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TOCQUEVILLE DURING THE REPUBLIC. SORRENTO AND PARIS. 1851. - 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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TOCQUEVILLE DURING THE REPUBLIC.
M. de Tocqueville read this journal day by day as it was written, and made his corrections on the rough copy.
These are the conversations to which M. Ampère refers in his charming memoir of M. de Tocqueville published in the ‘Correspondant.’1
‘Nous faisions de longues promenades dans la montagne, car tout frêle qu’il était, il était grand marcheur. Nous nous arrêtions dans quelque bel endroit, ayant en face de nous la mer, et le ciel de Naples sur nos têtes. Alors, essoufflés, nous nous reposions quelques minutes, et les entretiens recommençaient.
‘Son inépuisable esprit, qui n’était jamais plus actif et plus libre que dans ces moments-là, allait sans précipitation, sans secousse, mais avec un mouvement doux et varié, d’un sujet à un autre. Tous ces sujets se succédaient sans effort, depuis les considérations les plus hautes jusqu’aux remarques les plus ingénieuses, jusqu’aux anecdotes les plus piquants. Toujours d’un naturel parfait, il avait au sein de la plus grande familiarité un besoin d’élégance et de perfection dans le langage dont il ne pouvait se départir. Assis sur un rocher dans la montagne de Sorrente, on aurait pu écrire (et que n’ai-je pas écrit?) tout ce qui lui échappait dans l’abandon de l’amitié.’
Sorrento, Belvedere Guerracino, January 25.—We left Naples this morning for Sorrento, where we are lodged with the Tocquevilles and Ampère in the Belvedere Guerracino, an old palace about a quarter of a mile from the sea, and a mile and a half from Sorrento.
We have a glorious terrace and loggia looking north over the orange-covered piano of Sorrento to the sea.
In the pure air of Southern Italy we can almost count the houses in Naples eighteen miles off.
From Naples to Castellamare the road skirts the alluvial plain gained from the sea below Vesuvius, and derives its principal interest from the changing views of the mountain.
But from thence to Sorrento it is indescribably beautiful. It runs en corniche round the cliffs, which here sink abruptly into deep water. They are generally of a friable sandstone, like the Saxon Switzerland, and the torrents from the mountains have worn them into deep ravines, up one of which the road runs inwards, for at least a mile before its banks approach near enough to be united by a viaduct.
The view from the chapel where the road crosses a lofty promontory down on the table-land ending in the precipices washed by the sea, on which Sorrento stands, its white houses smothered in orange-groves, is as beautiful as it is singular.
We arrived early, and Tocqueville and I took a long walk among the orange-gardens up the hill.
He spoke with great regret of the Anti-Catholic movement in England.
‘The Pope,’ he said, ‘was very silly when he divided England into dioceses and created English bishops. He threw discredit on his friends the Puseyites, and excited both fear and resentment by showing the extent of his influence, and the mode in which it is exercised. So far from increasing his powers of interference with you, he has much diminished them. He was most to be feared when he acted most silently. Instead of profiting by his false move, you have made one yourselves. Your burst of intolerance puts you in the wrong.
‘The cause seems to be a bad one which is defended by mobbing priests, and breaking the windows of twenty chapels.
‘I look to England as the great source and the great example of political wisdom and moderation. You have now set a miserable example of bigotry and violence, and your example in this matter, as has been the case in many others, is more likely to be followed where it is bad than where it is good.’
‘So far,’ I answered, ‘as the present movement is directed against the Roman Catholic religion, I disapprove of it as much as you do. No Christian sect has a right to call on its Government to treat the doctrines of any other sect as erroneous. Each sect has its own doctors, martyrs, and tests; and there is no umpire to say which is right. Everyone who maintains the opinions peculiar to the Protestant, to the Roman Catholic, or to the Greek Church, has two thirds of the civilised world against him. But without assuming what Protestants have no right to assume, except among one another, that the Roman Catholic Faith, so far as it differs from our own, is wrong, it seems to me to be capable of proof, and to be in fact proved, that the Roman Catholic practice is in many respects mischievous. Generally speaking, a Protestant population is superior in vigour of thought and of conduct to a Roman Catholic one. On this ground I think, that whatever steps can be taken to repress growth of Roman Catholicism ought to be taken.’
‘Not acquiescing fully,’ replied Tocqueville, ‘in your censure of Roman Catholicism, or in the propriety of endeavouring to discourage it, it appears that you are taking bad means for that purpose. The inefficacy of persecution, whether by the mob or by the law, to repress religious opinions or practices, was supposed to be acknowledged.’
‘Even if it were acknowledged,’ I said, ‘I do not think that it is true. Persecution may be impolitic and may be morally wrong; but it is not always inefficacious. Witness Bohemia, which in 200 years was persecuted from Protestantism into Catholicism.’
‘In the first place,’ said Tocqueville, ‘an efficacious persecution must be a ferocious one, such a one as you could not adopt; and secondly, I am inclined to think that Protestantism, mixing less with daily life than Catholicism, is more easily extirpated. You persecuted the Irish Catholics, and with some vigour, for a century and a half, and at the end of that time they bore a larger proportion to the Protestants than at the beginning. I do not believe that the meetings and protests which your Government seems to encourage, and the riots which it feebly discourages, or even the Acts of Parliament which it obscurely threatens, will arrest the progress of Catholicism, if such a progress there be. But they set a very bad example to Europe. The world was beginning to hope that toleration could co-exist with an Established Church and with strong religious feelings. It was beginning to hope that intelligence, morality, political freedom, and religious freedom grew together. What you are doing checks these hopes. It seems to show that the popular Government of an enlightened and moral people is even less tolerant than many Governments which you are accustomed to look down on. The precedent which you are setting will be a pretext for bigotry elsewhere.
‘Observe, too, that the outbreak is not directed against what you call the practices of Roman Catholicism, but against its doctrines. Your archbishops and bishops in their address to the Queen do not object to the Roman Catholic Church because it requires the celibacy of the clergy, or because it denies the right of private judgment, but because it is repugnant to God’s Word, and sanctions blasphemous fables and deceits.
‘In other words, because it interprets certain portions of Scripture in a different way from yours.’
The Tocquevilles drank tea with us.1
Sunday, January 26.—Tocqueville and I took a fine walk over the hills. It had rained all night, and the sky was covered, but the temperature was charming, about 54°. The oranges are not quite ripe; the almonds are some in full bloom, others going off.
We passed a little chapel where Tocqueville always attends the sermon.
‘Nothing,’ he said, ‘can be more amusing than the pantomime and vehemence of the preachers.
‘I have often wondered,’ he continued, ‘that a nation which attaches so much importance as you do to religion, and which knows as well as you do the impotence of written speeches, should yet tolerate written sermons. You will not let a man read in the House of Commons or to a jury, because you know that what is read is not attended to. You profess to consider the matters which relate to the next world infinitely more important than those which belong to this, and yet you treat them, and them only, in written discourses often not even composed by the man who delivers them.’
‘You should recollect,’ I answered, ‘that the practices of all professions are regulated by the convenience of the professors: the practices of the Bar are arranged for the convenience of barristers; the regulations of the Army for the convenience of officers; the studies of our Universities for the convenience of the college tutors: so our ecclesiastical habits are arranged to suit the clergy. It is difficult to preach extempore. Some men could not do it at all, others would do it badly. Benefices are property: they are bought like other estates, and the duties are made such as any educated man can perform. If every clergyman were required to preach extempore, a man who has paid 5,000l. for a living might be forced to give it up.’
‘That might account,’ he replied, ‘for the use of written sermons; but then how are we to account for the effects which this torpid, formal religious teaching seems to produce? How are we to reconcile the coldness, the worldly-mindedness, and the general want of enthusiasm in your clergy with the religious zeal of your laity? With us, the influence of the priest depends on his abstraction from the world, on his indifference to the ordinary pleasures, and his contempt for the ordinary pursuits of mankind. He tells us that this world is not a place of amusement but of trial; that happiness is not to be sought here, and if it could be obtained would not be worth a thought if it in the slightest degree interfered with our chances hereafter; that it is to our future fate which is to endure to all eternity, not to the few years that we have to pass here, that our attention and our efforts ought to be directed. But when the man who teaches all this is obviously thinking more of this world than of the next, when for one hour that he employs in providing for his eternal welfare he spends three or four in trying to obtain the comforts and enjoy the pleasures of this brief existence, it is difficult to believe him to be sincere.’
‘Much,’ I answered, ‘perhaps depends on the absence from Protestantism of the ascetic element. According to the Roman Catholic doctrine the Deity is propitiated by human suffering. A man saves his soul by punishing his body. On that assumption, to enjoy pleasure is in the nature of sin, and to provide the means of enjoying it is sacrificing the next world to this.
‘But we hold that a man may be happy both here and hereafter; at least, that his happiness here does not interfere with his prospects hereafter. And that a clergyman is not merely justified but bound to marry his daughters, and place out his sons, and leave his widow a comfortable annuity: this takes time and thought. A married clergyman cannot abstract himself from the world or despise the ordinary pursuits of mankind. If he were to do so he would ruin his family.
‘He is necessarily a man of the world as well as a man of religion.’
‘Still,’ said Tocqueville, ‘I do not understand how a clergy so occupied can excite the enthusiasm of their hearers. How, for instance, is it possible that one of your written sermons, read like a task without action or life or energy, can rouse the passions of the congregation? And yet roused they must be. Religious motives affect more the conduct of your people, religious ideas occupy a larger portion of their thoughts, than they do among us, where a much greater proportion of priests, whose whole hearts are devoted to the propagation and enforcement of their doctrines, who really act as they preach, who really show that they believe themselves striving for an eternal reward, are constantly working on the minds of their flocks with the popular eloquence of a Catholic pulpit and the powerful engine of confession.’
‘One explanation,’ I answered, ‘is that our religion is, in a great measure, a religion of opposition. Much of it is expended in hatred or contempt of other persuasions.
‘There is little controversial feeling among the continental Catholics. No attempts are made to convert them, they have no sects to divide them. They may think the belief and the practices of the Protestants imperfect, but can scarcely think them mischievous. Their religious feelings therefore, wanting the stimulus of opposition, require to be kept up by the constant, active intervention of the clergy. We live in an atmosphere of controversy. We have proselytizers all round us. No man in the higher classes is certain that his daughters may not turn Catholics, or his sons Puseyites; the lower and middle classes are assailed by the fifty different species of Dissenters; then the Roman Catholic religion, of which we are chiefly in dread, appears to us not only mistaken but destructive. You pity us, but we fear you. And it is comparatively easy to rouse and to keep up fear. Our priests too, belonging to the aristocracy, influence the humbler portion of their parishioners by their expenditure and by their charities, and the higher by their society. The celibacy of your clergy, by almost excluding gentlemen from the profession, prevents their having much familiar intercourse with the higher classes.’
