Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1858: TO M. J. J. AMPERE. - Memoir, Letters, and Remains of Alexis de Tocqueville, vol. 2
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1858: TO M. J. J. AMPERE. - 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 M. J. J. AMPERE.
Tocqueville, January 1, 1858.
I follow the old custom, my dear friend, of wishing you a happy new year. Few will do it more cordially or more disinterestedly than I, for I earnestly desire your happiness, even if you should seek it at a distance.
This brings me to the subject of your letter of the 12th of December. It gave me some pain, which you must forgive; it proved that a great change had taken place in your life; and that it will be long before we shall see you here, except occasionally. Henceforth Rome is your centre. We are on the outer circumference. This is the bad part of the story; you must allow us to regret it. The good part is, that, after all, you lead the life which you have chosen, which pleases you, and, indeed, has much to please—the society of an amiable and distinguished family, whose habits are agreeable to you, without tying you down too much, and, above all, Rome for a residence. This is our consolation in your absence. Our friendship is strong enough to reflect on all this with great pleasure: if you do not forget us, and I am sure that you will not, we hold that we ought to be contented. Stay, then, in Italy as long as you think fit, without fearing that our affection may cool, and when you return to us, which I am sure that you will do as soon as you can, you will find ready what our servants call “M. Ampère’s room.” You will find, too, what is better than the best room—friends delighted to have you, without endeavouring to detain you.
Believe all this, and think of us. . . . .
TO HENRY REEVE, ESQ.
Tocqueville, January 30, 1858.
I should have thanked you sooner, my dear friend, for the last number of the Edinburgh, but, like the rest of the world, I have been attacked by influenza. The quiet to which it condemned me, and condemns me still—for it is not quite cured—gave me leisure to read the whole, except the last article, which I have not yet begun. It has interested and instructed me. The historical fragment on Mr. Addington’s administration, and the last years of Mr. Pitt, pleased me much. All the characteristics of our friend Lewis are in it—the clearness, the precision, the accuracy of detail observable in the work of a first-rate engraver, faithful to his model. This mode of representing a man so considerable as Pitt, and so important a period, is most valuable, and I hope that Lewis will perform his promise of carrying on the subject in a subsequent number. Pray, when you see Lewis, tell him that I read it with infinite delight. Give him our kindest regards, and describe to him our reverence for a Chancellor of the Exchequer who, while he has to manage the finances of England during a Chinese war and an Indian rebellion, finds time and ideas sufficiently at his disposal to write excellent historical articles. Pray do not forget me when you see Lady Theresa.
I now come to your own article, which I sincerely think by far the most important in the whole number.* Nothing written on that subject has so much interested and struck me. The subject is too great for a single article. Much, therefore, is wanting in yours. Many questions, and considerable questions, are not brought forward. The position occupied by the Review, which is not a collection of historical essays, but one of the great organs of a political party, and also the nature of the subject itself, imposed restrictions on you, which forbad your examining narrowly the past government of India, or clearly predicting the government that is to come. Your object was merely to expose the general and habitual state of this immense dependency, and on this you have taught me much, and made me reflect much. This may not appear to you great praise. Though I have studied India more than most Frenchmen, I know much less of it than the Englishmen who have really turned their attention to it; but I believe that they are few, and that the English public must have recived from your article an impression similar to mine.
You have explained to me one important truth among others, with respect to which my ideas were confused: the difficulty of increasing your Indian income, and the peculiar nature of the land revenue, which is rather a rent than a tax. I knew that your revenue arose only from direct taxes, or monopolies; but I was not aware of the difficulty of raising a revenue by any other means—a difficulty which renders your income more burthensome and more precarious. The large number of military men, unconnected with the Government, is also an important fact, of which I knew little. I never had appreciated it. To tell you all that your article suggested to me would require not a letter, but a long conversation, or a volume. I have covered it with pencil marks.
One of my great doubts respects the advantage of introducing an European population. Even if possible, I think it so dangerous that I am inclined to renew the old prohibition of purchases by Europeans. My principle is yours, that Hindostan cannot be kept against the will of the Hindoos. Now I have always found that when not European rulers, but European settlers have been introduced into the imperfectly civilized populations of the other quarters of the globe, the real or affected superiority of the strangers has so wounded the interests and the vanity of the natives, that it has been more hateful than any real political oppression would have been. If this be true as to almost all the European races, it is peculiarly the case as to the English race, the most ingenious in turning to its own advantage the capabilities of a country; the least sociable, the most reserved, and (I may say, since this fault is intimately allied with some noble qualities), the proudest of the European races. When I think over all that you have done for your native army, its discipline, its high pay, its pensions, and its many indulgences, I feel that no auxiliary army was ever so well, so magnificently treated as that which has committed all these horrors. But, without having visited India, I can affirm that no European officer ever held himself so aloof as yours does from his Asiatic soldiers, was less acceptable to them, less one of their comrades, even with respect to those who wore the same epaulette. Though companions in arms, they were so separated by differences of civilization and race, that they felt that they were not only not equals, but not fellow-creatures.
I believe that a searching examination will show that this was the real cause of the revolt of the Indian army. Many secondary causes assisted, but this was the grand one. These horrible events were not a resistance to oppression, but a rising of barbarism against pride.
TO SIR JAMES STEPHEN.
Tocqueville, February 14, 1858.
