Paris from Above: the Three Walls around the city built by the State↩
The inner ring of Octroi tax gates and wall
The octroi was a tax on most consumer goods which were brought into the city.
The Fortifications of Paris (1841–45): the middle ring of the military wall and the outer ring of forts
The Prime Minister Adolphe Thiers was the driving force behind the building of the military wall and 16 major forts around the city between 1841–44. It extended for 33 km (20.6 miles) and had 23 main gates for road and foot traffic, 8 entry points for the railways, and 5 for river boats.
FB’s life in Les Landes: Bayonne, Mugron, Mont-de-Mersan (1843–44).↩
His family ran a business out of the city of Bayonne. Bastiat inherited some land in the region known as La Chalosse near Mugron when his grandfather died. He took up farming and wine growing and had as amny as 150 share-croppers as tenants. He was a magistrate (Justice of the Peace) in Mugron and was a member of the General Council of Les Landes which operated out of the town of Mont-de Mersan. Mugron was on the Adour river which flowed through Bayonne into the sea. To the north of Mugron was a large area of swampy marsh and heath land (“les landes”) which was used for sheep herding.
The building of railways began in the late 1830s and a law of 1841 ruled that 5 large networks would serve the provinces and each would have a major railway station in Paris. The government granted concessions to private railway companies and shared building and operating part of the system. The link from Paris to Bordeaux/Bayonne was under construction towards the end of Bastiat’s life.
Bastiat wrote some important essays on free trade in late 1844 and came to the attention of the Parisian economists. He went to Paris to meet them in May 1845 and was instrumental in setting up a free trade movement in France between 1846 to the end of 1847. He quickly became an important part of the Guillaumin circle of free market economists and published several works with them during this period.
![A Wall Poster advertising a Free Trade meeting. It shows the slogan of the Association “La vie à bon marché” (Life at low prices) which had been coined by the poet Lamartine who spoke at free trade meetings. He later became the head of the Provisional Government in February 1848.
Getting around the Ban on Political Meetings 1: Singing Societies or Goguettes↩
Trade unions and political parties were banned under the July Monarchy (1830–48) and strict censorship was enforced on book and newspaper publishing. To get around this ban singing societies (or “goguettes”) became popular where ordinary people could sing a variety of types of songs, such as popular folk songs , drinking songs, as well as political songs which were strictly forbidden. One of the best selling writers of political and other songs was Béranger who joined Bastiat’s Free Trade Society.
Getting around the Ban on Political Meetings 2: A Political Banquet in late 1847↩
In the summer of 1847 an opposition political movement began to put pressure on the government to lessen the restriction of freedom of speech and association. Since political speeches were banned at the “political banquets” only “toasts” could be given. Since the police had difficulty distinguishing between a long political toast and a short political speech, and since the number of banquets were increasing in number and radicalism, the government banned them in February 1848. A march to protest the banning of a banquet to celebrate the birthday of the republican and democratic George Washington (Feb. 22) triggered the fall of Louis Philippe’s regime and the creation of the Second Republic.
Delacroix’s ceiling in the Palais Bourbon (Leg. Ass)↩
In the mid and late 1840s Eugène Delacroix painted a ceiling mural for the Library of the Palais Royal which was the seat of the National Assembly. It was a complex allegorical depiction of the struggle between “war” (Attila the Hun) and “peace” (Orpheus). It was completed in 1847.
ACT III: REVOLUTION AND CRISIS BETWEEN FEBRUARY AND JUNE 1848↩
Bastiat’s world was turned upside down because of the Revolution and the rise of socialism in February 1848. The free trade movement he had helped build was put on hold while the economists threw themselves into politics, in particular opposing the rise of socialism in the National Workshops scheme run by Louis Blanc. He was elected in April 1848 to represent Les Landes in the Constituent Assembly of the Second Republic. He was also appointed vice-president of the Chamber’s Finance Committee where he opposed high taxes and excessive government expenditure such as the National Workshops state-funded work programs. He and his friends got caught up in the street fighting in Paris in February and June when many thousands were killed and injured by the army. They were handing out copies of their small revolutionary magazines on the streets defending free markets and criticising high taxes and socialist ideas.
Lamartine declaring the Formation of Second Republic↩
Barricades built across the streets had a history going back centuries and reached their classic form during the 1830 Revolution in Paris. They consisted of street paving stones, old furniture, fence railings, overturned carriages, which were tied together with iron chains. In some parts of Paris they were constructed every couple of hundred of metres (see the map below of June 1848) and were a severe impediment to the movement of troops in the city. In February the French troops were disorganised and divided in their loyalties. They were eventually defeated by the barricade builders. This was not the case in June when new tactics were adopted and artillery used to destroy the barricades.
The radical socialists who were members of the Provisional Government wanted to put into practice the ideas of Victor Considerant and Louis Blanc to “organise work” into worker controlled groups where all workers would be granted “the right to a job” and would be paid an equal wage and profits would be abolished. The Provisional Government set up Louis Blanc to “investigate” the matter in a “Government Commission for the Workers”. He was not set up as the new “Minister for Labour” or the “minister for Progress” (which was Considerant’s idea). Blanc with the help of “Albert” took over the Luxembourg Palace (the seat of the old Chamber of Peers) to begin implementing the National Workshops which would provide paid employment for any and all unemployed workers. As the number of unemployed seeking government paid relief grew the economic burden became too great and, under Bastiat’s strong urging in the Finance Committee, the decision was taken in late May to abolish the workshops. Supporters of the national Workshops organised protest marches on June 22 thus triggering the “June Days” uprising (and another period of barricade building) which was bloodily put down by the Army under General Cavaignac.
