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1836: TO THE SAME. - Alexis de Tocqueville, Memoir, Letters, and Remains of Alexis de Tocqueville, vol. 2 
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). 2 vols.
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TO THE SAME.
Paris, February 10, 1836.
I dispatched yesterday to our Consul General, M. Durand de St. André, the papers that I promised to you. It was to be sent on that very day by the Ambassador’s bag. M. de St. André will deliver it to your messenger.
I do not know, my dear Mill, what you will think of this essay. All that I can say is, that I cannot do better. I have worked at it as if it were to appear in French, and with my name to it. I fear, however, that I have been only tolerably successful. I am afraid that my manner is too French to suit the taste of your countrymen, and that they will think me too fond of general ideas. At first I tried to resist this tendency, but the subject brought me back to it in spite of myself. There is none that forces one to reflect so much upon the general laws which govern human institutions. When, however, I come to the France of our own day, I shall easily enter more into detail and become more practical. I am longing to have time to apply myself to writing the second part. This study has awakened a host of ideas in my mind, and I see the relations of many things which till now I had overlooked.
A letter from Mr. Austin informed me, my dear Mill, that you were anxious about your father. I hope that your fears are over, and that his health is now restored. I sympathize all the more with your anxiety, as I have just had the pain of losing my mother, and have felt the bitterness and the depth of such a sorrow.
I hope that you will remember me to all the persons to whom you introduced me in London, and especially to Mr. and Mrs. Grote. Adieu, dear Mill.
TO HENRY REEVE, ESQ.
Cherbourg, April 17, 1836.
I received your letter, my dear Reeve, a few days before I left Paris. I could not immediately write to thank you for the curious particulars that it contained; but I take advantage of the quiet of the country, (if a small provincial town may be called by that name), to give you some news of myself. I am making a sort of landlord’s tour here. I need not say that I am alone; the weather this year is not yet fit for women to travel.
The storms that drowned so many brave sailors on the coast of Norway destroyed many orchards, and shattered many of the last relics of feudalism that have been allowed to stand till now by democracy. I was afraid that the manor-house of Tourlaville,* of which the flooring has almost all fallen away, would have lost its roof on this occasion; and I ran to see if at least the feudal weather-cock had been spared. I found everything in excellent order. The wind has respected me, which I little expected. I shall stay here another week, and afterwards return to Paris. From thence I shall send you the “Système Pénitentiaire;” it has come out since I left England.
What you say about the London parishes is the more interesting to me, as it entirely confirms my opinion. When I was in England I formed the same judgment, and I am glad to find that my first impressions were correct. It must be owned that our two nations form a singular contrast. With you, society is much more aristocratic than in France; but some of your laws are much more democratic than ours. You have only to extend and to render general; we have to create.
I hope that you remembered me to Mrs. Austin, and that you have told Mrs. Reeve how glad I shall be to see her again. I can fancy that I see you now in the little house at Hampstead that I visited a year ago. I see you seated like a philosopher in your observatory, overlooking the smoke of London; and lower down I see your mother hospitably receiving her guests in the drawing-room. I shall never forget Hampstead. It is connected with a passage in my life which I shall always remember. Adieu, dear Reeve; remember me to all the friends who received me so kindly.
TO THE SAME.
Baugy, May 22, 1836.
Your letter reached me, my dear Reeve, just as I was leaving Paris for the second time, to spend part of the summer at a place belonging to one of my brothers, near Compiègne. I write from thence. They have put me at the top of the house, in a little turret, with windows on all sides, from which I overlook the whole country. To this spot, raised above all earthly cares, I retire to work; but I do not mean to say that oracles issue forth from it. To turn to less sublime subjects, I confess that the greatest advantage in being perched up here is that I escape the proximity of four charming little nephews and nieces, who would drive me to despair, a hundred times a day, if I were close to them. Man is a fearful animal; before he speaks, he cries; when he begins to speak, he talks nonsense. But neither you nor I can change him: we must take him as he is, without troubling ourselves about him.
I intended, on the day that I quitted Paris, to send you a copy of the Second Edition of our “Système Pénitentiaire.” I did not find time for this; but in the course of the next ten days I expect to spend a few hours in the Rue de Bourgogne, and I will not forget to send it to you then.
What you say of the tendency in our cabinet to separate from yours, seems to me to be only too true; but I cannot share your satisfaction thereon. I believe the union of the two nations to be essential to the maintenance of free institutions in Europe; and in my opinion this consideration surpasses every other. As to the desire of your aristocratic party to embark England in a war, in order to give the people something to do, I see a reason for that, which is the desperate state to which the party is reduced. . . .
However, you are not yet at war; it is not so easy in our time; and this is enough of politics. Of what did our fathers talk fifty years ago? I wonder. Take politics from our conversations, and you have only monosyllables and mute signs. Still they talked as well, and sometimes better than we do. They found a hundred things to say where we cannot think of one. They had the art of setting gaily about serious matters; very different from ourselves, who set to work so gravely to commit follies.
