Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1840: TO H. REEVE, ESQ. - Memoir, Letters, and Remains of Alexis de Tocqueville, vol. 2
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1840: TO H. REEVE, 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 H. REEVE, ESQ.
Paris, January 3, 1840.
My dear Reeve,
I am ashamed; I am in despair at the way in which I have treated your friend, Mr. Morley. He must take me for a perfect bear. He came to see me twice; he wrote to me once. I never answered, and yesterday, when I went to the Hotel Canterbury, about four o’clock, he had just started by the diligence. Pray entreat him to accept my excuses. I hope that he will some day give me an opportunity of effacing the bad opinion which this visit must have produced on him.
I laughed at the trouble which my abstract ideas give you; I am sure that, whatever you may say, you will get over your difficulties admirably. As to the substance of your opinion on this subject, I believe you are mistaken. I am convinced that the realists are wrong; and I am sure, that dangerous as the political tendency of their opinions is at all times, it is especially pernicious in our own time. In a democratic age the great danger is, you may rest assured, that the component parts of society may be destroyed or greatly enfeebled for the sake of the whole. All that in our day exalts the individual is useful. All that tends to magnify genera, and to ascribe a separate existence to species, is dangerous. This is the natural inclination of the public mind at present. The realistic doctrine carried into politics leads to all the excesses of democracy; it facilitates despotism, centralization, contempt for individual rights, the doctrine of necessity; in short, every institution and every doctrine which permits society to trample men under foot, and considers the nation as everything and the people as nothing.
This is one of the central opinions to which many of my ideas lead. On this subject I have attained to absolute conviction; and the chief object of my book is to persuade others of its truth.
TO THE SAME.
Paris, April 12, 1840.
My dear Friend,
Your letter, which has this moment reached me, proves to me that my last packet must have been lost; how, I cannot tell. As I told you yesterday, the publication, fortunately, does not take place till the 20th. You will therefore have time to translate and print the remainder.
If I were an Englishman, I should not see without anxiety the expedition now in preparation against China. As a well-wishing but disinterested spectator, I cannot rejoice much at the thought of the invasion of the celestial empire by an European army. Here, then, is European restlessness pitted against Chinese unchangeableness. This is a great event, especially when one remembers that it is only the sequence, the last link in a long chain of events of the same kind, which gradually push the European race abroad, and subject all others successively to its power or to its influence. There is happening in our day, without our noticing it, a thing more vast and more extraordinary than the establishment of the Roman empire. I mean the subjection of four portions of the globe by the fifth. Let us not think too ill of our age and of ourselves. Men are small, but events are great.
TO M. J. J. AMPÈRE.
Paris, April 21, 1840.
I will not have it said, dear friend, that you received at the same time with the public, a book in which you have had a share. The three first copies, “avant la lettre,” have been tributes of respect. There remains a fourth, which I keep for sincere and intimate friendship. You will not be surprised, therefore, if it makes its way straight to you. Accept it, I pray, not for the sake of the book (you know it already by heart), but as a token of affection.
TO H. REEVE, ESQ.
Paris, May 23, 1840.
My dear Friend,
Thank you for all your enclosures. By sending me everything that appears on my book, you do exactly what I wish. I am not afraid of criticism. I am quite prepared for it. There is but one thing thoroughly annoying to an author,—silence. Go on, therefore, as you have begun, and let me have everything.
I should have written sooner if I had not wished to talk to you about your translation. I have not yet seen the whole of it; but I have read enough to assure you, conscientiously, that I am delighted. You have rendered my thoughts even in their most delicate shades, with a clearness and fidelity that seem to me to be perfect. As for the style itself, of which I am not so well able to judge, Madame de Tocqueville assures me that it is excellent, clear, sober, and simple, just what it ought to be for a book on Political Philosophy.
TO M. DE CORCELLE.
Tocqueville, Sept. 26, 1840.
I see with extreme satisfaction from your letters, my dear friend, that though there had been no communication between us, we had come to pretty much the same conclusions on the present state of affairs. So, in the Chamber, we generally act together without consulting one another. You ask if at last I am satisfied by the magnitude of the events which seem to be impending. No; for I think of our country, whose prospects, if we are to have war, are most unfavourable. But if I thought only of myself, I should say that I preferred this stormy future to the sort of fog which has surrounded us ever since we entered the Chamber. Still I cannot believe that a real desire for revolution exists, or could last for any time, in France. These possibilities have been greatly exaggerated. . . . But we may see great disturbances and our country degraded. . . . This is quite enough to make one unwilling to act without mature deliberation.
