Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO LADY THERESA LEWIS. - Memoir, Letters, and Remains of Alexis de Tocqueville, vol. 2
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TO LADY THERESA LEWIS. - 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 LADY THERESA LEWIS.
Tocqueville, October 18, 1857.
I must thank you immediately, Madame, for your interesting letter. India fills our thoughts at Tocqueville almost as much as it does yours in London. My wife often talks of it, and is always thinking of it. A mail has sometimes spoilt her rest for a night, yet happily she has not a relation or an intimate friend in Bengal. But though her marriage makes her French by law, she has remained in her affections, her habits, and her ideas, thoroughly English. As for me, nothing in the world interests me more than the destiny of your great nation. You may think, therefore, how anxiously we read all that you told us of the East. I recognised at once the habitual clearness and the sagacity of your mind. I think, with you, that there was more of accident in the insurrection than was at first supposed; and also, that the principal effect of the accident was to throw light on the general causes, and to accelerate their action. Perhaps I attach rather less importance than you do to the accidents, and more to the general causes, which you point out so well. I will venture to add to them one more.
England, the only civilized nation which has retained an aristocratic government, is forced, strangely enough, to destroy or degrade aristocracy in all her dependencies. It is the business of every master, native or foreign. For a hundred years you have been doing this in India, prudently but perseveringly. You have spared the native princes and higher classes, as much as was consistent with your domination. But you have been constantly employed in straitening, weakening, or destroying, some of the foreign if not hostile sovereignties which were inclosed in your territories, without being actually your subjects.
It seems to me that the time has come, when all these princes, indeed, all the higher classes, have seen (you yourselves almost telling them so) that they are to be reduced to the general level. It is only a question of time. One falls to-day, another will fall to-morrow. They have experience and intelligence enough to see this, and strength enough to hope that they can resist it. This is the critical period for an empire like yours. But it is a matter of astonishment and congratulation that no man superior to the present wretched insurgents has been able to make use of this feeling. I believe that if such a man had shown himself, you would have seen all the little princes and dominant races of Northern India march at once against you, instead of remaining, in general, mere spectators.
I venture, also, to differ from you when you say that England would not be weakened by the loss of India, and that only a heroic vanity leads you to keep it. Many enlightened Englishmen have said this to me. I never could agree with them.
It is true that, as a mere question of money and of physical strength, India costs more than it brings in—that it forces you to make distant exertions, which may paralyse your force when most wanted near home. I admit all this. Perhaps you had better have hanged Clive, instead of making him a peer. Still I think that the loss of India would greatly lower the position of England. I could give many reasons. I shall be satisfied with one.
Nothing under the sun is so wonderful as the conquest, and still more the government, of India by the English. Nothing so fixes the eyes of mankind on the little island of which the Greeks never heard even the name. Do you believe, Madame, that a nation, after having filled this vast place in the imagination of the whole human race, can safely withdraw from it? I do not. I believe that England obeys an instinct, not only heroic, but wise when, already possessing India, she resolves at any price whatever to keep it. I add, that I am convinced that she will keep it, though, perhaps, on less favourable conditions.
I am sure that you agree with me in wishing that her victory may show as few traces as possible of the revengeful passions which she cannot but feel. The civilized world is now with her. She is pitied and admired. Nothing would be easier than, by pushing repression too far, to reverse this sympathy. I see already symptoms of a change. You have, undoubtedly, to deal with savages, whose barbarity surpasses all known limits; you have witnessed in India horrors from which the human imagination recoils. But your title to govern these savages is, that you are better than they are. You ought to punish them, not to imitate them. You would imitate them if, for instance, you were to massacre the whole population of Delhi. And this has been proposed, though many of the inhabitants of Delhi were themselves pillaged and oppressed by your enemies.
Forgive my warmth. I love too passionately the glory of England, which is that of liberty, not to desire eagerly that she should be as great in her victory as she has been up to this time in her battle; and I feel that all who wield power or influence ought to labour in concert for this purpose.
I have only one fault to find with your letter, Madame, and it is no small one. You write most interestingly on politics, and say not a word of yourself or of your family. Do you suppose that politics are all that I care about in England?
I should have liked to know why you are in London, and for how long? what is become of Sir George? and of your children, who treated me as an old friend? I should have liked, too, to hear of Lord Clarendon, whom I remember so agreeably. On all these important points you are dumb, and I complain.
I ought to finish this endless letter; but I must add, what you will be glad to hear, that your Queen, short as was her visit, charmed the people of Cherbourg. This is not a mere compliment. Her graciousness and simplicity so gained the hearts of our good Normans, that, in his emotion, the editor of the local newspaper, (a better organ of the popular feeling than courtier), printed in his paper that even the Emperor was never better received.