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TO PRINCE ALBERT DE BROGLIE. - 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 PRINCE ALBERT DE BROGLIE.
Tocqueville, July 20, 1856.
I should have thanked you sooner, Sir, for the book which you have been so kind as to give me,† if I had not wanted first to read it. I have been able to do so with great attention, in this complete retirement. You interested me greatly. I must, however, begin by telling you (and I shall thus diminish the value of my praise), that, before reading your book, I was more ignorant than I had any right to be of the subject. I have very little studied it, and I own that the period always somewhat revolted me. The miserable spectacle of the decay of the Roman Empire is so connected with the triumph of the Church, that I was disinclined for either. Much of what you say was, therefore, new to me; and you, perhaps, excited my curiosity more powerfully than you would have done that of better judges.
Your book was a source of continual interest to me. In the introduction (which in itself is a book), your description of the first development of Christianity, its diversities, and, at the same time, its unity; the peculiarities of the different Churches, and of their founders; the excitement which caused the schism; the relations of religion with philosophy, and what they borrowed from each other; all this interested me immensely, and set me thinking. I was glad to see that sincere religious faith, seeking neither to display nor to hide itself, need not impair either the sagacity or the liberality of the historian; and could allow him to discern second causes, acting often in a contradictory sense, though guided by the hand of God. I may say the same thing of the history which follows the introduction. Your attachment to general truths does not seem to me to conceal from you the weaknesses of the men who spread them and maintain them.
In this part of your book, there are many new and striking views. For instance: till I read it, I had never so clearly perceived the features which, in the Roman Empire, distinguished the East from the West, either politically or ecclesiastically: in the former, the complete assimilation to the Roman spirit, and in the latter, the grafting of Rome on a subsisting Greek civilization. This clears up considerably all that has subsequently taken place in the world.
To conclude (that I may not tire you with a longer analysis): you have impressed on my mind a portrait of Constantine, which must, I think, resemble the original; and you have enabled us to estimate the man who decided such great events, without being himself a really great man. Till now, I had only a confused idea of him. You have made it definite and clear.
I did not, however, find in your book as much explanation as I wished, of a problem, for which I searched most anxiously, and the absence of which in all books relating to Christianity, has always greatly disturbed me. How is it that the Christian religion, which has, in so many respects, improved individuals and advanced our race, has exercised, especially in the beginning, so little influence over the progress of society? Why is it, that in proportion as men become more humane, more just, more temperate, more chaste, they seem every day more and more indifferent to public virtue; so much so, that the great family of the nation seems more corrupt, more base, and more tottering, while every little individual family is better regulated?
You several times touch upon this subject, but you never go to the bottom of it. In my opinion, it deserves particular notice; for, after all, neither you nor I feel bound, morally, to render unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s, without inquiring, who is Cæsar, and what are his claims on us? This contrast, which strikes us from the beginning of Christianity, between Christian virtues and what I call public virtue, has frequently reappeared. There is nothing which seems to me so difficult of explanation, when we consider that God, and after Him, His revelation, are the foundations, or rather the sources of all virtues, the practice of which is necessary in the different states of mankind. This great question ought to be solved, and your intelligence is capable of coping with it.
I will not finish this letter, already too long, without sincerely complimenting you on the form and style of your work. Perhaps I attach too much importance to these merits, for I confess that even good thoughts, ill expressed, repel me. Your book appears to me to be well arranged, and well written. Your style belongs to a better age, and yet is not imitated, or affectedly antique. Your words depend on your thoughts, while in modern writing, the thought seems often to be made to suit and to introduce the words.
Let me add, that I finished you with regret, that I trust that you are continuing your excellent work, and will soon give us further results.
[†]“L’Eglise et l’Empire Romain au IVe Siécle.”