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TO EUGÈNE STOFFELS. - 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.
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TO EUGÈNE STOFFELS.
Paris, Oct. 22, 1822.
I will not wait till my return to Metz to talk with you, my dear Stoffels. Our silence has lasted long enough. I will be the first to break it. I hope that after this you will not tell me that distance and the pleasures of Paris make me forget my old friends in the rhetoric class. At least, if I forget any of them, it will certainly not be you, you may depend upon it. We are too much united by the similarity of our opinions to be able to separate now, unless a total change took place in both of us, of which I have no fear. . . . Tell me how you spent the vacation; I hope more agreeably than I did, and that would not be difficult, for since I have been here I have led a quiet, monotonous life, which agrees neither with my disposition nor with my tastes. . . .
Paris, Aug. 7, 1823.
I did not intend to write to you till I reached Amiens, as I wished to tell you how we were established there.* But first one thing and then another have kept my father in Paris till now. As I thought every day that we should start on the next, I put off my letter. At last I am tired of waiting, and I write to you from Paris. I arrived in good health but in bad spirits. One is not aware of the ties that bind one to a place where one has been happy. They are not felt till one breaks through all of them at once. At first it is very painful. Metz and some of its inhabitants will long be present to my memory, perhaps more than I could wish. . . . As for you, dear friend, we shall meet again in three months; and this thought is one on which I dwell with the most pleasure. We were very intimate at Metz, I hope that we shall be so in Paris. What are you doing now, my dear friend? Pray send me a full account. With your few friends, and the need that you have of sympathy, you must feel lonely. Take care of yourself in this respect, dear Stoffels; you know that you are inclined to give your friendship readily, and you may repent when it is too late. One loses nothing by keeping one’s thoughts for a time to oneself, one almost always regrets having confided them too soon; at least I often have. I have longed to take back what I have told, and I have never repented my silence. Tell me about Metz, what is doing there, what is said there; you know that I am tolerably curious. Are you satisfied with your compositions? They must be finished. You would be a good fellow if you would send me your French composition. If by chance it is not yet done, remember when you are writing it to beware of enthusiasm.
Amiens, Sept. 16, 1823.
I am as indignant as you are, my dear Stoffels, at the way in which the “Conseil” has behaved to you. I see no motive for such a measure, and I can understand your first angry impulse. But, dear friend, you should be above all that. Two “accessits,” followed by three others, are a better answer to the conduct of these gentlemen than all the eloquence in the world. Why throw the blade after the hilt? Why become desperate? There is no doubt of the existence of injustice and treachery in the world; but did you want this proof to be convinced of it? Certainly not. You must, therefore, live with your enemies, as you cannot always live with your friends; you must take men for what they are, be satisfied with their virtues; try to be as little annoyed as possible by their vices; confine yourself to a small circle of intimate friends, out of it expect only coldness and indifference, either hidden or apparent, and be upon your guard. Besides these considerations, I have known you, my dear friend, more than once prefer the voice of conscience to that of the world. Conscience cannot reprove you. Well, then, you are above everything. The part of the affair that most distressed me was that I feared lest this delay might prevent your journey to Paris. But you re-assure me. I have already arranged in my mind a little excursion to the sea. We will go to my father’s at Amiens for a few days, and from thence it is only a step to the coast.
Till then try to take exercise—shoot, dance, keep continually moving. Let bodily exertion take the place of mental activity. The first tires, but does not wear out the machine. But if the mind be unduly used, especially at our age, it will prey upon itself, and invent evils which, though without foundation, are no less painful. I am, unhappily, not without experience of this. . . . .
Paris, Feb. 21, 1835.
It is a long time since I have had any talk with you, dear friend; yet I often think of you. Among other anxieties, I am anxious about your present and future position. I fancy that if, as seems probable, present events have their full swing, you have little chance of preserving the situation* which is of such importance to you. . . . . .
You have no doubt seen in the papers that my departure for America is at last fixed. I know not whether to be glad or sorry; there are reasons both for and against. Still I am generally approved. . . . . . I think that we shall start between the 20th of March and the 1st of April. In the way of travelling, it is impossible to imagine anything pleasanter than what we are about to do. Invested with an official character, we shall have a right to ask to see everything, and an entrance into the most exclusive circles. However, it will not be our business to look at great cities and fine rivers. We set forth with the intention of examining as fully and as scientifically as possible, all the springs of that vast machine—American society; everywhere talked of, and nowhere understood. And if public affairs at home give us time, we expect to bring back the materials for a valuable book, or at least, a new book; for there is nothing whatever extant on the subject.
Charles told me that you wished to read my “Tour in Sicily.” When I go I will leave it out for you. You must keep it during my absence; and if (for one must provide for all chances) I should never return, you must keep it altogether. There are only a few pages in it that I think worth anything. I flatter myself that I should now do better. Good-bye. Answer quickly.
New York, July 28, 1831.
We are very far apart, dear friend, and yet in spite of distance our hearts are united. As for me, I feel as much, perhaps even more, than when I was in France, that we are bound together for life, and that wherever fate may place us, we may each depend upon all the friendship and assistance that one man can give to another. . . . .
You know that we set sail on the 2d April, after midnight. The weather at first was in our favour; we seemed to glide over the ocean. I cannot tell you how imposing is the solitude of the Atlantic. For a few days flights of birds followed the ship; myriads of fishes covered the sea; not an hour passed without a sail appearing on the horizon. Soon all these things became rarer. At length birds, fishes, and vessels vanished. Above, below, and around reigned perfect solitude, and absolute silence. Our own ship, then indeed, became our world. You know that such a scene would please me; but constantly repeated, and every day the same, in the end it oppresses and weighs on the spirits. When we neared Newfoundland, the sea sparkled all over. I believe that this effect is produced by the thousands of phosphorescent creatures which people the waters. Whatever be the cause, the effect is most extraordinary. I remember especially one evening; the weather was very stormy; our vessel, driven by a furious wind, pitched violently, throwing up on each side huge clouds of foam. This foam looked like fire. The ship seemed to be passing through one of the large furnaces for melting iron ore which I saw at Hayeuche. She left behind her a fiery track. The night was quite dark; we could scarcely see the rigging against the sky: the beauty of this scene was indescribable. A few days later we fell in with heavy gales; but there was no danger, for our vessel was too large to fear them. Thirty-five days had passed since our departure, when we heard the first cry of land. The shores of America before us were low and barren: I can believe that they did not enchant the Europeans who first sighted them three centuries ago. We thought ourselves in port, when a storm from the south-west forced us to leave in haste the neighbourhood of New York. As our wood and sugar were exhausted, as our bread was failing, and we had some sick on board, the attempt to land at New York was given up. We chose instead a little harbour sixty leagues to the north, called New Port.* I can assure you that it is a great pleasure to tread on terra firma after crossing the immense chasm which separates Europe from America. The next day we got on board a steamer, which brought us to this place in eighteen hours. These steamers are huge, much bigger than houses, containing 500 or 600, and sometimes 1,000 passengers, who have vast saloons, beds, and a good table at their disposal; and thus quickly and imperceptibly travel eight or ten miles an hour.
