The Two Hatchets

Petition of Jacques Bonhomme, Carpenter, to M. Cunin-Gridaine, Minister

of Commerce.

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

in France.

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.