I am warning them that they are undermining the very foundations of property, whichever it is.

Richard Cobden, translated by Frédéric Bastiat
Complete Works, Volume 3, pages 189 to 206 (in French)
Covent Garden, October 10th 1843

Further to the death of Sir Matthew Wood, a by-election is organised to occupy his seat in Westminster. The League decided to support James Pattison who will be elected against Thomas Baring. Two speeches, from Richard Cobden and William Johnson Fox, that were pronounced at the electoral meeting on October 10th in Covent Garden are translated into French here. The second speech, from William Johnson Fox is a direct attack against Thomas Baring and his inconsistencies.

The first speech, from Richard Cobden, illustrates with facts how absurd the opponent is when he recognises the value of liberal principles but opposes them with fallacies. Today’s quote is extracted from this speech and seems to me of profound interest, be it with regard to property rights as well as freedom of speech (the latter is not mentioned, I am the one lumping both items together). Indeed, liberals are often criticised for being duped in supporting property rights of billionaires although we have no chance of becoming one. However, property rights are fundamental to liberty. What Richard Cobden is saying here is that to support arguments against property is like attacking it in its essence, not only in the details that seem to be irrelevant to our personal case. He also cites Adam Smith who wrote: “Property of labour being the source of all others, it is the most sacred and the most inviolable”.

The reason why I link it to freedom of expression is that I can often observe individuals who dismiss it when applicable to an opinion that differs from theirs. However, freedom of expression is valuable precisely when an opinion is not agreeable to us – I wish I could express my opinion even when it is not welcomed and I have to respect that of others, which my own expression alone can fight against.

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