‘I have often doubted,’ said Tocqueville, ‘whether, if I were reforming the discipline of the Church, I would not allow priests to marry. One objection to their marriage with us, is the practice of confession. We should not like to have the secrets of so many families confided to married men. That, I suspect, is the reason why our lay authorities prevent a man who has been a priest, even if he choose to throw off his orders, from marrying. The Maire refuses to authenticate the marriage, and the Courts of Law refuse to compel him.’
‘Have you ever,’ I said, ‘considered the loss which the world would have sustained if the Protestant clergy were unmarried? A third, perhaps a half, of our most distinguished men in England and Scotland have been the sons of clergymen. A clergyman has almost always a family; he always gives them a liberal education; he has generally something beyond his life income, but not enough for his sons to live on. They uniformly refuse to be tradesmen, and therefore are forced into literature and the professions, and succeed in them better than any other class.’
‘That is good for the sons,’ said Tocqueville, ‘but must give an immense harvest of old maids.’1
Wednesday, January 29.—I walked with Tocqueville and Ampère round the massive walls of Sorrento. It must have been impregnable before the use of gunpowder.
In this friable sandstone the torrents from the hills wear deep channels, which are easily scarped. Channels of this kind, thirty or forty feet broad, and perhaps 200 feet deep, nearly surround Sorrento on three sides; on the fourth it rises from precipices which run out into deep water, and it has the further protection of high and solid walls.
We had just heard the news of the vote of the Assembly of January 18, that it had no confidence in the present French Ministry.1
‘The last time,’ said Tocqueville, ‘that a French Chamber agreed on such a vote was in June 1830. An ominous recollection; but in 1830 the 221 had the country at their back.
‘It is difficult to say how far the country sympathises with the Assembly. It has done itself great harm by releasing Mauguin from legal custody. The tribunals are furious; all privileges, particularly those assumed by collective bodies, are unpopular. The retention in its service of such a man as Yon, is another fault. Its disorderly debates and brutal interruptions excite disapprobation, almost contempt. The President, on the other hand, makes no undignified appearance in public. His immense patronage throws all France at his feet. The framers of the Constitution meant to render him merely the subordinate officer of the Assembly. Within the limits of the Constitution the Assembly was to be Sovereign. But they have given the President means of power and influence with which they, the Assembly, find it difficult to cope. And I agree with Thiers, that if, in the struggle, the Assembly yields, we have the Empire under another name. It is possible that he may make a compromise with them on the dotation question, give up his Ministers, and receive his three millions—which of course would be dishonourable to him. It is more probable that his Ministers will refuse to continue.
‘To be censured by the Assembly, and treated by the President as mere clerks, is paying a high price for office.’
‘It is unfortunate,’ I said, ‘that Louis Napoleon has learned so little in England.’
‘He learned in England,’ said Tocqueville, ‘a good deal. He learned, for instance, the value of private enterprise and skill. He is less inclined than most of his Ministers to interpose in all great works the action of the Government. But he has not learned even the principles of Parliamentary Government. He is resolved not merely to be his own Prime Minister, but to be almost sole Minister. He will not even submit to be controlled in his Cabinet. Hence arises the anomaly that the leading men in the Assembly vote against the Ministry, and yet refuse to take office. They vote against the Ministry, because they fancy that they see in them the accomplices of an usurpation; they refuse to take office because they would incur responsibility without having free agency.’
‘It seems to me,’ I said, ‘that the Assembly ought to have made its stand against the aristocratic pretensions of the President in November 1849, when, in defiance of the spirit of Parliamentary Government, he dismissed a Ministry which was supported by a strong majority. By not resenting that aggression, you invited others.’
‘That is true,’ he answered; ‘but the Assembly was new, and the President was new. We were very anxious not to begin so early with a quarrel, and we, the retiring Ministry, used our utmost efforts to obtain for our successors a fair trial. But perhaps, as you say, we were wrong.’
‘What is the next move,’ I asked, ‘if the Ministers remain?’
‘There are two moves,’ he answered, ‘by which the Assembly might endeavour to coerce the President. The direct taxes, which form the bulk of the revenue, are, by the Constitution, only annual. It might refuse them, or it might pass laws directly aimed at his power. It might change, for instance, the constitution of the army. It might exclude the army from Paris; in fact, exercising despotically the whole power of legislation, on all points that are not determined by the Constitution, it might seriously embarrass or even arrest his administration.’
‘Would not either of these courses,’ I said, ‘induce the public to take part with the President? Each of them would, in fact, be fighting the battle at the expense of the country. You want, I think, here the expedient of a dissolution. With us, if the King returns Ministers whom the House of Commons disapproves, it stops, or rather threatens to stop, the supplies; not as a party move, but as a means of forcing an appeal to the people. It is dissolved, and the ultimate umpire, the Nation, decides. If it sends back, as it did in 1835, a House with the same opinion as its predecessors, the Ministers must go. If it sends one, as it did in 1784, with a Ministerial majority, of course they remain. You seem to have no means of consulting the Nation, but must wait till the Assembly has sat through its term.’
‘A dissolution,’ he said, ‘with us would be a revolution. The President, especially a Bonaparte, could not be left even for a few weeks unchecked by a countervailing force. Some years hence perhaps, if we have then popular institutions, our Chief Magistrate may be allowed the power given to your Sovereign, but not in our present state of transition.’
‘But,’ I said, ‘if you refuse to pass laws and the President remains firm, what is to be the result?’
‘If,’ he answered, ‘his conduct were such as to justify our accusing him of an intention to subvert the Constitution, we might seize the whole power of the State and impeach him. And these seditious cries, these promotions of those who uttered them, these dismissals of those who refused to join in them, this removal of the Commander on whose skill and fidelity the Assembly relied for its protection, are strong indications of plans of usurpation.’
‘They might be urged,’ said Ampère, ‘as implying a tendency; but the President may certainly keep within the limits of the law, and yet make legal Government, except through his own Ministers, impossible.’
‘Was he wise,’ I asked, ‘in indulging in an expenditure which forces him to apply to the Chamber for a further allowance?’
‘Very unwise,’ answered Tocqueville. ‘He ought to have lived within his income, as the richest private man in France, without assuming princely magnificence. He would have been more respected and really more powerful. I have told him so a hundred times. I have implored him to lay aside his extravagant retinue, and to discontinue his ostentatious fêtes. But his instincts are towards expense, and his immediate adherents, who are as bad advisers as it is possible, stimulate an extravagance by which they profit. He is always thinking of his uncle. And the expense of the Imperial Court is, of course, the part of the Empire most easily copied.’
‘In what way,’ I said, ‘does he get rid of so much money?’
‘A great deal of it,’ said Tocqueville, ‘goes in gifts to old officers. Much of course in dinners and balls, but more still in what is called coulage—waste, carelessness.’
‘Of course,’ I said, ‘he has gained something by this expenditure, though he may have lost more.’
‘If,’ answered Tocqueville, ‘his object be to become a Sovereign, he may have forwarded it by accustoming people to see him surrounded by a state and splendour inconsistent with private life.
‘But I do not believe that his extravagance has been the result of any deep political views. I fancy that his real motive has been the pleasure of spending money, of gratifying his immediate vanity, and the vanity of those around him.
‘It is wonderful how many men of talent and ambition have sacrificed their comfort and even their independence to a taste for expense.
‘All that is going on,’ continued Tocqueville, ‘fills me with uneasiness. I wish well to the President, and I wish well to the Assembly, and I see them trying to destroy one another. Among all the different courses which events may take, the one which has for some time appeared to me the least objectionable is the prolongation of Louis Napoleon’s Presidency, and I am grieved to see him make it the most objectionable.’
‘What,’ I asked, ‘will be the prophecy that I shall hear when I am in Paris next May? During the three last Mays it has been an insurrection, and twice it has come true.’
‘The prophecy,’ he answered, ‘next May, will be a coup d’état. Some of your friends will tell you that in a week the Assembly will declare itself in danger, appoint a guard of 40,000 men under the command of one of its members, and use it to drag the President to Vincennes.
‘Others will assure you that the news which you may expect every morning is, that during the night the Palais National has been occupied by the troops, that the walls are covered with placards declaring the Assembly dissolved, and that all the leading members of the majority are arrested or concealed. And I will not venture to predict that neither of these events or, at least, that no event similar to one of them, will occur. In the present state of feeling,’ he continued, ‘nothing could be easier than for the President to make himself a Constitutional King. It is the form of Government under which France has been most prosperous, it is the one which has the most friends and the most effective ones. If one of the Orleans Princes were President, we should slide into it almost unconsciously. But this is a rôle utterly repugnant to all Louis Napoleon’s prejudices and tastes. He cannot bear to be controlled by an Assembly, to take his Ministers from its majority, to submit his conduct to its criticism. I am convinced that he had much rather remain President of the Republic, with a vague, undefined, and, as he thinks, independent power, than become a Constitutional King, acting under the advice of his Ministers, and with little real power of choosing them.
‘Of course I do not mean to say that he is satisfied to be a mere President. What I affirm is merely that he prefers it to being a Constitutional King. What he would wish is to be a king like Henri IV., or one of your Tudor sovereigns.
‘He would not object perhaps to a Senate, which might always pay him compliments, and sometimes give him advice; which might take on itself the details of legislation, and register and promulgate his decrees. But, like his uncle, he wishes to govern.
‘The folly of clever men is wonderful.
‘Almost all the leading members of the Constituent Assembly voted for him. Many were enthusiastic in his cause. They gave to it the solidity of a party. Two ideas governed them, and it is difficult to say which was the most absurd. One, that he was “Nul,”—that he had neither talent nor knowledge, and that therefore he could be easily led; the other, that if he were unmanageable he could be easily got rid of, at least at the end of his term, perhaps before. They thought that he would be a tool, and a tool that they could break. In opposing him, my friends had scarcely any supporters except the Montagne.
‘Cavaignac afforded the only chance to the Republic. He is not a man of extensive views, but he is an honest man, and he prefers glory to power. His model would have been Washington.’
