Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO MADAME SWETCHINE. - Memoir, Letters, and Remains of Alexis de Tocqueville, vol. 2
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TO MADAME SWETCHINE. - 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 MADAME SWETCHINE.
Tocqueville, September 10, 1856.
You wrote to me, Madame, three weeks ago, the kindest and most interesting of letters, and I have not answered it. I hope that you will find in your heart, which is so full of indulgence, some excuse for me. I have none. All that I can say is that I have always been the worst of correspondents; the most irregular and the most intermittent; and that my best friends, always complaining, have always pardoned me: believing that the defect is owing, not to forgetfulness or to indifference, but to irresistible laziness. I could imitate one of my countrymen, settled in America, who, when he had an important communication to make, would travel a hundred miles rather than write a letter. Very different was the feeling of one of my neighbours, who so much preferred his pen to his voice, that if he called on you, and got engaged in an argument, he remounted his horse and galloped back to his little manor house to write his answer. I am the opposite to the latter, but not very different from the former.
Your opinion as to my book charms me. It is impossible to enter more thoroughly into my thoughts, or to master more completely the whole work. Your letter shall be kept among the select criticisms. I must indeed, tell you, Madame, that your place in my mind is singular and apart. My feelings towards you are a mixture of respect and affection, so peculiar, that they can be accounted for only by a very rare combination of different merits.
I delight in your noble hatred of slavery in all its forms. I agree with you that a more equal distribution of property and of rights is the great object at which those who govern men should aim; but my definition of political equality, is not that which we so often hear in the present day—general subjection to one ruler—but general freedom.
I suspected, I own, that you would not thoroughly approve my picture of the clergy of the ancien régime, or assent to my wish to link a clergy to their country by worldly interests. I will not enter on so great a subject by letter. But when I obtain one of the hours, so precious and so rare, in which I can talk with you freely, I hope to explain to you my whole thoughts, and to search for the truth with the help of a mind as sincere as my own, and more enlightened on these subjects. Perhaps you will allow me now to confine myself to explaining the feelings with which I wrote.
It appears to me that morality is divisible into two portions, both equally important in the eyes of God, but which His ministers do not teach with equal energy. One respects private life—the duties of mankind as fathers, children, husbands, and wives. The other respects public life—the duties of every citizen to his country, and to the portion of the human race to which he especially belongs. Am I mistaken in thinking that our clergy care much about the first branch of morality, and little about the second? This seems to me to be proved by the way in which women think and feel. I find among them a thousand private virtues—fruits of the direct influence of religion. Religion makes them faithful wives, excellent mothers, just and indulgent mistresses, and kind to the poor. But of public duties they seem not to have a notion. That they do not perform any may be natural; but they do not even inculcate their performance. This side of education has escaped their notice.
It was not so under the ancien régime. Mixed with its vices were proud masculine virtues. I have often heard that my grandmother, a woman of great piety, after having urged her young son to exercise the virtues of private life, never failed to add,—“And then, my child, never forget that a man belongs, above all, to his country; that there is no sacrifice which he must not make to it; and that God requires him to be ready to devote, on every occasion, his time, his fortune, and his life, to the service of the State and of the King.”
But I see, Madame, that I am going too deeply into a subject on which I wish to talk to you. It is too large for a letter.
I cannot end without thanking you for your quotation from Bossuet. Nothing, even in Bossuet, is finer. This one sentence contains all that can raise man, yet retain him within his proper sphere. It exhibits human greatness and Divine greatness. It is proud, yet humble. Where did you find it? It was unknown to me.
Adieu! Madame. Let us hear of you. My wife sends to you her kindest remembrances, and I beg you to believe in my tender and respectful attachment.*
[*]This is Madame Swetchine’s quotation from Bossuet:—“Lord, I know not if Thou art satisfied with me. I acknowledge that there are many reasons why Thou shouldest not be so; but, to Thy glory, I must confess that I am satisfied with Thee, and perfectly satisfied. To Thee it does not matter whether I be so or not. But, after all, it is the highest tribute that I can pay to Thee. For to say that I am satisfied with Thee, is to say that Thou art my God, since nothing less than God could satisfy me.”