Allow me to express the pleasure with which I have just read your “Lectures on the History of France.” I do not believe that I ever found in a foreign book such knowledge of the details of our history, or so clear a comprehension of our ideas, of our laws, and of our habits. I admire, too, the impartiality which raises you above national prejudices, and allows you to appreciate all that is good and great in another country, ardently attached as you evidently are to your own.
I will not say that I thoroughly admit all your facts or all your inferences. Let me observe that after having combated, forcibly and justly, what you call the Fatalist School, you lean towards its doctrines, when, towards the end of your work, you attach such decisive importance to race, and attribute the freedom of the English principally to their Teutonic blood. I could raise many objections to this, but I had rather dwell on the many opinions which I am happy enough to hold in common with you.
I passed six weeks last summer in England. If I had then at that time read your work I should have gone to Cambridge, pressed as I was for time, to seek your acquaintance. I trust that this opportunity may return. If you ever travel in France, pray keep in mind the pleasure which I should have in receiving you. Madame de Tocqueville is English, and would be charmed to meet so distinguished a countryman. My property, from which I write, is about fifteen miles from Cherbourg. I live here when I am not in Paris—that is for eight or nine months in every year. If a residence in a remote part of France, among a rural population little known to foreigners, can interest you, I repeat that we offer to you most cordially our hospitality.
I infer, from a kind notice of me in your third edition, that you have not seen my last work. I, therefore, send it to you.
TO N. W. SENIOR, ESQ.
Tocqueville, February 14, 1858.
I was delighted, my dear Senior, to receive a letter from you dated Marseilles. You are right in remaining till spring in the South. We trust to meet you in Paris in March.
I say no more, for I cannot write to you on what would most interest you—French politics. Much is to be said on them; but you will understand my silence if you study our new law of Public Safety, and remember who is the new Home Minister.* For the first time in French history has such a post been filled by a general—and what a general!
I defer, therefore, until we meet, the expansion of feelings and opinions which cannot be safely transmitted through the post, and only repeat how eager I am for our meeting.
Kind regards to Mrs. Senior.
TO LORD HATHERTON.
March 6, 1858.
I have long wished to write to you, my Lord, but I feared that I might trouble you. Your letter, therefore, was especially welcome.
Many thanks, also, for your offer of the Edinburgh Review. Reeve has the kindness to send it to me regularly, and I often derive considerable instruction from it. I was much struck by the article to which you refer, and I am proud to find that you agree with me in thinking that it would be impossible to convey fuller information as to Indian affairs.
One of Reeve’s proposals has raised in my mind doubts, which I have expressed to him. Reeve thinks that the two races might be brought together, and a Christian civilization promoted by the establishment of Europeans in India. I fear that these effects would not be produced. I have always seen such a measure followed by opposite results. A race, inferior by nature or by education, can tolerate the government of a superior race. The only sensible effects of this superiority are good: if the government manages well, it may be preferred even to that of the native princes; but a private individual, more civilized, more rich, more clever, and more influential than his native neighbours, is always an object of hatred and of envy. Government by foreigners is opposed only to national feelings, which are weak. The foreign settler injures, or appears to injure, in a thousand ways, private interests, which are strong. He is supposed always to use his superiority, his knowledge, his wealth, and his influence, for the purpose of growing rich at the expense of his neighbours. These little personal hatreds swell the national hatred. I have no doubt that in Algeria the Arabs and the Kabyles dislike the presence of our settlers much more than that of our soldiers.
Reeve says truly, that your great object in India is to diffuse Christian civilization; but this is the business of the Government, not of individuals. If the government applies more and more to India the general principles which have rendered Europe rich and enlightened, it will gradually attract the Hindoos, by showing to them the advantages of our civilization. I fear that the contact of European settlers will only increase their prejudices and their repugnance. Adieu! my lord. Your correspondence, if it does not give you too much trouble, gives me very great pleasure. Remember me to Lady Hatherton, and believe in my sincere regard.
TO HENRY REEVE, ESQ.
Tocqueville, March 22, 1858.
I am sorry, my dear friend, to lose the hope of seeing you this spring, but I feel your reasons.
I am employing my leisure profitably by reading again, and with increased attention, Grote’s “History.” It is a much greater work than I at first supposed it to be. Not that it is written with the art which so eminently distinguishes Macaulay: the want of this art may prevent its general popularity, but it is a work which will not perish, and which cannot well be added to. The learning is immense, and sound. Institutions, men, and facts, are shown and appreciated with great political experience, and this is a rare element in the works of learned historians. The modern feelings which inspire the narrator of the events of 3,000 years ago, reanimate the dead. The author, when he defends his friends, and attacks his enemies, of the hundredth Olympiad, illustrates their actions and their thoughts with as much honesty as sagacity. I could not have supposed that so old a history could have excited so vivid an interest.
I expect to find in Paris the first of all conversers, our friend Senior, charged, like a forty-eight pounder, with all the news of the East and of the West, and ready to explode, to the great pleasure of his friends. His travels in the East must have added most instructive matter to his journal. My paper is at an end.
TO M. FRESLON.
Tocqueville, March 5, 1858.
I should have thanked you sooner, my dear friend, for two most agreeable letters, if I had not been suffering for the last fortnight under a return of influenza. This little disorder attacked me slightly six weeks ago. I returned to my ordinary habits before I had quite got rid of it. An imprudent exposure to the icy winds which have afflicted our coast during the last three weeks, caused a relapse not serious, for I had no fever, but bad enough to make me very unwell, and it still forces me to remain at home, to my extreme disgust, for I had become a denizen, not indeed of the forest, but of the meadow and the fallow.
