Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1837: TO N. W. SENIOR, ESQ. - Memoir, Letters, and Remains of Alexis de Tocqueville, vol. 2
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1837: TO N. W. SENIOR, ESQ. - 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 N. W. SENIOR, ESQ.
Paris, January 11, 1837.
My dear Mr. Senior,
I did not reach Paris till the end of December, and received only two days ago your report on the Poor-laws and the Treatise on Political Economy, which you were so kind as to send to me by Mr. Greg. A thousand thanks to you for having thought of me. You could not have given me anything that I should have liked better than your outline of Political Economy. I have long felt that I was insufficiently informed on this important portion of human science, and I have often thought that you were the man in the world most capable of supplying this deficiency. All that you write is much valued by me, but especially on the subject of political economy.
I have not yet, however, been able to read what you have sent to me. I put it off to a period which is not far off, when I shall be free. Just now I am so wrapped up in my second work on America, that I scarcely see or hear what is going on round me. I think that my book will be finished in the summer, and published next autumn. I do not know if it will be good; but I can affirm that I cannot make it better. I devote to it all my time and all my intelligence.
Our ministry is still in a dubious state* . . . . Pray present my respects to Lord and Lady Lansdowne.
TO H. REEVE, ESQ.
Paris, March 22, 1837.
I received your letter with great pleasure, my dear Reeve; you give me good news of yourself and of your translation; I am much interested in both; I believe even that I am so unselfish as to prefer the prosperity of the former. Thank heaven, both are going on well.
Before your letter came I received the speech of Sir Robert Peel and the pamphlet by an American citizen. I do not know if I am indebted to you for them. I should be much obliged if you would always let me see any publications of this description, if more should appear. Besides being seriously interested by the opinions which other people take the trouble of forming on me, I am amused at seeing the different characters that are ascribed to me according to the political views of the critic. I like to put them together as a series of portraits. Hitherto I have not found one that exactly represents the original.
My critics insist upon making me out a party-man; but I am not that. Passions are attributed to me where I have only opinions; or rather I have but one opinion, an enthusiasm for liberty and for the dignity of the human race. I consider all the forms of government only as so many more or less perfect means of satisfying this holy and legitimate craving. They ascribe to me alternately aristocratic and democratic prejudices. If I had been born in another period, or in another country, I might have had either the one or the other. But my birth, as it happened, made it easy to me to guard against both. I came into the world at the end of a long revolution, which, after destroying ancient institutions, had created none that could last. When I entered life, aristocracy was dead and democracy as yet unborn. My instinct, therefore, could not lead me blindly either to the one or to the other. I lived in a country which for forty years had tried everything, and settled nothing. I was on my guard, therefore, against political illusions. Myself belonging to the ancient aristocracy of my country, I had no natural hatred or jealousy of the aristocracy; nor could I have any natural affection for it, since that aristocracy had ceased to exist, and one can be strongly attached only to the living. I was near enough to know it thoroughly, and far enough to judge dispassionately. I may say as much for the democratic element. It had done me, as an individual, neither good nor harm. I had no personal motive, apart from my public convictions, to love or to hate it. Balanced between the past and the future, with no natural instinctive attraction towards either, I could without an effort look quietly on each side of the question.
TO THE SAME.
Tocqueville, July 24, 1837.
Your letter reached me only two days ago, my dear friend, because you directed it to Baugy, instead of to my own house. You were not, indeed, sure that I should be in Normandy this year. I have been in poor old Tocqueville for the last two months. I do not know if I told you that this place, which by our family arrangements has become mine, is a sort of large farmhouse, which has been uninhabited for the last half century. I am obliged, therefore, to make all sorts of alterations and repairs, which will never make it beautiful; but which, if I am permitted to live, will make the house habitable, and in a few years even comfortable. I am in the midst of workmen of every description—a detestable race, animals given to destruction and noise, whose vicinity does not suit a philosopher. I have, happily, no pretensions to direct the works myself. I have neither genius nor wish to attempt it. I leave it all to Madame de Tocqueville, who understands the matter better than I do; and I shut myself up from morning till night in a little room which she has been so good as to leave me. You see that I am a model husband.
