Bellegarrigue’s “To the Point! To Action!!” and “Le Commanditaire”

I’ve posted a revised translation of Anselme Bellegarrigue’s “To the Point! To Action!!” (“Au Fait! Au Fait!!”) It is considerably more finished than the first version, though I reserve the right to come back and tinker with it some more one of these days. I find Bellegarrigue’s prose challenging, but I’ve grown rather fond of his style. He has a lot of the youthful brashness of Déjacque and Coeurderoy, but also a no-nonsense, bottom-line focus which means he often delivers his largely mutualist message in the voice of a jaded trader, and the result is often as entertaining as it is jarring to modern sensibilities. 

As it happens, it has been the peculiarities of his voice that have helped me to verify what seems to be an unknown project of Bellegarrigue’s from 1856, a paper called Le Commanditaire, which may only have lasted three issues. Some time back, I ran across three articles in this paper signed “Bellegarrigue,” but it took some time to translate enough to make a guess whether this was Anselme Bellegarrigue. There are, it turns out, quite a number of similarities to the essays from Anarchy and the essay I have just revised, but there is also a development of Bellegarrigue’s project in a more practical direction, as he apparently was attempting to show the implications of changes in partnership laws for the workers. As in “The Revolution,” concern with commerce is front-and-center. Here’s a taste of the prose:

“The world is only a vast market, where the individual appears at once as merchant and as merchandise.”

To those who ask me if it is good that the social traffic or speculation be extended beyond things and take in even persons, I would respond that I do not know and do not want to know if that is good or if it is bad; that it is fully sufficient for me to be certain that it is the case; that, all things considered, we have need of people of every branch of knowledge and every gender at least as frequently as we need a toothpick; that it is fortunate that the market should be established in such a manner that all necessities are satisfied; that the right to sell the product does not seem to exclude the possibility of alienating the machine; and that, finally, by trafficking with their character, their strength, and their genius, individuals dispose of properties the legitimacy of which it would be difficult to contest.

I am not unaware that, despite the natural and fundamental uprightness of all transactions, there are some of them that are charged with irregularity by public opinion and suppressed by its magistrates. In order to remain in agreement with the principle established above, I must not, as my confreres have always done, take a position on this point for or against the public opinion represented by its magistrates; considering that everything in the world is industry or commerce, I take the delinquents for competitors for that opinion and the repression as the triumph of a current method over another method which would like to become current. If the magistrates punish adultery and smuggling, it is obviously because the opinion that they represent flow from practices opposed to those [repressed] practices to deal with love and tobacco; in this case, as in all, the competition turns inevitably to the detriment of that which is not in vogue.

I said then and I maintain that it is to the industrial order that we must logically reduce all the social facts. The Americans understood and practiced the thing before us, and they have found it good. (“Of Partnership in General,” 1856)

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2703 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.