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TO THE COMTESSE DE CIRCOURT. - 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 COMTESSE DE CIRCOURT.
Sorrento, February 14, 1851.
About three weeks ago, Madame, I sent on, according to M. de Circourt’s instructions, the letter of introduction which you were so good as to give to me. General Filangieri has just returned a very polite answer, for which I am indebted solely to you. With it was a packet which I hasten to forward to you.
I seize this opportunity of thanking you for the kind and interesting letter that I received from you a short time since. How I should envy, Madame, those who spend their lives in the circles which you describe so well, and especially in yours, if one could be there without hearing of politics. But they poison everything, even the pleasure of returning home. The events in France, especially within the last month have, I own, made me cross and unsociable. I wish I could find some occupation for my mind in no way connected with public affairs; but this is more easily said than done. Political life is like certain women who, they say, have the power of agitating and exciting you long after you have ceased to love them.
What can I tell you, Madame, of this little world of Sorrento, in which you are so good as to interest yourself? It is as quiet and uniform as yours is varied and bustling. You know that there is nothing so tiresome as descriptions of still life. Besides, as I said before, the miserable state of our politics has disturbed and almost spoilt for me my retirement.
Voltaire used to say, that when anything annoyed him he wrote stories. I, who have no taste or talents that way, try to amuse myself by visiting all the environs.
I have seen Pompeii again, and I have been to Amalfi and Pœstum, which were new to me. The simple, melancholy grandeur of Pœstum filled me with emotion. But why do people say that these ruins stand in the midst of a desert; whereas their site is nothing more than a miserable, badly cultivated, scantily populated country, decaying like the temples themselves? Men always insist upon adorning truth instead of describing it. The greatest sometimes yield to this temptation. Even M. de Chateaubriand has painted the real wilderness, the one at least with which I am acquainted, in false colours. He seems to have travelled blindfold through the everlasting, cold, damp, melancholy, dark, and silent forest, from which you cannot escape even on the summits of the mountains or in the bosom of the valleys, which, more even than the ocean itself, impresses upon you the immensity of nature and the littleness of man.
We are told here that the winter is over: the truth is that it has not begun; we have scarcely had any autumn. What a delicious country, and how hard it would be to leave it were it not for the purpose of seeing one’s friends again! I trust that I have recovered my health here, though I dare not boast as yet.
Pray remember me to all who care about me. Thank M. de Circourt very much for his two letters. One was brought to me by an American with whom I was glad to renew my acquaintance; the second came with yours; both of them interested and instructed me. Adieu, Madame.
Sorrento, Monday, February 17, 1851.
I walked with Tocqueville and Ampère to Massa and round by the Deserto di St. Agatha. During the walk and in the evening we talked of the Roman expedition.
“Of its three motives,” I said, “the maintenance of French influence in Italy, the restoration of the Pope, and the introduction or preservation in Rome of liberal institutions, only the second has been obtained.”
“The first,” said Tocqueville, “cannot be said to have totally failed. It is true that we have not increased our popularity; the Roman people do not know—indeed nobody knows—the efforts that have been made in their behalf; they do not sufficiently feel that, if we had not interfered, Austria certainly would, and that Radetski would not have carried on the siege, or used the victory in quite the same spirit as Oudinot.
“But still we are there. Austria has it not all her own way. We have shown that we are able and willing to take a decisive part in Italian affairs. If we had refused the Pope’s application, and the Austrians had brought him back, as they certainly would have done, they would have had a pretence to object to any interference on our part. Now, as masters of Rome, we have at least a right to be heard. I am not bound, however, to defend the Roman expedition. It was no act of mine. When I entered the cabinet we were already at Civita Vecchia. All that I could do was to impress on Oudinot the necessity of so conducting the siege as to avoid injuring what is the property of the whole Christian world—the monuments of Rome. In this attempt we succeeded.”
“Yes,” said Ampêre, “almost the whole damage which the siege has done, is the destruction of the trees and frescoes in the Borghese gardens; and this was done not by us, but by the republican triumvirs, out of pure spite to the Prince, for it was totally useless.”
“This mode of conducting the siege,” continued Tocqueville, “actually occasioned to us some loss of men, and much of time; and exposed us to dangers which make me almost tremble when I think of them. If the unhealthy season had arrived at its usual time, and found our army encamped on the banks of the Tiber, it would have been laid waste by fever. If Rome had resisted for three weeks longer, this calamity would certainly have overtaken us, and there is no saying what political ones might have followed.
