original French editor Paillottet among Bastiat's papers and inserted in a footnote to "The Law" (June, 1850). No date was given. Probably post-1848. [OC4, pp. 375-76] [CW2, p. 133]

Editor's Introduction

This short piece is one of several unpublished sketches found by Bastiat's literary executor and first editor, Prosper Paillottet, and inserted in another piece. In this case it was inserted in a footnote to the pamphlet The Law (July 1850). 977 It was written probably post-revolution, as the final paragraph points out that a State which intervenes too much in the lives of the people prevents them from learning from their mistakes and progressing. This he believes, will produce "a hotbed of revolutions" which will go nowhere. There are also similarities to views he expressed in "The State" (Sept. 1848). 978 In the original footnote Paillottet suggests he may have reconstructed some of these thoughts from other things Bastiat had written.


For a people to be happy, it is essential for the individuals that make it up to be farsighted and prudent and to have the confidence in one another that is rooted in security.

However, it can acquire these things only by experience. It becomes farsighted when it has suffered from a lack of foresight, prudent when its recklessness has been frequently punished, etc., etc.

The result of this is that freedom always begins by being accompanied by the misfortunes that follow the rash use made of it.

At the sight of this, some men stand up and demand that freedom should be forbidden.

"The State," they say, "should be farsighted and prudent on behalf of everyone."

In response to which I ask the following questions:

1. Is this possible? Can an experienced State arise from an inexperienced nation?

2. In any case, is this not to stifle experience in the bud?

If government commands an individual to act (in certain ways), how can an individual learn from the consequences of his acts? Will he remain subject to (government) tutelage in perpetuity?

And the State, having ordered everything, will be responsible for everything.

This will constitute a hotbed of revolutions - dead end revolutions - since they will be carried out by a people who, having been forbidden to gain experience, have been forbidden (the opportunity) to progress.


977 In CW2, 107-46; footnote on p. 133.

978 IN CW2, pp. 93-104.

T.295 (c. 1848) "Why our Finances are in a Mess"


T.295 (Probably 1848) "Why our Finances are in a Mess" (no date). This previously unpublished sketch was discovered by the original French editor Paillottet among Bastiat's papers and inserted in a footnote to "Peace and Freedom or the Republican Budget" (Feb. 1849) and no date was given. Probably 1848. [OC5, p. 447] [CW2, p. 311-12]

Editor's Introduction

This short piece is one of several unpublished sketches found by Bastiat's literary executor and first editor, Prosper Paillottet, and inserted in another piece. In this case it is untitled, undated, and was inserted in a footnote to "Peace and Freedom or the Republican Budget" (Feb. 1849). 979 Given the closing sentence and its similarities to similar views expressed in "The State" this piece might be dated sometime in mid-1848.

The idea of one group of people living at the expence of another group of people was one expressed half a dozen times in Bastiat's writings. He first used it the article "Organisation and Liberty" (JDE, Jan. 1847); 980 then in "Disastrous Illusions. Citizens make the State thrive. The State cannot make the citizens thrive)," JDE March 1848; 981 twice in his pamphlet "The State" (Sept. 1848), and then in "The Physiology of Plunder" (ES2 1) 982 where it becomes one of the key factors in his theory of plunder.

The title used here is one given by us.


Why are our finances in a mess?

Because, for the representatives, there is nothing easier than to vote for a new item of expenditure and nothing harder than to vote for a new tax.

Or, if you prefer, because (getting) salaries are very pleasant and paying taxes very hard.

I know another reason.

Everyone wants to live at the state's expense, and we forget that the State lives at the expense of everyone. 983


979 In CW2, pp. 282-327; footnote on pp. 311-12,

980 CW6 (forthcoming).

981 ES3 24 "Disastrous Illusions" (JDE, March 1848), CW3, pp. 384-99.

982 ES2 1 "The Physiology of Plunder," CW3, p. 125.

983 In his essay "The State" (Sept. 1848) Bastiat defines the State as "The state is the great fiction by which everyone endeavors to live at the expense of everyone else." See CW2, p. 97.

Writings in La République française

T.186 "A Few Words about the Title of our Journal: La République française" (26 Feb. 1848, RF)


T.186 (1848.02.26) "A Few Words about the Title of our Journal" (Quelques mots d'abord sur le titre de nos journal), La République française , 26 February 1848, no. 1, p. 1 [CW3 & CW4]

La République française. A daily journal. Signed by the editors: F. Bastiat, Hippolyte Castille, Gustave de Molinari. It appeared from 26 February to 28 March in 30 issues. There were 2 editions of the 1st issue (one page only) and 2 editions of the second issue (of two pages).

This statement of principles is provided by Hatin in a long quote from La République française (possibly from the 1st issue of 26 February 1848), pp. 491-2. It was probably written by Bastiat with some assistance from Gustave de Molinari one of the co-founders of the journal. 984

Editor's Introduction

Bastiat was a strong believer in the Republic which emerged after the Revolution of February 1848. There are scattered remarks throughout the Economic Sophisms which suggest that he accepted the ideals of the French Revolution of 1789 - "liberté, égailité, fraternité" - but thought that they had been appropriated by the Jacobins in the 1790s and then by the socialists in his own day. He regretted the fact that one of the key ideals, that of property, had been omitted from the list.

There are indications of his republican sympathies well before the revolution broke out. In ES3 2 "Two Principles" (LE, 7 February 1847) 985 Bastiat added the following principles to the traditional trilogy of revolutionary ideals: "universal peace, well-being, savings, order, and all the progressive principles of the human race." One might therefore describe Bastiat's own liberal rallying cry updated for the 1840s as follows: "liberty, equality, fraternity, property, tranquility, prosperity, frugality, and stability." In ES3 12 "The Man who asked Embarrassing Questions" (12 December 1847) the character speaking for Bastiat states "I am in favor of democracy if what you understand by this word is: to each the ownership of his own work, freedom for all, equality for all, justice for all and peace among all."

Twice during the course of the 1848 Revolution Bastiat and some of his colleagues published magazines designed to appeal to ordinary people which they handed out on the streets of Paris and turned into posters which they plastered to the walls of buildings. The first was La République française which first appeared two days after the overthrow of King Louis Philippe in February and lasted for 30 issues between February 26 and March 28. It was written and distributed by Bastiat, Molinari, and Hippolyte Castille. 986 The second was Jacques Bonhomme which had 4 issues which appeared between June 11 and July 13. it was written and distributed by Bastiat, Molinari, Charles Coquelin, Alcide Fonteyraud, and Joseph Garnier. 987 We reproduce below the complete statement of principles which appeared in the first issue of La République française which gives a good indication of Bastiat's thinking at the time the Revolution broke out. It was called "A Few Words about the Title of our Journal The French Republic " (26 February 1848).

A couple of months later, when he was campaigning for the April election to the Constituent Assembly, he wrote in his electoral manifesto "To the Electors of the Landes" (Mugron, 22 March 1848) of his fervent republicanism. 988 He tells the prospective voters from his home district why they should vote for him:

Here is the spirit in which I will support the Republic with wholehearted devotion:

War waged against all forms of abuse: a people bound by the ties of privilege, bureaucracy, and taxes is like a tree eaten away by parasite plants.

Protection for all rights: those of conscience like those of intelligence; those of ownership like those of work; those of the family like those of the commune; those of the fatherland like those of humanity. I have no ideal other than universal justice; no motto other than that on our national flag, liberty, equality, fraternity.

Molinari provides an amusing anecdote about how he, Bastiat, and Hippolyte Castille started La République française . 989 Two days after the revolution broke out they were on the streets of Paris with a new magazine aimed at the ordinary working people. The format of the magazine was only one or two pages which could be handed out on street corners or pasted to walls so that passers by could read them. Many were written by Bastiat under the fictitious name of "Jacques Bonhomme" in an effort to appeal to ordinary working people. These posters reveal another side of Bastiat the populist writer who addresses the people in the familiar "tu" form as he makes his case for limited government, free markets, and low taxes. Here is part of a typical poster:

People, be more alert; do as the Republicans of America do: give the State only what is strictly necessary and keep the rest for yourself.

Demand the abolition of useless functions, a reduction of huge salaries, the abolition of special privileges, monopolies and deliberate obstructions, and the simplification of the wheels of bureaucracy.

With these savings, insist on the abolition of city tolls, the salt tax, the tax on cattle, and on wheat...

Then, oh people, you will have solved the problem, that of earning more sous and obtaining more things for each sou. 990

In a review of a collection of letters Bastiat wrote to the Cheuvreux family, the economist Gustave de Molinari reminisced about his revolutionary activities with Bastiat in 1848. 991 Bastiat was then forty-seven and Molinari twenty-nine. Molinari notes that the February revolution forced the young radical liberals to "replace our economic agitation (for free trade) with a politico-socialist agitation," which they did on 24 February, when they and Castille decided to start their magazine. The prime minister at the time, François Guizot, was forced to resign on 23 February, and a provisional government was formed on 26 February (thus, they started their new journal the day after the revolution broke out). Molinari asked Bastiat if he would join him as coeditor; Bastiat agreed to do so with the understanding that they would abide by the censorship laws, which at the time called for approval by the government before publication took place. Molinari wryly noted that Bastiat told them that "we may be making a revolution but revolutions do not violate the laws!"

The three of them proceeded to the Hôtel-de-Ville in order to have their hastily written screed approved by the government, but the building was in complete turmoil with armed revolutionaries milling about. The three wisely decided that the provisional government was "otherwise occupied," and Bastiat consented to publish the journal without prior approval. In Montmartre, on their way to the printer, they came across another would-be revolutionary hawking in the street a journal that had already taken the name La République , such was the competition at the time for catchy titles. The three decided on the spot to rename their journal La République française and had 5,000 copies printed and distributed. Like most periodicals at the time La République française lasted a very short while, but it did include a number of striking articles penned by Bastiat directed at the working class, who were pushing the revolution in an increasingly socialist direction. As Molinari notes, their journal "was decidedly not at the peak of the events" that were swirling about them, and it soon folded after a month.


Let's begin with a few words about the title of our journal.

The provisional government wants a republic without ratification by the people. Today we have heard the people of Paris unanimously proclaim a republican government from the top of its glorious barricades, and we are of the firm conviction that the whole of France will ratify the wishes of the conquerors of February. But whatever might happen, even if this wish were to be misunderstood, we will keep the title which the voice of all the people have thrown to us. Whatever the form of government which the nation decides upon, the press ought henceforth remain free, no longer will any impediment be imposed upon the expression of thought. This sacred liberty of human thought, previously so impudently violated, will be recognised by the people, and they will know how to keep it. Thus, whatever might happen, being firmly convinced that the republican form of government is the only one which is suitable for a free people, the only one which allows the full and complete development of all kinds of liberty, we adopt and will keep our title:


Time and events are pressing, we can only devote a few lines to stating our program.

France has just got rid of a regime which it found odious, but it is not sufficient just to change men, it is necessary to also change things.

Now, what was the foundation of this regime?

(Trade) restrictions and privilege! Not only was the monarchy, which the heroic efforts of the people of Paris have just overturned, based upon an electoral monopoly, 992 but it also depended upon numerous branches of human activity from which it profited with invisible ties of privilege.

We wish that henceforth labour should be completely free, no more laws against unions, 993 no more regulations which prevent capitalists and workers from bringing either their money or their labour to whatever industry they find agreeable. The liberty of labour proclaimed by Turgot 994 and by the Constituent Assembly ought henceforth be the law of a democratic France.

Universal suffrage. 995

No more state funded religions. 996 Each person should pay for the religion which he uses.

The absolute freedom of education.

Freedom of commerce, to the degree that the needs of the treasury allow. 997 The elimination of duties on basic food as we enjoyed under the Convention. Life at low prices for the people! 998

No more conscription; voluntary recruitment for the army. 999

Institutions which allow the workers to find out where jobs are available and how to discover the going rate of wages throughout the entire country. 1000

Inviolable respect for property. All property has its origin in labour: to attack property is to attack labour.

Finally, in order to crown the work of our glorious regeneration, we demand leniency within the country and peace outside. Let us forget the past, let us launch into the future with a heart without any hatred, let us fraternize with all the people of the world, and soon the day will come when liberty, equality, and fraternity will be the law of the world!


984 Eugène Hatin, Bibliographie historique et critique de la presse périodique française, ou Catalogue systématique et raisonné de tous les écrits périodiques de quelque valeur publiées ou ayant circulé en France depuis l'origine du journal jusqu'à nos jours, avec extraits, notes historiques, critiques et morales, indication des prix que les principaux journaux ont atteints dans les ventes publiques, etc. Précédé d'un essai historique et statistique sur la naissance et les progrès de la presse périodique dans les deux mondes (Paris: Didot frères, fils, 1866), pp. 491-92.

985 In CW3, pp. 261-68; quote p. 267.

986 Protests and riots forced King Louis Philippe to resign and on the evening of 24 February a Provisional Government was proclaimed, followed the next day by the formation of the Second Republic.

987 See also the glossary entries for "La République française" and "Jacques Bonhomme (journal)."

988 In CW1, p. 387.

989 See also "Bastiat the Revolutionary Journalist and Politician" in the Editor's Introduction to CW3, pp. lxviii; and "The Law-Abiding Revolutionary" in "Bastiat's Political Writings: Anecdotes and Reflections," pp. 401-3.

990 ES3 21, "The Immediate Relief of the People," 12 March, 1848, La République française . In CW3, pp. 377-79.

991 Molinari, "Frédéric Bastiat: Lettres d'un habitant des Landes." JDE 4e Série, no. 7 (July 1878): 60-70. Review of Lettres d'un habitant des Landes, Frédéric Bastiat. Edited by Mme Cheuvreux. Paris: A. Quantin, 1877.

992 Bastiat called the rich minority of tax-payers who were allowed to vote during the July Monarchy (some 240,000 out of a total population of 36 million) as"la classe électorale" (the electoral or voting class). See the glossary on "The Chamber of Deputies and the Electoral Class," and 1847.05.22 "Peuple et Bourgeoisie" (The People and the Bourgeoisie) Libre-Échange , 22 May 1847] [OC2.51, pp. 348-55] [CW3] [ES3.6]. Quote on p. 286.

993 In 1845 Molinari covered for the magazine Le Courrier française the court case against a group of Parisian carpenters for trying to start a union which was forbidden under the law. He also tried to raise money to help pay their legal expences. Bastiat gave an important speech in favour of abolishing these laws in the National Assembly on 17 Nov. 1849. He stated that those who supported the ban on forming unions as "none other than slavery. For what is a slave if not a man obliged by law to work under conditions he rejects?" See CW2, pp. 348-61; quote p. 351.

Turgot (1727-1781) was an economist of the physiocratic school, a politician, and reformist bureaucrat. Louis XVI made him minister of finance between 1774 and 1776 at which time Turgot issued his "six edicts" to reduce regulations and taxation. Those relating to labour were forced labour obligations or "corvées" which required local farmers to work a certain number of days every year (8) for their local lord or on various local and national road works.

995 The February Revolution of 1848 introduced universal manhood suffrage (21 years or older) and the Constituent Assembly (April 1848) had 900 members (minimum age of 25). Some 7.8 million men voted in this election.

996 Although the Catholic Church was the established church, other denominations also received government subsidies from taxpayers' money. In the 1848 Budget a total of fr. 39.6 million was set aside for expenditure by the state on religion. Of this 38 million went to the Catholic Church, 1.3 million went to Protestant churches, and 122,883 went to Jewish groups.

997 Bastiat made a distinction between protective tariffs , which he wanted to see abolished, and fiscal tariffs to raise money for necessary state functions. he thought the latter should be at a rate of 5% on both imports and exports.

998 The phrase used is "la vie à bon marché" (life at low prices) This was an expression often used by Lamartine in his speeches on behalf of free trade and was used by Bastiat as one of the three mottoes underneath the title banner of his free trade magazine Le Libre-Échange which appeared between November 1846 and April 1848. Bastiat and Molinari used it again in their revolutionary magazine, Jacques Bonhomme , which they published in June 1848, JB. Au bon marché was also the name of one of the earliest department stores in Paris which would revolutionise shopping for ordinary people.

999 In 1849 the size of the French army and navy was approximately 460,000 men which cost the French state fr. 465,526,415 per annum to maintain. In order to maintain an army that size with 7 year enlistments the French government had to recruit about 80,000 new men each year by a combination of voluntary enlistment, conscription (by drawing lots), and substitutions. See the glossary entry on "The French Army and Conscription."

1000 The idea of "labour exchanges" was a pet idea of Gustave de Molinari, one of Bastiat's collaborators in writing La République française .

T.187 (1848.02.27) "The Streets of Paris" (RF, Feb. 1848)


T.187 (1848.02.27) "The Streets of Paris" (untitled in original), La République française, 27 Feb. 1848, no. 2, p. 1. [OC7.43, pp. 212-13.] [CW1.2.4.14, pp. 440-41.]

Editor's Note

[to come]


When we go through the streets of Paris, which are scarcely wide enough to contain the throngs of people, and remember that in this immense metropolis at this moment there is no king, no court, no municipal guard, no troops, and no civil administration other than that exercised by the citizens over themselves, when we reflect that a few men, only yesterday emerged from our ranks, are taking care of public affairs on their own, then, judging by the joy, the sense of security, and the confidence shown on every face, our initial feelings are admiration and pride.

We soon return to the past, however, and say to ourselves, “So popular self-government is not as difficult as certain people tried to persuade us it was, and economy in government is not utopian.”

There is no getting round the fact that in France we have become accustomed to excessive and grossly intrusive government. We have ended up believing that we would tear each other to pieces if we had the slightest liberty and if the state did not regulate all our movements.


This great experiment reveals indestructible principles of order within the hearts of men. Order is a need and the first of the needs, if not of all, at least of the vast majority. Let us be confident therefore and draw from this the lesson that the great and extravagant government machine which those involved called indispensable can and should be simplified.

T.188 (1848.02.27) "Under the Republic" (RF, Feb. 1848)


T.188 (1848.02.27) "Under the Republic" (Sous la République) (Untitled in original), La République française, 27 Feb. 1848, no. 2, p. 1. [OC7.42, pp. 210-12.] [CW1.2.4.11, pp. 435-37.]

Editor's Note

[to come]


No one can say what the repercussions of the Revolution will be in Europe. Please heaven that all the peoples will be able to withdraw from the sad necessity of launching an attack on each other at a signal from the aristocracy and their kings.26


But let us suppose that the absolutist powers retain their means of acting abroad for a short time.

I put before you two facts which seem to me incontestable and whose consequences will then be seen:

  • 1. France cannot take the initiative of disarming.
  • 2. Without disarmament, the revolution27 can fulfill the hopes of the people only imperfectly.

These two facts are, as we say, incontestable.

As for disarmament, the greatest enemy of France could not advise her to do this as long as the absolutist powers are armed. There is no point insisting on this.

The second fact is also obvious. Keeping oneself armed so as to guarantee national independence is to have three or four hundred thousand men under the flag and thus to find it impossible to make any significant cuts in public expenditure such as would permit a restructuring of the tax system immediately. Let us allow that, by means of a tax on luxury articles, we might reform the salt tax and a few other exorbitant ones. Is this something that might content the French people?

Bureaucracy will be reduced, they say. This may be so. However, as we said yesterday, the probable reduction in revenue will outweigh these partial reforms, and we should not forget that the last budget28 ended in a deficit.

But if the revolution finds it impossible to restructure an iniquitous tax system whose incidence is unfair, and which oppresses the people and paralyzes work, it will be compromised.

However, the revolution has no intention of perishing.

Here are the necessary consequences of this situation with regard to foreigners. We, of course, will never advise wars of aggression, but the last thing that can be asked of a people is to commit suicide.

For this reason, if the armed bellicosity of foreigners forces us to keep three or four hundred thousand men in a state of readiness, even if they do not attack us directly, it is as though they were asking us to commit suicide.

In our view, it is perfectly clear that if France is placed in the situation we [437] have just described, whether she wishes to or not, she will scatter the lava of revolution across Europe.

This will be the only way to create embarrassment for kings within their own territory, which will enable us to breathe more freely at home.

Let foreigners understand this clearly. They can escape danger only by taking the initiative and disarming straightforwardly. This advice will seem foolhardy to them. They will hasten to say, “This is rash.” And we, for our part, say, “This is the most consummate prudence.”

It is this which we will undertake to demonstrate.


The revolution of 1848.


The 1847 budget foresaw 1,357,253,000 francs of revenues and 1,458,725,000 francs of expenses, out of which 335,898,000 were for the army and 108,315,000 for the navy.

T.189 (1848.02.28) "A thought in La Presse" (RF, Feb. 1848)


T.189 (1848.02.28) "A thought in La Presse" (untitled in original), La République française, 28 Feb. 1848, no. 3, p. 1. [OC7.44, pp. 213-14.] [CW1.2.4.14, pp. 441-42.]

Editor's Note

[to come]


Let us share this thought in La Presse:

What we need to ask a provisional government,36 those men who devote themselves to public salvation amid incalculable difficulties, is not to govern in exact accord with all of our ideas, but to govern. We should help it, support it and make its rough task easy, and postpone any doctrinal discussion. The agreement of all the newspapers on this will not be among the least glorious events in our revolution.

We can all the more render to ourselves this homage to abnegation in favor of the common cause, because it is deep within us.

In a few of the decrees which follow one another, we see signs of the application of a doctrine which is not ours. We have combated this and will do so again when the time permits.

Two systems are confronting one another, both of which are born of sincere convictions and both having the common good as their objective. But, it has to be said, they emanate from two quite different ideas, which moreover oppose one another

The first, more seductive and popular, consists in taking a great deal of the people’s earnings, in the form of taxes, in order to spread largesse among the people by way of philanthropic institutions.

The second wants the state to take very little, give very little, guarantee security, and give free rein to the honest exercise of every faculty; one consists in expanding indefinitely, the other in restricting as far as possible, the prerogatives [442] of power. The one of these two systems to which we are attached37 through total conviction has few outlets in the press; it could not have had many representatives in government.

However, full of confidence in the rectitude of the citizens, to whom public opinion has entrusted the mission of building a bridge between our fallen monarchy and our burgeoning and well-ordered republic, we are willing to postpone the manifestation of our doctrine, and we will limit ourselves to sowing ideas of order, mutual trust, and gratitude to the provisional government.


A provisional government was formed on 24 February 1848 and presided over by Jacques Charles Dupont de l’Eure, who was a liberal deputy under the restoration and a minister of justice under the July Monarchy. Among the government’s most famous ministers were Lamartine (Foreign Affairs), Ledru-Rollin (Interior), Cremieux (Justice), and two socialists without portfolios: Alexandre Martin (called Albert) and Louis Blanc.


(Paillottet’s note) Here and elsewhere the use of the plural shows that Bastiat was speaking for his colleagues as well as himself. At this time, his signature appears in the paper as a mark of solidarity.

T.190 (1848.02.28) "All our cooperation" (RF, Feb. 1848)


T.190 (1848.02.28) "All our cooperation" (untitled in original), La République française, 28 Feb. 1848, no. 3, p. 1. [OC7.46, pp. 218-21.] [CW1.2.4.14, p. 442.]

Editor's Note

[to come]


All our cooperation, all our poor portion of influence, is devoted to the provisional government.

Certain of the purity of its intentions, we do not need to discuss all its measures in detail. It would be extremely demanding and even unjust, we might say, to demand perfection in emergency measures whose weight almost exceeds the limits of human strength.

We find it perfectly natural, at a time when the municipality needs so many resources, that local taxes be maintained, and it is an obligation for all citizens to ensure that this revenue is used wisely.

We would have liked the provisional government, however, not to appear to prejudge a major question with these words, “This tax must be revised and it will be shortly; it must be modified so as to make it less burdensome for the laboring classes.”

We consider that we should not seek to modify the city toll but aim to eliminate it.

T.191 (1848.02.28) "On Disarmament" (RF, Feb. 1848)


T.191 (1848.02.28) "On Disarmament" (untitled in original), La République française, 28 Feb. 1848, no. 3, p. 1. [OC7.45, pp. 215-17.] [CW1.2.4.12, pp. 437-39.]

Editor's Note

[to come]

Today, Le National is looking at our situation with regard to the outside world.30

It asks, “Will we be attacked?” and, after having taken a look at the problems faced by Austria, Prussia, and Russia,31 it answers in the negative.

We agree entirely with this opinion.

What we fear is not being attacked but that the absolutist powers, with or without premeditation and simply through maintaining the military status quo, will reduce us to seeking the salvation of the revolution32 in armed propaganda.

We do not hesitate to repeat what we have said, since we wish to be understood both here and elsewhere. What we say with total conviction is this: We cannot take the initiative of disarming, and yet the simple military status quo gives us the alternative of perishing or fighting. It is for the kings of Europe to calculate the consequences of this fatal alternative. There is just one salvation for them: to disarm themselves first and immediately.

Readers will perhaps allow us a little useful fiction.


Let us imagine a small island, for many years more exploited than governed, with countless taxes and life insufferably curtailed, economically and politically. The nation is bent under the weight of this taxation and what is more it has to withdraw a significant part of its healthy population from the labor force to defend the realm and arm and feed it.

Out of the blue, this nation overthrows its oppressive government, with the aim of freeing itself from burdensome taxes and intolerable politics.

But the government, as it falls, leaves it with a huge burden of debt.

Initially, then, aggregate expenditure increases.

In parallel, however, all sources of revenue have diminished.

Now taxes are so odious that it is morally and materially impossible to maintain them, even provisionally.

Faced with this situation, the great and the good, who run all the nearby islands, anxiously entreat caution on the fledgling Republic:

“We hate you but we do not wish to attack you, in case we suffer harm ourselves. We will make do with surrounding you with a ring of soldiers and guns.”

At this the young Republic is forced to come up with many soldiers and guns in like measure.

It cannot cut back on taxes, even the most unpopular ones.

It cannot keep any of its promises to its people.

It cannot fulfill any of the hopes of its citizens.

It flounders about in its financial straits, increasing taxes with all the burden that that entails. No sooner is the people’s capital—the source of all paid employment—accumulated than it confiscates it.

In this desperate situation, nothing in the world could prevent our government from replying, “Your so-called moderation is killing us. Forcing us to maintain huge armies at the ready is to propel us toward social upheaval. We do not wish to perish and, rather than suffer this, we will stir up within your borders all the elements of disaffection that you have engendered in your own people, since you leave us no other path to salvation.”

This illustrates rather precisely our position with regard to the kings and aristocracies in Europe.

We fear that the kings will not understand this. When have we ever seen them save themselves through prudence and justice?

Nevertheless, we should tell them this. They have just one resource, to act justly toward their people, relieve them from the weight of oppression, and immediately take the initiative and disarm.


Other than this, their crowns run the risk of a huge and prolonged struggle. This is not a question of revolutionary fever, but of historical understanding and the actual nature of the things which conduce to such fever.

The kings will say, “Is it not our right to remain armed?”

Probably so, but at their own risk and peril.

They will also say, “Does not simple prudence require us to remain armed?”

Prudence requires them to disarm immediately and today rather than tomorrow.

In fact all considerations which will impel France to break her bounds, if she is forced to arm, will retain her within them if she is put into a position to reduce her military forces.

In this event the Republic will have a good reason for swiftly eliminating the most odious of the taxes, allowing the people to breathe, giving capital and labor the opportunity to develop, and abolishing the restrictions and encumbrances that are inseparable from heavy taxation.

It will welcome with joy the chance to put into practice the great principle of fraternity it has just emblazoned on its flag.


Bastiat’s letter is dated 27 February (1848). On 23 February the prime minister, François Guizot, resigned and a number of demonstrators were shot. On 26 February the liberal opposition organized a provisional government and declared the Second Republic, leading to the abdication of King Louis-Philippe.


The Austrian empire, ruled by Metternich under the nominal authority of Ferdinand I; Prussia of Frederick William IV; and the Russian empire of Tsar Nicholas I were the three great absolutist powers in Europe.


The revolution of 1848.

T.192 (1848.02.29) "The General Good" (RF, Feb. 1848)


T.192 (1848.02.29) "The General Good" (untitled in original), La République française, 29 Feb. 1848, no. 4, p. 1. [OC7.47, p. 218.] [CW1.2.4.14, pp. 442-44.]

Editor's Note

[to come]


The general good, the greatest sum possible of happiness for everyone, and the immediate relief of the suffering classes are the subjects of every desire, every wish, and every preoccupation.

Such, moreover, constitute the greatest guarantee of order. Men are never [443] better disposed to help one another than when they are not suffering, or at least when they cannot accuse anyone, especially not the government, of those sufferings inseparable from human imperfection.

The revolution38 began with a cry for reform. At that time, this word was restricted just to one of our constitutional arrangements. Today, it is still reform that we want, but of the fundamental kind, reform of our economic organization. The people, their complete freedom restored, are going to govern themselves. Does this mean the realization of all their hopes? We cannot bank on this chimera. The people will choose the measures that appear best suited to their purposes, but choice entails the possibility of error. However, the great advantage of government of the nation by the nation is that it has only itself to blame for the results of its errors and that it can always benefit from its experience. Its prudence now should consist in not allowing system builders to experiment too much on it and at its expense.

So, as we have said, two systems, discussed at length by polemicists, now confront one another.

One aspires to create the happiness of the people through direct measures. It says: “If someone suffers in any way, the state will be responsible for relieving him. It will give bread, clothing, work, care, and instruction to all those who need it.” If this system were possible, one would need to be a monster not to embrace it. If somewhere, on the moon perhaps, the state had an always accessible and inexhaustible source of food, clothing, and remedies, who could blame it for drawing on it with both hands for the benefit of those who are poor and destitute?”

But if the state does not have in its possession and does not produce any of these things, if they can be created only by human labor, if all the state can do is to take them by way of taxation from the workers who have created them in order to hand them over to those who have not created them, if the natural result of this operation must be, far from increasing the mass of these things, to discourage their production, if from this reduced mass the state is obliged to keep a part for its agents, if these agents who are responsible for the operation are themselves withdrawn from useful work, and if, finally, this system which appears so attractive at first sight, generates more misery than it cures, then it is proper to have doubts and seek to ascertain whether the welfare of the masses might not be generated by another process.

The one we have just described can obviously be put into practice only [444] by an indefinite extension of taxes. Unless we resemble children who sulk when they are not given the moon when they first ask for it, we have to acknowledge that, if we make the state responsible for spreading abundance everywhere, we have to allow it to spread taxes everywhere, since it cannot give what it has not taken.

However, major taxes always imply major restrictions. If it were only a question of asking France to provide five or six hundred million, you might conceive an extremely simple financial mechanism for gathering it. But if we need to extract 1.5 to 1.8 billion, we need to use all the ruses imaginable in the operation of the tax laws. We need the town taxes, the salt tax, the tax on drink, and the exorbitant tax on sugar; we need to restrict traffic, burden industry, and limit consumers. An army of tax collectors is needed, as is an endless bureaucracy. The liberty of the citizens must be encroached upon, and all this leads to abuse, a desire for civil service posts, corruption, etc., etc.

It can be seen that, if the system of abundance drawn by the state from the people in order to be spread over the people by it, has its attractive side, it is also a medal that has its reverse side.

We, for our part, are convinced that this system is bad, and that there is another for achieving the good of the people, or rather for the people to achieve their own good; this consists in our giving the state all it needs to accomplish its essential mission, which is to guarantee internal and external security, respect people and property, the free exercise of faculties, and the repression of crime, misdemeanors, and fraud, and, after having given this liberally to the state, in keeping the rest for ourselves.

Finally, since the people are called upon to exercise their right, which is to choose between these two systems, we will often compare these before them, in all their political, moral, financial, and economic aspects.


The revolution of 1848.

T.193 (1848.02.29) "The Kings Must Disarm" (RF, Feb. 1848)


T.193 (1848.02.29) "The Kings Must Disarm" (Les rois doivent désarmer), La République française, 29 Feb. 1848, no. 4, p. 1.] [OC7.48, pp. 221-22.] [CW1.2.4.13, pp. 439-40.]

Editor's Note

[to come]


If only the kings of Europe were prudent, what would they do?

England would freely renounce the right of search.33 She would freely recognize that Algeria is French. She would not wait for these burning questions to be raised, and she would disband half her navy and use these savings to benefit her people by reducing the duties on tea and wine accordingly.

The king of Prussia would liberalize the half-baked constitution of his country,34 and by giving notice to two-thirds of his army he would ensure the devotion of the people by relieving them of the weight of taxes and military service.


The emperor of Austria would quickly evacuate Lombardy and by reducing his army would put himself in a position to increase Austria’s proverbial power.

The tsar would return Poland to the Poles.

All this done, France, no longer anxious as to her future, would concentrate on internal reform and let moral considerations take charge.

The kings of Europe, however, would expect to lose out if they followed this policy, the only one that can save them.

They will do exactly the opposite; they will want to stifle liberalism. So they will arm and the republics will arm too. Lombardy, Poland, and perhaps Prussia will become the theater of war. The alternative laid down by Napoléon, that Europe will be Republican or Cossack, will have to be resolved to the sound of guns. In spite of her ardent love of peace, expressed unanimously by the newspapers, but forced by her evident interest, France will not be able to avoid throwing her sword into the balance and . . . kings perish but nations do not.


Under the honorable pretext of fighting the trade in slaves, the “right of search” in practice gave control of the seas to England. See “On Parliamentary Reform,” note 31, p. 378.


In fact, the kingdom of Prussia did not have a constitution but a set of laws.

T.194 (1848.02.29) "The Sub-Prefects" (RF, Feb. 1848)


T.194 (1848.02.29) "The Sub-Prefects" (Les sous-préfectures), La République française, 29 Feb. 1848, no. 4, p. 1. [OC7.49, p. 223.] [CW3]

Editor's Note

[to come]


What is a Sub-Prefecture? It is a letter box. The Prefect writes: “Monsieur Sub-Prefect, here is a letter for the mayor of ...; send it to him without delay and send me his reply along with your opinion.”

The Sub-Prefect replies: “Monsieur Prefect, I have received the letter for the Mayor of ....; I will send it to him without delay and will send you his reply with my opinion.”

For this service, there is a Sub-Prefect in each arrondissement who earns fr. 3,000, fr. 3,000 in administrative costs, a secretary, office rental, etc., etc.

We are mistaken: the Sub-Prefects have another real function, namely that of influencing and corrupting the elections.

For how many days will the Sub-Prefectures be able to survive the February Revolution?

In general, we are in no hurry to call for changes in personnel, but we are adamant in demanding the abolition of useless government jobs.


[1] A Prefecture ("la préfecture") is the town in which the administration of a département is carried out. The Prefect ("préfet") is the name of the government official who is charge of the Prefecture. The General Council ("le Conseil général") is the elected body which governs the département. The Départements are further divided into arrondissements (districts), the administrative town of which is called a Subprefecture ("sous-préfecture") which is administered by a Subprefect ("sous-préfet"). Bastiat was elected to the Conseil général of Les Landes in 1833 and again in 1839. See the glossary entry on “French Government Administrative Regions.”

T.195 (1848.03.01) "Untitled Article" (On Diplomacy and Government Jobs) (RF, March 1848)


T.195 (1848.03.01) "Untitled Article" (On Diplomacy and Government Jobs), La République française, 1 March 1848, no. 5, p. 1. [OC7.50, p. 223-26.] [CW1.2.4.6, pp. 429-30.]

Editor's Note

[to come]


A newspaper does not achieve high circulation figures without echoing a few ideas dominant in the country. We acknowledge that La Presse has always been able to speak to the interests of the moment and even that it has often given good advice; in this way it has been able to sow in the soil of the country, along with the good grain, a great deal of chaff which will take a long time to remove.

Since the Revolution, it must be said, its attitude has been frank and resolute.

We are in complete agreement, for our part, with the two clarion calls which it is broadcasting today, No diplomacy! No rush for positions!

No diplomacy! What has the Republic to do with this institution, which has done so much harm and which perhaps has never done any good, where sharp practice is so traditional that it is used in the most simple matters and where sincerity is considered foolishness? It was by a diplomat and for diplomacy’s sake that it was first observed that speech was given to man to disguise his thoughts.

