The French State and Economy

Appendices on The French State and Economy

Revised: 28 June, 2017.

This is the combined Appendices 2 "The French State and Politics" and 3 "Economic Policy and Taxation" from CW3 and CW4.

Table of Contents

French Government Administrative Regions (CW3 book)

French government administrative regions in descending order of size are the following: regions, départements, arrondissements (“districts”), cantons (“municipalities” or “counties”), and communes (“villages” or “towns”).

In the eighteenth century France was divided into about 40 provinces which were replaced by the system of 83 départements in 1790, which was expanded to 130 in 1809 when Napoléon’s empire had reached its furthest extent. In Bastiat’s day there were 86 départements. The old provinces were divided into about 20 administrative regions which were each in turn divided into about six départements, each of which was administered by a prefect ( préfet). Bastiat’s family lived in the city of Bayonne in what had been the province of Guyenne and Gascony and which became the département of Pyrénées-Atlantiques in the region of Aquitaine (prefectural capital in Bordeaux). The départements are divided into three or four districts or arrondissements with a main city or town called a subprefecture which is administered by a subprefect (sous-préfet). Each arrondissement is divided into cantons, which are in turn divided into communes. The départements are administered by a conseil général (general council), which is an elected body responsible for maintaining local schools, roads, and other infrastructure.

The town where Bastiat lived, Mugron, was a commune in the canton of Mugron, in the arrondissement of Dax, in the département of Les Landes, in the region of Aquitaine. He was appointed magistrate (justice of the peace) in the commune of Mugron in 1831, elected to the General Council of the département of Les Landes in 1833 (and reelected in 1839), and on 23 April 1848 he was elected to represent the département of Les Landes in the Constituent Assembly of the Second Republic. He was elected again on 1 August 1849 to represent Les Landes in the first National Assembly of the Republic.

Algeria (CW3 book)

Algeria was invaded and conquered by France in 1830, and the occupied parts were annexed to France in 1834. The new constitution of the Second Republic (1848) declared that Algeria was no longer a colony but an integral part of France (with three départements) and that the emigration of French settlers would be officially encouraged and subsidized by the government. Emperor Napoléon III returned Algeria to military control in 1858. In 1848 about 200,000 of the population of 2.5 million were Europeans. The deputy Amédée Desjobert[7] in Le Journal des économistes gives a figure of fr. 125 million which was spent by the government in Algeria in 1847 and makes a very similar argument to that of Bastiat, that the money went to the troops and then into the hands of the merchants who serviced the needs of those troops. In a debate in the National Assembly in 1848 (11 and 19 September) a budget of fr. 50 million was allocated to the Ministry of War for the years 1848–51 to “establish agricultural colonies in the provinces of Algeria and for works of public utility intended to assure their prosperity.” The exact number of colonists was not specified, although a figure of twelve thousand for the year 1848 was mentioned. This subsidy would continue for at least three years, reaching fr. 17.5 million for each of the years 1851 and 1852. Over the four-year period each colonist would have received fr. 4,167 or a family of four some fr. 16,667. Bastiat at one stage mentions the figure of fr. 100 million per year as the level of true expenditure on Algeria. The actual state subsidy granted to French colonists who wished to settle in Algeria is hard to determine. The pro-colonizer Gustave Vesian lobbied for a community of ten thousand colonists living in three towns who would get other state benefits such as irrigated land, a guaranteed market for their grain in the domestic market, seed and food (and wine) for three years to get established, >and low-interest loans.[8]

Bastiat comments on Algeria and colonization in his address “To the Electors of the District of Saint-Sever”:

To me it is a proven fact, and I venture to say a scientifically proven fact, that the colonial system is the most disastrous illusion ever to have led nations astray. I make no exception for the English, in spite of the specious nature of the well-known argument post hoc, ergo propter hoc.

Do you know how much Algeria is costing you? From one-third to two-fifths of your four direct taxes, including the extra cents. Whoever among you pays three hundred francs in taxes sends one hundred francs annually to evaporate into the clouds over the Atlas mountains or to sink into the sands of the Sahara.[9]


[7] Amédée Desjobert, “L’Algérie,” JDE, T. 17, no. 66, May 1847, pp. 121–41; quote p. 121.

[8] See Compte rendu des séances de l’Assemblée Nationale, vol. 3, Du 8 Août au 13 Septembre 1848, Séance du 11 Septembre 1848, pp. 943–44; also vol. 4, Du 14 Septembre au 20 Octobre 1848, p. 117; and Vesian, De la colonisation en Algérie.

[9] CW1, pp. 363–65.

The French Army and Conscription (CW3 book)

The modern mass conscript army was pioneered by the French during the Revolution. A law of August 1793 ordered a levée en masse (large-scale call-up) of all unmarried men aged eighteen to twenty-five with no substitution allowed—this was called a “requisition.” A law of September 1798 (the Jourdan Law) made it obligatory for all males between the ages of twenty and twenty-five to serve five years in the army with no substitution allowed—this was called “conscription” or levée forcée. Conscription was technically abolished under the Charter of 1814, but new legislation that was enacted in 1818 filled the army with a mixture of voluntary recruits and others chosen by lot to make up any shortfall in enlistment—this was called recrutement. It required military service for twelve years, six in the army and six in the reserves. An unwilling conscript could buy their way out by paying a third party to take their place. There were also many categories for exemption which were decided by boards in the local cantons which were given quotas of recruits to fill each year. The length of service was reduced to eight years in 1824 and then seven years in 1832.[4] Some 80,000 new recruits were needed each year to maintain the size of the French army (armée de terre) at its full strength of about 400,000 men in the late 1840s. During the Third Republic (1872) service in the army was again made compulsory for all males. Conscription came to an end in France in 1996.[5]

It was a common practice for those conscripted by the drawing of lots (tirage au sort) to pay for a replacement or substitute to take their place in the ranks. The liberal publisher and journalist Émile de Girardin estimated that about one quarter of the entire French army consisted of replacements who had been paid fr. 1,800–2,400 to take the place of some young man who had been called up but did not want to serve. The schedule of payments depended on the type of service: fr. 1,800–2,000 for the infantry; 2,000– 2,400 for the artillery, cavalry, and other specialized forces. This meant that only quite well-off men could afford to pay these amounts to avoid army service, thus placing a greater burden on poor agricultural workers and artisans. During the 1848 Revolution there was a pamphlet war, calling for the abolition of conscription, but this was unsuccessful.[6]

In "The Utopian" (January 1847) Bastiat wanted to disband most of the French immediately and convert it from a standing army into a collection of local militias. In the pamphlet What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen, Bastiat proposed immediately reducing the size of the French army by 100,000 men from its total in 1849 of about 390,000 men (a reduction of 25.6 percent). The expenditure on the army in 1849 was fr. 346,319,558. Total government expenditure in 1849 was fr. 1.573 billion, with expenditure on the armed forces making up 29.6 percent of the total budget. Bastiat estimates that 100,000 soldiers cost the French state fr. 100 million.


[4] Pierre-Didier Joffres, Études sur le recrutement de l’armée; suivies d’un Projet de loi (Paris: J. Dumaine, 1843), pp. 55–56.

[5] See A. Legoyt, “Recrutement,” in DEP 2:498–503; “Conscription,” in Dictionnaire de l’armée de terre, pp. 1539–42.

