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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.
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.