You cannot conceive the awful magnificence of an equinoctial north-easter on our coasts. All nature is convulsed, the strongest dwellings shake, and great birds are seen pursuing their terrified flight through the heavens. When I am well this spectacle gives me passionate delight. Now it seems to me melancholy. I had rather talk to you in the prosaic streets of Paris than live in the poetry of this maddened atmosphere; and I really want to be in Paris for my work. But till the weather is better, and I am well, I cannot start. Still I trust to be with you before the end of the month. I am tired not only of imprisonment, but of idleness. I have no materials to go on with
Without your interesting letters, and the newspapers, I should know nothing of what is going on. You are quite right in admiring Washington, and putting him in the foremost rank of mankind. It shows, what indeed I well knew, that you understand and love real greatness and real glory. Of how many of my countrymen or contemporaries could I say this? Washington is the product of the society and of the times he lived in. We should have thought him flat. We want theatrical virtues, fine speeches, brilliant vices, even audacious ones are enough.
Adieu. Write to me for friendship’s sake, and for charity’s sake.
TO THE SAME.
Tocqueville, March 16, 1858.
Your letters, my dear friend, are the comforts of our solitude. There is nothing better, except your conversation. I hope to enjoy it in a fortnight.
I made the other day a visit which resembled one of Cuvier’s explorations of the antediluvian world. It was to a man, aged ninety-six, and as full of intellectual life as you or I. He is a Benedictine, a man of letters and of talent, who, without relinquishing his profession or his belief, was gained over by the principles of the Revolution. He lived with the men of thought and of action who appeared immediately before and in the first period of that Revolution. He leads a retired life a few miles from us.
I found him at his fireside, surrounded by Greek and Latin folios, which he was studying as if he were beginning his education. Think what it is to see before you a man who lived for twenty-seven years under our ancient monarchy, who was older in 1789 than I was in 1830, who was present at the meeting of the States General, and followed the labours of the Constituent Assembly when already a middle-aged man.
His mind is still more extraordinary than his age. It must have been preserved as we keep plants, by being hermetically sealed. I have before observed that in France, moral and intellectual warmth are in inverse proportion to age. The youngest are the coldest: the temperature rises as one grows older. Sages of eighteen laugh at you and me as enthusiasts. According to this rule my man of ninety-six ought to have been on fire. And so he was when he talked of his hopes in 1789, and of the great cause of liberty. He would not easily have admitted that we now enjoy the institutions which were promised by the makers of the Revolution.
I asked him if he found much moral change in France.
“Ah,” he answered, “I seem to dream when I call to mind the state of feeling when I was young; its ardour, its sincerity, its self-respect and respect for the public, the disinterestedness of even its political passions. Ah, sir,” he continued, squeezing my hands with the frankness and the earnestness of the eighteenth century, “we had then a cause, we have now mere interests. Men were then bound to one another; they are so no longer. It is sad to outlive one’s country.” Adieu.
EXTRACT FROM MR. SENIOR’S JOURNAL.
Paris, April 26, 1858.
Tocqueville spent the evening with us. We talked of novels.
“I read none,” he said, “that end ill. Why should one voluntarily subject oneself to painful emotions? to emotions created by an imaginary cause, and therefore impelling you to no actions? I like vivid emotions, but I seek them in real life, in society, in travelling, in business; but above all in political business. There is no happiness comparable to political success, when your own excitement is justified by the magnitude of the question at issue, and is doubled and re-doubled by the sympathy of your supporters. Having enjoyed that, I am ashamed of being excited by the visionary sorrows of heroes and heroines.
“I have a friend,” he continued, “a Benedictine, who is now ninety-six. He was, therefore, about thirteen when Louis XVI. began to reign. He is a man of talents and knowledge, has always lived in the world, has attended to all that he has seen and heard, and is still unimpaired in mind, and so strong in body, that when I leave him he goes down to embrace me, after the fashion of the eighteenth century, at the bottom of the staircase.”
“And what effect,” I asked, “has the contemplation of seventy years of revolution produced on him? Does he look back, like Talleyrand, to the ancien régime as a golden age?”
“He admits,” said Tocqueville, “the material superiority of our own age; but he believes, that intellectually and morally, we are far inferior to our grandfathers. And I agree with him. These seventy years of revolution have destroyed our courage, our hopefulness, our self-reliance, our public spirit, and, as respects by far the majority of the higher classes, our passions, except the vulgarest and most selfish ones, vanity and covetousness.
“Even ambition seems extinct. The men who seek power, seek it not for itself, not as a means of doing good to their country, but as a means of getting money and flatterers.
“It is remarkable,” he continued, “that women whose influence is generally greatest under despotisms have none now. They have lost it, partly in consequence of the gross vulgarity of our dominant passions, and partly from their own nullity. They are like London houses, all built and furnished on exactly the same model, and that a most uninteresting one.
“Whether a girl is bred up at home or in a convent, she has the same masters, gets a smattering of the same accomplishments, reads the same dull books, and contributes to society the same little contingent of superficial information.
“When a young lady comes out, I know beforehand how her mother and her aunts will describe her.