[6] See Plus de conscription! (Signé: Allyre Bureau, l’un des rédacteurs de “la Démocratie pacifique”) (Paris: Impr. de Lange Lévy, 1848) and Émile de Girardin, Les 52: Abolition de l’esclavage militaire (Paris: M. Lévy, 1849).

Assignat (CW4 draft)

"Assignat" was the name given to the paper currency issued by the National Assembly between 1789 and 1796. They were originally issued as bonds based upon the value of the land confiscated from the church and the nobility("biens national") and were intended to pay off the national debt. Later they became legal tender in 1791. Overissue led to a spectacular hyperinflation which wiped out their value in a few years. The initial number issued in April 1790 was 400 million; in September 1792 2.7 billion were in circulation; and by the beginning of 1796 when they were abandoned there were perhaps 45 billion in circulation. In an effort to control the rise in prices caused by this inflation various attempts were unsuccessfully made to regulate prices such as the "Maximum" in 1793. As a result of this experience Napoleon returned the country to a gold backed currency, the franc, in 1803. 2302


2302 See Andrew D. White, Fiat Money Inflation in France (1896) and Charles Coquelin, "Assignats" DEP vol. 1, pp. 77-78.

Bank of France (CW4 draft)

The Bank of France was modeled on the Bank of England and was founded as a private bank in 1800 with Napoleon as one of the shareholders. It was granted a monopoly in issuing currency in 1803. Payment in specie upon demand was suspended twice in the 19th century, both times during revolutions - 1848-1850 and 1870-1875. The banks of the different Départmentes were merged into the Bank of France in 1848 in an attempt to solve the fiscal crisis brought on by the Revolution.

Chamber of Deputies and Elections (CW4 draft)

During the Restoration (1815-1830) and the July Monarchy (1830-1848) France was ruled by a King, an upper house of Lords (Chamber of Peers), and a lower house of elected representatives (Chamber of Deputies). The Revolution of February 1848 overthrew the Monarchy and suspended the Chamber of Peers replacing them with a republic (the Second Republic) with a single elected body called the National Assembly which for the first year (4 May 1848 - 27 May 1849) was known as the Constituent Assembly as a new constitution was being developed, and then the Legislative Assembly which lasted until Louis Napoleon's coup d'état of December 1851.

Elections to the Chamber of Deputies between 1815 and 1848 were by limited manhood suffrage. Voters were drawn from a small number of people who were at least 30 years old and who paid at least fr. 300 in direct taxes (land tax, door and window tax, tax on businesses) [these requirements were lowered in 1830 to 25 years and fr. 200]. Men could not stand for election unless they were at least 40 years old and paid at least fr. 1,000 in direct taxes [these requirements were lowered in 1830 to 30 years and fr. 500]. These property and tax requirements limited the electorate to a small group of wealthy individuals which numbered only 89,000 in the Restoration, 180,000 in 1831, and about 241,000 in 1846, or about 5% out of a total population of about 36 million people.

In addition, the "Law of the Double Vote" was introduced on 29 June 1820 to benefit the ultra-monarchists who were under threat after the assassination of the Duke de Berry in February 1820. The law was designed to give the wealthiest voters two votes so they could dominate the Chamber of Deputies with their supporters. Between 1820 and 1848, 258 deputies were elected by a small group of individuals who qualified to vote because they paid more than 2-300 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 (an additional 2 deputies per département). Therefore, those wealthier electors enjoyed the privilege of a double vote. Bastiat referred to this small group as the "classe électorale" (the electoral class). 2303

Deputies were elected to a term of 5 years, one fifth of whom would be elected each year, and were not paid a salary, which meant that only government civil servants (who could sit in the Chamber concurrently with their government job) 2304 or the wealthy were able to afford to run for office. Deputies could not initiate legislation which was a prerogative of the King. The Chamber consisted of 258 Deputies in 1816, 430 in 1820, 459 in 1831, and 460 in 1839. General elections were held in July 1831, June 1834, November 1837, March 1839, July 1842, and August 1846.

The following is a summary of the elections held between 1839 and 1846:

  1. the 5th legislature of the July Monarchy was elected in stages on 2 March and 6 July 1839. The Republican and so-called "third party" coalition won with 240 seats; the Conservative block got 199; and the Legitimists won only 20. King Louis-Philippe lacked a majority and dissolved the government on 16 June 1842.
  2. the 6th legislature of the July Monarchy was elected on 9 July 1842. The Conservatives won with 266 seats; and the "Opposition" won 193. King Louis-Philippe dissolved the government on 16 July 1846.
  3. the 7th legislature of the July Monarchy was elected on 1 August 1846. The Conservatives won with 290 seats; and the Opposition won 168. The government was dissolved when the Revolution of February 1848 broke out.

The February Revolution of 1848 introduced universal manhood suffrage (21 years or older), the Constituent Assembly had 900 members (minimum age of 25). Over 9 million men were eligible to vote and 7.8 million men voted (84% of registered voters) in an election held on 23 and 24 April 1848. The largest block of Deputies were monarchists (290), followed by moderate republicans (230), and extreme republicans and socialists (55). The remainder were unaligned.

Bastiat was elected to the Constituent Assembly in the election of 23 April 1848 to represent the département of Les Landes. 2305 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.

In the first and only presidential election held on 10-11 December 1848 under the new constitution, 7.4 million people voted making Napoleon Bonaparte's nephew, Louis Napoleon the President of the Second Republic. General Cavaignac, received 1.4 million votes (19%) to Louis Napoleon's 5.5 million votes (74%).

In the election of 19 January 1849 of the 705 seats, 450 were won by members of the "Party of Order" (an alliance of legitimists and other conservatives), 75 by moderate republicans, and 180 by "the Mountain" (radical democrats and socialists). Left wing protesters were joined by several dozen left-wing Deputies in a demonstration on 13 June which was suppressed upon orders of the President of the Republic, Louis Napoleon. This led to the closing down a several left-wing newspapers and the political clubs.

In the election of 13-14 May 1849 for the Legislative Assembly 6.7 million men voted (out of 9.9 million registered voters). The largest block in the Legislative Assembly was "the party of Order" (monarchists and Bonapartists) (500), the extreme left ("Montagnards" or democratic socialists) (200), and the moderate republicans (80). Bastiat was part of this latter group.

Bastiat was also elected to the Legislative Assembly in the election of 13 May 1849 to represent the département of Les Landes. 2306 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.


2303 In ES3 6 "The People and the Bourgeoisie" (LE, 23 May 1847), in CW3, pp. 281-87, especially p. 286.

2304 Bastiat campaigned to ban civil servants from also sitting in the Chamber. See "Parliamentary Conflicts of Interest" (March 1843) in CW1, pp. 452-57.

2305 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.

2306 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. 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.


A useful summary is 1 franc = 100 centimes = 20 sous.

French currency in the 19th century was based upon names and denominations which were a mixture of three different traditions, the Roman, the medieval, and the Revolutionary, thus making the names somewhat confusing. A further complication comes from the fact that one has to keep distinct the name of the coin or money unit (e.g. "écu" or "louis") and its denomination or value ("livres" or "sous").

