Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1854: TO THE COMTESSE DE CIRCOURT. - Memoir, Letters, and Remains of Alexis de Tocqueville, vol. 2
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1854: 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.
St. Cyr, January 11, 1854.
I am anxious to write to you, Madame, before you leave the country, as I am convinced that no woman, however perfect she may be, when once she has returned to Paris, has leisure, or perhaps inclination, to remember absent friends. I therefore take my precautions, and try to make you think of me before it is too late.
A thousand thanks, Madame, for your last letter, and for the charming one which preceded it. They were gleams of light in my darkness. Your description of the delicious retreat which you have created does not astonish me. Three years ago I admired the skill with which you converted a peasant’s hut into a beautiful cottage, such as, unfortunately, one never does see in Switzerland. What may you not have been able to do with your present abode? I am impatient to see you in it; for where else are you to be found? In Paris one only catches a glimpse of you. Though I know no hostess who understands better the art of distributing her attentions amongst her guests, this is not enough to satisfy those who know how to appreciate you, among whom, as you know, I place myself. While I am deprived of that pleasure I live in a solitude as complete as that of a prison, only that I am at liberty to walk about the country. I am alarmed, Madame, at finding it suit me so well. I fear that my character must be based on unsociability.
As I could not bring my library to keep me company, I have had sent to me a volume of each of my favourite great authors. They amount to only twenty-five: a small shelf holds them all. Hardly one has been written within the last hundred years. I open one at hazard; it is almost as if I conversed with the writers. I am struck by seeing how, in spite of the variety of their talent, their merits are all owing to the same causes.
I study German for not less than three hours every day, and I begin to like it. But I cannot accustom myself to the gutturals. It seems to me always as if the speaker were scolding. Have soft things ever been said in German, Madame? One is told that they are said in every language, even in Iroquois.
I hope that if you write to me from Paris, you will tell me something of what is going on there; what people say, what they write, if indeed they do write. Is any subject besides the Exchange and the war ever mentioned? Such a subject would interest me. I received a kind note from Madame de Rauzan the other day. I was much touched by it, as she cannot write, and I know by experience how wearisome it is to dictate. Be so good as to thank her from me before I have the opportunity of thanking her myself.
I ought to earn news by giving you some myself. But what can a hermit offer from his cell, except his thoughts? and they are not worth your acceptance. I will therefore conclude, Madame, begging you to forgive the stupidity of this letter, and to accept the assurance of my most respectful attachment.
EXTRACT FROM MR. SENIOR’S JOURNAL.
St. Cyr, Tuesday, February 24, 1854.
I reached St. Cyr this morning. We talked of the state of parties.
“I am very sorry,” said Tocqueville, “that you have not penetrated more into the salons of the Legitimists; you have never got farther than a Fusionist.
“The Legitimists are not the Russians that Z. describes them; still less do they desire to see Henri V. restored by foreign intervention. They and their cause have suffered too bitterly for having committed that crime, or that fault, for them to be capable of repeating it. They are anti-national so far as not to rejoice in any victories obtained by France under this man’s guidance; but I cannot believe that they would rejoice in her defeat.
“They have ceased to be anxious about anything, but to be let alone. But they are a large, and rich, and comparatively well-educated body, and it will always be difficult to govern without their concurrence.
“I quite agree,” he continued, “with Z. as to the necessity of this war.
“Your interests may be more immediate and greater, but ours are very great. When I say ours, I mean those of France, as a country that is resolved to enjoy Constitutional Government.
“I am not sure that if Russia were to become mistress of the Continent, she would not allow France to continue a quasi-independent despotism under her Protectorate. But she will never willingly allow us to be powerful and free.
“I sympathise, too, with Z.’s fears as to the result. I do not believe that Napoleon himself, with all his energy, and all his diligence, and all his intelligence, would have thought it possible to conduct a great war to which his Minister of War was opposed. A man who has no heart in his business will neglect it, or do it imperfectly. His first step would have been to dismiss St. Arnaud.
“The real Prime Minister is, without doubt, Louis Napoleon himself. But he is not a man of business. He does not understand details. He may order certain things to be done; but he will not be able to ascertain whether the proper means have been taken. He does not know, indeed, what these means are. He does not trust those who do. A war which would have tasked all the power of Napoleon, and of Napoleon’s ministers and generals, is to be carried on, without any master mind to direct it, or any good instruments to execute it. I fear some great disaster.
“Such a disaster might throw,” he continued, “this man from the eminence on which he is balanced, not rooted; it might produce a popular outbreak, of which the anarchical party might take advantage. Or, what is, perhaps, more to be feared, it might frighten Louis Napoleon into a change of policy. He is quite capable of turning short round—giving up everything—Key of the Grotto, Protectorate of the Orthodox, even the Dardanelles and the Bosporus, to Nicholas, and asking to be repaid by the Rhine.
“I cannot escape from the cauchemar* that, a couple of years hence, France and England may be at war. Nicholas’s expectations have been deceived; but his plan was not unskilfully laid. He had a fair right to conjecture that you would think the dangers of this alliance such as to be even greater than those of allowing him to obtain his Protectorate.
