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TO M. DE CORCELLE. - 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 M. DE CORCELLE.
Marseilles, October 11, 1846.
I have already told you, my dear friend, that I do not intend to explore Algeria. I wish only to spend a month or two in a scene of so much interest. I do not want to go to Africa in order to be ill; and I am determined always to make my curiosity yield to my health. I have resolved, therefore, to remain fixed during the whole time at Algiers. I know that this will prevent my visit from being completely satisfactory; but it will be more curious and interesting than the journey to Italy, which was my first intention.
Being thus hemmed in by prudent resolutions, I scarcely know what field of observation will be open to me. With you, I think that the most important point, politically speaking, is our relation to Morocco, and to all that frontier. I should much like to see Oran, and even Djemma-Gazouat; but I fear that I shall not be able. You know that Marshal Bugeaud is anxious for war, or at least for an expedition which will certainly lead to war.
The African question, complicated and important as it is, may be summed up in these words:—How shall we succeed in raising a French population, with our laws, our manners, and our civilisation, and at the same time treat the natives with the consideration to which we are bound by honour, by justice, by humanity, and by our real interests? The question has these two sides. They can neither of them be considered separately. I have never done so; and if in the Chamber I have spoken of one more than of the other, it is because everything cannot be said at once, nor so wide a subject brought under one head.
I assure you that I go to Algiers perfectly unprejudiced as to the men whom I shall meet, and the things which I shall see. Experience has taught me that one never knows thoroughly what one has not studied for oneself. I leave behind me in France all the opinions which I have collected from hearsay, determined to judge every detail as if I had heard of it for the first time. I am equally resolved not to throw myself blindly into any of the parties headed by the different generals.
I saw M. Dufaure as I passed through Paris, and liked him better than ever. I never found him more determined, nor governed by more noble and disinterested motives. It seems to me that we have never had so much reason to hope that we may be of real use to our country. You paint in the most attractive colours, the happiness of being out of the political arena. How one is never indignant; never carried away; but able to judge everything, surrounded by an atmosphere of eternal peace and justice. When I hear you say such things, I own that I long to beat you. Good heavens, my dear friend, such sentiments have nothing to do with politics. Our aim is honest and noble; and how shall we attain it without the earnest endeavours of ourselves and our friends? All our friends, indeed, are not perfect; they are often very different from what one would like them to be; they seldom do all that one wishes, and they often persuade one into committing blunders that one regrets. But still this is better, I do not say for oneself, but for the good that one may be able to effect, than to live alone. As for me, I am determined to oppose with all my energies the adversaries of my opinions; and I am equally resolved to preserve the weakness of loving, whether you approve or not, all my friends, and you above all, in spite of your philosophy.
Adieu. I will write to you from Africa as soon as I receive any clear impressions.
TO M. DUFAURE.
Paris, July 29, 1847.
My dear Friend and Colleague,
Our mutual friend, Rivet, has talked to me as well as to you, of a projected treatise, by several hands, on the finances. I like his proposal, and am ready to give my assistance, if you think that it will be useful.
I have always thought, and I believe that I have even repeated to you several times, that among the various reforms to which the public mind is more or less indifferent, there is one in which the country takes a lively interest, and which deserves the serious attention of public men; I mean the reform of our financial system.
Here is an opportunity for bringing forward not uncertain theories, but a detailed programme, to consist not merely of repealing tax after tax, without preparing new ones, but of a complete reorganization of the system, so as to lessen the burthen on the poor, while that on the rich would be slightly increased. By these means order might be restored to the finances, and at the same time the labouring classes might be relieved. Such a plan need only be stated to show how many questions it implies. I own that I am at present incapable of pointing out the details or the means. But those who are better skilled than I am believe it to be practicable. I see only that it is a great idea; and that like all great ideas, it would answer many purposes at once. It embraces all the most important social and financial questions. It is both economical and political. To apply it wisely would be sufficient to render either a party or an administration illustrious. There are many other great advantages to be derived from treating it. It leads to a reform which would be very popular and yet not revolutionary. You might thus be excused from engaging in many other reforms which are not seasonable, and are little desired by the nation, and for which you would never succeed in getting up a public interest. The proposed plan, on the contrary, would supply a want that is felt by the nation; which in these days is more interested by questions partaking of a social character than by those which are purely political. What could be more in accordance with this spirit than a financial reform, of which the consequence would be a more equitable distribution of the public expenses among the different classes of society?
I cannot ask you too earnestly to undertake this important reform. The moment has assuredly come for it. If a powerful hand does not grasp this question it will fall into a feeble or unworthy one; some one will undoubtedly take it up. It is impending over us like every change which is the natural product of the wants of the time.
I am willing, for my part, to take any share that is allotted to me in the work, or none at all, if that should be preferred. Rivet thinks that the section which would suit me best, would be a sort of introduction showing the present state of our financial system; its history; its chief defects; the purpose to be held in view in retouching it; and, lastly, an account of what the English have effected in this respect during the last thirty years. Am I to undertake this? If you approve, advise me as to the means of execution. But especially tell me (I hope with all my heart you will be able to do so), that the proposal has your warm approbation and sympathy. You alone can bring our combined efforts to a good result; you alone can inspire the writers with the courage, the industry, and the animation which ensure success. For this purpose you must place yourself at their head, and direct them; and when their work is finished, it is you again who must digest their labours, and afterwards present the public with the clear, definite, and practical consequences. Adieu, &c.