For my part, I would a thousand times rather be condemned for my frankness than be seen as clearly lacking what is man’s finest quality, the one that defines his power and his essence.
Letter No. 13
P.-J. Proudhon to F. Bastiat
The finest quality that Proudhon is referring to is the intellect, which he finds himself unable to find within Frédéric Bastiat. According to the note of the editor on page 296 of the French 1863 edition, the latter ended up answering the following at the opportunity found when Pierre-Joseph Proudhon demanded the interest he had been fighting so thoroughly: “I accept the split. To me, the humble intelligence that God deigned to give me and to him, as he prefers it, to be suspected in his frankness”. Re-reading Free Credit nowadays, it is easy to believe that Pierre-Joseph Proudhon did not give much thought to honesty (at least intellectual integrity) and that the intelligence he proved to be displaying (he was a brilliant orator for sure) was not part of his best attributes and he did not use if to develop his arguments.
This thirteenth and last later from Proudhon in this exchange is mind-blowing in its verbal virulence. It is a litany of insults on the person of Frédéric Bastiat and his intellectual qualities mixed with accusations that one would like to divert back to his author. To finish my (laborious) reading of his writings here is a relief but there remains a mystery to me: why is it that, in France, the name of Proudhon is recognised and reasonably famous when that of Bastiat is ignored? Posterity seems to take more time than one would expect before settling on these two.
Other quotes from Free Credit:
First letter – Second letter – Third letter – Fourth letter – Fifth letter – Sixth letter – Seventh letter – Eighth letter – Ninth letter – Tenth letter – Eleventh letter – Twelfth letter – Thirteenth letter – Fourteenth letter