“In deciding otherwise, you have taken the brave and the magnanimous course. I hope that it may prove the successful one.
“I am sorry,” continued Tocqueville, “to see the language of your newspapers as to the Fusion. I did not take part in it. But as a mere measure of precaution, it is a wise one. It decides what shall be the conduct of the Royalist party, in the event, not an improbable one, of France being suddenly left without a ruler.
“Your unmeasured praise of Louis Napoleon,” he continued, “and your unmeasured abuse of the Bourbons, are to a certain degree the interference in our politics which you professedly disclaim. I admit the anti-English prejudices of the Bourbons, and I admit that they are not likely to be abated by your alliance with a Bonaparte; but the opinions of a constitutional sovereign do not, like those of a despot, decide the conduct of his country. The country is anxious for peace, and, above all, for peace with you—for more than peace, for mutual good-feeling. The Bourbons cannot return, except with a constitution. It has become the tradition of the family, it is their title to the throne. There is not a vieille marquise in the Faubourg St. Germain who believes in divine right.
“The higher classes in France are Bourbonists, because they are constitutionalists, because they believe that constitutional monarchy is the government best suited to France, and that the Bourbons offer us the fairest chance of it.
“Among the middle classes there is, without doubt, much inclination for the social equality of a republic. But they are alarmed at its instability. They have never known one live for more than a year or two, or die except in convulsions.
“As for the lower classes, the country people think little about politics. The sensible portion of the artizans care about nothing but cheap bread and regular work. The others are socialists, and next to the government of a Rouge Assembly, wish for that of a Rouge despot.
“In London,” I said, “a few weeks ago, I came across a French socialist, not, indeed, of the lower orders, for he was a Professor of Mathematics, but participating in their feelings.
“ ‘I prefer,’ he said to me, ‘a Bonaparte to a Bourbon. A Bonaparte must rely on the people. One can always get something out of him.’ ‘What have you got,’ I asked, ‘from this man?’ ‘A great deal,’ he answered. ‘We got the Orleans’ confiscation; that was a great step. It was an attack on the rights of property. Then he represents the power and majesty of the people. He is like the people, above all law: Les Bourbons nous chicanaient.’*
“That was the true faith of a Rouge,” said Tocqueville.
“If this man,” he added, “had any self-control; if he would allow us a very moderate degree of liberty, he might enjoy a reign, probably found a dynasty. He had everything in his favour, the prestige of his name, the acquiescence of Europe, the dread of the socialists, and the contempt felt of the republicans.
“We were tired of the Branche cadette. We remembered the Branche aînée only to dislike it, and the Assembly only to despise it. We never shall be loyal subjects; but we might have been discontented ones, with as much moderation as is in our nature.
“I am alarmed,” he continued, “by your Reform Bill. Your new six-pound franchise must, I suppose, double the constituencies. It is a further step to universal suffrage, the least remediable of institutions.
“While you preserve your aristocracy, you will preserve your freedom. If that goes, you are in danger of falling into the worst of tyrannies—that of a despot appointed and controlled, if controlled at all, by a mob.”
TO BARON EDOUARD DE TOCQUEVILLE.
St. Cyr, March 7, 1854.
I direct to you, my dear friend, at Baugy, where my father tells me that you are to spend a few days. I hope that my letter will find you there, and will be a welcome interruption to your solitude.
I have nothing but good news to give you of our health. The weather, for the last eight or ten days (which I call horribly fine, being a combination of hot sun and cold wind), has affected my nerves a little; but has not made me actually ill, and it was a serious trial. The banks of the Loire resembled for a few days the shores of the ocean, and the bise* was quite as keen.
The work that you are so kind as to ask after goes on but slowly, and I cannot, even in the distance, see the end of it. It is coming, however, a little more into shape and form; and all the first part, which will make about one volume, will, I hope, be finished when I quit this place in May. As you know, it is a book upon the French Revolution, not a history, nor a series of philosophical observations, but a mixture of both. I follow the Revolution from period to period, from the commencement till the fall of the Empire; trying to seize the distinctive feature of each successive period, to find out its cause and its effect, and thus to lead the reader through all its different phases, dwelling more on the general tendency of events than on particular incidents. The subject is grand; but the merit of the book must depend on the ability of the writer—a thought which would be enough to turn me away from such an undertaking, if I had anything better to do.
I have devoted the whole of this year to doing what has never yet been done, to studying the Ancien Régime, and to finding out—what those who lived in the Ancien Régime did not know themselves—how affairs were conducted in those days, what were the political customs, regulations, &c.
I believe that I have extracted in this way many new facts and inferences, which explain why this great Revolution broke out in France; whence it derived its peculiar character; what were the causes of many subsequent events; and the sources of a host of usages, opinions, and inclinations, which we imagine to be new, but which sprung from the Ancien Régime. It is this first portion which, I repeat, is to be finished before I leave this place; and if it be so, I shall not have wasted my time. For I was obliged to go through an immense amount of preparatory labour, in which I had to grope my way. My intention is not to make more than two volumes. I am afraid that I have begun by eating my white bread. For the earlier part of the Revolution I shall have no difficulty in obtaining documents; but when I get to the Empire, I fear that I shall not meet with the same facilities. I console myself by thinking that it is a question for the future, and by saying, like the Greek, “Perhaps, between this and then, the king, or the ass, or I, shall die.” . . .