The situation of New York is one of the most beautiful that I know; the harbour is immense, and at the mouth of a river navigable for fifty miles by men-of-war. It is the key of Northern America. Hither come every year thousands of foreigners on their way to people the wilds of the west, and all the European manufactures on their road into the interior. The population, which fifty years ago amounted to only 20,000, has now reached 230,000. It is a clean town, built of brick and marble, but without remarkable edifices. It resembles little our European capitals. The French are in general liked. Our mission gave us a special claim, and both public and private persons agreed in bestowing on us a flattering reception. All the public documents have been placed at our disposal, and every information that we ask is immediately given.
. . . . You must feel that as yet I can have formed no opinion on this people. Like every other nation, it presents at first sight a combination of good and evil difficult to analyse, or to combine into a consistent whole. Morals are pure. The marriage tie, especially, is held more sacred than in any other country. Respect for religion is carried to an extreme. For instance, no one ventures to shoot, to dance, or even play upon an instrument on Sunday. Even strangers are bound by the same rules. I have seen chains across the streets in front of the churches during Divine service. In this these republicans are very unlike our radicals. There are many other peculiarities in their opinions, manners, and material condition; but I have no time to point them out. This is the favourable view. The unfavourable is an immoderate desire to grow rich, and to do so rapidly; perpetual instability of purpose, and a continual longing for change; a total absence of established customs and traditions; a trading and manufacturing spirit which is carried into everything, even where it is least appropriate. Such, at least, is the external physiognomy of New York. . . .
To-day we plunge into the interior. We shall go up the Hudson as far as Albany. Thence we shall visit the Falls of Niagara. After looking at the Indian tribes on the shores of Lake Erie, we shall return by Canada to Boston, and make our way to New York, whence we shall set out on another expedition. . . .
Philadelphia, Oct. 18, 1831.
It is a long time since I have written to you, dear friend, or heard from you, though you are among the few who make me regret my exile, and attach me to France. Since I last wrote, I have been running about unmercifully. We embarked at Buffalo, a little town situated at the lower extremity of Lake Erie. Our voyage extended over 1,500 miles; we had a glimpse of Lake Superior, and reached almost the further end of Lake Michigan. One look at the map will show you our route. On our return to Buffalo we visited Niagara; thence we went down the St. Lawrence and penetrated into the two Canadas; we came back by Lake Champlain, and went all over the states of New England, particularly the state of which Boston is the capital, and thence to New York. At last we have reached Philadelphia, having done what no Frenchman had accomplished for many years. It is not that the journey is in itself difficult, but that the opportunites of taking it are rare. The shores of Lakes Huron and Michigan, which in a hundred years will be covered with towns, are now quite uninhabited. The forests have flourished undisturbed ever since the creation; even the pioneers have not yet introduced the axe into them. It is nobody’s business therefore to go thither; and it was by a great chance that we found a vessel bound for this route.
On one occasion, when alone with Beaumont and our Indian guides in the midst of these forests, I suddenly remembered that it was the 29th of July! I cannot describe the effect of this recollection. . . . For an instant I was carried back to the scenes of civil war which we together witnessed. No past event was perhaps ever so vividly painted by my imagination. The various feelings and passions by which at that time I was agitated, from my mother’s drawing-room till I reached the little house at St. Cloud, seized on my mind with violent and irresistible force. And when afterwards I looked round upon the strange scene about me, on the dark forest, the shattered remnants of previous generations of trees, and the wild faces of our guides, I for an instant doubted if I were the same man who had witnessed the events just recalled by my memory. At least, it seemed to me as if more than a year must have passed; and indeed I can scarcely yet believe that they are so recent. The midnight tocsin, the firing down the streets, our escape from Paris, our walks under arms in Versailles, the nights passed in the guardhouse, all still appear a dream, a passage in some other life.
On my return from this adventure, I found awaiting me news of one of the greatest misfortunes which could have happened to me: the death of the friend of my whole life.* I own, dear friend, that this event has embittered the rest of my journey. I looked forward to my meeting with him as one of the great pleasures of my return. It is an additional grief to me that he expired without any of us, whom he always treated like his children, having been able to receive his last breath. The two people in the world who, after my parents, have loved me best, are now separated from me for ever. To see all the others pass away, it is only necessary to live. We pay this price for existence.
I hope that all your family are well. Edward tells me that his little girl already makes him very happy. I hope that you say the same. The more I see of the world, the more inclined am I to believe that domestic happiness is all that signifies. But will it ever be mine? To tell the truth, I doubt it. My reason says that it ought to be sufficient for the human heart, but my passions contradict the assertion. When I am leading an agitated, wandering life, the idea of the tranquillity of home is delightful. When I return to regular habits, the monotony is fatal to me; I am possessed by an internal restlessness. I must have bodily or mental excitement, even at the risk of my life. The desire for strong emotions becomes irresistible, and my mind preys upon itself if it is not satisfied. In short, there is no one whom I do not know better than myself. I cannot find the clue to my own character. My head is cool, and my reason may even be called calculating; yet I am possessed by violent passions, which carry me away without persuading me, and conquer my will, though my judgment remains unconvinced.
I stay only a month here. In November we shall go towards the Mississippi, which will carry us down to New Orleans. We shall then return to New York by Savannah, Charleston, and Washington. It will be a tremendous journey, more than 4,000 miles.
Perhaps you will be disappointed by my telling you so little about this country, but I really do not know what to say. I should be obliged to send you a volume, and I have not time for that.
St. Germain, April 22, 1832.
I greatly fear lest you should fancy me dead, dear friend. You would be quite wrong, at least as to the present instant; one cannot answer for anything beyond in these times.* This pestilence carries off in a few hours the strongest and healthiest. So we must not boast. . . . Enough of this sad subject. You tell me that Charles accuses me of having the spleen.* There is some truth in the remark. He may have observed that I suffer from ennui, melancholy, and a sort of moral dejection. I believe that these are the ingredients of which spleen is composed. Many causes, some accidental, and others more permanent, have combined in producing this unpleasant state of mind. Have you never felt, after a change that has even been an improvement, an intellectual restlessness, caused, I think, by the alteration in one’s habits? This is exactly what I experienced after my return home. I was delighted to get back, and yet I did not know what to do with my leisure after a whole year spent in almost feverish excitement. My mind was tired of quiet before my body had recovered from the fatigue. This impression has now nearly worn off, but I still have enough to make me serious. I am distressed at the condition in which I find my country. . . . Good-bye! Believe that I am your old and attached friend. One can build on no other foundation in this world but a loving heart.