One of the purest English democrats, Mr. Cobden, on a visit to Madrid, was visited by Mr. Bulwer. He said to him: “Ambassador, in ten years Europe will no longer need you.”

When on principle nations are the property of kings, diplomacy and even diplomatic trickery are conceived. Events must be prepared well in advance, as must alliances and wars to expand the domain of the master.

However, what does a people which belongs to itself have to negotiate? All its diplomacy is carried out in the open in deliberating assemblies; its traders are its negotiators, the diplomats of union and peace.

It is true that, even for free peoples, there is a territorial question of the highest importance, that of natural borders. But does this question require the intervention of diplomacy?

Nations know full well that it is in the common interest and in the interest [430] of order and peace that each should have borders. They know that if France withdrew within its limits, that would be one more guarantee of security for Europe.

What is more, the principle that peoples belong to themselves guarantees that, if there has to be a merger, it will take place with the free consent of those involved and not by armed invasion. The Republic has only to proclaim its rights, wishes, and hopes in this respect. There is no need for either ambassadors or trickery to do this.

Without ambassadors and kings, we would not in recent times have had the question of Spanish marriages. Has anyone ever given attention to the marriage of the president of the United States? As for the rush for positions, our desire echoes that of La Presse. We would have liked France in February not to give the world this sad and disgusting spectacle. But we have little hope of this, as we have no illusions about the weakness of the human heart. The means of reducing the rush is to reduce the number of positions themselves. It is puerile to expect lobbyists to restrain themselves; it is up to the public to restrain them.

For this reason, we must constantly repeat: Let us eliminate all superfluous positions. We advise children to think twice before saying something rash. We, for our part, say to the government: Break thirty quills before endorsing the creation of new positions.

A sinecure eliminated will thwart its holder but not enrage him. A sinecure passed from hand to hand exasperates him who has lost it, disappoints ten would-be placemen, and angers the public.

The most difficult part of the task handed down to the provisional government will probably be resisting the flood of requests for such sinecures.

All the more so because several schools of thought, which today are much in favor, hope to increase indefinitely the scope of the government, by repeated taxation, and to have the state do everything.

Other people say: The state needs to spend a great deal in order to provide a living for a great many people.

Is it therefore really so difficult to see that, when the government spends taxpayers’ money, it is not the taxpayers who spend it?

T.196 (1848.03.01) "The Parisian Press" (RF, March 1848)


T.196 (1848.03.01) "The Parisian Press" (La Presse parisienne), La République française, 1 March 1848, no. 5, p. 1. [OC7.51, pp. 226-27.] [CW1.2.4.4, pp. 425-26.]

Editor's Note

[to come]


The Parisian press offers a spectacle that is no less extraordinary or less imposing than the population on the barricades.

What has happened to the burning and often brutal controversy of late?

The lively discussions will doubtless return. But is it not very consoling [426] to see that at the moment of danger, when the country has an overwhelming need for security, order, and confidence, all forms of bitterness are forgotten and even the most eccentric doctrines endeavor to present themselves in a reassuring light?

Thus, Le Populaire, the communist newspaper, shouts “Respect for ownership!” M. Cabet reminds his followers that they should seek triumph for their ideas only through discussion and by convincing the public.

La Fraternité, the workers’ newspaper, publishes a lengthy program that economists might adopt in its entirety, except perhaps for one or two maxims that are more illusionary than dangerous.

L’Atelier, another newspaper edited by workers, beseeches its brothers to stop the ill-considered movement that in the first instance led them on to smash machinery.

All the newspapers vie with one another in trying to moderate or anathematize another barbarous sentiment that unfortunately the partisan spirit had worked for fifteen years to bolster: chauvinism. Apparently a single day of revolution has caused this engine of war incarnate, to which all the opposition parties have recourse, to disappear, simply by making it irrelevant.

External peace, internal order, confidence, vigilance, and fraternity: these are the watchwords for the entire press.16


(Paillottet’s note) From the second issue of La République française, that of 27 February, until the fifth dated 1 March 1848, Bastiat’s name figures on the last line of the newspaper with the names of its other editors. This is no longer the case in the following issues. Bastiat no longer gave his signature to the newspaper, but limited himself to signing his own articles.

T.197 (1848.03.02) "Petition from an Economist" (RF, March 1848)


T.197 (1848.03.02) "Petition from an Economist" (Pétition d'un Economiste), La République française, 2 March 1848, no. 6, p. 2. [OC7.52, pp. 227-30.] [CW1.2.4.5, pp. 426-29.]

Editor's Note

[to come]


At the moment a petition is being signed that asks for: A Ministry of Progress or for the Organization of Production.17 On this subject, La Démocratie pacifique has this to say:

“In order to organize production in French society, you have to know how to organize it at the village level, in the living and breathing workshops of the [427] nation. Any serious doctrine of social development must therefore succeed at the level of the basic workshop and be tried out initially on a small parcel of land. Let the Republic therefore create a Ministry of Progress and Organization of Production whose function will be to examine all the plans put forward by the various socialist doctrines and to favor over them a local, free, and voluntary experiment carried out in a territorial unit, the square league.

If this idea is put into practice, we will ask that we too be given our square league to try out our ideas. Why, after all, should the various socialist schools of thought be the only ones to have the privilege of having at their disposal square leagues, basic workshops, and everything which constitutes a locality, in short, villages?

They say that it is a matter of free and voluntary experiments. Are we to understand that the inhabitants of the commune who will be subjected to socialist experimentation will have to agree to it and that, on the other hand, the state should not take part with revenue raised from other communes? If so, what is the use of the petition, and what prevents the inhabitants of communes from carrying out freely, voluntarily, and at their own expense social experiments on themselves? Or is the intention that the experiment be forced or at the very least supported by funds raised from the entire community?

This in itself will provide a highly inconclusive result for the experiment. It is quite clear that having all the nation’s resources at our disposal, we might squander a great deal of welfare on a square league of land.

In any case, if each inventor in the field of social organization is called upon to carry out his experiment, let us register ourselves and formally request a commune to organize.

Our plan is otherwise very simple.

We will claim from each family and through a single tax a very small part of its income, in order to ensure the respect of persons and ownership, the elimination of fraud, misdemeanors, and crimes. Once we have done this, we will carefully observe how people organize themselves.

Religion, teaching, production, and trade will be perfectly free. We hope that, under this regime of liberty and security, with each inhabitant having the facility, through free trade, to create the largest sum of value possible, in any form which suits him, capital will be built up with great speed. Since all capital is intended to be used, there will be fierce competition between capitalists. Therefore earnings will rise; therefore workers, if they are far-sighted and thrifty, will have a great opportunity to become capitalists; and [428] therefore it will be possible to create alliances or associations whose ideas are conceived and matured by themselves alone.

As the single tax will be modest in the extreme, there will be few civil service posts and few civil servants, no wasted efforts, and few men withdrawn from production.

As the state will have very restricted and well-defined powers, its inhabitants will have total freedom to choose their work. Here it should be noted clearly that any wasteful civil service post is not only a burden on the community but an infringement of the freedom of citizens. About the public services imposed without debate on the citizens, there are no half measures; either they are useful or else essentially harmful; they cannot be neutral. When a man exercises an action with authority, not over things but over his fellow men, if he does not do them good, he must necessarily do them harm.

With taxes thus reduced to the minimum required to procure security for all, lobbyists, abuses, privileges, and the exploitation of laws for individual interests will also be reduced to a minimum.

Since the inhabitants of this experimental commune will have, through free trade, the opportunity of producing the maximum value with the minimum work, the square league will provide as much welfare as the state of knowledge, activity, order, and individual economy allows.

This welfare will tend to spread out in an ever-more egalitarian manner, since, as the highest paid services will be the most sought after,18 it will be impossible to amass huge fortunes, especially since the minimum level of tax will not allow great public contracts, loans, nor speculation, all sources of the scandalous fortunes we see accumulating in a few hands.

Since this small community will be interested in attacking no one and all the others will have an interest in not attacking it, it will enjoy the most profound peace.

Citizens will feel loyal to the country because they will never feel slighted or held back by the agents of the government, and to its laws because they will recognize them as based on justice.

In the conviction that this system, which has the merit at least of being simple and respecting human dignity, is all the better if it applies to a wider territory and a greater number of people, since it is there that the most security [429] is obtained with the least taxes, we conclude that if it succeeds in a commune, it will succeed at the level of the nation.


The title of the petition was “A Ministry of Progress, Work Organization, and Abolition of the Exploitation of Man by Man.”


(Paillottet’s note) In the sense that they attract competition the most.

T.198 (1848.03.04) "Freedom of Teaching" (RF, March 1848)


T.198 (1848.03.04) "Freedom of Teaching" (Liberté de l'enseignement), La République française, 4 March 1848, no. 7, p. 1. [OC7.53, pp. 231-32.] [CW1.2.4.2, pp. 419-20.]

Editor's Note

[to come]


All the acts of the provisional government relating to public education are designed, we are annoyed to say, in a spirit that supposes that France has abandoned freedom of teaching.9


The circular from the minister to the rectors convinces us of this.

Here is a decree that creates a commission for scientific and literary studies.

Out of the twenty members who make it up, fifteen of them at least, if we are not mistaken, belong to the university.

In addition, the final article of the decree lays down that this commission will add another ten members, chosen by itself, as it says, from civil servants in primary and secondary education.

We cannot help noticing here that, of all the branches of national activity, that which has made perhaps the least progress is the teaching profession. It is still approximately at the stage it was in the Middle Ages. The idylls of Theocrates and the odes of Horace are still the basis of the instruction we give to the youth of the nineteenth century. This appears to indicate that there is nothing less progressive and more immutable than that carried out by government monopoly.

In France, there is a large school of opinion that thinks that, apart from legal repression or abuse, every citizen should have the free exercise of his faculties. This is both the prerogative of progress and its necessary condition. This is how they view liberty in the United States, and empirically this experiment is just as revealing as our experiences with monopoly in Europe. It should be noted that none of the men who belong to this school, known as the économiste school, has been called upon to join any of the commissions that have just been organized.

It is not surprising that they have been kept away from paid public office. They have kept themselves away and they had to, since their ideal is to reduce the number of positions to those that are essential for maintaining order, internal and external security, respect for persons and property, and, at the very least, the creation of a few projects of national importance.

However, that their contribution to simple surveys is systematically overlooked is a significant eventuality; it proves that we are being swept along by a hypertrophy of government, one which threatens an endless diminution of true liberty.


On 29 February 1848, a High Commission for Education was set up to help the minister of education.

T.199 (1848.03.05) "The Scramble for Office" (RF, March 1848)


T.199 (1848.03.05) "The Scramble for Office" (Curée des Places), La République française, 5 March 1848, no. 8, p. 1. [OC7.54, pp. 232-34.] [CW1.2.4.7, pp. 431-32.]

Editor's Note

[to come]


All the newspapers, without exception, are speaking out against the scramble for office of which the Town Hall19 is given a sad example. Nobody could be more indignant about, or more disgusted by, this frenzied greed than we.

But at the end of the day we have to find the cause of the evil, and it would be puerile to expect the human heart to be other than it has pleased nature to make it.

In a country in which, since time immemorial, the labor of free men has everywhere been demeaned, in which education offers as a model to all youth the mores of Greece and Rome, in which trade and industry are constantly exposed by the press to the scorn of citizens under the label profiteering, industrialism, or individualism, in which success in office alone leads to wealth, prestige, or power, and in which the state does everything and interferes in everything through its innumerable agents, it is natural enough for public office to be avidly sought after.

How can we turn ambition away from this disastrous direction and redirect the activity of the enlightened classes toward productive careers?

Obviously by eliminating a great many public posts, limiting government action, leaving a wider, freer, and more prestigious role to private activities and reducing the salaries for high public office.

What should our attitude be then to those theories, so fashionable currently, which propose the transfer into the world of paid public service, of activities still in the realm of private industry? La Démocratie pacifique wants the state to provide insurance, public transport, and haulage, and also to handle the trading of wheat, etc., etc., etc.

Do these ideas not provide fresh fuel for this disastrous mania which so offends honest citizens?

We do not want to discuss the other disadvantages of these proposals here. Examine one after the other all the industries managed by the state and see if these are not, indeed, the ones through which citizens are the most badly and most expensively served.


Take education, obstinately limited to the study of two languages dead these two thousand years.

See what kind of tobacco is provided to you and at what price.20

Compare in terms of regular supply and proper market price the distribution of printed matter by the public authority in the rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau with that by individual enterprises in the rue de la Jussienne.

However, setting aside these considerations, is it not evident that the scramble for office is and will always be proportional to the enticement to it?

Is it not evident that having industry run by the state is to remove work from honest activity in order to deliver it to lazy and indolent intrigue?

Finally, is it not clear that it will make the disorder which the Town Hall exemplifies, a disarray which saddens the members of the provisional government, permanent and progressive?


The Town Hall of Paris was the seat of the temporary government after the “three glorious days” of February 1848.


The sale of tobacco products was a state monopoly in France.

T.200 (1848.03.06) "Impediments and Taxes" (RF, March 1848)


T.200 (1848.03.06) "Impediments and Taxes" (Entraves et Taxes) (Untitled Article), La République française, 6 March 1848, no. 9, p. 1. [OC7.55, pp. 234-35.] [CW1.2.4.8, pp. 432-33.]

Editor's Note

[to come]


While a movement, possibly an irresistible one, is pushing us toward the hypertrophy of the state, and an increase in the number of taxes as well as of the irritating encumbrances such an increase inevitably entails, a very pronounced change in the opposite direction is apparent in England, one which will perhaps lead to the fall of the government.

There, every experiment and every effort to achieve good through the intervention of the state results in disappointment. It will soon be realized that good is not being achieved and that the experiment leaves behind it just one thing: tax.

Thus, last year, a law was passed to regulate the work of factories and the execution of this law required the creation of a body of civil servants.21 Today, entrepreneurs, workers, inspectors, and magistrates agree in acknowledging [433] that the law has encroached upon all the interests in which it has interfered. Only two things remain: disorder and taxes.

Two years ago, the legislature dashed off a constitution for New Zealand22 and voted for considerable expenditure to implement it. In spite of this, the said constitution collapsed badly. The only thing that did not fall, however, was taxation.

Lord Palmerston believed he had to intervene in the affairs of Portugal.23 He thus brought down on the name of England the hatred of an allied nation, and that at a price of fifteen million francs, or a hefty tax.

Lord Palmerston persists in seizing Brazilian ships24 engaged in the slave trade. To do this, he endangers the lives of a considerable number of English sailors, subjects British subjects living in Brazil to affronts, and makes a treaty between England and Rio de Janeiro impossible; all this damage is paid in ships and legal actions, that is to say, in the form of taxes.

The result is that the English are paying, not for receiving benefits, but for suffering damages to England.

The conclusion that our neighbors appear to wish to draw from this phenomenon is this: that the people, after having paid what is necessary to their political masters to guarantee their security, keep the rest for themselves.

This is a very simple thought, but it will sweep the world.


On 3 May 1847, the Whig government of John Russell adopted the Factory Bill (Ten Hours’ Bill), which limited the work of women and young people under eighteen to ten hours on weekdays and eight hours on Saturday.


By the treaty of Waitangi, the Maoris acknowledged English sovereignty but did not accept the constitution.


The queen of Portugal, Maria II, was threatened by rebels. Palmerston imposed a compromise that was not observed.


In 1845 Brazil had not yet abolished slavery. Palmerston decided that suspicious Brazilian ships would be inspected, even in territorial waters, and that guilty shipowners and captains would be prosecuted by British tribunals (Aberdeen Bill). The bill was applied.

T.201 (1848.03.12) "The Immediate Relief of the People" (RF, March 1848)


T.201 (1848.03.12) "The Immediate Relief of the People" (Soulagement immédiat du peuple), La République française, 12 March 1848, no. 15, p. ?? [OC2, pp. 459-60.] [CW3 - ES3.21]

Editor's Note

[to come]


XXI. The Immediate Relief of the People729 730 [12 March 1848] (final draft)

Publishing history
  • Original title, place and date of publication: “Soulagement immédiat du peuple” (The Immediate Relief of the People) [12 March 1848, La République française]
  • Published as book or pamphlet: [not applicable]
  • Location in Paillottet's edition: Oeuvres complètes (1st ed. 1854-55), Vol. 2: Le Libre-Échange (1855), pp. 459-60. Published as one of the “Small Posters of Jacques Bonhomme.”731
  • Previous translation: [none]


You733 are being told: “You have not enough to live on; let the State add what is missing.” Who would not wish for this if it were possible?734

But alas, the tax collector’s coffers are not the wine pitcher of Cana.735

When Our Lord put one liter of wine in this pitcher, two came out, but when you put one hundred sous in the coffers of the tax collector,736 ten francs do not emerge; not even one hundred sous come out, since the collector keeps a few for himself.

How then does this procedure increase your work or your wages?

The advice being given to you can be summed up as follows: You will give the State five francs in return for nothing and the State will give you four francs in return for your work. An exchange for dupes.737

People, how can the State keep you alive, since it is you who are keeping the State alive?

Here are the mechanics of charity workshops presented systematically:738 739

The State takes six loaves of bread from you; it eats two and demands work from you in order to give you back four. If now you ask it for eight loaves, it can do nothing else but this: take twelve from you, eat four and make you earn the rest.

People, be more alert; do as the Republicans of America do: give the State only what is strictly necessary and keep the rest for yourself.

Demand the abolition of useless functions, a reduction of huge salaries, the abolition of special privileges, monopolies and deliberate obstructions and the simplification of the wheels of bureaucracy.

With these savings, insist on the abolition of city tolls, the salt tax, the tax on cattle and on wheat.740

In this way, the cost of living will be cheaper, and since it will be cheaper each person will have a small surplus of his present wages; with this small surplus multiplied by thirty-six million inhabitants, each person will be able to take on and pay for a new form of consumption. With everyone consuming a little more, we will all get a little more employment for each other and, since labor will be in greater demand in the country, wages will rise. Then, oh people, you will have solved the problem, that of earning more sous and obtaining more things for each sou.

This is not as brilliant as the alleged wine pitcher of Cana of the Luxembourg Palace741, but it is sure, solid, practicable, immediate and just.


729 (Paillottet’s note) Among the many journals that started up on 24 February 1848 and which had a fleeting existence only, must be counted Jacques Bonhomme, to whose editing Bastiat contributed. This publication, which aimed to enlighten the people, contained a final article intended to be put up for the public to read free of charge. [DMH - Paillottet is mistaken as he confuses the two revolutionary broadsides which Bastiat and his colleagues published during the revolution. The first magazine was La République française which appeared between 26 February and 28 March (30 issues) just after the Revolution broke out on 22-23 February. The second was called Jacques Bonhomme and it appeared briefly between 24 June and 13 July 1848 (4 issues). Paillottet obviously is confusing the title of the magazine with the main protagonist whom Bastiat used repeatedly in his writings, namely the French everyman “Jacques Bonhomme”, who was used by Bastiat to express his political and economic views. See the glossary entries "Jacques Bonhomme. [person]", "Jacques Bonhomme. [journal]," and “La République française.”]

730 This and the next three articles mark a break with the previous ones as they were all written immediately after the outbreak of revolution on 22-24 February 1848. Protests and riots forced King Louis Philippe to resign and on the evening of 24 February a Provisional Government was proclaimed, followed the next day by the the Second Republic. Bastiat and some of his younger friends (Gustave de Molinari and Hippolyte Castille) decided to form a magazine in order to spread their ideas about constitutional government and free markets among the workers and protesters in Paris. Thus was launched the short lived magazine La République française from which some of the following articles are taken. See the glossary entries on "The 1848 Revolution," “The Chronology of the 1848 Revolution,” "Molinari," and “Castille.” For a list of the articles Bastiat wrote for his revolutionary magazines see the Appendix “Articles by Bastiat which were published in La République française and Jacques Bonhomme.” See the Appendix on "Bastiat's Republicanism."

731 See the glossary entry "Jacques Bonhomme."

732 This and the next piece were designed as a wall poster to be pasted to the walls lining the streets of Paris so the rioting population could read them during the early days of the February Revolution.

733 In his address to the people Bastiat uses the familiar “tu” form of you.

734 In this and the next article Bastiat prefigures his definition of the state as “the great fiction by which everyone endeavours to live at the expense of everyone else” which he developed during the course of 1848. A draft of the essay appeared in his revolutionary magazine Jacques Bonhomme in June 1848 (see CW, vol. 2, pp. 105-06), a larger article on “The State” appeared in the Journal des débats in September 1848, and it was subsequently published as a separate booklet of the same name later that same year (see CW, vol. 2 , pp.93-104).

735 This is a reference to the first public miracle which Christ was reported to have done when he turned water in wine at a wedding feast in the town of Cana. See John 2, verses 1-11.

736 Bastiat uses the word "buraliste" which usually refers to a "tobacconist" who would sell state monopolized and heavily taxed tobacco products to smokers. It thus has another meaning to do with the collection of taxes and could also be used more generally to refer to any clerk who collected taxes on behalf of the state.

737 The words "duperie" (deceit) and "dupes" (those who are deceived) are key terms in Bastiat's theory of plunder ("spoliation"), according to which the plunderers ("les spoliateurs") deceive their victims by means of “la ruse” (deception, fraud) to justify and disguise what they are doing. By means of "Sophisms" (sophistical arguments and fallacies) the dupes are persuaded that the plundering of their property is necessary for the well-being of the nation and thus ultimately for their own good as well. See ES2 I. “The Physiology of Plunder” and the glossary entry on “Bastiat on Plunder.”

738 (Bastiat's note) Jacques Bonhomme does not mean to criticize emergency measures.

739 Bastiat is referring to the "National Workshops" created on February 27, 1848 to employ unemployed workers at government expence. The workers got paid 2 francs a day, which was soon reduced to 1 franc because of the tremendous increase in their numbers (29 000 on March 5; 118 000 on June 15). Struggling with financial difficulties, irritated by the inefficiency of the workshops, the Assembly dissolved them on June 21 prompting widespread rioting in the streets of Paris (known as the “June Days”) which was bloodily put down by the army under General Cavaignac. Although Bastiat opposed the policy of the National Workshops he defended the right of the workers to protest and opposed the army shooting them in the streets. See the glossary entry on “The National Workshops.”

740 See the glossary entry on “French Taxes.”

741 The Luxemburg Palace was the headquarters of the "Government Commission for the Workers". See the glossary entry on “The National Workshops.”

T.202 (1848.03.14) "A Disastrous Remedy" (RF, March 1848)


T.202 (1848.03.14) "A Disastrous Remedy" (Funeste remède), La République française, 14 March 1848, no. 17, p. 1. [OC2, pp. 460-61.] [CW3 - ES3.22]

Editor's Note

[to come]


XXII. A Disastrous Remedy742 [12 March 1848] (final draft)

Publishing history
  • Original title, place and date of publication: “Funeste remède” (A Disastrous Remedy) [12 March 1848, La République française]
  • Published as book or pamphlet: [not applicable]
  • Location in Paillottet's edition: Oeuvres complètes (1st ed. 1854-55), Vol. 2: Le Libre-Échange (1855), pp. 460-61. Published as one of the “Small Posters of Jacques Bonhomme.”743
  • Previous translation: [none]

When our brother suffers we must come to his aid.

However, it is not the goodness of the intention that makes the goodness of the medicine. A mortal remedy can be given in all charity.

A poor worker was ill. The doctor arrived, took his pulse, made him stick out his tongue and said to him: “Good man, you are undernourished.” “I think so too,” said the dying man, “however, I did have an old doctor who was very skilled. He gave me three-quarters of a loaf of bread each evening. It is true that he took the whole loaf from me each morning and kept a quarter of it as his fee. I turned him away when I saw that this regime was not curing me.” “My friend and colleague was an ignorant man who thought only of his own interest. He did not see that your blood was anemic. This has to be reorganized.744 I am going to transfuse some new blood in your left arm and to do this I have to take it out of your right arm. But provided that you take no account either of the blood that comes out of your right arm or the blood that will be lost during the operation, you will find my remedy admirable.”745

This is the position we are in. The State tells the people: “You do not have enough bread; I will give you some. But since I do not make any, I will begin by taking it from you and when I have satisfied my appetite, which is not small, I will make you earn the rest.”

Or else: “Your earnings are not high enough, pay me more tax. I will distribute part to my agents and with the surplus, I will set you to work.”

And if the people have eyes only for the bread being given to them and lose sight of the bread being taken away from them;746 if they can see the small wage which taxes provide but don't see the large part of their wage which taxes take away, then we can predict that their illness will become more serious.


742 This and the last piece were designed as a wall poster to be pasted to the walls lining the streets of Paris so the rioting population could read them during the early days of the February Revolution.

743 See the glossary entry on “Jacques Bonhomme [person].”

744 Bastiat uses the word "réorganiser" to make reference to one of the key slogans of the socialists in February 1848, namely "l'organisation" (the organisation of labor and industry by the state for the benefit of the workers). See Louis Blanc's highly influential book L’Organisation du travail (1839) which was reprinted many times. See also the glossary entries on "Blanc" and “Association and Organization.”

745 Recall Bastiat’s parody of Molière’s parody of 17th century doctors who bled their patients in ES2 IX. "Theft by Subsidy", above p. ??? See “Bastiat’s Rhetoric of Liberty” in the Introduction, above, pp. ??? for a discussion of this.

746 See Bastiat’s pamphlet which follows entitled “What is Seen and What is not Seen” for an extended discussion of this point.

T.204 (1848.03.15) "Disastrous Illusions" (JDE, March 1848)


T.204 (1848.03.15) "Disastrous Illusions" (Funestes illusions. Les citoyens font vivre l'État. L'État ne peut faire vivre les citoyens), Journal des Economistes, 15 March 1848, T. 19, no. 70, pp. 323-33. [OC2, pp. 466-82.] [CW3 - ES3.24]

Editor's Note

[to come]


XXIV. Disastrous Illusions [March 1848]753 (final draft)

Publishing history
  • Original title, place and date of publication: “Funestes illusions” (Disastrous Illusions) [Journal des Economistes, March 1848, T. 19, pp. 323-33.]
  • Published as book or pamphlet: [not applicable]
  • Location in Paillottet's edition: Oeuvres complètes (1st ed. 1854-55), Vol. 2: Le Libre-Échange (1855), pp. 466-82.
  • Previous translation: [none]



It has sometimes happened that I have combated Privilege by making fun of it. I think this was quite excusable. When a few people wish to live at the expense of all, it is totally permissible to inflict the sting of ridicule on the minority that exploits and the majority that is exploited.

Now, I am faced with another illusion. It is no longer a question of particular privileges, but of transforming privilege into a common right. The entire nation has conceived the odd idea that it could increase production indefinitely by handing it over to the State in the form of taxes in order for the State to give it back a portion in the form of work, profit and pay.754 The State is being requested to ensure the well-being of every citizen; and a long and sorry procession, in which every sector of the work force is represented, from the severe banker to the humble laundress, is parading before the organizer in chief755 in order to ask for financial assistance.

I would keep quiet if it were a matter only of temporary measures that were required and to some extent justified by the upheaval of the great revolution that we have just accomplished, but what people are demanding are not exceptional remedies but the application of a system. Forgetting that citizens’ purses fill that of the State, they want the State’s purse to fill those of the citizens.

I do have to make it clear that it is not by using irony and sarcasm that I will be striving to dispel this disastrous illusion. In my view at least, it casts a somber shadow over the future, which I very much fear will be the rock on which our beloved Republic will founder.756

Besides, how will we summon up the courage to admonish the people for not knowing what they have always been forbidden to learn, and for cherishing in their hearts illusionary hopes that have assiduously been placed there?

What did those in power in this century, the major landowners and manufacturers, do in the past as they continue to do? They demanded additional profit from the law to the detriment of the masses. Is it surprising, therefore, that the masses, now in a position to make the law, are also requiring additional pay? But alas! There is no other mass beneath them from which this source of subsidy can arise. With their gaze fixed on power, businessmen transformed themselves into solicitors of the legislature. Arrange for me sell my wheat more profitably! Arrange for me an increased profit from my meat! Raise the price of my iron, my woolen cloth or my coal artificially! These were the cries that deafened the Chamber, the very seat of privilege. Is it surprising that the people, now that they are victorious, are becoming solicitors of the legislature in their turn? But alas! Although the law is able, at a stretch, to give handouts to a few privileged people at the expense of the nation, how can we imagine that it can give handouts to the entire nation?757

What example is being given at present even by the middle class? It is seen harrassing the provisional government and leaping on the budget as though onto its prey. Is it surprising that the people are also displaying the very modest ambition of making a living, at least through work?

What used those who governed to say repeatedly? At the slightest gleam of prosperity, they attributed its entire merit to themselves without ceremony; they made no mention of the popular virtues that are its basis nor of the activity, order and economy of the workers. No, they claimed the authorship of this prosperity, which incidentally is highly doubtful. Less than two months ago, I heard the minister of trade758 say: “Thanks to the active intervention of the government, thanks to the wisdom of the king, thanks to the patronage of science, all the productive classes are flourishing.” Should we be surprised that the people have ended up believing that they obtain well-being from above, like manna from heaven, and that they now turn their gaze to the regions of power? When you claim the merit for all the good that occurs, you incur responsibility for all the harm that arises.

This reminds me of a parish priest in our region. In the initial years of his residence no hail fell in the village, and he succeeded in convincing the good villagers that his prayers had the infallible virtue of chasing storms away. This was fine so long as it did not hail, but at the first onset of the calamity he was chased out of the parish. People said to him: “Is it out of ill-will, therefore, that you have allowed us to be struck by the storm?”

The Republic was inaugurated with a similar disappointment. It made this statement to the people, who were, incidentally, only too happy to hear it: “I guarantee well-being to all citizens.”759 And let us hope this statement does not attract storms to our country!

The people of Paris have gained eternal glory through their courage.

They have aroused the admiration of the entire world for their love of public order and their respect for all rights and property.

All that remains to them is to accomplish another particularly difficult task, that of rejecting the poisoned chalice that is being presented to them. I say this with conviction; the entire future of the Republic is now resting on their common sense. It is no longer a question of the honesty of their intentions, no one can fail to recognize this; it is a question of the honesty of their instincts. The glorious revolution that they have achieved through their courage and preserved through their wisdom has just one danger to face, disappointment, and against this danger there is just one lifeline, the sagacity of the people.

Yes, if friendly voices warn the people, if courageous spirits open their eyes, something tells me that the Republic will avoid the gaping abyss that is opening in front of it, and if this happens, what a magnificent sight France will present to the world!760 A people triumphing over its enemies and false friends, a people that is conquering the obsessions of others and its own illusions!

I will start by saying that the institutions that weighed us down just a few days ago have not been overturned, and that the Republic, or the government of everyone by all, has not been founded in order to leave the people (and by this term I now mean the working class, those earning wages or what used to be called the proletariat) in the same situation as they were before.

That is the will of all, and it is their own will that their situation should change.

However, two means are open to them and these means are not only different, they are, it has to be said, diametrically opposed to each other.

The school of thought known as the Economist School761 proposes the immediate dismantling of all privileges and all monopolies, the immediate elimination of all non-useful state functions, the immediate reduction of all excessive salaries, deep reductions in public expenditure, and the reorganization of taxes so that those that weigh heavily on public consumption, those that hamper their movement and paralyze their work, are got rid of. For example, this school demands that city tolls, the salt tax,762 the duties on the import of subsistence items and working tools to be abolished forthwith;

that it demands that the word Liberty, which floats on all our banners and which is engraved on all our buildings, become the truth at last.

that it demands that, after paying the government what is essential for maintaining internal and external security, repressing fraud, misdemeanors and crime and subsidizing the major works of national utility, THE PEOPLE SHOULD KEEP THE REST FOR ITSELF.

It confidently asserts that the more the people contribute to the security of persons and property, the faster capital will grow.

And that capital will grow even faster if the people are able to keep their wages for themselves instead of handing them over to the state through taxes.

And that rapid capital formation necessarily implies that wages will rise rapidly, with the result that the working classes will gradually increase their level of well-being, independence, education and dignity.

This system does not have the advantage of promising the instant achievement of universal happiness, but it appears to us to be simple, immediately practicable, in conformity with justice, faithful to freedom and likely to encourage all human tendencies to equality and fraternity. I will return to this once I have set out in detail the views of another school, which appears right now to have the upper hand in popularity.

This school also wants the good of the people, but it claims to achieve it through a direct route. Its pretension is no less than to increase the well-being of the masses, that is to say, increase their consumption, while reducing their work, and in order to accomplish this miracle it has conceived the idea of drawing additional pay either from the common purse or from the excessive profits of business entrepreneurs.

It is the dangers of this system that I propose to point out.

Let no one misunderstand what I am saying. I do not mean here to condemn voluntary association.763 I sincerely believe that association will enable great progress to be made in every sphere of human endeavor. Tests are being carried out at this time, in particular by the management of the Northern Railway764 and that of the journal, La Presse.765 Who could criticize these attempts? I myself, before I had ever heard of the École sociétaire766, had conceived a project for a farming association with the aim of improving the sharecropping system.767 Health reasons were the only cause of my relinquishing this enterprise.

The cause of my doubts, or to put it frankly, what my strong conviction rejects with all its strength, is the clear tendency that you have doubtless noticed, and which also perhaps carries you along with it, to invoke State intervention in all matters, and in particular for the achievement of our Utopias,768 or our “systems” if you prefer, with legal coercion as the principle and public money as the means.

You may well emblazon Voluntary Association on your flag: I say that if you call upon the aid of law and taxes, the ensign is as total a lie as it can be, since in that case there is no longer association nor a voluntary act.

I will devote myself to demonstrating that the excessive intervention of the State cannot increase the well-being of the masses and that, on the contrary, it tends to decrease it;

that it deletes the first word of our Republican motto, the word Liberty;

that while it is erroneous in principle, it is particularly dangerous for France, and threatens to engulf, in a great and irreparable disaster, private wealth, public wealth, the fate of the working classes, our institutions, and the Republic.769

In the first place, I say that the promises of this deplorable system of thought are illusory.

And really, this seems so obvious to me that I would be ashamed to spend time on a long demonstration of this if striking facts did not convince me that this demonstration is necessary.

For what is the sight being offered to us by the country?

At the Town Hall770, there is a scramble for office, at the Luxembourg Palace a scramble for wages.771 The first leads to ignominy, the second to deep disappointment.

As for the scramble for office, the obvious remedy would be to abolish all useless functions and reduce the remuneration of those functions that excite greed; but this prey is left in its entirety to the avidity of the bourgeoisie, and these people rush after it madly.

What happens then? The people in turn, the people who are the workers, who witness the joys of an existence ensured by public resources, forgetting that they themselves make up this public and that the budget is made up of their flesh and blood, demand in their turn that a scramble be prepared for them.

Long delegations throng around the Luxembourg Palace, and what do they demand? An increase in pay, that is to say, in a word, an improvement in the workers’ means of existence.

However, those who go to these delegations personally are not merely acting on their own account. They genuinely mean to represent the entire great confraternity of workers who people both our towns and our countryside.

Material well-being does not consist in earning more money. It consists in being better fed, clothed, housed, heated, lit, educated, etc., etc.

What they are asking for then, when you go into the detail of things, is that from the glorious era of our revolution, each Frenchman who is a member of the working classes should have more bread, wine, meat, linen, furniture, iron, fuel, books, etc., etc.

And, something that beggars belief, at the same time some of these want to decrease the work needed to produce these things. Some, fortunately few in number, even go so far as to demand the destruction of machines.772

Can a contradiction as flagrant as this ever be imagined?

Unless the miracle of the wine pitcher of Cana773 be repeated in the coffers of the tax collector, how can the State take more out of them than the people put in? Do the people believe that for each hundred sou coin that goes into these coffers ten francs can be taken out? Alas, just the opposite is true. The hundred sou coins that the people cast into them whole and entire come out again only badly clipped, since the tax collector has to keep a share of them for himself.