When censorship collapsed in late February with the fall of Louis Philippe’s régime there was complete freedom of speech and association for the first time in several decades. Various groups took advantage of this to set up political clubs and publish magazine to espouse their points of view. The economists set up their own club called “The Club for the Freedom of Working” (liberté du travail) (“Club Lib” for short) to directly counter Louis Blanc’s club which supported the “right to a job” (liberté au travail).
A group of Louis Blanc’s supporters were disappointed at how badly the socialist did in the April election that they decided to invade the National Asembly during one of its sessions and force the Provisional Government to resign and to appoint more socialist ministers. It is unclear how much support Blanc gave to this act but he was carried around the Chamber on the shoulders of his supporters. They were eventually arrested and expelled from the Chamber. Later Bastiat defended Blanc from having his parliamentary privileges revoked so he could be arrested and charged. He lost and Blanc was forced to go into exile to England.
Bastiat, Molinari and other colleagues started a second revolutionary street magazine in June to hand out to the workers in the streets. They got caught up in the crossfire when the soldiers moved to put down the revolt and remove the barricades.
After the June rioting Bastiat’s health continued to decline (I believe he was suffering from throat cancer which would kill him in Dec. 1850). He continued to fight against socialism and interventionism in the Chamber and in a series of a dozen or so anti-socialist pamphlets which were published by Guillaumin. He also continued work on writing his economic treatise, Economic Harmonies, he participated in an important international Peace Congress which was held in Paris in August 1849, and also wrote three important works on Free Credit (in an acrimonious debate with the left-anarchist Proudhon), What is Seen and What is Not Seen, and The Law.
During this period he received help from Madame Hortense Cheuvreux who made available to him the use of a hunting lodge in the woods to the west of Paris so he could have the peace and quiet he needed to write. There is also the possibility that in late 1849, following the Peace Congress, he went on a secret mission to London on behalf of a faction within the French government to sound out, through his friend Richard Cobden, the chances of the English government agreeing to cuts in military spending.
Bastiat and his colleagues were very worried about the future plans of Louis Napoléon Bonaparte, the nephew of Emperor Napoléon, who got elected to the Camber in June 1848 and then President of the Republic in December 1848. He seemed to combine political popularism, militarism, and economic interventionism much as his uncle had done 40 years previously. Although Bastiat died before Louis Napoléon seized power in a coup d’état in December 1851 he probably suspected what lay ahead as he and his colleagues began shifting gear in 1849 to challenge the new “socialism from above” (of Bonapart’s bureaucratic interventionism) now that “socialism from below” of Louis Blanc and the radical “Montagnard” movement had been defeated by the declaration of martial law and the crackdown on freedom of speech and association by the police.
In 7 years the unknown provincial 42 year old magistrate who had a hobby of reading economics became one of the most brilliant economic journalists the world has ever seen, help start and ran the French Free Trade movement, participated in a Revolution, got elected to the Chamber and became a strong voice within it for lower taxes and balanced budgets, wrote a string of important pamphlets on economic and political theory, and began work on a multi-volume treatise on social theory which he was unable to complete before he died at the age of 49.
The years immediately after his death appeared to be bleak for free market liberals like himself:
the push for free trade had been defeated in the summer of 1847;
the political and intellectual force of socialism appeared in early 1848 and was stronger than the liberals had anticipated;
another power-hungry and interventionist Bonaparte had become head of the French state in December 1848;
one of his promising younger colleagues, Alcide Fonteyraud, died suddenly in the cholera epidemic which swept France in the summer of 1849;
he died not living long enough to finish his magnum opus;
the brilliant editor and his friend on the barricade, Charles Coquelin, dropped dead from a heart attack in mid–1852 while working on the next big project the Guilllaumin network had taken up, the Dictionnaire de l’économie politique, which was designed to counter the new threat of “socialism from above”;
and his younger colleague and friend Gustave de Molinari left Paris to go into voluntary exile rather than live under Napoléon III.
The group pf classical liberal economists in Paris had truly been decimated between 1849 and 1852.
Nevertheless, the work of his colleague Michel Chevalier within Napoléon III’s regime eventually resulted in a free trade treaty with England in January 1860, signed by his dear friend Richard Cobden. Bastiat himself would eventually get some recognition in 1878 when his friends raised enough money to have one of the leading sculptors in France design and build a fitting monument to his life and work which was erected in the square of his home town of Mugron. The statue was partly made of bronze and this bronze-work was seized by the Nazis in 1942 and melted down to make munitions as the scarcity of resources began to weaken the German war effort. This was a considerable irony given Bastiat’s great hostility to war and his efforts to build a peace movement.
Although long forgotten in his own country, Bastiat’s work was discovered by some Americans who were opposed to the policies of President Roosevelt in the 1930s and WW2. The newspaper publisher R.C. Hoiles in Santa Ana, California used the printing presses of his newspaper to reprint an old English translation of Bastiat’s two most important works, the Economic Sophisms and Economic Harmonies in very bright red covers - thus introducing his work to the new generation of free market economists which appeared after WW2.
The Signing of the Anglo-French Free Trade Treaty in 1860↩