Paris, January 12, 1833.
I was beginning to be angry, when I received your letter . . . . You speak of what you call your “political atheism,” and you ask me if I share it. On this we must understand each other. Are you disgusted with the parties themselves, or with the ideas which they profess? In the first case, you know that I have been always inclined to that opinion; but to the second I cannot in any way subscribe. There is now a growing indifference towards every idea that can disturb society, whether true or false, mean or ennobling. All seem agreed in considering the government of this country sicut res inter alios acta. All are becoming more and more devoted to their personal interests. Those only who desire power for themselves, and not the strength or glory of their country, can rejoice in such a spectacle. One must have but little penetration into the future to depend upon tranquillity so purchased. There is nothing healthy or manly in such repose. It is a kind of apoplectic torpor, which, if it lasted long, would infallibly lead to great disasters. No! I certainly do not laugh at political convictions; I do not consider them as indifferent in themselves, and as mere instruments in the hands of men. I laugh bitterly at the monstrous abuse that is every day made of them, as I laugh when I see virtue and religion turned to dishonest uses, without losing any of my respect for virtue and religion. I struggle with all my might against the false wisdom, the fatal indifference, which in our day saps the energy of so many great minds. I try not to have two worlds: a moral one, where I still delight in all that is good and noble, and the other political, where I may lie with my face to the ground, enjoying the full benefit of the dirt which covers it. I try not to imitate, after another fashion, the nobles of old times, who held that it was honourable to deceive a woman, but infamous to break one’s word to a man. I try not to separate what is inseparable. Here, dear friend, is a long tirade, and as I have no more paper, I am forced to finish my letter.
Paris, February 16, 1835.
My dear friend,—
I shall write only two lines this time. In the first place, because I am in a great hurry; and in the second, because I have no news for you. Hitherto the book is succeeding wonderfully. I am astonished at its popularity; for belonging to no party, I feared, if not a failure, at least a cold reception. I am welcomed everywhere, and receive advances that surprise me. M. Royer Collard, whom I did not know, asked to see me. I was with him last evening. He told me, with many compliments, that in his opinion my book was the most remarkable political work that had appeared for thirty years. I know that he has said the same thing to other people. So have M. de Chateaubriand and M. de Lamartine. At present, therefore, I am going on swimmingly; I am much astonished at my position, and quite confused by the praises sounding in my ears. There was a lady of Napoleon’s court whom he one day chose to make a duchess. In the evening she went to a party, and hearing herself announced by her new title, she forgot that it belonged to her, and made way for the great lady to pass. I assure you that I feel like her. I ask myself if they really are talking of me; and when I can doubt no longer, I conclude that the world must be full of very insignificant people, if the work of my brain (of which I know so well the deficiencies) can produce such a sensation.
Paris, Feb. 21, 1835.
To return to the principal subject of your letters. I may say, dear friend, that the impression produced on you by my book, though in one respect stronger than I intended, is not of a kind that alarms or surprises me. This is the political object of the work:
I wished to show what in our days a democratic people really was; and by a rigorously accurate picture, to produce a double effect on the men of my day. To those who have fancied an ideal democracy, a brilliant and easily realized dream, I endeavoured to show that they had clothed the picture in false colours; that the republican government which they extol, even though it may bestow substantial benefits on a people that can bear it, has none of the elevated features with which their imagination would endow it, and moreover, that such a government cannot be maintained without certain conditions of intelligence, of private morality, and of religious belief, that we, as a nation, have not reached, and that we must labour to attain before grasping their political results.
To those for whom the word democracy is synonymous with destruction, anarchy, spoliation, and murder, I have tried to show that under a democratic government the fortunes and the rights of society may be respected, liberty preserved, and religion honoured; that though a republic may develop less than other governments some of the noblest powers of the human mind, it yet has a nobility of its own; and that after all it may be God’s will to spread a moderate amount of happiness over all men, instead of heaping a large sum upon a few by allowing only a small minority to approach perfection. I attempted to prove to them that whatever their opinions might be, deliberation was no longer in their power; that society was tending every day more and more towards equality, and dragging them and every one else along with it; that the only choice lay between two inevitable evils; that the question had ceased to be whether they would have an aristocracy or a democracy, and now lay between a democracy without poetry or elevation indeed, but with order and morality; and an undisciplined and depraved democracy, subject to sudden frenzies, or to a yoke heavier than any that has galled mankind since the fall of the Roman Empire.
I wished to diminish the ardour of the republican party, and, without disheartening them, to point out their only wise course.
I have endeavoured to abate the claims of the aristocrats, and to make them bend to an irresistible future; so that the impulse in one quarter and resistance in the other being less violent, society may march on peaceably towards the fulfilment of its destiny. This is the dominant idea in the book—an idea which embraces all the others, and that you ought to have made out more clearly. Hitherto, however, few have discovered it. I please many persons of opposite opinions, not because they penetrate my meaning, but because, looking at only one side of my work, they think that they find in it arguments in favour of their own convictions. But I have faith in the future, and I hope that the day will come when all will see clearly what now only a few suspect. . . . .
The material success of the book continues. . . . . From what you say of your arrangements for the summer, my dear friend, I greatly fear that I shall not be able to visit you this year. Beaumont and I intend, in a month’s time, to go to England.
Paris, January 11, 1836.
I cannot allow you to learn from a formal announcement, my dear friend, the terrible blow which has just fallen upon us. My poor mother died on the evening before last. We had long seen the increasing probability of this event. I was not the less overwhelmed by it. There are some scenes for which one never can prepare one’s imagination; and this is one. The last two months of my poor mother’s life were very painful; but her last day was peaceful. After receiving the communion in the morning, she fell into a state of apparent insensibility, which lasted till half-past eight in the evening. She then seemed suddenly to awake from a deep sleep. She called us, Louis de Chateaubriand and ourselves, to her bedside. She blessed us in a distinct voice, and seemed to fall asleep once more. She had ceased to exist. Since then I have had complete experience of what I had often thought, that the only consolation in intense sorrow is in the heart of a loving wife. This is what I now feel, and the proof is present to me in my own home. Marie’s own grief is great, for my mother was always full of kindness towards her, and she understands and does everything to soften my distress, naturally and without an effort. I shall add no more; you will, I hope, forgive me.