The best and the worst part of my work is, that it does not distract my mind from the present. The best, because it makes me more anxious to get on with it; the worst, because for one who thinks as I do, it is desirable to turn away entirely his thoughts from France as she now is. . . .
I say nothing about the war; for what do I know about it? I blame as much as you do those who base their opposition on our foreign policy. One must always belong more to one’s country than to one’s party; and, however I may disapprove of the existing Government, I shall always support it against a foreign enemy. . . . But enough, and too much, of politics.
EXTRACT FROM MR. SENIOR’S JOURNAL.
St. Cyr, Saturday, April 8, 1854.
We ended our walk with Plessis les Tours, Louis XI.’s castle, which stands on a flat, somewhat marshy tongue of land, stretching between the Loire and the Cher. All that remains is a small portion of one of the inner courts, probably a guard-room, and a cellar, pointed out to us as the prison in which Louis XI. kept Cardinal de la Balue for several years. The cellar itself is not bad for a prison of those days; but he is said to have passed his first year or two in a grated vault under the staircase, in which he could neither stand up nor lie at full length.
“It is remarkable,” said Tocqueville, “that the glorious reigns in French history, such as those of Louis XI., Louis XIV. and Napoleon, ended in the utmost misery and exhaustion; while the periods to which we are accustomed to look as those of disturbance and insecurity were those of comparative prosperity and progress. It seems as if tyranny were worse than civil war.”
“And yet,” I said, “the amount of revenue which the despots managed to squeeze out of France was never large. The taxation under Napoleon was much less than that under Louis Philippe.”
“Yes,” said Tocqueville; “but it was the want of power to tax avowedly that led them into indirect modes of raising money, which were far more mischievous; just as our servants put us to much more expense by their jobs than they would do if they simply robbed us to twice the amount of their indirect gains.
“Louis XIV. destroyed all the municipal franchises of France, and paved the way for this centralized tyranny, not from any dislike of municipal elections, but merely in order to be able himself to sell the places which the citizens had been accustomed to give.”
The conversation turned on our new system of throwing open the service of India and of the public offices to public competition.
“We have followed,” said Tocqueville, “that system, to a great extent, for many years. Our object was twofold. One was to depress the aristocracy of wealth, birth, and connexions. In that we have succeeded. The école polytechnique and the other schools, in which the vacancies are given to those who pass the best examinations, are filled by youths belonging to the middle and lower classes, who, undistracted by society or amusement, or by any literary or scientific pursuits except those immediately bearing on their examinations, beat their better-born competitors, who will not degrade themselves into the mere slaves of success in the concours.
“Our other object was to obtain the best public servants. In that we have failed. We have brought knowledge and ability to an average, diminished the number of incompetent employés, and reduced almost to nothing the number of distinguished ones. Continued application to a small number of subjects, and those always the same, not selected by the student, but imposed on him by the inflexible rule of the establishment, without reference to his tastes or to his powers, is as bad for the mind as the constant exercise of one set of muscles would be for the body.
“We have a name for those who have been thus educated. They are called ‘Polytechnisés.’ If you follow our example, you will increase your second-rates, and extinguish your first-rates; and what is, perhaps, a more important result, whether you consider it a good or an evil, you will make a large stride in the direction in which you have lately made so many, the removing the government and the administration of England from the hands of the higher classes into those of the middle and lower ones.”
TO THE COMTE DE CIRCOURT.
Paris, June 1, 1854.
The first thing that I did, my dear M. de Circourt, was to go to your house. As I am only passing through Paris, I must write what I had rather say to you. You will guess that it relates to the little tour in Germany, which I am anxious to make, and, I hope, shall make. I want your advice, and I trust that you will let me have it soon.
This is my programme, at least provisionally:—On the 15th of this month, I enter the valley of the Rhine, perhaps at Bonn; and I remain there, or in that neighbourhood, for about six weeks. Then I go to Dresden, as a new centre of excursions. My principal object is, to ascertain what was the state of Germany at the time when the French Revolution broke out; what was the effect on it of its intellectual intercourse, and of its wars, with us; and lastly, what were the principal events in that great country up to the moment when it rose as one man against us. The state of feeling which preceded this general rising interests me deeply.
I ask you, now, what appear to you to be the places best worth visiting for obtaining this information? what are the German books, and, above all, the men most worth consulting? I must tell you, that your opinion will much influence my conduct. Let me have it, therefore, as fully as possible and with all its grounds.
I say no more to you at present, having, as you may easily suppose, a hundred things to do during my short stay; but I cannot end without begging you to express to Madame de Circourt my great regret at being obliged to defer, until autumn, the pleasure of seeing her. Besides the delight which I always feel in her society, I had hoped to obtain from her very valuable information respecting the country which I have to visit, and which she knows so well.
