Front Page Titles (by Subject) EXTRACTS FROM MR. SENIOR'S JOURNAL. - Memoir, Letters, and Remains of Alexis de Tocqueville, vol. 2
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EXTRACTS FROM MR. SENIOR’S JOURNAL. - 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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EXTRACTS FROM MR. SENIOR’S JOURNAL.
Paris, Thursday, May 7, 1857.
Tocqueville and I dined with M. and Madame de Bourke, and met there Ary Scheffer.
We talked of De la Roche’s pictures, and Scheffer agreed with me in preferring the smaller ones. He thought that De la Roche improved up to the time of his death, and preferred his “Moses” and “Drowned Martyr,” painted in 1853 and 1855, to the earlier large ones, and his “Girondins,” finished in 1856, to the earlier small ones.
We passed on to the increased and increasing population of Paris.
“The population of Paris,” I said, “is only half that of London, while that of the British Islands is not much more than three-fourths of that of France. If you were to double the population of Paris, therefore, it would still be proportionably less than that of London.”
“That is true,” said Tocqueville; “but yet there are many circumstances connected with the Parisian population, each of which renders it more dangerous than the London one. In the first place, there is the absence of any right to relief: the English workman knows that neither he nor his family can starve. The Frenchman becomes anxious as soon as his employment is irregular, and desperate when it fails. The English workmen are unacquainted with arms, and have no leaders with military experience. The bulk of the Frenchmen have served, many of them are veterans in civil war, and they have commanders skilled in street fighting. The English workmen have been gradually attracted to London by a real and permanent demand for their labour. They have wives and children. At least 100,000 men have been added to the working population of Paris since the coup d’état. They are young men, in the vigour of their strength and passions, unrestrained by wives or by families. They have been drawn hither suddenly and artificially, by the demolition and reconstruction of half the town, by the enormous local expenditure of the Government, and by the fifty millions spent in keeping the price of bread in Paris unnaturally low. The 40,000 men collected in Paris, by the construction of the fortifications, are supposed to have mainly contributed to the Revolution of 1848. What is to be expected from this addition of 100,000? Then, the repressive force is differently constituted, and differently animated.
“In England you have an army which has chosen arms as a profession, which never thinks of any other employment, and, indeed, is fit for no other, and never expects any provision except its pay and its pension. The French soldier, ever since 1789, is a citizen. He serves his six years because the law and the colonel force him to do so; but he counts the days until he can return to his province, his cottage, and his field. He sympathises with the passions of the people. In the terrible days of June, the army withstood the cries and the blessings, the imprecations and the seductions of the mob, only because they had the National Guard by their side. Their presence was a guarantee that the cause was just. The National Guard never fought before as they did in those days; yet, at the Château d’Eau, the miraculous heroism and the miraculous good-luck of Lamoricière were necessary to keep them together. If he had not exposed himself as no man ever did, and escaped as no man ever did, they would have broken.”
“I was there,” said Scheffer, “when his fourth horse was killed under him. As his horse was sinking, he drew his feet out of the stirrups, and came to the ground without falling, but his cigar dropped from his mouth. He picked it up, and went on with the order which he was giving to an aide-de-camp.”
“I saw that,” said Tocqueville. “He had placed himself immediately behind a gun, in front of the Château d’Eau, which fired down the Boulevard du Temple. A murderous fire from the windows in a corner of the Rue du Temple killed all the artillerymen. The instant that Lamoricière placed himself behind it, I thought that I saw what would happen. I implored him to get behind some shelter, or at least not to stand as a mark. ‘Recollect,’ I said, ‘that if you go on in this way, you must be killed before the day is over, and where shall we all be?’
“ ‘I see the danger of what I am doing,’ he answered; ‘and I dislike it as much as you can do, but it is necessary. The National Guards are shaking; if they break, the Line follows. I must set an example that everybody can see and can understand. This is not a time for taking precautions. If I were to shelter myself, they would run.’ ”
Tocqueville and I walked home together.
“Scheffer,” he said, “did not tell all that happened at the Château d’Eau. Men seldom do when they fight over their battles.
“The insurgents, by burrowing through walls, had got into a house in the rear of our position. They manned the windows, and suddenly fired down on us from a point whence no danger had been feared. This caused a panic among the National Guards, a force, of course, peculiarly subject to panics. They turned and ran back two hundred and fifty yards along the Boulevard St. Martin, carrying away with them the Line, and Lamoricière himself. He endeavoured to stop them by outcries, and by gesticulations, and, indeed, by force. He gave to one man, who was trying to run by him, a blow with his fist, so well meant and well directed, that it broke his collar-bone. At length he stopped them, re-formed them, and said, ‘Now you shall march, I at your head, with the drummer beating the charge, as if you were on parade, up to that house.’ They did so. After a few discharges, which miraculously missed Lamoricière, the men in the house deserted it.”