Berne, July 24, 1836.
. . . . You must indeed be demented if you think that I dislike or despise your counsels. Thank heaven, I am not yet too old to consider good and sincere advice as one of the greatest blessings of friendship. If it had been possible, therefore, your letters would have increased my affection for you. As for the letter itself, I candidly own to you that I think it surpasses all that you have ever said, and that it gives additional proofs of what you might do if you would shake off the accursed misanthropical laziness which overpowers you. . . . .
I scarcely know how to answer you. If I am to be understood I must do so at length, and I have not time for a long letter; you must therefore take my answer only as a vague outline which requires much filling up.
You seem to me to have understood the general ideas on which my programme is founded. What has always most struck me in my country, and especially of late years, has been to see ranged on one side the men who value morality, religion, and order, and on the other those who love liberty and legal equality. To me this is as extraordinary as it is deplorable; for I am convinced that all the things which we thus separate are indissolubly united in the eyes of God. They are all sacred, if I may use the expression; man can be great and happy only when they are combined. From the time that I found this out I believed that one of the greatest achievements in our time would be to prove it, to show that all these advantages are not merely compatible but necessarily connected. Such is the outline of my idea. You can quite understand it, for you share it. Still there is a shade of difference between us. My love for liberty is more ardent and more sincere than yours. You like it if it can be got without any trouble, but you are ready to do without it. Such is the case with many excellent people in France. Such is not my feeling. I have always loved liberty instinctively, and the more I reflect, the more convinced am I that neither political nor moral greatness can long subsist without it. I therefore am as tenaciously attached to liberty as to morality, and I am ready to sacrifice some of my tranquillity to obtain it.
With this slight difference, we agree as to the object. But you say that we differ prodigiously as to the means; and in truth, I believe that on this point you do not perfectly understand me.
You think that I intend to put forward radical and even revolutionary theories. In this you are mistaken. I have shown, and shall continue to show a strong and deliberate preference for liberty, for two reasons; first, because it is my fixed opinion; and, secondly, because I do not choose to be confounded with those friends of order who are indifferent to freedom and justice, provided that they can sleep quietly in their beds. There are quite enough of such people, and I venture to predict that they will never effect anything great and lasting; I shall therefore avow my attachment to liberty, and my desire to see it carried into every political institution in my country; but at the same time, I hope to show so much respect for justice, such sincere love of order and law, such a deliberate attachment to morality and religion, that I cannot but believe that I shall be discovered to be a liberal of a new kind; not to be confounded with our ordinary modern democrats. This is the whole of my plan. My account of it is incoherent, but I have kept back nothing. It is impossible for me to tell you beforehand how I shall attempt to illustrate these ideas. God alone knows if I ever shall be able to acquire any influence over my contemporaries, and perhaps it is presumption on my part to attempt it. But if ever I obtain any, it will be gradually and prudently, allowing my ideas to be inferred from my conduct, and to unfold themselves by degrees, instead of being thrown in a heap at the head of the public. If I have hitherto shown any qualities, I think that tact and prudence have been among them. I hope to continue to show them, but you must always bear in mind my starting point.
My object, as I said in the beginning of my letter, is to combine the great principles that are now separate. For that purpose I must begin by proving, as is most true, that I am as passionately attached to one set of principles as to the other. You would have found this out long ago if you had been a demagogue. You would have heard me plead far more ardently the cause of religion and morality than that of liberty. But you are one of the excellent men whom I esteem highly, and cannot reason with calmly; for though they might direct the fate of their country, they will not stretch out their hands to help her. If these excellent men would love liberty as much as they love virtue, each principle would assist the other, and we should be saved.
This is a hasty sketch of what I had to say. Far from regarding such letters as your last with displeasure, I shall always consider them as the most precious results of our friendship, and you cannot make it closer than by often writing to me similar ones.
Tell me, if you please, that my undertaking is rash and above my powers; that it is a dream or a chimera; well and good. But leave me, at least, the belief that it is a great and noble attempt, and that it is worthy of the sacrifice of time, fortune, and even of life; that failure in it is better than success in any other cause. To persuade men that respect for law, both human and Divine, is the best way to be free, and that to grant freedom is the best way to ensure morality and religion—such is my object. You will tell me that this is impossible; I am inclined to the same opinion; but it is the truth, and I will speak it at all risks. . . . I shall reach Geneva on the 15th of August. . . . .
Tocqueville, Oct. 5, 1836.
I found at Geneva your letter of the 18th of August; your arguments do not touch me, because I entirely share your opinion. We evidently are fighting in the dark. I expressed myself to you with a warmth that you took for a sign of a mind violently impelled to put its own ideas into action: this is not the case. You represent, with great reason, that revolutions are great evils, and give no good education to a people; that prolonged disturbance is, in itself, pernicious, and that respect for law can grow only out of the stability of the laws. . . . . All these things I firmly believe. I do not think that there is in France a man less favourable to revolution than I am, nor one that has a more intense hatred for what is called the revolutionary spirit, which spirit, by-the-bye, is easily combined with the love of absolute government.
What am I then? and what is it that I want?
That we may understand each other better, let us distinguish the end from the means. What is the end? What I want is not a republic, but an hereditary monarchy. I would rather even that it were legitimate than elected as ours is, because it would be stronger, especially externally. What I want is a central government, energetic in its own sphere—an energetic central power is much more necessary in a democratic nation, where social influences are scattered, than in an aristocracy. Besides, our position in Europe makes what we ought to choose, if our choice were free, a necessity. But I desire that the sphere of this central power be clearly defined: that it may interfere only with what comes within its own jurisdiction, and that its principles may be always subordinate to public opinion as represented in the legislative bodies. I believe that the central power may be invested with high prerogatives, and exercise great authority in its sphere; and at the same time, that ample room may be allowed to municipal liberties. I think that under such a government as this, the majority of the nation may share in the management of its affairs; that political life may animate almost the whole country; and that the direct or indirect exercise of political rights may be widely extended. I wish the general principles of the government to be liberal, that the largest possible margin should be left to individual action. I believe that all these things are compatible; I will even say that I am perfectly convinced that we shall never enjoy order and tranquillity till we shall have succeeded in combining them.