In the afternoon we had a visit from Don Raffaelle Petruzzi. It is a relic of the Spanish domination that, among the middle classes, Don and Donna are the usual titles. Don Raffaelle is a young man about twenty-five married to a lady who on her uncle’s death will have 25,000 francs a year—in this country an enormous fortune, but in the meantime he has little except his salary as a receiver of taxes. He is to give us an hour of his company every day as Parlatore, for which we shall pay five carlines. It is not easy, however, to find subjects of conversation. He has little information and still less curiosity. He has never been to Amalfi, never to Pompeii, never to Capri; I suspect not often to Naples. We talked to-day about the functionaries of the neighbourhood. The Judge of the Circulario of Sorrento, containing about 7,000 souls, has a salary of 20 ducats, or 3l. 5s. per calendar month, and may get about 40 ducats more in the course of the year in extra payments; so that his whole income is about 45l. a year. That of the Judge of the Circulario of the Piano, containing about 10,000 souls, is 25 ducats a month, making with his extra income about 60l. a year. The salary of a Commissario di Polizia, his inferior officer, is at least double; showing the comparative importance which the Government attaches to Justice and to Police. I treated the Constitution as existing though suspended. He denied its existence, and urged, as a proof of its abolition, the change in the oath taken by public functionaries. It was, ‘I swear fidelity to the Constitutional King, Ferdinand II., and to the Statute.’ It is now, ‘I swear fidelity to the King Ferdinand II., and never to belong to any secret society.’
Madame de Tocqueville is not quite well. Tocqueville and Ampère drank tea with us.
We talked of the throngs of Americans in Italy and France, and of the annoyance of many English at their being called English.
‘So it is,’ said Ampère, ‘with us and the Belgians. A Belgian persecuted me all my journey by being taken for a Frenchman.
‘My resource was always to allude to his country. “Vous autres Belges,” I said, “do so and so.” “Dans la Belgique on pense comme ça.” ’
Thursday, January 30.—We took a delightful walk, the ladies on donkeys, across the promontory. The wind is north, and it is said to have been the coldest day that has been felt this year. Yet the sides of the cliff were covered with crocuses, violets, and primroses, and we sat for half-an-hour among olives and myrtles, looking towards the Island of the Sirens, and the iron-bound coast of the Bay of Salerno.
As we were basking in the January sun, Ampère told us a characteristic anecdote of the revolution of 1830.
A legitimist, whose name he mentioned, who had signalised his zeal by a duel with General Foy, was in the garden of the Palais Royal looking on philosophically at the attack on the Château. A man near him fired several times ineffectually. ‘I think,’ said the legitimist, ‘that I could teach you to manage your piece better.’ He took it, showed his neighbour how to hold it, finished the lesson by firing and bringing down a Swiss, and then returned it.
The pupil, however, begged him to keep it. ‘I am sure,’ he said, ‘that you will employ it better than I.’ ‘Impossible,’ answered the other; ‘I am for Charles X.’
Friday, January 31.—We went—Tocqueville and the ladies on donkeys, and Ampère and I on foot—to the Deserto di Sta Agata, a convent supported by the French and now uninhabited.
It is situated on the summit of the mountain which ends in the promontory of Sorrento, and commands of course the two bays and Capri, separated by a narrow channel. We returned by the old Roman town of Massa, and thence by a road which winds through olive forests by the side of the mountain sinking and rising to cross the vast deep ravines which everywhere intersect the coast. The view of Sorrento from the summit of the last ridge which overlooks it, is one of the finest in this fine country.
Saturday, February 1.—Tocqueville, Ampère, and I started in a light carriage drawn, as they all are, by three little horses abreast, for Pæstum.
They took us, without stopping to bait, in four hours and a half to Salerno, about thirty miles, by Castellamare, Nocera, and La Cava.
The road after the first twelve miles is execrable as road, but beautiful in scenery. The least interesting part is that between Castellamare and Nocera; it passes through plantations of poplars, lopped and topped, serving as props of vines. Vineyards so treated may be pretty in summer, but are frightful in winter. Where they predominate, as they do in every flat country near Naples, they spread over it a cold, russet, brown colour. On each side, however, are mountains, all the secondary eminences crowned with white convents and ruined castles. The descent from La Cava to Salerno contains about six miles of fine scenery—first running by the side of a savage gorge with a torrent roaring at the bottom, then as it reaches the mountain side over the sea, turning off towards Salerno on the left, while a mule-path on the right branches from it and runs en corniche along the cliffs through Vietri to Amalfi.
Salerno is a considerable town, with a fine range of houses a mile long rising from the sea. We went to the cathedral, said to have been built in the eleventh century. Before it is an open cloister, like that of St. Ambrogio at Milan, the arcades resting on columns stolen from ancient buildings without much consistency.
The outside, like most of the old Neapolitan churches, has been whitewashed and modernised. There are some remarkable mosaics covering the pulpit and apse, and the bishop’s throne. Three ancient sarcophagi found, according to the sacristan, at Pæstum, are employed as tombs. The bas-reliefs on two of these relate to the history of Bacchus.
Two bishops, however, repose in them. The third, which is the base of a monument erected not a hundred years ago to an archbishop, represents the ‘Rape of Proserpine.’ Gregory VII., the great Pope Hildebrand, is buried here.
On a hill, almost a mountain, rising immediately above the town, is an extensive mediæval fortification.
Sunday, February 2.—We started at half-past six for Pæstum, and got there at twenty minutes to eleven, having been detained nearly half an hour at the ferry.
The road was through a flat strip of coast between the mountains and the sea, thinly inhabited by a yellow unhealthy population, which flies in summer to the hills. Its other inhabitants are pigs, wild-looking horses, and wilder-looking buffaloes, having, as Ampère remarked, ‘beaucoup de physiognomie,’ and sheep guarded by dogs whom it would not be safe to encounter on foot.
The beauty of the temples is in proportion to their age. That of Ceres, with its single row of comparatively slender pillars, is merely elegant.
The Basilica is fine, and, if it did not stand close to the Temple of Neptune, would be very fine, but it looks almost poor by the side of its mighty neighbour.
The Temple of Neptune was, I suppose, inferior to many hundred Greek buildings which we have lost. Ampère says that it is inferior to the Parthenon. But it is the most striking temple that I have ever seen. Much probably is owing to its situation on a solitary plain with the sea on one side and mountains on every other. Much to the wonderfully beautiful colour, a yellowish-grey, which the stone has assumed. Much to the transparency of the air and the brightness of the sun, and the deep blue, almost black, colour of the sky on which its columns and pediments seem cut, and more than all these to its being perhaps the most ancient monument in Europe. A monument which was already venerable from its antiquity when Rome was a collection of hovels, and Paris and London were the hunting-grounds of savages.
But after allowing for all adventitious circumstances and associations, taking it as it was 2,500 years ago, when it stood fresh from the workman’s hands in the midst of a crowded city, with no merits but those of its size, its proportions, and its form, it must, even then, have been superior to anything which we are now capable of erecting.
I never saw a building which showed so much the courage, the devotion, and the sincerity of its constructors, or, to speak more intelligibly, which shows so clearly that their determination was, at any sacrifice of labour, to raise a temple which even a God might think worthy to receive his image, and which might continue to be its abode as long as any of the works of man can endure. If this was one of the works of the Sybarites, they can scarcely have been a people of careless voluptuaries.
The spot where Mr. and Mrs. Hunt were murdered, almost twenty-five years ago, lies on the old road which passes by Eboli. They had slept at Eboli, and his servant had put out, on the table near the window, the contents of his dressing-case all mounted in silver. A girl belonging to the inn saw it and spread the report, that a Milor, carrying with him an enormous treasure, was going to Pæstum; eighteen men set out from Eboli to intercept the treasure. The Hunts had lunched as we did, in the temple, had sent on their servants before, and were returning in an open calèche, when they were stopped about a mile from Pæstum. They surrendered their money and watches, but the robbers kept asking for ‘il tesoro.’ It never occurred to Hunt that what they meant was the silver contents of the dressing-case, so he repeated that he had given up everything. They threatened to shoot him if he persisted in concealing ‘il tesoro,’ and he lost his temper and rashly answered, ‘Birboni, non osate far fuoco sopra un Inglese.’ This was an imputation which they would not bear; two men instantly fired—one ball mortally wounded Hunt, the other his wife, and the robbers having successfully repelled the imputation, fled to the mountains. The Neapolitan Government would have hushed up the matter, but the English and Russian Ministers insisted on its being seriously taken up. A shepherd-boy concealed in a thicket had seen the whole affair; seventeen out of the eighteen were identified by him, tried and executed, and the eighteenth confessed on his deathbed.
The Neapolitan roads seem now to be perfectly safe.
We left Pæstum at a quarter to one, and, passing Salerno, got to La Cava at seven; having gone with the same horses fifty-two miles over bad roads, in two stages.
Sunday, February 2.—I wished to spend a long morning at La Cava, which is beautifully situated in the midst of an interesting country. But Tocqueville and Ampère wanted to write by the courier, so we returned to Sorrento to breakfast.
The best way to visit Pæstum is to go from Naples by rail to Nocera, and then by a carriage to La Cava, sleep there, and the next day take a carriage from the Hôtel de Londres to Pæstum and back again. It is fifty-six miles, but may be done in a day with fresh horses, and the inn at La Cava is excellent, that at Salerno only tolerable.
La Cava is worth a few days’ stay; the inn looks north, but has fireplaces.
Tuesday, February 4.—Ampère, Tocqueville, and I walked to a suppressed convent of Camaldoli on a mountain overlooking Meta. Thence down the mountain side into the plain, the finest walk that we have taken—four hours.
We talked of the difficulty of conjecturing the future Constitution of France.
‘Every form of Government,’ said Tocqueville, ‘has been tried and discarded. Absolute monarchy, constitutional monarchy, oligarchy, and democracy. Perhaps the most important element in a mixed Government, aristocracy, has suffered the most.
‘Wherever the French went they attacked its wealth and destroyed its privileges; and when the Sovereigns came back, the only part of our institutions which they retained were those which were opposed to the aristocracy. Even in England you assisted it with the Reform Act.’
‘The Poor Law Amendment Act,’ I answered, ‘was a heavier blow to the aristocracy than the Reform Act. The Reform Act principally affected the aristocracy of wealth.
‘It deprived mere money of its political power. The Poor Law Amendment Act dethroned the country gentlemen.
‘It found the country justices each in his own circle the master of the property of the ratepayers, and of the incomes of the labourers. It left them either excluded from influence in the management of their own parishes, or forced to accept a seat in the Board of Guardians, and to debate and vote among shopkeepers and farmers.’
