To Artisans And Laborers
Many papers have attacked me before you. Will you not read my defense?
I am not mistrustful. When a man writes or speaks, I believe that he
thinks what he says.
What is the question? To ascertain which is the more advantageous for
you, restriction or liberty.
I believe that it is liberty; they believe it is restriction; it is for
each one to prove his case.
Was it necessary to insinuate that we are the agents of England?
You will see how easy recrimination would be on this ground.
We are, they say, agents of the English, because some of us have used
the English words meeting, free trader!
And do not they use the English words drawback and budget?
We imitate Cobden and the English democracy!
Do not they parody Bentinck and the British aristocracy?
We borrow from perfidious Albion the doctrine of liberty.
Do not they borrow from her the sophisms of protection?
We follow the commercial impulse of Bordeaux and the South.
Do not they serve the greed of Lille, and the manufacturing North?
We favor the secret designs of the ministry, which desires to turn
public attention away from the protective policy.
Do not they favor the views of the Custom House officers, who gain more
than anybody else by this protective regime?
So you see that if we did not ignore this war of epithets, we should not
be without weapons.
But that is not the point in issue.
The question which I shall not lose sight of is this:
Which is better for the working-classes, to be free or not to be free
to purchase from abroad?
Workmen, they say to you, If you are free to buy from abroad these
things which you now make yourselves, you will no longer make them. You
will be without work, without wages, and without bread. It is then for
your own good that your liberty be restricted.
This objection recurs in all forms. They say, for instance, If we
clothe ourselves with English cloth, if we make our plowshares with
English iron, if we cut our bread with English knives, if we wipe our
hands with English napkins, what will become of the French workmen--what
will become of the national labor?
Tell me, workmen, if a man stood on the pier at Boulogne, and said to
every Englishman who landed: If you will give me those English boots, I
will give you this French hat; or, if you will let me have this English
horse, I will let you have this French carriage; or, Are you willing to
exchange this Birmingham machine for this Paris clock? or, again, Does
it suit you to barter your Newcastle coal for this Champagne wine? I ask
you whether, supposing this man makes his proposals with average
judgment, it can be said that our national labor, taken as a whole,
would be harmed by it?
Would it be more so if there were twenty of these people offering to
exchange services at Boulogne instead of one; if a million barters were
made instead of four; and if the intervention of merchants and money was
called on to facilitate them and multiply them indefinitely?
Now, let one country buy of another at wholesale to sell again at
retail, or at retail to sell again at wholesale, it will always be
found, if the matter is followed out to the end, that commerce consists
of mutual barter of products for products, of services for services.
If, then, one barter does not injure the national labor, since it
implies as much national labor given as foreign labor received, a
hundred million of them cannot hurt the country.
But, you will say, where is the advantage? The advantage consists in
making a better use of the resources of each country, so that the same
amount of labor gives more satisfaction and well-being everywhere.
There are some who employ singular tactics against you. They begin by
admitting the superiority of freedom over the prohibitive system,
doubtless in order that they may not have to defend themselves on that
Next they remark that in going from one system to another there will be
some displacement of labor.
Then they dilate upon the sufferings which, according to themselves,
this displacement must cause. They exaggerate and amplify them; they
make of them the principal subject of discussion; they present them as
the exclusive and definite result of reform, and thus try to enlist you
under the standard of monopoly.
These tactics have been employed in the service of all abuses, and I
must frankly admit one thing, that it always embarrasses even the
friends of those reforms which are most useful to the people. You will
When an abuse exists, everything arranges itself upon it.
Human existences connect themselves with it, others with these, then
still others, and this forms a great edifice.
Do you raise your hand against it? Each one protests; and notice this
particularly, those persons who protest always seem at the first glance
to be right, because it is easier to show the disorder which must
accompany the reform than the order which will follow it.