“ ‘Elle a les goûts simples, elle est pieuse, elle aime la campagne, elle aime la lecture, elle n’aime pas le bal, elle n’aime pas le monde, elle y va seulement pour plaire à sa mère.’*
“I try sometimes to escape from these generalities, but there is nothing behind them.”
“And how long,” I asked, “does this simple, pious, retiring character last?”
“Till the orange flowers of her wedding chaplet are withered,” he answered. “In three months she goes to the Messe d’une heure.”
“What is the Messe d’une heure?” I asked.
“A priest,” he answered, “must celebrate mass fasting, and in strictness ought to do so before noon. But, to accommodate fashionable ladies who cannot rise by noon, priests are found who will starve all the morning and say mass in the afternoon. It is an irregular proceeding, though winked at by the ecclesiastical authorities. Still to attend it is rather discreditable; it is a middle term between the highly meritorious practice of going to early mass, and the scandalous one of never going at all.”
“What was the education,” I asked, “of women under the ancien régime?”
“The convent,” he answered.
“It must have been better,” I said, “than the present education, since the women of that time were superior to ours.”
“It was so far better,” he answered, “that it did no harm. A girl at that time was taught nothing. She came from the convent a sheet of white paper. Now, her mind is a paper scribbled over with trash. The women of that time were thrown into a world far superior to ours, and with the sagacity, curiosity, and flexibility of French women, caught knowledge, and tact, and expression from the men.”
“I knew well,” he continued, “Madame Récamier. Few traces of her former beauty remained; but we were all her lovers and her slaves. The talent, labour, and skill, which she wasted on her salon would have gained and governed an empire. She was virtuous, if it be virtuous to persuade every one of a dozen men to believe that you wish to favour him, though some circumstances always occur to prevent your doing so. Every friend thought himself preferred. She governed us by little distinctions, by letting one man come five minutes before the others, or stay five minutes after. Just as Louis XIV. raised one courtier to the seventh heaven by giving him the taper at night, and another by taking his shirt from him in the morning. She said little, but knew what each man’s forte was, and placed from time to time a mot which led him to it. If anything were peculiarly well said, her face brightened. You saw that her attention was always active and always intelligent.
“And yet, I doubt whether she really enjoyed conversation. Tenir salon was to her a game, which she played well and almost always successfully; but she must sometimes have failed, and often must have been exhausted by the effort. Her salon was, perhaps, pleasanter to us, than it was to herself.
“One of the last,” he continued, “of that class of potentates was the Duchesse de Dinon. Her early married life was active and brilliant; but not intellectual. It was not till about forty, when she had exhausted other excitements, that she took to bel esprit. But she performed her part as if she had been bred to it.”
This was our last conversation. I left Paris the next day, and we never met again.
TO M. GUSTAVE DE BEAUMONT.
Tocqueville, May 21, 1858.
I returned home with delight, but I am not yet sufficiently at ease to work well and to enjoy it. My mind is anxious and agitated. Why, I cannot tell. The best cause that I can assign is, that I am still myself. This self I do not care for, but I cannot change. Among secondary causes the state of my health stands foremost. I am not ill, I am not in pain, but I feel a physical depression (occasioned, I think, by the spring), the immediate effect of which is mental dejection. Body and mind, however, have been better within the last two days. I think, too, that the slow progress of my work, the extension of my inquiries, to which I cannot set precise limits, and the difficulty of satisfying myself as I go on, contribute to my moral uneasiness. It might end at once, if I could find some new road to my object. But I am icebound. . . . .
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I am glad to hear of your farming. I like you to be so employed; still I should like you to do something besides. But one must judge one’s friends according to their feelings, not one’s own. We have always been very intimate, and very unlike. Your mind must be calm and tranquil before it can work. If I had enjoyed tranquillity and calm, I doubt whether I should ever have worked. It costs me so much, that if I were tolerably comfortable in inactivity, I should continue there. It has always been because my mind was uncomfortable at home that it sallied abroad to obtain, at any sacrifice, the relief of hard intellectual work. This is the case now.
I have no child to enjoy the little noise that my name may make. I do not believe that in such times as these the slightest influence can be obtained by such writings as mine, or even by any writings, except by the bad novels, which try to make us still more immoral and ill-conditioned than we are. Yet I rise at five, and sit for six hours before my paper, and often leave it still white. Sometimes I find what I am looking for, but find it painfully and imperfectly; sometimes I am in despair at not finding it at all. I leave work discontented with myself, and therefore with everything else. Why do I make these efforts? To escape from mental disquiet: while you cannot work unless you are already perfectly at ease.
TO M. FRESLON.
Tocqueville, July 8, 1858.
A few days after I abused you for your handwriting, my dear friend, Lanjuinais wrote to tell me that my own became every day more illegible. We were both right. I hope that Lanjuinais’ reproof will be as effectual as mine has been. Your last letter is a miracle of caligraphy. I only fear that your taste for writing may deteriorate as your hand improves. In that case, pray return to your pot-hooks. I had rather make them out, than not hear from you.
I see that you give us little hope of a visit. I am sorry for it, and so is my wife. . . . .
I was at this part of my letter when yours of the day before yesterday arrived. I break off to talk to you about M. Royer-Collard. I am delighted that you have to write on him, and only regret that you did not know him personally. His character was original—not easily understood by those who have observed him only in the distance, as a writer and a public man. He was a strange mixture of little passions and lofty sentiments; of unconscious vanity with elevation of mind. He possessed a dignity which was felt by all who approached him, and was altogether a noble and imposing figure. Among his contemporaries there is none that more deserves our notice. To enable you to penetrate into all the folds of his character, would require, not a letter, but long conversations.