P.S. Pray present my respects to Lord and Lady Lansdowne. When I left Paris your review had not arrived.
TO M. DE CORCELLE.
Paris, July 6, 1836.
Many thanks, dear friend, for your kind and interesting letter. You know that I set a particular value on your friendship. I have often told you so, and still oftener thought it without telling you. I have always found that you believed what you said, and felt what you expressed. This alone would have been enough to distinguish you from others. But it is very good in me to try to explain to you my liking for you. It is easier felt than explained. I believe that I understand what it is that makes me rely on you; but if I did not understand, I still should trust you; for in these matters we are led by an instinct, which is better than reason.
I send you Aristotle. If you can turn it to a better account than I can, let me know. For my part, I own that, setting aside the respect due to those who have been admired for more than 2,000 years, it is a little too antiquated for my taste. We are not sufficiently Greek to profit much by such books.
Adieu! I shall reach Berne on the 25th of July, and Geneva on the 25th August. All the rest is doubtful. Pray write to me at those places, not only to tell me the news, but to tell me all that you are thinking about.
TO M. GUSTAVE DE BEAUMONT.
Paris, July 6, 1836.
. . . I shall now be impatient for the winter. I hope that it will be happy and productive. I cannot tell you, my dear friend, with what pleasant anticipations your marriage fills me. It completes the domestic happiness which I have always longed for. We both possess now the most valuable of all gifts: a partner upon whom we can depend in evil fortune as well as in good, and whose courage as well as affection we can trust. . . . Who would not feel full of energy and activity when so supported? . . .
I start to-morrow evening. I shall be at Metz on the day after to-morrow, and stay till the 14th. I then shall go to Berne.
TO M. DE CORCELLE.
Berne, July 27, 1836.
I am travelling, dear friend, in the character of a lover of nature rather than in that of a philosopher. Still, whenever I am obliged to read a newspaper, or to converse seriously, I try to understand what I am told. The result is, that with the true spirit of an American, I have acquired a supreme contempt for the federal constitution of Switzerland, which I unceremoniously call a league and not a federation.
A government of this kind is, without exception, the most impotent, weak, awkward, and incapable machine to lead a nation to anything but anarchy. The small amount of political vitality in this people has also struck me. The kingdom of England is a hundred times more republican than this republic. Some may say, that the difference of races is the cause. But this is an argument which I never admit except as a last resource, and when I have nothing else to say. I had rather allege as the reason a fact that is little known, or, at least, which was unknown to me till now; that in most of the Swiss cantons parochial liberty is recent. The municipalities of the towns ruled the country parishes just as the power of the crown did in France. This petty centralization was kept up by the citizens, who, like our centralizing authorities, would suffer no interference with their acts.
Enough of politics. If you still have the speech of Quincy Adams keep it for me.
TO J. S. MILL, ESQ.
Baugy, November 10, 1836.
My dear Mill,
The letter that you wrote to me last Monday did not reach me till yesterday evening. I answer it immediately, lest my letter should not find you. I cannot tell you how much I am annoyed at not being now in Paris. I should have liked particularly to receive you and introduce you to my wife, who already is acquainted with you as one of my best friends.
Thank you for the interest which you express in the “Democracy.” The delightful tour that I have just made in Switzerland has somewhat injured its progress. I have lost three precious months. I have therefore shut myself up in the little valley of Baugy to make up, if possible, for the time that I have wasted. I have found it hard to set to work. Thank God, I have got into training again, and I should now like not to leave off till I have finished. My subject is beginning to oppress my mind as a nightmare does the body. My head is full of ideas, of which the order is not yet clear to me, and which I must consider singly. I should like to run, but I can only drag myself slowly along. You know that I never take up my pen to support a system, or to draw, whether wrongly or rightly, certain conclusions. I give myself up to the natural flow of my ideas, allowing myself in good faith to be led from one consequence to another. Therefore, till my work is finished, I never know exactly what result I shall reach, or if I shall arrive at any. This uncertainty becomes in the end insupportable. If you will come here, my dear Mill, it will give me great pleasure to talk over all these matters with you, and to puzzle you with the ideas which now confuse my head. . . .
I have not seen the article in the Quarterly, nor that in the American Review. As to the reproof addressed to me by the latter, that I am too much given to generalising, I believe it to be well-founded. I often was forced to do so, in order that the general features of the country, which I was especially anxious to bring out, might be understood clearly in Europe. America was only the frame, my picture was Democracy.
I have only a little bit of paper left to tell you about France. I would in no case say much, for I should have too much to say if I were once to begin. I will speak only of the ministry, which is the event of the day. . . .
[*]An old château, near Cherbourg, then belonging to Alexis de Tocqueville, now to his brother Edward.