The Petition of the Candlemakers

by Frederic Bastiat, (1845).

Petition of the manufacturers of candles, waxlights, lamps, candlesticks, street lamps, snuffers, extinguishers, and of the producers of oil tallow, rosin, alcohol, and generally, of every- thing connected with lighting.

To Messieurs the members of the Chamber of Deputies.
Gentlemen -- You are on the right road. You reject abstract theories, and have little consideration for cheapness and plenty. Your chief care is the interest of the producer. You desire to emancipate him from external competition, and reserve the natio- nal market for national industry. We are about to offer you an admirable opportunity of applying your -- what shall we call it? your theory? No; nothing is more deceptive than theory; your doctrine? your system? your princi- ple? but you dislike doctrines, you abhor systems, and as for principles, you deny that there are any in social economy: we shall say, then, your practice, your practice without theory and without principle. We are suffering from the intolerable competition of a foreign rival, placed, it would seem, in a condition so far superior to ours for the production of light, that he absolutely inundates our national market with it at a price fabulously reduced. The moment he shows himself, our trade leaves us -- all consumers apply to him; and a branch of native industry, having countless ramifications, is all at once rendered completely stagnant. This no other than the Sun. What we pray for is, that it may please you to pass a law order- ing the shutting up of all windows, sky-lights, dormerwindows, outside and inside shutters, curtains, blinds, bull's-eyes; in a word, of all openings, holes, chinks, clefts, and fissures, by or through which the light of the Sun has been in use to enter houses, to the prejudice of the meritorious manufacturers with which we flatter ourselves we have accommodated our country, -- a country which, in gratitude, ought not to abandon us now to a strife so unequal. If you shut up as much as possible all access to natural light, and create a demand for artificial light, which of our French manufacturers will not be encouraged by it? If more tallow is consumed, then there must be more oxen and sheep; and, consequently, we shall behold the multiplication of artificial meadows, meat, wool, hides, and, above all, manure, which is the basis and foundation of all agricultural wealth. The same remark applies to navigation. Thousands of vessels will proceed to the whale fishery; and, in a short time, we shall possess a navy capable of maintaining the honor of France, and gratifying the patriotic aspirations of your petitioners, the undersigned candlemakers and others. Only have the goodness to reflect, Gentlemen, and you will be convinced that there is, perhaps, no Frenchman, from the wealthy coalmaster to the humble vender of lucifer matches, whose lot will not be ameliorated by the success of our petition.

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