“Now the mode in which we were proceeding, making no use of shells, and directing our attacks only against the quarters where there was nothing valuable to injure, was so slow, that the day before the town surrendered our engineers estimated that it would hold out for twenty or twenty-one days longer. Happily the municipality, which the 20,000 foreign refugees had kept down by the terror of imprisonment, executions, and assassinations, took courage at last, and forced them to let us in; but it was a happiness that we had no right to expect. We owe it, in fact, principally to Ledru Rollin and his friends. The Roman garrison speculated on the assistance of the Parisian mob. When the failure of that silly insurrection showed that there was no hope from France, they lost heart, suffered the municipality to treat, and began to make their escape during the negotiation.
“The Cardinals at Gaëta during the siege were always contrasting our slow proceedings with the vigour with which the Austrians reduced Bologna. They did not, in so many words, require us to bombard Rome; but to obey them, and bring the siege to an end rapidly, that is what we must have done. And if any other of the Catholic powers, Spain, or Naples, or Austria, had taken on itself the settling of the Roman affair, the town would have been reduced in a week by destroying perhaps a third of it. From the time that Oudinot entered Rome in July, till we were turned out of office at the end of October, the whole object of my correspondence was, to induce the Pope to grant liberal institutions to his people. I considered this as the most important of the three objects of the expedition—as an object affecting not only our interests but our honour, as an object without which the whole expedition was a lamentable failure.”
“As between you and the Pope,” I said, “I suppose that you founded your right to make this demand on his having requested your aid?”
“Certainly,” he answered. “When a sovereign requests a friendly power to send an army into his territories, not to resist a foreign enemy, but to put down a domestic insurrection, he contracts a tacit engagement with that power to follow, at least to a considerable extent, its advice as to the use to be made of the victory. You occupied Sicily merely as auxiliaries, but you made the king give it a constitution.”
“And on what,” I asked, “did you found your right as against the Roman republic?”
“As against the triumvirs,” he answered, “on their being at the head of a horde of foreign ruffians, driven into Rome by the disgust and indignation of all other countries, who were oppressors of the Roman people.
“As against the Roman people, on the ground that France is the first Catholic power, that the spiritual authority of the Pope is essential to the welfare of the Catholic world, and that some degree of temporal power is necessary for the permanent exercise of his spiritual power. On these grounds, what appear to be the domestic affairs of Rome, and would be its domestic affairs if the Pope was at Avignon, have always been a matter in which the rest of Europe, Protestant as well as Catholic, has thought itself justified in interfering.”
“And what,” I said, “were the concessions which you required from the Pope?”
“They were five,” he answered. “First—A renewed recognition of the general principle of liberty and security proclaimed by the Pope in his celebrated statuto of the 17th March, 1848.
“Secondly—A new organization of the Roman courts of justice.
“Thirdly—A civil code resembling the code of Piedmont, or of Naples, which are in fact taken from the Code Napoléon.
“Fourthly—Elective municipal and national councils The Pope, by his motu proprio of the 14th October, 1847, created a National Assembly, called a “Consulta,” which was authorized to advise, but not to legislate. We required one which should have deliberative power on matters of taxation.
“Fifthly—The secularization of the public administration.
“Of these requisitions the two last were of course the most material. We, perhaps, attached most importance to vesting in an elected body the power of taxation; but as respects the feelings of the Roman people, the substitution of a lay for a clerical administration was the most urgent of all the reforms. Their hatred against their ecclesiastical rulers is indescribable. It is such that the Pope can retain them only while his capital is occupied by foreign troops; the instant that we go, unless the Austrians take our place, there will be a new revolution, which will sweep away every clerical functionary.”
“You did not seriously hope,” I replied, “to obtain all these demands?”
“I believe,” he answered, “that when we made them many of them were hopeless; though I thought it my duty to urge all of them as earnestly as if I expected to gain my point.
“But there was a time when they might at least have been promised, and perhaps ostensibly performed; that was when Pio Nono first asked our assistance. He had then quarrelled with Austria. Naples was democratic; he was on bad terms with Piedmont, and applied only to us.
“Cavaignac was timid and refused, but if we ought to have interfered at all, that was the time. When the Pope was at Gaëta, surrounded by the Spanish, Neapolitan, and Bavarian ministers, when he had lost Rossi, when he had thrown himself into the hands of the Cardinals, it was too late to prescribe terms to him.