I confine myself to what chiefly seems to interest you. You think that his life wanted unity. It did not, as I will prove to you. In the details of so long a life there may have been inconsistency. But in what long life, especially a life passed among revolutions, is there not? Taking his career throughout, guided only by the great lines traced by his actions, you will find a marked unity, which was in fact, the secret of his strength. All his principal actions are connected by two ideas, both of which governed his mind, but one far more than the other.
First, M. Royer-Collard, during his whole life, firmly believed that the spirit of liberty might be, and ought to be, distinguished from the spirit of revolution. He desired eagerly the destruction of the ancien régime, and looked with horror at the possibility of its return. He was anxious for the abolition of privileges, the equality of political rights, and the liberty and dignity of man. He detested the adventurous, violent, tyrannical, demagogic spirit which has always and everywhere marked revolution. He was convinced that it was not necessary to the overthrow of the ancien régime; he hoped for better results from the Revolution. He never desired the total destruction of the old social institutions of France; he wished to break down only the obstacles to modern ideas, to well-balanced liberty, to the equality of rights, and to the opening of every career, and every success to the hopes of every man. After the Revolution, he wished to bring us back to this ideal perfection, and, as far as it was possible and desirable, to connect the past and the present. Is there any small portion of his life inconsistent with this view? I know of none; but study it as a whole, and you will see that these principles directed and explain it.
The second ruling principle in his mind, resembling the first, but not necessarily connected with it, was this: M. Royer-Collard always believed monarchy to be necessary to France, and it was sometimes amusing to see the singular effect of this doctrine in company with the most intractable opinions and the most republican feelings that I ever encountered. He held courts in horror, but was devoted to kingship. Among Royalties, that which he thought most fitted to maintain the great liberal institutions of modern ages,—institutions which he worshipped, which he spent his life in defending, sometimes against the Revolutionists, sometimes against the Ultras and the Emigrants—was the Royalty of the Elder Branch. I never knew a man less of a legitimist, less devoted to a race or to a family, or more convinced that the best result of the Revolution would be the monarchy of the Elder Branch, controlled by the institutions necessary to secure the triumph of modern ideas. The dream of his whole life was to conciliate the old family and the new opinions, and to make them support one another. After all, liberty was his object, and the monarchy of the Elder Branch only a means. But the means and the object were so confounded by the public, that I have always thought that M. Royer-Collard, who at the time of the Revolution of July had nearly reached the end of his career, would have closed it more consistently if he had then retired from public life.
Such, my dear friend, is a general and hasty sketch of this extraordinary man. I do not say that the two principles which ruled his life were equally just. I say only that they were his principles, and that he obeyed them from the time when, as member of the Commune of Paris, he negotiated between the unhappy Louis XVI. and Danton, until his last speech, made, I think, in 1838, against a parliamentary costume. The ardent sincerity and incomparable eloquence with which he supported two maxims, often supposed to be incompatible, was one of the most extraordinary of exhibitions. It was worth while to hear him talk of the Revolution. No one could better describe the grandeur of that time, and its superiority to ours, whatever might be its weakness or its violence. The finest praises of what may be called the great victories of 1789, were uttered by him. The bitterest satires of the vices of the ancien régime, of the follies and the absurdities of the Emigrants and Ultras, were pronounced by him. But if the things to be painted were the violence, the despotism, the sanguinary follies and intolerance of what he called the revolutionary spirit, he was a Tacitus. With a couple of strokes, he drew a picture never to be forgotten. He was eminent by his writings: he will live by them; but he was incomparable as a converser. Often he failed to convince me, but he always impressed me.
A little before his death, he kindly gave me a selection from his speeches. I had begged him to do so. He arranged them evidently so as to show the progress of his ideas during his public life. It is a precious collection. I have bound it, and will send it to you with some books that are going to Paris. If you wish to know still more, come and let us talk the subject over.
TO M. DE CIRCOURT.
Tocqueville, July 19, 1858.
My dear M. de Circourt,
I direct to you at Bougival, hoping that my letter will find you or follow you. I have been anxious to thank you for having found time, while living among the chamois, to write to me such interesting letters. They breathe the elasticity of mind and body which mountain air gives to those who enjoy the happiness of health. It has not been mine for some months.
The approach of our fêtes has driven this country half wild. As the railway is opened, and a line of packets between Cherbourg and Weymouth has been established, it seems that all France and England will meet in our little corner. You will easily believe that the general enthusiasm has not reached me. I always detested official joy, even under the governments that I liked best. The only part of the spectacle which will lead me to Cherbourg is the sight of the combined French and English fleets. It will be a grand picture, but I shall see it with the pain with which, on the 20th of May, 1848, I saw the review of more than 100,000 National Guards, in the Champs de Mars. “Alas!” I said to myself as I returned; “we have been reviewing two armies which will soon be fighting in the streets of Paris.” So it was, as you know. God grant that it may not be so this time.
While England, however, has her present work to do in India, she is not to be feared. I think her situation more formidable and more difficult now, than it was the day after the insurrection. I have long thought that at the bottom of all that is going on in the East there is a new and general fact—a universal rising against the European. Will it succeed? I hope not. I believe that we have too much the start of our opponents. But of the existence of this fact, and of its being the cause of many effects that we see, I have no doubt.
