If it is possible to find some minds who wish instinctively for liberty to a certain extent, there are none who understand it in principle.
Complete Works volume I, page 107 (in French)
Letter dated November 24th, 1844
Aiming at publishing what will be Cobden and the League or the English Unrest for Free-trade (French version), Frédéric Bastiat is contacting Richard Cobden in order to request documents and ask his opinion on the importance of his speeches. He explains how he admires what is being done by Richard Cobden in the United Kingdom, which will end up in the progressive repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846. This was a major step towards unilateral free-trade and we would be wise to be inspired by it.
Today’s quote reflects the frustration of Frédéric Bastiat who could see the power of the movement in favour of free-trade in England, contrasting with the limited interest towards it in France. If it is difficult to find fierce opponents to the word “liberty” in France (it is a noble word indeed), the concept is not studied that much and its advocates often use some sort of qualification that limit its power (wished, “to a certain extent”). The charitable attitude that appears here is to justify this by misunderstanding of it in principle.