The friends of the abuse cite particular instances; they name the
persons and their workmen who will be disturbed, while the poor devil of
a reformer can only refer to the general good, which must insensibly
diffuse itself among the masses. This does not have the effect which the
Thus, supposing it is a question of abolishing slavery. Unhappy
people, they say to the colored men, who will feed you? The master
distributes floggings, but he also distributes rations.
It is not seen that it is not the master who feeds the slave, but his
own labor which feeds both himself and master.
When the convents of Spain were reformed, they said to the beggars,
Where will you find broth and clothing? The Abbot is your providence.
Is it not very convenient to apply to him?
And the beggars said: That is true. If the Abbot goes, we see what we
lose, but we do not see what will come in its place.
They do not notice that if the convents gave alms they lived on alms, so
that the people had to give them more than they could receive back.
Thus, workmen, a monopoly imperceptibly puts taxes on your shoulders,
and then furnishes you work with the proceeds.
Your false friends say to you: If there was no monopoly, who would
furnish you work?
You answer: This is true, this is true. The labor which the monopolists
procure us is certain. The promises of liberty are uncertain.
For you do not see that they first take money from you, and then give
you back a part of it for your labor.
Do you ask who will furnish you work? Why, you will give each other
work. With the money which will no longer be taken from you, the
shoemaker will dress better, and will make work for the tailor. The
tailor will have new shoes oftener, and keep the shoemaker employed. So
it will be with all occupations.
They say that with freedom there will be fewer workmen in the mines and
I do not believe it. But if this does happen, it is necessarily
because there will be more labor freely in the open air.
For if, as they say, these mines and spinning mills can be sustained
only by the aid of taxes imposed on everybody for their benefit, these
taxes once abolished, everybody will be more comfortably off, and it
is the comfort of all which feeds the labor of each one.
Excuse me if I linger at this demonstration. I have so great a desire to
see you on the side of liberty.
In France, capital invested in manufactures yields, I suppose, five per
cent. profit. But here is Mondor, who has one hundred thousand francs
invested in a manufactory, on which he loses five per cent. The
difference between the loss and gain is ten thousand francs. What do
they do? They assess upon you a little tax of ten thousand francs, which
is given to Mondor, and you do not notice it, for it is very skillfully
disguised. It is not the tax gatherer who comes to ask you your part of
the tax, but you pay it to Mondor, the manufacturer, every time you buy
your hatchets, your trowels, and your planes. Then they say to you: If
you do not pay this tax, Mondor can work no longer, and his employes,
John and James, will be without labor. If this tax was remitted, would
you not get work yourselves, and on your own account too?
And, then, be easy, when Mondor has no longer this soft method of
obtaining his profit by a tax, he will use his wits to turn his loss
into a gain, and John and James will not be dismissed. Then all will be
profit for all.
You will persist, perhaps, saying: We understand that after the reform
there will be in general more work than before, but in the meanwhile
John and James will be on the street.
To which I answer:
First. When employment changes its place only to increase, the man who
has two arms and a heart is not long on the street.
Second. There is nothing to hinder the State from reserving some of its
funds to avoid stoppages of labor in the transition, which I do not
myself believe will occur.
Third. Finally, if to get out of a rut and get into a condition which is
better for all, and which is certainly more just, it is absolutely
necessary to brave a few painful moments, the workmen are ready, or I
know them ill. God grant that it may be the same with employers.
Well, because you are workmen, are you not intelligent and moral? It
seems that your pretended friends forget it. It is surprising that they
discuss such a subject before you, speaking of wages and interests,
without once pronouncing the word justice. They know, however, full
well that the situation is unjust. Why, then, have they not the
courage to tell you so, and say, Workmen, an iniquity prevails in the
country, but it is of advantage to you and it must be sustained. Why?
Because they know that you would answer, No.
But it is not true that this iniquity is profitable to you. Give me your
attention for a few moments and judge for yourselves.