I am inclined to think, that from the first the importance of the new Egyptian empire has been exaggerated. My reason is the age of the Pasha. In the east they never found institutions; all depends on individuals; and a political condition which rests on the life of a man of seventy is not worth much.
I have several times tried to work since I came here, and I have succeeded in mastering all the official documents that relate to Algeria. I own that this study has confirmed my opinions; and it has made my anticipations even more gloomy. I could write a volume on the subject, but I wish to finish this long letter. I will, therefore, give you only my conclusions. I think that we shall never do all the grand things in Algeria which were prophesied to us; but, on the other hand, I am more convinced than ever: First, that there is no medium between giving it up altogether, and, I will not say, conquering the country, but making ourselves thoroughly masters there. Secondly, that this alternative, on conditions similar to those obtained by the Turks, is quite practicable; and will take place if, as is possible, we succeed in destroying Abd-el-Kader. But the attempt to hold a portion of the country with, at our backs, a great Arab power which cannot subsist without attacking us, and separated by us from the sea, which is essential to its wants—this, my dear friend, is what the perusal of these papers has proved to me to be even more futile than I formerly thought.
We spend our evenings very agreeably in reading Burnes,* who, unfortunately, like all travellers, talks more about himself than the nations he visits. His mind is simple, decided, clear, but narrow. Tell me what books of history or travels give the best ideas of the oriental nations, and especially of British India. I will get them directly; for in these days it is necessary to know all that there is to be known about the East, which is fated to play a considerable part in the future.
TO M. J. J. AMPÈRE.
Tocqueville, September 27, 1840.
I cannot tell you, my dearest friend, how much I was affected by reading your verses.† I believe that I should have thought them beautiful even if they had had nothing to do with me or my ideas, but the subject added gratitude to my admiration. Words cannot describe my delight at seeing my favourite opinions so well understood and so well expressed. You have imposed on me a real obligation, and I rejoice in it; for you belong to the small circle of true friends whom I love and esteem; and next to the pleasure of obliging them, there is none greater than that of being obliged by them.
I return to the completeness with which you enter into my meaning. It does not indeed surprise me, but it gives me great pleasure. You certainly are one of the ten whom M. Royer-Collard alluded to, when he said, “In the democratic society which you are so proud of, there will not be ten persons who will thoroughly enter into the spirit of your book.” I believe him to have been egregiously mistaken, especially if I could find a few more such interpreters as you are.
The packet had the additional merit of containing your letter announcing your speedy arrival. You will find this house still unfinished; but there is a room in one of the turrets to which no noise ever penetrates, from above or below. This will be yours, and we already call it by your name. Come then, dear friend; but let it be for a long visit. This last condition is imperative. Do not come for the sake of amusement, but to enjoy an interval of quiet and absence from care with friends who will be glad to have you with them, and who treat you already as one of the family. Bring your work with you. I promise you liberty and peace. You know better than I do, though you often show that you are able to do without them, the value of these blessings to a man who lives much among his own thoughts.
I will ask you to do me a favour, which I hope will indirectly benefit you. We have just read Burnes, who has made us, me especially, long for a further knowledge of the East. There must be other modern travels, and equally instructive books; travels or histories about Persia, Turkey, or Hindostan. Is there no translation of a good history or description of the British Empire in India? As to travels, there are Elphinstone’s, to which Burnes frequently refers, and which must be interesting. If you can remember any, or your friends can suggest any, it would be very kind in you to communicate with my bookseller, who will buy for me any books that you recommend.
. . . . I need not ask you to remember me particularly to Madame Récamier and M. de Chateaubriand; nor need I tell you that my wife joins in begging you to come soon, and to stay long.
TO THE BARON DE TOCQUEVILLE.
Tocqueville, November 2, 1840.
I cannot thank you enough for the long letter which I received from you a short time ago. It was admirable; full of noble feelings and ideas. Such letters are excellent tonics; unfortunately, you can hardly hope to cure a disease, which depends so much on the constitution of the patient. You may modify this constitution, but you cannot change it. It is the secret of my strength sometimes, and of my weakness often. I have the restless, anxious mind, the continual craving for excitement, which belonged to our father. This temperament has at times enabled me to do great things. But in general, it tortures, agitates, and afflicts to no purpose. This is often the case with me; I have no difficulty in seeing the likeness. I am often miserable when there is no cause; and this gives only too much cause to those around me to be so. I am also well aware that this disposition may frequently interfere with my judgment. For a time it prevents my seeing things in their true perspective; external objects seem to me to be sometimes larger and sometimes smaller than they really are; just as my fancy paints them. I believe that my character is naturally candid and decided; but to remain so it must have calm, and petty annoyances often ruffle it. In moments of great excitement, or of important business, I generally preserve my composure; but the daily worries of life and of society easily disturb me.