TO THE SAME.
Bonn, June 24, 1854.
I will not delay longer, my dear M. de Circourt, thanking you for the agreeable and useful acquaintances whom you have given to me in this country. We found, as you told me that we should, the Countess Oriolla very clever, very kind, and altogether charming. Your letters have also procured me the acquaintance of the principal Professors of the University.
We have hired a pleasant apartment by the riverside, just out of the town. We propose to remain here at least during all July.
The instant that I had established myself, I set to work. Up to this time, I have so neglected living Germany for dead Germany, that I know no more of the state of feeling on the banks of the Rhine than if I were on the banks of the Loire. But I plunged headlong into the chaos of ancient Germany: not that I had to learn the old Germanic Constitution, I knew it before. I am engaged in a more arduous task, that of learning what was the ancient social and administrative condition of Germany. I find difficulties which I see not how to conquer; among others, the immense discrepancies between the different portions of this great country. No one general expression can comprehend races so different and often contrasted. The most intelligent men get confused when they attempt to do so, and fail. The only practical course seems to me to be, to examine every informant only as to the country which he knows best. By this process, you get fewer general views, but more details; and from these details you may form tolerably just general opinions. Still, after having thus limited my inquiries, I find a difficulty, arising either from the subject or from the witnesses, in obtaining good information.
The Ancien Régime, at least in this part of Germany, has been so long and so completely destroyed, that few persons can explain precisely what it was. I hope that by perseverance I may learn this; but the neighbourhood of Bonn is a very small bit of Germany, and as far as I can judge, not the most interesting to me, for, except as to its political institutions, the Ancien Régime in the valley of the Rhine resembles strikingly the Ancien Régime in France. What interests me is to know what was the Ancien Régime in those portions of Germany which retained most of the civil and administrative character of the middle ages. I am told that such was the case in Westphalia, to which I am near, and in Hamburg, in Brandenburg, and, above all, in Mecklenburgh. If you can tell me of persons in those countries who can explain best to me the ancient state of things, you will do me a great service.
For the information which I want, what would be most useful would be letters of introduction to members of the old German aristocracy, to persons with the tastes and the traditions of the old institutions; to those who still live among the ruins of that antediluvian world—tell me on these subjects your opinions. I have always found them most useful.
TO M. DE CORCELLE.
Bonn, July 22, 1854.
Up to this time, my dear friend, our tour has been successful; our health has been good; we have established ourselves in this place comfortably. We have made many acquaintances, either agreeable or useful. I think that I shall learn Germany better by examining leisurely and attentively a single district, than by glancing superficially at a large surface. I propose, therefore, to remain here nearly a month longer, and then to go northwards to Dresden or to Berlin. We shall not return till the end of October. As to the impression which this country has made on me, it is so incomplete and so vague that I cannot well describe it. I have lived in the Germany of the last century, and it is only occasionally, only to avoid being taken for a ghost, that I talk about Germany as it is. Every time has its peculiar business. I am no longer a public man; I try to adopt the feelings of a scholar instead of those of a politician. However, as I told you before, I have been forced occasionally to converse like the rest of the world, and have thus obtained a few general notions.
Here they are:
This country seems to me, like France, to be politically diseased.
There are many evident signs of this; but the malady seems to me to be less deeply seated than with us, and likely to last less long. The public mind, though lukewarm upon politics, has not become indifferent, as in France, to most of the studies which lift us above matter. Science and literature are still actively cultivated; even poetry has preserved its empire. Many books are published, and they find many readers. There is incessant activity of thought, and upon other subjects than material well-being. Even the languor that one remarks in politics proceeds more from the dizziness caused by the sight of all the follies which have just been committed in the endeavour after liberty, than from real indifference. Faith in free institutions still exists; they are still thought the most worthy objects of love and respect. The absence of this faith is the most alarming symptom in our disease, and I do not see it among this people. Germany is puzzled, confused, ignorant of the right path, but she is not like France, broken down and almost annihilated. At least, this is what I think. As to foreign affairs, there is a strong feeling here against Russia, and this passion inclines the Germans in favour of France, though in general they have a strong bias against us.
I have also observed in the world of morals and politics, signs of some other facts which seem to me of consequence. You are, of course, aware of the part played by philosophy during the last fifty years in Germany, and especially by the school of Hegel. He was protected, as, no doubt, you know, by the ruling powers, because his doctrines asserted that, in a political sense, all established facts ought to be submitted to as legitimate; and that the very circumstance of their existence was sufficient to make obedience to them a duty. This doctrine gave rise at length to the anti-Christian and anti-spiritual schools, which have been endeavouring to pervert Germany for the last twenty years, especially for the last ten; and finally to the socialist philosophy, which had so great a share in producing the confusion of 1848. Hegel exacted submission to the ancient established powers of his own time; which he held to be legitimate, not only from existence, but from their origin. His scholars wished to establish powers of another kind, which, as soon as they existed, became therefore, according to their views, equally legitimate and binding. This did not suit the official protectors of Hegel. Yet from this Pandora’s box have escaped all sorts of moral diseases from which the people is still suffering. But I have remarked that a general reaction is taking place against this sensual and socialist philosophy. It is no longer preached in the Universities, and is opposed by many distinguished men.
