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TO THE SAME. - 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 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.
[*]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.