The Roman tradition was based upon silver coins where the highest value coin was the "libra" (Fr = livre; English = pound), followed by the "solidus" (Fr = sol or sou; English shilling), and then the "denarius" (Fr = denier, English = penny) which had the following comparative values 1 livre = 20 sous = 240 deniers. The original value of the "libra" (livre) was one pound of silver. This was a duodecimal or base 12 system.

French currency during the medieval period was based upon a gold coin called the "franc à cheval" (the Frank on horseback) which was minted in order to pay the ransom of King Jean II who had been taken prisoner by the English. Other gold coins also circulated in the medieval period. Under Louis IX (1226-1270) a gold coin known as the "denier d'or à l'écu" (gold denier with a shield) or "écu" for short was popular.

Under the Old Regime Louis XIII in 1640 replaced the old franc with a system based upon three coins: the "louis d'or" (gold Louis), the "louis d'argent" (silver Louis) or "silver écu", and the "liard" (made of copper). During the Old Regime several different types of livres were in circulation, the most common being from the city of Tours known as the "livre tournois". After the bankruptcy of the Banque générale established by John Law as a de facto state bank in 1720 the livre tournois was seriously devalued and then abandoned and a new "livre" worth 0.31 grammes of gold was introduced.

Another coin used in France owes its origin to the Greek "obelos" (obole). In the medieval period it was a copper coin officially worth 1/2 denier. In the Old Regime deniers were often divided into 8ths, where an obole was worth 4/8 denier, a "pite" was 2/8, and a "semi-pite" was 1/8. As monetary devaluation continued to decrease its value the word "obole" came to mean a coin of very little or minimal value.

During the Revolution the French currency was decimalized (metrification using base 10) when a new French Franc was introduced in 1795 which was divisible into 100 centimes. The Law of 7 January 1795 decreed the issuing of paper "assignats" denominated in Francs and using as security the value of the property confiscated from the Church and the nobility. A full decimalization law of 7 April 1795 defined not only the metre, litre, and gramme but also the new French Franc which was fixed at a value of 5 grammes of silver. Another law of 14 April 1796 decreed that the livre tournois and the new France were almost identical in value at about 4.5 grammes of silver.

State Funding of Education (CW3 book)

Several state-run educational institutions were established by Napoléon: the École militaire (1803), the École polytéchnique (1794, 1804), the Écoles nationales des arts et métiers (1803), and a single university for France, L’Université impériale (1808). There were also some non-state institutions, such as the École centrale des arts et manufactures (1829), the École mutuelle (1815), and the Écoles primaires protestantes (1816).

A major restructuring took place with Guizot’s law on public education (1833), which stated that every commune in France with more than five hundred inhabitants would have an elementary school for boys (girls were included in 1867), every town over six thousand people would have a higher primary school, and every département would run a teaching training school. A system of state school inspectors was established and a minimum wage of fr. 200 per annum was enacted. School attendance was not compulsory (until 1881–82), fees were charged (again until 1881–82), and the education included religious instruction. Secondary and higher education was placed under the control of the state-run university. Freedom of education was hotly debated during the Second Republic, and major reforms resulted in the Falloux Law of 1850. The notion of la liberté d’enseignement (freedom of education) meant different things to different political groups. For many it meant breaking the control of the central government and transferring it to the départements, and reducing the influence of the Catholic Church. For classical liberals like Bastiat it meant taking eduction completely out of the state sector and letting private groups provide educational services in the market.

In 1849 fr. 21.8 million was spent on public education, of which fr. 17.9 million went for the university and fr. 3.3 million for “science and letters.”

Fortifications of Paris (CW4 draft)

In 1840 the President of the Council of Ministers, Adolphe Thiers was concerned that Britain's opposition to French policy to support the Pascha of Egypt might lead to another war. To deter this possibility, he planned to build a massive military wall 33 km (21 miles) in circumference around the city of Paris with 16 star-shaped forts laid out in an outer perimeter beyond the wall. 2307 All people and goods entering or leaving the city had to pass through one of the 17 large entry gates built into the wall. This project was budgeted to cost fr. 150 million and was completed in 1844. The total expenditure would have been much higher if the state had not used the labour of thousands of army conscripts to dig the ditches and build the wall. "Thiers' Wall," as it was known, was strongly opposed by liberals such as the astronomer François Arago and the economist Michel Chevalier, who objected to its construction because it was so expensive, that military technology would soon make it obsolete, and that the wall would one day be used to "imprison" the citizens of Paris if they ever rose up in rebellion to demand much needed political and economic reforms (which they did of course in February 1848, and were duly put down by troops stationed in the forts around Paris). In other words, the wall would result in the "embastillisation" of Paris (the Bastillisation of Paris). 2308


2307 Patricia O'Brien, "L'Embastillement de Paris: The Fortification of Paris during the July Monarchy," French Historical Studies , Vol. 9, No. 1 (Spring, 1975), pp. 63-82.

2308 François Arago, Sur les Fortifications de Paris (Paris: Bachelier, 1841) and Études sur les fortifications de Paris, considérées politiquement et militairement (Paris: Pagnerre, 1845). Michel Chevalier, Les fortifications de Paris, lettre à M. Le Comte Molé (Paris: Charles Gosselin, 1841) and Cours d'Économie politique fait au Collège de France par Michel Chevalier (Bruxelles: Meline, Cans, 1851), vol. 2, "Douzième leçon. Concours de l'armée française aux travaux des fortifications de Paris," pp. 183-96. First ed. 1844.

General Councils (conseils généraux de département) (CW4 draft)

The General Council is a chamber in each French département that deliberates on subjects concerning that département. It has one representative per county (canton) (twenty-eight at the time for Les Landes département, thirty-one today), elected for nine years (six years today). Its functions have varied over time. The Law of 22 December 1789 created an assembly in each département consisting of 36 elected members. In February 1800 this was replaced by members appointed by the government. During the July Monarchy election of members of the Council was again made by election in a reform of 1833 but it was limited by the property and tax paying requirements of the electoral law (only tax payers who paid a minimum amount of direct taxes were allowed to vote). Universal manhood suffrage for Council elections was introduced under the Law of 3 July 1848. Bastiat was elected general councillor in 1833 for the county of Mugron after the reform of 1833 was enacted, a post he held until his death. At that time, the Council deliberations had to be approved by the prefect.

General Councils of Commerce, Manufacturing, and Agriculture (CW3 book)

General Councils for Commerce (1802), Manufacturing (1810), and Agriculture (1819) were set up within the Ministry of the Interior to bring together commercial, manufacturing, and agricultural elites to advise the government and to comment on legislation. Their membership came from either members of the chambers of commerce and industry or by appointment by the minister concerned. An ordinance of 1831 created within the Ministry of Commerce a Conseil supérieur (Superior Council) which had the authority to conduct official inquiries into matters such as tariff policy. It drew its membership from twelve people nominated by the Crown and the presidents of the three General Councils of Commerce, Manufacturing, and Agriculture and remained in existence until 1850, when all the Councils were amalgamated into one. It was under the auspices of the Superior Council for Commerce that an important inquiry into tariff policy was conducted in October 1834. The Economists criticized the Councils because their members were usually ardent supporters of tariffs, and they were composed of the largest and most politically well-connected businessmen from the large manufacturing and port towns to the exclusion of smaller traders and manufacturers. Horace Say argued that as important as this inquiry was in bringing significant economic information before the public, it also served as a way for the major beneficiaries of government tariffs and subsidies to organize their opposition to any change in government policy. Say argued that this was when an organized coalition of protected industries initially emerged in France.