I hear on all sides, that simultaneously with this philosophical revolution there is a revival of religious feeling in all the different forms professed by Germany. These are good symptoms. I am intimate here with some of the Catholic professors (the University of Bonn is half Catholic and half Protestant); they affirm that Catholicism exhibits more vitality than it has done for the last hundred years, which they attribute to the liberty which, in spite of some petty annoyances, it substantially enjoys; and above all to its separation from the State—a separation all the more complete that the Sovereign is a Protestant. The most eminent of these professors said to me the other day, during our walk, “The French clergy seem to me to be entering upon a dangerous path, one which fills us with anxiety. How is it that they do not see that in these days we derive our strength from independence of the temporal power, and not from the always precarious, often dangerous, always invidious, support of that power? Let your priests visit us, and they will see how we congratulate ourselves on our condition. Now, when abandoned to itself, and assisted only by freedom, Catholicism has regained its vigour.” “I assure you,” he added, “that if I could at once incline the temporal power in our favour, and destroy the rivalry of the Protestants, I should, in the interest of our religion, refuse to do so.”
I was nearly forgetting one remark, perhaps the most important. I find no trace here of the sort of torpidity which the dread of socialism has created in most minds in France. The classes which with us are afflicted with this nightmare, breathe freely in this country. I have not once heard it said that a gendarme ought to be placed at the door of every house to guard the inmates from being robbed and murdered by their neighbours. You will agree with me that this is enough to mark a fundamental difference between Germany and France, for when one goes to the source of all that takes place with us, that is said and done by us, one reaches always the one passion which is the centre and origin of all—fear.
TO THE COMTESSE DE CIRCOURT,
Bonn, July 27, 1854.
I am writing to you, Madame, from a place where I am constantly hearing your name. Mademoiselle d’Arnim is always speaking of her grateful remembrance of your kind hospitality. You will believe that we do not turn the conversation from this subject, and that we add no shadows to her picture. The society of Mademoiselle d’Arnim, of her charming sister, and of her brother-in-law, add much to the pleasantness of our lives. We do not, however, venture to inflict ourselves very often upon these ladies, though they have permitted us to do so. There is always a certain effort in conversing with new acquaintances. We try, therefore, not to take too much advantage of their kindness, and for this we deserve some praise. You know Mademoiselle d’Arnim too well to make it necessary for me to tell you how interesting and agreeable her conversation is. I am not aware if you are as intimate with her sister, who charmed us from the first by her grace of manner. The member of the family whom you do not know is the husband, and he is not the least worth knowing of the party. He has travelled much, seen much and well, thought much, and he is far from being a mere soldier, though he thoroughly enjoys his profession. His conversation interests me extremely. If I followed my inclination, Madame, I should call on these agreeable people every day. But I am so discreet as to be moderate. Our opinion of them seems to be shared by every one here. I have not yet met with a single person who has not spoken well of them: a rare agreement in large towns, and rarer still in small ones.
Besides the agreeable society we find at Madame d’Oriolla’s, we have many ways of passing our time here usefully and pleasantly. We live in excellent relations with several eminent members of this University, and are cordially welcomed by their families. We like this specimen of German society well enough to determine on remaining in this place much longer than we at first expected. I do not think that we shall leave it altogether till the end of August.
We are told that at first we created great alarm; and the astonishment expressed at not finding us worse than we are, shows that the reputation which the French have acquired is not favourable. The opinions of us which peep out in conversation are, indeed, either untrue or much exaggerated, sometimes absurd. I see that they are founded chiefly on the literature of the eighteenth century, and on the bad novels of our own day. The former paints a French society which has ceased to exist, and the latter a society that never has existed, and I hope never will exist. They are as much mistaken with regard to our vices as to our virtues; but we must forgive them, for we change so continually and so rapidly both our opinions and our habits, that foreigners who seek to portray us never have time to fix the resemblance. We have but one really permanent feature: it is the ease with which we submit to everything, and assume every form and every aspect according to times and events.
Adieu! Madame. Madame de Tocqueville and I are looking forward with equal delight to seeing you in the winter.
TO M. GUSTAVE DE BEAUMONT.
Bonn, August 6, 1854.
. . . We are still at Bonn. . . . I am working hard; and I hope, if I do not succeed in acquiring a thorough knowledge of Germany, at least to have some idea of the things which I ought most to know. It would be impossible to treat a foreigner with more attention than has been shown to me; they have even made an exception in my favour to the general regulation, that all books must be returned to the Public Library at this season of the year, and no new ones lent. We have been intimately received by many families, whom we like very much. There are certainly attractive elements in German domestic life; but will these men, who are so estimable and so distinguished in private life, ever become citizens? When I see how long they have submitted to absolute power; the mildness of its rule, the absence of all the traditions of liberty in the habits of the people; the centralization, the universal appetite for places, and the universal dependence; I ask myself if these men will ever be very different from what they now are? nevertheless, there seems to be a general feeling of instability in the country.