What do they protect in France? Articles made by great manufacturers in
great establishments, iron, cloth and silks, and they tell you that this
is done not in the interest of the employer, but in your interest, in
order to insure you wages.
But every time that foreign labor presents itself in the market in such
a form that it may hurt you, but not the great manufacturers, do they
not allow it to come in?
Are there not in Paris thirty thousand Germans who make clothes and
shoes? Why are they allowed to establish themselves at your side when
cloth is driven away? Because the cloth is made in great mills owned by
manufacturing legislators. But clothes are made by workmen in their
These gentlemen want no competition in the turning of wool into cloth,
because that is their business; but when it comes to converting cloth
into clothes, they admit competition, because that is your trade.
When they made railroads they excluded English rails, but they imported
English workmen to make them. Why? It is very simple; because English
rails compete with the great rolling mills, and English muscles compete
only with yours.
We do not ask them to keep out German tailors and English laborers. We
ask that cloth and rails may be allowed to come in. We ask justice for
all, equality before the law for all.
It is a mockery to tell us that these Custom House restrictions have
your advantage in view. Tailors, shoemakers, carpenters, millers,
masons, blacksmiths, merchants, grocers, jewelers, butchers, bakers and
dressmakers, I challenge you to show me a single instance in which
restriction profits you, and if you wish, I will point out four where it
And after all, just see how much of the appearance of truth this
self-denial, which your journals attribute to the monopolists, has.
I believe that we can call that the natural rate of wages which would
establish itself naturally if there were freedom of trade. Then, when
they tell you that restriction is for your benefit, it is as if they
told you that it added a surplus to your natural wages. Now, an
extra natural surplus of wages must be taken from somewhere; it does
not fall from the moon; it must be taken from those who pay it.
You are then brought to this conclusion, that, according to your
pretended friends, the protective system has been created and brought
into the world in order that capitalists might be sacrificed to
Tell me, is that probable?
Where is your place in the Chamber of Peers? When did you sit at the
Palais Bourbon? Who has consulted you? Whence came this idea of
establishing the protective system?
I hear your answer: We did not establish it. We are neither Peers nor
Deputies, nor Counselors of State. The capitalists have done it.
By heavens, they were in a delectable mood that day. What! the
capitalists made this law; they established the prohibitive system, so
that you laborers should make profits at their expense!
But here is something stranger still.
How is it that your pretended friends who speak to you now of the
goodness, generosity and self-denial of capitalists, constantly express
regret that you do not enjoy your political rights? From their point of
view, what could you do with them? The capitalists have the monopoly of
legislation, it is true. Thanks to this monopoly, they have granted
themselves the monopoly of iron, cloth, coal, wood and meat, which is
also true. But now your pretended friends say that the capitalists, in
acting thus, have stripped themselves, without being obliged to do it,
to enrich you without your being entitled to it. Surely, if you were
electors and deputies, you could not manage your affairs better; you
would not even manage them as well.
If the industrial organization which rules us is made in your interest,
it is a perfidy to demand political rights for you; for these democrats
of a new species can never get out of this dilemma; the law, made by the
present law-makers, gives you more, or gives you less, than your
natural wages. If it gives you less, they deceive you in inviting you
to support it. If it gives you more, they deceive you again by calling
on you to claim political rights, when those who now exercise them, make
sacrifices for you which you, in your honesty, could not yourselves
Workingmen, God forbid that the effect of this article should be to cast
in your hearts the germs of irritation against the rich. If mistaken
interests still support monopoly, let us not forget that it has its
root in errors, which are common to capitalists and workmen. Then, far
from laboring to excite them against one another, let us strive to bring
them together. What must be done to accomplish this? If it is true that
the natural social tendencies aid in effacing inequality among men, all
we have to do to let those tendencies act is to remove the artificial
obstructions which interfere with their operation, and allow the
relations of different classes to establish themselves on the principle
of justice, which, to my mind, is the principle of FREEDOM.