Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1844: TO THE SAME. - Memoir, Letters, and Remains of Alexis de Tocqueville, vol. 2
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1844: 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.
Tocqueville, September 17, 1844.
I have not time to-day, dear friend, to write a long letter. Besides, why should one treat, by the laborious process of writing, of subjects on which we shall soon have long and intimate conversation? I will, therefore, confine myself to a few general ideas relating to great political events.
I think that the religious movement should be neither exaggerated nor made of too little importance; it may be expressed in these words,—a real feeling made the instrument of factitious passions.
Just now, nothing can deeply and strongly excite the public mind; the University question no more than any other. Still it is the only question which interests the public, and which is rooted in opinions and prejudices that are not got up for the occasion. It is, however, rather embarrassing for all parties.
With regard to the “Commerce,” pray do not let us lose sight of the object of this newspaper. It is intended to give to us, the opposition, an organ which is to be perfectly independent in all questions of home and foreign politics; in which we may be able to defend, from a liberal point of view, liberty of teaching, without involving ourselves in the war against the clergy.
As to the style of polemics to be admitted, I agree with you that no violence should be allowed. But you wish a newspaper writer to be a “perfect gentleman;” and, if I am not mistaken, this is an error on your part which may cause you endless trouble and anxiety.
There is nothing more relative, nor to which universal propositions are less applicable, than style; pray consider this. The same man speaks differently in a drawing-room, in a book, in Parliament, to a friend, or to a thousand listeners; to an assembly of students, or to a crowd. His feelings and opinions remain intrinsically the same, but the way in which he brings them forward, the degree of animation, his choice and turn of expression, are different. To one audience he tells the whole, to the other he leaves half to be inferred.
A newspaper is a speech made from the window to the chance passers by in the street, among whom are to be found men of every degree of cultivation.
To make your opinions reach their minds and affect them as you wish, some warmth is necessary; arguments must be obvious; important truths must be mixed with common places; and the picture must be highly coloured, in order that it may be seen from a distance.
How can this be helped? It is the appropriate style. These articles will certainly not be found among the works that posterity will read; they are intended to produce, by constant repetition, a temporary effect. I fear that your ideal of what the style of a newspaper should be, is above all possibility of attainment. At least, I know of no example in any party, or country, or age.
I also think that you greatly exaggerate the responsibilities of the undertaking. Public men, especially if absent, are responsible only as to the general tone of a paper; never for each separate article. Do you not think that I was as much annoyed as you at some of the articles on our relations with England, where I have valuable friends, who may fancy that these were the expression of my personal opinions?
It is not, indeed, a time for stirring up our old griefs against England, when there is so much excitement on both sides. Our duty is to preserve the feeling of the nation within just and legitimate bounds. But to exceed these limits, and to throw oil upon the flames by reviving old disputes, seems to me to be almost wicked in the present critical juncture. I own that we do not do all that we want to do; but political affairs must be treated in a political spirit, and not with the scrupulous refinement of private life. What combined movement ever fulfils the exact object of the individuals engaged in it, each of whom does a little more, a little less, and a little differently than if he stood alone? It is a necessary condition of all association.
If you are resolved not to submit to it, you undoubtedly retain your individuality intact; but you can do none of the good that you wish to others, and your object in fact becomes selfish.
Good bye. I cannot tell you how I delight in the idea of spending a whole week with you in the stillness of the country, before I return to the din of warfare. I shall leave you with increased strength and composure.