You ask what effect the enthusiastic loyalty of which you in your country have been so lavish, has produced on me. Very little, I confess. In 1825 I saw Charles X. enter Paris amid the acclamations of the people, and heard him cry, “No more hallebards;” and on the 31st of July, 1830, I saw this very Prince leave St. Cloud, after scratching the royal arms off his carriage. I own that this gave me a lasting distaste for popular demonstrations. I do not mean that a similar fate awaits your young Queen. I am far from wishing, and far too from expecting it; but her stability rests, I believe, on another foundation than the cheers of the mob.
TO Count MolÉ.
Tocqueville, September 12, 1837.
The kindness of which you have given so many proofs to me, induces me to open my heart to you on an occasion which I think may affect my whole future life. I know that you have little time for private affairs; I shall, therefore, endeavour to be brief. As you may suppose, I allude to the election.
Many persons in the arrondissement* of Cherbourg had thought of proposing me in opposition to M——. The same idea had occurred to others in the arrondissement of Valognes. I myself, wishing to be freely elected, have as yet taken no steps in either quarter, nor shown in any manner that I had a preference for the one seat or for the other.
Things were in this state, when I heard lately, that, in the last meeting of the conseil général, the prefect had strongly recommended me to the electors of the arrondissement of Valognes. This, Sir, is the point to which I wish to draw your attention.
I must begin, Sir, by remarking, that in a constituency of 700 persons, in which the parties are about balanced, it is doubtful whether the direct interference of the Government would be successful. But, what is more important, I must say that it is impossible for me to be a Government candidate. In any other case, to make such a declaration to a Prime Minister might seem strange; but I know to whom I am speaking, and if the President of the Cabinet blames me, I will appeal to M. Molé, whose esteem, if he will allow me to tell him so, I value more than his support; and with him I am sure to gain my cause.
You are well aware, Sir, that I am not opposed to this Government, nor especially to its present Ministers; but I wish to be able to vote conscientiously and freely, which I could not, if I allowed myself to be nominated by the Government. I know that there are many who, when they have reached the Chamber, forget the steps which led to it; but I am not among them. I wish to enter it already holding the position which I intend to maintain in it, and this is an independent position. I might say a great deal more on this subject, but I wish to be brief; besides, I am convinced that such sentiments, when once expressed to you, cannot fail of being immediately understood. . . .
Forgive me, Sir, for writing this letter, which is already much too long. You have allowed me to consider you as a friend and a relation; I have been addressing you in both characters.
ANSWER FROM COUNT MOLÉ TO M. DE TOCQUEVILLE.
Paris, September 14, 1837.
My dear Sir,
I have just received from you a letter, which demands a full and immediate answer. I will be as frank as you are; and as I do not share any one of the sentiments or principles which inspired you while writing it, I will venture to tell you so. In the first place, I must disclaim, and if necessary protest, against the distinction which you make between the President of the Cabinet and M. Molé. If the latter had been obliged to forfeit any portion of his own character to become the former, he would have rejected the Presidency: he would have preferred, without hesitation, as he has always done, the least important of his moral or political convictions to power, and to all its supposed advantages.
Not only in politics, but in everything, one must take part in the everlasting struggle between good and evil. A man who chose to act only when he was sure of doing right, without doubt or compromise, would do nothing, even in private life: he must sit with folded arms. I therefore perform the duties of my office, as you would in my place, doing all the good that I can, and averting evil by all the means at my disposal. The first of these duties is, in my opinion, to fight in the elections, as much as elsewhere, for the convictions professed by those whose cause I maintain, who have raised me to power, and who loyally support me in it. I cannot, therefore, admit that to enter the Chamber through our influence, would be to take upon you a yoke which need hurt your pride or your delicacy; nor that to separate from us, on some future occasion, when a question arose on which you could not sincerely and conscientiously support us, would be a breach of faith.
All this sounds very flat in the ears of that dishonest, popularity-hunting party who hold that authority, whatever may be the hands that wield it, is the presumptive enemy of society. But I venture to ask if you think that you would be less fettered if you owed your seat to the legitimists, to the republicans, or to any other shade of opinion, than to the moderate party. A choice must be made: even a man unconnected with party must depend, more or less, on his constituents. The ministerial ranks are not supplied only by men who owe their rise and their existence to the ministry; they are chiefly composed of those who share its opinions, and believe its triumph to be for the good of the country.
