Front Page Titles (by Subject) PREFACE. - Memoir, Letters, and Remains of Alexis de Tocqueville, vol. 1
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
PREFACE. - Alexis de Tocqueville, Memoir, Letters, and Remains of Alexis de Tocqueville, vol. 1 
Memoir, Letters, and Remains of Alexis de Tocqueville. Translated from the French by the translator of Napoleon’s Correspondence with King Joseph. With large Additions. In Two Volumes (London: Macamillan, 1861). Vol. 1.
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.
printed by r. clay, son, and taylor,
bread street hill.
The original of this work, edited by M. Gustave de Beaumont, is already well known and widely circulated in France.
I do not feel that any apology is needed for offering to the public a translation. M. de Tocqueville’s letters are valuable as sources of information and instruction, and above all as a moral study. The depth and seriousness of his mind, combined with an almost feminine grace and delicacy, the elevation which pervaded his whole character, and which breathes in nearly every sentence that he wrote, will be peculiarly appreciated by an English reader.
And yet I feel great diffidence in introducing M. de Tocqueville’s thoughts, clothed in other words than his own. He attached an almost exaggerated importance to style; he so shrank from exhibiting his ideas, unless expressed in the very best language, corrected and reconsidered again and again, that to change their form is a greater responsibility with regard to him than to almost any other author.
I have been enabled to add to this English version some short specimens of a talent which M. de Tocqueville possessed in as much perfection as that of writing, by the access which Mr. Senior has given me to his journals. They contain notes of his conversations with M. de Tocqueville, and are often referred to in M. de Tocqueville’s letters. Mr. Senior has also communicated to me the original letters to him from which M. de Beaumont selected those which are published in the second volume.
From these two sets of documents I have extracted some passages, which will be found in order of date.
The journals are a slight and inadequate, but still the only, record of M. de Tocqueville’s conversation.
The new letters, and parts of letters, are political. Those which refer to English politics were, probably, omitted by M. de Beaumont as uninteresting to a French reader; and those which refer to French politics as too offensive to the existing Government in France.
Neither of these objections applies to an English publication.
I was anxious to exhibit M. de Tocqueville in two characters, in each of which he was eminent—that of a converser and that of a practical politician.
M. de Beaumont’s book could not show him in the former. It does show him in the latter; but the representation is rather an outline than a picture. It does justice to his delicate honour, to his ardent love of liberty, to his courage, and to his sagacity; still it wants details.
M. de Beaumont’s charming memoir, and the published letters, show principally his general views. The extracts which I have made from Mr. Senior’s journals, and from the unpublished letters, contain M. de Tocqueville’s feelings and opinions on the public events of France and of England, as they took place. His criticisms of the past, his anticipations of the future, his regrets, his fears, his hopes, and his plans, are expressed too fully, too strongly, and too unreservedly, to be fit for a French publication; but I believe that the English reader will be thankful for them.
By the kind permission of Mr. Mill, I have reprinted the article in the London and Westminster Review, mentioned in the Memoir (vol. i. p. 78), and I have also been allowed to add M. de Tocqueville’s account of the breaking up of the Assembly, in December, 1851, which appeared in the Times.
I take leave of my task with regret. I fear that I never again shall have an opportunity of associating so long and so intimately with such a mind. It seems to me that no one on whom the delightful duty has not been imposed of studying every page of these letters, of endeavouring to extract the heart of each sentence, can thoroughly appreciate them. If I succeed in introducing them to a larger circle of English readers, it will be some small consolation for the loss of a dear and highly valued friend.
July 23, 1861.