TO MRS. GROTE.
Tocqueville, July 28, 1858.
Dear Mrs. Grote,
I have received your letter of the 5th, and ought to have answered it. I have not done so for many bad reasons, but among them is not indifference. One circumstance which has made me lately write but little to my friends is a state of physical suffering, which has communicated itself to the mind, and is difficult to shake off. I was at one time much alarmed. A month ago I had a little spitting of blood. Eight years ago a frightful illness began in the same way. I feared that I was to have another attack, and so, and even more, did my wife. She sent off in haste for my brother, who lives near Cherbourg, and for a physician. Nothing followed, but from that time I have not been the same man. I am not, even yet, recovered. I have mentioned this only to intimate friends, so keep it to yourself. To this physical uneasiness is to be added a feeling which also I tell only to intimate friends—my deep distaste for these Imperial pomps.
You see, my dear Mrs. Grote, that you need have no scruples in talking to me about yourself; for here are five pages at least about nothing except my own health, and feelings, and thoughts; but to whom could I write more freely than to you, who have always been so true a friend to me, and whose opinions coincide so exactly with my own?
I regret much that I cannot sit by Mr. Grote’s side, at the Institute.* I should have liked to see him there. I am happy in having been one of the first who pointed out to the public his admirable works. I then thought very highly of his book, but less highly than I do now after having carefully studied it.
TO N. W. SENIOR, ESQ.
Tocqueville, August 21, 1858.
My dear Senior,
I am inconsolable for the failure of your American journey. I hoped that your journal would enable me to again understand a country, which has been so changed since I saw it, that I feel that I now know nothing of it.
I have been much interested by your visit to Sir John Boileau. You saw there M. Guizot in one of his best lights. The energy with which he stands up under the pressure of age and of ill-fortune, and is not only resigned in his new situation, but as vigorous, as animated, and as cheerful as ever, shows a character admirably tempered.
I do not so well understand the cheerfulness of some of your other great friends. For the spectacle now exhibited by England, in which a party finds no difficulty in maintaining itself in power, by carrying into practice ideas which it has always opposed, and by relying for support on its natural enemies, is not of a nature to raise the reputation of your institutions, or of your public men. Ever yours.
TO LORD HATHERTON.
Tocqueville, September 1, 1858.
I have often inquired after you, my Lord, during the last three months, and have always had good reports. But I do not like to be so long without direct communication with you. Pray promise me that our correspondence shall not altogether cease.
Your last letter gives me information as to your agriculture—interesting, but discouraging—as it shows the difficulty of introducing among us methods so advanced as yours. If, as I earnestly hope, you one day give us the great pleasure of a visit from you, I will show you that there is reason for my fears.
I think that you will agree with me, that at present we should chiefly endeavour to improve the rotation of crops, the manuring and harrowing our fields, the increase of stock, and its improvement by better feeding, great care, and judicious crossings. As for the use of expensive machinery and scientific processes, requiring large capital, large space, and elaborate schemes, I think that the time is not yet come. Yours is the agriculture of capitalists—ours is that of peasants.
To understand all this, you must spend some time in our country. May I hope that you will do so next year? In July and August the London season is over or nearly so, and that of your country-houses scarcely begun. This is the period at which an excursion into our part of Normandy would give you least trouble, and suit us best. Promise us, my Lord, this pleasure next year. I think that in a week or a fortnight I could teach you more about the agricultural, and even the social and political state of France, than you could learn in Paris in a year.
TO SIR G. C. LEWIS.
Tocqueville, September 5, 1858.
My dear Sir George,
Mr. Greg, who has spent some days with us, gives a good report of you. But that is not enough. I want one from yourself, and to hear from you of Lady Theresa and her children. I do not choose either to be so long without communicating with you. It is a good habit which I do not like to lose. Tell me soon where you and yours are, what you are about, and how you intend to employ your recovered leisure. It will all interest me.
I take it that you were not tempted by the fêtes at Cherbourg. If I had thought that you meant to attend them, I should have pressed you to give some days to Tocqueville. But I know that you are not a lover of fêtes or sights, and it was the duty of the new rather than of the old ministers to attend on the Queen. I saw this splendid pageant only from my rocks. Artistically speaking, the spectacle was superb. These two great fleets, closely packed together, covered with their flags, and thundering with their formidable artillery, exhibited powerfully the strength of man, at least, his destructive strength. It suggested to me a definition of man not yet accepted by naturalists. I would class him among beings, as the animal best endowed with the power of destroying his fellow-creatures.
Warlike as this interview seemed, I rejoice in it as favourable to peace. But I fear that the mutual distrust is incurable. It is curious to see two nations embrace one another so closely, and yet apply so perfectly the maxim of La Rochefoucauld, that one ought to live with one’s friends, as if they were to be one’s enemies. The slightest spark would light up in France anti-English passions. Kindest regards to Lady Theresa and Miss Lister.
TO W. R. GREG, ESQ.
Tocqueville, October 1, 1858.
My dear Sir,
You have sent me two numbers of the National Review. Of your two articles, one in particular so much struck me, that I wish to talk to you about it. This gives me an opportunity of thanking you, and of asking you for your news.
The article is that on the state of parties in England. It is as remarkable as are the phenomena which it proposes to explain.