“What were you doing at the Château d’Eau?” I asked.
“We were marching,” he said, “with infantry and artillery on the Boulevard du Temple, across which there was a succession of barricades, which it was necessary to take one by one.
“As we advanced in the middle, our sappers and miners got into the houses, broke through the party-walls, and killed the men at the windows.
“Those three days,” he continued, “impress strongly on my mind the dangers of our present state.
“It is of no use to take up pavements, and straighten streets, and pierce Paris by long military roads, and loophole the barracks, if the executive cannot depend on the army. Ditches and bastions are of no use if the garrison will not man them.
“The new law of recruitment, however, may produce a great change. Instead of 80,000 conscripts, 120,000 are to be taken each year. This is about all that are fit for service. If the change ended there, our army would be still more a militia than it is now. It would be the Prussian Landwehr. But those entitled to their discharge are to be enticed by higher pay, promotion, bounties, and retiring pensions, in short by all means of seduction, to re-enter for long periods, for ten or fifteen, or perhaps twenty years. It is hoped that thus a permanent regular army will be formed, with an esprit de corps of its own—unsympathizing with the people, and ready to keep it down—and such will, I believe, be the result. But it will take nine or ten years to produce such an army, and the dangers that I fear are immediate.”
“What are the motives,” I asked, “for the changes as to the conscription—the increase of numbers, and the diminution of the time of service?”
“They are parts,” he answered, “of the system. The French peasant, and indeed the ouvrier, dislikes the service; the proportion of conscripts who will re-enlist is small; therefore the whole number must be large. The country must be bribed to submit to this, by the shortening of the term. The conscript army will be sacrificed to what is to be the regular army. It will be young and ill-trained.”
“But your new regular army,” I said, “will be more formidable to the enemy than your present force.”
“I am not sure of that,” he answered. “The merit of the French army was the impetuosity of its attack—the Furia Francese, as the Italians called it. Young troops have more of this quality than veterans. The Maison du Roi, whose charge at Steenkirk Macaulay has so well described, consisted of boys of 18.”
“I am thinking,” I said, “of re-editing my old articles. Among them is one written in 1841, on the national character of France, England, and America, as displayed towards foreign nations. I have not much to change in what I have said of England or of America.
“England has become, perhaps, a little more prudent; America a little less so. But France seems to me to be altered. I described her as a soldier, with all the faults of that unsocial character. As ambitious, rapacious, eager for nothing but military glory and territorial aggrandizement. She seems now to have become moderate and pacific, and to be devoted rather to the arts of peace than to those of war.”
“France is changed,” answered Tocqueville, “and when compared with the France of Louis XIV. or of Napoleon, was already changed when you wrote, though the war cry raised for political purposes in 1840 deceived you.
“At the same time I will not deny that military glory would, more than any other merit, even now strengthen a government, and that military humiliation would inevitably destroy one. Nor must you attach too much importance to the unpopularity of the last war. Only a few even of the higher classes understood its motives.
“ ‘Que diable veut cette guerre?’ said my country neighbours to me. ‘Si ç’était contre les Anglais—Mais avec les Anglais, et pour le grand Turc, qu’est ce que cela peut signifier?’* But when they saw that it cost only men, that they were not invaded or overtaxed, and that prices rose, they were reconciled to it.
“It was only the speculators of Paris that got tired of it. And if, instead of the Crimea, we had fought near our own frontiers, or for some visible purpose, all our military passions, bad and good, would have broken out.”
May 8, 1857.
Tocqueville dined with us.
A lady at the table d’hôte was full of a sermon which she had heard at the Madeleine. The preacher said, sinking his voice to an audible whisper, “I will tell you a secret, but it must go no further. There is more religion among the Protestants than with us. They are better acquainted with the Bible, and make more use of their reading; we have much to learn from them.”
I asked Tocqueville, when we were in our own room, as to the feelings of the religious world in France, with respect to heretics.
“The religious laity,” he answered, “have probably little opinion on the subject; they suppose the heretic to be less favourably situated than themselves, but do not waste much thought on him. The ignorant priests, of course, consign him to perdition. The better instructed think, like Protestants, that error is dangerous only so far as it influences practice.
