Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1847: TO M. DUFAURE. - Memoir, Letters, and Remains of Alexis de Tocqueville, vol. 2
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1847: TO M. DUFAURE. - 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. 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.
TO N. W. SENIOR, ESQ.
Tocqueville, August 25, 1847.
Many thanks for your route; not that I hope to fall in with you in Italy, but because I hope to be able to meet you in Paris. I shall be delighted to see you again after so long an absence, and to talk over with you all that has been going on, and is going on in the world.
You will find France calm, and not unprosperous, but anxious; men’s minds have been subject for some time to a strange uneasiness. In the midst of a tranquillity more profound than any that we have enjoyed for a very long time, the idea that our present position is unstable besets them. As for myself, though not without alarm, I am less anxious. I believe that our social edifice will continue to rest on its present basis, because no one, even if he wish to change its foundation, can point out another. But yet the state of public feeling disturbs me.
The middle classes, constantly exposed to the solicitations of the government, have gradually assumed towards the rest of the nation the position of a little aristocracy, with all the corruption of the ancient aristocracy, and without its higher feelings. I feel ashamed of obeying such a vulgar aristocracy, and if this feeling should prevail among the lower classes it may produce great calamities.
And yet how can a government be prevented from using corruption when the nature of our constituencies makes corruption so convenient, and our centralization makes it so easy? The fact is, that we are trying an experiment of which I cannot foresee the result. We are trying to employ at the same time two instruments which, I believe, have never been combined before; an elected assembly and a highly centralized executive. It is the greatest problem of modern times. We have proposed it to the world, but it has not yet been solved.
I am anxious for your inferences from what you have seen in Germany, and are now seeing in Italy. Kind and affectionate regards.
TO M. DE CORCELLE.
Tocqueville, August 27, 1847.
I find this country without political excitement, but in a most formidable moral condition. No revolution may be hanging over us, but revolutions must assuredly be ushered in by such signs. The effect produced by the Cubières prosecution was immense. The other horrible story which we have been full of for the last week,* has cast a vague terror and profound uneasiness over every mind. Such is the effect, I confess, which it has produced on mine. I never heard of any crime which gave me such a shocking impression of human nature, and of the men of my own time in particular. What a confusion between right and wrong is proved by such a deed! How clearly it shows the ruin caused by our successive revolutions! Adieu. Believe that your misfortunes only increase my attachment to you. Let me hear from you.
[*]The murder of the Duchesse de Praslin.—Tr.