What is more, what does money mean? Even if it were true that you could withdraw from the public Treasury a fund of wages that was different from what the public itself had put into it, would you be better off? It is not a matter of money, but of food, clothing, housing, etc.

Well, has the organizer who sits in the Luxembourg Palace774 the power to multiply these things by decree? Or, if France produces 60 million hectoliters of wheat, is he able to ensure that each of our 36 million fellow citizens receives 3 hectoliters, and the same thing for iron, woolen cloth and fuel?

Recourse to the public Treasury as a general practice is thus deplorably mistaken. It is ensuring that a cruel disappointment is in store for the people.775

Doubtless it will be said: “No one is thinking of such absurdities. What is clear, however, is that some in France have too much and others not enough. What we are trying to do is to level things justly and distribute things more equitably.”

Let us examine the question from this point of view.

If what they mean is that, once they had removed all the taxes that could be removed, all those that remained should as far as possible be borne by the class best able to support them, our wishes could not be better expressed. But that is too simple for the organizers; it is good for economists.

What people want is for each Frenchman to be well supplied with everything. It has been announced in advance that the State would guarantee the well-being of all, and the question is to know whether it is possible to squeeze the wealthy class sufficiently in favor of the poor class to achieve this result.

Setting the question out is to solve it, for in order for everyone to have more bread, wine, meat, woolen cloth, etc. the country has to produce more of these, and how can you take from a single class, even the wealthy class, more than all the classes together produce?

Besides, you should note this clearly: it is a question here of taxes. These have already reached a billion and a half.776 The trends I am combating, far from allowing any decreases, will lead to inevitable increases.

Allow me a rough calculation.

It is extremely difficult to put an accurate figure on the two classes, but we can come close to one.

Under the regime that has just fallen, there were 250 thousand electors.777 Assuming 4 members per family, this implies one million inhabitants, and everyone knows that electors paying 200 francs of taxes were very close to belonging to the class of less well off landowners. However, to avoid any argument, let us attribute to the wealthy class not only these million inhabitants, but sixteen times this number. This is already a reasonable concession. We therefore have sixteen million wealthy people and twenty million who are, if not poor, at least brothers who need assistance. If we assume that a very insignificant addition of 25 percent per day is essential to put into practice philanthropic views that are more benevolent than enlightened, this means a tax of five million per day or close to two billion per year and we can even make it two billion to include the costs of collection.

We are already paying one and a half billion. I am willing to admit that with a more economic system of administration we can reduce this figure by one third : we would still have to levy three billion. Well, I ask you, can we envisage levying three billion from sixteen million of the wealthiest inhabitants in the country?

A tax like this would be confiscatory, and look at the consequences. If in fact all property was confiscated as quickly as it was created, who would take the trouble to create property? People do not work just to live from day to day. Among the most powerful incentives to work, perhaps, is the hope of acquiring a nest egg for one’s old age, to set one’s children up and to improve the situation of one’s family. But if you organize your financial system in a way that confiscates all property as it is created, no one would be interested in either work or thrift and capital would not be built up; it would decrease rapidly, if indeed it did not suddenly go abroad, and in this case, what would become of the very class that you wished to relieve?

I add another truth here that it is essential for the people to learn.

In a country in which tax is very moderate, it is possible to share it out in accordance with the rules of justice and collect it at little cost. Assume, for example, that France’s budget did not exceed five or six hundred million. I sincerely believe that if this were so, according to this hypothesis, it would be possible to establish a single tax based on the property acquired (both movable and fixed).

But when the State extracts from the nation one quarter, one third or half of its income, it is reduced to acting with deception,778 increasing the number of sources of revenue and inventing the strangest and at the same time most vexatious of taxes. It ensures that tax is combined with the price of things, so that taxpayers pay it unknowingly. This gives rise to the consumption taxes that are so disastrous for the free movement of industry. Well, anyone who has had dealings with finance is fully aware that this type of tax is productive only if it is levied on the most general of consumer products. It is no good basing your hopes on taxes on luxury articles; I call on these earnestly for reasons of equity, but they can never provide more than an insignificant contribution to a huge budget. People would be deluding themselves totally if they thought it was possible, even for the most popular government, to increase public spending which is already heavy and at the same time to make the wealthy class alone responsible for bearing it.

What should be noted is that, from the moment recourse is made to consumption tax (which is the inevitable consequence of a heavy budget), the equality of the burden is destroyed, since the objects subjected to taxes form a greater part of the consumption of the poor than the consumption of the wealthy, in proportion to their respective incomes.

In addition, unless we enter into inextricable difficulties of classification, when we subject a given object, wine for example, to a uniform tax, the injustice leaps to the eye. A worker who buys one liter of wine at 50 centimes per liter that is subjected to a tax of 50 centimes, pays 100 per cent. The millionaire who drinks Lafitte wine at 10 francs a bottle pays 5 percent.779

From every angle, therefore, it is the working class that has the most interest in seeing the budget reduced to proportions that allow taxes to be simplified and equalized. But in order to do this they must not be dazzled by all these philanthropic projects, which have just one certain result: that of increasing nation-wide charges.

If the increase in taxes is incompatible with equality between taxpayers and with the security that is essential for capital to be created and increased, it is no less incompatible with freedom.

I remember in my youth reading one of the sentences so familiar to Mr. Guizot,780 who was then a mere substitute teacher. To justify the heavy budgets that appeared to be the obligatory corollaries of constitutional monarchies, he said: “Freedom is an asset that is so precious that a nation should never trade it away.” From that day on, I said to myself: “Mr. Guizot may have eminent abilities but he would certainly be a pitiful Statesman.” 781

In fact, freedom is a very precious asset and one for which a nation cannot pay too high a price. However, the question is precisely to know whether an overtaxed nation is able to be free, and if there is not a radical incompatibility between freedom and excessive taxation.

Well, I assert that there is a radical incompatibility.

Let us note that in reality the civil service does not act on things, but on people, and it acts on them with authority. Well, the action that certain men exercise on other men with the support of the law and public coercion can never be neutral. It is essentially harmful if it is not essentially useful.

The service of a public functionary is not one whose price is negotiated or one that people are in a position to accept or refuse. By its very nature, it is imposed. When a nation can do no better than to entrust a service to public coercion, as in the instance of security, national independence or the repression of misdemeanors and crimes, it has to create this authority and be subject to it.

But if a nation puts into the domain of public service what absolutely ought to have remained in that of private services, it is denies itself the ability to negotiate the sacrifice it wishes to make in exchange for these services and deprives itself of the right to refuse them; it reduces the sphere of its freedom.

The number of state functionaries cannot be increased without increasing the number of functions they occupy. That would be too flagrant. The point is that increasing the number of functions increases the number of infringements of freedom.

How can a monarch confiscate the freedom of religion? By having the clergy on hire.782

How can he confiscate freedom of education? By having a university on hire.783

What is being proposed now? To have trade and transport carried out by civil servants. If this plan is put into practice, we will pay more in taxes and be less free.

You can clearly see, then, that under the guise of philanthropy, the system being recommended today is illusory, unjust, destructive of security, harmful to the formation of capital and thereby, to increasing wages. In sum, it is undermining the liberty of the citizens.

I might blame it for many other things. It would be easy for me to prove that it is an insurmountable obstacle to any progress because it paralyses the very impetus to progress, the vigilance of private interest.

What are the areas of human activity that offer the sight of the most complete stagnation? Are these not precisely those entrusted to public services? Let us take education. It is still where it was in the Middle Ages. It has not emerged from the study of two dead languages, a study that was in the past so rational and is so irrational today. Not only are the same things being taught, but the same methods are being used to teach them. What industry other than this has remained where it was five centuries ago?

I could also accuse excessive taxes and the increase in number of public functions of developing the unfettered ardor for office that in itself and in its consequences is the greatest plague of modern times.784 But I lack space and entrust these considerations to the sagacity of the reader.

I cannot stop myself, nevertheless, from considering the question from the point of view of the particular situation in which the February Revolution has placed France.

I do not hesitate to say this: if the common sense of the people and the common sense of the workers do not exact proper and swift justice on the mad and illusionary hopes that have been cast into their midst in a reckless thirst for popularity, these disappointed hopes will be fatal to the Republic.

Certainly, they will be disappointed, because they are illusionary. I have proved this. Promises have been made that are physically impossible to honor.

What is the situation we are in? On its death, the constitutional monarchy has left us as an inheritance a debt whose interest alone is an annual burden of three hundred million on our finances,785 apart from an equal amount of floating debt.786

It has left us Algeria, which will cost us one hundred million a year for a great many years.787

Without attacking us, without even threatening us, the absolute kings of Europe just have to maintain their current level of military forces to oblige us to retain ours. Under this heading, five to six hundred million has to be included in our budget for the army and navy.788

Finally, there remain all the public services, all the costs of tax collection and all the work of national utility.789

Add it all up, set out the figures any way you like and you will see that the budget for expenditure is inevitably enormous.

It has to be assumed that the ordinary sources of revenue will be less productive from the first year of the revolution. Let us assume that the deficit that they produce is compensated for by the abolition of sinecures and the retrenchment of parasitic state functions.

The inexorable result is nonetheless that it is already very difficult to give satisfaction to the taxpayers.

And it is at this time that into the midst of the people is cast the vain hope that they too can draw life from this same treasure, which they are feeding with their very lives!

It is at this time, when production, trade, capital and labor need security and freedom to widen the sources of taxes and wages, it is at this very time that you are holding over their heads the threat of a host of arbitrary plans, ill thought out and ill designed institutions, projects for organization that have been hatched in the brains of political writers, who for the most part know nothing about this subject!

But what will happen on the day disappointment with this occurs? And this day will surely come.

What will happen when workers perceive that work provided by the State is not work added to that of the country but subtracted through tax at one point in order to be paid by charity at another, with all the loss that the creation of new administrative authorities implies?

What will happen when you are reduced to coming forward to say to taxpayers: “We cannot touch the salt tax, city tolls, the tax on wines and spirits or any of the most unpopular fiscal inventions; on the contrary, we are obliged to think up new ones.”?790

What will happen when the claim to increase ineluctably the mass of wages, taking no account of a corresponding increase in capital (which implies the most blatant contradiction), will have disrupted all the workshops on the pretext of organization and perhaps forced capital to seek the bracing atmosphere of freedom elsewhere?

I do not wish to dwell on the consequences. It is enough for me to have pointed out the danger as I see it.

“What!” it will be said, “Following the great February Revolution, was there nothing left to do? Was no satisfaction to be given to the people? Should we have left things exactly where they were before? Was there no suffering that needed to be relieved?”

This is not what we think.

In our view, increasing wages does not depend on either benevolent intentions or philanthropic decrees. It depends and depends solely on an increase in capital. In a country such as the United States, when capital is built up quickly, wages rise and the nation is happy.

Now, in order for capital to be created, two things are needed: security and freedom. In addition, it must not be pillaged by taxation as it grows.

This, we think, is where the rules of conduct and the duties of the government lie.

New schemes, agreements, organizations and associations ought to have been left to the common sense, experience and initiative of the citizens. Such things are not accomplished by taxes and decrees.

Providing universal security by peaceful and reassuring public servants who have been chosen in an enlightened manner, basing true freedom on the elimination of privileges and monopolies, allowing free entry of items of prime necessity and those most essential for work, creating the resources needed at no charge by means of a reduction of excessive duties and the abolition of prohibition, simplifying all administrative procedures, cutting out whole layers of bureaucracy, abolishing parasitic state functions, reducing excessive remuneration of pubic servants, negotiating immediately with foreign powers to reduce armed forces, abolishing city tolls and the salt tax, and fundamentally reorganizing the tax on wines and spirits, and creating a sumptuary tax: all these form the mission of a popular government in my view, and this is the mission of our republic.

Under a regime like this of order, security and liberty, we would see capital being created and giving life to all branches of production, trade expanding, farming progressing, work actively being encouraged, labor sought after and well paid, wages benefiting from the competition of increasingly abundant capital, and all the living forces of the nation, currently absorbed by useless or harmful administrative bodies, turned towards furthering the physical, intellectual and moral well-being of the entire nation.


753 First published in Journal des Economistes, March 1848. Issues of the JDE usually appeared on the 15th of the month. This essay was published in the Journal des économistes soon after the revolution had broken out in February (22-24). The issue at the time which was concerning the Provisional Government was the creation of the National Workshops and the program to provide state funded work relief to the unemployed. See the glossary entry on “The National Workshops.”

754 One of the very first things the Provisional Government did after King Louis Philippe abdicated and the Second Republic was declared (22-24 February 1848) was to announce the creation of the National Workshops (26 February), limit the length of the working day to 10 hours in Paris and 11 hours in the provinces (2 March), and increase by 45% the level of direct taxes (15 March) (the "impôt des quarante-cinq centimes”). See the glossary on “A Brief Chronology of the 1848 Revolution.”

755 Bastiat uses the term “la grande organisateur” to disparage those who, like the socialists, wanted to “organize” society from top to bottom. One might also have translated it in the 20th century sense of “the central planner.” See the glossary entry on “Association and Organization.”

756 Bastiat seems to be having some regrets here about his use of satire and humour in many of the Economic Sophisms which he had written over the past three years, yet he was to change his mind when it to writing one of his final works "What is Seen and What is not Seen" (July 1850). Paillottet tells us that Bastiat rewrote it completely because he thought he had over-corrected and had made it too severe. See the Introduction to this volume for more details. See below, pp. ???

757 This of course is exactly what led Bastiat to declare in June that a state which tried to live by this principle had become a “great fiction,” namely that the state was “the great fiction by which everyone endeavours to live at the expense of everyone else” which he developed during the course of 1848. A draft of the essay appeared in his revolutionary magazine Jacques Bonhomme in June 1848 (see CW, vol. 2, pp. 105-06), a larger article on “The State” appeared in the Journal des débats in September 1848, and it was subsequently published as a separate booklet of the same name later that same year (see CW, vol. 2 , pp.93-104).

758 Laurent Cunin-Gridaine was the Minister of Commerce from 1840 to 1848 and was a strong supporter of protection for the textile industry. See the glossary entry on “Cunin-Gridaine.”

759 Among many similar decrees, the Provisional Government stated on 25 February that: "Le Gouvernement provisoire de la République française s'engage à garantir l'existence de l'ouvrier par le travail; Il s'engagea garantir du travail à tous les citoyens; Il reconnaît que les ouvriers doivent s'associer entre eux pour jouir du bénéfice légitime de leur travail. Le Gouvernement provisoire rend aux ouvriers, auquel il appartient, le million qui va échoir de la liste civile." (The Provisional Government of the French Republic undertakes to guarantee the existence of the workers by means of work; it undertakes to guarantee work to all citizens; it recognizes that workers must form associations in order to enjoy the legitimate benefits of their labour. The Provisional Government will hand over to the workers, what belongs to them, the million francs which is due to be paid to the civil list.) See Actes officiels du gouvernement provisoire dans leur ordre chronologique, arrêtès, décrets, proclamations, etc., etc: Revue des faits les plus remarquables précédés du récit des événements qui se sont accomplis les 22, 23 et 24 février 1848 (Paris: Barba, Garnot, 1848), p. 9. The Civil List was the grant given by the Chamber to the Crown to assist in their upkeep. In the budget for 1847 (the year before the revolution) fr. 13.3 million was set aside for this purpose. See "Budget de 1846 et 1847," in Annuaire de l'économie politique et de la statistique pour 1847 (1847), p. 38.

760 In February 1848, the day after the Revolution broke out, Bastiat declared that he was "firmly convinced that the republican form of government is the only one which is suitable for a free people, the only one which allows the full and complete development of all kinds of liberty." He and Molinari wanted to call their revolutionary magazine just "La République" but had to settle for "La République française" as the former had already been taken. His political beliefs could be summed up as follows: in additional to "liberty, equality, and fraternity" he also believed in "property, tranquility, prosperity, frugality, and stability" (to paraphrase him slightly). See the Appendix on "Bastiat's Republicanism."

761 The "Economists school" or "Les Économistes" (Economists) was the name given to the group of liberal, free-trade political economists who were active in the late 18th and the first half of the 19th century. See the glossary entry on “The Economists.”

762 One of the first taxes to be abolished after the Revolution of 22-24 February was the much hated salt tax on 21 April. See the glossary entry on “French Taxes.”

763 On the difference between the socialists’ and the Economists’ idea of association see the glossary entry “Association and Organization.”

764 Under the Railway Law of 11 June 1842 the government ruled that 5 main railways would be built radiating out of Paris which would be built in cooperation with private industry. The government would build and own the right of way, bridges, tunnels and railway stations, while private industry would lay the tracks, and build and maintain the rolling stock and the lines. The government would also set rates and regulate safety. The first railway concessions were issued by the government in 1844-45 triggering a wave of speculation and attempts to secure concessions. The first major line was the "chemin de fer du Nord" (June 1846) followed by the "chemin de fer d'Amiens à Boulogne" (May 1848). The Northern railway is the one Bastiat would be familiar with in this essay. See the glossary entry on "The French Railways."

765 La Presse was a widely circulated daily newspaper under the control of the politician and businessman Émile de Girardin (1806-81). See the glossary entries “La Presse” and “French Newspapers.”

766 "École sociétaire" (the school of members (of society), or the social school) was the name used by Charles Fourier and his school to describe themselves. See Fourier's, Le Nouveau Monde industriel et sociétaire (1829). See the glossary entry on “Fourier.”

767 See “Proposition for the Creation of a School for Sons of Sharecroppers” (1844) in Collected Works, vol. 1, pp. 334-40, on Bastiat’s failed attempt to start a school for his sharecroppers.

768 See the glossary entry on “Utopias.”

769 On Bastiat’s republicanism see the Appendix “Bastiat’s Republicanism.:

770 The “Hôtel-de-Ville” (the town or city hall) was the seat of the provisional government. This is a scene which Bastiat personally witnessed. According to Molinari, he, Bastiat, and Castille went “arm in arm” to the Hôtel-de-Ville on the day the revolution broke out (24 February) in order to get permission to start their journal La République français. This was impossible to do as people armed with rifles and swords had invaded the building and an enormous crowd had gathered in order to try to get jobs in the new regime. See Gustave de Molinari’s review of Bastiat’s “Lettres d’un habitant des Landes”, JDE, July 1878, p. 61.

771 The newly established administration for the National Workshops was located in the Luxemburg Palace. See the glossary entry on “The National Workshops.”

772 This is a reference to the Luddites who were members of a movement in the early 19th century in England who protested the introduction of mechanized weaving machines believing that that they would put handloom weavers out of work. They were active between 1811-13 before being suppressed by the government in a mass trial in 1813. They took their name from a weaver named Ned Ludd who smashed machines in 1779. See Bastiat’s previous reference to smashing machines in ES1 XX “Human Labor and Domestic Labor” below, pp. ??? See the glossary entry on “Luddites.”

773 This is a reference to the first public miracle which Christ was reported to have done when he turned water in wine at a wedding feast in the town of Cana. See John 2, verses 1-11.

774 Pierre-Émile Thomas (1822-1880) was a civil engineer was was appointed the Director of the National Workshops between March and May 1848. The socialist Louis Blanc (1811-1882) was the driving intellectual force behind the scheme. He was appointed minister without portfolio by the Provisional Government and head of the Luxemburg Commission to study labor problems, out of which emerged the National Workshops program. See the glossary entry on “The National Workshops”.

775 Shortly after this article was written Bastiat was elected to the new Constituent Assembly of the Second Republic to represent the département of Les Landes on 23 April. He was nominated by the Assembly to the Finance Committee to which he was reappointed 8 times. He spent much of his time telling the members of the Committee and the Assembly much the same things as he is saying here and with little success. See the Appendix on “Bastiat’s Activities in the National Assembly, 1848-1850.”

776 Total annual income for the government in 1848 was fr. 1.4 billion. See the Appendix on "French Government Finances in 1848-49."

777 Between 1820 and 1848, 258 deputies were elected by a small group of individuals who qualified to vote because they paid more than 300 francs in direct taxes (this figure varied over time from 90,000 to 240,000). One quarter of the electors, those who paid the largest amount of taxes, elected another 172 deputies. Therefore, those wealthier electors enjoyed the privilege of a double vote. Bastiat referred to this group as the "classe électorale" (the electoral class) in ES3 VI. “The People and the Bourgeoisie” for "classe électorale" (the electoral class), below pp. ??? Another term for this group which was popular at the time was "monopole électoral" (electoral monopoly). This was used by Molinari in a number of works as it nicely captured the idea that there was a political corollary to the phenomenon of economic monopolies. See L’Économiste belge, March 1866, p. 55. See the glossary entry on “The Chamber of Deputies.”

778 Bastiat uses the word “ruse” (deception). The words "duperie" (deceit) and "dupes" (those who are deceived) are key terms in Bastiat's theory of plunder ("spoliation"), according to which the plunderers ("les spoliateurs") deceive their victims by means of “la ruse” (deception, fraud) to justify and disguise what they are doing. By means of "Sophisms" (sophistical arguments and fallacies) the dupes are persuaded that the plundering of their property is necessary for the well-being of the nation and thus ultimately for their own good as well. See ES2 I. “The Physiology of Plunder” and the glossary entry on “Bastiat on Plunder.”

779 In 1845 the city of Paris imposed an octroi (entry tax) on all goods which entered the city which raised fr. 49 million. Of this fr. 26.1 million were levied on wine and other alcoholic drinks which comprised 53% of the total. The tax on wine was the heaviest as a proportion of total value and the most unequally applied. Cheap table wine was taxed at the rate of 80-100% by value whilst superior quality wine was taxed at the rate of 5-6% by value. See Horace Say, Paris, son octroi et ses emprunts (Paris: Guillaumin, 1847). See the glossary entry on “French Taxes [Octroi].”

780 François Guizot (1787-1874) was a conservative liberal historian and politician (a member of the “Doctrinaires” who supported a constitutional monarchy) who played an important role in the July Monarchy. He served as minister of the interior, then minister of education (1832-37), ambassador to England in 1840, foreign minister and prime minister, becoming in practice the leader of the government from 1840 to 1848. It was his government which collapsed in February 1848. See the glossary entry on “Guizot.”

781 We have not been able to find this quotation from Guizot. It may well have originated in a passage from D’Amilaville’s article on “Population” in Diderot’s Encyclopedia where he states that large populations are fostered by states which are limited and where rights are respected: “Il n'est pas nécessaire de pousser plus loin nos remarques, pour prouver que l'esprit des grandes monarchies est contraire à la grande population. C'est dans les gouvernemens doux & bornés, où les droits de l'humanité seront respectés, que les hommes seront nombreux. La liberté est un bien si précieux que, sans être accompagnée d’aucune autre, elles les attire et les muliplie” (The spirit of large monarchies is not conducive to having large populations. It is in gentle and limited governments, where the rights of humanity are respected, that men become numerous. Liberty is a good so precious that, without being accompanied by anything else, they (limited governments) attract men and increase their number.) (p. 95). Encyclpédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des metier, tome 13 Pom-Regg (Neufchastel: Samuel Faulche, 1765), D’Amilaville, “Population,” pp. 88-103.

782 Bastiat uses the expression “un clergé à gages” which suggests someone for hire or a mercenary. In the statement of principles which Bastiat and his colleagues published in their journal La République française on 26 February just after the Revolution broke out was a call for an end to "salaried religion" (Plus de cultes salariés!). See the Appendix on "Quelques mots d'abord sur le titre de notre journal" (A few words on the title of our Journal), below, pp. ???

783 In 1849 fr. 21.8 million was spent on public education of which fr. 17.9 went for the University and fr. 3.3 million on "Science and Letters." See the Appendix on "French Government Finances 1848-1849."

784 See Louis Reybaud's amusing critiques of French bureaucracy in Mémoires de Jérôme Paturet, which appeared in serial form between 1843 and 1848 where he describes the behaviour of individuals within the "ruche bureaucratique" (bureaurocratic hive) where appointments are solicited by the weak and powerless of the powerful and well-connected thus creating a network of obligation and control throughout the hierarchy which radiates outwards to infinity ("ces ricochets allaient à l'infini"). See the Appendices "Bastiat and the Ricochet Effect" and "The Sophism Bastiat never wrote: the Sophism of the Ricochet Effect."

785 Total debt held by the French government in 1848 amounted to fr. 5.2 billion which required annual payments of fr. 384 million to service in 1848. Since total annual income for the government in 1848 was fr. 1.391 billion the outstanding debt was 3.7 times receipts. In 1848 the deficit was estimated at fr. 55 million. In 1849 (after the economic upheaval of the 1848 Revolution and a large increase in taxes - especially the 45 centime tax), government receipts rose slightly to fr. 1.412 billion while expenditure rose to fr. 1.573 billion, leaving a deficit of fr. fr. 161 million. See the See the Appendix on "French Government Finances 1848-1849"; and Gustave de Puynode, "Crédit public," DEP, vol. 1, pp. 508-25.

786Bastiat may have in mind here the difference between consolidated debt at relatively low, fixed rates of interest of 3-5% and floating debt of various kinds for special projects, short term debt, and covering the annual deficit. In 1848 the former required an annual payment of fr. 293 million; the latter required a payment of fr. 93 million (at presumably higher rates of interest) plus however the deficit of fr.55 million was going to be paid for. The total of the latter came to fr. 148 million which is only 50% of the consolidated debt payment. See the Appendix on "French Government Finances 1848-1849".

787 The JDE gives a figure of fr. 120 millions spent in Algeria in 1847. See “Chronique” in JDE, February 1848, T. 19, p. 315. See glossary entry on “Algeria.”

788 According to the budget passed on 15 May 1849 the size of the French army was 389,967 men and 95,687 horses. [This figure rises to 459,457 men and 97,738 horses for the entire French military (including foreign and colonial forces).] The expenditure on the Army in 1849 was fr. 346,319,558 and for the Navy and Colonies was fr. 119,206,857 for a combined total of fr. 465,526,415. Total government expenditure in 1849 was fr. 1.573 billion with expenditure on the armed forces making up 29.6% of the total budget. See the Appendix on "French Government Finances 1848-1849". See the glossary entry on “The French Army and Conscription.”

789 In 1848 the administrative costs to the government in collecting taxes such as direct taxes, stamp duty, customs, indirect taxes, and the post office amounted to fr. 157 million out of of total receipts of fr. 1.391 billion, or 11%. A summary of other expenditure can also be found in the Appendix. See the Appendix on "French Government Finances 1848-1849".

790 The much hated salt tax (gabelle) was cut on 21 April to 10 centimes per kilogramme. During the Revolution of 1848 it was reduced. According to the Budget Papers of 1848 the French state raised fr. 38.2 million from tariffs on imported salt and fr. 13.4 million from the salt tax on internal sales. Thus cutting the salt tax cost the Treasury a relatively modest fr. 71.6 million. On the other hand, on 15 March the Provisional Government increased direct taxes by 45% (the so-called "impôt des quarante-cinq centimes"). In 1848 direct taxes such as the land tax, personal and property taxes, the door and window tax, and trading licences raised fr. 421 million, or 30% of total receipts, for the Treasury. See the Appendix on "French Government Finances 1848-1849".

T.205 (1848.03.19) "Circulars from a Government that is Nowhere to be Found" (LE, March 1848)


T.205 (1848.03.19) "Circulars/Memos from a Government that is Nowhere to be Found" (Circulaires d'un ministère introuvable), Le Libre-Échange, 19 March 1848, no. 16 (2nd year), p. 88. [OC2, pp. 462-65.] [CW3 - ES3.23]

Editor's Note

[to come]


XXIII. Circulars from a Government that is Nowhere to be Found [19 March 1848] (final draft)

Publishing history
  • Original title, place and date of publication: “Circulaires d'un ministère introuvable” (Circulars from a Government that is Nowhere to be Found) [19 March 1848, Le Libre-Échange]
  • Published as book or pamphlet: [not applicable]
  • Location in Paillottet's edition: Oeuvres complètes (1st ed. 1854-55), Vol. 2: Le Libre-Échange (1855), pp. 462-65.
  • Previous translation: [none]

The Minister of the Interior to the Commissioners of the government, the Prefects, Mayors, etc.747

The elections are approaching.748 You want me to indicate to you the line of conduct you ought to be following; here it is: As citizens, I have no instructions to give you other than to draw your inspiration from your conscience and love for the public good. As civil servants, respect and ensure respect for the freedoms of the citizens.

We will be asking for the opinion of the country. This is not to drag from it, either by intimidation or fraud, an untruthful reply. If the National Assembly has views that conform to ours, we will govern with immense authority thanks to this union. If the Assembly does not share our views, all that is left to us will be to withdraw and endeavor to bring it round to us through honest discussion. Experience has warned us of what it costs to wish to govern with artificial majorities.

The Minister of Trade to the merchants of the Republic


My predecessors have made or appear to have made great efforts to procure business for you. They did so in a multitude of ways with no other result than this: an increase in the nation’s fiscal burden and the creation of obstacles in our path. In turn they compelled exports with subsidies and restricted imports with barriers. They often acted in collusion with their colleagues in the Department of the Navy and the Department of War to seize some small island lost in the Ocean and when, after many borrowings and battles, they succeeded, you as Frenchmen were given the exclusive privilege of trading with the small island on condition that you did not trade with the rest of the world.749

All these tentative efforts led to the acknowledgement of the following rule, in which your own interest, the national interest and the interest of the human race are combined: buy and sell wherever you can do so to the greatest advantage.

Well, since this is what you do naturally without any interference from me, I am reduced to admitting that my functions are worse than pointless; I am not even the backseat driver.

For this reason, I am giving you notice that my ministry is being abolished.750 At the same time, the Republic is abolishing all the restrictions with which my predecessors have hobbled you and all the taxes that we have to make the people pay to put these restrictions into operation. I beg you to forgive me for the harm I have done you, and to prove to me that you harbor no bitterness, I hope that one of you would be so good as to accept me as a clerk in your office so that I may learn about commerce, for which my short sojourn in the ministry has given me a taste.

The Minister of Agriculture to farmers


A happy chance put a thought into my head that had never occurred to my predecessors: it is that you, like me, belong to the human race. You have a mind you can use and, what is more, that true source of all progress, a desire to improve your situation.

On this basis, I ask myself how I may serve you. Will I teach you agriculture? It is more than likely that you know more about it than I do. Will I stimulate in you a desire to replace good practices for bad? This desire is in you at least as much as it is in me. Your own self-interest generates it and I do not see how my circulars can sound louder in your ears than your own interest.

You know the price of things. You therefore have a rule that tells you what it is better to produce and what not to produce. My predecessor wanted to find manufacturing work for you to fill your days of inactivity. You could, he said, commit yourself to this work, with benefit both to you and to consumers. You are then faced with two alternatives: either this is true, in which case do you need a ministry to inform you of lucrative work within your range? You will discover this yourselves if you do not belong to an inferior race suffering from idiocy, a hypothesis on which my ministry is based and which I do not accept. Or this is not true, and in this case how damaging would it be for the minister to impose sterile work on all of France’s farmers through an administrative measure?

Up to now, my colleagues and I have been very active with no result, other than to have you pay taxes, for you should note this clearly; each of our actions has a corresponding tax. Even this circular is not free of charge. It will be the last. Henceforward, to make farming prosper you should rely on your own efforts, and not on those of my bureaucrats; turn your gaze to your fields and not to a Ministry building in the Rue de Grenelle.

The Minister for Religion to ministers of religion.


The object of this letter is for me to take leave of you. Freedom of religion has been proclaimed.751 Henceforward, you, like all citizens, will have to deal only with the minister of justice. By this I mean that if, and far be it from me to think this will happen, you use your freedom to harm the freedom of others, upset public order or outrage common decency, you will inevitably encounter that legal repression from which no one should be exempt. Other than this you may act as you see fit, and if you do this I fail to see what use I can be to you. I and all of the huge administrative body that I manage are becoming a burden to the public. This is not to say the half of it, for how can we occupy our time without infringing freedom of conscience? Obviously any civil servant who does not do a useful job does a damaging one by the very fact of taking action. By withdrawing, we are therefore fulfilling two conditions of the Republican manifesto: economy and freedom.752

The Secretary to the government that is nowhere to be found,



747 Bastiat is making fun of the practice of the newly installed Provisional Government to issue sweeping declarations which may or may not have had any support from the people or the cooperation of the state bureaucracy. The titles of his "Circulars" mimic closely those of the official pronouncements of the Provisional Government, e.g. "Circulaire du ministre de l'intérieure aux commissaires du Gourvernement provisoire" (p. 72). See Actes officiels du gouvernement provisoire dans leur ordre chronologique, arrêtès, décrets, proclamations, etc., etc: Revue des faits les plus remarquables précédés du récit des événements qui se sont accomplis les 22, 23 et 24 février 1848 (Paris: Barba, Garnot, 1848).

748 Elections to the Constituent Assembly were announced for 23 April with universal manhood suffrage. Bastiat was to win a seat representing the Département of the Les Landes. See the glossary entry on the “Chamber of Deputies.” See the Appendix on “Bastiat’s Activities in the National Assembly 1848-1850.”

749 See Bastiat’s discussion of this in ES3 XVII. “Antediluvian Sugar” above, pp ???

750 See ES2 XI. “The Utopian”, above pp. ??? for a fuller discussion of what Bastiat would like do if he were made Prime Minister of the country.

751 Bastiat is referring to a decree issued on 10 March 1848 in which the Provisional Government stated that: "Les citoyens détenus par suite de condamnations prononcées contre eux pour faits relatifs au libre exercice du culte, seront immédiatement rendus à la liberté, s’ils ne sont retenus pour une autre cause. Toute poursuite commencée est abolie. Remise est faite des amendes prononcées, et non encore acquittées. Le ministre de la Justice et le ministre des finances sont chargés de l’exécution du présent décret." (Citizens who have been detained as a result of judgements pronounced against them for matters relating to the free exercise of religion will be immediately freed, unless they are being held for another matter. All proceedings which are underway will be terminated. Fines already imposed will be refunded. The Minister of Justice and the Minister of Finance are charged with carrying out this decree.) See Actes officiels du gouvernement provisoire dans leur ordre chronologique, arrêtès, décrets, proclamations, etc., etc: Revue des faits les plus remarquables précédés du récit des événements qui se sont accomplis les 22, 23 et 24 février 1848 (Paris: Barba, Garnot, 1848), pp. 69-70. See also Jacqueline Lalouette, "La politique religieuse de la Seconde République," Revue d'histoire du XIXe siècle. [Société d'histoire de la révolution de 1848 et des révolutions du XIXe siècle], vol. 28, 2004, pp. 79-94.

752 See the Appendix on "Bastiat's Republicanism."

T.206 (1848.03.22) "Statement of Electoral Principles. To the Electors of Les Landes, 22 March, 1848"


T.206 (1848.03.22) "Statement of Electoral Principles. To the Electors of Les Landes, 22 March, 1848" (Profession de foi électorale de 1848. Aux électeurs des Landes, Mugron, 22 March 1848). [OC1, p. 506.] [CW1.2.2.1, p. 387.]

Editor's Note

[to come]

My dear Fellow Countrymen,

You are going to entrust the destiny of France and perhaps that of the world to the representatives of your choice, and I have no need to tell you how much I would be honored if you judged me to be worthy of your confidence.

You cannot expect me to set out here my views on the many and serious tasks which will have to be dealt with by the National Assembly. I hope you will find in my past record some form of guarantee for the future. I am also ready to provide answers, through the newspapers or in public meetings, to any questions I may be asked.

Here is the spirit in which I will support the Republic with wholehearted devotion:

War waged against all forms of abuse: a people bound by the ties of privilege, bureaucracy, and taxes is like a tree eaten away by parasite plants.

Protection for all rights: those of conscience like those of intelligence; those of ownership like those of work; those of the family like those of the commune; those of the fatherland like those of humanity. I have no ideal other than universal justice; no motto other than that on our national flag, liberty, equality, fraternity.

I remain your devoted fellow countryman.