I had, the other day, an interesting conversation with a Prussian just returned from the United States, where he had been ambassador for ten years. His chief business was to attend to the emigration. He astonished me by saying that last year the number of emigrants from Germany to the United States reached the extraordinary amount of 140,000, and that they continue to arrive at the same rate. Formerly, none but the poor emigrated; but now there go many families in easy and even wealthy circumstances. I asked him from whence these emigrants went, and what were their motives. Few comparatively go from Prussia. Among the whole 140,000, there were only 10,000 Prussians, but most of these were well educated and comfortably off; the remainder were chiefly from the little States in the centre of Germany; many from Baden, Wirtemberg, and Bavaria. All these Germans (so said my informant), bring with them to the United States their German ideas, and, to a certain extent, keep them. They preserve their language; they do not mix much with the natives; they usually live together; and though, in the long run, they catch some of the political habits of the Americans, they always remain a distinct and foreign element. Altogether, what he told me confirmed my old opinion, that the rapid introduction into the United States of men not of the Anglo-Saxon race is the great danger to be feared in America—a danger which renders the final success of democratic institutions a problem as yet unsolved. I forgot to tell you that my informant attributed the departure of most of the German families to the pressing invitations of their relations and friends in America. But what German motive caused the emigration of those friends and relations? I could not get him to answer clearly this question, which is of great importance.
I saw the other day Henry Reeve, who is taking the waters at Aix-la-Chapelle; I returned with him to Aix to say good-bye to Lamoricière. Your friends, Sir George and Lady Theresa Lewis, arrived here yesterday. They came to see us immediately, and we talked of you; they will spend some days here, and we shall see them again to-day.
TO M. DE CIRCOURT.
Wildbad, September 1, 1854.
I suppose, dear M. de Circourt, that you have now returned from your tour; and I write, as I promised, to give you some news of ourselves, and especially to get some from you. I hope that no untoward accident marked the end of your journey. We regretted extremely that we were not able to keep you any longer. Your society was very agreeable, and your assistance very valuable.
We left Bonn on the 19th of last month, and we have been here ten days. I do not know if, in your frequent excursions to Germany, you ever penetrated to these mountain valleys. Probably you have, for where in Europe have you not been? You know then that we are in a forest of pine-trees which seems interminable, and in a country barren, thinly inhabited, even by animals, and very wild. We have not met one acquaintance—a privation which we bear with much philosophy. But we are less patient at seeing that the waters have as yet done Madame de Tocqueville no good.
If I do not succeed in learning German, it will not be for want of perseverance. Happy man that you are, to be able to speak at will every European language! How I envy you! How is it, that with your admirable capacity, and wonderful power of understanding, classifying, and remembering everything, you have never devoted yourself for two or three years to sifting one subject, to studying one science, to the exclusion of the rest? You would have made for yourself an illustrious name. But you scatter, allow me to say, great talents, which, concentrated, would have produced great results. I regret it, both for your sake, and for that of the world. I am meddling with what does not concern me; forgive me, in consideration of the friendship and of the esteem which impel me to speak.
P.S.—I have not mentioned the outer world—it is the best plan for a man who lives among pine-forests, at the bottom of a valley so deep and so narrow that the sun rises for him two hours later and sets two hours earlier than for his fellow-creatures in general. It is for you to tell me what is going on. Let me have a letter, then—a long letter, if you please.
TO M. GUSTAVE DE BEAUMONT.
Tocqueville, October, 1854.
. . . As soon as my father leaves us, I intend to follow your advice, and set myself hard and seriously to work. . . . I tremble when I think how necessary it is for me to succeed. I really do not know what would become of me if I lost this my only occupation. I am like the poor, who, reduced in ordinary times to live upon potatoes, must die in a scarcity.
I shall soon send you back the “Memoirs of Frederick the Great,” which I have read, taking care not to displace your marks. It is certainly a remarkable book, but much less so than its author. How different is the quality of mind which makes men act, from that which enables them to write! The thought which concentrates itself within the limits of an act to be accomplished from that which extends over a large area and endeavours to judge events and their causes! How possible it is for the same man to be first-rate in the former, and common-place in the latter capacity, and vice versâ! I never saw this so clearly before. In his memoirs, too, Frederick talks of nothing but battles, about which I know nothing. What I want to know is, how Frederick managed his government, and what were his opinions on the subject of government; but I suspect that he thought this part of his life too unimportant to take the trouble to explain it. I am struck by the short-sightedness of men, even of great men. I do not find in Frederick’s works a single word which denotes that he anticipated the revolutions which were then about to change the face of Europe. His own language and his own ideas show that the Revolution was coming, but he saw nothing of it. Is it not strange, that our wretched Louis XV. saw from his dung-heap what Frederick, enlightened by all his genius, could not perceive. . . .
TO M. DE CORCELLE.
Clairoix, near Compiègne, October 2, 1854.