If this be admitted to be the end, I do not quarrel about the means. I should be among the first to admit that we must advance slowly, carefully, and legally. My impression is that the institutions which we now have give sufficient room for the result that I contemplate. Far from wishing to violate the laws, I respect them superstitiously. But I wish our laws to incline by slow degrees towards the ends that I have just mentioned, instead of making impotent and dangerous efforts to turn back. I wish the government itself to prepare the country for doing without it in many cases in which its intervention is still necessary, or thought necessary. I wish the people to be introduced into public life as soon as they appear capable of being of use, instead of banishing them from it at all hazards. Finally, I wish to proceed towards some definite end, and to choose the right path, instead of wandering about as we have been doing for the last twenty years. What else have I to say to you, dear friend? One might preach for a whole day upon this text without exhausting it. By this time you must understand my meaning without my attempting to dilute it, or to explain it by a thousand examples. . . . . To sum up, I have a clear conception of a government, neither revolutionary nor subversive, which I think might be established in our country. But I am as well aware as anyone that such a government (which however would be only an extension of what we now have) could not be maintained without the aid of opinions, usages and laws which we do not yet possess, and which must be introduced slowly, and with great precaution.
Valognes, March 7, 1839.
I was elected last Monday, dear friend—by a majority of eighty. Afterwards almost the whole population pressed round me, and accompanied me home with a complete uproar of acclamations. All this was very exciting, as you may think, and I thanked these good people from the window in a little speech, of which I send you the report. This is a great success, and, I may add, an honourable success; for I do not owe it to intrigue. I did not pay one visit; I have not promised one place. I confined myself to making an earnest appeal to the purest and most honourable feelings in the human breast, and I have succeeded. This proves that the race is not yet as depraved as it seems to be. However, I cannot conceal from myself that the hardest part is yet to come. The esteem in which I am held, the opinion entertained of me, impose on me obligations so formidable, that the thought of them already overpowers me. I greatly fear being unequal to my task. But if I am distinguished in no other way, I hope at least to be remarkable for honesty and political integrity. This will be easier for me than to be a great statesman, and it has its value. I have decided upon spending at any rate the whole of next session in the study of affairs and of men, within the Chamber, as well as without. I feel the necessity of an apprenticeship, and I shall have strength of mind to submit to one.
Your last letter somewhat distressed me, dear friend. I fear lest I should have pained you unnecessarily by reproving too severely your depression. You have, indeed, great causes for grief; and fortune, I own, has not as yet given you reason to trust her. You say truly that my position does not qualify me for speaking to you in this way. Almost all that I have attempted has, as you say, succeeded for the last ten years. This ought to make me more tolerant towards you. But do not think that I am intoxicated by my success. It surprises me perhaps as much as it astonishes you; and far from relying on the future, I tremble when I think of it. I remember where I was after the revolution of 1830, and all that has since happened to me strikes me with astonishment. I should be mad, if I expected things always to go on in this manner. I am now entering a new stage, without knowing if I am fit to play my part on it, and obliged to try my powers in a way that perhaps neither my mind nor my body will be able to endure; for, it must be acknowledged, I have no longer at my disposal the iron constitution which you remember, and which lent itself so kindly to the strong emotions and extreme activity of my mind. Excitement, beyond a certain point, fatigues me, and I now and then feel that I require rest. I cannot help thinking that Providence, who has already bestowed on me so many keenly felt and elevated enjoyments, does not intend my life to be long. I am not strong enough to bear incessant work, yet inactivity kills me. But one must not think of such things. I own to you that of all the blessings which God has given to me, the greatest of all in my eyes is to have lighted on Marie. You cannot imagine what she is in great trials. Usually so gentle, she then becomes strong and energetic. She watches over me without my knowing it. She softens, calms, and strengthens me in difficulties which disturb me, but leave her serene.
Tocqueville, July 14, 1840.
You are quite right, dear friend, to complain of my silence; not that it has been voluntary, or that I had forgotten you, but because in truth there is a meanness in not writing to one’s best friend, in order to give oneself up more completely to the political world, where in spite of all one’s efforts, one meets only with cold hearts, capable of no enthusiasm, except for themselves. I have long been reproaching myself for not writing to you. But I must impress upon you that I have never been less indifferent to you. Public life seems to affect me in another way from most men. It makes me cling the more to old feelings, and to the friends whom I have left behind. Your friendship, and that of Louis, have never seemed to me to be such real blessings as now.
It is not that I have reason to complain of political men. I receive as much respect in the Chamber, and enjoy as much influence as were to be gained in my short experience. But the side of human nature disclosed by politics is, indeed, miserable. Without a single exception, one may say that perfect purity and disinterestedness are unknown, that there is no real generosity or natural impulse. Even the youngest are no longer young. In moments of the highest excitement there is an undercurrent of cold selfishness and premeditation. Such a spectacle cannot fail to drive one back upon oneself; one seeks elsewhere for a purer mental atmosphere. I have entered public life, I like its excitement, and the great interests involved in it stimulate my mind; but there are many things absolutely wanting in it, without which I cannot live. And I can find them only in my wife and in two or three friends, who have remained much as we all were ten years ago. This is the explanation of what I before said on the increasing value that I set upon your friendship in the midst, and even in consequence, of the affairs that prevent my writing to you . . . .
I wrote from Tocqueville, which I reached only four days ago. I was kept in Paris by a report on prisons, which I will send to you. I cannot tell you how I enjoy the quiet of the country. You know that quiet is not in my line, nor do I take pleasure in rest. But rest and quiet occurring from time to time, and at long intervals, amid the turmoil of passions and politics, exercise a great charm even over my restless and anxious disposition. For a long while, I besought Heaven to give me too much to do. My prayers have been so well heard, that during the last few years I have often longed for time to take breath. Perhaps this may be the beginning of old age; for I cannot conceal from myself the fact, that for me youth is over, entirely over. I feel this much more mentally than physically. . . .
Do you think that the obstacles which prevented your coming this year will again stand in your way next year? The calm and even tenour of the life we lead here makes us still more anxious that you should share our retreat for a few months. . . .
P.S.—This day fifty-one years, the French revolution commenced; and after the destruction of so many men and institutions we may say that it is still going on. Is not this encouraging to the nations that are only just beginning theirs? . . . .
Tocqueville, Nov. 30, 1841.
Before I quit this place, dear friend, I must have a little talk with you. I hoped to have been able to remain at Tocqueville till the end of December, perhaps even till the beginning of January; for it would have been soon enough if I had arrived in time for the discussion of the Address. One of the many incidents that disturb my life and that prevent my ever settling anything definitely, forces me, against my will, to hasten my return. The friends who voted for me on the last vacancy in the Academy of France, think of proposing me again this time. I have, during the last fortnight, received letters upon letters, urging me to come and show myself. I cannot, without disobliging them, refuse any longer.