T.207 (1848.03.28) "Letter to an Ecclesiastic"


T.207 (1848.03.28) "Letter to an Ecclesiastic" (Lettre à un ecclésiastique). Written 28 March, 1848; published later in Molinari's L'Economiste Belge, 14 Jan. 1860. [OC7.78, pp. 351-54.] [CW1.2.4.20, pp. 463-65.]

Editor's Note

[to come]

Sir and Honorable Fellow Countryman,

When I arrived from Bayonne, I found your letter dated the 22nd in which you tell me that your vote in my favor will be subject to an issue you are now raising with me. At the same time I am put to the same test in the Maransin.46

I would be a very odd representative if I entered the National Assembly after rejecting, indeed because I had in fact rejected, freedom of trade and religion. The only remaining thing I would need to do to win a few other votes is to disavow freedom of teaching. In any case, my dear sir, I thank you for believing in the sincerity of my answer. You want to know my opinion on the emoluments given to the clergy; I must not disguise my thoughts even to gain votes I might legitimately be proud of.

It is true that I have written that each person should contribute freely to support the religion he professes. I have expressed this opinion and I will support it as a political writer and as a legislator, although not in any spirit of obstinacy, until good reasons make me change my mind. As I have said in my statement of principles/election manifesto,47 my ideal is universal justice. The relations between the church and the state do not appear to me to be currently based on justice: on the one hand Catholics are forced to pay the pastoral stipends to the Protestant and Jewish religions (before long you will perhaps be paying Abbé Chatel, and that will upset a few sensibilities); on the other hand, the state takes advantage of whatever part of your budget it controls to intervene in the affairs of the clergy and to exercise an influence [464] to which I am opposed. It plays a part in appointing bishops, canons, and parish priests, though of course the Republic can take this sort of direction, even if fetters like this put some of us out of sorts. It seems to me, for instance, contrary to freedom and likely to increase the number of points of conflict between the temporal and spiritual powers.

I believe, furthermore, in a future merger of all the Christian religions or, putting it another way, in the absorption of the dissenting sects by Catholicism. For this to happen, however, the churches must not be political institutions. It is undeniable that the roles attributed to Victoria in the Anglican Church and to Nicholas in the Russian Orthodox Church are a serious obstacle to the reuniting of the entire flock under a single shepherd.

As for the objection arising from the situation in which thirty thousand priests would be placed by a measure such as the elimination of their payments48 by the state, you are arguing, I believe, on the assumption that this step would be taken violently and not in a spirit of charity. As I see it, it implies the total independence of the clergy and, moreover, in decreeing this, we would have to take account of the treaty concluded in ’89, one which you will remember.

I would need a whole volume to develop my thesis, but, after having expressed my views so frankly and in a way intended to preserve all my independence as a legislator and political writer, I hope that you will not cast doubt upon the sincerity of what remains for me to tell you.

I believe that the reform which I am discussing with you must and will be a subject for discussion rather than a matter for legislation, for many years and perhaps for many generations to come. The forthcoming National Assembly will have the straightforward mission of conciliating minds and reassuring consciences, and I do not think it will want to raise and even less to resolve the question you are putting to me in any way that will offend public opinion.

Take note, in fact, that even if my opinion is correct, it is held only by a very small number of men. If it triumphed now in the sphere of legislation, this would be so only at the price of alarming and arousing the opposition of the vast majority of the nation. It is, therefore, for those who share my [465] views a belief to be defended and propagated and not a measure amenable to immediate realization.

I differ from many others in that I do not think I am infallible. I am so struck by the native infirmity of individual reason that I neither seek nor will ever seek to impose my ideas. I set them out and develop them. As to their realization, I wait for public reason to pronounce its verdict. If they are right, their time will certainly come; if they are wrong, they will die before I do. I have always thought that no reform can be considered mature, with deep roots, and therefore useful, unless a lengthy debate has brought mass public opinion round to it.

It is on this principle that I have acted with regard to free trade. I have not addressed myself to those in power but to the general public and I have striven to bring it round to my opinion. I would consider free trade a lamentable gift if it were decreed before a reasoning public had called for it. I swear to you on my honor that if I had left the barricades as a member of the provisional government, with an unlimited dictatorship, I would not have taken advantage of it, as did Louis Blanc, to impose my personal views on my fellow citizens. The reason for this is simple: in my view, a reform introduced in this way, by surprise, has no solid foundation and will fall at the first test. This is also true for the question you put to me. If it depended on me, I would not accomplish the separation of the church and state violently, not because this separation does not seem to me to be a good thing in itself, but because public opinion, which is the queen of the world according to Pascal, still rejects it. This is the opinion that needs to be won over. On this question and on a few others, it will cost me nothing to remain, perhaps for the rest of my life, in an obscure minority. The day will come, I believe, when the clergy itself will feel the need to regain its independence through a new agreement with the state.

In the meantime, I hope that my opinion, which may be considered purely speculative and which in any case is far from being hostile to religion, will not lose me the honor of your vote. If, however, you feel obliged to withdraw it from me, I will in no sense regret that I have replied sincerely to you.

I remain your devoted fellow


A part of the Landes.


See “To the Electors of the Landes,” p. 387.


In 1789 the National Assembly put the properties of the church “at the disposal of the Nation.” In exchange, the nation took over the payments to the clergy.

T.302 "Speaks in a Discussion in the Assembly on the Formation of Committees" (13 May 1848)


T.302 [1848.05.13] "Speaks in a Discussion on the Formation of Committees in the Assembly". Short speech in the National Constituent Assembly, 13 May 1848, CRANC, vol. 1, p. 161, 172. Not in OC. CW4

Editor's Introduction

Dean Russell in his book Frédéric Bastiat: Ideas and Influence (1965) lists five major speeches Bastiat gave in the Assembly. 1001 We have identified two more as well as eight shorter contributions he made to discussions on various bills being debated in the Chamber. For some unknown reason the Oeuvres complètes published by Paillottet in 1854-55 and 1862-62 only included two of these speeches which were given in the National Assembly, namely "The Banning of Trade Unions" (17 Nov. 1849) and "Speech on the Tax on Alcohol" (12 December, 1849), both of which are in our edition of Bastiat's Collected Works, vol. 2. 1002

We have found six speeches and contributions to four other discussions in the Constituent Assembly (4 May 1848 to 27 May 1849) and two speeches and three contributions to other discussions in the Legislative Assembly (28 May 1849 to 22 December 1851) for a combined total of eight speeches and seven other contributions which we include in this volume. Some are quite short, where he makes some brief comment or observation about matters which are under discussion, but the others are more substantial formal speeches, and one in particular, on " Amending the Electoral Law" (10 and 13 March, 1849), is very substantial (some 20 pages). His speeches and comments were originally published in the Proceedings of the National Constituent Assembly (CRANC) 1003 and the Proceedings of the National Legislative Assembly (CRANL) 1004 and are included in this volume for the first time. The complete list of speeches is the following:

  1. "Speaks in a Discussion on the Formation of Committees in the Assembly". Short speech in the National Constituent Assembly, 13 May 1848
  1. "Speaks in a Discussion on the Proposal of Randoing to increase export subsidies on woollen cloth". Short speech in the National Constituent Assembly, 9 June 1848
  1. "Speaks in a Discussion on the Decree concerning the Policing of the Political Clubs". Short speech in the National Constituent Assembly, 26 July 1848
  1. "Report from the Finance Committee concerning a loan to assist needy citizens in the Department of la Seine". Presents a Report from the Finance Committee to the National Constituent Assembly, 9 August 1848
  1. "Additional Comments on the Report from the Finance Committee concerning a loan to assist needy citizens in the Department of la Seine". Presents further details on a Report from the Finance Committee to the National Constituent Assembly, 10 August 1848
  1. "Speech on Postal Reform". Speech to the National Constituent Assembly, 24 August 1848
  1. "Speaks in a Discussion on the Election of the President of the Republic". Short speech to the National Constituent Assembly, 27 Oct. 1848
  1. "Speaks in a Discussion on a Proposal to change the tariff on imported salt". Short speech to the National Constituent Assembly, 11 Jan. 1849
  1. "Speaks in a Discussion on Amending the Electoral Law". Short speech to the National Constituent Assembly, 26 Feb. 1849
  1. "Speaks in a Discussion on Amending the Electoral Law (Third Reading)". Short speech to the National Constituent Assembly, 10 March 1849
  1. "Speaks in a Discussion on changing the law on the appropriation of private property for public use". Short speech to the National Legislative Assembly, 6 Oct. 1849
  1. "The Repression of Industrial Unions" (Coalitions industrielles). Speech given in the Legislative Assembly on 17 Nov. 1849 (CW2.17, pp. 348-61).
  1. "Speech on the Tax on Wines and Spirits" (Discours sur l'impôt des boissons). Speech given in the Legislative Assembly on 12 Dec. 1849 (CW2.16, pp. 328-47).
  1. "Speaks in a Discussion on Public Education". Short speech to the National Legislative Assembly, 6 Feb. 1850
  1. "Speaks in a Discussion on a Plan to give money to Workers Associations". Short speech to the National Legislative Assembly, 9 Feb. 1850

Bastiat spoke mainly on economic matters, as one might expect, on topics such as export subsidies for the textile industry, government grants to needy workers, postal reform, the tariff on salt, the right of workers to form trade unions, and the tax on alcohol. However, he also spoke twice on political matters which reveal some interesting "Public Choice" like thoughts on the economics of political behaviour. The first speech he gave in the Assembly was on the incentives Deputies had to join Committees (13 May, 1848) and how their vested interests might distort the advice they gave the Chamber regarding what legislation to adopt. The second one on political matters was a very substantial one he gave in March 1849 upon the Third Reading of a Bill to Reform the Electoral Law. Here we have his most extended thoughts on the economics of politics, most particularly on the formation and conduct of parties (or "coalitions" as he called them), the different incentives which face cabinet ministers who are appointed from within the Chamber (like the English parliamentary system) or by appointment from outside (like the American "spoils system"), how the jockying for power will destabilise France's political system, and how it will eventually lead to the disillusionment of the voters with party politics.

Bastiat was elected to the Constituent Assembly in the election of 23 April 1848 to represent the département of Les Landes. 1005 He was the second delegate elected out of 7 with a vote of 56,445. He served on the Comité des finances (Finance Committee) and was elected 8 times as vice-president of the committee (such was the regard of his colleagues for his economic knowledge) and he made periodic reports to the Chamber on Finance Committee matters. He was also asked to join the Committee on Labour but did stay long as he wanted to focus on financial matters. Bastiat was also elected to the Legislative Assembly in the election of 13 May 1849 to represent the département of Les Landes. 1006 He received 25,726 votes out of 49,762. Because of his deteriorating health Bastiat was less able to speak in the Chamber and his attendance fell off. However, he was able to write articles on matters before the Chamber which he distributed.

Where Bastiat's remarks are interrupted by comments by other politician we have removed the lengthier ones for reasons of space. We have kept the short interjections to give a flavour of what he had to face when he was speaking on the floor of the Chamber. Occasionally he apologises for his weak voice which made it hard for others to hear. One needs to remember he was suffering from a severe throat condition which would eventually force him to take a leave of absence and lead to his death on 24 December 1850. These remarks were recorded by an official stenographer, the accuracy of whom we cannot assess. Many of the remarks are in colloquial French and use the official terminology used in the Chamber (such as "L'honorable préopinant" (the Honourable Speaker)).


Citizen Frédéric Bastiat : Citizen Representatives, I will put to you another doubt I have concerning the usefulness of the committees in the form you have proposed, especially the conditions governing the way in which they are nominated. If each of us is authorized to sign up for a committee in which we have the greatest interest the result of this will be that all those, for example, who are supporters of Algeria will sign up for the Algerian Committee; members of the Army will sign up for the War Committee, and so on. The general tendency will then be for these supporters to call for all the resources of the State, or at least as much as possible, to go to their areas of special interest. Instead of introducing an element of order into our discussion, the committees will, on the contrary, be able to present proposals there which will reflect particular interests, but which would meet with opposition in the Assembly. Instead of simplifying our work, it would be made more complicated. Because of these reasons I do not see there is sufficient reason to adopt the proposal to substitue the Committees for the work of the Government bureaux. 1007

Citizen Frédéric Bastiat : I only have one thing to say.

I am far from bringing myself to oppose the creation of a permanent committee to deal in a permanent way with the situation of the working classes and everything which concerns the economic aspect of this huge question. But I think that the creation of this committee is not at all incompatible with the existence of the commission which has already been formed. (There are interruptions from the floor).

It is clear that two great needs were born with the Revolution itself: a committee for legislation and a special commission for the workers. 1008

Well then, I think that it would not be politic, considering what you want to do, and what you have already begun to do in naming a committee for legislation, not to finish your work. You wanted to show the importance which you attach to this question. I think that the best means to make these views a reality is to give the commission which you have nominated the character of a commission of inquiry, all the while creating a permanent committee for the question of the workers. (Put it to a vote!) 1009


1001 Two speeches on free trade (9 June 1848 against a proposal by Randoing to increase subsidies to the textile industry, and 11 January 1849 on the importation of salt), a speech on 10 March, 1849 on a constitutional amendment to reorganize the structure of the Chamber preventing public servants also being elected to the Chamber (the so-called "parliamentary incompatibility"), a speech on the freedom to form unions (17 November, 1849), and a speech on the taxation of alcohol (12 December 1849), in Dean Russell, Frédéric Bastiat: Ideas and Influence (Irvington-on-Hudson, New York: Foundation for Economic Education, 1965,1969), p. 106.

1002 "The Banning of Trade Unions" (17 Nov. 1849), CW2 17, pp. 348-61; and "Speech on the Tax on Alcohol" (12 December, 1849), CW2 16, pp. 328-47.

1003 Compte rendu des séances de l'Assemblée Nationale Constituante (4 May 1848 - 27 May 1849) . 10 vols. Compte rendu des séances de l'Assemblée Nationale. Exposés des motifs et projets de lois présentés par le gouvernement; rapports de Mm. les Représentants (Paris: Imprimerie de l'Assemblée national, 1848-1850). Henceforth CRANC.

1004 Compte rendu des séances de l'Assemblée Nationale Législative (28 May 1849 - 2 December 1852) . 17 vols. (28 Mai 1849 - 1 Déc. 1851). Compte rendu des séances de l'Assemblée Nationale Législative. Exposés des motifs et projets de lois présentés par le gouvernement; rapports de Mm. les Représentants (Paris: Imprimerie de l'Assemblée national, 1849-1852). Henceforth CRANL.

1005 For information about Bastiat's activities in the National Assembly see, Dean Russell, Frédéric Bastiat: Ideas and Influence (Irvington-on-Hudson: Foundation for Economic Education, 1969), Chap. 9 "Bastiat as Legislator," 106-24; Bibliography, p. 155; Dictionnaire des parlementaires français comprenant tous les Membres des Assemblées françaises et tous les Ministres français, depuis le 1er mai 1789 jusqu'au 1er mai 1889. Vol. I. A-Cay, publié sous la direction de MM. Adolphe Robert et Gaston Cougny (Paris: Bourloton, 1889-1891). "Bastiat", pp. 192-93.

1006 On Bastiat's activities in the Legislative Assembly see Table analytique par ordre alphabétique de matières et de noms de personnes du Compte rendu des séances de l'Assemblée nationale législative (28 mai 1849 - 2 décembre 1851) et des documents imprimés par son ordre. Rédigée aux Archives du Corps législatifs (Paris: Henri et Charles Noblet, Imprimeurs de l'Assemblée nationale, 1852). Bastiat, p. 56.

1007 CRANC, vol. 1, p. 161.

1008 The Commission for the Workers was headed by the socialist Louis Blanc and it used the Luxembourg Palace as its headquarters from which it ran the National Workshops. It was opposed strongly by Bastiat from within the Finance Committee as its expenditure on finding work for unemployed workers paid for at taxpayer expence was getting out of control. The Chamber agree to close it at the end of May 1848 which led to public protests and the rioting of the June Days.

1009 CRANC, vol. 1, p. 172.

T.208 (1848.05.15) "Property and Law" (JDE, May 1848)


T.208 (1848.05.15) "Property and Law" (Propriété et loi), Journal des Economistes, 15 May 1848, T. 20, no. 80, pp. 171-91; also published as a pamphlet, Propriété et Loi. Justice et Fraternité (Property and Law. Justice and Fraternity) (Paris: Guillaumin, 1848). [OC4, pp. 275-97.] [CW2.4, pp. 43-59.]

Editor's Note

[to come]


The confidence of my fellow citizens has given me the title of legislator.

I would certainly have declined this title if I had understood it as Rousseau did.

“He who dares undertake to provide institutions to a people,” he said, “must feel that he is capable, so to speak, of changing human nature, of transforming each individual who, of himself, is a perfect and solitary whole, into a part of a much greater whole from which this individual is to receive to a certain degree his life and being; of changing the physical constitution of man in order to strengthen it, etc., etc. If it is true that a great prince is a rare man, what is to be said of a great legislator? The first has only to follow the model that the second has put forward. The second is the inventor of the machine, while the first is only the workman who assembles it and makes it work.”1

Since Rousseau was convinced that the social state was a human invention, he had to place law and the legislator on a high pedestal. Between the legislator and the rest of the human race, he saw the distance or rather the abyss that separates the inventor from the inert matter of which the machine is made.

According to him, the law ought to transform people and create or not create property. According to me, society, people, and property existed before the laws, and, to limit myself to a particular question, I would say: It is not because there are laws that there is property, but it is because there is property that there are laws.

The opposition of these two systems is radical. The consequences that [44] result from them are constantly divergent; let me therefore set out the question clearly.

I warn you first of all that I am taking the word property in a general sense and not in the restricted sense of landed property. I regret, and probably all economists regret with me, that this word involuntarily awakens in us the idea of possession of land. What I mean by property is the right the worker has over the value he has created through his work.

That having been said, I ask myself whether this right is a creation of the law or if it is not, on the contrary, prior to and higher than the law, whether it was necessary for the law to give birth to the right of property or whether, on the contrary, property was a fact and right that existed before the law and that had given rise to it? In the first case the mission of the legislator is to organize, amend, and even eliminate property if he thinks this right; in the second his powers are limited to guaranteeing it and ensuring that it is respected.

From the preamble to a draft constitution issued by one of the greatest thinkers of modern times, M. Lamennais, I quote:

The French people declare that they acknowledge rights and duties that predate and are greater than all the positive laws and that are independent of them.

These rights and duties, directly handed down by God, are summarized in the triple dogma expressed by these sacred words: equality, liberty, fraternity.

I put the question whether the rights of property are not among those that, very far from deriving from positive law, predate the law and are its raison d’être.

This is not, as might be thought, a slight or pointless question. It is a vast and fundamental one. The answer to it is of the highest concern to society, something you will be convinced of, I hope, once I have compared the origins and effects of the two opposing theoretical systems.

Economists consider that property, like the person, is a providential fact. The law does not give existence to one any more than to the other. Property is a necessary consequence of the constitution of man.

In the full sense of the word, man is born a property owner, since he is born with needs whose satisfaction is essential to life, with organs and faculties whose exercise is essential to the satisfaction of these needs. These faculties are merely an extension of the person, and property is just an extension [45] of these faculties. To separate man from his faculties is to make him die; to separate man from the product of his faculties is once again to make him die.

There are political writers who are greatly preoccupied with finding out how God ought to have made man. For our part, we study man as God has made him. We ascertain that he cannot live without satisfying his needs, that he cannot provide for his needs without work, and that he cannot work if he is not certain of applying the fruits of his work to his needs.

This is why we consider that property is a divine institution and that its safety and protection are the object of human law.

It is so true that property predates the law that it is acknowledged even by primitive people who have no laws or at least no written laws. When a savage has devoted his work to building himself a hut, no one disputes his possession or ownership of it. Doubtless another savage who is stronger than he can drive him out but not without angering and alarming the entire tribe. It is actually this abuse of strength that gives rise to association, agreement, and the law, which places public force in the service of property. Therefore the law arises out of property, a far cry from property arising from law.

It can be said that the principle of property is even recognized by animals. The swallow tends her young family with care in the nest she has built with her own efforts.

Even plants live and thrive by assimilation, by appropriation. They appropriate substances, the elements of air and salts that are within their reach. You have only to interrupt this phenomenon for them to dry up and die.

In the same way, men live and develop through appropriation. Appropriation is a natural and providential phenomenon that is essential to life, and property is only appropriation that has become a right through work. When work has rendered assimilable and appropriable substances that were not so, I really do not see how it can be claimed that, in law, the phenomenon of appropriation has to be attained for the benefit of an individual other than he who has carried out the work.

It is in view of these primordial facts, necessary consequences of the very constitution of man, that the law intervenes. Since the aspiration toward life and development may induce a strong man to despoil a weak one, thus violating the rights of production, it has been agreed that the strength of all would be devoted to the prevention and repression of violence. The purpose of the law is therefore to ensure respect for property. It is not property that is conventional but law.

Let us now seek the origin of the opposing theoretical system.


All of our past constitutions proclaimed that property is sacred, which appears to assign to our coming together as a society the purpose of the free development either of individuals or of particular associations by means of work. This implies that property is a right that predates the law, law’s only objective being to guarantee property.

I wonder, however, whether this declaration has not been introduced into our charters instinctively, so to speak, by virtue of catchwords, of language spoken long ago, and above all I wonder whether it is at the root of all social convictions.

Now, if it is true, as people say, that literature is the expression of society, doubts may be raised in this connection, since it is certain that never have political writers, after having respectfully saluted the principle of property, so oft en called for the intervention of the law, not in order to have property respected but to amend, alter, transform, fine-tune, weigh down, and organize property, credit, and labor.

Now, this supposes that an absolute power over people and property is attributed to the law and consequently to the legislator.

This may distress us but it should not surprise us.

From where do we draw our ideas on these subjects, especially our notion of law? In Latin books and in Roman law.

I have not studied my Roman law, but it is enough for me to know that this is the source of our ideas to be able to assert that these ideas are erroneous. The Romans had to regard property as purely conventional, a product and an artificial creation of the written law. Obviously, the Romans could not, as political economy does, go back to the constitution of man and perceive the relationship and necessary links between these phenomena: needs, faculties, work, and property. This would have been a suicidal error. How could they, who lived by pillage, all their property being the fruit of plunder and their means of existence based on the labor of slaves, have brought into their legislation, without shaking the foundations of their society, the notion that the true title of property was produced by work? No, they could neither say this nor think it. They had to have recourse to the following empirical definition of property: jus utendi et abutendi,2 a definition that relates only to effects and not to causes or origins, since they were clearly obliged to keep the origins dark.

It is sad to think that the science of law in our country and in the nineteenth [47] century is still at the level of ideas that the presence of slavery must have inspired in the classical world, but there is an explanation for this. The teaching of law is a monopoly in France, and monopoly rules out progress.

It is true that jurists do not mold the entire range of public opinion, but it has to be said that university and church education is a marvelous preparation for the young people of France to receive the erroneous notions of jurists on these subjects since, as though the better to make sure of this, for the ten finest years of our life, it plunges us all into this atmosphere of war and slavery that enveloped and permeated Roman society.

Let us not therefore be surprised to see reproducing itself in the eighteenth century this Roman idea that property is a mere convention and a legal institution, that far from law being a corollary of property, it is property that is a corollary of law. We know that according to Rousseau not only property but also society as a whole was the result of a contract, an invention originating in the mind of the legislator.

“Social order is a sacred right which forms the basis of all the others. However, this right does not come from nature. It is therefore based on conventions.”3

Thus, the right that is the basis of all the others is purely conventional. Therefore property, which is a subsequent right, is also conventional. It does not come from nature.

Robespierre was imbued with the ideas of Rousseau. From what the pupil had to say on property, we can recognize the theories and even the form of oratory of the master.

Citizens, I will first of all put before you a few articles which are necessary to complete your theory of property. Let no one be alarmed by the use of this word. You souls of mud, who esteem only gold, I do not wish to touch your treasures, however tainted their source. . . . For my part, I would prefer to be born in Fabricius’s hut than in Lucullus’s palace, etc., etc.4

I will draw to your attention here that when you analyze the notion of property, it is irrational and dangerous to make this word a synonym [48] of opulence and in particular of ill-gotten opulence. Fabricius’s cottage is just as much an item of property as Lucullus’s palace. However, may I draw the reader’s attention to the following sentence, which sums up this entire outlook?

In defining liberty, this primary need of man, the most sacred of the rights he holds from nature, we have correctly stated that its limit lies in the rights of others. Why have you not applied this principle to property, which is a social institution, as though the eternal laws of nature were less inviolable than the conventions of mankind?

Following these introductory remarks, Robespierre establishes the principles in these terms:

Article 1: Property is the right of each citizen to enjoy and dispose of the portion of goods which is guaranteed to him by the law.

Article 2: The right to property is limited, like all others, by the obligation to respect the rights of others.5

In this way, Robespierre contrasts liberty and property. These are two rights with different origins: one comes from nature; the other is a social institution. The first is natural, the second conventional.

The common limit that Robespierre places on these two rights ought, it would seem, to have led him to think that they have the same source. Whether it is a question of liberty or property, respecting others’ rights is not to destroy or alter that right; it is to acknowledge and confirm it. It is precisely because property is a right that predates the law just as liberty does that both exist only on condition that they respect the rights of others, and the mission of the law is to ensure that this limit is respected, which means that it recognizes and maintains the very principle of it.


Be that as it may, it is certain that Robespierre, following Rousseau’s example, considered property to be a social institution, like a convention. In no way did he link it to its true justification, which lies in work. It is the right of disposal of the portion of goods guaranteed by the law, he said.

I have no need to remind you here that through Rousseau and Robespierre the Roman notion of property has been transmitted to all our so-called socialist schools. We know that the first volume by Louis Blanc on the Revolution6 is an extravagant eulogy to the Geneva philosopher and to the leader of the Convention.

Thus, this idea that the right of property is a social institution, that it is an invention of the legislator, a creation of the law, in other words, that it is unknown to man in a state of nature, this idea, say I, has been transmitted from the Romans to us through the teaching of law, classical studies, the political writers of the eighteenth century, the revolutionaries of’93, and the theorists of organization of today.7

Let us now move on to the consequences of the two theoretical systems that I have just contrasted beginning with the jurist view.

The first step is to open a limitless field to the imagination of utopian thinkers.

This is obvious. Once we establish the principle that property takes its existence from the law, there are as many possible means of organizing production as there are possible laws in the minds of dreamers. Once we establish the principle that the legislator is responsible for arranging, combining, and molding both people and property at will, there is no limit to the imaginable means by which people and property can be arranged, combined, and molded. Right now, there are certainly more than five hundred projects on the organization of production circulating in Paris, not counting an equal number of projects on the organization of credit. Doubtless these plans contradict [50] one another, but they have in common the fact that they are based on this consideration: the law has created the right of property; the legislator is the absolute master in disposing of workers and the fruits of their work.

Among these projects, those that have attracted the greatest public attention are those by Fourier, Saint-Simon, Owen, Cabet, and Louis Blanc. However, it would be madness to think that these five methods of organization are the only ones possible. Their number is boundless. Every morning a new one may be hatched, more attractive than yesterday’s, and I leave you to imagine what would happen to the human race if, when one of these inventions was imposed on it, another more-specious one was suddenly revealed. The human race would be reduced to the choice of either changing its way of carrying on every morning or continuing forever down a path known to be erroneous, just because it had once set out on this path.

A second consequence is to arouse the thirst for power in all dreamers. Let us suppose that I have thought out a system for organizing work. Setting out my system and expecting people to adopt it if it is a good one would be to suppose that the prerogative of action lies with them. However, in the system that I am examining the principle of action lies with the legislator. “The legislator,” as Rousseau says, “must feel that he has the strength to transform human nature.”8 This being so, my ambition should be to become a legislator in order to impose the social order of my devising.

It is also clear that systems based on the idea that the right to property is a social institution all lead either to the most highly concentrated privilege or the most fundamental communism, depending on the good or bad intentions of the inventor. If he has sinister designs, he will make use of the law to enrich a few at the expense of all. If he obeys philanthropic impulses, he will want to equalize the level of well-being, and to do this he will think of stipulating that each person should legally share equally of the products created. It remains to be seen whether, under these conditions, it is possible to engage in production.

With regard to this, the Luxembourg Palace9 recently offered us an extraordinary sight. A few days after the February revolution, in the middle of the nineteenth century, did we not hear a man who was more than a minister, a member of the provisional government, a civil servant invested with [51] unlimited revolutionary authority speak in the name of liberty and coldly ask whether, in distributing salaries, it was a good thing to take account of the strength, talent, activity, and skill of the worker, that is to say the wealth he produced, or whether it was not better to disregard these personal virtues and their beneficial effect and in future give everyone the same pay. The question amounts to this: will a meter of cloth sold by a lazy man be sold for the same price as two meters offered by someone who is industrious? And, something that beggars belief, this man has proclaimed that he preferred profits to be uniform, whatever the work offered for sale, and in his wisdom he has decided that although two equals two by nature, they would in future be by law only one.

That is what happens when we act on the basis that the law is stronger than nature.

His audience apparently grasped the fact that the very constitution of man rose up against such an arbitrary decision and that people would never allow one meter of cloth to claim the same remuneration as two meters. If this were to be so, the competition that he wished to abolish would be replaced by another form of competition a thousand times more deadly: everyone would compete to work the least and demonstrate the least activity since, by law, the reward would be always guaranteed and equal for all.

However, Citizen Blanc had foreseen the objection and, to prevent this sweet do-nothing, alas so natural to man when work is not rewarded, he had thought of setting up a post in each commune on which would be inscribed the names of those who were lazy. However, he did not say whether there would be inquisitors to uncover the sin of laziness, courts in which to judge it, and gendarmes to execute the sentence. It should be noted that utopians never concern themselves with the huge machine of government indispensable for putting their legal machinery in motion.

Since the delegates in the Luxembourg Palace were rather incredulous, Citizen Vidal, Citizen Blanc’s secretary, appeared to complete his master’s thought. Using Rousseau’s example, Citizen Vidal suggested nothing less than changing the nature of man and the laws of Providence.10

It has pleased Providence to place within each individual certain needs and their consequences and faculties and their consequences, thus creating [52] personal interest, in other words, an instinct for preservation and a love of development that is the mainspring of the human race. M. Vidal will be changing all that. He has looked at the work of God and seen that it was not good. Consequently, starting from the principle that the law and the legislator can do anything, he will be abolishing personal interest by decree and replacing it by point of honor.

Men will no longer work to live, to provide for and raise their families, but to obey a point of honor, to avoid the hangman’s noose, as though this new motive were not still a personal interest of another kind.

M. Vidal constantly refers to what the question of honor encourages armies to do. But alas! Everything must be stated clearly, and if the wish is to regiment workers we should be told whether the military code, with its thirty transgressions carrying the death penalty, would become the labor code!

An even more striking effect of the disastrous principle which I am endeavoring to combat here is the uncertainty it always holds suspended, like the sword of Damocles, over production, capital, trade, and industry. This is so serious that I dare to claim the reader’s entire attention.

In a country like the United States, where the right of property is placed above the law, and where the sole mission of the forces of public order is to have this natural right respected, every individual may with total confidence devote his capital and strength to production. He has no need to fear that his plans and arrangements will be upset by the legislative power from one minute to the next.

But when on the contrary, on the principle that it is not work but the law that is the basis of property, all the creators of utopias are allowed to impose their arrangements generally and through the authority of decrees, who can fail to see that all the farsightedness and prudence that nature has implanted in men’s hearts are being turned against industrial progress?

Where is the bold speculator now who would dare to set up a factory or take on a business? Yesterday, it was decreed that people would be allowed to work for only a given number of hours.11 Now it is being decreed that the payment for this type of work will be fixed, and who can predict what will be decreed tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, and the days after that? Once the legislator has set himself at such an incommensurable distance from other [53] men and in all conscience thinks that he can dispose of their time, work, transactions, everything that is property, what man in all the land will have the slightest knowledge of what constraints he and his profession will be placed under tomorrow by the law? And in such circumstances, who will be able or want to undertake anything?

I certainly do not deny that, among the innumerable systems to which this erroneous principle will give rise, many and perhaps the majority will be based on benevolent and generous intentions. But what is to be feared is the principle itself. The manifest aim of each individual arrangement is to equalize well-being. But the even more manifest effect of the principle on which these arrangements are based is to equalize deprivation; I cannot put this too plainly, it will reduce affluent families to the ranks of the poor and decimate poor families through illness and starvation.

I admit that I am afraid for the future of my country when I consider the gravity of the financial difficulties that this dangerous precedent will make even worse.

On 24 February, we found a budget that exceeds the proportions that France can reasonably achieve and what is more, according to the current minister of finance, with nearly a billion francs in debts that are for immediate repayment.

Because of this situation, already alarming enough, expenditure has steadily increased and revenue steadily decreased.

That is not all. Two types of promises have been tossed with a boundless prodigality to the general public. According to one lot, they are going to be given a countless mass of institutions that are beneficial but expensive. According to the second lot, all taxes will be reduced. In this way, on the one hand the numbers of day nurseries, asylums, primary schools, free secondary schools, workshops, and industrial pensions will be increased. The owners of slaves will be indemnified and the slaves themselves paid damages. The state will found credit institutions, lend workers their instruments of work, double the size of the army, reorganize the navy, etc., etc., and on the other hand it will abolish the salt tax, city tolls, and all the most unpopular contributions.

Certainly, whatever idea one has of the resources of France, it has at least to be admitted that such resources must increase if they are to meet twin aspirations that are so vast in scale and so contradictory in appearance.

But, in the midst of this extraordinary movement, which might be considered beyond human strength even when the entire energy of the country is being directed toward productive work, a cry can be heard: the right to [54] property is a creation of the law. Consequently, the legislator can issue, at any time and in accordance with the theoretical systems with which he is imbued, decrees that overturn all the arrangements made by industry. Workers are not the owners of any object or thing of value because they have created these through their work but because the laws in effect today guarantee this. Tomorrow’s law may withdraw this guarantee, at which time property will no longer be legitimate.

I ask you, what is bound to happen? Capital and production are terrified; they can no longer count on the future. Under the influence of a doctrine like this, capital will hide, flee, and be reduced to nothing. And what will then happen to the workers, these very workers for whom you profess such a lively, sincere, but so unenlightened affection? Will they be better fed when farming production has ceased? Will they be better clothed when no one dares start up a factory? Will they be more fully occupied when capital has vanished?

And taxes, where will you obtain these? And the financial position, how will this be restored? How are you going to pay the army? How will you pay your debts? What money will there be to lend for investment in machinery? With what resources will you support the charitable institutions whose existence it is so easy to decree?

I hasten to abandon these somber considerations. It remains for me to examine the consequences of the opposite principle that prevails today, namely, the “economists’ principle,”12 the principle that attributes the right of property to labor [travail] and not to the law; the principle that says that property existed before the law; the sole mission of the law is to ensure respect for property wherever it is and wherever it is formed, in whatever manner in which the worker has created it, either in isolation or in association, provided that he respects the rights of others.

First, just as the jurists’ principle virtually implies slavery, that of the economists espouses liberty. Property, the right to enjoy the fruit of your labor, the right to work, develop yourself, and exercise your faculties as you please without the intervention of the state except in its protective role, that is liberty. And I still cannot understand why the many partisans of opposing persuasions allow the word liberty to remain on the republican flag. It is said [55] that some of them have removed it and substituted the word solidarity. Such people are more frank and consistent. However, they should have put communism, not solidarity, since the solidarity of interests, like property, exists outside the law.

It also implies unity. We have already seen this. If the legislator creates the right to property, there are as many ways for property to exist as there may be errors in the minds of utopians, that is to say, an infinite number. If, on the other hand, the right to property is a providential fact that predates any human legislation and the aim of human legislation is to ensure its respect, there is no place for any other arrangements.