Your picture of the evils which follow the destruction of great parties is strikingly true. I have witnessed them for fifteen years, and I can sincerely say that it is impossible to describe better the symptoms of that disease. The spectacle of the parliamentary world obeying no fixed rules, and seeming to wander under the guidance of individual interest—this spectacle long-continued, persuaded a portion of the French nation, that representative institutions exist for the benefit, not of the country, but of a few clever individuals. To the evils which you indicate, I will add one which you have not dwelt on, and which seems to me one of the greatest.
When there are no longer great parties, linked together by common interests and common passions, foreign affairs become almost always the principal matter for parliamentary action. They pass out of the hands of the Ministry, into those of the Houses of Parliament. The cause is obvious. The field of foreign politics is shifting; it has room for every parliamentary manœuvre. There are always to be found in it great questions which agitate the nation, on which public men can separate, re-unite, become enemies or friends, according to the interest or the passion of the moment. It seems to me an axiom, that in free countries, if there be no great parties, foreign affairs will be managed, not by the Ministers, but by the Assemblies.
Such a state of things endangers the dignity and the safety of a nation. More than any others, foreign affairs ought to be dealt with by only a few persons, consistently, and secretly. The assemblies should control, not act. But if foreign policy becomes the battle-field on which the fate of Governments is decided, the assemblies will inevitably take them into their own hands. You have indicated with great sagacity the conditions on which great, well-disciplined parties can exist in a free country. Each of them, as you well show, must represent one of the two great principles which for ever divide human societies, and may concisely be termed aristocracy and democracy. I am inclined to think with you that we shall not again see great organized parties in England until the Parliament is sharply divided on the question whether the few or the many are to govern; whether the pure doctrine of the numerical majority is to be substituted for the sovereignty of those who are conservative by their interests, and superior by their wisdom; whether Law or abstract Right is to prevail.
But I venture to think that the mere determination of public men that such shall be the state of things will not produce it, except under new circumstances and in new events. Will these circumstances and events take place in England? Have they already partially occurred? I should not dare to express an opinion without great timidity and hesitation. For who can fancy that he knows a foreign country? The natives are often too near to the details to see clearly the whole outline, but foreigners are always too distant to perceive the degree in which the particular modify the most general facts.
Paris, October 22, 1858.
P.S.—I began this letter three weeks ago. I had still much to say to you, but I fell ill, and came hither for medical advice. I am better, but still far from well, and my physicians send me to the South for the winter. My letter, therefore, must end as it now does; forgive me for keeping it so long. Some day, perhaps, I may be able to return to the subject. If you write, direct to me at Cannes.
TO M. FRESLON.
Paris, October 11, 1858.
My dear Friend,
You were quite right in attributing my unusual silence to the state of my health. I have been ill for two months. I felt uneasy sensations in my chest. I came to Paris, and it was immediately discovered that I was suffering under bronchitis, called less learnedly catarrh. The disorder, in itself not very serious, has established itself in a part of my chest which had previously been the seat of two other attacks. It requires, therefore, great care. I am here, therefore, under discipline. In a fortnight I shall be on the Mediterranean, and probably pass the winter at Cannes. You may suppose how much I am grieved and dejected, but I must obey my physicians.
If I am tolerably well at Cannes I shall have an excellent opportunity for working. This is the good side of the picture. Tocqueville, so dear to me, where I have passed the happiest part of my life, has one fault. It is too agreeable to be a good working place. Great emotions do not render the mind unproductive. They are like winds, and make the flame of thought burn all the better. What puts it out are little amusing occupations, which divert and unsteady the mind. You see that I try to gild the pill, but without much success.
I shall write no more to-day. I suppose that you will not be in Paris before November, so that it will be spring before we shake hands. I am very sorry, for you are one of my best and dearest friends.
You shall hear from me as soon as I am at my journey’s end.
TO THE COMTE DE CIRCOURT.
Cannes, November 12, 1858.
My dear M. de Circourt,
Thanks for your letter of the 8th. Forgive me for not having answered the one which you addressed to me in Paris. The state in which I was when I received it will excuse me. It was only six days before I left Paris (where I was detained till the 18th of October), that I could get rid of a fever, which had lasted for a month, exhausted my strength, and also showed that the bronchial tubes were in a very bad state. I was weak when I set out, and the journey was unfortunate. When we left the railroad, we were three days of voiturier travelling from this place. The whole journey lasted for eight days, during all which the wind was icy and boisterous. I was completely exhausted, and my wife very ill when we reached our resting-place.
We have been established in it for a week. I am far from having recovered from the fatigue of the journey, and I fear that it will be long before I do so. We are well housed, with a southern aspect and a magnificent view. But the weather is unusually cold, and the mountains round us are covered with snow. I am not able, and do not expect to be soon able, to set seriously to work. I want, therefore, something to read which may interest and amuse me without fatigue. Who can tell me better than you where to look for it? Can you point out to me any new or recent publications of any sort or kind? I like good travels, containing good descriptions and information. But none such appear in France, and English books are scarce and very dear. I am curious as to the new African discoveries. I feel great interest as to what is passing in Eastern Asia, in Siberia, and as to the Russian conquests on the shores of the Pacific. Good travels in Siberia, with good maps, would amuse me much. I ask, perhaps, for what does not exist; but after consulting you I shall know of all that does exist. I am grieved by your account of Madame de Circourt’s health. How much suffering and discomfort have resulted from that unfortunate accident! Pray tell her that no one sympathises with her more than I do.
