The Two Hatchets
Petition of Jacques Bonhomme, Carpenter, to M. Cunin-Gridaine, Minister
MR. MANUFACTURER-MINISTER: I am a carpenter, as was Jesus; I handle the
hatchet and the plane to serve you.
In chopping and splitting from morning until night in the domain of my
lord, the King, the idea has occurred to me that my labor was as much
national as yours.
nd accordingly I don't understand why protection should not visit my
shop as well as your manufactory.
For indeed, if you make cloths, I make roofs. Both by different means
protect our patrons from cold and rain. But I have to run after
customers while business seeks you. You know how to manage this by
obtaining a monopoly, while my business is open to any one who chooses
to engage in it.
What is there astonishing in this? Mr. Cunin, the Cabinet Minister, has
not forgotten Mr. Cunin, the manufacturer, as was very natural. But
unfortunately, my humble occupation has not given a Minister to France,
although it has given a Saviour to the world.
And this Saviour, in the immortal code which he bequeathed to men, did
not utter the smallest word by virtue of which carpenters might feel
authorized to enrich themselves as you do at the expense of others.
Look, then, at my position. I earn thirty cents every day, excepts
Sundays and holidays. If I apply to you for work at the same time with a
Flemish workman, you give him the preference.
But I need clothing. If a Belgian weaver puts his cloth beside yours,
you drive both him and his cloth out of the country. Consequently,
forced to buy at your shop, where it is dearest, my poor thirty cents
are really worth only twenty-eight.
What did I say? They are worth only twenty-six. For, instead of driving
the Belgian weaver away at your own expense (which would be the least
you could do) you compel me to pay those who, in your interest, force
him out of the market.
And since a large number of your fellow-legislators, with whom you seem
to have an excellent understanding, take away from me a cent or two
each, under pretext of protecting somebody's coal, or oil, or wheat,
when the balance is struck, I find that of my thirty cents I have only
fifteen left from the pillage.
Possibly, you may answer that those few pennies which pass thus, without
compensation, from my pocket to yours, support a number of people about
your chateau, and at the same time assist you in keeping up your
establishment. To which, if you would permit me, I would reply, they
would likewise support a number of persons in my cottage.
However this may be, Hon. Minister-Manufacturer, knowing that I should
meet with a cold reception were I to ask you to renounce the restriction
imposed upon your customers, as I have a right to, I prefer to follow
the fashion, and to demand for myself, also, a little morsel of
To this, doubtless you will interpose some objections. Friend, you
will say, I would be glad to protect you and your colleagues; but how
can I confer such favors upon the labor of carpenters? Shall I prohibit
the importation of houses by land and by sea?
This would seem sufficiently ridiculous, but by giving much thought to
the subject, I have discovered a way to protect the children of St.
Joseph, and you will, I trust, the more readily grant it since it
differs in no respect from the privilege which you vote for yourself
every year. This wonderful way is to prohibit the use of sharp hatchets
I say that this restriction would be neither more illogical nor
arbitrary than that which you subject us to in regard to your cloth.
Why do you drive away the Belgians? Because they sell cheaper than you
do. And why do they sell cheaper than you do? Because they are in some
way or another your superiors as manufacturers.
Between you and the Belgians, then, there is exactly the same difference
that there is between a dull hatchet and a sharp one. And you compel me,
a carpenter, to buy the workmanship of your dull hatchet!
Consider France a laborer, obliged to live by his daily toil, and
desiring, among other things, to purchase cloth. There are two means of
doing this. The first is to card the wool and weave the cloth himself;
the second is to manufacture clocks, or wines, or wall-paper, or
something of the sort, and exchange them in Belgium for cloth.
The process which gives the larger result may be represented by the
sharp hatchet; the other process by the dull one.
You will not deny that at the present day in France it is more difficult
to manufacture cloth than to cultivate the vine--the former is the dull
hatchet, the latter the sharp one--on the contrary, you make this
greater difficulty the very reason why you recommend to us the worst of
the two hatchets.
Now, then, be consistent, if you will not be just, and treat the poor
carpenters as well as you treat yourself. Make a law which shall read:
It is forbidden to use beams or shingles which have not been fashioned
by dull hatchets.
And you will immediately perceive the result.
Where we now strike an hundred blows with the ax, we shall be obliged to
give three hundred. What a powerful encouragement to industry!
Apprentices, journeymen and masters, we should suffer no more. We should
be greatly sought after, and go away well paid. Whoever wishes to enjoy
a roof must leave us to make his tariff, just as buyers of cloth are now
obliged to submit to you.
As for those free trade theorists, should they ever venture to call the
utility of this system in question we should know where to go for an
unanswerable argument. Your investigation of 1834 is at our service. We
should fight them with that, for there you have admirably pleaded the
cause of prohibition, and of dull hatchets, which are both the same.