“X. Y. Z. was one of the best men that I have known, but an unbeliever. The Archbishop of —— tried in his last illness to reconcile him to the Church. He failed. X. Y. Z. died as he had lived. But the Archbishop, when lamenting to me his death, expressed his own conviction that so excellent a soul could not perish. You recollect that Duchess, in St. Simon, who on the death of a sinner of illustrious race, said, ‘On me dira ce qu’on veut, on ne me persuadera pas que Dieu n’y regarde deux fois avant de damner un homme de sa qualité.’* The Archbishop’s feeling was the same, only changing qualité into virtue.
“There is something amusing,” he continued; “when, separated as we are from it by such a chasm, we look back on the prejudices of the ancien régime. An old lady once said to me, ‘I have been reading with great satisfaction the genealogies which prove that Jesus Christ descended from David. Ça montre que notre Seigneur était gentilhomme.’†
“We are somewhat ashamed,” I said, “in general of Jewish blood; yet the Levis boast of their descent from the Hebrew Levi.”
“They are proud of it,” said Tocqueville; “because they make themselves out to be cousins of the blessed Virgin. They have a picture in which a Duke de Levi stands bareheaded before the Virgin.’ ‘Couvrez vous donc, mon cousin,’ she says. ‘C’est pour ma commodité, Madame,’ he answers.”‡
The conversation passed to literature.
“I am glad,” said Tocqueville, “to find, that imperfect as my knowledge of English is, I can feel the difference in styles.”
“I feel strongly,” I said, “the difference of styles in prose, but little in poetry.”
“The fact is,” said Tocqueville, “that the only French poetry, except that of Racine, that is worth reading, is the light poetry, I do not think that I could now read Lamartine, though thirty years age he delighted me.”
“The French taste,” I said, “in English poetry differs from ours. You read Ossian and the Night Thoughts.”
“As for Ossian,” he answered, “he does not seem to have been ever popular in England; but the frequent reference to the Night Thoughts, in the books and letters of the last century, shows that the poem was then in everybody’s memory. Foreigners are, in fact, provincials; they take up fashions of literature, as they do fashions of dress, when the capital has left them off. When I was young you probably had ceased to be familiar with Richardson. We knew him by heart. We used to weep over the lady Clementina, whom I dare say Miss Senior never heard of.
“During the first Empire, we of the old régime abandoned Paris, as we do now, and for the same reasons. We used to live in our châteaux, where I remember, as a boy, hearing Sir Charles Grandison and Fielding read aloud. A new novel was then an event. Madame de Cottin was much more celebrated than George Sand is now; for all her books were read, and by everybody. Notwithstanding the great merits of George Sand’s style, her plots and her characters are so exaggerated and so unnatural, and her morality is so perverted, that we have ceased to read her.”
Thursday, May 15, 1857.
“Do you agree,” I asked, “in the general opinion as to the effect in Paris of our opposition to the Suez canal?”
“I agree,” he answered, “in it thoroughly. There is nothing that has done you so much mischief in France and in Europe. I am no engineer; I should be very sorry to pronounce a decided opinion as to the feasibility or the utility of the canal, but your opposition makes us believe that it must be practicable.”
“Those among us,” I answered, “who fear it, sometimes found their fears on grounds unconnected with its practibility. They say that it is a political, not a commercial scheme. That the object is to give to French engineers and French shareholders a strip of land, separating Egypt from Syria, and increasing the French interest in Egypt.”
“What is the value,” answered Tocqueville, “of a strip of land in the desert, where no one can live?
“And why are the shareholders to be French? The Greeks, the Styrians, the Dalmatians, the Italians, and the Sicilians, are the people who will use the canal, if any use it. They will form the bulk of the shareholders, if shareholders there be.
“My strong suspicion is, that if you had not opposed it, there never would have been any shareholders, and that if you now withdraw your opposition, and let the scheme go on until calls are made, the subscribers, who are ready enough with their names, as patriotic manifestations against you, as long as no money is to be paid, will then withdraw en masse from an undertaking which, at the very best, is a most hazardous one.
“As to our influence in Egypt, your journal shows that it is a pet project of the Viceroy’s. He hopes to get money and fame by it. You irritate both his covetousness and his vanity, and throw him for support upon us.”
[*]“What the devil is the meaning of this war? If it were against the English —— But with the English, and for the Turk, what can that mean?”
[*]“They may say what they like, but no one shall persuade me that God does not think of it twice before he damns a man of his birth.”
[†]“It shows that our Lord was a gentleman.”
[‡]“Pray put your hat on, cousin.”—“I had rather keep it off.”