It is indeed true that I have many sources of happiness; for besides all those that you enumerate, there is one which you have omitted, and I must add to them; it is that of having found the wife best suited to me. I want some things without which many people are miserable, and which I should like well enough to possess; such as wealth and, I will even own, children. I should love to have such children as I can imagine; but I have no great desire to put into the great lottery of paternity. What then do I want? You know and have said it: a quiet mind and moderate desires. I have lived long enough to know that there is no one thing in the whole world capable of fixing and of satisfying me. I have attained a success which I had no right to hope for at the beginning of my career; yet my happiness is not perfect. Often, in imagination, I fancy myself at the summit of human greatness; when there, I am not so dazzled but that the conviction forces itself irrepressibly upon me, that the same painful sensations, which I suffer from here, would follow me to that sublime altitude; just as my present sufferings are as like as possible to those of my younger days. The disturbing causes are different, but the mind itself is the same; restless, discontented, despising the good things of this world, yet constantly joining in the struggle for them, in order to escape from the painful lethargy into which it falls when for any time it is left to itself. This is a sad state to be in. All men feel it at times; some more than others; and I, more than anyone whom I know.
TO J. S. MILL, ESQ.
Paris, December 18, 1840.
I reproach myself greatly, my dear friend, for not having written to you sooner. I hope that you will forgive me when you remember the pressure of public business during the last two months. Nothing else could have prevented my writing to you immediately after your article appeared in the Edinburgh Review.*
I cannot write all the thoughts suggested by this remarkable paper: they are too many for a letter, especially such a letter as I have leisure for.
But there are some things which I ought long ago to have found time to say to you, and among others this: of all the articles on my book, yours is the only one in which the author has perfectly seized my meaning, and made it apparent to others. I need not, therefore, add, that I read it with extreme pleasure. At last I found myself criticised by a superior mind that had taken the trouble of entering into my ideas, and submitting them to a searching analysis. You alone, I repeat, have afforded me this satisfaction. I am binding your article with a copy of my book. The two ought to go together, and I wish to be able to turn from the one to the other. A thousand thanks, therefore, dear Mill, to you for writing it. You have given me one of the greatest pleasures that I have enjoyed for a long time.
The success of the second part of the “Democracy” has been less general in France, than that of the first part. In our day, I seldom think the public mistaken; I, therefore, am applying myself industriously to discover the fault that I have committed; probably a considerable one. I think that it belongs to the purpose for which the book was written, which is too abstract and raises too many questions to please the public. When I wrote only upon democratic society in the United States, I was understood directly. If I had written upon democratic society in France, as it exists in the present day, that again would have been easily understood. But using the ideas derived from American and French democracy only as data, I endeavoured to paint the general features of democratic societies; no complete specimen of which can yet be said to exist. This is what an ordinary reader fails to appreciate. Only those who are much accustomed to searching for abstract and speculative truths, care to follow me in such an inquiry. I believe that the comparatively little effect produced by my book is to be attributed to the original sin of the subject itself, rather than to the manner in which I have treated any particular portion.
You must have lamented, as I did, and as every sensible man did, the breach in the alliance between our two nations. No one advocated their union more strongly than myself. But I need not tell you, my dear Mill, that if it be important to keep up in a nation, especially in a nation so versatile as ours, the feeling that leads to great actions, the people must not be taught to submit quietly to be treated with indifference. To show no sense of your treatment of us would have been to smother, and perhaps extinguish, passions which we may some day need. The most elevated feeling now left to us is national pride. No doubt we ought to try to regulate it, and to moderate its ebullitions; but we must beware of diminishing it. I think the behaviour of your ministers inexcusable, and I was much grieved to see that it was countenanced by the British people. Ill-will is increasing between the two nations, and I am sorry for it; not only on their account, but on that of the whole of Europe; for all this is only driving us to enter into the schemes of the most formidable power of all.
Enough, and too much, of these gloomy politics. Good-bye. Are you never coming to France?
[*]Sir Alexander Burnes’s Travels.
[†]An epistle in verse, addressed to Tocqueville, by Ampère, in the “Revue de Paris.”
[*]This article is reprinted in Mr. Mill’s “Dissertations and Discussions,” vol. ii. p. 1.