‘Whatever,’ said Tocqueville, ‘be the destinies of France in other respects, one thing is certain—we must have a Poor Law. There is something not very unlike it now in the large towns.
‘Probably in Paris as much is spent in charity as in London. At some periods of the year one-fourth of the population have received relief, but in the country there is nothing, and in the towns it is ill regulated.
‘It is unfortunate that Thiers, who on most points has so practical a mind, should have taken so absurd a course upon this. His scheme is a large expenditure on public works, ateliers nationaux, over all France.’
‘Is he,’ said Ampère, ‘likely to be converted?’
‘I fear not,’ said Tocqueville.
‘There is one point, however, on which I have not been able to make up my mind. It is the great question as to the right to relief. Whether we should or should not say, that as a matter of law nobody shall starve. If we give this right we must of course make this relief disagreeable; we must separate families, make the workhouse a prison, and our charity repulsive.
‘If we refuse the right we may give to it some of the attributes of real charity, and make it a bond between the poor and the rich. Then the evil effects of a Poor Law on the industry, frugality, and providence of the labourer are much increased by the certainty, that, whatever be his conduct, neither he nor his family can starve.’
‘I am not sure,’ I answered, ‘that a large amount of charity, unaccompanied by the right to relief, and also unaccompanied by the restrictions by which that right ought to be impeded, would not be as injurious to industry and frugality as the right itself, to be exercised only on disagreeable conditions. Everyone would hope to get his share of the eleemosynary fund. And two great benefits would be lost. One is the security which millions enjoy who never exercise their right, but have always the satisfaction of possessing it. It is like a dwarf wall between a road and a precipice, which comforts a thousand travellers, not one of whom it actually saves from falling over.
‘Another is the repression of mendicity. Where there is no right to relief, it seems cruel to order the poor to refrain from begging, or the rich to refrain from giving. When a London beggar tells me that he is starving, I disbelieve him, for I know that he has only to apply to the relieving officer; but if there was no right to relief, I should have to choose between making inquiries, which I have no time for, or giving to a man who in all probability is an impostor, or refusing a man who may perish for want of assistance.’
‘Even the right to relief,’ said Ampère, ‘is not a perfect security. I am told one hundred persons die every year in London of want.’
‘I have no doubt,’ I answered, ‘that one hundred persons die there every year directly from want, and many thousands from diseases produced by want. They are persons whom illness, or misfortune, or misconduct, has thrown out of employment, who live, far from all the educated classes, in the horrible lanes and courts which are to be found in every great town; whom pride, or prejudice, or aversion to the restraints of a workhouse has prevented from applying for public relief, and who, after selling all their little property, have been surprised by cold and hunger in their cellars and garrets.
‘Death by starvation often comes on, at last, suddenly. I saw a good deal in 1848 of a Captain Herbert, who was Poor Law Inspector at Kenmare in Ireland during the famine. Every morning corpses were found under the hedges along the roads leading to the town. They were always emaciated, the stomachs generally flat, so that the backbone could be felt through them.
‘Money was found in the pockets of almost all of them. These were the bodies of persons who were travelling to Kenmare in order to emigrate, begging their way and keeping their little fund untouched for the purposes of the voyage; until they fell down from weakness, or lay down from fatigue and died in the night.’
The convent consists of a church and some neat cottages in which the monks lived separately. As we left it, I said that ‘the two things which I should feel the most disagreeable in Catholicism, are its asceticism and its confession. I should detest incurring any useless privation or pain, and when in the confessional, should be always hesitating between the humiliation of disclosure and the guilt of concealment. Roman Catholics are liable to one sin more than Protestants.’
‘What you call,’ answered Tocqueville, ‘the asceticism of the Catholics was in its origin a reaction against the sensualities of Paganism. And the passions which prompt us to enjoyment are so strong that I do not regret that some degree of abstinence is inculcated by eligion.’
‘As for confession,’ said Ampère, ‘practically no humiliation is felt. After the longest confession both the penitent and the priest forget all that has been said, as soon as they quit the box. They meet the same evening in society without the least embarrassment.’
‘After all,’ continued Tocqueville, ‘you are not free from asceticism. What can be more ascetic than your Sunday? You think it your duty to give up on that day certain pleasures which in themselves you consider innocent. You do not think it wrong to go to a play on Saturday, but you think that it is meritorious to abstain from one on Sunday. You think that you please God by making to Him that little sacrifice on His peculiar day. What is this but asceticism, confined indeed to one day in the week, but still involving the principle that there is something wrong in enjoyment, something virtuous in mortification?’
‘This is quite true,’ I said; ‘but it is not a doctrine or a practice prescribed by the Anglican Church. There is nothing in the Articles or in the Formularies of the Anglican Church which requires an observance of Sunday different from that required by the Romish Church. Our ascetic observance of Sunday is a remnant of Puritanism; it came in with the Puritans, and unhappily has not gone out with them.’
We expected in the evening letters and papers from France, but a continuance of easterly winds has delayed the packet, and none arrived.
Tocqueville is very uncomfortable. ‘I voted,’ he said, ‘against Louis Napoleon partly for the very reason which induced the great majority to support him; because he is, or at least is called, a Bonaparte, and partly from my deep distrust of his character. But when we had him, I was anxious that we should keep on good terms with him. He is essentially Prince—the rôle of Washington would have no charm for him. He has believed for twenty years that it is his destiny to be the permanent ruler of France, and his rashness is equal to his confidence. Still I think that it would have been possible, for a time at least, to avoid a rupture, and I have done all in my power to avert one. In all my letters I have urged my friends to conciliate him. But, now that the conflict has come, I earnestly wish that the Assembly may get the better. If the President succeed, if his powers, already perhaps too large for a Representative Government, are prolonged and consolidated, he and his court will become the masters of France. The late debates have shown us, for the first time, a party calling itself the President’s friends. They are endeavouring to form into a permanent party the minority of 286. That minority consisted originally of as many shades as the majority. There were those who wished merely to blame one portion of the conduct of the Ministers, there were those who did not intend even to blame, but merely to express regret. I trust that it will dissolve now that the accident which created it has passed. But if it does not, if it crystallises into a party, such a minority opposed to such a disunited majority will soon become the most powerful body in the Assembly.
‘The people, too, are now in a state of mind in which, whatever be its follies or its usurpations, they will side with the Executive. They are thoroughly sick of revolutions, and would sacrifice the Constitution to avoid a contest.’
‘It is lucky,’ I said, ‘that if your Constitution is in danger, it is not a more valuable one. If we were to lose ours, we should think our loss irreparable, but you could run up one as good as this in a few weeks.’
‘The Constitution,’ he answered, ‘is detestable, but it gives us shelter. There is no saying what might happen in the interregnum. It is of some importance, too, to consider what is the character of the man who aspires to be our ruler. You think in England, I know, that he is essentially pacific. That he represents the party of order, and that it is safer to have to deal with him than with the Assembly. Just at present, while he is thinking only of the means of buying friends and crushing enemies, he is quiescent, but he has notions about the part which France ought to play in the affairs of Europe which might make him a very disagreeable, perhaps a very dangerous, member of the political world.’
‘You say,’ I replied, ‘that you have endeavoured to avert the conflict. But how could it have been averted, at least by what conduct on the part of the Assembly? All the aggression, at least until the Assembly turned and stood at bay on the 18th of January, seems to have been on the part of the President.’
‘So it must seem,’ answered Tocqueville, ‘to anyone looking on from a distance; but almost from the begining the whole tone and attitude of the Assembly has been unfriendly.
‘Thiers’ report of the affairs of Rome wounded him deeply; not so much by the censure which it cast on our negotiations with the Pope, as by the omission of all reference to his letter to Ney;1 a letter which he thinks a glorious piece of statesmanship, and considers, certainly with perfect truth, entirely his own doing. Then the Chamber was stingy about the dotation, gave him only a part of what he asked, and gave it ungraciously. Again when a Permanent Committee was appointed during the adjournment, his friends were studiously excluded from it.
‘It became well known that the procès verbaux of that Committee were unfavourable to him, and hints were frequently given that the time might come when some use would be made of them. Changarnier’s popularity in the Assembly was apparently connected with his well-known enmity to the President. But it was still more in conversation that their dislike and jealousy showed themselves. He revenged himself by trying to tease and to irritate them.
‘Baroche, his Minister, endeavoured to dismiss Yon, their Commissaire de Police; they were weak enough to support him. The creditor who arrested Mauguin was set on by the Elysée, and the Chamber was imprudent enough to assert that its members were privileged not to pay their debts.
‘This declaration of want of confidence is the first open blow struck by the Assembly, as the dismissal of Changarnier was the first open blow struck by the President; but there has been a latent hostility between them for many months.’
Wednesday, February 5.—We went, the ladies on donkeys, to Meta and round by the side of the mountain.
We talked in the evening of the Constitution.
‘The Committee,’ said Tocqueville, ‘which framed it, consisted chiefly of administrators and Republicans.
‘The first wished to continue the existing system of centralisation, and, so far as this purpose required it, to arm the Executive with all the powers of royalty. The second wished to deprive the President of all the privileges and immunities of royalty, and to make him merely the first officer of the Assembly. I tried to persuade them that these objects were inconsistent, and that if they imposed on their Executive the duty, or even gave to it the power, of universal interference, the head of that Executive would be their master; but I could scarcely obtain a hearing. The first day of our meeting, Lamennais proposed to give some little independent action to the Communes; he was opposed by Marrast—left, I believe, in a minority of three—and the next day resigned. Beaumont and I made a stand for two Chambers, and were beaten after a couple of days’ debate. These were almost the only discussions that took place. Cormenin, who was President of the Committee, took on himself the duty of preparing the draft, assisted by Vivien. He brought to us every morning some part finished, and scarcely any beyond verbal alterations were made. Cormenin was our Solon.
‘One part, and one part only, is good. It is the tribunal for the trial of political offences. The Conseils généraux of the eighty-six departments each select, by lot, a member of the grand jury, and out of this grand jury of eighty-six persons, the jury that tries the cause is also taken by lot. A respectable tribunal is thus obtained free from local prejudices.
‘One objection,’ continued Tocqueville, ‘has been made to the Constitution which it does not fully deserve. It is said to have authorised the President to become his own Prime Minister by declaring him responsible.
‘It declares him responsible for attempts to subvert the Constitution. A responsibility which he would have incurred whether it had been expressed or not.