It is also security, and this is perfectly clear: if a people fully acknowledge that each person has to provide for his means of existence but also that each person has a right to the fruit of his work that predates and is higher than the law, also that human law has been necessary and has intervened only to guarantee to all the freedom to work and the property of the fruit of that work, it is clearly evident that a totally secure future opens out before human activity. It no longer has to fear that legislative power will through successive decrees stop its efforts, disrupt its arrangements, and bring to nothing its forecasts. Within the shelter of this security capital will spring up rapidly. The rapid increase in capital, for its part, is the sole reason for growth in the value of labor. The working classes will therefore become better off and will themselves contribute to providing new sources of capital. They will be increasingly capable of freeing themselves from wage-labor,13 becoming partners in the businesses, founding their own businesses, and recovering their dignity.

Last, the eternal principle that the state should not be a producer but should provide security for producers would inexorably lead to economy and order in public finances. The implication is that only this principle makes it possible to establish a good foundation and just distribution for taxes.

In fact, we should never forget that the state has no resources of its own. It has nothing and it owns nothing that it does not take from workers. Therefore, when it interferes in everything, it substitutes the grim and expensive activity of its agents for private activity. If, as happens in the United States, people came to realize with regard to this matter that the mission of the state is to provide a perfectly safe context for all, the state would be able to [56] accomplish this mission with a few hundred million. This saving, combined with economic prosperity, would at last make it possible to establish a single direct tax which would bear only on actual property, of whatever kind.

But for this contingency we would have to wait until a few experiences, sometimes cruel ones, had somewhat diminished our faith in the state and increased our faith in humanity.

I will end with a few words on the Free Trade Association. It has oft en been reproached for this title. Its opponents have rejoiced, and its supporters have regretted, what both have considered to be a fault.

“Why cause alarm in this way?” say its partisans. “Why emblazon a principle on your flag? Why do you not limit yourselves to demanding those wise and prudent alterations to the customs tariff that time has made necessary and experience has shown to be opportune?”

Why? First, because, in my view at least, free trade has never been a matter of customs and tariffs but a question of right, justice, public order, and property. Second, because privilege, in whatever form it is manifested, implies a negation or scorn for property. Third, because state intervention to level out fortunes, increasing some shares at the expense of others, is communism, just as one drop of water is water just as the entire ocean is water.

Fourth, because I foresaw that once the principle of property has been undermined in one form, it would soon be attacked in a thousand different forms. Fifth, because I did not quit my solitude to pursue a partial amendment of the tariffs, which would have implied my adherence to the false notion that law predates property, but to fly to the aid of the opposite principle, compromised by protectionism. Finally, because I was convinced that the landowners and capitalists had themselves, with the tariff, sown the seed of the communism that terrifies them now, since they were demanding additional profits from the law at the expense of the working classes. I could see clearly that the working classes would not be slow to demand, in the name of equality, the benefits of the law applied to leveling out well-being, which is communism.

Let people read the first statement of principles issued by our Association, the program drawn up in a preparatory session on 10 May 1846; this will convince them of our central approach.

Trade is a natural right, like property. Every citizen who has created or acquired a product should have the option either of using it immediately or of selling it to someone anywhere in the world who is willing to give him what he wants in exchange. Depriving him of this faculty, when [57] he is not using it for a purpose contrary to public order or morals and solely to satisfy the convenience of another citizen, is to justify plunder and violate the laws of justice.

It also violates the conditions of order, since what order can exist within a society in which each economic activity, with the assistance of the law and the powers of government, seeks success by oppressing all the others?

We placed this question so far above that of tariffs that we added the following:

The undersigned do not dispute society’s right to establish, on goods that cross the border, taxes intended to meet common expenditure, provided that they are determined by the needs of the treasury.

However, as soon as the tax loses its fiscal nature and is aimed at discouraging foreign products—to the detriment of the tax authorities themselves—in order to raise the price of a similar home product artificially and thus hold the community to ransom for the benefit of a particular class of people, it then becomes protection or rather plunder, and these are the ideas and practices that the Association is seeking to discredit and remove totally from our laws.

Of course, if we had pursued only the immediate modification of the tariffs, if we, as was claimed, had been the agents only of a few commercial interests, we would have taken care not to emblazon on our flag a word that implies a principle. Does anyone believe that I did not foresee the obstacles that this declaration of war against injustice would raise for us? Did I not know full well that by scheming, concealing our aim, and hiding half of our thought we would arrive more quickly at this or that partial victory? But how would these triumphs, which are fleeting anyway, have identified and safeguarded the great principle of property which we ourselves would have kept in the shadows and ruled out?

I repeat, we were asking for the abolition of the protectionist regime, not as a good government measure but as justice, as the achievement of freedom, as the rigorous consequence of a right that is higher than the law. We should not conceal behind its outward form that which we most desire.14

The time is coming when it will be recognized that we were right in not agreeing to insert a catch, a trap, a surprise, or an ambiguity in the title of our [58] Association but rather a frank expression of an eternal principle of order and justice, since only principles have power. They alone are the flame of intelligent minds or the rallying point for misguided convictions.

Recently, a universal shiver of terror has run through the entire territory of France. At the single word communism, every soul has become alarmed. Seeing the strangest systems appear in broad daylight and almost officially, and subversive decrees issued in succession, which may be followed by even more subversive ones, everyone has asked himself where we are all going. Capital has become terrified, credit has fled, work has been suspended, and the saw and hammer have been stopped in mid task as though a disastrous and universal electric current had suddenly paralyzed both mind and arm. Why? Because the principle of property, whose essence has already been compromised by the protectionist regime, has suffered further violent shocks as a consequence of the first. Because the intervention of the law with regard to industry and as a way of adjusting values and redistributing wealth, an intervention of which the protectionist regime was the first manifestation, is threatening to reveal itself in a thousand known or unknown forms. Yes, I say it loud and clear; it is the landowners, those who are considered to be property owners par excellence, who have undermined the principle of property, because they have called upon the law to give their lands and products an artificial value. It is the capitalists who have suggested the idea of leveling out wealth by law. Protectionism was the forerunner of communism; I will go even further, it was its first manifestation. For what are the suffering classes asking for now? Nothing other than what the capitalists and landowners have asked for and obtained. They are asking for the intervention of the law to balance, adjust, equalize wealth. What the capitalists and landowners have done by means of customs, the poor want to do by way of other institutions, but the principle is always the same: to take from some people on the basis of legislation to give the proceeds to others, and certainly, since it is you, property owners and capitalists, who have had this disastrous principle accepted, you should not complain if those more unfortunate than you claim the benefit. They have at least a right to it that you did not.15

But at last our eyes are being opened, and we see toward what abyss this initial blow against the essential conditions of public safety is driving [59] us. Is this not a terrible lesson, clear proof of the chain of cause and effect through which at long last the justice of providential retribution is appearing, when we now see the rich terrified out of their wits by the invasion of a false doctrine whose iniquitous foundations they themselves laid and whose consequences they thought they could peacefully turn to their own profit? Yes, protectionists, you have been the promoters of communism. Yes, landowners, you have destroyed in people’s minds the true concept of property. It is political economy that disseminates this concept; and you have proscribed political economy because, in the name of the right to property, it opposed your unjust privileges.16 And when they have seized power, what has also been the first thought of these modern schools of thought that so terrify you? It is to eliminate political economy, since economic science is a constant protestation against the legal leveling out that you have sought and others are seeking today, following your example. You have asked the law for things that are far and away beyond what may be demanded of the law. You have asked it not for security (which would have been your right) but for added value on what belongs to you, which could not be given to you without damaging the rights of others. Now the folly of your claims has become universal folly. And if you wish to stave off the storm that threatens to engulf you, you have just one means left. Acknowledge your mistake; renounce your privileges; restrict the law to its own powers and limit the legislator to his role. You have abandoned us and you have attacked us, probably because you did not understand us. At the sight of the abyss you have opened up with your own hands, make haste to come over to our side and adopt our propaganda in favor of the right to property by, I repeat, giving this word its widest meaning, including in it both the faculties of man and all that they are able to produce, whether in production or trade!

The doctrine that we are defending arouses a certain mistrust because of its extreme simplicity; it limits itself to asking the law for security for all. People find it hard to believe that the mechanics of government can be reduced to these proportions. What is more, since this doctrine encloses the law within the limits of universal justice, some reproach it for excluding fraternity. Political economy does not accept this accusation. That will be the subject of another article.


Rousseau, Du contrat social, bk. 2, chap. 7.


“The right of using and abusing.”


Rousseau, Du contrat social, bk. 1, chap. 1.


Gaius Fabricius Luscinus was a Roman ambassador and consul (282 bc) renowned for his probity, incorruptibility, and parsimonious life. He was much admired by Cicero as a model of good behavior. Lucius Licinius Lucullus (117 bc–57 bc) was a successful Roman general who amassed a huge fortune during his twenty years of military service. He used his wealth to build sumptuous palaces, libraries, and gardens in Rome.


Bastiat is quoting from a speech Robespierre gave in the National Convention on 24 April 1793. In this speech Robespierre argues that the Convention in its deliberations on a new Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (which it passed in June) was too favorable to the natural right of property and did not give adequate attention to the “social” and “moral” aspects of property. He gave his own formulation in four articles, two of which Bastiat quotes above. The third and fourth articles, which Bastiat did not quote, are quoted here: Article 3: “He (the citizen) can harm neither the security, liberty, existence, nor property of others.” Article 4: “All possession, all exchange (traffic) which violates this principle is illicit and immoral.” Robespierre then offers his own proposal for a Declaration of Rights, which is turned down by the Convention as too radical. (Œuvres de Maximilien Robespierre, vol. 3, pp. 352–53.)


Bastiat is referring to Blanc’s Histoire de la Révolution française. The first and second volumes appeared before the revolution of 1848 broke out.


Bastiat distinguishes between the “revolutionaries of 1789” and the “revolutionaries of 1793.” By the former he means the liberals and constitutional monarchists, such as the Girondin group, who wanted to replace the monarchy and the ancien régime with a new regime limited by a constitution and the rule of law. By the latter he means the radical Jacobins around Robespierre, who used the Terror to eliminate their enemies and to introduce socialist legislation between 1793 and 1795. (See also the entry for “Girondins” in the Glossary of Subjects and Terms and the entry for “Robespierre, Maximilien de,” in the Glossary of Persons.)


Rousseau, Du contrat social et autres œuvres politiques, p. 260.


The Luxembourg Palace was the seat of the Government Commission for the Workers, created on 20 February 1848. Louis Blanc was the president and François Vidal, the secretary.


(Paillottet’s note) See vol. 1 for the report on the work by M. Vidal on the Distribution of Wealth and vol. 2 for the reply to five letters published by M. Vidal in the journal La Presse. (OC, vol. 1, p. 440, “De la répartition des richesses”; and vol. 2, p. 147, “L’Organisation et liberté.”)


The decree of 2 March (1848) appeared in the first few weeks of the new regime that came to power following the February revolution of 1848. The decree limited working time to ten hours a day in Paris and eleven hours in the provinces.


Bastiat uses the expression “le principe économiste,” which is the name that the free-market political economists gave themselves in France, for example, Le Journal des économistes. See also the term “Les Économistes” in the Glossary of Subjects and Terms.


That is, workers paid by the hour.


(Paillottet’s note) See in vol. 1 the letter dated January 1845 and addressed to M. de Lamartine on the Right to Work. (OC, vol. 1, p. 406, “Du droit au travail.”)


(Paillottet’s note) See vol. 2 for a group of articles on the question of subsistence and, following this, Protectionism and Communism. (OC, vol. 2, pp. 63ff., “Subsistances”; and vol. 4, p. 504, “Protectionisme et communisme.”)


(Paillottet’s note) See vol. 5, Plunder and Law—The War Against Chairs of Political Economy. (OC, vol. 5, p. 16, “Guerre aux chaires d’économie politique.”)

T.209 (1848.06) Individualism and Fraternity


T.209 (1848.06) Individualism and Fraternity (Individualisme et fraternité). No date but possibly June 1848. [OC7.79, pp. 355-57.] [CW2.6, pp. 82-92.]

Editor's Note

[to come]


A systematic view of history and the destiny of mankind, which seems to me to be as erroneous as it is dangerous, has recently been produced.1

According to this system, the world is divided into three principles: authority, individualism, and fraternity.

Authority relates to the aristocratic eras, individualism to the reign of the bourgeoisie, and fraternity to the triumph of the people.

The first of these principles is above all incarnated in the pope. It leads to oppression by stifling personality.

The second, inaugurated by Luther, leads to oppression through anarchy.

The third, announced by the thinkers in La Montagne, has given birth to true freedom by shrouding men in the ties of harmonious association.

As the people have been the masters in only one country, France, and for a short period, in’93, we still know the theoretical value and practical attractions of fraternity only through the attempt so noisily made at it at that time. Unfortunately, union and love, personified in Robespierre, were only half able to stifle individualism, which reappeared the day after 9 Thermidor.2 It still prevails.

What is individualism, then? The author of the work to which we are referring defines it as follows:

“The principle of individualism is that which, taking man out of society, makes him the sole judge of what surrounds him and of himself, gives him [83] an exalted view of his rights without indicating his duties, abandons him to his own resources, and, with regard to all matters of government, proclaims the system of laissez-faire.”3

That is not all. Individualism, the driving force of the bourgeoisie, was bound to invade the three major branches of human activity: religion, politics, and industry. From this sprang three major individualist schools: the school of philosophy, with Voltaire as its leading light, which by demanding freedom of thought led us to a profound moral anarchy; the school of politics, founded by Montesquieu, which, instead of political freedom, brought us an oligarchy based on a property franchise; and the school of economists, represented by Turgot, which, instead of economic freedom, bequeathed us competition between rich and poor to the advantage of the rich.4

We see that up to now humanity has been very poorly inspired and that it has gone wrong at every turn. This has not, however, been through lack of warnings, since the principle of fraternity has always issued its protests and reservations through the voices of Jean Huss,5 Morelli, Mably, and Rousseau and through the efforts of Robespierre.

But what is fraternity? “The principle of fraternity is that which, considering the members of the extended family as being interdependent, tends to organize the various forms of society, the work of man, in line with the model of the human body, the work of God, and bases the power of government on persuasion and the voluntary acquiescence of the heart.6

This is M. Blanc’s system. What makes it dangerous in my view, apart from the brilliance with which it is set out, is that in it the true and the false are intermingled in proportions that are difficult to determine. I have [84] no intention of studying it in all its symmetrical ramifications. In order to respect the requirements of this booklet, I will consider it principally from the point of view of political economy.

I must admit that when it is a question of setting out the principles which, in a given era, were the driving force of the social body, I would like them expressed in terms less vague than individualism and fraternity.

Individualism7 is a new word that has been simply substituted for egoism. It is an exaggeration of the concept of personality.

Man is essentially a sympathetic creature. The more his powers of sympathy are concentrated on himself, the more of an egoist he is. The more they embrace his fellow men, the more of a philanthropist he is.

Egoism8 is thus like all other vices, like all other prevarications; that is to say, it is as old as man himself. This can also be said of philanthropy. In all eras, under all regimes, and in all classes, there have been men who were hard, cold, self-centered, and who related everything to themselves, and others who were good, generous, humane, and selfless. I do not think that we can make one of these states of mind the basis of society any more than we can anger or gentleness, energy or weakness.

It is therefore impossible to accept that from a fixed date in history, for example, from the time of Luther, all the efforts of the human race have been systematically, and so to speak providentially, devoted to the triumph of individualism.

On what basis can it be held that an exaggerated sense of self was born in modern times? When ancient people pillaged and ravaged the world, reducing those they conquered to slavery, were they not acting under the influence of an egoism of the highest degree? If, in order to ensure victory, overcome resistance, and escape the frightful fate they reserved for those they called savages, alliances of warriors felt the need to join forces, if individuals were even disposed to make genuine sacrifices to this end, was egoism thereby any less egoism for being collective?

I would say the same thing with regard to domination by theological authority. Whether force or guile is used to achieve the servitude of men, whether their weakness or credulity is exploited, does not the very fact of unjust domination reveal a feeling of egoism in those who dominate? Did not Egyptian priests who imposed false beliefs on their fellow men in order [85] to make themselves masters of their actions and even of their thought seek personal advantage through the most immoral means?

As nations became stronger they rejected plunder achieved by force. They progressed toward moral propriety and the production and economic freedom attending it, and yet some people profess to find in freedom of production the primal manifestation of selfishness!

But you who do not want production to be free must want it constrained, for there is no halfway house. Yes, there is, you say, association. This is to misunderstand words, for as long as association is voluntary, production remains free. It is not an abandonment of freedom to enter into agreements or voluntary associations with your fellow men.

As men became more enlightened, they reacted against superstition, false beliefs, and opinions that were imposed. And there you go again discovering in free inquiry a second sign of selfishness.

But you who do not accept either authority or free examination, what would you put in its place? Fraternity, you say. Will not fraternity put into my mind either totally preconceived ideas or ones it has itself elaborated?

So you do not want men to examine opinions critically! I can understand this intolerance in theologians. They are logically consistent. They say: Seek the truth in everything, traditus est mundus disputationibus eorum,9 when God has not revealed it. Where He has said: This is the truth, it would be absurd for you to want to examine it critically.

However, by what right do modern socialists refuse us the free inquiry they use so widely? They have just one means of curbing our minds and that is to claim to be inspired. A few of them have tried, but up to now they have not shown us their qualifications to be prophets.

Without calling into question their intentions, I say that at the basis of these doctrines there is the most irrational of all despotisms and consequently of all individualisms. What is more tyrannical than to want to regiment our work and minds, leaving aside, indeed not even invoking, any supernatural authority? It is not surprising that we end up seeing in Robespierre the archetype, the hero, and the apostle of fraternity.

If selfishness is not the exclusive motivation of a period in modern history, no more is it the principle that guides one class to the exclusion of all the others.

In moral sciences a certain symmetry in presentation is oft en taken for the truth. Let us be wary of superficial appearance.


This is how the notion that modern nations are made up of three classes—the aristocracy, the bourgeoisie, and the common people—has gained credibility. Therefore, it is concluded that there is the same antagonism between the two lower classes as between the two upper ones. The bourgeoisie, it is said, has overthrown the aristocracy and taken its place. With regard to the common people, it constitutes another form of aristocracy and will, in turn, be overthrown by it.

For my part, I see only two classes in society: conquerors who fall on a country, taking possession of the land, the wealth, and legislative and judiciary power; and a common people that has been overcome, that suffers, works, grows, breaks its chains, reconquers its rights, and governs itself more or less well, or very badly, for a long time, is taken in by a great many charlatans, is oft en betrayed by its own members, learns through experience, and gradually achieves equality through freedom and fraternity through equality.10

Each of these two classes obeys an indestructible sense of itself. But if this disposition deserves the name “selfishness,” it is certainly in the case of the conquering and dominating class.

It is true that within the common people there are men who are more or less rich in infinite variation. But the difference in wealth is not enough to make up two classes. As long as a man of the common people does not turn against the common people themselves to exploit them, as long as he owes his wealth only to work and an ordered and economic life, despite the few riches he acquires and the limited influence that these riches give him, he will remain a member of the common people and it is a misuse of terminology to claim that he has entered another class, an aristocratic class.

If this were so, see what the consequences would be. An honest artisan who works hard and plans for the future, who imposes severe privations on himself, who increases the number of his customers because of the confidence he inspires, who gives his son a rather fuller education than the one he received himself, would be on the way to joining the bourgeoisie. This is a man to be distrusted, a nascent aristocrat, an egoist.

If, on the contrary, he is lazy, dissipated, improvident, if he totally lacks the dynamism necessary for making a few savings, we can then be certain that he will remain one of the common people. He will adhere to the principle of fraternity.

And now, how will all these men retained in the ranks of the lowest of [87] society through improvidence, through vice, and only too oft en, I admit, because of misfortune understand the principle of equality and fraternity? Who will be their defender, their idol, their apostle? Do I need to name him? . . .

Abandoning the theater of polemics, I will endeavor, as far as my strength and time allow, to consider egoistical individualism and fraternity from the point of view of political economy.

I will begin by declaring very frankly that the concept of the individual, of self-love, the instinct of self-preservation, the indestructible desire within man to develop himself, to increase the sphere of his action, increase his influence, his aspiration to happiness, in a word, individuality, appears to me to be the point of departure, the motive and universal dynamic to which Providence has entrusted the progress of humanity. It is absolutely in vain that this principle arouses hostility in modern socialists. Alas! Let them look into themselves; let them go deep into their consciences and they will rediscover this drive, just as we find gravity in all the molecules of matter. They may reproach Providence for having made man as he is and, as a pastime, seek to find out what would happen to society if the divinity, accepting them as counselors, changed his creatures to suit another design. These are dreams for distracting the imagination, but it is not on these that social sciences are founded.

There is no feeling that is so constantly active in man or so dynamic as the sense of self.

We can differ in the way we conceive happiness or seek it in wealth, power, and glory or the terror we inspire, in the responsiveness of our fellow men, in the satisfaction of vanity or the crown of election, but continue to seek it we do and we cannot stop ourselves from doing so.

From this it must be concluded that egoistic individualism, which is the sense of self taken in its unfavorable meaning, is as old as the concept itself, since there is not one of his qualities, above all the one most inherent in its nature, that man cannot abuse and has not abused through the ages. To claim that the sense of self has always been held within just limits, except since the time of Luther and among the bourgeoisie, can be considered only a form of wit.

I think that the contrary thesis, in any case a more consoling one, could with more reason be held, and here are my arguments.

It is a sad truth, but one born of experience, that men in general give full rein to the sense of self and consequently abuse it up to the point at which they can do so with impunity. I say in general, since I am far from claiming [88] that the inspiration of conscience, natural benevolence, or religious prescriptions have not oft en been enough to prevent personality from degenerating into egoism. However, it can be stated that the general obstacle to the exaggerated development or abuse of the sense of self is not in us but outside us. It is in the other personalities who surround us and react when we upset them to the point of keeping us in check, if you will excuse the expression.

This having been said, the more a gathering of men finds itself surrounded by weak or credulous beings and the less it finds obstacles in them, the more the concept of personality has to grow stronger in them and break the bounds that reconcile it with the general good.

Thus we see the peoples in classical times desolated by war, slavery, superstition, and despotism, all manifestations of egoism in men stronger or more enlightened than their fellows. It is never through action on itself in obedience to the moral laws that the concept of personality is confined within its just limits. To restrict it to these, it has been necessary for force and enlightenment to become the common heritage of the masses; and it is just as necessary that individualism, when manifested through force, is brought to a halt by a superior force, and when manifested through deceit, perishes through lack of support from public credulity.

Perhaps it will be thought that the representation of personalities as in a state of virtually perpetual antagonism containable only by a balance of force and enlightenment constitutes a very gloomy doctrine. It would follow that, as soon as this balance is disturbed, as soon as a people or a class realizes that they are endowed with irresistible force or an intellectual superiority that might make other peoples or classes subservient to them, the sense of self is always ready to exceed its limits and degenerate into egoism and oppression.

It is not a question of knowing whether this doctrine is gloomy, but whether it is true and whether the constitution of man is not such that he has to win his independence and security by the development of his strength and intelligence. Life is a conflict. This has been true up to now, and we have no reason to believe that that will ever cease to be the case as long as man carries within his heart this sense of self that is so ready to exceed its limits.

The socialist schools endeavor to fill the world with hopes that we cannot prevent ourselves from considering to be illusory, precisely because they take no account, in their trivial theories, of this indelible disposition and the unchangeable nature that drives it, if it is not contained, toward its own exaggeration.

We search in vain in their mathematical systems of series and harmonies [89] for the obstacle to the abuse of personality, for we will never find it. The socialists appear to us to be revolving ceaselessly in this vicious circle: if all men wish to be selfless, we have found social forms that will maintain fraternity and harmony between them.

For this reason, when they come to propose something which appears to be practical, we always see them dividing humanity into two parts: on the one hand, the state, the ruling power which they take to be infallible, impeccable, and free from any egoistic character; on the other, the people who no longer need plans for the future or any guarantees as to their security.

To carry out their plans, they are reduced to entrusting the ruling of the world to a power that is drawn, so to speak, from outside humanity. They invent a word: the state. They suppose that the state is a being that exists in itself, that possesses an inexhaustible amount of wealth independent from society’s wealth, and that by means of this wealth the state can provide work for everyone and ensure everyone’s existence. They take no heed of the fact that the state can only give back to society goods that it started off taking from it, and that it can actually give back only a part of these; nor furthermore, that the state is made up of men endowed with the sense of self, which in them just as in those being governed is inclined to degenerate into abuse; nor that one of the greatest temptations enticing one personality to offend others occurs when the man concerned is powerful and able to overcome resistance. In truth, although they have never expressed many views on this subject, the socialists probably hope that the state will be supported by institutions, by education, by foresight, and by close and severe supervision of the masses. However, if this is to be so, the masses have to be enlightened and farsighted, and the system of governance that I am examining tends precisely to destroy the foresight of the masses since it makes the state responsible for supplying all necessities, combating all obstacles, and providing for everyone.

But, people will say, if the sense of self is indestructible, if it has the disastrous tendency to degenerate into abuse, if the force that represses it is not within us but exterior to us, if it is contained within just limits only by the resistance and reaction of other selves, if the men who exercise power do not escape this law any more than those on whom power is exercised, so that society can be maintained in good order only by the constant vigilance of all its members over each other and in particular by those governed over those who govern, then radical antagonism is irremediable. We have no other safeguards against oppression than a sort of balance among all the [90] egoisms that keep one another in check; and fraternity, the principle that is so comforting, whose very name touches and softens hearts, that is capable of realizing all the hopes of all men of goodwill, uniting men through the bonds of friendship, this principle, proclaimed eighteen centuries ago by a voice that almost all of humanity has held to be divine, would be banished forever from the world.

God forbid that this should be our thought. We have ascertained that the sense of individuality is a general human law, and we believe that this fact is beyond doubt.

It is now a matter of knowing whether the fully understood and constant interest of a man, a class, or a nation is radically opposed to the interest of another man, class, or nation. If this is so, it has to be stated with sorrow but truthfully that fraternity is just a dream, since it must not be expected that each person will sacrifice himself for others, and if this happened, we cannot see how humanity would gain, since the sacrifice of each one would be equivalent to the sacrifice of the entire human race; this would constitute universal misfortune.

But if, on the contrary, by studying the action that men exercise over one another, we discover that their general interests concur, that progress, morality, and the wealth of all are conditions for the progress, morality, and wealth of each individual, we will then understand how the concept of individuality is reconciled with that of fraternity.

There is one condition, however. It is that this agreement does not consist in a vain proclamation but is clearly, rigorously, and scientifically demonstrated.

When this happens, as this demonstration is better understood and inculcated in a greater number of intelligent minds, that is to say, as enlightenment and moral science progress, the principle of fraternity will extend further and further throughout the human race.

Well, this is the comforting demonstration that we think we can make.

First of all, what should we understand by the word fraternity?

Should we, as it is said, take this word literally? And does it imply that we should love everyone currently living on the surface of the globe as we love the brother who was conceived in the same womb and fed on the same milk and whose cradle, games, emotions, sufferings, and joys we have shared? Obviously this is not the meaning of the word that we should accept. No man could exist for more than a few minutes if each sorrow, each setback, or each death that occurred around the world had to arouse in him the same emotion [91] as if it concerned his brother, and if the socialist gentlemen are adamant on this point (and they are very adamant . . . when it applies to others), they have to be told that nature is much less demanding. It is useless for us to beat our breasts or indulge in the affectation of words, so commonly seen these days; we will never, fortunately, be able to raise our sensitivity to this height. If nature does not allow this, morality forbids it, too. We all have to fulfill our duties toward ourselves, those close to us, our friends, our colleagues, and all those whose existence depends on us. We are also responsible to our profession and for the functions entrusted to us. For most of us these duties take up all our time, and it is impossible for us to be able always to have a thought for and make our immediate aim the general interests of humanity.

The question is to establish whether the scheme of things, resulting from the way men organize themselves and their perfectibility, does not lead to individual interests becoming increasingly merged with the general interest, and whether we are not brought by observation and perhaps by experience to desire the general good and consequently to contribute to it. In this case, the code of fraternity would arise from the very sense of self to which at first sight it is opposed.

Here, I need to return to a fundamental idea, one I have already discussed in this book11 in the articles titled “Competition” and “Population.”

With the exception of blood relationships and acts of pure selflessness and self-sacrifice, I think it can be said that the whole economy of a society is based on exchanged services.

However, to anticipate any misinterpretation, I have to say a word on self-sacrifice, which is the voluntary sacrifice of the sense of self.

Economists are accused of not taking self-sacrifice into account and perhaps despising it. Please God, we will never fail to recognize the power and grandeur in self-sacrifice. Nothing that is great and generous, nothing that arouses fellow feeling and admiration in men can be accomplished except [92] through selflessness. Man is not just an intelligent mind, and he is not merely a calculating being. He has a soul, and in this soul there is a germ of fellow feeling which may be developed until it attains universal love, to the point of the most absolute sacrifice, at which point it produces the generous actions that, when narrated, bring tears to our eyes.

However, economists do not think that everyday events in our lives, the daily and constant actions that men carry out to keep themselves alive and fed and to develop themselves can be based on the principle of self-sacrifice. Well, these acts and transactions that are freely negotiated are the very ones that are the subject of political economy. The field is sufficiently large to constitute a science. Men’s actions relate to a variety of sciences: when they give rise to dispute, they are subject to the science of law; when they are subject to the direct influence of the established authority, they relate to politics; and when they call for the effort we consider virtue, they concern morality or religion.

None of these sciences can do without the others and even less contradict them. However, we should not require one of them to embrace the others totally. And although economists have little to say about self-sacrifice since this is not their subject, we dare to assert that their biographies in this respect can bear comparison with those of writers who have embraced other doctrines. In the same way as priests have little to say about value and competition because these things are only indirectly concerned with the sphere of their predications, they buy and sell just like common mortals. This can also be said of socialists.

Let us say, then, that in human actions, those that form the subject of economic science involve the exchange of services.

Perhaps people will find that this is to disparage the science. However, I sincerely believe that it is substantial, although simpler than is supposed, and that it is entirely based on these vulgar notions: give me this and I will give you that; do this for me and I will do that for you. I cannot conceive of any other forms of human transaction. The intervention of cash, merchants, and middlemen may complicate this elementary system and obscure our view of it. It is nonetheless typical of all economic acts.


Bastiat is possibly referring to the first two volumes of a history of the French Revolution (Histoire de la Révolution française, 1847) that the socialist Louis Blanc had published just prior to the outbreak of the February Revolution of 1848. (See also the entry for “Blanc, Louis,” in the Glossary of Persons.)


Date of the arrest of Robespierre (27 July 1794). He was guillotined the fol lowing day.


(Bastiat’s note) Blanc, Histoire de la Révolution française, vol. 1, p. 9. [Bastiat is quoting from the 1847 edition of Blanc’s work.]


(Bastiat’s note) Blanc, Histoire de la Révolution française, vol. 1, pp. 350–51. [Bastiat is again quoting from the 1847 edition of Blanc’s work. In this passage Bastiat is summarizing Blanc’s critique of eighteenth-century theories of individualism.]


Jan Hus.


(Paillottet’s note) As Bastiat had not finished copying the passage of the book he is dealing with by hand in his manuscript, I have had to make good this lacuna and present the whole sentence. With regard to the last few words, I make so bold as to say that they imply a contradiction with the thought of achieving any form of social system through the intervention of the state, that is to say, by force. Those who put forward social systems they have invented do not limit themselves, any more than Robespierre does, to claiming to persuade or to obtain the voluntary acquiescence of the heart, and have no greater justification than he in assuming the flag of freedom.


See “Bastiat’s Political Writings: Anecdotes and Reflections,” pp. 407–8.


Ibid., p. 408.


“And the world has been handed over to their discussions.”


See “Note on the Translation,” pp. xiii–xiv, and also “Bastiat’s Political Writings: Anecdotes and Reflections,” pp. 409–10.


It is not clear to what book Bastiat is referring here. He published only three book-length works before his death: Cobden and the League (1845), Economic Sophisms (1847), and Economic Harmonies (1850). The last was only partially completed when it was first published and contained only the first ten chapters. A more complete edition was published in 1851, after his death. Chapter 10 of Economic Harmonies was titled “Competition,” and chapter 16 was titled “Population.” This essay appeared with no date or place of publication and may have been written in June 1848. Bastiat thus may be referring to a draft of the Economic Harmonies, which he was writing at the time this essay appeared.

T.210 (1848.06.??) "On Religion"


T.210 (1848.06.??) "On Religion" (La question religieuse). Internal evidence suggests composed mid-1848. [OC7.79, pp. 355-57.] [CW1.2.4.21, pp. 466-68.]

Editor's Note

[to come]


I always thought that the religious question would continue to move the world. The legitimate religions of today, however, retain too much of the spirit and methods of exploitation to be reconciled with the inevitable progress of enlightenment. On the other hand, corrupt religious practice will put up a long and terrible resistance, being based on, nay confused with, the greatest need of humanity, that is to say with religious morality.49

It appears, therefore, that humanity has not done with this sad pendulum swing which has filled the pages of history. On the one hand religious abuse is attacked, and in the heat of the conflict people are led on to dislodging religion itself. On the other hand, people stand as the champions of religion, and in the zeal of defense abuses are justified.

This long tearing apart was decided upon on the day a man used God to make another man his intellectual slave, the day one man said to another, “I am the minister of God. He has given me total power over you, your soul, your body, and your heart.”

But, leaving aside these general reflections, I want to draw your attention to two facts referred to by the newspapers of today which prove how far from resolution are the problems surrounding the unity or separation of the spiritual and the temporal.

It is said that it is this complete separation which will solve all the difficulties. Those who put forward this assertion should begin by proving that the spiritual and the temporal can follow independent destinies and that the master of the spiritual is not the master of all.

Be that as it may, here are the two facts, or perhaps there is only one fact.

His Lordship, the Bishop of Langres, having been chosen by the electors of the département of —— to represent them, did not think he had to regard this election as sufficient, or even rely on his own decision. He has a superior who is neither French nor in France and, it should be said, who is at the [467] same time a foreign king. It is to this superior that His Lordship the Bishop of Langres refers. He says to him, “I promise you full and gentle obedience; will I do well to accept?” His spiritual superior (who is at the same time a temporal king) replies, “The state of religion and the church is so alarming that your services may be more useful on the political stage than in the midst of your flock.”

At this, His Lordship of Langres lets it be known to his electors that he accepts their mandate. As a bishop he is obliged to leave them, but they will receive in compensation an apostolic blessing. Thus all was arranged.

Now, I ask you, is it to defend religious dogmas that the pope confirmed the election of ——? Is his Lordship of Langres going to the Chamber to fight heresies? No, he is going there to pass civil laws and to occupy himself exclusively with temporal matters.

What I want to point out here is that we have fifty thousand people in France, all highly influential in character, who have sworn total and gentle obedience to their spiritual leader, who is at the same time a foreign king, and that the spiritual and temporal are so intertwined that these fifty thousand men can do nothing even as citizens without consulting this foreign king whose decisions are unquestionable.

We would shudder if someone said to us, “We are going to endow a king, whether Louis-Philippe, Henri V,50 Bonaparte, or Leopold,51 with spiritual power.” We would think that this might establish a boundless despotism. However, whether you add spiritual power to temporal power or superimpose one upon the other, is it not the same thing? How is it that we would not consider without horror the usurpation of the government of souls by the civil authorities while we find quite natural the usurpation of civil government by priestly authority?

After all, His Holiness Pius IX is not the only man in Europe in whom is vested this twin authority. Nicholas is both tsar and pope and Victoria is queen and female pope.

Let us suppose that a Frenchman professing the Anglican faith is elected as a representative. Supposing that he writes and has published in the newspapers a letter that goes as follows:


Gracious sovereign,

I owe you nothing as queen, but as you are placed at the head of my religion, I owe you my total and gentle obedience. Please would you let me know, after consulting your government, if it is in the interests of the state and the Church of England for me to be a legislator in France.

Let us suppose that Victoria replies and has her reply published as follows:

My government is of the opinion that you should accept the office of deputy. Through this you would be able to render great service directly to my spiritual power and, consequently, indirectly to my temporal power, for it is very clear that each of these serves the other.