I need not tell you how I value all the public and private news contained in your letters, and your commentaries on them. Pray do not spare paper or ink. Above all, believe in my sincere friendship.
TO M. DE CORCELLE.
Cannes, November 22, 1858.
My dear Friend,
Your letter and the sun came together, and were very welcome. To begin with the sun: we have had a revolution in our weather. It has become serene, and as soft as it was rough and harsh. We find ourselves suddenly in spring. The change is fortunate for me. I can get out as much as my strength, still much exhausted, will permit.
I am improving on the whole, but very slowly. As my body wants extremely to be recruited—in fact, to be reconstructed—I am as hungry as a shipwrecked sailor. But my stomach has more wishes than power—a state which is not peculiar to stomachs.
I have not been able to get Montalembert’s article. I have written to ask him for it, and to express my sympathy. . . .
If a representative government can be established in Prussia, if it takes place peaceably and succeeds, it will be a great event for Prussia, and, in time, for all Germany; not only as respects the home affairs of those countries, but the policy of the whole world.
But it is not for a poor man, lying sick in his corner, to talk of such things, or even to think about them. A thousand kind regards.
TO M. J. J. AMPÈRE.
Cannes, December 5, 1858.
My dear Friend,
I am told that the newspapers of Paris, copying an article in a Cherbourg paper, say that my brother has hurried from Nacqueville to this place, where I am very ill. I know that this news has alarmed my friends, and as I fear that it may reach you, I write to tell you the facts. Nothing of all this is true, except that my excellent Hippolyte, hearing of our melancholy solitude, travelled straight over the 800 miles that separated us, to shut himself up in our prison for a month.
As to my health, I will tell you its exact state. Bronchitis is a serious disorder, and may become a dangerous one. But there is no present or coming danger. My health has constantly improved during the month that I have been here. When I arrived I could not go a hundred yards without resting. Now I walk for more than an hour over the mountains that surround us. My physician sees already an improvement in the bronchial tubes. I do not; but certainly they are not worse. Such is the truth.
I hope that a winter in this place will cure me; but this cannot now be foretold. Hippolyte’s arrival was a happy interruption of our utter solitude and stagnation. Independently of disease, time itself is a heavy burden when one is away from home, without serious occupation for the mind, without the power of taking much exercise, far from one’s friends and family, and forced to live unceasingly on one’s own thoughts. The first weeks were very hard to bear; we contrived, however, to make our situation endurable. I sent for books, which I had long wished for, and never read. As I found reading painful to me in the evening, I obtained the services of a reader. I found at Cannes a good young man, looking forward, I suspect, to entering the Séminaire, who reads to us regularly for a part of the evening, while his mother knits in the antechamber. It is a great resource. But the greatest is the return of strength, the possibility of walking over the mountains, and above all the hope of cure, which reconciles me to the annoyance of remedies. . . .
We are not discontented with our life here, though it is trying. . . .
I write no more, as I must answer many friends who ask if I happen to be alive.
TO THE SAME.
Cannes, December 30, 1858.
Forgive me, my dear friend, for not having sooner answered your letter of the 14th. . . . The newspapers have led me into a long, fatiguing, and depressing correspondence. There is nothing in having to tell people, who think you very ill, that you never were better. But when one has to explain fifty times over, that without being, as the newspapers announce, very ill, one is ill, at last one becomes out of spirits, and almost doubts whether they may not have told the truth.
Since my last letter things have gone on improving. In many respects I seem to be in health. I sleep in general well; I eat well; my strength has so far returned that, by making two excursions of it, I can ramble among the mountains for three hours a day. The weather is usually magnificent. Yet I must confess that I think more of the seriousness of my disease than I did when I arrived, though my state was then so painful, that I can scarcely imagine anything worse. What alarms me is, that, after all, the irritation in the bronchial tubes still continues, and as I cannot take the most appropriate remedies, I do not see my way. My physician assures me that I shall be cured. But who can tell what he really thinks? And I doubt whether a physician’s predictions are worth more than an astrologer’s.
I now come, my dear friend, to the principal subject of your letter. I assure you, with perfect truth, that I did not want any proof that if you were not with me before now, you were kept away by insurmountable obstacles. I add, my dear and good friend, that not only I have not expected you, not only am not in the least hurt, but from the bottom of my heart I most sincerely entreat you not to come. I know you thoroughly, and it is therefore that I love you. I can judge the state of your mind better than you can. I know that if you were here you would live in a state of anxiety and agitation, which I could not avoid perceiving.
That would give you pain, and to see you suffering would destroy my pleasure in your society. We must be governed by circumstances—they are changed, though your affection is unaltered. The crisis, the worst I think that I ever experienced, is past. My strength is returning. I can employ myself indoors and out-of-doors. It is true that I cannot set to work seriously, but I can read, even by candle-light, which was not the case a fortnight ago. Conversation is scarcely necessary to me, for I am condemned to silence. My brother, as I mentioned before, is with me and will stay for some time. And, lastly, my wife, about whom I was so long uneasy, is better. She is able to resume the immense place in my life which, as you know, belongs to her.
[*]“Her tastes are simple. She is religious; she likes the country; she likes reading; she does not like balls; she does not like the great world; she goes into it only to please her mother.”
[*]Mr. Grote had just been elected a correspondent.