In February 1850 the three General Councils were amalgamated into one General Council of Agriculture, Manufacturing, and Commerce. It had 236 members: 96 for agriculture, 59 for industry, 73 for commerce, and 8 for Algeria and the colonies. Its role was to advise the government on economic matters. The first session took place from 7 April to 11 May 1850 in the Luxembourg Palace and was opened by the president of the Republic.[3]


[3] See Léon Say, “Conseil général,” in DEP 1:458–60; Horace Say, “Enquêtes,” in DEP 1:701–6.

National Workshops (Ateliers Nationaux) (CW4 draft)

Louis Blanc was appointed by the Provisional Government to be the president of the "Commission du gouvernement pour les travailleurs" (Government Commission for the Workers) (also known as the Luxembourg Commission) which oversaw the National Workshops program. The National Workshops were created on February 27, 1848, in one of the very first legislative acts of the Provisional government, to create government funded jobs for unemployed workers. They were engaged in a variety of public works schemes and 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 Workshops were regarded by socialists as a key part of the revolution and as a model for the future reform of French society and much of the inspiration came from the writings of the socialist Louis Blanc whose book Organisation du travail (1839) discussed the need for "ateliers sociaux" (social workshops) which would guarantee employment for all workers. The first director of the National Workshops was a young engineer Emile Thomas and Louis Blanc was appointed head of the Luxembourg Commission which had been set up to study the problems of labour and which gradually became a focal point for labour organizations and activity.

Liberals like Bastiat regarded the Workshops as expensive interventions by the government into the operation of the free market which were doomed to failure. He opposed them from the start, and he lobbied against them when he was vice president of the Finance Committee of the Assembly, but ironically he later vociferously defended workers' right to protest against the government and sought to protect them from being shot by the army. In May 1848 the Constituent Assembly formed a committee to discuss the matter as the burden of paying for the National Workshops scheme was becoming too much for the government to bear. Bastiat was one of the speakers, and in his speech he distinguished between the right to work ( droit au travail, where "work" is used as a noun and thus might be rendered as the "right to a job") and the "right to work" ( droit de travailler, where "work" is used as a verb, meaning "the right to engage in work"). He was opposed to the former but supported the latter.

The increasing financial burden of the National Workshops led the Assembly to dissolve them on June 21, prompting some of the workers to riot in the streets of Paris during the so-called "June Days" of 23-26 June. The army under General Cavaignac was used to suppress the rioting resulting in the death of about 1,500 people and the arrest of 15,000 (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. Publication of Bastiat's second revolutionary magazine, Jacques Bonhomme, was suspended because of the June Days (it appeared between 11 June and 13 July). In it appeared a draft of what was to become his pamphlet "The State." In the second-last issue, which was published the day before the National Workshops were closed by the government and rioting had broken out in the streets of Paris, Bastiat courageously published an article on the front page calling for their dissolution ("To Citizens Lamartine and Ledru-Rollin"). The magazine was forced to close because of the violence in the streets and the imposition of martial law. In a letter written to Julie Marsan on 29 June, Bastiat states that he became involved in the street fighting to attempt to disarm the fighters and to rescue some of the insurgents from being killed by the army (see CW1, pp. 156–57). In the crackdown which followed, Bastiat opposed the arrest and trial of Blanc for his participation in an earlier uprising in May and for being a figurehead of the June revolt.

French Newspapers (CW3 book)

We know from his letters that Bastiat was a keen reader of the periodical press and often wrote letters to the editor and short articles for the local papers before he came to Paris. Between 1846 and 1850, when he had moved to Paris, Bastiat participated in numerous polemics in the French press where he vigorously engaged with protectionists and socialists on a variety of topics. At one point he went so far as to provide a list of the proprotectionist journals he read and debated with (Le Moniteur industriel, Le Journal des débats, Le Constitutionnel, La Presse, Le Commerce, L’Esprit public, Le National) and the more free-trade journals (Le Courrier français, Le Siècle, La Patrie, L’Époque, La Réforme, La Démocratie pacifique, L’Atelier), even though most of the latter did not meet his high expectations of free-trade rigor.

Bastiat’s most famous polemic was with the anarchist and socialist Proudhon, in the latter’s journal La Voix du peuple (The Voice of the People) on the topic of “Intérêt et principal” (Interest and Principal), which appeared in serial form between 22 October 1849 and 11 February 1850 and was then published as a booklet. The main schools of French socialism all had journals and newspapers: the Saint-Simonians published Le Producteur, journal philosophique de l’industrie, de la science et des beaux arts (1825–26, 5 vols.); Le Globe, journal de la religion saint-simonienne (1830–32); and L’Organisateur (1830–32). The followers of Fourier published La Réforme industrielle ou le phalanstère (1832–33); La Phalange; La Démocratie pacifique (1843–51);

Le Nouveau-monde (1839–). The “humanitarian socialists” such as Pierre Leroux published Revue social, ou Solution pacifique du problème du prolétariat (1845–47) and La Revue indépendante (1841–48). Philippe Buchez published a journal written and produced by workers, L’Atelier (1840–50). Le Populaire (1833–35, 1841–51) was a socialist and utopian newspaper which supported the ideas of Étienne Cabet. La Ruche populaire (1839–49), founded by the Vinçard brothers, was the first weekly journal produced and edited by workers for workers.

Liberal journals included Le Commerce (1837–48), edited by Arnold Scheffer and others; Le Courrier français (1820–46), supported by the banker Jacques Lafitte and for which Bastiat and Molinari occasionally wrote; Le Constitutionnel (1815–), which had been the main opposition paper of the Restoration but became a supporter of the Orléanist regime during the July Monarchy; Le Temps (1829–42), a liberal daily newspaper founded by François Guizot and Jacques Coste which was very critical of the regime before the 1830 Revolution and less so afterward; the main Economist journal, Le Journal des économistes (1842–), to which Bastiat was a frequent contributor; Le National (1830–51), founded by Adolphe Thiers, François-Auguste Mignet, and Armand Carrel; La Presse (1836–), founded by Émile de Girardin; not to forget the journals which Bastiat founded and wrote for: Le Libre-échange (1846–48), La République française (February–March 1848), and Jacques Bonhomme ( June 1848).

Republican journals included Le Journal du peuple (1834–42), which had Lafayette as one of its founders but later became left-leaning in supporting the interests of workers; La Reforme (1843–50), edited by Ferdinand Flocon and Eugène Baune, whose staff filled many positions in the provisional government after February 1848; La République (1848–50), a radical republican daily newspaper edited by Eugène Bareste—its prior existence was probably the reason Bastiat and Molinari had to change the name of their revolutionary paper to La République française, as their first choice had already been taken.

Conservative and legitimist journals included Le Quotidienne (1814–47), an ultraroyalist journal founded by Joseph Michaud; Le Journal des débats (1789–1944), edited by François-René de Chateaubriand, one of the most prestigious journals in France which was able to survive the vicissitudes of French political change—it should be noted that Bastiat published the longer version of his famous essay “The State” in the 25 September 1848 issue of Le Journal des débats and that Gustave de Molinari was an editor in the 1870s;

L’Echo français (1829–47), a legitimist newspaper which eventually merged with two other journals due to falling subscriptions; La France (1834–47), a daily legitimist newspaper; La Gazette de France, a very long-lived legitimist newspaper; La Nation (1843–1845), a moderate newspaper which supported the July Monarchy; La Revue des deux mondes (1829–1944), a liberal Orléanist journal which appeared fortnightly and became the most important literary review of the nineteenth century—Economists such as Michel Chevalier and Léon Faucher published articles in this review.