However, as I said before, this unexpected return costs me much. In the first place, I have not a very exalted idea of my chance in the Academy. Secondly, Tocqueville, even in this season, is so delightful to me that every day taken away from it seems to me a great and irreparable loss. Yet I must make up my mind to it. I start to-morrow. My stay at Tocqueville this year has been of great use. It has proved to me that I can be happy in the most retired life; that solitude, shared only by Marie, is, on the whole, not only the most agreeable, but the most useful mode in which I can pass my time. I repeat, that this experience is for me an important discovery. It makes me quite easy as to the future. I cannot hide from myself that, if I do not entirely regain my health, I shall sooner or later be obliged to give up politics, or at least to make them only a slight accessory to my existence. Bodily strength is as requisite in the Chamber as in battle; and at present I have none.
But even admitting, and I will not yet despair, that I may continue to make politics the business of my life, it still is a rare and inestimable comfort to feel that if it should be right or prudent for me to retire, either for a time or permanently, into private life, I should not be unhappy, and that if needful, I should return to it with pleasure. The power to quit without repining the political arena is, perhaps, the most essential qualification for acting independently and nobly. Almost all the meanness that we see in public men is caused either by the want of fortune, which makes them fear ruin if they should lose their places; or, by such a concentration of all their passions in the pursuit of power, that they cannot contemplate quitting it without a horror which misleads their judgment, and makes them sacrifice the future to the present, and honour to place.
Paris, January 1, 1842.
Thank you, dear friend, for your last letter. I knew very well that you would be pleased at my election into the Academy, for I have as much confidence in your friendship as I hope that you have in mine. I had alarmed you too much as to the result of the contest. You know that I am not given to false hopes. I am more inclined to look on the dark than on the bright side of the future. When I wrote to you, too, my success was very doubtful. The King was acting openly in favour of M. Vatout, and it was difficult to say how much he might influence the event. Happily for me, public opinion, which in our day is more powerful than kings, was on my side. There was a large majority, as you saw. It would have been still larger if a succession of accidents had not occasioned the absence of four of my best friends from the Academy on the day of the battle.
I am delighted, and as you say, I have many reasons for so being, besides the Academy. It would be an injustice to Providence to deny it. Many external circumstances of happiness have been granted to me. But more than all, I have to thank Heaven for having bestowed on me true domestic happiness, the first of human blessings. I never appreciated it so highly as I now do. As I grow older, this portion of life, which in my youth I used to look down upon, every day becomes more important in my eyes, and would now easily console me for the loss of all the rest.
I hope, however, dear friend, to escape the danger that you mention, and which threatens all the happy in this world. If I am better off than others in many respects, I am worse off in the first requisite of all, and that is health. My health is the weight that drags me down. It is often very heavy. This year I have taken certain invalid precautions, which hitherto have answered. I never go out in the evening, and never dine out. By this means I am sure to be careful in my diet, and to sleep at night. It is, however, sad at my age to be forced to live like an old man: I do not say this to complain, but to show you that there are two sides to every picture. Another thorn in my flesh, is the state of politics: they affect me more than most people, for it is my duty to mix in them, and it is an ungrateful task, I assure you. There is no good to be done at present, nor probably in future.
Baugy, Jan. 3, 1843.
The letter which you sent to Tocqueville, dear friend, has been forwarded to me here, where I have been staying for the last month, but to-morrow I return to Paris. . . .
A misanthropy, which I think exaggerated, breathes in your whole letter. I am no longer a child. I have seen many countries, studied many men, mingled in many public transactions, and the result of my experience is very different from yours. You make human nature worse than it is. The truth lies between the dreams of your early youth and the dark impressions of your maturity. Men in general are neither very good nor very bad; they are indifferent. According to the view one takes, they exhibit both qualities. I never was thrown into close contact with the best, without discovering some weaknesses, and even vices, which at the first glance I had not seen. In the worst, I have always found some points on which they were accessible to good impressions. In every man there are two men, as Solomon truly said 3,000 years ago; if it be childish to see only the one, it is miserably unjust to fix one’s eyes only on the other. This last, however, it seems to me that you do, and you are wrong. If to console you for having been born, you must meet with men whose most secret motives are always actuated by fine and elevated feelings, you need not wait, you may go and drown yourself immediately. But if you would be satisfied with a few men, whose actions are in general governed by those motives, and a large majority, who from time to time are influenced by them, you need not make such faces at the human race. Man with his vices, his weaknesses, and his virtues, strange combination though he be of good and evil, of grandeur and of baseness, is still, on the whole, the object most worthy of study, interest, pity, attachment, and admiration in the world; and since we have no angels, we cannot attach ourselves, or devote ourselves to anything greater or nobler than our fellow-creatures. These are the feelings that I wish to be yours in the year 1843. . .
Tocqueville, Oct. 1843.
I have been here a month already, my dear friend, and that month has passed like a single day. I should like to know if the delight which I take in solitude and in the freedom of the country is natural, or arises from the fatigue of living in Paris for seven or eight months. Is it the place itself that makes me happy, or its contrast with another? Unfortunately, I fear that the latter hypothesis is nearer to the truth. In any case, I think that the life which I lead here would be agreeable to me; but it is delightful, because it follows the incessant and prolonged turmoil of Paris. I am much afraid that if I were compelled to give up the excitement which is often so trying to me, to bury myself for ever in the retirement which I value so highly, it would end by becoming insipid. Is the fever of public life, then, essential to my temperament? I am inclined to think so; and yet I often suffer cruelly from it. What a miserable condition is that of man: plunged in such deep ignorance, that he knows no more of himself than of the most distant objects, and cannot see more clearly into his own heart than into the bowels of the earth!
Without wearying myself by trying to solve this riddle, I endeavour to enjoy, as much as possible, the present. I wish I could show you Tocqueville now. It is nearly finished. Your gate, the one whose removal to the top of the avenue you superintended, is already being covered with moss and ivy. The dirty courtyard has been converted into a beautiful green lawn. All along the walls that we want to hide, trees are growing, which as yet, it must be owned, are far from covering them. Why are you not here with Madame Stoffels, to see all these changes, and to listen indulgently to the admiration of the owners? In spite of the lapse of time, we still think and say that the most agreeable month that we have ever spent here, and the most in accordance with our own tastes, was when you both were here. We cannot persuade ourselves that it is never to return, and our greatest wish is that you may be able to arrange to pay us another visit soon, not alone, this time, but with your children; at least with several of them. You know that this is not a form of speech, but our most sincere desire.
Tocqueville, April 3, 1844.