I ask you, could this man be considered a loyal and sincere representative of France? . . .


(Paillottet’s note) This draft article indicates its date itself. [There are references in this piece to Pope Pius, who was pope from 1846 to 1878. Also there is a reference to “His Lordship, the Bishop of Langres” (Pierre-Louis Parisis), who was elected to the Constituent Assembly of 4 May 1848. Thus, we estimate that this article could be dated sometime in mid-1848.]


The name given by the absolutists to the count of Chambord, son of Charles X. He never reigned.


Leopold I.

T.303 "Speaks in a Discussion of Randoing 's Proposal to increase Export Subsidies on Woollen Cloth" (9 June 1848)


T.303 [1848.06.09] "Speaks in a Discussion of Randoing's Proposal to increase export subsidies on woollen cloth". Short speech in the National Constituent Assembly, 9 June 1848, CRANC, vol. 1, pp.749-50. Not in OC. CW4

Editor's Introduction

This is the 2nd of eight speeches and seven other shorter contributions Bastiat gave in the Chamber between May 1848 and February 1850. See the Editor's Introduction above, pp. 000 for more details.

Following the Revolution of February 1848 there was a severe economic recession in France which put many people out of work and led to a collapse in tax revenue for the Provisional Government. As the Vice-President of the Constituent Assembly's Finance Committee Bastiat spent much time trying to bring order to the government's finances which was complicated by the power of Louis Blanc who controlled the National Workshops relief program which was run out of the Luxembourg Palace, the cost of which got out of control and led to its closure in June, prompting the June Days uprising with considerable loss of life. The Provisional Government introduced a new tax, the "45 centime tax," in 16 March, 1848 as a temporary measure to cover the budget shortfall by imposing a new 45% direct tax on things like land, doors and windows, and trading licences. Is was a very unpopular tax which led to widespread protests especially in the southwest of France. The government was faced with constant demands for both tax cuts (on stamps, alcohol, salt, and tobacco) and increased government spending such as this proposal to subsidise the woollen industry by giving them export subsidies. It was Bastiat's job as Vice-President of the Fiance Committee to give periodic reports to the Assembly and to argue the case for putting limits on spending.

In this brief speech we see Bastiat using several arguments which we have seen before, that subsidies to one group are always paid for by taxes on other groups, that these taxes usually fall on the poorest workers and taxpayers who are least able to bear them, that public works such as military fortifications will produce concentrated benefits which are immediately seen (prosperity in the military town) but will cause hardships elsewhere which will not be immediately seen, and that many people suffer under "dreadful illusions" about the impact of government economic policies.


Citizen Bastiat : I am obliged to repeat that I do not question the fact that there is suffering in particular industries, nor that the workers in those industries are suffering. Unfortunately, in our time there is no industry whose suffering can be questioned. I only call your attention to the illusion which is embodied in the remedy which has been proposed.

What is the issue at hand, and what is being asked for? People say: "Here is an industry which is not selling its products; if it could export them it would clear its surplus stock in the stores and this would be a great benefit either for this industry or for the workers it employs.

This fact is certainly indisputable, but what do we have to do to attain this end? To increase taxes and to increase export subsidies. This seems to me to exactly like giving taxpayers' money to foreigners, in order to allow them to buy French cloth at a discount. With a system like this, there is no industry which couldn't be assisted, for example that of wheat, wine, canvas, luxury goods, which all have goods which cannot be sold. Nearly all our industries are in the same situation, and that does not affect just the owner but agricultural workers and all kinds of work.

Well, is it possible to solve a problem by passing the burden of taxes from one group of people to another? I don't think so. If this method were effective, nothing would be so easy as this to revive all industry. It would be sufficient to slap on some new taxes and to share them out as export subsidies to all those industries which are experiencing difficulties in making sales. They would be able to lower their prices; and who would make a profit? The purchaser, the foreigner.

These subsidies are practically like money for the building of the fortifications of Langres 1010 which people have been talking about recently.

When the Government spends money in Langres it does some good for the workers of this town, and this is a good which everybody sees; but it is also necessary to see where this money comes from. 1011 It comes out of the pockets of the taxpayers; if they give it to the State they can no longer then spend it themselves, and there is as much work extinguished on one side as there is work stimulated on the other.

It is true that people say that, from the perspective of the working classes, the system is good because the tax falls on the wealthy and is spent for the benefit of the working classes; but I think that, if the working class thinks in this way, it is profoundly deluding itself; because by taking in turn all the articles in the Government's revenue budget one sees clearly that it is precisely on the working classes that the taxes fall. 1012 Unfortunately, the taxes, when they are imposed at the level where we now see them, inevitably have to be levied on the entire mass of the people, because otherwise they would not be productive; and when they are levied on the entire mass of the people, then it is especially the poor and suffering class which is hit the hardest, and that is inevitable, so to speak, because one cannot make a distinction between diverse objects hit by the tax; to do so would be never-ending and would require several colossal administrative agencies to administer.

What is the result of all this? It is that goods of inferior quality support the largest share of the tax. Wines of the lowest quality, sugar of the lowest quality, coffee of the lowest quality; all these things support very heavy taxes, which ensures that the proportion of tax paid is much greater for the people, for the people who are the poorest, than for those who are richer.

The project which has been put to you and other similar plans all have the same problems.

If the Government could pay these subsidies with the money it could get from Mexico or from some Eldorado, I would eagerly support it; but it takes the money out of the same pocket as those it is trying to help; these are the same people who see the tax on tobacco, on salt, on wine, on meat, increase from year to year; and they are under the disastrous illusion, 1013 if they don't believe that it is with this money, ultimately, that the export subsides are paid, and which have no other effect than to put our products in the hands of foreigners at a price lower than that which we ourselves pay.

Is this an effective solution?

To make sure of it, it is sufficient to present to the lips of all the industries this cup full of subsidies one after the other, and one would be forced to recognize that one had done nothing more than present an immense gift to foreigners.

I am not opposed to taking this matter into consideration, because I think that it is always useful to examine and to discuss such questions; but I wish to protect the Assembly from the illusion that one makes when one sees the good which accumulates at one point, and neglects to see the harm which is distributed on the whole, because I believe that the largesses of the State which are offered to us as a solution are precisely the cause of our suffering. (Very good! Very good! or Well said! Well said!)


1010 Langres is a Commune in the French Department of Haute-Marne in the east of the country. A citadelle was built by the Romans which was modernised between 1842-50, along with the wall which encircled it (1844-56). The fort was designed in the classic star shape pioneered by Vauban in the 17th century and which was also used in the ring of forts built by Thiers around Paris between 1841-44. See the glossary on "The Fortifications of Paris."

1011 This is an early version of his argument about "the seen and the unseen" which he will take up in earnest in a book of that name in July 1850.

1012 In 1848-49 the French government collected 1.37 billion fr. in revenue, of which 510 million fr. (or 37%) came from customs duties on things like sugar and salt, and indirect taxes on things like alcohol, salt, sugar, and tobacco. See the Appendix on French Government Budgets." ???

1013 See the economic sophism "Disastrous Illusions" (March 1848), CW3 24, pp. 384-99, on this same topic.

Articles in Jacques Bonhommme

T.211 (1848.06.11) "Freedom" (JB, June 1848)


T.211 (1848.06.11) "Freedom" (La liberté), Jacques Bonhomme, no. 1, 11-15 June 1848, p. 1. [OC7.56, pp. 235-36.] [CW1.2.4.9, pp. 433-4.]

Editor's Note

[to come]


I have lived a long time, seen a great deal, observed much, compared and examined many things, and I have reached the following conclusion:

Our fathers were right to wish to be free, and we should also wish this.


It is not that freedom has no disadvantages, since everything has these. To use these disadvantages in argument against it is to say to a man trapped in the mire: Do not get out, as you cannot do this without some effort.

Thus, it is to be wished that there be just one faith in the world, provided that it is the true one. However, where is the infallible authority which will impose it on us? While waiting for it to manifest itself, let us maintain the freedom of discussion and conscience.

It would be fortunate if the best method of teaching were to be universally adopted. But who has it and on what authority? Let us therefore demand freedom of teaching.

We may be distressed to see writers delight in stirring up all forms of evil passion. However, to hobble the press is also to hobble truth as well as lies. Let us, therefore, take care never to allow the freedom of the press to die.

It is distressing that man should be reduced to earning his bread by the sweat of his brow. It would be better for the state to feed everyone, but this is impossible. Let us at least have the freedom to work.

By associating with one another, men can gain greater advantage from their strength. However, the forms of association are infinite; which is best? Let us not run the risk that the state imposes the worst of these on us; let us seek the right one by trial and error, and demand the freedom of association.

A people has two ways of procuring something. The first is to make it; the second is to make something else and trade it. It is certainly better to have the option than not to have it. Let us therefore demand the freedom to trade.

I am throwing myself into public debate; I am trying to get through to the crowd to preach all the freedoms, the total of which make up liberty.

T.212 (1848.06.11) "The State" (JB, June 1848)


T.212 (1848.06.11) "The State" (draft) (L’État), Jacques Bonhomme, no. 1, 11-15 June 1848, p. 2. [OC7.59, pp. 238-40.] [CW2.8, pp. 105-6.]

Editor's Note

[to come]1


“There are those who say, ‘A financial man, such as Thiers, Fould, Goudchaux, or Girardin, will get us out of this.’ I think they are mistaken.”

“Who, then, will get us out of this?”

“The people.”


“When the people have learned this lesson: since the state has nothing it has not taken from the people, it cannot distribute largesse to the people.”

“The people know this, since they never cease to demand reductions in taxes.”

“That is true, but at the same time they never cease to demand handouts of every kind from the state.

They want the state to establish nursery schools, infant schools, and free schools for our youth, national workshops for those that are older, and retirement pensions for the elderly.

They want the state to go to war in Italy and Poland.

They want the state to found farming colonies.

They want the state to build railways.

They want the state to bring Algeria into cultivation.

They want the state to lend ten billion to landowners.


They want the state to supply capital to workers.

They want the state to replant the forests on mountains.

They want the state to build embankments along the rivers.

They want the state to make payments without receiving any.

They want the state to lay down the law in Europe.

They want the state to support agriculture.

They want the state to give subsidies to industry.

They want the state to protect trade.

They want the state to have a formidable army.

They want the state to have an impressive navy.

They want the state to . . .”

“Have you finished?”

“I could go on for another hour at least.”

“But what is the point you are trying to make?”

“This. As long as the people want all of this, they will have to pay for it. There is no financial man alive who can do something with nothing.”

Jacques Bonhomme is sponsoring a prize of fifty thousand francs to be given to anyone who provides a good definition of the word state, for that person will be the savior of finance, industry, trade, and work.


This piece is a rough draft of Bastiat’s best-known pamphlet, “The State,” published in September 1848 (see “The State,” pp. 93–104 in this volume. For more details on Bastiat’s journalistic activity during the revolution of 1848, see “Bastiat’s Political Writings: Anecdotes and Reflections,” pp. 401–7 in this volume.

T.213 (1848.06.11) "The National Assembly" (JB, June 1848)


T.213 (1848.06.11) "The National Assembly" (L’Assemblée Nationale), Jacques Bonhomme, no. 1, 11-15 June 1848, pp. 1-2. [OC7.58, pp. 237-38.] [CW1.2.4.17, p. 451.]

Editor's Note

[to come]


“Master Jacques, what do you think of the National Assembly?”

“I think it is excellent, well intentioned, and devoted to the good. It is a product of the people; it loves the people and wants them to be happy and free. It brings honor to universal suffrage.”

“But how hesitant it is! How slow! How many storms in a teacup there are! How much time wasted! What good has it done? What evils has it prevented? The people are suffering, production is failing, work is at a standstill, the treasury is ruining itself, and the Assembly spends its time listening to boring speeches.”

“What are you saying? The Assembly cannot change the nature of things. The nature of things is at variance with nine hundred people governing with a will at once determined, logical, and swift. This being so, you must see how the Assembly is waiting for a government that will reflect its thought, how it is ready to give it a compact majority of seven hundred votes in favor of democratic ideas. However, no such government is in the offing at present and could hardly be so in the interim situation in which we find ourselves.”

“What should the Assembly do?”

“Three things: deal with the emergency, draw up the constitution,42 and make itself scarce.”


The Constituent Assembly, elected on 23 April 1848, adopted the Constitution on 4 November and dissolved itself by the end of April 1849.

T.214 (1848.06.11) "Laissez-Faire" (JB, June 1848)


T.214 (1848.06.11) "Laissez-Faire" (Laissez-Faire), Jacques Bonhomme, no. 1, 11-15 June 1848, p. 1. [OC7.57, pp. 237.] [CW1.2.4.10, pp. 434-35.]

Editor's Note

[to come]


Laissez-faire! I will begin by saying, in order to avoid any ambiguity, that laissez-faire is used here for honest things, with the state instituted precisely to prevent dishonest things.

This having been said, and with regard to things that are innocent in themselves, such as work, trade, teaching, association, banking, etc., a choice [435] must be made. It is necessary for the state to let things be done or prevent them from being done.

If it lets things be done, we will be free and optimally administered most economically, since nothing costs less than laissez-faire.

If it prevents things from being done, woe to our freedom and our purse. Woe to our freedom, since to prevent things is to tie our hands; woe to our purse, since to prevent things requires agents and to employ agents takes money.

In reply to this, socialists say: “Laissez-faire! What a disaster!” Why, if you please? “Because, when you leave men to act, they do wrong and act against their interests. It is right for the state to direct them.”

This is simply absurd. Do you seriously have such faith in human wisdom that you want universal suffrage and government of all by all and then you proclaim these very men whom you consider fit to govern others unfit to govern themselves?

T.216 "A Hoax" (15 June 1848, JB)


T.216 (1848.06.15) "A Hoax" (Une mystification), Jacques Bonhomme , no. 2, 15-18 June 1848, p. 2. [OC7.61, pp. 242-44.] [CW4]

Editor's Introduction

There are several facets to Bastiat's brief career after he left his home in Mugron, Les Landes in early 1845 and his death at the end of 1850. During those 6 years he wrote prolifically for the Courrier français 1014 and the Journal des Économistes on both popular economic and policy related topics, he became the leader of the free trade movement in France with the founding of the French Free Trade Association in February 1846 then the editor of its journal Le Libre-Échange in November 1846 and one of their leading public speakers, he successfully stood for election in the new Second Republic in April 1848 and served as Vice-President of the Chamber's Finance Committee, he became one of the Guillaumin publishing firm's leading anti-socialist pamphleteers, and finally, he was an aspiring economic theorist who did not live long enough to see his treatise completed.

On top of this hectic schedule of speaking, writing, agitating, and publishing he also found time to engage in street politics in Paris at two key moments during the 1848 Revolution - the first was in February and March with a daily called La République française , 1015 and the second was a weekly in June 1848, called Jacques Bonhomme . 1016 On both occasions, he and Molinari, and some other economist friends started a newspaper or journal directed at ordinary French people which they handed out on the streets of Paris. Also on both occasions, Bastiat was caught in the cross-fire as troops fired on protesters, killing hundreds during the "June Days" rioting of 23-26 June, 1848. 1017 In this volume we have three articles from Jacques Bonhomme - "A Hoax," "Taking Five and Returning Four is not Giving," and "A Dreadful Escalation." 1018 Other articles from these magazines can be found elsewhere in the Collected Works . 1019

The title of the magazine Jacques Bonhomme was named after the character of the French everyman. 1020 Bastiat began using him as a foil in his journalism as a way to reach out to readers beginning in May 1846 in an article on "Salt, the Mail, and the Customs Service." 1021 The wily Frenchman Jacques Bonhomme would typically challenge the ideas of the protectionists or government officials with his free market ideas and scepticism about the efficacy of government regulations. Before the appearance of the eponymous magazine, Jacques Bonhomme appeared several times in articles written in late 1847 which would appear in Economic Sophisms. Series 2 (published in January 1848), once in his first revolutionary newspaper La République française , and then many times in Jacques Bonhomme , either by name or simply as "I". 1022 After a brief rest, Jacques Bonhomme appeared once again in Bastiat's last published work What is Seen and What is Not Seen (July 1850) most notably in the the first chapter on "The Broken Window." 1023

Bastiat begins this story speaking as "I, (Jacques Bonhomme)" and immediately challenges a "Great Minister" who had the unlikely name of "Monsieur Budget" about government tax policy. The Minister relates the history of how the government responded to demands by the public for make-work programs (like the National Workshops instituted by Louis Blanc in February 1848) 1024 to relieve unemployment. It began raising money by means of direct taxes on income (which did not exist in France at that time) with the Minister taking a cut of one third for himself and the bureaucrats who ran the program. Since the income tax was very visible, the workers began to realise that they were being duped and were in fact paying for their own unemployment relief (this was also the argument Bastiat used in his essay "The State" which also appeared in Jacques Bonhomme ). 1025 Thus they began to complain to the Minister who then decided to invent a new and less visible way of raising taxes which would deflect the workers' criticism, namely indirect taxes on food and other essential items such as salt and alcohol (this is France after all!). The indirect taxes raised over three times as much money, allowing the Minister to take a much larger cut for himself and his bureaucrats, and to fool the workers into thinking that the government was providing them with employment. This was the great "hoax" or deception.

It should be noted that, according to budget figures for 1848, the French state collected 1,350 million francs in all forms of taxation. 1026 Direct taxes on land, personal property, windows and doors, etc, raised 421 million francs. Indirect taxes on alcohol, salt, sugar, tobacco, etc raised 308 million francs. The amount spent by the French State on public works of various kinds was 111 million francs, or 8% of the total budget. Bastiat was a very strong opponent of direct taxation as his speeches in the Chamber demonstrate. 1027 He called for drastic cuts in or abolition of the taxes on salt and alcohol, the tax on letters, as well as for the closing down of the National Workshops in May, 1848. 1028 He wanted to replace indirect taxes which fell most heavily on the poor with low direct taxes and a 5% tariff rate.

One should also note two aspects of the language Bastiat uses in this article. Firstly, in an article he wrote for the JDE in January 1846, "Theft by Subsidy," 1029 Bastiat decided that the time for using circumlocutions to describe government economic policies was over and that henceforth he was going to use much more direct, even "brutal" language, such as "theft" and "plunder." He called for "an explosion of plain speaking" by free market advocates and in his own work we see many occurrences of words such as "dépouiller" (to dispossess), "spolier" (to plunder), "voler" (to steal), "piller" (to loot or pillage), "raviser" (to ravish or rape), and "filouter" (to filch). The latter is a word he uses several times in this article as part of this campaign.

Secondly, his theory of plunder which was emerging in late 1847 and early 1848 (see the first two chapters of ES2 1 "The Physiology of Plunder" and ES2 2 "Two Moral Philosophies") 1030 uses a very specific vocabulary, some of which we also see in this article. His theory can be summed up as follows:

Bastiat described taxation as nothing less than "plunder" (la spoliation) where the more powerful, the plunderers ("les spoliateurs"), use force to seize the property of others (the plundered) in order to provide benefits for themselves or favoured vested interest groups like the aristocracy or the church resulting in what he termed "aristocratic" or "theocratic plunder." He uses a number of closely linked expressions to describe this process of plunder: the plunderers (les spoliateurs) use a combination of outright coercion (la force), fraud (la ruse), and deception (la duperie) and "hoaxes" (la mystification) to acquire resources from ordinary workers and consumers. They also resort to the use of misleading and deceptive arguments (sophismes) to deceive ordinary people, the dupes (les dupes), and to convince them that these actions are taken in their own interests and not those of the ruling elites.

One can only wonder what the rioters on the streets of Paris in June 1848 thought of these arguments.


As you know, I have traveled a great deal, and I have lots of tales to tell. 1031

As I was journeying through a far-off country, I was struck by the sorry situation in which the people appeared to be, in spite of their industriousness and the fertility of the land.

Desiring an explanation of this phenomenon, I turned to a Great Minister whose name was Budget . 1032 This is what he told me:

"I have had a count made of the workers. There are one million of them. They complain that they are not paid enough, and to me has fallen the task of improving their lot.

First of all, I thought of taking two sous 1033 from the daily pay of each worker. 1034 That brought 100,000 francs each morning into my coffers, or thirty million francs per year.

Out of this thirty million , I kept back ten for me and my officials.

I then told the workers: I have twenty million left, which I will use to have various projects started, and this will be of great benefit to you.

In fact, they were marvelously happy for a little while. They are decent folk, who do not have very much time for reflection. They were very upset at having two sous a day filched from them, but they were much more mesmerized by the millions apparently being spent by the State.

In spite of this, they gradually began to change their minds. The most alert of them said: 'We have to admit that we are real dupes. 1035 Minister Budget has started by taking thirty francs per year from each of us, free of charge . He then is giving us back twenty francs, not free of charge but in return for work. When all is said and done, we are losing ten francs and some working days in this arrangement.'"

"It seems to me, Lord Budget , 1036 that these workers are reasoning correctly."

"I thought the same thing, and I saw clearly that I could not continue to extract considerable sums from them in such a naïve way. With a bit more deception, I said to myself, instead of two, I will obtain four.

This was when I invented indirect taxation. Now, each time that workers buy two sous' worth of wine, one sou goes to me. I am taking something on tobacco, something on salt, something on meat and something on bread. I am taking from everything, and all the time. I am thus gathering, not thirty but one hundred million at the expense of the workers. 1037 I feast in grand hotels, I lounge about in fine carriages, I have myself served by fine servants, up to ten million franc's worth. I give twenty million francs to my officials to keep an eye on wine, salt, tobacco, meat, etc., and with what remains of their own money I set to work the workers."

"And don't they see through the hoax?"

"Not in the slightest. The way in which I empty their pockets is so subtle that it escapes them. However, the large-scale projects I arrange to be carried out dazzle them. They say to each other: 'Goodness! What a good way of eradicating poverty. Long live Citizen Budget ! 1038 What would become of us if he did not give us work?'"

"Don't they see that if this happened then you would no longer be taking big bucks from them and that if they spent this themselves they could provide employment for one another?"

"This does not occur to them. They constantly cry out to me: ' Great Statesman, make us work even more .' And this warms my heart for I interpret this to mean: Great Statesman, take even more of our sous as taxes on our wine, our salt, our tobacco and our meat ."


1014 See the glossary entries on " Le Courrier français, " the " Journal des Économistes ," " Le Libre-Échange ."

1015 La République française appeared daily and was edited by Frédéric Bastiat, Hippolyte Castille, and Gustave de Molinari. It appeared in 30 issues between 26 February and 28 March 1848. The format of the magazine was only one or two pages which could be handed out on street corners or pasted to walls so that passers by could read them.

1016 Jacques Bonhomme was a short-lived biweekly paper four issues of which appeared between 11 June to 13 July. It was written and distributed by Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Charles Coquelin, Alcide Fonteyraud, and Joseph Garnier. The first issue appeared just before the June Days uprising (23-26 June) took place and it was forced to close soon after as a result of the violence on the streets.

1017 Bastiat talks about his experience on the barricades in February and June of 1848 in 93. Letter to Marie-Julienne Badbedat (Mme Marsan), 27 February 1848, CW1, pp. 142-43;

104. Letter to Julie Marsan (Mme Affre), Paris, 29 June 1848, CW1, pp. 156-57; and "Statement of Electoral Principles in April 1849", CW1, pp. 390-95.

1018 "A Hoax," Jacques Bonhomme , no. 2, 15-18 June 1848, below, pp. 000; "Taking Five and Returning Four is not Giving," Jacques Bonhomme , no. 2, 15-18 June 1848, below, pp. 000; "A Dreadful Escalation," Jacques Bonhomme , no. 3, 20-23 June 1848, below, pp. 000.

1019 Articles written by Bastiat are listed in the glossary entries on " La République française " and " Jacques Bonhomme (Journal)."

1020 "Jacques Bonhomme" (literally Jack Goodfellow) is the name used by the French to refer to "everyman," sometimes with the connotation that he is the archetype of the wise French peasant. Bastiat uses the character of Jacques Bonhomme frequently in his constructed dialogues in the Economic Sophisms as a foil to criticise protectionists and advocates of government regulation. See the glossary entry on "Jacques Bonhomme (person)".

1021 ES2 12 "Salt, the Mail, and the Customs Service," (JDE, May 1846), CW3, pp. 198-214.

1022 The history of how Jacques Bonhomme came to publish a journal is explained in the first issue: "Histoire de Jacques Bonhomme. Comment est venue à Jacques Bonhomme l'idée d'écrire un journal." Jacques Bonhomme , no. 1, 11-15 June 1848, p. 1. Unsigned but probably by Bastiat.

1023 See the glossary entry on "Jacques Bonhomme (person)" for a history of Bastiat's use of the character of "Jacques Bonhomme."

1024 See the glossary entry on "Blanc" and "The National Workshops."

1025 "The State (draft)," Jacques Bonhomme , no. 1, 11-15 June 1848, CW2, pp. 105-6. In the essay Jacques Bonhomme offers a prize for the best definition of the State.

1026 See the Budget Papers for 1848.??

1027 See his speeches in Chamber:"Speech on the Tax on Wines and Spirits" (12 Dec. 1849), CW2, pp. 328-47; and"Peace and Freedom or the Republican Budget," also published as a pamphlet, CW2, pp. 282-324. See also his article on the salt tax "Consequences of the reduction of the Salt Tax" ( Journal des Débats , 1 Jan. 18490, CW2, pp. 324-27.

1028 Bastiat wrote a provocative article calling for the immediate abolition of the National Workshops the week during which the rioting opposing this took place. They closed their journal soon afterwards:"To Citizens Lamartine and Ledru-Rollin", Jacques Bonhomme , no. 3, 20-23 June 1848, CW1, pp. 444-45.

1029 ES2 9 "Theft by Subsidy" ( JDE , Jan. 18460), CW3, pp. 170-79.

1030 See the glossary entry on "Bastiat's Theory of Plunder." Also, ES2 1 "The Physiology of Plunder," CW3, pp. 113-30, and ES2 2 "Two Moral Philosophies," CW3, pp. 131-38.

1031 This is Bastiat speaking through the persona of "Jacques Bonhomme." Bastiat had travelled in Spain and Portugal on family business in the 1820s and 1830s, and had been to England several times in the mid- and late 1840s. He had not travelled elsewhere that we know about.

1032 Bastiat uses the English word "Budget" here.

1033 1 sou = 5 centimes.

1034 2 sous is 10 centimes which works out at about 1/30 (3.33%) of the daily pay of an unskilled labourer. A few years after the revolution Horace Say provided data on the average daily wages of 13 groups of workers in the Paris area, including unskilled labourers who earned 2.50 to 3 fr per day; stone masons 5 fr.; tailors 4 fr.; textile factory workers 4.30 fr.; metal workers 4.25 fr.; and printers 3.50 fr. Horace Say, "Du taux des salaires à Paris," JDE, 2nd. série, T. VII, no. 7, 15 Juillet 1855, pp. 17-27.

1035 Here Bastiat uses the phrase "grandes dupes" (great dupes or fools) which is an important part of the vocabulary of his theory of plunder. See ES2.1 "The Physiology of Plunder" and the glossary entry on "Bastiat's Theory of Plunder."

1036 Bastiat changes the title of Minister Budget throughout this story, from "Great Minister," to "Minister Budget", to "Lord Budget" (Seigneur Budget), then the comradely "Citizen Budget", and finally "Grand Statesman".

1037 The tax on salt (la gabelle) raised 37 million fr. in 1847; the state monopoly of tobacco sales raised 115 m. p.a. between 1846-49; and the tax on wine raised 104 m. in 1848. Without taking into account municipal taxes on meat and bread this raised a total of about 256 million fr. for the government. See the French Budget papers for 1849.

1038 The workers go from using the deferential "Seigneur" to the comradely "citoyen" Budget.

T.217 "Taking Five and Returning (giving back) Four is not Giving" (15 June 1848, JB)


T.217 (1848.06.15) "Taking Five and Returning Four is not Giving" (Prendre cinq et rendre quatre ce n'est pas donner), Jacques Bonhomme , no. 2, 15-18 June 1848, p. 1. [OC7.60, pp. 240-42.] [CW4]

Editor's Introduction

This is the second of three articles which were written for Bastiat's revolutionary street magazine Jacques Bonhomme in June 1848 which we are including in this volume. For more information about the magazine, see the introduction to "A Hoax" (above).

In this essay, he returns to issues which preoccupied him throughout the Revolution of 1848, namely what is the State, and what is the relationship between those who work for the State and those who pay taxes to the State? In the first issue of Jacques Bonhomme (11 June) in the essay called "The State" Bastiat ends by announcing that:

Jacques Bonhomme is sponsoring a prize of fifty thousand francs to be given to anyone who provides a good definition of the word state, for that person will be the savior of finance, industry, trade, and work. 1039

Here, Bastiat provides his own definition of the State as "the collection of all civil servants" and contrasts them with "the workers of all sorts who make up society." The latter pay the taxes which are used to pay the salaries of the former, or as he phrases it, the workers who make up society "enable the State to live," and not vice versa.

The constant call by the socialists for the State to employ the unemployed, feed the hungry, and care for the old and sick, reached a high point during the summer of 1848 as the Constituent Assembly debated the wording of the new constitution for the Second Republic. The socialists wanted specific clauses, such as "the right to a job" (le droit au travail), inserted in the constitution which would guarantee a state funded job for anyone who wished to work and a declaration of responsibility by the state to care for the sick and old. This was opposed by the economists and liberal Deputies such as Léon Faucher, Frédéric Bastiat, Louis Wolowski, de Parieu, and Alexis de Tocqueville, and the socialists' motion was defeated by the end of the summer. 1040 This article should be seen as part of Bastiat's campaign to make the economists' objections known to the socialists' supporters who were regularly mobilised on the streets of Paris.

Bastiat often used references to classic French literature to help make his ideas better understood by his readers, especially in the Economic Sophisms . 1041 One of his favourite authors was the playwright Molière whose play Le malade imaginaire (The Hypocondriac) (1673) is quoted here. 1042 Molière's comedy was the last play he wrote and acted in as he was dying from tuberculosis and had suffered at the hands of doctors who were trying to cure him. (It should be noted that Bastiat too was suffering from an incurable disease of the throat which would later kill him and he would have seen many doctors looking for a cure or at least some relief from the pain.) In the play there is an appendix at the end which is in "Latin de cuisine" ("kitchen" or dog Latin) in which Molière mocks the practice of 17th century doctors of prescribing the same "cures" for all types of illnesses, i.e. bleeding and purging their clients for no apparent medical benefit. An apprentice doctor (Bachelierus) is being inducted into the fraternity of practising doctors and is asked by Dr. Praeses what he would do under various circumstances. His answer is always "reseignare, repurgare, et reclisterisare" (bleed him again, purge him again, and inject him again). 1043

Si maladia


Non vult se guarire,

Quid illi facere?

Purgare, saignare, clysterisare,

Repurgare, resaignarer, reclysterare.

But of the illness,

in your opinion,

is not cured?

What would you do?

Purge him, then bleed him, give him an injection,

Then purge him again, bleed him again, and inject him again.

Bastiat uses this passage to accuse the socialists of prescribing over and over again the same "cure" for poverty and unemployment, namely higher spending by the government and higher taxes on the people. It was not the first time he had done this. In a witty parody of Molière's parody in the economic sophism ES2.9, "Theft by Subsidy" (January, 1846) 1044 Bastiat wrote his own fake Latin oath of induction for aspiring tax collectors who like to "Volandi, Pillandi, Derobandi, Filoutandi" (to steal, plunder, filch, and swindle) travellers as they cross the country.

Dono tibi et concedo

Virtutem et puissantiam





Et escroquandi

Impune per totam istam


I give to you and I grant

virtue and power

to steal

to plunder

to filch

to swindle

to defraud

at will, along this whole


Interestingly, Edmund Burke also turns to this passage from Molière in order to criticise the French Revolutionaries' habit of trying to solve all their political problems by issuing more assignats (paper money) which finally resulted in hyper-inflation and the collapse of the French currency. See the following witty passage from Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790):

Their fanatical confidence in the omnipotence of church plunder, has induced these philosophers to overlook all care of the public estate, just as the dream of the philosopher's stone induces dupes, under the more plausible delusion of the hermetic art, to neglect all rational means of improving their fortunes. With these philosophic financiers, this universal medicine made of church mummy is to cure all the evils of the state. These gentlemen perhaps do not believe a great deal in the miracles of piety; but it cannot be questioned that they have an undoubting faith in the prodigies of sacrilege. Is there a debt which pressed them? Issue assignats. Are compensations to be made, or a maintenance decreed to those whom they have robbed of their freehold in their office, or expelled from their profession? Assignats. Is a fleet to be fitted out? Assignats. If sixteen millions sterling of these assignats, forced on the people, leave the wants of the state as urgent as ever—issue, says one, thirty millions sterling of assignats—says another, issue fourscore millions more of assignats. The only difference among their financial factions is on the greater or the lesser quantity of assignats to be imposed on the publick sufferance. They are all professors of assignats. Even those, whose natural good sense and knowledge of commerce, not obliterated by philosophy, furnish decisive arguments against this delusion, conclude their arguments, by proposing the emission of assignats. I suppose they must talk of assignats, as no other language would be understood. All experience of their inefficacy does not in the least discourage them. Are the old assignats depreciated at market? What is the remedy? Issue new assignats. Mais si maladia, opiniatria, non vult se garire, quid illi facere? Assignare; postea assignare; ensuita assignare. The word is a trifle altered. The Latin of your present doctors may be better than that of your old comedy; their wisdom, and the variety of their resources, are the same. They have not more notes in their song than the cuckow; though, far from the softness of that harbinger of summer and plenty, their voice is as harsh and as ominous as that of the raven. 1045


Let us get it right, what is the State? Is it not the collection of all civil servants? Therefore, there are two species of men in the world: the civil servants of all sorts who make up the State and the workers of all sorts who make up society. That said, is it the civil servants who enable workers to live or the workers who enable civil servants to live? In other words, does the State enable society to live, or does society enable the State to live?

I am not a scholar but a poor devil called Jacques Bonhomme, 1046 who is and never has been anything other than a worker.

Well, as a worker who pays tax on my bread, wine, meat, salt, my windows and door, on the iron and steel in my tools, on my tobacco, etc., 1047 I attach great importance to this question and repeat:

Do civil servants enable workers to live or do workers enable civil servants to live?

You will ask why I attach importance to this question, and this is why:

For some time, I have noticed a great tendency for everyone to ask the State for the means of existence.

Farmers ask: Give us subsidies, training, better ploughs, and finer breeds of cattle, etc.

Manufacturers say: Enable us to make a bit more on our woolen cloth, our canvas, and our iron goods.

Workers say: Give us work, pay, and tools to work with.

I find these requests perfectly natural and would like the State to be able to give whatever was asked of it.

But in order to give all this, from where does it take it? Alas, it takes a bit more tax on my bread, a bit more on my wine, a bit more on my meat, a bit more on my salt, a bit more on my tobacco, etc. etc.

To ensure that it has something to give me, it must take something away from me, and cannot avoid doing this. Wouldn't it be better for it to give me less and take less from me?

For in the end, it never gives back to me all that it takes. Even to take and give, it needs officials who keep part of what is taken.

Am I not a real dupe to make the following bargain with the State? I need work. In order to arrange some for me, you put a tax of five francs on my bread, five francs on my wine, five francs on my salt, and five francs on my tobacco. That makes twenty francs. You will keep six for your own expenses and will arrange for me to have work for fourteen. Obviously I will be somewhat poorer than before and will call upon you to put this right, and this is what you will do. You will start again. You will take another five francs on my bread, another five francs on my wine, another five francs on my salt, and another five francs on my tobacco, which will make another twenty francs. To which you will add another six francs for your pocket and will enable me to earn another fourteen francs. When this is done, I will have fallen one degree further into poverty. I will turn to you once again, etc.

Si maladia


Non vult se guarire,

Quid illi facere?

Purgare, saignare, clysterisare,

Repurgare, resaignarer, reclysterare.