The official newspaper of the French government was Le Moniteur.

Hard-to-classify journals included the satirical Le Charivari (1832–1902), founded by Charles Philipon and Louis Desnoyers, which published among others the cartoons Honoré of Daumier; and Le Corsaire (1822–52), a liberal satirical and literary journal which was closed down by Louis-Napoléon.

For those journals Bastiat mentions by name, we have tried to provide some details in the glossary.

French Political Parties (CW3 book)↩

The following were the main political groups in the late 1840s when Bastiat was writing and becoming politically active:

The Doctrinaires, moderate royalists who supported the Charter of 1815 and Louis XVIII. François Guizot was their leading spokesman.

The Legitimists, who were supporters of the descendants of Charles X. They were spectacularly successful in the May 1849 elections in the “Party of Order,” winning two-thirds of the seats. One of their leading advocates was Odilon Barrot.

The republicans, who were relatively weak even though France became a republic three times in less than a century, in 1792, 1848, and 1870. General Lafayette was an important figure during the 1820s, but the group’s supporters fractured into socialist and liberal groups who had little else in common. Bastiat was a “moderate republican” during the Second Republic and usually sat with the left in the Chamber.

The Montagnards, radical socialists who modeled themselves on the Mountain faction of the first French Revolution. Ledru-Rollin was one of their leading advocates.

The Orléanists, who were supporters of the overthrown Louis-Philippe. The Bonapartists, who were supporters of Napoléon, both the Emperor

Napoléon I and then his nephew Louis-Napoléon, who was elected president of the Second Republic in December 1848 before seizing power in a coup d’état in December 1851 and proclaiming himself Napoléon III, Emperor of the French.

The Party of Order, which originated with the Comité de la rue de Poitiers, a group of conservative politicians who came together in May 1848 on the rue de Poitiers following an unsuccessful demonstration of radicals at the National Assembly. The group (numbering between two hundred and four hundred) met weekly and was made up of a broad coalition of conservative, legitimist, Bonapartist, and liberal groups. They supported General Cavaignac’s suppression of the riots in June 1848 and then Louis-Napoléon’s run for president of the Republic in December. Toward the end of 1848 the group began to be called the “Party of Order,” and it became increasingly monarchical and conservative. In the national election of January 1849 the Party of Order’s slogan was “Order, Property, Religion,” and it fought bitterly against the party of the left, the Montagnards (the Mountain) and the Democratic Socialists. The Party of Order won a majority of seats (450) to the Left’s 180. Moderate republicans won 75.

All of the political groups were protectionist to one degree or another, and the socialists were both protectionist and extremely interventionist as well. Free traders like Bastiat were very much in the minority and could draw upon only a few lukewarm supporters in the Doctrinaire and Bonapartist groups.

Public Works (CW3 book)

During the 1840s, the July Monarchy undertook a series of expensive public works projects which concerned the economists. Traditionally the French state spent money on roads, bridges, canals, rivers, ports, monuments, and public buildings, but these expeditures were overtaken by two new spending projects, namely the construction of the fortifications of Paris (1841–44) and the government’s participation in building the railroads after 1842. In the French government’s budget for 1848, a sum of fr. 111 million was allocated for civilian public works, which did not include public works paid for by the army or navy (such as in Algeria). The economist Michel Chevalier provides a useful summary of expenditure on public works during the July Monarchy between 1831 and 1845.[23] He records the following totals: bridges (fr. 15 million) monuments and public buildings (fr. 80 million), rivers (fr. 152 million), ports (fr. 176 million), canals (fr. 234 million), roads (fr. 233 million), and railways (fr. 741 million), for a total of fr. 1.614 billion.

The first new spending initiative was the creation of Adolphe Thiers, who planned to build a massive military wall 33 km (21 miles) in circumference around the city of Paris with sixteen surrounding forts.[24] All people and goods entering or leaving the city had to pass through one of the seventeen large entry gates built into the wall. This project was budgeted to cost fr. 150 million and was completed in 1844. The total expenditure would have been much higher if the state had not used the labor of thousands of conscripts to dig the ditches and build the wall. “Thiers’ Wall,” as it was known, was strongly opposed by liberals, such as the astronomer François Arago and the economist Michel Chevalier, as another example of the “Bastillization of Paris.”[25]

The second major public-works program undertaken at this time was the building of the railways. Government spending on railways rapidly expanded after the law of 11 June 1842 authorized the French state to partner with private companies in the building of five railroad networks spreading out from Paris. (See the Glossary on “French Railways.”) According to Chevalier, annual direct out-of-pocket expenses (not counting loan guarantees to railway companies) doubled from about fr. 6 million in 1840 to about fr. 12 million in 1842, and then increased by a factor of seven to fr. 86 million by 1845. According to Lobet, between 1842 and the end of 1847, the state had spent about fr. 420 million in subsidies, loan guarantees, and construction costs.[26]


[23] Michel Chevalier, “Statistique des travaux publics, sous le Gouvernement de Juillet,” Annuaire de l’économie politique pour 1849, pp. 209–37.

[24] Patricia O’Brien, “L’Embastillement de Paris: The Fortification of Paris during the July Monarchy,French Historical Studies 9, no. 1 (1975): 63–82.

[25] François Arago, Sur les Fortifications de Paris (Paris: Bachelier, 1841) and Études sur les fortifications de Paris, considérées politiquement et militairement (Paris: Pagnerre, 1845). Michel Chevalier, Les fortifications de Paris, lettre à M. Le Comte Molé (Paris: Charles Gosselin, 1841) and Cours d’Économie politique fait au Collège de France par Michel Chevalier (Bruxelles: Meline, Cans, 1851), vol. 2, “Douzième leçon. Concours de l’armée française aux travaux des fortifications de Paris,” pp. 183–96. First ed. 1844.

[26] Lobet, “Chemins de fer,” Annuaire de l’économie politique (1848), pp. 289–311. Data on p. 294.

The French Railways (CW3 book)

The first French railway was opened in 1828. It had begun as a private initiative of coal-mining companies to facilitate the transport of coal to nearby rivers but turned into a hybrid of state and favored private groups.

The first common-carrier train for both passengers and freight was opened in 1837 between Paris and LePecq. In 1842 the government decided to encourage the building of a national network. Under the Railway Law of 11 June 1842 the government ruled that five main railways radiating out of Paris would be built in cooperation with private industry. The government would build and own the rights-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. Between 1846 and 1851 the following major railway networks were inaugurated:

Chemin de fer du Nord ( June 1846)
Chemin de fer d’Amiens à Boulogne (May 1848)
Chemin de fer de Compiègne à Noyon (March 1849)
Chemin de fer de Paris à Strasbourg ( July 1849)
Chemin de fer de Tours à Angers (August 1849)
Chemin de fer d’Argenteuil (April 1851)

French railway companies were hamstrung by the fact that one of their biggest costs, the purchase of steel rails, remained high because of high tariffs which kept cheaper foreign steel out of the French market. In the 1850s smaller unprofitable concessions were amalgamated into six main railway companies, which enjoyed a monopoly within their geographic area. In 1859 the government guaranteed the interest on all loans made by railway companies to investors. In 1908 the government purchased the Ouest railway company and in 1937 nationalized all the others into one government railway system, the Société nationale des chemins de fer français (SNCF).[22]


[22] See Michel Chevalier, “Chemins de fer,” in DEP 1:337–62.

