Front Page Titles (by Subject) IV: MY CONVERSATION WITH BERRYER, ON THE 21ST OF JUNE, AT AN APPOINTMENT WHICH I HAD GIVEN HIM AT MY HOUSE. WE WERE BOTH MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE FOR THE REVISION OF THE CONSTITUTION. - The Recollections of Alexis de Tocqueville
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
IV: MY CONVERSATION WITH BERRYER, ON THE 21ST OF JUNE, AT AN APPOINTMENT WHICH I HAD GIVEN HIM AT MY HOUSE. WE WERE BOTH MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE FOR THE REVISION OF THE CONSTITUTION. - Alexis de Tocqueville, The Recollections of Alexis de Tocqueville 
The Recollections of Alexis de Tocqueville, edited by the Comte de Tocqueville and now first translated into English by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos. With a portrait in Heliogravure (New York: Macmillan, 1896).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
MY CONVERSATION WITH BERRYER, ON THE 21ST OF JUNE, AT AN APPOINTMENT WHICH I HAD GIVEN HIM AT MY HOUSE. WE WERE BOTH MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE FOR THE REVISION OF THE CONSTITUTION.
I thus opened the conversation:
“Let us leave appearances on one side, between you and me. You are not making a revisionist but an electoral campaign.”
He replied, “That is true; you are quite right.”
“Very well,” I replied; “we shall see presently if you are well advised. What I must tell you at once is that I cannot join in a manœuvre of which the sole object is to save a section only of the moderate party at the next elections, leaving out of the calculation many others, and notably that to which I belong. You must either give the moderate Republicans a valid reason for voting for the Revision, by giving it a republican character, or else expect us to do our best to spike your guns.”
He agreed, but raised difficulties that originated with the passions and prejudices of his party. We discussed for some time what was to be done, and at last we came to the policy which he was following.
This is what I said to him on this subject, of which I particularly wish to retain the impression. I said:
“Berryer, you are dragging us all, in spite of ourselves, into a plight for which you will have to bear the sole responsibility, you may be quite sure of that. If the Legitimists had joined those who wished to fight against the President, the fight might still be possible. You have dragged your party, in spite of itself, in an opposite direction; henceforth, we can no longer resist; we cannot remain alone with the Montagnards; we must give way, since you give way; but what will be the consequence? I can see your thought, it is quite clear: you think that circumstances render the President’s ascendancy irresistible and the movement which carries the country towards him insurmountable. Unable to fight against the current, you throw yourselves into it, at the risk of making it more violent still, but in the hope that it will land you and your friends in the next Assembly, in addition to various other sections of the party of order, which is not very sympathetic with the President. There alone you think that you will find a solid resting-place from which to resist him, and you think that, by working his business to-day, you will be able to keep together, in the next Assembly, a group of men able to cope with him. To struggle against the tide which carries him at this moment is to make one’s self unpopular and ineligible and to deliver the party to the Socialists and the Bonapartists, neither of whom you wish to see triumph: well and good! Your plan has its plausible side, but it fails in one principal respect, which is this: I could understand you if the election were to take place to-morrow, and if you were at once to gather the fruits of your manœuvre, as at the December election; but there is nearly a year between now and the next elections. You will not succeed in having them held in the spring, if you succeed in having them held at all. Between now and then, do you imagine that the Bonapartist movement, aided, precipitated by you, will cease? Do you not see that, after asking you for a Revision of the Constitution, public opinion, stirred up by all the agents of the Executive and led by our own weakness, will ask us for something more, and then for something more still, until we are driven openly to favour the illegal re-election of the President and purely and simply to work his business for him? Can you go as far as that? Would your party be willing to, if you are? No! You will therefore come to a moment when you will have to stop short, to stand firm on your ground, to resist the combined effort of the nation and the Executive Power; in other words, on the one hand to become unpopular, and on the other to lose that support, or at least that electoral neutrality, of the Government which you desire. You will have enslaved yourselves, you will have immensely strengthened the forces opposed to you, and that is all. I tell you this: either you will pass completely and for ever under the President’s yoke, or you will lose, just when it is ripe for gathering, all the fruit of your manœuvre, and you will simply have taken upon yourself, in your own eyes and the country’s, the responsibility of having contributed to raise this Power, which will perhaps, in spite of the mediocrity of the man, and thanks to the extraordinary power of circumstances, become the heir of the Revolution and our master.”
Barrot seemed to me to rest tongue-tied, and the time having come to part, we parted.