But of the illness,

in your opinion,

is not cured?

What would you do?

Purge him, then bleed him, give him an injection,

Then purge him again, bleed him again, and inject him again.

Jacques Bonhomme! Jacques Bonhomme! I find it hard to believe that you have been crazy enough to submit to this regime just because some scribblers baptised it with the name of Organization and Fraternity . 1048


1039 "The State" (draft), Jacques Bonhomme , no. 1, 11-15 June 1848, CW2, pp. 105-6. This was expanded and later published in the more upmarket journal the Journal des Débats, (25 Sept. 1848), CW2, pp. 93-104.

1040 See Bastiat's "Letter to Garnier on the right to a job," (October, 1848), below, pp. 000.

1041 See "Bastiat's Rhetoric of Liberty: Satire and the 'Sting of Ridicule'"" in the Editor's Introduction to CW3, pp. lviii-lxiv.

1042 Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (or Molière) (1622- 1673) was a playwright in the late 17th century during the classical period of French drama. Bastiat quotes Molière many times in the Sophisms as he finds his comedy of manners very useful in pointing out political and economic confusions. See especially, The Misanthrope (1666); L'Avare (The Miser) (1668); Le Bourgeois gentilhomme (The Would-Be Gentleman) (1670); Le malade imaginaire (The Hypocondriac) (1673).

1043 See, Théatre complet de J.-B. Poquelin de Molière, publié par D. Jouast en huit volumes avec la preface de 1682, annotée par G. Monval, vol. 8 (Paris: Librairie des bibliophiles, 1883), Third Interlude, p. 286.

1044 ES2 9 "Theft by Subsidy" ( JDE , Jan. 1846), CW3, p. 176.

1045 See, Edmund Burke, Select Works of Edmund Burke. A New Imprint of the Payne Edition. Foreword and Biographical Note by Francis Canavan (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999). Vol. 2. Reflections on the Revolution in France .

1046 See the glossary entries on "Jacques Bonhomme (person)" and " Jacques Bonhomme (journal)."

1047 In 1848 the French state raised about 1.4 billion fr. in income of which 930 million came from direct taxes such as land and window and door taxes (420.1 m.), customs duties on imported goods (iron and steel) and the state salt monopoly (202 m.), and indirect taxes on alcohol, sugar, and tobacco (308 m.). See App. on French Finances ???

1048 The words "Organisation" and "Association" (usually capitalised by Bastiat) were slogans used by the socialist movement, inspired by the work of Louis Blanc and Victor Considerant. They had the special meaning of cooperative, state funded or state organised institutions set up for the benefit of workers. See the glossary entry on "Organisation."

T.218 "A Dreadful Escalation" (20 June 1848, JB)


T.218 (1848.06.20) "A Dreadful Escalation" (Funeste gradation), Jacques Bonhomme , no. 3, 20-23 June 1848, p. 1. [OC7.62, pp. 244-46.] [CW4]

Editor's Introduction

This is the third of three articles which were written for Bastiat's revolutionary magazine Jacques Bonhomme in June 1848 which we are including in this volume. For more information about the magazine, see the introduction to "A Hoax" (above).

Here Bastiat discusses an issue which had concerned him all year, especially as Vice-President of the Chamber's Finance Committee to which he had been elected following his election to the Chamber in April 1848, namely, the worsening budget deficit which had been brought about by a decline in tax revenues and by the increased demands being placed upon the provisional government by new political groups, especially the socialists and their supporters. An economic recession immediately followed the outbreak of the Revolution which lead to a dramatic decrease in business activity and higher unemployment. In this article, Bastiat provides some economic data on this crisis which can be summarised as follows:

  1. budgeted expenditure 1.7 billion fr.
  2. expected revenue 1.5 billion fr.
  3. deficit 200 million fr.
  4. immediate debt payments of 550 million for Treasury Bonds and Savings Bank bonds

It is not clear where Bastiat gets these figures but he should know as he was appointed Vice-President of the Finance Committee of the Constituent Assembly and he is normally reliable in his use of economic data. The data we have for 1848 and 1849 show that expenditure for 1848 was estimated at 1.446 billion fr. and for 1849 at 1.572 billion fr. Taking the latter year as being closer to Bastiat's figures, income for 1849 was estimated to be 1.412 billion fr. which would leave a deficit of 160.8 million fr. Total debt held by the French government in 1848 amounted to fr. 5.2 billion. Payments to service this debt amounted to 455 million fr. in 1849 which was about 32% of total income for that year. 1049

To compound the problem, the Provisional Government under Alphonse Lamartine encouraged socialists like Louis Blanc to begin putting into practice their scheme to create experimental "social workshops," now called "national workshops," which were modeled on their ideas of labour organisation, cooperative work practises, and profit sharing. They set up the National Workshops on February 27 which they ran out of the Luxembourg Palace and which were designed to provide tax-payer funded unemployment relief for the newly unemployed workers. 1050 Workers got 2 francs a day, which was soon reduced to 1 franc because of the tremendous increase in their numbers (29,000 on March 5; 118,000 on June 15). Workshops were set up in a number of regional centres but the main Workshop was in Paris. The National Workshops were run like a separate parallel government under the control of Louis Blanc and Émile Thomas over which the fledgling Constituent Assembly had little control.

In addition, Louis-Antoine Pagès (Garnier-Pagès) (1803-1878), 1051 the Mayor of Paris and then Minister of Finance in the Provisional Government, outlined the list of options his government was considering in late February and March when the full extent of the financial crisis of the French government was becoming clear: to impose forced (i.e. compulsory) loans on the citizens, issue paper currency backed by state owned property, to create a new central state bank, to sell state assets like forests, to impose a progressive tax on property or income, to increase direct taxes, to impose a tax on capital, or to declare bankruptcy. He chose to impose a new, "temporary" 45% increase on certain direct taxes and to force the privately owned Bank of France to limit withdrawals of large amounts (over 100 fr.) and to increase the number of smaller notes in circulation. The government passed the new tax law on March 16, 1848 which increased direct taxes on things such as land, moveable goods, doors and windows, and trading licenses, by 45%. It was known as the "taxe de quarante-cinq centimes" (the 45 centimes tax) and was deeply unpopular, prompting revolts and protests in the south west of France. After the crisis had passed Garnier-Pagès wrote a book justifying his actions in an attempt to save his reputation among ordinary tax payers who called him "l'Homme aux 45 centimes" (Mr. 45 Centimes, or The 45 Centimes Taxman). 1052

Much further to the left than Garnier-Pagès was the socialist Louis Blanc who headed the National Workshops program. He outlined his hopes for a real socialist revolution in April 1848 which would see the state replace the Bank of France with a national bank, the nationalisation of the railways, the amalgamation of insurance companies, the creation of a separate government budget for workers affairs, and the creation of a Minister for Economic Progress. 1053

By May, the Constituent Assembly, partly as a result of the critical reports made to it by Bastiat as VP of the Finance Committee, decided to pull the plug on the National Workshops and they were to cease functioning in June. The socialists were able to mobilise considerable popular support to protest this decision and angry crowds took to the streets on June 23-26, the so-called "June Days," which were the bloodiest days of the Revolution. Troops under General Cavaignac, assisted by members of the National Guard, were ordered to clear the streets of protesters, resulting in the death and arrests of thousands. About 1,500 people died and 15,000 were arrested (over 4,000 of whom were sentenced to transportation). The Assembly immediately declared a state of siege (martial law) in Paris and gave Cavaignac full executive power which lasted until October.

In the same issue in which this article appeared (20-23 June) Bastiat also published a potentially provocative article calling on "Citizens Lamartine and Ledru-Rollin" to close the National Workshops immediately. 1054 Bastiat and his economist friends who worked on the magazine got caught up in the street violence which followed and had to close the magazine after only 4 issues.

Bastiat's strategy in this short essay is to personalise the problem of the French State for the workers in the streets of Paris by telling them a story about Jacques Bonhomme's advice to a profligate friend who was living beyond his means. 1055 His advice was for his friend to "sack any unnecessary staff, move to a modest house, and sell your carriages, and you will gradually restore the state of your affairs." Exactly the same as Bastiat had been advising the government to do without a great deal of success.


The ordinary expenditure of the State has been set at one billion seven hundred million for the 1848 budget.

Even with a tax at 45 centimes, you cannot extort more than one billion five hundred million from the people.

There remains a net deficit of two hundred million .

In addition to this, the State owes two hundred and fifty million in Treasury bonds and three hundred million to the Savings Banks, and these sums are due right now.

What can we do? Taxation has reached its ultimate limit. What can we do? The State has an idea: to seize lucrative industries and operate them for its own benefit. It will start with the railways and the insurance industry, followed by the mines, the transport industry, paper mills, the parcel post, etc. etc.

Taxing, borrowing and usurping, what a dreadful escalation!

I very much fear that the State is following a path that ruined Old Man Mathurin. I went to see Old Man Mathurin one day and asked him "Well, then, how is business?"

"Dreadful", he answered, "I have difficulty in making ends meet. My expenditure outstrips my income."

"You have to try to earn a bit more."

That's impossible."

"In that case, you have to make your mind up to spend a little less."

"Nonsense, Jacques Bonhomme! You are fond of giving advice and as far as I am concerned, I hate receiving it."

A little later, I met Old Man Mathurin as shiny as a new penny in yellow gloves and patent leather boots. He came up to me with no hard feelings. "Things are going wonderfully well!" he cried, "I have found lenders who are very eager to oblige. Thanks to them, my budget is balanced each year with marvelous ease."

"And, apart from these loans, have you increased your income?"

"Not by a single obole (penny)." 1056

"Have you reduced your expenditure?"

"God forbid! Quite the contrary. Take a look at this suit, this waistcoat, and this top hat! Ah, if you could see my town house, my servants, and my horses!"

"That is wonderful, but let us work it out. If last year you couldn't make ends meet, how are you making them meet now that, without increasing your income, you are increasing your expenditure and have arrears on the loans to pay?"

"Jacques Bonhomme, it is not nice talking to you. I have never met anyone so gloomy."

Nevertheless, the inevitable happened. Mathurin displeased his creditors, who all disappeared. What a cruel situation!

He came to see me. "Jacques, my good friend," he said, "I am in dire straights; what can I do?"

"Rid yourself of all that is superfluous and work hard, live frugally, and at least pay the interest on your debts, and thus arouse the interest of some charitable Jew 1057 in your fate so that he lends you enough to last a year or two. In the meantime, sack any unnecessary staff, move to a modest house, and sell your carriages, and you will gradually restore the state of your affairs."

"Master Jacques, you never change. You cannot give a piece of advice that is agreeable and in line with people's inclinations. Farewell. I will take only my own counsel. I have exhausted my resources. I have exhausted my loans; now I will start to …"

"Don't say it, let me guess."


1049 See Charles Coquelin, "Budget," DEP (1852), vol. 1, pp. 224-35; Alphonse Courtois, "Le budget de 1849" in Annuaire de l'économie politique et de la statistique pour 1850 par MM. Joseph Garnier. 7e année (Paris: Guillaumin, 1850), pp. 18-28; and Alphonse Courtois, "Le budget de 1848" in the Annuaire de l'économie politique et de la statistique pour 1848. 5e Année (Guillaumin, 1848), pp. 29-51.

1050 See the glossary entries on "Louis Blanc", "The Luxembourg Palace", and "The National Workshops."

1051 Louis-Antoine Pagès (Garnier-Pagès) (1803-1878) was a stock broker, republican politician, Mayor of Paris (February-March, 1848), and then Minister of Finance in the Provisional Government (March-May, 1848). As Minister of Finance he introduced the unpopular "45 centime" tax in order to balance the budget which was collapsing in the aftermath of the Revolution.

1052 See, Louis-Antoine Garnier-Pagès, Un épisode de la Révolution de 1848. L'impot de 45 centimes (Paris: Pagnerre, 1850), pp. 116-18 and 119 ff. and Garnier-Pagès, Histoire de la Révolution de 1848. Deuxième édition. (Paris: Pagnerre, 1861-1872).10 vols. Vol. IV. Gouvernement provisoire I. (1866), chap. I on the government's financial problems.

1053 See Louis Blanc's speech from 26 April in La Révolution de février au Luxembourg (Paris: Michel Lévy, 1849), Exposé général (26 avril 1848), Deuxième partie, pp. 91-92; and his summary in Pages d'histoire de la révolution de février 1848 (Paris: Bureau du Nouveau Monde, 1850), p. 82.

1054 "To Citizens Lamartine and Ledru-Rollin", Jacques Bonhomme , no. 3, 20-23 June 1848, CW1, pp. 444-45.

1055 See the glossary entry on "Jacques Bonhomme (person)."

1056 An "obole" was a coin of very low value. Traditionally, the relative value of coinage before the introduction of the France was 240 denier = 20 sol = 1 livre. An obole was a small fraction of a denier (sometimes 1/2).

1057 Bastiat uses the expression "quelque juif charitable" (some charitable Jew). This is one of the very few instances in Bastiat's writings of the casual anti-semitism which was quite common in 19th century France.

T.219 (1848.06.20) "To Citizens Lamartine and Ledru-Rollin" (JB, June 1848) (missing)


OC, vol. 7, p. 246. Jacques Bonhomme, no.3, 20-23 June 1848.

Editor’s Introduction

(to come)


Dissolve the national workshops. Dissolve them with all the care that humanity requires, but dissolve them.

If you want a reborn confidence, dissolve the national workshops.


If you want production to revive, dissolve the national workshops.

If you want shops to empty and fill, dissolve the national workshops.

If you want factories to reopen, dissolve the national workshops

If you want the countryside to become peaceful, dissolve the national workshops.

If you want the National Guard to have some rest, dissolve the national workshops.

If you want the people to bless you, including one hundred thousand workers out of the one hundred and three thousand in these workshops, dissolve the national workshops.

If you have not concluded that the stagnation of business followed by the stagnation of employment, followed by poverty, followed by starvation, followed by civil war, followed by desolation will become the Republic’s funeral procession, dissolve the national workshops.

If you have not decided to ruin the finances, crush the provinces, and exasperate the peasants, dissolve the national workshops.

If you do not want the entire nation to suspect you of deliberately having the specter of riots hanging over the National Assembly, dissolve the national workshops.

If you do not want to starve the people after having demoralized them, dissolve the national workshops.

If you do not want to be accused of having imagined a means of oppression, fright, terror, and ruin which exceeds anything the greatest tyrants have ever invented, dissolve the national workshops.

If you do not have the ulterior motive of destroying the Republic by making it hated, dissolve the national workshops.

If you do not want to be cursed in the present and if you do not want your memory to be reviled from generation to generation, dissolve the national workshops.

If you do not dissolve the national workshops, you will draw down onto the country every plague simultaneously.

If you do not dissolve the national workshops, what will happen to the workers when you have no more bread to give them and private production is dead?

If you retain the national workshops with sinister intent, posterity will say of you, “It was doubtless by cowardice that they proclaimed the Republic, since they killed it by treason.”




T.220 (1848.07.24) "Property and Plunder" (JDD, July 1848)


T.220 (1848.07.24) "Property and Plunder" (Propriété et spoliation) (5 letters to the editor and a reply to Considerant, 24-28 July, 1848.) Journal des Débats, 24 July 1848, p. 1; also published as a pamphlet, Propriété et spoliation (Property and Plunder), ed. Prosper Paillottett (Paris: Guillaumin, 1850). [OC4, pp. 394-441.] [CW2.10, pp. 147-84.]

Editor's Note

[to come]1


First Letter

July 1848

The National Assembly has been set an immense question, the answer to which is of the greatest interest to the prosperity and peace of France.2 A new right is knocking on the door of the Constitution: the right to work. Not only is it demanding a place for itself, but also it claims to take, in all or in part, the place of the right to property.

M. Louis Blanc has already provisionally proclaimed this new right with the success we have seen.3

M. Proudhon claims the right to work in order to put paid to property.

M. Considérant claims it in order to strengthen it by making it legitimate.

Thus, according to these political writers, property carries within it something that is unjust and wrong, a germ of death. I pretend to demonstrate that it is truth and justice itself and that what it carries within itself is the very basis of progress and life.


They appear to believe that, in the combat about to take place, the poor have an interest in the triumph of the right to work and the rich in the defense of the right to property. I believe I can prove that property rights are essentially democratic and that everything that denies or violates them is fundamentally aristocratic and anarchical.

I hesitated to ask for space in a journal for a dissertation on social economy. The following may perhaps justify this attempt:

First of all, there is the seriousness and topicality of the subject.

Second, MM Louis Blanc, Considérant, and Proudhon are not merely political writers. They are also the heads of schools with a number of enthusiastic disciples, as is shown by their presence in the National Assembly. Their doctrines today exercise considerable influence, which I think disastrous, on the world of business; and, what is no less serious, they may be strengthened by concessions at odds with the orthodoxy of the masters of political economy.

Last, and why should I not admit it, something in the depths of my conscience tells me that at the heart of this burning controversy it might be given to me to cast an unexpected ray of light to illuminate the terrain on which the schools most in opposition may sometimes be reconciled.

This is enough, I hope, for these letters to be accepted by their readers.

First of all, I have to set out the criticism made of property.

In short, this is how M. Considérant explains it. I do not think I am distorting his theory by summarizing it.4

All men legitimately possess the thing that their activity has created.

They may consume it, give it, exchange it, and transmit it without any person, even the whole of society, having any concern with it.

Landowners therefore legitimately possess not only the products they have created on the land but also the added value they have given to the land itself through farming.

However, there is one thing that they have not created, which is the fruit of no work, and that is the ground in its natural state, the original capital and the productive power of the agents of nature. However, landowners have taken over this capital. In this lie usurpation, confiscation, injustice, and constant illegitimacy.


The human race has been put on this globe in order to live and develop itself. The species is therefore the usufructuary of the surface of the globe. However, this surface has now been confiscated by the minority at the expense of the majority.

It is true that this confiscation was inevitable, for how can it be cultivated if each person can exercise, as he sees fit and in total freedom, his natural rights, that is to say, the rights of savagery?

We should therefore not destroy property but legitimize it. How? We should do it by recognizing the right to work.

In fact, savages exercise their four rights (to hunt, fish, grow crops, and graze animals) only provided they work. It is therefore under the same proviso that society owes the proletariat the equivalent of the usufruct of which it has robbed them.

To sum up, society owes all the members of humanity, on condition that they work, a wage that puts them in a situation that can be reckoned equally favorable to that of savages.

Property will then be legitimate from all points of view, and the poor and the rich will be reconciled.

This is M. Considérant’s entire theory.5 He asserts that this question of property is very simple, since it can be solved with just a little common sense, but nevertheless no one before him had understood it at all.

This is not much of a compliment to the human race, but in compensation I can only admire the extreme modesty expressed in the author’s conclusions.

What in effect is he asking of society?


That it acknowledge the right to work as equivalent for humanity’s well-being to a usufruct of the land in its natural state.

And what value does he place on this equivalent?

He reckons it equivalent to the level at which the land in its natural state can keep savages alive.

Since there is approximately one inhabitant per square league, the owners of land in France can certainly legitimize their usurpation at very little cost. All they have to do is to undertake that thirty to forty thousand nonowners will continue to live side by side with them at the full level of the Eskimos.

But what am I saying? Why are we talking about France? In this system there is no longer any France and no longer any national property, since the life tenancy of the land belongs as of right to the whole human race.

Besides, I have no intention of examining M. Considérant’s theory in detail, since that would take me too far. I wish only to attack what is weighty and consequential at the core of this theory, that is to say, the question of rent.

M. Considérant’s system can be summarized thus:

An agricultural product exists through the combination of two actions:

The action by a man, or work, which creates the right to property,

And the action of nature, which ought to be free and which landowners can arrange to be turned unjustly to their advantage.

This is what constitutes the usurpation of the rights of humanity.

If, therefore, I were to prove that men, in the course of their transactions, are mutually paid only for their work and that they do not contrive to have the action of nature included in the price of the items being exchanged, M. Considérant should consider himself to be totally satisfied.

M. Proudhon’s complaints against property are absolutely identical.6 “Property,” he says, “will cease to be abusive through the mutual sharing of services.” Therefore, if I demonstrate that men exchange only services with each other, never charging each other a sou for the use of the forces of nature that God has given to everyone free of charge, M. Proudhon, for his part, should agree that his utopia has been achieved.

These two political writers are not entitled to claim the right to work. It does not matter that they consider this famous right in such a diametrically [151] opposed light that, in M. Considérant’s view, it ought to legitimize property while according to M. Proudhon it ought to put paid to it. It is still true that there will no longer be any question of this right, provided that it is clearly proved that, under the regime of property, men will exchange hardship for hardship, effort for effort, work for work, and service for service, with the contribution made by nature always provided in addition to the bargain struck, so that the forces of nature, intended to be free of charge, continue to be free of charge through all human transactions.

We can see that what is being contested is the legitimacy of rent, since it is supposed that this is, in whole or in part, an unjust payment that the consumer makes to the landowner, not for a personal service but for the advantages supplied by nature free of charge.

I have said that modern reformers can base themselves on the opinion of the leading economists.7

In fact, Adam Smith says that rent is oft en a reasonable interest payment for the capital spent on improving the land, and also that this interest is oft en just a part of the rent.

To which McCulloch makes this positive declaration:

That which is properly called rent is the sum paid for the use of the forces of nature and the inherent power of the land. It is totally distinct from the sum paid for the buildings, fences, roads, and other improvements made to the land. Rent is therefore always a monopoly.

Buchanan goes so far as to say that “rent is a part of the revenue from consumers that goes into the pockets of landowners.”

Ricardo says:

A part of the rent is paid for the use of the capital that has been used to improve the quality of the land, constructing buildings, etc.; the rest is paid for the use of the latent and indestructible powers of the land.

Scrope says:

The value of the land and the ability to draw a rent from it are the result of two circumstances: 1. the appropriation of its natural powers, and 2. the work devoted to improving it.


With regard to the first circumstance, rent is a monopoly. It is a restriction to the usufructor of the gift s that the Creator has made to men to satisfy their needs. This restriction is just only to the extent that it is necessary for the common good.

Senior says:

The instruments of production are labor and the agents of nature. Once the agents of nature are appropriated, landowners have themselves paid for their use in the form of rent, which is compensation for no sacrifice whatever and is received by those who have neither worked nor made any advance payments, but who limit themselves to holding out their hands to receive the offerings of the community.

After having said that part of rent is the interest on capital, Senior adds:

The rest is taken by the owner of the agents of nature and consists of his reward, not for having worked or saved but simply for not having kept to himself what he could have kept to himself and for having allowed the gift s of nature to be used by others.

Certainly, when entering into an argument with men who proclaim a doctrine that is specious in itself, which is likely to give rise to hopes and favorable reactions from the suffering classes and which is based on authorities like these, it is not enough to close your eyes to the seriousness of the situation. It is not enough to cry disdainfully that you are facing dreamers, utopians, people that are crazy, or even members of factions. You have to study the question and settle it once and for all. It is worth a moment of dull work.

I believe that it will be settled satisfactorily for all if I prove that property not only leaves those that are labeled the proletariat the free usufruct of the agents of nature but even increases it by ten or a hundredfold. I dare to hope that the result of this demonstration will be a clear view of a few harmonies likely to satisfy intelligent minds and calm the pretensions of all the schools of economists, socialists, or even communists.8

M. Considérant
Considérant, M.
Frédéric Bastiat
Bastiat, Frédéric
Victor Considérant
Considérant, Victor

Second Letter

What inflexible power logic has!

Rough conquerors share an island. They live from rent in leisure and luxury among hard-working and poor vanquished people. According to political economy, there is, therefore, a source of value other than work.

This being so, political economy sets about breaking down rent and floats this theory on the world:

“Rent is partly interest on capital spent. Another part stems from the monopoly of the agents of nature that have been usurped and confiscated.”

This strain of political economy from the English school very rapidly crossed the Channel. Socialist logic caught hold of it and told the workers, “Watch out! There are three elements in the price of the bread you eat. There is the labor of the workers, you owe them for this; there is the work of the landowners, you owe them for this; and there is the work of nature, for which you do not owe anything. What is being taken from you under this heading is a monopoly, as Scrope says; it is a tax imposed on the gift s that God has given you, as Senior says.”

Political economy sees the danger of this distinction. In spite of this, political economy does not withdraw it but explains it: “True, in the social mechanism the role of the landowner is useful and necessary. People work for him and he pays them with the heat of the sun and the coolness of the dew. This has to be the way; otherwise there would be no crops grown.”

“Never mind that,” logic replies; “I have a thousand types of organization in reserve with which to eliminate injustice, which incidentally is never necessary.”

Therefore, because of a false principle gathered from the English school, logic has breached landownership. Will it stop there? Do not be too ready to believe this. It would not be logic if this were so.

As logic said to farmers, “The law governing plant life cannot be property and generate profit”; it will say to manufacturers of woolen cloth, “The law of gravity cannot be property and generate profit.”

To manufacturers of cotton sheeting, “The law of the elasticity of steam cannot be a property and generate profit.”

To ironmasters, “The law of combustion cannot be property and generate profit.”


To seamen, “The laws of hydrostatics cannot be property and generate profit.”

To roofers, carpenters, and lumberjacks, “You use saws, axes, and hammers; you also contribute to your work the hardness of bodies and the resistance of environments. These laws belong to everyone and should not generate profit.”

Yes, logic will go this far at the risk of overturning the entire system of society. Once it has denied landownership, it will deny the productivity of capital, continuing to use as its basis the fact that landowners and capitalists are charging payment for the use of the force of nature. For this reason it is important to prove that logic is starting from a false premise, that it is not true that in any art, trade, or industry the forces of nature are being charged for and that in this respect agriculture is not receiving special treatment.

There are things that are useful without any work intervening, such as the earth, the air, water, the light and heat of the sun, and the materials and forces that nature provides.

There are others, which become useful only because work has been carried out on these materials and has taken over these forces.

Utility is therefore sometimes due to nature alone, sometimes due to work alone, but nearly always due to the combined activity of work and nature.

Let others lose their way in definitions. For my part, I understand utility to be what everyone understands by this word whose etymology shows its meaning exactly, namely, that everything that serves a purpose, whether by its nature, by work, or by both, being useful, constitutes utility.

I call value the only part of utility that is communicated or added by work, so that two things are of equal value when those who have worked on them exchange them freely with each other. The following are my reasons for this:

What makes a man refuse an exchange? It is his knowledge that the item being offered to him would require less work from him than the item demanded from him. It is absurd to say to him, “I have worked less than you, but gravity helped me and I have included it in the calculation.” He will reply, “I can also use gravity with work that is equal to yours.”

When two men are isolated, if they work, it is to provide a service to themselves. Where an exchange is involved, each person is providing a service to the other and receives an equivalent service in return. If one of them is helped by some force of nature that is at the disposal of the other, this force will not be included in the bargain as the right to refuse will oppose this.


Robinson hunts and Friday fishes. It is clear that the quantity of fish exchanged for game will be determined by the work involved. If Robinson said to Friday, “Nature goes to a lot more trouble in making a bird than a fish, so give me more of your work than I will give you of mine since I am trading you in return a greater effort by nature. . . .” Friday would not fail to reply, “It is no more up to you than me to judge the efforts of nature. What should be compared is your work to mine, and if you wish to establish our relationship on the footing that I will work more than you on a regular basis, I will start to hunt and you can fish if you want to.”

You can see that the generosity of nature in this hypothesis cannot become a monopoly unless violence is involved. You can also see that, while it is a significant factor in utility, it is not a factor in value.

I have pointed out in the past that metaphors are an enemy of political economy. Here I accuse metonymy of the same misdeed.9

Are people using language accurately when they say, “Water is worth two sous”?

It is said that a famous astronomer could not bring himself to say, “Ah, what a fine sunset!” Even in the presence of ladies he cried, in a strange form of enthusiasm, “Ah, what a fine sight is the rotation of the earth when the sun’s rays strike it tangentially!”

This astronomer was accurate and ridiculous. An economist would be no less ridiculous if he said, “The work needed to go to fetch water from the spring is worth two sous.”

The strange character of the paraphrase does not prevent its accuracy.

In effect, water is not worth anything. It has no value although it is useful. If we all had a constant spring near our doorstep, obviously water would have no value because it would not give rise to any exchange. But if it is a quarter of a league away and you have to go to fetch it, this is work and here you have the origin of value. If it is half a league away, it is double the work and therefore double the value, although its utility remains the same. In my view, water is a free gift of nature on condition that you go to fetch it. If I do it for myself, I am doing myself a service involving some work. If I entrust this to another, I am giving him the bother and I owe him a payment for service rendered. There are thus two occasions of work and two services that have to be compared and discussed. The gift of nature continues to be free. [156] In fact, I consider that the value lies in the work and not in the water and that metonymy is being used as much when people say, “Water is worth two sous” as when they say, “I have drunk a bottle.”

Air is a free gift of nature and has no value. Economists say, “It has no exchange value, but it has a use value.” What language! Well, sirs, have you made it your work to turn people off science? Why not simply say, “It has no value, but it is useful.” It is useful because it serves a purpose. It has no value because nature has done everything and work nothing. If work has not entered into it, no one has any service to return, receive, or pay for. There is no effort involved nor any exchange to be made. There is nothing to compare; therefore there is no value.

But if you enter a diving bell and entrust a man with transmitting air to you by using a pump for two hours, he will be exerting himself by providing you with a service and you will have to pay for this. Will you be paying for the air? No, you will be paying for the work. Therefore, has the air acquired value? You can say so to abbreviate, if you like, but do not forget that it is metonymy. The air remains free and no human intelligence is capable of attributing value to it. If it has a value, it is that measured by the effort taken compared with the effort required to make the exchange.

A launderer is obliged to dry washing in a large building using the action of fire. Another is content to hang it out in the sun. This launderer takes less trouble; he is not nor can he be as demanding. He therefore does not make me pay for the heat of the sun’s rays and I, as the consumer, benefit from this.

Therefore the major economic law is this:

Services are traded for other services.

Do ut des; do ut facias; facio ut des; facio ut facias (do this for me and I will do that for you). This is very trivial and common but is nonetheless the beginning, the middle, and the end of political economy.10


From these three examples we can draw the following general conclusion: the consumer pays for all the services received by him, all the trouble he is saved, and all the work he generates, but he enjoys free of charge the free gift s from nature and its powers that the producer has put to use.

Here are three men who have placed air, water, and heat at my disposal with only their work being paid for.

What then has been able to make people think that farmers who also make use of the air, water, and heat are making me pay the so-called intrinsic value of these agents of nature? That they are charging me alike for utility created and utility not created? That, for example, the price of wheat sold at 18 francs is broken down as follows:

12 fr. for the actual work } legitimate property
3 fr. for the preceding work }
3 fr. for the air, rain, sun, and plant life, which are illegitimate property?

Why do all the economists in the English school believe that this last element has crept surreptitiously into the value of wheat?

M. Considérant
Considérant, M.
Frédéric Bastiat
Bastiat, Frédéric
Victor Considérant
Considérant, Victor

Third Letter

Services are traded for other services. I am obliged to make a heroic effort to resist the temptation of showing how simple, true, and fertile this axiom is.

Faced with it, what are all these subtle notions, use-value and exchange-value, material and immaterial products, or the productive and unproductive classes? Industrialists, lawyers, doctors, civil servants, bankers, merchants, seamen, soldiers, artists, workers, whichever of these we are, with the exception of rapacious men, we provide and receive services. However, as these mutual services are commensurate only with each other, it is in them alone that value resides and not in the free material and the free agents of nature they set in motion. Let nobody say, therefore, as is currently fashionable, that merchants are parasitical intermediaries. Does he or does he not have to make an effort? Does he or does he not save us work? Does he or does he not provide us with services? If he provides services, he creates value just as much as the manufacturer does.11


Just as the manufacturer by means of his steam engine uses the weight of the atmosphere and the expansion of gas to turn his thousand spindles, the merchant uses the direction of the wind and the fluidity of water to transport his products. But neither of these makes us pay for the forces of nature since the more they are assisted the more they are obliged to lower their prices. These things therefore remain what God wanted them to be, a free gift for the whole of humanity, except for the work put in.

Is this not equally true for farming? This is what I have to examine.

Let us suppose that there is a huge island inhabited by a few savages. One of these has the bright idea of concentrating on growing crops. He prepares for this at length as he knows that the enterprise will take up a great many days of work before it shows the slightest yield. He gathers provisions and manufactures crude instruments. At last he is ready and fences and clears a tract of land.

Two questions arise:

Does this savage contravene community rights?

Does he contravene his own interests?

Since there is a hundred thousand times more land than the community is capable of cultivating, he no more contravenes its interests than I contravene those of my fellow countrymen when I take a glass of water from the Seine to drink or a cubic foot of air from the atmosphere to breathe.

He does not contravene his own interests either. On the contrary, since he no longer hunts or hunts less, his companions have proportionally more space. What is more, if he produces more crops than he can consume, he will have a surplus to trade.

In trading, will he be exercising the slightest pressure on his fellow men? No, because they will be free to accept or refuse.

Will he be charging for the contribution of the earth, sun, and rain? No, because everyone, like him, has recourse to these agents of production.

Should he wish to sell his tract of land, what could he obtain for it? The equivalent of his work, that is all. If he said, “First of all, give me as much of your time as I have devoted to the operation and then another amount of your time for the value of the land in its natural state,” people would answer, “There is land in its natural state next to yours; I can only repay you for your [159] time, since, for an equal amount of time, nothing stops me from putting myself in a position similar to yours.” This is exactly the reply we would give to the water carrier who asks us for two sous for the value of his service and two for the value of the water, from which we can see that the earth and water have this in common: both are very useful but neither has any value.

If our savage wished to rent out his land, he would never obtain anything other than payment for his work in another form. The more exaggerated of his demands would always meet this inexorable reply, “There is more land on the island,” a reply more decisive than that of the miller of Sans-Souci,12 “There are judges in Berlin.”13

Thus, at least at the beginning, the landowner who either sells the products of his land or his land itself or leases it is doing nothing more than provide and receive services on an equal footing. It is the services that are compared, and consequently have value, the value being attributed to the land only by abbreviation or metonymy.

Let us see what happens as the island becomes increasingly populated and farmed.

It is quite clear that the ease of procuring raw materials, subsistence, and work is increasing for everyone, without privileged advantage for anyone, as we can see in the United States. There, it is absolutely impossible for landowners to put themselves in a position that is more favorable than that of other workers since, because of the abundance of land, each person has the choice of taking up agriculture if it becomes more lucrative than other jobs. [160] This freedom is enough to maintain the balance between services. It is also enough to ensure that the agents of nature, used in a great many industries as well as in agriculture, do not benefit producers as such but the general public who are the consumers.

Two brothers take leave of each other; one is going whaling, the other to clear land in the far west. They then trade oil for wheat. Does one take the value of the land more into account than the value of the whale? Comparison can be made only between services received and given. These services therefore are the only ones to have value.

This is so true that, when nature has been very generous with regard to the soil, that is to say, when the harvest is plentiful, the price of wheat decreases and it is the fisherman who benefits from this. When nature is generous with produce from the ocean, in other words, when catches are large, oil is cheap and farmers benefit from this. Nothing proves better that the free gift s of nature remain free for the masses than the fact that producers who bring goods to market are paid solely for the service they provide in doing so.

Therefore, for as long as there is an abundance of uncultivated land in the country, the balance will be maintained between mutual services; and any exceptional advantage to the landowner will be refused.

This would not be so if landowners succeeded in prohibiting any new land clearance. In this case, it is perfectly clear that they would be laying down the law to the rest of the community. As the population is growing, the need for subsistence is increasingly being felt and it is clear that they would be in a position to have their services remunerated at a higher price, which in normal speech would be expressed by the metonymy, land has increased in value. However, the proof that this iniquitous privilege would be conferring an artificial value, not to the matter but to the services, is the situation we are witnessing in France and in Paris itself. Through a procedure similar to the one we have just described, the law limits the number of brokers, currency exchange agents, notaries, and butchers, and what is the result? By enabling them to put a high price on their services, it creates for their benefit a capital that is not included in any material. The need for brevity produces the following statement, “This project, this practice, or this patent is worth so much,” and the metonymy is obvious. The same applies to the land.