I have been carrying about your last letter, dear friend, for a month, in my pocket, hoping to find time to answer it, and to have it at hand whenever I wanted to read it over again. The opportunity is always escaping me. I have just looked at the date, and am horrified by it. It is in last November, so that it came more than four months ago, and yet it seems as if I had only just received it. With what ill-omened rapidity life is beginning to pass! If I am not mistaken, this is a proof that youth has fled for ever, and that the impressions produced on the mind are becoming fainter; for life is measured by the number of impressions that remain graven on the memory. When many are retained, time seems to pass slowly; when they begin to escape us, time appears to fly; every recollection of past emotion is a sort of landmark, like the objects which measure the road to the traveller. It is unfortunate for me that while I lose the impression of past feelings, I do not become more calm, or at least, much more calm. I have still too much of the almost morbid irritability which makes me impatient of the obstacles which stand in the way of every man; and yet I ought to accustom myself to them, for the career which I have embraced is full of them. Political life is an arena where not a day passes without one’s being forced to rouse oneself to fight, and the victory gained is always far below one’s anticipations.
One passage in your letter distressed me. You put off indefinitely revisiting Normandy, and you talk of five or six years!! Our ideas and habits may have become so different in such a length of time, that we shall scarcely recognise one another. In such a long separation, the ties of intimacy become looser and looser, and we should both have to begin again. If you should be really obliged to put off our meeting for five or six years, I shall consider it as a serious calamity. For ourselves, we seem to have no prospect of a long tour which would enable us to take Metz in our way. Last year I was nominated to the Conseil général, which obliges me to spend next August in Normandy. I am very sorry for this; not only because I lose the episode of our visit to you, but because I lose the tour itself. I think that my taste for travelling grows by privation. I long to extend the horizon, to see new countries, new people, and new customs. But there is another obstacle which prevents me, and that is money. It often limits my wishes, which, however, are moderate enough. It annoys me when I think of it, but I seldom do; and the slight inconvenience which I experience in this respect, does not prevent my thanking God daily, and with all my heart, for having permitted me to pay this price for my admirable wife. I certainly cannot accuse Heaven of having ill-treated me; but beyond every other blessing, I feel increasing gratitude to Providence for having placed Marie in my path. I would willingly relinquish every other gift in order to preserve this. Good-bye, dear friend; my heart becomes always tender and expansive when I get upon this subject. It is the source of all the sweet and restorative influences of domestic life. All the rest is a barren desert, where one is forced to struggle from morning till night in the sun and dust. Adieu.
Paris, November 14, 1844.
Your letters, my dear friend, notwithstanding my pleasure in hearing from you, always cause me some slight annoyance. You always treat me as if my head were so turned by politics as to make me almost forget my friends. I have often told you that you were mistaken. Politics often sever two friends when they are both engaged in the same sphere, because differences of opinion and interests may bring collision. I own that there are few friendships which entirely survive this trial; but this is not your case, and the remembrance of you is all the more valuable and refreshing in the heart-sickness caused by public life. Before I entered it, I set a high value upon my old and true friends; since that time they have risen a hundred per cent. in my estimation. If I were to lose them I feel that I should form no similar attachments. The time when such ties are contracted is now for ever past for me. Outside the small circle of my affections, I look on men only as neutrals or as enemies; as supporters or as adversaries; as people to be esteemed or despised, but not as friends; and if those whom I still possess die before me, I shall die alone; at least my heart will be solitary. You must feel, that with this disposition, I am not tempted to forget my best and earliest friends; and are you not at the head of them? I never shall forget you nor become indifferent to your fate, nor to that of your children. But our intellectual sympathy may be diminished if years should pass without our meeting. . . . . You constantly speak of the impossibility of coming to see me at Tocqueville; I cannot believe in it . . . . A week or ten days at Tocqueville, if you cannot spare more, would be enough to knit our minds together again, and to enable us to live apart for two years without misunderstanding each other. . . .
Paris, July 21, 1848.
I need not tell you, my dear friend, that I have been wishing to write to you sooner, but the events which have taken place since your letter came, have made a sufficient noise to serve as an excuse for me.
You ask me to write about politics. I would willingly do so if I had more time, but I have little, and must confine myself to a general summary.
Ever since February, I never doubted that a great battle was impending in Paris. I said it, repeated it, and wrote it a hundred times. The four days of June, therefore, only surprised me by their colossal proportions. Our victory restored some of the ground that social order had lost. For the first time for four months a regular government is possible; and though I am convinced that both those who hold the reins of government, and the Assembly itself, will be unequal to the difficulties of the position, and will not do all that they might towards the speedy and permanent accomplishment of this object, I think that it will be attained in spite of them by the irresistible impulse which the late events have given to the spirit of order; but great dangers are to be feared in the immediate present, and still more in the future.
The first will be caused by the state of our finances. If we continue to vote supplies, and the receipts continue to diminish, it will be impossible for us to escape a financial crisis, of which the consequences cannot be foretold. . . . This is the immediate danger. It is great and alarming. I am inclined, however, to think that it will not destroy us. I should not be surprised if, after these trials, the Republican Government were to become settled, and to go on for some time with regularity. But I have no confidence in the future. I feel a deep dejection, arising less from immediate apprehensions (though they are considerable), than from the absence of hope. I scarcely dare hope to see a regular government strong, and, at the same time, liberal, established in our country. This ideal was, as you know, the dream of my youth, and likewise of the portion of my mature age that has already passed. Is it possible still to believe in its realization? For a long time I thought (but long before last February this belief had been much shaken) that we had been making our way over a stormy sea, on which we still were tossing, but that the port was at hand. Was I not wrong? Are we not on a rolling sea that has no shore? or is not the land so distant, so unknown, that our lives, and perhaps those of our children, may pass away before it is reached, or at least before any settlement is made upon it? I do not expect a series of revolutions. I believe in tolerably long intervals of order, tranquillity, and prosperity; but how can one continue to hope for a good system of government firmly settled? In 1789, in 1815, even in 1830, France might still be supposed to be suffering under a sharp illness, after which the health of society would be restored to more than its former vigour and permanence. But do we not now see that the complaint is chronic, that the evil is more deeply seated; that though intermittent, it will continue longer than we ever expected; that it is not only a single form of government which seems to be impracticable, but any sort of settled government; and that we are fated to oscillate between despotism and liberty, and to bear neither for a continuance?