“He seems to have thought seriously of trying to obtain some administrators from France, and he bitterly lamented the loss of Rossi. He said, ‘C’est le seul homme d’état capable de soutenir une nouvelle politique que j’ai pu trouver—et on me l’a tué.’*
“It was of great importance to us, to Rome, and, indeed, to the Pope himself, that he did not execute his original intention of taking refuge in France. The scheme was, that the Duc d’Harcourt, our minister in Rome, should arrange the means of taking him to France; and that Sparr, the Bavarian minister, should carry him to Gaëta, where he was to embark. So Harcourt, with all the Pope’s baggage, went to Civita Vecchia the same night that the Pope went to Gaëta. Harcourt found the Vauban at Civita Vecchia, and came round with her to Gaëta. By that time, the Pope had been two days in Gaëta, had been received with all sorts of honours and veneration, and found himself so comfortable, that he refused to move further. The whole influence of Naples was, of course, unfavourable to us; and it was exercised in the teazing, childish manner which was to be expected from them.
“When our minister reached Gaëta, carrying the first intelligence of our entry into Rome, he was put into quarantine, on the pretext that the Cerbere, which brought him, came from Toulon, and that there was cholera in Paris.
“He protested—the ministers could not venture to decide. The king was consulted; he asked for further explanations, and after a long delay, our minister was allowed to land; but his papers and his secretary were detained on board the Cerbere in quarantine, and it was only the following evening that the king was induced to connive at his going thither by night and stealing them.”
“How did the Austrians behave?” I asked.
“Better,” he answered, “than could have been expected. Austria was then professing to be constitutional, and affecting liberality. Esterhazy, who represented Austria at Gaëta, thoroughly approved, at least in his conversations, the secularization of the government, and the power of the Consulta in matters of taxation.
“It is remarkable, that one of the grounds on which the President dismissed us was, our not obtaining greater concessions from the Pope; but directly we were gone, he himself, or at least his ministers, gave up everything. His vanity was satisfied with having insulted the Pope, by his letter to Ney, and with having insulted the Chamber, by turning out a ministry without consulting it; and his interest in the affairs of Rome was then over.”
“But what,” I asked, “could you have done if you had remained, and the Pope had continued obstinate?”
“We should have set ourselves,” answered Tocqueville, “right with Europe; and we should have refused to sanction by our presence what we could not prevent.
“My intention was, in that event, to draw up a protest, stating all that we had asked on behalf of the Roman people; the grounds on which we had asked it, and the manner in which it had been refused, or eluded. . . . To present it to the Pope, to publish it in the Moniteur, and to withdraw our troops from Rome, leaving this appeal to Europe and to posterity.”
Thursday, February 20, 1851.
We talked in the evening of the memoirs of Louis XVIII.
I said that they had deceived Lord Granville, who told me in 1832 that he thought them authentic.
“They were written,” said Tocqueville, “by some one who had excellent information. Those memoirs, and those of an ‘Homme d’Etat,’ and the ‘Memorial de St. Hélène,’ are to be separated from the ordinary manufactures, such as those of Madame de Barry, Fouché, &c.”
“Who wrote,” I said, “the Memorial de St. Hélène?”
“An Abbé de Chateau Vieux,” said Tocqueville, “who kept the secret, except to one or two intimate friends, during his life, but revealed it by his will. He wrote nothing else very remarkable, and was not even a Parisian, which accounts for his never having been suspected.”
From the Memoirs of Louis XVIII. we passed to the man.
“He was,” said Tocqueville, “the only sovereign in France who has had the good sense or the patience to govern constitutionally. . . . He made a few mistakes at the beginning . . . offended the army by his Gardes du Corps, and still more by Ney’s execution; but during the remainder of his reign he took his ministers from the majority, and his policy from his ministers, and reigned in as parliamentary a manner as if he had been King of England. It has been said that the Bourbons are a worn-out race, and Louis XVI., Ferdinand I. of Naples, and Charles IV. of Spain, are used as examples; but what can be more thoroughly Bourbon than Louis Philippe’s family, the children of a French Bourbon by a Neapolitan Bourbon, and yet they would be a most distinguished family in private life. I cannot but believe that the French Bourbons are still destined to act a great part, and their present fortunes are preparing them for it.”
[*]“He was the only statesman capable of managing a new policy, and they killed him.”