Slavery in France (CW3 book)

Slavery did not have a strong presence within France, but it played a major role in the French Caribbean colonies, such as Saint-Dominique (Haiti). Under the influence of the ideas of the French Revolution, slavery was abolished in 1794, and a number of freed blacks were elected to various French legislative bodies. Napoléon reintroduced slavery in 1802 and fought a bloody but unsuccessful war in order to prevent a free black republic from emerging in Haiti.

In 1807, under pressure from such abolitionists as William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson, Britain passed an act that abolished the slave trade, much of which was carried in British vessels. The United States followed suit in 1808 with a similar ban. This had significant implications for the southern states of the United States and the French Caribbean, where slavery remained firmly in place. The British Navy patroled the oceans, insisting upon a “right of inspection” to look for slaves being carried from Africa to the Caribbean and to punish those involved in the trade as pirates. This policy was a serious bone of contention between Britain and France, as the latter viewed the British policy as interference in their sovereign right to engage in trade and shipping. Slavery was abolished in the British Caribbean in 1833, again in the French colonies during the 1848 revolution, and in the United States in 1865 (by the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution).

Bastiat would most certainly have voted for a bill presented by Victor Schoelcher, the undersecretary for the navy and colonies, on 27 April 1848, to abolish slavery in French colonies. In Bastiat’s planned but unwritten History of Plunder, slavery was one of the four major stages through which the institution of organized plunder evolved: these started with war, went through slavery and theocracy, and ended with the present period of governmentprotected monopoly.

Tariff Policy (CW4 draft)

A good summary of the history of French customs and tariff policy can be found in Horace Say's entry "Douane" (Customs) in the DEP . 2309 Say divides his history into three main periods: the abolition of internal French customs and the rationalization of external duties in the earliest phase of the French Revolution (November 1790); the turmoil of the Napoleonic period culminating in the Continental Blockade of 1806 which attempted to ban the entry of British goods into Europe; and the rivalry between the landowning aristocrats of the Restoration period (who wanted protection for grain production and wood products) and the growing manufacturing interests, which resulted in the high tariffs of 1822. Say describes the post-1830 period as one which saw the formation of "a veritable pact of resistance by a coalition of the great landowners, and the protected iron producers and manufacturers" (p. 586) which witnessed two periods of active consolidation of tariff policy with additional legislation passed in 1833-35 and 1847.

Tariff policy during the Revolution had been a chaotic affair. In a decree of 30-31 October 1790 the Constituent Assembly abolished all internal tariffs and duties were abolished thus creating for the first time a largely free internal market in France. External tariffs were cut to a maximum 20% by value although some goods were prohibited entry into the French market. Molinari described the tariff reforms of the Constituent Assembly as a kind of customs union which involved all the provinces of France. Tariffs were completely reorganized by a law of August 1791 which abolished most prohibitions on imported material, abolished tariffs on primary products used by French manufacturers and food for consumers, and reduced tariffs on manufactured goods gradually down to 20-25% by value of the goods imported. The decree of 1 March 1793 annulled all foreign trade treaties and prohibited the importation of a large number of goods, such as textiles, metal goods, and pottery. The decree of 29 September 1793 introduced the notorious "Maximum" or price control legislation which threw the internal French economy into considerable disarray. A decree of 31 January 1795 declared that the tariff of 1791 would be cut by 50% to 90% on many articles. This was reversed by a law of 23 November 1796 in order to increase revenue for the state.

This on-again-off-again tariff regime was changed by the tariff law of 21 November 1806 (the Berlin Decree) which introduced Napoleon's Continental Blockade which was designed to deny British goods access to the European market. Thus, the debate about tariff policy had completely shifted away from any concern with protection of domestic industry and revenue raising and had become an instrument of economic warfare against the British. In some instances tariffs were raised to absurd levels, such as fr. 300 per kilo on imported sugar. During the Restoration in 1816 tariffs on imported cotton, for example, were set at fr. 22 per 100 kilos. In 1821-22 there was a review of tariffs which served to create a protectionist regime around the interests of large land owners and favoured manufacturers.

This process continued under the July Monarchy. The government inquiry into French tariff policy held in October 1834 raised hopes that there might be a reduction in the level of tariffs as the Minister of Commerce, Thiers, was in favor. However, the Inquiry concluded that France should continue its protectionism of industry. The Inquiry resulted in a detailed 3 volume report issued by the Superior Council of Commerce in 1835 based upon the findings of its inquiry held in October 1834. The list of members of the inquiry read like a "who's who" of the protectionists Bastiat mentions and criticizes throughout the Economic Sophisms . See Enquête relative à diverses prohibitions établies à l'entrée des produits étrangers (1835). It was 1,459 pages in length and was printed by the government printing office at taxpayers' expence. The English free trader and key figure in the Anti-Corn Law League Thomas Perronet Thompson (1783-1869) wrote a critique of the French inquiry which was translated and published as Contre-Enquête: par l'Homme aux Quarante Ecus (1834).

The 1835 Report consolidated the protectionist regime and set tariff rates which would last until the 1848 Revolution. French tariffs on manufactured goods such as textiles were very complex. In the case of textiles many goods were prohibited outright in order to protect French manufacturers ("le régime prohibitionniste"). Some products used to manufacture other goods, such as cotton thread used to make lace or tulle, were allowed entry upon payment of a tariff of fr. 7-8 per kilogramme. Most finished goods had prohibitive duties imposed upon them such as fr. 50-100 per piece in the case of cashmere scarves and fr. 550 per 100 kilogramme for wool carpets (this was called "le régime protectionniste"). According to the Budget Papers of 1848 the French state raised fr. 202.1 million from tariffs and import duties out of total receipts of fr. 1,391 million, or 14.5%. See Horace Say, "Douanes, " DEP , vol. 1, pp. 578-604.

The free traders in France were inspired by the success of Richard Cobden's Anti-Corn Law League which was founded in 1838 and which had achieved its aim of abolishing protection for agricultural products by mid-1846. The French "Association pour la liberté des échanges" (Free Trade Association) was founded in February 1846 in Bordeaux with Bastiat as the secretary of the Board and editor of their journal Le Libre-Échange (November 1846-April 1848). A push by Bastiat and other free traders to have the French chamber pass similar legislation in 1847 failed. Léon Faucher states that the attempt by the free traders in the Chamber to revise French tariff policy in a more liberal direction failed because they were out-manoeuvred by the protectionists. The opportunity arose when a bill came before the Chamber on 31 March 1847 but the Committee assigned by the Chamber to write a report was stacked with protectionists and the lobbying by the Association for the Defence of National Employment was very effective. France did not begin to loosen its policy of protectionism until the Anglo-France Trade Treaty of 1860 which was signed by Richard Cobden for the British government and Michel Chevalier for the French government.