‘Of his five immediate predecessors three were banished and one was beheaded. But the better opinion is, that by the Constitution, as it now stands, he is not responsible for the general policy of his Government. The Constitution directs a law to be framed determining the cases, other than the specified one of an attack on the prerogatives of the Assembly, in which the President and his Ministers are to incur personal responsibility. No such law has yet been passed. When passed it cannot be retro-active. He cannot, therefore, at present, incur any responsibility, except in the specified case of his interfering with the prerogatives of the Assembly. The Assembly without doubt ought to obey the Constitution, and to pass a law defining ministerial responsibility and directing its punishment. But if they extended it to the President, and declared him impeachable for general mal-administration, or for unwise administration, I think that their law in those respects would be unconstitutional and void.’
Thursday, February 6.—We went—three of us as usual on donkeys and two on foot—to the Cape of Sorrento, a singularly beautiful walk, running round the cliff.
The whole cape is covered with Roman remains; some of them are supposed to have been baths, others belong to a Temple of Neptune.
In the evening the papers arrived containing the list of the new French Ministry. It consists of a set of clerks, not members of the Assembly, but taken from the public offices.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, for instance, is M. Brennier, a clerk in the Foreign Office, charged with its Finance, whose business it was to audit the accounts of the French Ministers in foreign Courts—intelligent, but a man who probably never read a despatch in his life. Not one of them except Royer, who is a lawyer, has any practice in public speaking.
The Constitution gives them the right to be present in the Assembly and to speak—a right, which of course they must submit to use, and of course the exhibition will be deplorable. This is an attempt to carry into practice the theory of the separation of the executive and legislative functions.
If the people submit to it—and Tocqueville is not sure that they will not—Parliamentary Government is at an end.
Friday, February 7, 1851.—Tocqueville, Ampère, and I, with an ass carrying our baggage, walked over the mountains to Scaricatori, a little landing-place on the Bay of Salerno, about six miles from Sorrento. It took us two hours, the last two miles being a steep rough staircase which the ass would not descend. Thence we took a boat with four rowers, which carried us in two hours and a half to Amalfi, passing close under a range of mountains from 3,000 to 4,000 feet high, ending precipitously in deep water. Every rocky promontory was crowned with one of the picturesque towers erected by Charles V. as a protection against the Barbary corsairs. They were called Martello Towers because they gave the alarm by a bell struck with a hammer—martello.
Our boatmen rowed standing like the Venetians, an exercise which brings all the limbs into play, and gives them fine erect figures. Living in a warmer climate than that of Venice, they do not cramp their muscles by clothes. While we were lunching on the beach at Scaricatori a boatman stood opposite to us, leaning on the high prow of his boat, who was one of the handsomest men that I ever saw. He had no clothes except a linen shirt, open almost to the waist, and linen drawers going half way down the thigh. But though this is the 7th of February, he seemed to want no more.
There was a strong land wind, so we hugged the shore, often passing between a steep headland and an insulated rock. Wherever the ground between the mountain tops and the sea is sufficiently inclined to give a foundation for houses, it is dotted over with large villages, or rather towns, in which the houses rise like steps, tier above tier, and to which the only access is by mule-paths, or from the sea by little coves cut out by the mountain torrents into the precipice.
The most considerable of these towns is Amalfi, once containing, together with Scala, Atrani, and Ravello, which are its suburbs, separated from it only by the sharp promontories which the mountain thrusts out into the sea, 500,000 inhabitants.
Scala now contains the ruins of 130 churches. At that time, that is to say, in the tenth and eleventh centuries, the Republic of Amalfi was one of the first, perhaps the first naval power in the world. It laid down the bases of Maritime Law; it founded the order of the Knights Hospitalers of St. John of Jerusalem, which afterwards became the order of Malta; it preserved for Europe the Pandects; it claims to have invented the compass.
Now its squalid houses line the shore for about a mile, and run up the two deep gorges, each containing a torrent, which are divided by the mountainous promontory, on the top of which are the vast ruins of the Castle of Pontone.
We went up the second gorge which divides Scala from Atrani and Ravello, and then climbed to the plateau on which stands the Cathedral of Ravello. It contains two pulpits with fine arabesque mosaics. In this cathedral Pope Adrian IV. in the twelfth century celebrated mass in the presence of 600 Ravello nobles of whom thirty-six were knights of the order of St. John. I doubt whether there are now 600 families in all Ravello.
Near the cathedral are the remains of a castellated palace, with a cloister in two stories of Moorish pillars and arches: probably the work of a Saracen garrison, with which Roger of Sicily occupied the town in the beginning of the twelfth century.
We slept at La Luna in Amalfi, an ancient convent converted into an inn; the cloister, the arcades of which rest on more than 100 dwarf pillars, is still perfect. We had good beds and clean rooms and tolerable food. Three tallow candles were given to us: when they burned low we asked for more, but none were in the house, and the shops being shut, none were to be bought. So we went to bed for want of light at ten. No fireplaces, but the rooms, looking south over the sea, were warm.
Amalfi is a charming winter residence, but must be stifling in the summer.
Saturday, February 8.—We visited before breakfast the cathedral. Before it is a broad portico, of which the arches rest on columns of different orders and proportions, evidently taken, as are the architraves over the doors, from ancient temples. Within are some good arabesques in mosaic, and some fine columns stolen like those without.
The inhabitants are the most shameless beggars that I have ever seen even in Italy. Old men and women and children are beggars everywhere south of the Alps, but in Amalfi, tall, stout, well-dressed young men ran from their work to implore qualche cosa.
We walked up the Amalfi gorge, till the path terminated in a paper-mill. Every projecting plateau is covered with ruins; some said to be Roman, which I doubt, but many belong to the eighth or ninth centuries. Half way up the mountain the house of Masaniello was pointed out to us.
I am sorry that we had not time to visit Scala. Amalfi in fact requires days: we gave it only an evening and a morning. It is beautifully situated, and is a striking exhibition of decayed power and wealth, but I did not find it so pre-eminently picturesque as I expected. Perhaps in summer when the vines and fig-trees are all green, it may be much more so than it is in winter.
We returned to Sorrento in three hours and three quarters. The safest way to visit Amalfi is to sleep at La Cava, and then go on foot or on a donkey, for there is no carriage road, along the coast path through Vietri, Maiori, and Minori, which takes about four hours and a half. It must be wonderfully beautiful.
The course which we took is the shortest and easiest in fine weather, but either rain or wind would have made it intolerable. Since I have been here however—indeed, since I left Sicily three weeks ago—we have had rain only twice, and then it ceased before noon.
This is, I suppose, the only country in Europe, calling itself civilised, in which a large and populous district has no carriage road to it or through it.
In the evening Tocqueville told us the story of Ben Ferrhat, an Arab chief, which was told to him in the chief’s presence, over a bivouac fire in the desert.
The Duc d’Aumale was crossing the desert to the north of Algeria, at the head of a column consisting of one or two battalions of infantry, 500 French mounted Chasseurs d’Afrique, and 1,000 native cavalry led by Ben Ferrhat.
There was a want of water, and he went with all his cavalry towards some wells on a plateau at some miles’ distance. As they reached the foot of the plateau, about an hour after sunset, the advance guard rode back in great alarm, and reported that on the plateau they had discovered the Smala, or travelling town of Abd-el-Kader. It was known to contain at least 6,000 of his best troops.
The Duke said to retire was impossible, they should be discovered and pursued; that the only thing to do was to attack it. This the Arab auxiliaries refused to do; they were sent back therefore to hasten up the infantry. Ben Ferrhat alone stood by his friends. The French rode up to the camp and dashed into it in one compact body.
The Arabs, surprised in their sleep, and ignorant what might be the number of the assailants, took to flight, leaving their women behind them. Among them was a very handsome girl, the daughter of Kharoubi, Abd-el-Kader’s Prime Minister.
The Duc d’Aumale having performed one really heroic act, thought that he might go a little further, and, more heroico, bestowed the young lady on Ben Ferrhat. Kharoubi, her father, went to Algiers, submitted to the French authorities. and then required the Governor, Marshal Bugeaud, to restore to him his daughter. It was difficult to refuse. The French had solemnly promised to respect the Arab laws, according to which a girl cannot be married without her father’s consent. And his consent to her marriage with Ben Ferrhat, Kharoubi declared that he never had given, and never would give.
On the other hand, Ben Ferrhat was a chief of importance, and had just performed a great service.
After much deliberation, Bugeaud resolved to obey the law, and sent an aide-de-camp to Ben Ferrhat’s camp, forty-eight hours’ ride from Algiers, to require him to surrender his wife. He was much attached to her, and she was pregnant: but he submitted: brought her to Algiers, delivered her to her father, and then retired, like Achilles, to sulk in his desert camp.
Kharoubi, however, did not keep faith with his new superiors. A treasonable correspondence between him and Abd-el-Kader was detected. Bugeaud offered him his life, if he would consent to the marriage. He hesitated for a day, but considering probably that his power of refusal would terminate with his life, at length submitted.
News was sent to Ben Ferrhat, who arrived two days after it reached him, having ridden for forty-eight hours without stopping; and when Tocqueville saw him they were supposed to be a happy couple. ‘He was,’ said Tocqueville, ‘perhaps the handsomest man I ever saw, set off by a magnificent and picturesque dress.’1
Sunday, February 9.—I walked before breakfast to the Cape.
Before the gate of Sorrento, as I went and as I returned, that is at nine and at ten, there was a busy market, in which pork, vegetables, fish, chestnuts, willow withes, crockery, wood, bread, old clothes, and all the abominations which Neapolitans sell in the streets, filled up the road. The wind was north-easterly, and cold; with us the sky was clouded, but Naples lay basking in the sunshine so distinct that it might be supposed to be five miles off instead of eighteen. About two, a thick cloud covered Vesuvius. It suddenly dispersed at three, leaving the mountain white with snow.
The papers brought us in the evening the meagre result of the ‘interpellations’ addressed to the new French Ministry on the the 25th.
‘The Assembly,’ said Tocqueville, ‘has acted as a large heterogeneous body may be expected to act. It has made an attack and recoiled: shown its anger and perhaps its impotence. I have no fear that what may be called the liberties of France, such as they are, will be diminished. We have now enjoyed legal government for thirty-two years; and we shall retain it. But I fear that the monarchical element in our institutions will gain more strength, and that the representative body will be made weaker than has been the case with either of them since the Empire.
‘As for the Assembly, the probability seems to be that until it is roused in May by the great question of the revision of the Constitution, it will sink into inactivity. It has indeed much to do if it chooses to employ itself. There are the laws respecting mortgages to be almost remade. There is a poor-law to be invented. There are municipal institutions to be created. But I fear that after the excitement of this struggle, it will be disgusted by its ill success, be unable to act cordially with the President, or with Ministers whom it despises, and will fritter away the next two months on trifles, or in undignified disputes between the Royalist parties and the Montagne.’