We have reached the final hypothesis, that in which the land in the entire island is subject to individual appropriation and farming.


In this case, it appears that the relative position of the two sectors will change.

In effect, the population continues to grow. It will take up all the occupations except for the one that has been filled. The latter’s owner will then operate the law of trade! What limits the value of a service is never the goodwill of the person supplying it; it is when the person to whom it is being offered can either do without it, supply it himself, or ask for it from others. The propertyless man no longer has any of these alternatives. In former times, he would say to a landowner, “If you ask me for more than the payment for your work, I will grow my own crops!” and the landowner would be forced to give way. These days, a landowner would reply, “There is no more land in the country.” Thus, whether we see value in things or in services, farmers will take advantage of the lack of any competition and, like landowners, will lay down the law to sharecroppers and farm laborers and in the long run to everyone.

This new situation has obviously one single cause, the fact that those who do not own land can no longer stem the demands of those that do by stating, “There is still land left to clear.”

What, therefore, is needed to ensure that the balance between services is maintained and that the situation according to the current hypothesis immediately concurs with that of the previous one? One single thing: that another island rises up next to our island, or even better new continents that are not totally covered by agriculture.

If this happened, production would continue to develop and be distributed in fair proportions between agriculture and other industries without any possible oppression on either side, since if landowners said to craftsmen, “I will sell you my wheat at a price that exceeds the normal payment for the work,” craftsmen would be quick to reply, “I will work for the landowners on the continent who are unable to make such demands.”

Once this situation has happened, the proper guarantee for the masses lies in free exchange, that is, in the right of labor.14


The right of labor constitutes freedom and property. Craftsmen are the owners of their labor, their services, or the price they earn from them in the same way that landowners own the soil. So true is this that, by virtue of this right, craftsmen can exchange their labor and services around the world for agricultural products and are bound to keep landowners in the position of equality I have previously described in which services are exchanged for other services, without the possession of the land itself conferring any more of a benefit independently of the land’s being put to work than does the ownership of a steam engine or the simplest tool.

However, if by usurping legislative power, landowners prohibit the landless farm laborers15 from working away from the land in return for subsistence, the equilibrium between services is broken. Out of respect for accuracy in political economy, I will not say that in this way they are artificially increasing the value of the land or agents of nature, but I will say that that they are artificially increasing the value of their services. With less work themselves, they are buying more work. They are committing oppression. They are behaving like all the monopolists with patents. They are behaving like all the landowners in the earlier period who prohibited land clearance. They are introducing into society a cause of inequality and poverty. They are changing the notions of justice and property and are digging an abyss under their feet.16

But what relief can nonlandowners draw from the proclamation of the right to work? How does this new right increase subsistence or the work distributed to the masses? Are not all forms of capital devoted to making work for people? Do they increase by passing through the coffers of the state? When it purloins capital from the people through taxes, does the state not eliminate as many sources of work on the one hand as it opens up on the other?

Furthermore, in whose favor are you claiming this right? According to the theory that revealed it to you, it would be to the advantage of anyone who no longer has a share in the usufruct of the land in its original state. But bankers, merchants, manufacturers, lawyers, doctors, civil servants, artists, [163] and craftsmen are not landowners. Do you mean that those who own the land will all be required to provide work for all these citizens? But all participants create openings for one another. Is it your view that only the rich, whether landowners or not, have to come to the assistance of the poor? In this case, what you are talking about is assistance and not a right that takes its source from an appropriation of the land.

With regard to rights, the one that has to be insisted on, because it is incontestable, rigorous, and sacred, is the right to work. It is freedom and ownership, not only of the land but also of bodily strength, intelligent minds, faculties, and personality, that are violated if one class can forbid to others the free exchange of services, both domestic and foreign. As long as this freedom exists, landownership is not a privilege; like all the others, it is just the ownership of a form of work.

I need only to deduce a few consequences of this doctrine.

M. Considérant
Considérant, M.
Frédéric Bastiat
Bastiat, Frédéric
Victor Considérant
Considérant, Victor

Fourth Letter

The physiocrats used to say, “Only the land is productive.” Certain economists have said, “Only work is productive.”

When you see laborers bent over the furrow that they drench with their sweat, you can scarcely deny their contribution to the work of production. On the other hand, nature never rests. And the ray of sunshine that pierces the clouds and the clouds that the wind chases away and the wind that brings rain and the rain that dissolves fertilizing substances and these substances that develop the mystery that is life in young plants—all the known and unknown powers of nature—prepare the harvest while laborers seek solace from their weariness in sleep.

It is therefore impossible not to recognize that work and nature join forces in accomplishing the phenomenon of production. Utility, which is the basis on which the human race survives, results from this cooperation, and this is as true of almost all forms of industry as it is of agriculture.

However, in the exchanges carried out between men, there is one thing only that is and can be compared, and that is human labor, the services received and rendered. These services alone are mutually commensurable and therefore they alone can elicit payment. In them alone lies value and it is precisely accurate to say that in the final analysis man is the sole owner of his own work.

As for the portion of utility due to the contribution of nature, although [164] this is genuine, although it is immensely greater than anything that man can accomplish, it is free. It is transmitted from hand to hand over and above the market and is properly speaking without value. And who could assess, measure, and determine the value of the natural laws that, since the world began, have acted to produce an effect when work solicits them? With what should they be compared? How should we evaluate them? If they had a value, they would be included in our accounts and inventories; we would have ourselves reimbursed for their use. And how could we manage to do this, since they are at the disposal of all under the same condition, that of work?17

Thus all useful production is the work of nature, which acts free of charge, and of labor, which is paid for.

However, in achieving the production of a given utility, these two elements, human labor and the forces of nature, are not in fixed and immutable proportions. Far from it. Progress consists in ensuring that the proportion of the contribution from nature increases constantly and reduces in the same proportion that of human work by taking its place. In other words, for a given quantity of utility, the free cooperation of nature increasingly tends to replace the burdensome cooperation of work. The common portion grows at the expense of the portion remunerated and appropriated.

If you had to transport a burden weighing one hundred kilograms from Paris to Lille without the intervention of any force of nature, that is to say, on the backs of men, you would need one month of hard labor. If, instead of taking this work on yourself, you gave it to another person, you would have to compensate him for an equal effort; otherwise he would not do it. The sled came on the scene, followed by the cart and then the railway. At each stage of progress part of the work is entrusted to the forces of nature with a corresponding reduction of the labor to be taken or paid for. Well, it is clear that any remuneration eliminated is a victory, not in favor of the person providing the service but of him who receives it, that is to say, the human race.

Before the invention of printing, a scribe could not copy the Bible in less than one year, and that was the measure of the remuneration he was entitled to claim. Today we can procure a Bible for five francs, which is scarcely the reward for one day’s work. The free forces of nature have thus taken the [165] place of paid force in the proportion of 299 parts out of 300. One part still represents human labor and remains personal property; 299 parts represent the contribution of nature, no longer paid for, and consequently are relegated to that which is free and common.

There is no tool, instrument, or machine that does not result in reducing the contribution of human labor, which can be seen either as the value of the product or as the basis of property.

This observation, which I agree is only imperfectly set out here, ought to rally the schools of thought, which so bitterly divide the arena of public opinion today, on the common ground of property and liberty.

Each school can be summarized in one axiom:

  • Economists’ axiom: laissez-faire, laissez-passer.
  • Egalitarians’ axiom: the mutuality of services.
  • Saint-Simonians’ axiom: to each according to his ability, to each ability according to its works.
  • Socialists’ axiom: the equal sharing of capital, talent, and work.
  • Communists’ axiom: the common ownership of goods.

I will indicate (for I cannot do otherwise here) that the doctrine set out in the preceding lines meets all these priorities.

Economists. It is scarcely necessary to prove that economists are obliged to welcome a doctrine that comes so obviously from Smith and Say and is only a consequence of the general laws they discovered. Laissez-faire, laissez-passer,18 is summarized by the word freedom, and I ask whether it is possible to conceive the notion of property without freedom. Am I the owner of my work, faculties, or physical powers if I cannot use them to provide services voluntarily undertaken? Do I not need to be free either to exercise my forces in isolation, which involves the need for exchange, or to join them with those of my fellows, which is association or exchange under another form?

And if freedom is hampered, is not property itself assailed? On the other hand, how will mutual services all have their full relative value if they are not exchanged freely and if the law forbids labor from being drawn to those best remunerated? Property, justice, equality, and the proper balance of services can obviously result only from freedom. It is also freedom that causes the contribution made by the forces of nature to become a common benefit, for [166] as long as a legal privilege grants me the exclusive exploitation of one of nature’s powers, I ensure that I am remunerated not only for my work but also for the use of this power. I know how fashionable it is today to curse freedom. The century appears to have taken seriously the ironic refrain of our great songwriter:

  • My heart in a burst of hatred
  • Has taken its freedom.
  • To hell with freedom!
  • Down with freedom!19

For my part, since I have always instinctively loved freedom, I will always defend it through reason.

Egalitarians. The mutuality of services they aspire to is exactly that resulting from a property-owning regime.

In appearance, men are the owners of the whole, the entire thing, of all the utility that this thing holds. In reality, they own only its value, that portion of utility communicated by work, since by selling it they can obtain payment only for the service they are providing. The representative of the egalitarians condemned property from the rostrum recently, restricting this word to what he called usury, the use of the soil, money, houses, credit, etc. But this usury is production and cannot be anything other than production. Receiving a service implies the obligation of reciprocating it. It is in this that the mutuality of services exists. When I lend something I have produced by the sweat of my brow and from which I might draw benefit, I am providing a service to the borrower, who also owes me a service. He will not provide me with one if he limits himself to giving me back the thing one year later. During this interval, he would have benefited from my labor to my detriment. [167] If I obtained payment for something other than my work, the objection of the egalitarians would be specious. But this is not so. Therefore, once they are assured of the truth of the theory set out in these articles, if they are consistent, they will join us to support property and claim what completes or rather what constitutes it, freedom.

Saint-Simonians. To each according to his ability, to each ability according to its works.

This is also what the property-owning regime achieves.

We provide each other with services mutually, but these services are not proportional to the length or intensity of the work. They are not measured using a dynamometer or chronometer. Whether I have been busy for one hour or one day, it is of little concern to the person to whom I provide my service. What he looks at is not the trouble I go to but the trouble I save him.20 To save effort and time, I seek to obtain help from some power in nature. As long as no one except me is capable of taking advantage of this power, I am giving others, for an equal amount of time, more output than they could provide for themselves. I am well paid and grow rich without damaging anyone. The natural power is used for my benefit alone and my ability is remunerated. To each according to his capacity. However, my secret is soon divulged. Imitators take over my process and competition obliges me to reduce my demands. The price of the product is decreased until my work receives only the normal pay for any similar work. The natural power is not thereby lost; it escapes my control but is recuperated by the entire human race which, from now on, will gain equal satisfaction from less work. Whoever exploits this power for his own use will need to take less trouble than in former times, and consequently anyone who exploits it on behalf of others will be entitled to less payment. If he wishes to increase his well-being, he will have no other option than to increase the amount of his work. To each ability according to its works. In the end, it is a question of working better or working more, which is the literal translation of the axiom for followers of Saint-Simon.

Socialists. The equal sharing of capital, talent, and work.

Equitable sharing results from the law: Services are exchanged for other services, provided that these exchanges are free, that is to say, provided that property is acknowledged and respected.


First of all, it is perfectly clear that the person with the most talent provides more services for a given amount of work. From this it follows that he is readily paid more handsomely.

As for capital and labor, this is a subject that, I regret, I cannot discuss in detail here, since no other has been presented to the general public under more false and disastrous colors.

Capital is oft en represented as a devouring monster, as the enemy of labor. In this way, an irrational sort of antagonism has been fostered between two powers that, basically, have the same origin and the same nature and that contribute to and help each other and cannot do without each other. When I see labor growing angry with capital, I seem to be seeing starvation rejecting food.

I define capital thus: materials, instruments, and provisions, whose use is free, let us not forget, to the extent that nature has contributed to producing them and for which only the value, the fruit of work, is paid for.

To execute a useful work, you need materials. If it is at all complicated, you need instruments. If it takes a long time, you need provisions. For example, for a railway line to be built, society must have saved enough means of existence to keep thousands of men alive for several years.

Materials, instruments, and provisions are themselves the fruit of previous work, which has not yet been paid for. Therefore, when previous work and current work are combined for an end, a common work, they pay for each other; there is an exchange of work, an exchange of services in accordance with agreed conditions. Which of the two parties will obtain the better conditions? The one that needs the other less. We are faced here with the inexorable law of supply and demand, and complaining about it is puerile and contradictory. To say that work should be highly paid when there are many workers and a limited level of capital is to say that each person has to be paid all the more when capital resources are smaller.

For work to be in demand and well paid, it is therefore necessary for there to be a great deal of materials, instruments, and provisions in the country, in other words, a great deal of capital.

It follows from this that the basic interest of the workers is that capital should be built up quickly, that as a result of its prompt accumulation, materials, instruments, and provisions should be in active competition. Only this can improve the lot of the workers. And what is the essential condition for the accumulation of capital? It is that each person should be sure of being genuinely the owner, in the fullest sense of the word, of his work and savings. [169] Property, security, freedom, order, peace, and economy are the things that interest everybody—above all and to the greatest extent, the workers.

Communists. In every age, honest and benevolent hearts have been found—Thomas Mores,21 Harringtons,22 and Fénelons—who, distressed by the sight of human suffering and the inequality of living conditions, sought refuge in a communist utopia.

As strange as it may appear, I claim that the regime of property is increasingly achieving this utopia under our very eyes. This is why I said at the start that property is essentially democratic.

On what foundation does humanity live and develop? On everything that serves a purpose, on everything that is useful. Among the useful things, there are those in which there is no human work, air, water, or sunlight. For these, there is a total absence of payment and full communal ownership. There are others that become useful only following a combination of work and nature. Utility can therefore be broken down into parts. One part is provided by labor and only this is to be paid for, has value, and constitutes property. The other part is contributed by the agents of nature, and this remains free of charge and common to all.

Well, of these two forces that contribute to producing utility the second, the part that is free of charge and common to all, is increasingly replacing the first, which requires work and consequently is to be paid for. This is the law of progress. There is no man on earth who does not seek help from the forces of nature, and when he finds it he shares it with the entire human race by proportionally reducing the price of the product.

Thus, in each given product, the portion of utility that is free of charge gradually replaces the other portion which is to be paid for.

The commonly owned base thus tends to surpass the appropriated base in indefinite proportions, and it can be said that within humanity the domain of common ownership is expanding unceasingly.

On the other hand, it is clear that, under the influence of freedom, the portion of utility that remains to be paid for or that can be appropriated tends to be distributed in a way that is, if not rigorously equal, at least in proportion to the services supplied, since these services themselves are the measure of the payment.

It can thus be seen with what irresistible power the principle of property [170] tends to achieve equality between men. First of all, it establishes a common basis that is constantly increased by each stage of progress and with regard to which equality is perfect, since all men are equal in the face of value that has been eliminated, in the face of a utility that has ceased to generate payment. All men are equal in the face of the portion of the price of books that the publisher has eliminated.

Subsequently, with regard to the portion of utility that corresponds to human work, care that must be taken, or skill, competition tends to establish a balance in the flow of payments and all that remains is the inequality that is justified by the actual inequality of the effort, fatigue, work, or skill, in a word, of the services supplied. And apart from the fact that inequality of this sort will always be just, who does not understand that without it all effort would instantly cease?

I can see the objection coming! People will say: “This is an example of economists’ optimism. They live in a world of theory and do not deign to cast a glance at the facts. Where in reality are these egalitarian tendencies? Can we not see all over the world the lamentable sight of opulence side by side with poverty, ostentation with destitution, idleness with fatigue, and satiety with starvation?”

I do not deny this inequality, this destitution, this suffering. Who could deny them? However, I say, “Far from being the result of the principle of property, they can be attributed to the principle of plunder.”

It remains for me to prove this.

M. Considérant
Considérant, M.
Frédéric Bastiat
Bastiat, Frédéric
Victor Considérant
Considérant, Victor

Fifth Letter

No, economists do not think that we are in the best of all worlds, as they are reproached for doing. They do not shut their eyes to the afflictions of society nor their ears to the groans of those who suffer. But they seek the causes of these sufferings and believe that they have discovered that among those on which society is capable of taking action, there is none more active or generalized than injustice. This is why what they call for in particular and above all is universal justice.

Men wish to improve their lot; that is their first law. In order for this improvement to take place, a prior task or effort is required. The same principle that propels men toward their well-being also incites them to avoid the effort that is its means. Before addressing their own work, they all too oft en have recourse to the work of others.


We can therefore apply to personal interest what Aesop said of language: nothing on earth has done more good or more evil. Personal interest creates everything that enables men to live and develop themselves; it stimulates work and gives rise to property. But at the same time it introduces to the earth all forms of injustice that, depending on their form, take a variety of names and can be summarized in one word, plunder.

Property and plunder, sisters with the same father, the savior and scourge of society, a genius for good and a genius for evil, powers that, right from the start, have been in conflict over the empire and the fate of the world!

It is easy to use this common origin of property and plunder to explain the facility with which Rousseau and his modern disciples have been able to calumniate and undermine the social order. All they needed to do was to show just one of the aspects of personal interest.

We have seen that men are by nature the owners of their work and that by transmitting this work from one to another they provide mutual services to each other.

This having been said, the general character of plunder consists in employing force or guile to change the equivalent value of services in our favor.

The variations of plunder are boundless, as are the resources of human sagacity. Two conditions are needed for services that are exchanged to be considered legitimately equivalent. The first is that the judgment of one of the contracting parties is not distorted by the maneuvers of the other. The second is that the transaction must be free. If a man succeeds in extorting a genuine service from a fellow man by making him believe that what he is giving him in return is also a genuine service whereas it is in fact illusory, there is plunder. This is all the more true if he has recourse to force.

We are initially led to believe that plunder takes place only in the guise of those forms of theft defined and punished by the Code. If this were so, I would be in effect giving too great a social importance to exceptional events that public conscience condemns and the law punishes. But sad to say, there is plunder that takes place with the consent of the law and that is carried out by the law with the consent and oft en the applause of society. It is this form of plunder alone that can take on enormous proportions sufficient to change the distribution of wealth in the body of society, paralyze for a considerable time the force for leveling which lies in freedom, create permanent inequality in living conditions, open the abyss of destitution, and spread around the world the flood of evil that superficial minds attribute to property. This is the plunder of which I am speaking when I say that it has been in conflict [172] with its opposing principle for empire over the world since the beginning. Let us point out briefly just a few of its manifestations.

First of all, what is war, especially as it was understood in antiquity? Men formed an alliance, the nation as a body, and did not deign to apply their faculties to exploiting nature in order to obtain from it the means of existence. On the contrary, after waiting for other peoples to establish properties, they attacked them with fire and sword and stripped them periodically of their goods. The conquerors then gained not only the booty but also the glory, the songs of poets, the acclaim of women, national reward, and the admiration of posterity! It is true that a regime like this and universally accepted ideas of this nature were bound to inflict a great deal of torture and suffering and result in extreme inequality between men. Is this the fault of property?

Later, the plunderers became more refined. Putting the vanquished to the sword was, in their eyes, to destroy a treasure. Plundering only property was a transitory form of plunder; plundering men along with property was to organize permanent plunder. This led to slavery, which is plunder extended to its ideal limit, since slavery plundered the vanquished of all their current and future property, their work, their arms, their minds, their faculties, their affections, and their entire personality. It can be summarized thus: requiring man to provide all the services that force can wrench from him while rendering him none. This was the state of the world until an era that is not all that far from ours. This was the situation in particular in Athens, Sparta, and Rome, and it is sad to think that it is the ideas and customs of these republics that education is offering for our enjoyment and that we are absorbing through our every pore. We are like the plants that growers force to absorb colored water and that thus receive an artificial tint that cannot be effaced. And then we are surprised that generations educated in this way are incapable of founding an honest republic! Be that as it may, it can be agreed that here there was a cause of inequality that can certainly not be imputed to the regime of property as it has been defined in the preceding articles.

I will pass over serfdom, the feudal regime, and what followed it up to 1789. But I cannot prevent myself from mentioning the plunder exercised for so long through the abuse of religious influence. Receiving positive services from men and supplying them in return only with imaginary, fraudulent, illusionary, and derisory services is to rob them of their consent, it is true, an aggravating circumstance since it implies that the plunderers have begun by perverting the very source of all progress, human judgment. I will [173] not stress this any further. Everybody knows that the exploitation of public credulity through the abuse of true or false religions has placed distance between the priesthood and the laity in India, Egypt, Italy, and Spain. Is this also the fault of property?

We come to the nineteenth century following great social iniquities that have imprinted a profound trace on the soil, and who can deny that time is needed to efface that trace even when through all our laws and relationships we now give prominence to the principle of property, which is none other than freedom, which is none other than the expression of universal justice? We should remember that serfdom these days covers half of Europe, that in France the feudal system received its death blow scarcely half a century ago, that it is in full splendor in England, that all nations are making unheard-of efforts to keep powerful armies in operation, which implies either that they are mutually threatening each other’s property or that these armies are themselves just a large-scale plunder. Let us remember that all peoples succumb to the weight of debts whose origin lies in past folly. We should not forget that we ourselves are paying millions each year to prolong artificially the lives of colonies with slaves and more millions to prevent slave trading along the coasts of Africa (which has involved us in one of our greatest diplomatic problems) and that we are on the point of delivering one hundred million to planters to crown the sacrifices which this type of plunder has inflicted on us in so many forms.23

This is how the past binds us, no matter what we may say. We can disengage ourselves from it only gradually. Is it surprising that there is inequality between men, since the egalitarian principle, property, has been so little respected up to now? Where will the leveling of living conditions that is the ardent wish of our era and that characterizes it so honorably come from? It will come from simple justice, from the achievement of this law: a service in return for a service. In order for two services to be exchanged according to their genuine value, two things are needed by the contracting parties: enlightened judgment and freedom of transaction. If the judgment is not enlightened, people will accept, even freely, derisory services in return for genuine services. It is even worse if force intervenes in the contract.

This having been said, and acknowledging that there exists inequality between men whose causes are historic and that only time will efface, let us see [174] whether our century at least by giving prominence to justice everywhere will finally banish force and guile from human transactions, allow the equivalent nature of services to establish itself naturally, and cause the democratic and egalitarian cause of property to triumph.

Alas! I can see here so many incipient abuses, so many exceptions, and so many direct and indirect deviations appearing on the horizon of the new social order that I do not know where to begin.

First of all, we have privileges of all sorts. No one can become a lawyer, doctor, lecturer, currency exchange agent, broker, notary, solicitor, pharmacist, printer, butcher, or baker without encountering legal prohibitions. These are so many services that you are forbidden to provide; consequently those to whom authorization is given will charge a higher price for them to the extent that this privilege alone, without any work, oft en has a great deal of value. My complaint here is not that guarantees are required from those who supply these services, although truth to tell the effective guarantee is found in those who receive and pay for it. What is also necessary is for these guarantees not to have any exclusivity. You may demand of me that I know what you need to know to be a lawyer or doctor, but do not demand that I should have learned it in a particular town, in so many years, etc.

Next there is the artificial price, the additional value that people try to add to the majority of essential things such as wheat, meat, fabrics, iron, tools, etc., by playing with the tariffs.

Here there is obviously an effort to destroy the equivalence of services, a violent attack on the most sacred of all properties, that of men’s strength and faculties. As I have already shown, when the soil of a country has been successively occupied, if the working population continues to grow, its right is to limit the claims of the landowner by working elsewhere or by importing its subsistence from abroad. This population has only work to give in exchange for products, and it is clear that if the former increases unceasingly, then should the second remain stationary, more work has to be provided in return for fewer products. This effect is shown by the decrease in earnings—the greatest misfortune when it is due to natural causes and the greatest crime when it results from the law.

Next come taxes. Tax-funded jobs have become a highly sought means of livelihood. We know that the number of positions in government services has always increased and that the number of candidates increases faster than the number of openings. Well, where is the candidate who asks himself if he will be providing the public with services equivalent to those he is expecting [175] from them? Is this scourge anywhere near its end? How can we believe it when we see that public opinion itself presses to have everything done by the fictitious being we call the state, which means a collection of salaried agents? After judging all men without exception to be capable of governing the country, we declare them to be incapable of governing themselves. Soon there will be two or three salaried agents around each Frenchman, one to prevent him from working too much, a second to educate him, a third to supply him with credit, perhaps a fourth to hinder his transactions, etc., etc. Where will this illusion, the illusion that has led us to believe that the state is a person with an inexhaustible fortune independent of ours, take us?

People are beginning to realize that the government machine is expensive. But what they do not know is that the burden inevitably falls on them. They are led to believe that although up to now their share has been heavy, the Republic, while increasing the general burden, has the means of at least shifting the greater part of it to the shoulders of the rich. A disastrous illusion! Doubtless the situation may be reached where the tax collector calls upon one person rather than another and physically receives money from the hands of the rich. But all is not at an end once the tax has been paid. Work is done subsequently in society, there are reactions to the respective value of services, and it is unavoidable for this charge not to be distributed to everybody, including the poor, in the long run. The latter’s real interest, therefore, is not that one class alone is afflicted, but that all classes are treated with consideration because of the solidarity that binds them.

Now, are there any signs that the time has come when taxes will be reduced?

I say this most sincerely: I believe that we are going down a path in which, under very gentle, very subtle, and very ingenious aspects, clad in the fine names of solidarity and fraternity, plunder is going to take on dimensions, the extent of which the imagination scarcely dares to envisage. This is how it will appear: under the denomination of the state, the massed group of citizens will be considered a real being with its own life and wealth, independent of the life and wealth of the citizens themselves. Each person will then call upon this fictional being to ask, one for education, one for work, one for credit, one for food, etc., etc. However, the state cannot give anything to citizens unless it has taken it from them to start with. The only effect of this intermediary is first of all a great waste of effort and then the complete destruction of the equivalence of services, for the effort of each person will be devoted to giving as little as possible to the treasury of the state and taking as [176] much from it as possible. In other words, the public treasury will be pillaged. And can we not see something of this sort happening today? Which class is not clamoring for the favors of the state? It appears in itself to be the principle of life. Setting aside the countless hordes of its own agents, agriculture, factories, trade, the arts, theaters, the colonies, and shipping are expecting everything from it. It is required to clear land, irrigate it, set up colonies, teach, and even amuse us. Everyone is begging for a premium, a subsidy, a motivating payment, and above all for certain services, like education and credit, to be free of charge. And why not ask the state to make all services free of charge? Why not require the state to feed, quench the thirst of, provide lodgings for, and clothe all citizens free of charge?

One class had not been included in these mad pretensions,

  • One poor servant girl at least remained to me
  • Who was not infected with this foul air;24

and that was the people itself, the countless working class. However, here they are now in the crowd. They pay heavily to the treasury; by all that is just and in virtue of the principle of equality, they have the same rights to this universal dilapidation for which the other classes have fired the starting signal. We should profoundly regret that on the day on which their voices were heard it was to demand their share of the pillage and not that it be stopped. But was it possible for this class to be more enlightened than the others? Might it not be excused for being taken in by the illusion that is blinding us all?

However, because of the very fact that the number of applicants for government positions is now equal to the number of citizens, the error I am pointing out here cannot last long and people will soon, I hope, come to ask from the state only the services it is competent to provide: justice, national defense, public works, etc.

We are facing another cause of inequality, which is perhaps more active [177] than all the others, and that is the war against capital. The working class has only one way to free itself, through an increase in the nation’s capital. Where capital increases faster than the population, two results infallibly occur, both of which contribute to improving the lot of the workers: products decrease in price and earnings rise. However, for capital to increase, it must above all have security. If it is frightened, it hides, takes flight abroad, is dissipated, and is destroyed. At this point, production stops and labor is offered at a knockdown price. The greatest of all misfortunes for the working class is therefore to let itself be carried along by beguilers into a war against capital, which is as absurd as it is disastrous. It is a constant threat of plunder, worse than plunder itself.

In short, if it is true, as I have endeavored to show, that freedom, the free disposal of property, and consequently the supreme consecration of the right to property; if it is true, as I have said, that this freedom invariably tends to bring about a just equivalence of services, and little by little equality, to bring everyone closer to the same constantly rising level, it is not property that is responsible for the distressing inequality that can still be seen around the world; it is its opposing principle, plunder, that has triggered wars, slavery, serfdom, the feudal system, the exploitation of public ignorance and credulity, privilege, monopolies, restrictions, public borrowings, commercial fraud, excessive taxes, and lastly the war against capital and the absurd pretension of each person to live and develop at the expense of all.


The following five letters were formally addressed to Le Journal des débats, which is why Bastiat refers to them several times as “the articles.” However, in his mind they were intended as letters to Victor Considérant. In them he explains his notions of rent, services, and value as they will be developed later in Economic Harmonies.


On 17 May 1848 the Constituent Assembly elected an eighteen-member commission to prepare a draft constitution (Considérant was among the members, but so was Tocqueville). It started by elaborating a preamble, the “declaration of rights and duties,” in which the right to work was prominent. The final preamble, though, referred only to the duty of the republic to protect the citizens’ work and to provide work, within the limits of state resources, for the needy.


Written at Blanc’s initiative, the decree of 25 February 1848 stated: “The provisional government guarantees the existence of the worker through work.”


(Bastiat’s note) See the small volume published by M. Considérant titled Théorie du droit de propriété et du droit au travail [Theory of the Right to Property and the Right to Work].


(Bastiat’s note) M. Considérant is not the only one to hold it, as is shown by the following passage taken from The Wandering Jew, by M. Eugène Sue:

Mortification would express better the complete lack of the essentially vital things that an equitably balanced society ought to owe, yes, ought to owe all active and upright workers, since civilization has dispossessed them of any right to the land and they are born with only their arms as sole heritage.

Savages do not enjoy the advantages of civilization, but at least they have as food the animals of the forest, the birds of the air, fish from the rivers, the fruits of the earth, and the trees of the wide forests to give them shelter.

Civilized people, who are despoiled of these gift s of God and who regard property as holy and sacred, may therefore, in return for their hard daily labor that enriches the country, claim a wage that is enough to live healthily, neither more nor less.


Proudhon is best known for his work Qu’estce que la propriété? (1841).


(Paillottet’s note) This proposition is developed in more detail in chapters 5 and 9 of the Economic Harmonies. (OC, vol. 6, p. 140, “De la valeur,” and p. 297, “Propriété foncière.”)


(Paillottet’s note) See the claim from M. Considérant that provoked this first letter at the end of this pamphlet together with F. Bastiat’s reply.


(Paillottet’s note) See chapter 22 of the first series of Sophisms. (OC, vol. 4, p. 115, “Métaphores.”)


(Paillottet’s note) “It is not enough for the value not to be in the material or in the forces of nature. It is not enough for it to be exclusively in services. It is also necessary for the services themselves not to have an exaggerated value. For what difference does it make to a poor laborer if the high price he pays for his wheat is because the landowner has himself paid for the productive powers of the soil or has paid excessively for his intervention?

“It is the job of competition to equalize the services on the basis of justice. It does this constantly.” (An unpublished thought by the author.)

For a more developed treatment of value and competition, see chapters 5 and 10 of Economic Harmonies. (OC, vol. 6, p. 140, “De la valeur,” and p. 349, “Concurrence.”)


(Paillottet’s note) On the question of intermediaries, see, in vol. 5, chapter 6 of the pamphlet What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen, and, in vol. 6, the beginning of chapter 16. (OC, vol. 5, “Ce qu’on voit et ce qu’on ne voit pas,” chap. 6, p. 356, “Les Intermédiaires”; and vol. 6, p. 497, “De la population.”)


See “Bastiat’s Political Writings: Anecdotes and Reflections,” pp. 414–15 in this volume.


(Bastiat’s note) We have heard not so long ago a denial of the legitimacy of leasing land. Without going so far, many people find it hard to understand the durable nature of income from capital. “How,” they say, “does capital once formed produce a never-ending income?” Here is an explanation of its legitimacy and durability using this example:

I have a hundred sacks of wheat, which I could use to live on while I carry out useful work. Instead of this, I lend them for one year. What does the borrower owe me? The total restitution of my hundred sacks of wheat. Is this all he owes me? In this case, I will have done him a service without receiving any. He therefore owes me, in addition to the simple restitution of my loan, a service, a payment that will be determined by the laws of supply and demand: this is interest. You can see that at the end of a year, I will have once more one hundred sacks of wheat to lend and so on, eternally. The interest is a small portion of the work that my loan has enabled my borrower to execute. If I have enough sacks of wheat to ensure that the interest is sufficient for me to live, I would be able to be a man of leisure without doing any harm to anyone and it would be easy for me to show that the leisure thus purchased is itself one of the springs of progress of society.


(Paillottet’s note) This theoretical situation has been examined again by the author in the final part of his letter to M. Thiers. See the last twelve pages of “Protectionism and Communism.” (OC, vol. 4, p. 504, “Protectionisme et communisme,” pp. 534–45 [the last twelve pages].)[See also “Protectionism and Communism,” pp. 257–65, and “Anecdotes and Reflections,” p. 410, in this volume.]


Bastiat uses the word prolétaires, which we have translated as “landless farm laborers.”


(Paillottet’s note) See chapters 9 and 13 of Economic Harmonies on land ownership. See also, in vol. 2, the second parable in the speech given on 29 September 1846 in Montesquieu Hall. (OC, vol. 6, p. 297, “Propriété foncière,” and p. 430, “De la rente”; also see vol. 2, p. 238, “Second discours.”)


(Paillottet’s note) On the objection drawn from a so-called taking over of the agents of nature, see letter 14 of Free Credit, and, in vol. 4, the last two pages of chapter 14. (OC, vol. 5, p. 312, “Gratuité du crédit,” “Quatorzième lettre”; and vol. 4, p. 86, “Conflit de principes,” pp. 89–90 [last two pages].)


Laisser-passer: “Let us go about our affairs.” See also “Bastiat’s Political Writings: Anecdotes and Reflections,” pp. 408–9 in this volume.


This verse comes from Pierre-Jean de Béranger’s poem “La Liberté” (“Liberty”), which he wrote in January 1822 when he was imprisoned following the publication of his second volume of satirical songs and poems in 1821. It is ironic that, far from having his spirit broken by short periods of imprisonment, Béranger continued to defy the censors with his poems, which mocked the political and religious establishment. His published songs and poems were bestsellers and went through many editions. They oft en included sheet music to help members of the underground singing and drinking clubs enjoy his political songs.

“Liberty” can be found in a contemporaneous English edition of his works: Béranger, Béranger’s Songs of the Empire, the Peace, and the Restoration, pp. 109–11. There is a French edition that includes the music for “La Liberté”: Béranger, Musique des chansons de Béranger. Airs notés anciens et modernes, pp. 128–29.


(Paillottet’s note) On the effort saved, considered as the most important element of value, see chapter 5 of Economic Harmonies. (OC, vol. 6, p. 140, “De la valeur.”)


Sir Thomas More.


James Harrington.


Slavery in the French colonies ended (again) in the revolution of 1848. See also the entry for “Slavery” in the Glossary of Subjects and Terms.


These lines come from Molière’s play Les Femmes savantes (1672). The long-suffering bourgeois gentleman Chrysale is complaining about his household of women who have discovered the joys of disputation, reasoning, and the quotation of verse but who neglect his needs. In these lines Chrysale is complaining to his sister Bélise: “Reasoning has become the norm throughout my house, and reasoning has banished reason. One servant burns my roast while reading some story, another dreams of some verses when I want a drink; finally I see how they have followed your example, I have servants but I am not served.” (See Œuvres complètes de Molière, vol. 6, p. 145.)

T.304 "Speaks in a Discussion on the Decree concerning the Regulation of the Political Clubs" (26 July 1848)