In Bastiat's day a veritable "army" of public servants worked for the Customs Service. According to Horace Say there were 27,727 individuals (1852 figures) employed, composed of two "divisions" - one of administrative personnel (2,536) and the other of "agents on active service" (24,727). According to the Budget papers for 1848 the Customs Service collected fr. 202 million in customs duties and salt taxes and their administrative and collection costs totalled fr. 26.4 million or 13% of the amount collected. See the Appendix "French Government Finances 1848-1849."

Assessing the average rate of tariffs in different countries is very difficult given the huge variety of products, the manner in which they were taxed (by weight, volume, or price), and whether the tariff was for "fiscal" purposes (to raise revenue for the state) or protectionist purposes (to favour domestic producers at the expense of foreign producers). A useful comparative study of tariff rates in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain in the 19th century is provided by Antonio Tena Jungito who compares average tariff rates of all goods taxed as well as average tariff rates on only protected items (leaving out the usually low rates on items taxed for fiscal purposes only). 2310 From his data we can conclude the following: British aggregate tariff rates (excluding fiscal goods) peaked at about 15% in 1836 and began dropping in 1840 reaching a low point of about 6% in 1847 (the abolition of the Corn Laws was announced in January 1846 and was to come into full effect in 1849), and continuing to drop steadily throughout the rest of the century reaching a plateau of less than 1% between 1880 and 1903. France had an average rate of about 12% in 1836 and it was still around 11% in 1848 before it began to drop steadily reaching 5% in 1857, then spiking briefly to 7.5% in 1858, and dropping steadily again to about 1.5% in 1870 (the Anglo-French Free Trade Treaty was signed in 1860), before again moving steadily upwards to about 8% in 1893. In 1849 the rates were about 6% in Britain and 10% in France. As a point of comparison, in the United States tariff rates fluctuated wildly as the protectionist North and the free trade South fought for control of the Federal government before the Civil War. 2311 In 1832 the Protectionist Tariff imposed an average rate of 33%; the Compromise Tariff of 1833 intended to lower rates to a flat 20%; and the 1846 Tariff created 4 tariff schedules for goods which imposed 100%, 40%, 30%, or 20% depending upon the particular kind of good. The average rate in the U.S. in 1849 was about 23% which is definitely a "protectionist" tariff and not a "fiscal" tariff according to Bastiat's definition (5%).


2309 Horace Say, "Douane", DEP, vol. 1, pp. 578-604 (figures from p. 597). Additional information can be found in Molinari, "Union douanière" (Customs Union), DEP , vol. 2, p. 788; Pierre Clément, Histoire du système protécteur en France (1854); Henri Fonfrède, "Du système prohibitif" in Oeuvres de Henri Fonfrède (1846), Vol. 7, pp. 285, 319, 344; Léon Faucher, "Du projet de loi sur les douanes," JDE, no. 75 February 1848, vol. XIX, pp. 254-65.

2310 Antonio Tena Jungito, "Assessing the protectionist intensity of tariffs in nineteenth-century European trade policy," in Classical Trade Protectionism 1815-1914 (2005), pp. 99-120.

2311 Frank Taussig, The Tariff History of the United States (1914), pp. 110-115.

French Taxation (CW3 book)

The following are the different taxes levied by the French government to which Bastiat refers in his writings: the wine and spirits tax; the octroi, or tax levied on goods brought into a town; the gabelle, or tax on salt; the taxe de quarante-cinq centimes, or the 45-centime tax, which was introduced on 16 March 1848 and which increased direct taxes on things such as land, movable goods, doors and windows, and trading licenses, by 45 percent; the droits réunis or combined indirect taxes; the forced labor obligations, or corvées, which were later converted into a direct money payment known as a prestation.

Wine and Spirits Tax (CW3 book)

The wine and spirits tax was eliminated by the revolutionary parliament of 1789 but progressively reinstated during the empire. It comprised four components: (1) a consumption tax (10 percent of the sale price); (2) a license fee paid by the vendor, depending on the number of inhabitants; (3) a tax on circulation, which depended on the département; and (4) an entry duty for towns of more than four hundred inhabitants, depending on the sale price and the number of inhabitants. Being from a wine-producing region, Bastiat had always been preoccupied by such a law, which was very hard on the local farmers. This tax raised fr. 104 million in 1848.

Octroi (CW3 book)

The “octroi,” or tax on goods brought into a town or city, was imposed on consumer goods such as wine, beer, food (except for flour, fruit, and milk), firewood, animal fodder, and construction materials. All of these products had to pass through tollgates on the outskirts of the town or city, where they could be inspected and taxed. For example, King Louis XVI had 57 barrières d’octroi (tollgates) built around the city of Paris for this purpose.

In 1841 it was estimated that 1,420 communes throughout France imposed the octroi upon entry into their cities and towns, raising some fr. 75 million in revenue. The money was used to pay for the maintenance of roads, drains, lighting, and other public infrastructure. Although the Economists accepted the need for towns and cities to charge for these services, they objected to the octroi because it was not uniform across the nation, it fell more heavily on poorer consumers, it was very costly to collect, and, perhaps most important, it divided France with hundreds of separate internal customs barriers, which interfered with internal free trade. Not surprisingly, the octroi were much disliked and in the early days of the French Revolution in July 1789 the tollgates of Paris were set upon and many burned to the ground. The Constituent Assembly abolished the octroi in January 1791, but they were reestablished by the Directory in October 1798. Horace Say, the businessman son of the economist Jean-Baptiste Say, fought unsuccessfully to have the octroi abolished during the 1840s.[11] They were not abolished until 1943. In 1845 the city of Paris imposed an octroi on all goods entering the city which raised fr. 48 million. Of this amount, fr. 26.1 million (53 percent of the total) was levied on wine and other alcoholic drinks. The tax on wine was the heaviest as a proportion of total value and the most unequally applied. Cheap table wine was taxed at 80–100 percent by value, while superior quality wine was taxed at 5–6 percent by value.[12]

Gabelle (CW3 book)

The tax on salt, or gabelle, as it was known under the old regime, was a much-hated tax on an item essential for preserving and flavoring food. It was abolished during the Revolution but revived during the Restoration. In 1816 it was set at 30 centimes per kilogram, and in 1847 it raised fr. 70.4 million. During the Revolution of 1848 it was reduced to 10 centimes per kilogram, the level proposed by Bastiat in January 1847.[13] 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.

“Taxe de Quarante-Cinq Centimes” (The 45-Centime Tax) (CW3 book)

In the immediate aftermath of the February Revolution the government faced a budget crisis brought on by the decline in tax revenues and the increased demands being placed on it by new political groups. Louis-Antoine Pagès (Garnier-Pagès, 1803–78), a member of the provisional government and soon afterward mayor of Paris, was able to pass a new “temporary” tax law on 16 March 1848, which increased direct taxes on things such as land, movable goods, doors and windows, and trading licenses, by 45 percent. It was known as the taxe de quarante-cinq centimes (the 45-centime tax) and was deeply unpopular, prompting revolts and protests in the southwest of France.