My dear Friend,
An agreeable incident marked the end of our tour. Ampère, on his return from Rome, found us out among our mountains. He joined us; we brought him to Clairoix, and my father has kept him here.
The house is so small, that we had not a room for him, so my father has put him into a neighbouring cottage. For the first time in his life, Ampère has a courtyard, a mansion, and a garden to himself. You may suppose how happy we are to have him here. No one has more talents, nor more agreeable talents. To the utmost independence he joins an easiness of disposition, which makes him not only accommodate himself to every mode of life, but enjoy it.
I have attained only partially the object of my tour. I have not been able to make myself acquainted with Germany. All that I have done—and it is something—has been to acquire the power of understanding what is passing there and what I am told about it. Even this is difficult for a Frenchman, so great is the dissimilarity of the two countries.
Yet the great work of assimilation which goes on throughout the civilized world has already given Germany a likeness to France. The institutions, the social habits, the dress, the customs, all are alike in the two countries, or nearly so. What remains different is what is not seen—that is to say, the way in which events are regarded, the emotions which they produce. In short, the inner man retains his original form, while the outer man has lost it. I have acquired some notions with respect to this invisible Germany, and this is enough to prevent my thinking that my tour has been quite useless.
As to public affairs, I am not sure that the sort of paralysis which afflicts France is not still more remarkable in Germany. In a great part of the country public life still has its organs, but it does not use them. In Prussia, there is a real Parliament; the debates are public; the press is half free; the Administration is nearly independent of the Crown; old traditions of order and moderation prevail in the Government; and yet the country seems asleep.
Germany has not received even the imperfect political education which thirty-six years of representative government gave to us. It is not merely that the Germans are not well acquainted with the means by which political liberty is founded and maintained: they have scarcely a notion of them. In the midst of half liberal institutions, they preserve the habits given to them by two centuries of absolute power. The great chimæra of German unity takes, on their imagination, a much greater hold than the desire for real liberty in each of the countries of which Germany consists.
Though Germany is at present tranquil, she is not settled; she sleeps, but sleeps standing—the least touch could throw her to the right or to the left. You perceive throughout the country a vague dislike of what is existing; a feeling of stability is wanting; the old traditions have been abandoned; the respect for what is ancient, and for what is established, has disappeared. Every year the emigration becomes more enormous; 240,000 Germans sought last year in America new laws and a new country. Yet I am sure that it will be long before any political movement has its beginning in Germany. The Germans are easily set in motion; but they do not move spontaneously. Such, at least, is my opinion.
Yet you must not believe that the Revolution of 1848 passed over Germany without leaving any traces, or that, after this great disturbance, society has settled down again where it was before. It may almost be said that our Revolution of 1848 influenced Germany more than our Revolution of 1789; it is certain, at least, that all those portions of the ancient constitutions of Europe which survived the former, were put an end to for ever by the latter. The abolition of innumerable privileges which destroyed, or at least hampered, civil liberty, dates from this period, and will survive political liberty. All these results of the Revolution of 1848 were eagerly accepted even by the princes whom that Revolution most threatened. A truth which I have long acknowledged was never better proved—namely, that the great human revolution which we set in motion more than sixty-five years ago, advances towards liberty only occasionally, but towards equality with an irresistible and uninterrupted progress.
But enough about Germany. We left Wildbad on the 20th of last month. Lamoricière, with all his family, had given us a rendezvous at Heidelberg. We spent two days together, and left him with great regret. Lamoricière was never more thoroughly friendly. He and his wife endure their present position with admirable serenity. At Brussels I missed my excellent friend Bédeau. To my great sorrow, he was absent. As we entered Valenciennes, books and newspapers—in short, everything that was in print—were taken from the travellers. I recognised my own country.
TO THE SAME.
Clairoix, Oct. 23, 1854.
We have hired a little house two miles off, at Compiègne. It is in a dry and sunny situation. In the beginning of January, we shall return to Paris. We shall arrive there about the same time as you will, and we shall be very glad to see you. It is probable that society in general will be melancholy enough for people of our way of thinking—an additional reason for living a great deal with each other. I rejoice to find, as time goes on, that I am not one of those who naturally bow before success. The more a cause seems to be abandoned, the more passionately I become attached to it.
You are right when you say that a bird’s-eye view of affairs is often more favourable to the prediction of events than studying them in detail; but it is on condition that one is satisfied with very general truths, extending over a wide space of time. But as to knowing how men are likely to act to-morrow, how they will deal with coming events, all who are not in a position to know what is passing in their minds, must argue at random: even when you see clearly the interests of others, you cannot be sure of their taking the same view. General observation may show you how a nation is likely to act, because nations change little; but an individual or a group of individuals soon outgrows your experience, if you are not in a position to see continually what they are doing, and, as much as possible, what they are thinking. For these reasons, I divert my mind as much as I can from the occurrences of the present, to the contemplation of the past and the future, which, though farther off, are less obscure. Those who are as far removed as we are from the official world, resemble the aged, to whose view the horizon is clear, yet, if they have no spectacles, they cannot read the book before their eyes.
