Proudhon, Pierre Joseph, French politician, philosopher and economist (1809-1865). Collection of 21 autograph letters signed from Aloyse (Aloysius) Huber to Proudhon, and 2 autograph letters signed from Proudhon to Huber.

Paris, 1851-1853.

Small folio and 8vo. Altogether 66 pp. on 22 bifolia and 1 single sheet, one with autograph address on verso, one with pencil notes on verso.


Emotional correspondence between Proudhon and the entrepreneur Aloysius Huber (1815-65) about the Besançon-Mulhouse railway project. In the early 1850s several rival companies vied for a government concession for the route, including the company founded by Huber, an Alsatian veteran of the Revolution of 1848 who had been Proudhon‘s neighbour at Doullens gaol. Proudhon managed to arouse the interest of Jerome Bonaparte in the projected railway, and in the process seems to have convinced himself that the plan had an idealistic side, as a decentralised pattern of small railroads would be superior - at least according to his social theories - to a unified system. As Huber struggled to obtain a concession, he regularly informed Proudhon of his progress in the matter, frequently appearing in a rather desperate mood, at one point even proclaiming in frustration: "un diable les chemins de fer!" (23 May 1853).

Completely invested in the project, Huber considers his obtaining the concession "a matter of life and death", and invokes Jean-Gilbert Victor Fialin, Duc de Persigny, Minister of the Interior, who supposedly told Proudhon that all it takes is a company presenting favourable conditions: "Le moment est decisif et c'est pour nous, pour moi sutout qui n'ai pas d'autre avenir, une question de vie et de mort [...] Quant tu es allé auprès de M. de Persigny, celui-ci t'a repdondu qu'il suffisait de présenter une pareille compagnie avec des conditions aussi avantageuses pour que le gouvernement lui accorde la concession [...]" (8 April 1851). He urges Proudhon to act quickly, fearing that one of the other companies might beat them to the concession: "Ne perdons pas de temps, mon cher Proudhon, je t'assure que si la concession du chemin de fer de Besançon à Mulhouse ne nous est pas accordée, elle sera très prochainement accordée à une autre compagnie […]" (16 Jan. 185?).

Some six weeks after he agreed to function as solicitor in the project, Proudhon appears irritated, doubting the sincerity of the company as well as its need of Huber himself: "Je te l'ai dit dès le commencement: Je ne crois pas de deux choses […] or que ta Compagnie soit sérieuse […] or qu'elle ait besoin de toi […]" (17 Feb. 1853). Huber repeatedly mentions his dire financial situation, as he is struggling with substantial debt: "En attendant, je suis moi-même profondement decouragé, je me suis donné tant de peine, j'ai fait tant de dettes dans l'intérêt de ma compagnie, que je ne saurai jamais comment me liquider […]" (23 July 1853).

Eventually, the railway concession went to Pereire, a former Saint-Simonian who became an economic pillar of the Bonapartist regime. Pereire offered an indemnity of 40,000 francs to be shared between Proudhon and Huber as compensation for their disappointment. In one of his letters Huber wonders whether Proudhon will take the money (in the end he did not): "Que veux-tu faire avec les vingt mille francs qui sont à la disposition chez M. Pereire? Les prends-tu? o en fais-tu présent à ce Juif? ou enfin veux-tu que je les prenne? […]" (24 Sept. 1853).

Includes further documents on the same matter: ALS by Huber to the Minister of Public Works; ALS by Huber to a friend; autograph transcript by Huber of an article in "La Patrie"; ALS by Camillo Marsuzi de Aguirre with autograph reply signed by Huber; ADS by Proudhon describing three rivaling companies.

Occasional small marginal flaws and traces of worming; one letter with some loss to text.


Not in the Correspondance de P.-J. Proudhon. For Huber, who in 1838 had participated in a conspiracy to assassinate Louis-Philippe I and may later have worked as a police agent, see J.-P. Kintz, "Aloyse Huber", in Nouveau dictionnaire de biographie alsacienne 17 (1991), p. 1678.

Art.-Nr.: BN#57350 Schlagwörter: , ,