‘Will the revision of the Constitution,’ I said, ‘be a matter of earnest debate? I thought that everybody was agreed as to its necessity.’
‘Everybody,’ answered Tocqueville, ‘is agreed as to the badness of the Constitution, and all sensible and all moderate men are anxious for its revision; not only will it be a matter vehemently debated, but I doubt whether the requisite majority, three-fourths, will be obtained. All the parties who fear that it will be altered in a manner unfavourable to themselves will oppose the revision.
‘The Montagnards of course will oppose it; they know that the next Constitution will be less Republican than this is, and I am not sure what will be the conduct of either the Legitimists, the Orleanists, or the Imperialists if any of them should fear to be a loser.’
Monday, February 10.—We walked to the mountain over the Cape, and thence home by a sort of staircase cut or beaten out on the face of the precipice.
We talked of the great writers of the eighteenth century. Les Quatre it was agreed were Voltaire, Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Buffon.
‘Whom,’ said Ampère to Tocqueville, ‘do you put highest?’
‘Voltaire,’ answered Tocqueville. ‘Nothing can exceed the clearness, the finesse, the gaiety, and yet the simplicity of his style. He had a right to answer, as he did, to a lady who talked to him about the beauty of his phrases, “Madame, je n’ai jamais fait une phrase de ma vie.” Next, perhaps, as to style comes Buffon; sometimes indeed, a little on stilts (the reader easily believes, what we are told, that he never wrote except full dressed, and bien poudré), but brilliant, and flowing, and sometimes even poetical.’
‘Montesquieu is a little artificial; and Rousseau, in his earlier works, indulged in long sentences, managed, it is true, with wonderful skill, but still giving to them a laboured air.
‘It is on his “Confessions” that his fame will rest.’
Tuesday, February 11.—This is the third day of winter, that is, of a violent north-easterly wind, which, when you are exposed to it, renders a great coat necessary. When sheltered from it and in the sun, it is summer. We walked to the two ports of Meta. Meta seems to be a much more thriving place than Sorrento. The streets are clean, and we found no beggars. Like many other towns, however, in the Neapolitan dominions, it has the marks of decay.
We passed many houses that must once have been palaces, with escutcheons, most of them defaced, over the doors, and fine arcaded cortiles within; now tenanted by persons of the lower classes or just above them.
Ampère talked of the revolution of 1848.
‘It quite took me in,’ he said. ‘I believed that power was at last in the hands of the people; that being biassed by no class interests, they would wish to use it for the benefit of all, and that the experience acquired in sixty years of revolution had at length taught them how to employ it. I made a speech to my pupils in the Collége de France, which had the most brilliant success. When I said “We reject demagogues but welcome democracy,” there was a shout that might have been heard across the river.’
‘Yes,’ said Tocqueville. ‘You dined with me on February 24; the events of the morning made me forget the engagement. I came home worn out by the struggle, and overwhelmed by the result, and almost choked with feelings which I had not been able to express. I found you radiant with delight. This was too much. I poured forth on you all my wrath and indignation. I abused you for a man of letters, who knew nothing about politics, and I warned you that whatever or whoever gained by what had happened, it would not be liberty, or the friends of liberty.’
‘Well,’ said Ampère, ‘you were quite right, and since that time I have been afraid to trust myself on politics.’
Wednesday, February 12.—The wind is still north, but its violence is over. To-day there is scarcely a ripple on the sea, and it is too warm for a great coat. It is supposed that the last three days formed the winter of this year. Yesterday, however, was sharp enough to affect seriously M. Ampère; he went out without a great coat, caught cold, and to-day is in bed. We rode and walked to the Marina or Port of Serano, a village between the Piano of Sorrento and Vico. It contains an eminently picturesque martello tower, a little pier running out into the sea, and some houses with arcades and flat roofs in the irregular style of an Italian village; above them rises the mountain, its sides covered with yellow sandstone and sand dotted over with ancient olives. All these are the component parts of Stansfield’s great picture in the dining-room at Bowood, though they are not arranged in the picture precisely as they are in nature. I suspect that Stansfield sketched separately the different parts of the Marina of Serano, and then united them in the manner which he thought best in a picture.
Thursday, February 13.—We walked and rode to the Camaldoli Convent, and returned by the eastern side of the mountain.
Tocqueville talked of the resemblance of the present state of affairs in France to that which existed under the Constitution of l’an III, or of 1795 before the coup d’état of the 18th fructidor.
‘In each case,’ said Tocqueville, ‘the Constitution was made by a single Assembly which had succeeded to a Constitutional Monarchy, and had ruled despotically, comprehending in itself absolute legislative and absolute executive power; in each case an attempt was made to keep the powers separate—to have an executive totally deprived of legislative authority, not possessing even a veto, and a legislative body confined to the business of legislation. In the Constitution of 1795, the separation was complete, for members of the legislative body were excluded from all public functions. The present Constitution allows them to be Ministers.
‘At this instant, however, when not a single Minister is a member of the Assembly, the practical result of each Constitution is the same; and even when the Ministers were taken from the Assembly, the number was so small, that more than 740 members had nothing to do but to make laws. Now, this is not enough to occupy them, and even if it were, an Assembly elected by the people, and believing itself to be the supreme power, cannot resist the temptation to take part in the actual government of the country.
‘The least that it requires is that the government should be carried on by Ministers in whom it has confidence. But the supreme executive power has the same pretension. Not only the power but the duty of selecting the Ministers belongs to it. Under the Constitution of 1795, therefore, as under that of 1848, the choice of Ministers became a subject of quarrel between the executive and the legislative authorities.
‘The Directory was in appearance far less formidable than our President is. It was a composite body and a fluctuating one. What was more important, it was nominated, not by the people, but by the legislature. And what was more important still, the Nation was against it. The Nation, at least that part of the Nation which possessed political power, was Royalist. Not perhaps Bourbonist, but, as it showed two years after the 18th fructidor, Monarchical. And yet the executive then trampled under foot the legislative, almost without a struggle. It did so simply because the army was on its side. The mobs of Marseilles and Paris and the army were the only democratic bodies in France.
‘We had conquered Europe, under the cry of war against kings. Every soldier hoped that under democratic institutions he should become an officer, and almost every officer, for every officer was a roturier, dreaded that if the ancien régime was re-established he would lose all hope of advancement, perhaps even his commission. The army therefore sided with the democratic executive against the aristocratic or monarchical legislature. And it was irresistible; who can say that it would not be so now?
‘Perhaps the best defence of a national guard is the enormous power of the army. It is seldom that a national guard can be relied on against a mob, but it is a great protection against the army, for the soldiers are not easily induced to fire on persons in uniform.’
Friday, February 14.—The winter seems to be over. Though there was a sharp frost this morning, it is warm in the sun, and there is the dazzling haze from the earth which we see only on a hot summer’s day in England. It is about the temperature of our finest weather in the beginning of September.
The news of the President’s demand of an additional civil list of 1,800,000 francs has just reached us. Tocqueville thinks it so hopeless, that it must have been made for the purpose of failing, in order to give him a further subject of complaint against the Assembly.
‘As far as I can judge at this distance,’ he added, ‘both parties seem preparing for a decisive struggle. Each seems to be confident in its strength. There is not a man of any importance in the Assembly who has not joined the opposition. A majority so constituted can scarcely recede. On the other hand, the President thinks that the Nation is with him. If he were to attempt an 18th brumaire, I will not say that he would not succeed. His difficulties would begin with his first success.
‘He has a quality fatal to permanent influence over men;—a love of inferior company, I mean intellectually. He is shy—he has little conversation, no readiness, he cannot speak; he feels, therefore, ill at ease with men of talent—this is one of the reasons why he hates popular bodies. He fears and dislikes orators. He surrounds himself, therefore, with puppets, who, as soon as he tries to use them, will break in his hands.’
Saturday, February 15.—I walked with Tocqueville to Massa and thence towards the Cape.
We talked of Talleyrand. I said that he appeared to me to have been very indiscreet—that nothing could be more indiscreet than his celebrated aphorism ‘that language was given to man to disguise his thoughts.’
‘I do not know,’ answered Tocqueville, ‘that he is to be called indiscreet, for indiscretion is the frankness of a man who does not know that he is laying bare what ought to be kept covered.
‘Talleyrand knew perfectly well that he was talking imprudently, but he yielded to the temptation of a bon mot, a temptation which no Frenchman resists; and perhaps he was right in doing so—for the charms of his conversation were among the means of his success. It was principally through them that he captivated Bonaparte.’
‘Had Bonaparte,’ I asked, ‘good taste in society?’
‘Better,’ answered Tocqueville, ‘than in most other things. His feelings were all aristocratic. He liked people of birth and refinement. He never forgot that he was gentilhomme himself, and though there was something brusque in his general manner, he could be delightful when he chose.’
‘The Empire,’ I said, ‘must have been an amusing time.’
‘Not very much,’ answered Tocqueville, ‘for civilians. They were obscured by the military reputations, and military life passed away almost too rapidly to be amusing. I have heard of whole regiments which in a few years were killed three times over. It seems absurd to say so, but one gets accustomed to being killed. A short time before I left Paris, I was talking to an old friend, Rulhières, who passed through most of the campaigns of the grande armée. He told me that at Friedland his men stood motionless for two hours before a Russian battery;—the only sound heard was the voice of an officer, who, whenever a man was struck, cried, “Emportez-le, et serrez vos rangs.” Nothing but twenty years of war—that is to say, the traditionary rules of conduct formed during twenty years of war—could enable men to exhibit this patient self-devotion. Our revolutionary armies were fanatically daring, but they had not this passive heroism. They would have dashed at the battery and have been blown to pieces.
‘Rulhières,’ he added, ‘told me a characteristic story of a Russian. He was a man of high rank who had been sent to our head-quarters on a mission, and lived for some time on intimate terms with our staff, particularly with Rulhières. At the battle of Eylau Rulhières was taken prisoner. He caught the eye of his Russian friend who came to offer his services. “You can do me,” he said, “an essential service. One of your Cossacks yonder has just seized my horse and cloak. I am dying of fatigue and cold. If you can get them for me, you may save my life.” The Russian went to the Cossack, talked to him rather sharply, probably on the wickedness of robbing a prisoner, got possession of the horse and cloak, put on the one and mounted the other, and Rulhières never saw him again.’
