Chevalier, Michel (1806–1879)
Born in Limoges, 13 January 1806; died in Paris, November 1879. Undoubtedly one of the most eminent 19th-century French economists, Chevalier belongs to that most typical brand of engineer-economists. First in his class (major) at the Ecole Polytechnique in 1830 and member of the Corps des Mines as an economist, Chevalier came very early under the spell of Saint-Simon’s utopian doctrine. From his early editorship of the Saint-Simonian newspaper Le Globe (1830–2) and his subsequent sentence to a year in jail (for ‘outrage to morals’ for publishing advanced ideas on the liberation of women, sexual liberty and the need for communal life) to a made-to-measure niche as economic adviser to Napoleon III and ‘éminence grise’ to the Second Empire business and banking establishment, Chevalier applied his brilliant mind to various current problems and policy issues without managing, however, to escape completely from the Saint-Simonian mystique. His main claim to fame, the Anglo-French Treaty of 1860 (the Cobden–Chevalier Treaty), an important if short-lived interruption in the general protectionist policy of France, is one of the best illustrations of these twin components of Chevalier’s approach to economics and economic policy: weak on the analytics and very strong on the factual analysis with a touch of Saint-Simonian idealism.