Indirect Taxes and the “Droits Réunis” (Combined Taxes) (CW3 book)

Many indirect taxes on consumer goods were abolished in the early years of the Revolution only to be reintroduced by Napoléon, who centralized their collection in 1804 by a single administrative body under the name of droits réunis (combined duties). In the Restoration the Charter of 1814 promised to abolish both the droits réunis and conscription, but these promises were not kept. The old indirect taxes were simply renamed contributions indirectes (indirect taxes or “contributions”), although they were imposed at a slightly reduced rate. In 1848 the state received fr. 307.9 million in indirect “contributions” (taxes) out of a total of fr. 1.391 billion, or 22 percent of all revenue. These taxes were levied on drink, salt, sugar, tobacco, gunpowder, and other goods.

The Prestation and the Corvée (CW3 book)

Under the old regime the most hated of the taxes imposed on the peasantry were the forced labor obligations or corvées which required local farmers to work a certain number of days (eight) every year for their local lord or on various local and national roadworks. These were repealed and reinstated repeatedly over a period of about sixty years, beginning with Turgot’s ordinances of March 1776. Forced labor obligations were reintroduced by Napoléon in 1802 under a new name, prestations, and were limited to work on local (not national) roads. They were abolished again in 1818 only to be reintroduced in 1824 at two days per year. This was increased to three days per year in 1836 with the further refinement that some individuals were able to buy their way out of service for a money payment. Courcelle Seneuil described the prestations as “vicious” and “like the old debris from feudal times, like the last vestige of barbarism and of the forced communal organization of labor.”[14]


[11] For a useful history of the octroi tax, see Say, Paris, son octroi et ses emprunts; and Esquirou de Parieu, “Octrois,” in DEP 2:284–91.

[12] Say, Paris, son octroi et ses emprunts (p. 11 for figures).

[13] See ES2 11, p. 189.

[14] Courcelle Seneuil, “Prestations,” in DEP 2:428–30.

Teaching Political Economy in the Universities (CW4 draft)

The teaching of political economy was of great concern to the Economists around Bastiat. There were very few full-time teaching positions in political economy. Michel Chevalier had a chair at the Collège de France (1840) and Joseph Garnier had one at the École des ponts et chaussées (School of Bridges and Highways) (1846) which was an engineering school. Others taught in small private schools or colleges. Some of the Economists were members of the Institute and thus had some access to funds and publishing opportunities but without a position in the universities it was difficult to teach graduate students and thus build up a school of thought. Both Bastiat and Molinari were able to give some lectures in economics in late 1847, Bastiat at the School of Law and Molinari in a rented hall, but these efforts were interrupted by the outbreak of Revolution in February 1848 and were abandoned. Later in the 19th century the teaching of economics was allowed but only from within the Law Faculties. This meant that most Economists were excluded because they did not have law degrees and the economics that was taught was taught by lawyers for the use of other lawyers many of whom would go onto careers in the government bureaucracies.

During the debate about tariff reform in 1847 the protectionist Mimerel Committee put pressure on the government to force the economists to stop teaching free trade ideas unless they also taught pro-protectionists views, or in other words an economic version of "teaching the debate." Opposition to them reached a peak during the Revolution when the Provisional Government in 1848 closed down Michel Chevalier's chair in political economy at the Collège de France and replaced it with a school for government bureaucrats and administrators. They succeeded temporarily but intense lobbying by the Political Economy Society and their friends like Bastiat in the government had the decision reversed in November that same year. See Bastiat's essay "The War against Chairs of Political Economy" (June 1847) and the accompanying footnotes in CW2, pp. 277-81. 2314


2314 See, Salerno, J.T. (1988) "The Neglect of the French Liberal School in Anglo-American Economics: A Critique of Received Explanations." The Review of Austrian Economics 2: 113-56; and Joseph T. Salerno, "The Neglect of Bastiat's School by English-Speaking Economists: A Puzzle Resolved," Journal des économistes et des Etudes Humaines vol. 11, no. 2/3 (June/September 2001), pp. 451-95. On teaching economics in France see "A Puzzle Resolved," pp. 3 ff. See also, Lucette Le Van-Lemesle, "La promotion de l'économie politique en France au XIXe siècle jusqu'à son introduction dans le facultés (1815-1881)," Revue d'histoire moderne et contemporaine , 27 April 1980, pp. 270-94 and Alain Alcouffe, "The Institutionalization of Political Economy in French Universities: 1819-1896," History of Political Economy , Summer 1989, vol. 21, no. 2, pp. 313-44.

French Weights and Measures (CW3 book)

As with currency, Bastiat uses terms which are a mixture of ancien régime and revolutionary practices. The metric system was introduced into France during the Revolution as part of the application of enlightened thinking to all aspects of life. The law of 17 April 1795 mandated the use of metric weights and measures to replace those which had been used under the ancien régime. For a time the two existed side by side until Prime Minister François Guizot passed the law of 4 July 1837, making metric measurements universal and compulsory. Below is a list of some commonly used measurements.

Quintal: The term “quintal” comes from the Latin and is a unit of measurement made of 100 subunits. In the ancien régime this meant a quintal was 100 livres (or pounds). After the metrification introduced by the French Revolution a quintal came to mean 100 kilograms (220 modern pounds weight).

Arpent: An arpent was 220 feet (pied-du-roi or royal feet) or 71.9 metres. Lieue: A lieue (league) had several different meanings: an “old league” (lieue ancienne) was 10,000 feet (3.3 km); a “Paris league” (lieue de Paris) was 12,000 feet (3.9 km); and a “Postal league” (ligue des Postes) was 13,200 feet (4.3 km).

Acre: An acre was 48,400 square feet or 5,107 square meters or 0.51 hectares.

Centiare: A centiare was 1/10,000 hectare or 1 square meter. (A square arpent is about 3,400 square meters or 0.85 acres.)

Bastiat uses a number of terms to express the volume of wine, some of which are regional and not exactly defined. The most common one is tonneau (barrel or butt), which is 126 gallons. Bastiat also uses the term pièce (cask), which some dictionaries define as equal to a tonneau but which Bastiat defines here as one-quarter of a barrel. Since Bastiat was a wine grower himself we will defer to his knowledge of the matter. Tariffs and taxes were levied on a hectoliter of wine, for example. One hectoliter = 100 liters = 22 U.S. gallons.

Bastiat also uses the term sole, which is a small strip of land traditionally used for crop rotation (assolement de culture) in feudal agriculture. Each sole would be sown with a different crop which would be changed (rotated) from year to year in order to avoid the exhaustion of the soil.

Welfare Office (Bureau de bienfaisance) (CW4 draft)

Under the Old Regime the Catholic Church had a monopoly on the organisation of public welfare. This was taken away during the Revolution and the Law of 1796 created in its place a system of Welfare Offices (Bureaux de bienfaisance) whose function was to distribute assistance to the poor, orphaned children, and the sick. Money from a tax on the sale of tickets to various forms of entertainment was used to fund the Offices. In 1847 there were 9,336 Welfare Offices in communes across France covering about 16.5 million inhabitants out of a total population of 36 million people. Money raised for distribution to the poor was about 15 million francs per annum for the period 1843-1847. The bulk of the money was used to buy food. Smaller amounts were used to buy cloths and fuel for heating. In 1847 1,185,632 individuals were given assistances amounting to 14fr. 20c. on average. 2315


2315 See, Maurice Block, Statistique de la France, comparée avec les autres états de l'Europe . 2 vols. (Paris: D'Amyot, 1860). Vol. 1, Chap. VII Bienfaisance, section on "Bureaux de bienfaisance", pp. 291-95.