Sunday, February 16.—Tocqueville, Ampère, and I spent a day at Pompeii. I think that I was more struck than the last time by the splendour and good taste of the public edifices, and by the smallness, not of the houses, for each of the considerable houses covers a large space, but of the private rooms: the largest tablinium or drawing-room, and the largest triclinium or dining-room, is about twenty feet square. It is clear that there were no balls or routs in Pompeii, and that the dinner-parties were small. In the male public bath is the bronze framework of a window consisting of four panes, each about 24 inches by 18. The Romans, therefore, had glass windows not differing much from ours. In one house newly discovered, the statues round a fountain remain as they were found. They appeared to me in very bad taste: dogs, ducks, and dolphins of marble like the ornaments in a Dutch tradesman’s garden. Probably the house belonged to a Pompeiian grocer.
Monday, February 17.—I walked with Tocqueville and Ampère to Massa and round by the deserto di Sta Agatha. During the walk and in the evening we talked of the Roman expedition.
‘Of its three motives,’ I said, ‘the maintenance of French influence in Italy, the restoration of the Pope, and the introduction or preservation in Rome of liberal institutions, only the second has been obtained.’
‘The first,’ said Tocqueville, ‘cannot be said to have totally failed. It is true that we have not increased our popularity; the Roman people do not know, indeed nobody knows, the efforts that we have made in their behalf; they do not sufficiently feel that, if we had not interfered, Austria certainly would, and that Radetski would not, have carried on the siege, or used the victory, in quite the same spirit as Oudinot. But still we are there. Austria has it not all her own way. We have shown that we are able and willing to take a decisive part in Italian affairs. If we had refused the Pope’s application, and the Austrians had brought him back, as they certainly would have done, they would have had a pretence to object to any interference on our part. Now as masters of Rome, we have at least a right to be heard. I am not bound, however, to defend the Roman expedition. It was no act of mine. When I entered the cabinet we were already at Civita Vecchia. All that I could do was to impress on Oudinot the necessity of so conducting the siege as to avoid injuring the property of the whole Christian world, the monuments of Rome. In this attempt we succeeded.’
‘Yes,’ said Ampère, ‘almost the whole damage which the siege has done is the destruction of the trees and frescoes in the Borghese Gardens; and this was done not by us, but by the Republican Triumvirs out of pure spite to the prince, for it was totally useless.’
‘This mode of conducting the siege,’ continued Tocqueville, ‘actually occasioned to us some loss of men, and much of time, and exposed us to dangers which make me tremble when I think of them. If the unhealthy season had arrived at its usual time, and found our army encamped on the banks of the Tiber, it would have been laid waste by fever. If Rome had resisted for three weeks longer, this calamity would certainly have overtaken us, and there is no saying what political ones might have followed.
‘Now the mode in which we were proceeding, making no use of shells, and directing our attack only against the quarters where there was nothing valuable to injure, was so slow that the day before the town surrendered, our engineers estimated that it would hold out for twenty or twenty-one days longer. Happily the municipality, which the 20,000 foreign refugees had kept down by the terror of imprisonment, executions, and assassinations, took courage at last, and forced them to let us in; but it was a happiness that we had no right to expect. We owe it in fact principally to Ledru Rollin and his friends. The Roman garrison speculated on the assistance of the Parisian mob. When the failure of that silly insurrection showed that there was no hope from France, they lost heart, suffered the municipality to treat, and began to make their escape during the negotiation.
‘The cardinals at Gaeta during the siege were always contrasting our slow proceedings with the vigour with which the Austrians reduced Bologna. They did not perhaps, in so many words, require us to bombard Rome, but to obey them and bring the siege to an end rapidly, that is what we must have done. And if any other of the Catholic Powers, Spain, or Naples, or Austria, had taken on itself the settling of the Roman affair, the town would have been reduced in a week by destroying perhaps a third of it.
‘From the time that Oudinot entered Rome in July, till we were turned out of office at the end of October, the whole object of my correspondence with Corcelle was to induce the Pope to grant liberal institutions to his people. I considered this as the most important of the three objects of the expedition: as an object affecting not only our interests, but our honour; as an object without which the whole expedition was a lamentable failure.’
‘As between you and the Pope,’ I said, ‘I suppose that you founded your right to make this demand on his having required your aid?’
‘Certainly,’ he answered. ‘When a sovereign requests a friendly Power to send an army into his territories, not to resist a foreign enemy, but to put down a domestic insurrection, he contracts a tacit engagement with that Power to follow, at least to a considerable degree, its advice as to the use to be made of the victory. You occupied Sicily merely as auxiliaries, but you made the king give it a constitution.’
‘And on what,’ I asked, ‘did you found your right as against the Roman Republic?’
‘As against the Triumvirs,’ he answered, ‘on their being at the head of a horde of foreign ruffians driven into Rome by the disgust and indignation of all other countries—who were oppressors of the Roman people.
‘As against the Roman people, on the ground that France is the first Catholic Power, that the spiritual authority of the Pope is essential to the welfare of the Catholic world, and that some degree of temporal power is necessary for the permanent exercise of his spiritual power. On these grounds what appear to be the domestic affairs of Rome, and would be its domestic affairs if the Pope was at Avignon, have always been a matter in which the rest of Europe, Protestant as well as Catholic, has thought itself justified in interfering.’
‘And what,’ I said, ‘were the concessions which you required from the Pope?’
‘They were five,’ he answered.
‘First. A renewed recognition of the general principle of liberty and security proclaimed by the Pope in his celebrated statute of the 17th March, 1848.
‘Secondly. A new organisation of the Roman Courts of Justice.
‘Thirdly. A Civil Code resembling the Code of Piedmont, or of Naples, which are in fact taken from the Code of Napoleon.
‘Fourthly. Elective Municipal and National Councils. The Pope by his motu proprio of the 14th October, 1847, created a National Assembly called a “Consulta,” which was authorised to advise, but not to legislate. We required one which should have deliberative power on matters of taxation.
‘Fifthly. The secularisation of the public administration.
‘Of these requisitions, the two last were of course the most material. We perhaps attached most importance to vesting in an elected body the powers of taxation, but as respects the feelings of the Roman people, the substitution of a lay for a clerical administration was the most urgent of all reforms. Their hatred against their ecclesiastical rulers is indescribable. It is such that the Pope can retain them only while his capital is occupied by foreign troops. The instant that we go, unless the Austrians take our place, there will be a new revolution which will sweep away every clerical functionary.’
‘You did not seriously hope,’ I replied, ‘to obtain all these demands.’
‘I believe,’ he answered, ‘that when we made them, many of them were hopeless,—though I thought it my duty to urge all of them as earnestly as if I expected to gain my point. But there was a time when they might at least have been promised, and perhaps ostensibly performed. That was when Pio Nono first asked our assistance. He had then quarrelled with Austria. Naples was democratic,—he was on bad terms with Piedmont, and applied only to us. Cavaignac was timid and refused; but, if we ought to have interfered at all, that was the time. When the Pope was at Gaeta surrounded by the Spanish, Neapolitan, and Bavarian ministers, when he had lost Rossi, when he had thrown himself into the hands of the cardinals, it was too late to prescribe terms to him. Corcelle could get nothing but general promises. When he asked for something specific, Cardinal Antonelli complained that he was interfering between the Pope and his subjects. With great exertion he was prevailed on to grant an amnesty; but it was subject to so many generic exceptions that it rather resembled a proscription. All who had sat in the Constituent Chamber, for example, were excepted. All who had taken advantage of any previous amnesty, even all who had assisted in the destruction of houses for purposes of defence. We could not stand this. We told the Pope plainly that no executions should take place in a town in which the French flag was flying, and we gave those who were excluded from the amnesty the means of reaching England or America.
‘Every other request was met by a passive resistance. With so weak a man as Pio Nono the influence of those immediately about him is omnipotent. The cardinals, old, ignorant, timid and selfish, detest all change, and he does not venture to differ from them.
‘When urged by Corcelle, he used to answer, “That neither threats nor entreaties would lead him to violate a scruple,—that he was as much Pope at Gaeta as at Rome, and that the French might do as they liked.”
‘We were more than once in danger of his throwing Rome on our hands. He wanted at one time to go to Lorretto. Corcelle remarked that as our Lady of Lorretto was at that time under the protection of Austrian bayonets, such a journey would be unpopular at Rome. But he was met by a statement of the Pope’s special veneration for that Virgin. What could one answer to such arguments? It was like a contest with a woman.
‘He felt deeply his want of power to act for himself. He seems to have thought seriously of trying to obtain some administrators from France, and he bitterly lamented the loss of Rossi. He said to Corcelle, “C’est le seul homme d’état capable de soutenir une nouvelle politique que j’ai pu trouver, et on me l’a tué.”
‘His religious prejudices, too, are very sensitive. When Corcelle talked to him of legislative reforms, and suggested the institutions of France as a good model, he asked with an expression of alarm, whether we had not legalized divorce?
‘It was a great misfortune to Rome, to us, and indeed to the Pope himself, that he did not execute his original intention of taking refuge in France. The scheme was, that the Duc d’Harcourt, our Minister in Rome, should arrange the means of taking him to France, and that the Bavarian Minister should carry him to Gaeta, where he was to embark. So Harcourt with all the Pope’s baggage went to Civita Vecchia, the same night that the Pope went to Gaeta. Harcourt found the “Vauban” at Civita Vecchia, and came round with her to Gaeta. By that time the Pope had been two days in Gaeta, had been received with all sorts of honours and veneration, and found himself so comfortable that he refused to move farther. Harcourt ought to have foreseen this, and have taken the Pope instead of his trunks to Civita Vecchia.
‘The whole influence of Naples was of course unfavourable to us, and it was exercised in the teasing, childish manner which was to be expected from her.
‘When Corcelle reached Gaeta, carrying the first intelligence of our entry into Rome, and eager to make an impression on the Pope while his heart was expanded by good news, he was put into quarantine, on the pretext that the “Cerbère” which brought him came from Toulon, and that there was cholera in Paris.
‘He protested; the Ministers could not venture to decide. The King was consulted; he asked for further explanations, and after a long delay Corcelle was permitted to land; but his papers and his secretary were detained on board the “Cerbère” in quarantine, and it was only the following evening that the King was induced to connive at Corcelle’s going thither by night and stealing them.’
‘How did the Austrians behave?’ I asked.