These are the men, my dear Sir, among whom I should have been glad and proud to see you. You refuse—you have almost said that you would be ashamed of such a position: well and good. I deserved so much sincerity on your part. But you cannot imagine that I take my duties so little in earnest, as to wish to see you appear under the banners of our opponents. My duties, as you must know, are among the most painful and arduous that man can undertake. They involve more sacrifices from me than from most people, because my intellectual tastes, my affections, and all my habits are completely set aside for them. But I should consider myself as opposing the intentions of Providence, if I did not bear my destiny bravely. I believe that the country and the public would suffer if the Government were to pass now into other hands. Unless I deceive myself, I deserve the esteem, and perhaps the encouragement and support, of all who have honest hearts and wise heads.
However, your will shall be performed. Till now, I have upheld you with all my might, both in the Cabinet and out of it. I am not acquainted with your Prefect, but he seems to have discovered my wishes. I shall tell the Home Minister this very day that we are to entirely withdraw our support from you. Our friends (for we have friends) will oppose you; for in elections neutrality is impossible. If you succeed, I shall be glad for your sake; and permit me to add that my pleasure will be increased by my expectation that a practical knowledge of affairs and of men will draw you nearer to the unhappy Ministers whom now it would so much distress you to seem to favour. Under whatever banner you enrol yourself, I shall never cease to consider you as a loved and honoured kinsman, whose elevation of mind and rare ability place him among the most distinguished men of the age.
I remain, very sincerely yours,
These two letters were immediately followed by two more, which are omitted here, because they contain some confidential details, and some remarks on individuals, which had better be suppressed. The political situation, too, with which they are connected, is one on which it is not advisable at present to dwell, or even to touch. It will be enough, therefore, to add, that mutual explanations soon softened the rather sharp tone of this correspondence. The following letter, written by M. de Tocqueville, on the 27th September, in answer to one from Count Molé, shows that their correspondence had already resumed its former tone of benevolent regard on one side, and of affectionate deference on the other.
TO COUNT MOLÉ.
Tocqueville, September 27, 1837.
I will not delay for a single instant answering the letter which I have just received and eagerly read. I can scarcely describe to you how much I was touched, I may say, moved by it. I feel honoured by your esteem, and full of gratitude for your affection.
I cannot tell what political differences may yet be in store for us. But I feel perfectly confident that nothing will ever diminish the strong and sincere attachment which I have for you. Allow me to add, that my having been so long and so truly attached to you was the cause of the pang which my impression of your first letter cost me. The many proofs of kindness which you have bestowed on me during the last three years, had made me believe that I enjoyed your friendship. And I was the more convinced of this from a conversation which M. de Beaumont reported to me not long ago, and by which he himself had been much affected. When I read your letter I was afraid that I had been mistaken; and by the excited style of my reply you may judge of the value I set upon the prize which I feared to have lost. . . .
TO M. GUSTAVE DE BEAUMONT.
Tocqueville, November 12, 1837.
I have just received your letter of the 8th, my dear friend. You are surprised at my failure. I own that I was so myself. I was not acquainted with the constituency, and my friends made sure of a majority of eighty votes. I have already alluded to the causes of my defeat, which were the influence of the Government, democratic excitement, and my opponent’s large fortune. You and I, my dear Beaumont, are scarcely aware of the power exercised in France by money when unallied to noble birth, and seconded by the popular hatred against the nobles. The election was accompanied by cries of “Down with the nobles!” Notwithstanding this, all my adversaries acknowledge that I have none of the prejudices which they ascribe to the aristocracy; but these men feel towards us something similar to the instinctive repugnance felt by Americans towards the Blacks. For some time reason struggled against this instinct; but instinct has gained the day. Still, though I am beaten, I am not cast down. . . .
We are then free, dear friend, and I cannot tell you how gladly and how eagerly I return to study and to work. If you will, the next few years shall be happily and usefully spent by us: believe me, the future is our own. I never have felt so sure of this. You retire to the Grange to work; I approve this plan all the more, as I am going for the same purpose to Baugy. . . . . I forgot to say that we are bringing out the sixth edition of my “Democracy.”
[*]Sic in orig.—Tr.
[*]At this time each Arrondissement in a department returned a member.—Tr.