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Conversations. - Alexis de Tocqueville, Correspondence and Conversations of Alexis de Tocqueville with Nassau William Senior from 1834-1859, vol. 1 (1834-1851) 
Correspondence and Conversations of Alexis de Tocqueville with Nassau William Senior from 1834-1859, ed. M.C.M. Simpson, in Two Volumes (London: Henry S. King & Co., 1872). Vol. I.
Part of: Correspondence and Conversations of Alexis de Tocqueville with Nassau William Senior from 1834-1859, 2 vols.
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Paris, July 27, 1849.1 —Mrs. Senior and I went at about twelve to Madame de Tocqueville, whom we found in the Hôtel des Affaires Étrangères, sitting with a large bag of five-franc pieces before her, and an employé in the Foreign-office, who is her secretary of charities, by her side making out a list of the people among whom the contents of the bag were to be distributed. The table was covered with begging-letters. I looked at two or three of them. One was from the widow of a littérateur, another from a tradesman ruined by the revolution. None of them were supported by any peculiar claims on the Foreign Minister. He was applied to merely as supposed to have a large income. Madame de Tocqueville says that of course she makes inquiries, but that they are necessarily superficial, and that she must be constantly deceived, and, at a great sacrifice of time and money, probably does more harm than good. A poor-law seems to be as much wanted for the relief of the rich as of the poor.
We talked of the chances of a prorogation. She said that, from the moment it had been suggested, an alarm had been spread of a coup d’état intended by the President. She admitted that many of those around him were urging him to seize monarchical power, and that, if his character had not altered since 1840, he might be supposed accessible to such a temptation; but she thinks that he has now too much sense to make an attempt the temporary success of which is very doubtful and the permanent success impossible; and she is sure that none of his ministers would assist him. ‘They believe us,’ she said, ‘to be ambitious conspirators; but all that we attempt, and all that we hope, is to keep our own heads and properties, and to protect those of our countrymen. We ourselves have removed nothing from our own house. We are birds of passage in this hotel.’
Saturday, July 29.—We dined with the Tocquevilles.
He hopes that the peace between Piedmont and Austria is by this time settled.
I said that I had heard that the principal difficulty was a demand by Piedmont that Austria should grant an amnesty to the Lombards who endeavoured to promote the union of Lombardy and Piedmont—a demand which appeared to me inadmissible. The Milanese rebelled against their sovereign—a sovereign deriving his title, not from conquest or treaty, but from a succession of centuries. The Piedmontese, though at peace with Austria, made common cause with the rebels, invaded Lombardy and annexed it to Piedmont. They have been defeated and driven back. Austria is in possession of Lombardy and even of a part of Piedmont. That the beaten Government should attempt to dictate to the conqueror the terms which he is to grant, not to them, but to his own subjects, is a pretension unparalleled in history.
Tocqueville did not object to this, but said that the demands of Austria for the expenses of the war were at first excessive—far beyond the ability of Piedmont. He had reason to think, however, that they had been very considerably moderated, and this was the ground of his hope that the peace was arranged, if not signed.
We talked of Lord Palmerston’s policy respecting Germany. He said that he thought it too favourable to Prussia.
I answered that, as Austria was in danger of falling to pieces, would be powerless if she lost Hungary, and under the influence of Russia if she kept it, it was important to raise up a substitute to stand between Western Europe and Russia, and that Prussia was the only Power capable of performing this office, and therefore that, if Lord Palmerston’s policy tended to this, it was right. He replied that this might be true as respected the interests of England, but that France could not see with pleasure the farther aggrandisement of a great military Power immediately on her frontier.
Monday, July 30.—We called on Madame de Tocqueville, and found her as before with her bag of five-franc pieces and her almoner, deciding on petitions. She said that the rising on June 13 was far more serious than it was generally supposed to be. As the Hôtel des Affaires Étrangères is very much exposed, she removed all her papers and valuables to her own house, and the économe, or house-steward, contributed to the establishment by Bastide, entertained her with assurances of the triumph of the ‘République Rouge.’1
‘I thought,’ she said, ‘after you left us yesterday, how much your conversation showed that you belonged to a settled government. You are to be absent for three months, and you have no doubt that when you return Queen Victoria will be still on her throne, and Lord John Russell still her Minister, and Mr. Senior still Master in Chancery. No Frenchman can look forward for three months, or, indeed, for three weeks.’
October 21, 1849.—We passed August and September in the Pyrenees, and returned to Paris in October.
In the evening I went to Madame de Tocqueville’s.
I talked to Tocqueville about the late debate on the Roman question. Montalembert, he said, was splendid; nothing could be finer as a piece of oratory. La Rivière rather repeated an article than made a speech.
I asked Tocqueville whether he felt his habits as a writer interfere with his speaking. He said, Terribly. That ever since he had been in the Chamber he had been endeavouring in vain to shake off the writer. The only writer whom he recollected as having done this thoroughly was Guizot.
Tuesday, October 23.—I breakfasted with the Tocquevilles. Knight Bruce, who was of the party, asked Tocqueville if much attention was paid to the decree abolishing titles. He answered, that it was attended to in official acts, but neglected in society. I said that, even before it passed, titles had been in a great measure disused—for instance, that Tocqueville had never used his.
No, he said, though his father and his brother did; but that he had always foreseen that some day titles would be abolished, and he did not wish to assume what he might have to relinquish.
I said that I was told that the distinction between noble and roturier existed in its full force in real life.
‘Yes,’ said Tocqueville, ‘it does, meaning by noble, gentilhomme; and it is a great misfortune, as it keeps up distinctions and animosities of caste; but it is incurable—at least, it has not been cured, or perhaps much palliated, by our sixty years of revolution. It is a sort of Freemasonry. When I talk to a gentilhomme, though we have not two ideas in common, though all his opinions, wishes, and thoughts are opposed to mine, yet I feel at once that we belong to the same family, that we speak the same language, that we understand one another. I may like a bourgeois better, but he is a stranger.’
I mentioned the remark to me of a very sensible Prussian, bürger himself, that it was unwise to send out as ambassador any not noble. I said that it did not matter in England, where the distinction is unknown. ‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘unknown with you; but you may be sure that when any of our bürger ministers meets one who is von Adel, he does not negotiate with him on equal terms; he is always wishing to sneak under the table.’
We talked of the physical exertion of public speaking. Knight Bruce said that after speaking for six hours, he felt tired for half an hour: Tocqueville, that he could not speak two days following, that he required an interval of rest for his throat, and that in the Chamber one was forced to scream, both to conquer the size of the room and the noise of interruptions.
I said that our reformed House was far more tolerant of bad speaking than the old House; that in the old House a bore was speedily coughed down; but that the anti-bore police was almost inefficient in the new House.
‘With us,’ said Tocqueville, ‘it is not the bad but the good speakers that are unheard. In proportion as a speech tells, it provokes interruption: the bad ones are listened to, or at least submitted to, quietly enough.’
[Mr. Senior left Paris on the next day.—Ed.]
This passage was retained in the Journals in France.—Ed.
See Mrs. Grote’s note, p. 63.—Ed.