I am indeed alarmed at the state of the public mind. It is far from betokening the close of a revolution. At the time it was said, and to this day is perpetually repeated, that the insurgents of June were the dregs of the populace; that they were all outcasts of the lowest description, whose only motive was lust of plunder. Such, of course, were many of them; but it is not true that they were all of this kind. Would to God that they had been! Such wretches are always a small minority, they never prevail; they are imprisoned or executed, and all is over. In the insurrection of June, besides bad passions, there were, what are far more dangerous, false opinions. Many of the men who attempted to overthrow the most sacred rights were carried away by an erroneous notion of right. They sincerely believed that society was built upon injustice, and they wished to give it another foundation. Our bayonets and our cannon will never destroy this revolutionary fanaticism. It will create for us dangers and embarrassments without end.
Finally, I begin to ask myself whether anything solid and durable can be built on the shifting basis of our society? whether it will support even a despotism, which many people, tired of storms, would, for want of a better, hail as a haven? We did not see this great revolution in human society begin; we shall not see it end. If I had children, I should be always repeating this to them, and I should tell them that in this age, and in this country, one ought to be fit for everything, and prepared for everything, for no one can count on the future. And I should add, that in France especially, men should rely on nothing that can be taken away; but try to acquire those things which one can never lose till one ceases to exist; fortitude, energy, knowledge, and prudence. Adieu! dear friend; believe that my gloomy views of the future are in part due to the melancholy produced by what is passing around me, and trust always in my warm regard.
Paris, April 28, 1850.
. . . . My strength has almost entirely returned, and except politics, which I have set aside for the present, I have almost resumed my ordinary life. But this illness is an unpleasant recollection. It came for no apparent cause; it may come again without my being able to guard against it. Happily, the doctors assure me that the lung is sound. The mischief, therefore, done already, is not much; but is it entirely got rid of? . . .
You wish for political prognostications; who can venture to make any? The future is as black as night; the most far-sighted admit that they cannot look forward. As for me, I see a tolerably clear outline of what seems to be the future destiny of this country; but the details escape me, and the next turn that affairs will take is as much hidden from me as from one who has never been engaged in them. All I can say is, that I am more uneasy than I have been for a long time. What I see clearly is, that for sixty years we have been deceiving ourselves by imagining that we saw the end of the Revolution. It was supposed to be finished on the 18th Brumaire, and again in 1814; I myself thought, in 1830, that it might be over when I saw that democracy, having in its march passed over and destroyed every other privilege, had stopped before the ancient and necessary privilege of property. I thought that, like the ocean, it had at last found its shore.
I was wrong. It is now evident that the tide is rising, and that the sea is still enlarging its bed; that not only we have not seen the end of the stupendous revolution which began before our day, but that the infant just born will scarcely see it. Society is not in process of modification, but of transformation. Into what form? I have not the least idea, and I think that no one has. One feels that the old world is passing away; but what will be the new? The master spirits of the age can no more foresee it than the ancients could the abolition of slavery, the establishment of Christianity, the invasion of the barbarians, or any other of the great events which have changed the condition of the world. They knew that the institutions of their own day were crumbling, and that was all that they knew. . . .
To return to something nearer and more distinct, I do not think, as many do, that the present framework of society in France is in immediate peril. It yet contains far too much vital power to collapse; and I therefore disbelieve in the speedy and total overthrow with which we are threatened. . . .
Sorrento, December 30, 1850.
I am writing to you, dear friend, from a little town on the shores of the Bay of Naples, facing that city and Mount Vesuvius. Our original destination was Palermo. . . . We have been forced to seek another wintering place. We found it here, and here we have been for the last three weeks, congratulating ourselves every day on having thought of coming. It would be impossible to find a more enchanting country, or, hitherto, a more delightful climate. We have taken a furnished house on the outskirts of Sorrento. We stand in the midst of olives and orange trees, on a hill fronting Naples and the sea. It is true that we have no society; but I require it much less than I used. I have brought plenty of books, and I expect one of my dearest friends, Ampère, to spend the rest of the time with us. We intend to remain here till the middle of March, when we shall travel quietly home. As yet the climate and mode of life have agreed admirably with my health, and I hope to take back to Paris sufficient strength to enter actively into public affairs. My wife, too, has been very well since our arrival, and we are both experiencing the pleasure mingled with anxiety, perhaps all the greater on account of the admixture, that one feels in a safe and comfortable refuge in the midst of a storm, or rather between two storms.
You know that a mind as active as mine, and to which complete rest is as fatal now as it was in our youth, could not endure this life, in spite of its tranquil enjoyments, without some useful occupation. I am therefore not idle. My time is filled up with several interesting studies. I have long wished to begin writing again. For the last ten years politics have prevented my realizing this wish. But at the same time they have given to me a knowledge of men and of business which will enable me, when I have leisure, to write more easily and better. I profit by the short respite which I am now enjoying, not to write another book, but to choose a subject and to prepare materials. I do not know if I shall ever turn my present labours to account, but at least they amuse me.
In this retirement the remembrance of public affairs and public men gradually grows fainter, while my true friends become more dear. It is not astonishing, therefore, that we have often thought and talked of you in our hermitage. We long for news of you all, father, mother, and children, and the sooner the better.
Good-bye, dear friend. Here is the end of the year 1850. Remember that you have 1,500 miles off two friends who heartily wish that the coming year will bring all sorts of blessings to yourself and to your family. A thousand kind remembrances to Madame Stoffels, and a kiss for each child.
Versailles, July 23, 1851.
. . . . At length, dear friend, our great parliamentary battle is over. The result is what was to have been expected. As for me, I still think that the revision would have been, as I said, the least dangerous measure. But it has now become nearly impossible, and we are almost irresistibly impelled towards a reaction which will not be constitutional. . . . .
Many members of the political world drew, like you, from my report* an impression that I was opposed to the revision. This is caused, I think, by the fact that to complete my argument I must have said some things that I could not mention in my official position, and which I left the reader to infer. I am much annoyed by this meaning being attached by yourself and by others to my report, for I may be supposed to have been insincere, and to have pleaded for the purpose of losing my cause. This is false, and would be very injurious to me. On the contrary, I was perfectly convinced of the necessity of a revision, and I have become more so than ever during the last few days, when I have been calmly reconsidering my previous reasons. . . . .
My wife received a delightful letter from yours a few days ago. She intends to answer it soon. A postscript was added by your daughter, written in a style as natural and graceful as herself. She really is a charming girl. . . . .
[*]The Comte de Tocqueville was prefect of Amiens.
[*]That of a receiver of taxes at Metz.
[*]In Rhode Island.
[*]The venerable Abbé Lesueur, a second father to Tocqueville, for whom he had always a tender and filial regard.
[*]This was the year of the cholera.
[*]Sic in orig.—Tr.
[*]On the Revision of the Constitution. An extract from it is given, vol. ii. p. 164.—Tr.