The way in which the most distinguished of our clergy consider the Eastern question seems to me to be mistaken, even with reference to the only subject which they care about. They bring opinions and sentiments formed in another sphere to bear upon politics. I scarcely ever have spoken with a French or German priest without finding that he judged institutions, events, and men according to their influence, however little and however distant, on the interests of the Church. The smallest consideration of this kind surpassed, in their minds, every other. I found them admirable citizens; but their city was the Eternal City, not Germany or France. I do not mean to say that it is impossible for them to be loyal, both to their religion and to their country, nor that in some minds, and at some periods, the one feeling may not intensify the other. What heroic passions, and what glorious deeds, have sprung from the union of these two principles in the hearts of men and of nations! But I say that we do not see such things now-a-days, and that nothing distresses me so much.
The French clergy under the ancien régime, with whom I am beginning to be well acquainted, and who are generally judged too severely, were very different. In the higher ranks of the profession there were undoubtedly some unworthy members, but as a class they were devoted to their duties, sincere in their faith, regular in their lives, and strongly attached to the Church of Rome; superior, I think, to any other class of men then existing, and formed of Catholic elements as vigorous and as sensitive as could be desired. But this did not in the least cut them off from the lay world or prevent their taking even an ardent interest in all that concerned it. When you read the administrative or political documents in which the clergy of that day took a part, either in a body or individually, even down to the instructions which they gave to their representatives, you see that those priests were deeply interested in all that could contribute to the worldly prosperity of their country, or to the liberty and dignity of its citizens; that they judged institutions by their intrinsic value and political acts in a political sense, and by their social bearings. Why is this no longer the case? I think that I could assign several reasons. But they would carry me too far, and my hand is tired with writing this long letter.
I therefore bid you adieu, but not without thanking you heartily for your bibliographical discovery with regard to my book on America. The pages written by our heroic Lieut. Bellot,* which your friendship disinterred for me, gave me, I confess, intense pleasure. I must, however, tear myself from the happiness of talking to you.
TO THE SAME.
Compiègne, Nov. 15, 1854.
I have excellent accounts to give you of our establishment. We have found exactly what we wanted, which is rare enough. A little house to ourselves, dry, warm, exposed to the sun (when there is any, and that is not to-day), on the skirts of the beautiful forest of Compiègne, and near all the resources of a town where, that our felicity may be perfect, we know not a soul.
I was present at the reception of Monseigneur Dupanloup* in the Academy, and immediately after the meeting I returned hither. I was especially struck by the beginning and the end of his speech. His notice of his predecessor was admirable. In this lies the great trial of skill, and it demands qualities both of heart and head. Altogether it was a capital meeting; capital for the Prelate, who gave great satisfaction and was loudly applauded even by the Institute; capital as establishing harmony between literature and the Church; neither of which can stand without the support of the other.
I sometimes reproach myself with speaking to you so freely and so strongly of the things which seem to me objectionable in the conduct of some of our clergy. But you will forgive me, my dear friend, when you remember that I can open my heart on these things only to you. You are my safety valve. I do not choose to gratify the enemies of our religion by talking to them, and I know no Catholic who combines to the extent that you do the soul of a true Frenchman with the spirit of a free man. You must therefore resign yourself to my murmurs. Perhaps I shall make up my mind to many things around us when I have not such a near view of them.
I was so unlucky as to subscribe a few months ago to a religious journal because I heard that it was a mere echo of all the other papers. This was convenient to a man who likes to hear as little politics as possible, and to be able to devour samples of all the newspapers in a quarter of an hour. But I soon saw that my expectations were false. The extracts, though various, have all the same flavour.
The other day an article in praise of liberty appeared in this paper, but the editor took care to add in a note; “We are assuredly far from regretting Parliamentary institutions. We are well aware that they are too apt to increase the vanity natural to men.” The editor does not see that other institutions may increase our natural meanness.
To restore the balance of my mind I go on reading from time to time Bourdaloue; but I am afraid that it will not be set down among my good works, as I am too much occupied by the writer’s talent and too much delighted with his style. What a master in the art of writing! I cannot too much admire the skill with which he leads his hearers, without letting them know what he is about, through familiar images to the object which he himself has in view, and the perfection with which he makes these material images correspond exactly with the invisible truths which he wishes to impress. I noticed the other day, in the sermon on almsgiving, I think, one of these indirect comparisons. It is of God to the feudal Lord; I was much struck by it, because I am as learned in feudality as a feodist. On this subject, so far removed from his ordinary studies, Bourdaloue employs the right terms with such unaffected precision, and they suit his meaning so well, that not one man in those times can have failed to understand him.
[*]“Used the law to oppress us.”
[*]Lieut. Bellot relates in his Journal on board the Prince Albert, that he met in Baffin’s Bay an American vessel also bent on a voyage of scientific discovery. The officers of the two ships dined together, and the American Captain, a man of literature, expressed his lively admiration for M. de Tocqueville’s book, declaring it to be a classic work in the United States. It is to this praise bestowed upon him by two such men in the 75th degree of latitude that M. de Tocqueville here alludes.
[*]Bishop of Orleans.—Tr.