‘Better,’ he answered, ‘than could have been expected. Austria was then professing to be constitutional, and affecting liberality. Esterhazy, who represented Austria at Gaeta, thoroughly approved, at least in his conversations with Corcelle, the secularisation of the Government, and the power of the Consulta in matters of taxation.
‘It is remarkable that one of the grounds on which the President dismissed us was our not obtaining greater concessions from the Pope; but directly we were gone, he himself, or at least his Ministers, gave up everything. His vanity was satisfied with having insulted the Pope by his letter to Ney, and with having insulted the Chamber by turning out a Ministry without consulting it, and his interest in the affairs of Rome was then over.’
‘But what,’ I asked, ‘could you have done if you had remained, and the Pope had continued obstinate?’
‘We could have set ourselves,’ answered Tocqueville, ‘right with Europe, and have refused to sanction by our presence what we could not prevent.
‘Our intention was, in that event, to draw up a protest stating all that we had asked on behalf of the Roman people—the grounds on which we had asked it, and the manner in which it had been refused or eluded. To present it to the Pope, to publish it in the “Moniteur,” and to withdraw our troops from Rome, leaving this appeal to Europe and to posterity. This was the threat which we found most effective with the Pope. In the full consciousness of his unassailable spiritual power he was indifferent to the manner in which we might think fit to deal with his temporal authority, provided we did not ask for his concurrence. But he dreaded being brought to the bar of public opinion. Another menace, which from time to time we threw out, though with less sincerity, for I doubt whether we should have ventured to put it in force, was a Congress on the affairs of Rome. A Congress to which, as was the case in 1831, the Protestant Powers with Catholic subjects must have been admitted.
‘This alarmed him, but I suspect that he saw that it would be nearly as disagreeable to us as to himself.’
Tuesday, February 18.—Tocqueville suffered yesterday from the sun, and Ampère has not recovered his strength; so to-day we walked in the shade through the Sorrentine lanes. In the middle of the town is an Egyptian kneeling figure of black marble. Ampère read the inscription. It appears to have been made in the reign of Sethos, the father of Sesostris or Rhameses the Second, the greatest king of the great eighteenth dynasty. It belongs, therefore, to the most brilliant period of Egyptian art and power, about 900 years before the foundation of Rome.
‘We wonder,’ said Ampère, ‘at the magnificence of Imperial Rome; at the vastness of its theatres, and temples, and palaces, and its forums, one succeeding another. But all this was merely elegant and pretty compared to Thebes at the time when that statue was carved. Thebes covered a larger space than Rome in its greatest days. The temples and palaces of Thebes were grander in their size and in their proportions. The Coliseum itself is far less impressive than the great temple of Carnac, with its 160 columns each sixty feet high.’
Wednesday, February 19.—The wind has turned to the south-east, and is damp. We wandered along the ravines of the Piano, looking into deep winding gorges, covered, wherever there is soil enough to receive a root, with oranges and olives. We talked of the Russian army.
‘It is the only continental army,’ said Tocqueville, ‘for which our soldiers have any respect. They do not believe that the Germans, and of course, still less the Italians or the Spaniards, would have any chance against them with equal, or nearly equal numbers; but they dread the Russians. Excepting at Austerlitz, and then the Russians were commanded by Alexander, they have never suffered a complete defeat.
‘At Eylau, at Friedland, at Borodino they were beaten—that is to say, they had to quit the field of battle, but their material force was not seriously injured, and their courage and discipline were untouched.
‘Lamoricière, who is an excellent judge, returned from Petersburg in 1849, full of admiration. The officers are ignorant, and not always well affected, but the men have almost all the qualities that can be wished for; they can live on almost nothing, bear any fatigue and privation, have a mixture of love and adoration for their Emperor, glory in being Russians and soldiers, and as they are soldiers for life, are perfectly drilled and disciplined.
‘He was present at a great religious ceremony at Warsaw. Before the altar was the Emperor kneeling with the appearance of fervid devotion. Round him was a staff of generals and aides-de-camp, whispering and joking, for the Russian higher classes have taken up infidelity since we have left it off. But beyond these were the troops gazing on the altar and on the Emperor, with apparently equal reverence.’
Thursday, February 20.—It was hot in the sun before breakfast, but towards noon clouded over, and in the evening some rain fell; the first since the day after our arrival, nearly a month ago.
We talked in the evening of the Memoirs of Louis XVIII. I said that they had deceived Lord Granville, who told me in 1832 that he thought them authentic.
‘They were written,’ said Tocqueville, ‘by some one who had excellent information: those memoirs, and those of un homme d’état, and the Mémorial de Ste. Hélène are to be separated from the ordinary manufactures, such as those of Madame du Barry, Fouché, &c., &c.
‘Who wrote,’ I said, ‘the Mémorial de Ste. Hélène?’
‘An abbé de Château vieux,’ said Tocqueville, ‘who kept the secret, except to one or two intimate friends, during his life, but revealed it by his will. He wrote nothing else very remarkable, and was not even a Parisian, which accounts for his never having been suspected.’
From the Memoirs of Louis XVIII. we passed to the man.
‘He was,’ said Tocqueville, ‘the only sovereign of France who has had the good sense, or the patience to govern constitutionally. He made a few mistakes at the beginning—offended the army by his gardes du corps, and still more by Ney’s execution; but during the remainder of his reign he took his Ministers from the majority, and his policy from his Ministers, and reigned in as Parliamentary a manner as if he had been King of England.
‘It has been said that the Bourbons are a worn-out race, and Louis XVI., Ferdinand I. of Naples, and Charles IV. of Spain are used as examples: but what can be more thoroughly Bourbon than Louis Philippe’s family—the children of a French Bourbon by a Neapolitan Bourbon? And yet they would be a most distinguished family in private life. I cannot but believe that the French Bourbons are still destined to act a great part, and their present fortunes are preparing them for it.’
We left Sorrento on the next day for Rome.
Rome, March 1, 1851.
My dear M. de Tocqueville,—
I impressed on Lady Holland’s mind your ineffectual attempt to see her when you were last in Naples, and she hopes that next time you come you will let her know beforehand, and they will keep themselves disengaged for you.
We are splendidly lodged here, in the only set of apartments we could find in Rome, and find the hotel pre-eminent in excellence. From our rooms we see nothing but gardens, and do not hear a single sound except our own voices. The cooking and attendance are perfect.
I could hear no English news in Naples, but I found here a letter from Lord Lansdowne, dated February 17. ‘You have escaped,’ he says, ‘a religious storm which rages with a fury that can scarcely be said to abate. It might have been avoided altogether, had nothing been desired but an improved organisation for the spiritual objects of the R. C. priesthood, and the mode of effecting it chosen with some knowledge of the temper of the people here, the great bulk of whom are more Protestant than ever in feeling, and have had this feeling wounded at every point that was most susceptible. Still with the exception of a few contemptible instances, the whole discussion has been carried on in a far more tolerant tone than would have been the case half a century ago.’
All the world here is mad with the Carnival, therefore I have delivered no letters, and seen nobody.
Kindest regards from us all to you and Madame de Tocqueville, and tell M. Ampère that we are anxiously looking out for him.
N. W. Senior.
I have just seen M. de Rayneval—very kind and very pleasing. Many inquiries after you.
Sorrento, March 31, 1851.
My dear Mr. Senior,—
Ampère has of course told you that we have been, to our great regret, obliged to give up our visit to Rome. He, no doubt, has explained the reasons which have forced upon us this decision. They are all connected with the health of Madame de Tocqueville.
Some excursions which I persuaded her to take after your departure have proved to me that she could scarcely endure the fatigue of the long land journey, or to do justice to the sights of Rome. I was afraid that her health might become as disordered as it was last year, and that we might be kept for a long while away from our country, at a time when it is so esnecsary for me to return thither.
Having well weighed all these considerations, we have made up our minds and are going straight back to France by sea. Of all sorts of travelling it is the one which I dislike most, but under the circumstances it is the safest.
We probably shall start on the 4th or the 14th of April, and in either case if we meet with no accidents shall be in Paris before the 1st of May. The certainty of often seeing you there consoles us for not being able to join you, as we intended, in Rome.
As far as I know there is no news in Sorrento, and as for what is happening in the rest of the world, especially in France, I know no longer anything at all about it. When one has been absent from that country for more than five months one must give up forming any judgment or speaking about it. The study must begin over again.
Don Gaetano continues to make little figures like those which we admired together, and Don Raffaelle continues to gape in our faces. This is all the intelligence which I can collect for you, for I think that I have caught the prevailing malady of the country, and that I am beginning to be as much without ideas as are all the inhabitants.
Remember us particularly to your ladies.
A. de Tocqueville.
Rome, April 22, 1851.
My dear M. de Tocqueville,—
Our motions have been so uncertain that I could not venture to write before, but I now can tell you that we shall be in Paris either Friday the 2nd or Saturday the 3rd of May.
Ampère will tell you all our news up to about ten days ago. We have been most rigorous sight-seers, and are so sick of seeing that we have serious thoughts of shutting ourselves up and resolving not to see another sight for six months.
There is, however, not a sight but a hearing for which I am anxious, and that is your Assembly. I have very often been troublesome to you about it before and venture to be so again, and to beg you if you can get me a good card of admission to do so.
We are very happy to think that we shall so soon see you and Madame de Tocqueville again.
We look back to Sorrento as the pleasantest part of our tour.
Best regards to you both from us all.
N. W. Senior.
Paris, Rue de la Paix, May 3, 1851.—We left Italy on the 27th of April, and passed the 30th at Marseilles, with the Palmers, eminent machine makers. They complained bitterly of the commercial state of France. They merely execute orders: as the wants of the purchasers of machines are peculiar, each man requiring his own form, construction, and power, they cannot accumulate stock. Ever since 1841 those who ought, and used, to be their customers have been without confidence in the security of persons and property, and therefore have suspended as far as was possible all expensive operations. What is the real danger, they can seldom explain, but they keep repeating, ‘Ça ne peut pas durer;’ ‘Quelque chose arrivera;’ and these indistinct fears keep them inactive. Before 1848 they kept 1,000 workmen, now they engage only 400, and have the greatest difficulty in keeping these employed.
Rue de la Paix, May 4.—I went early in the morning to see Tocqueville, and found him sitting with Beaumont. I related my conversation with the Palmers at Marseilles.
‘The Marseillais are quite right,’ said Beaumont, ‘in believing that “ça ne peut pas durer;” but they are wrong in the importance they attach to a revolution. A revolution no longer interrupts the ordinary progress of society. The whole machinery of Government continues to work much in the same way, whatever be the changes in the moving power which directs it. Justice, police, revenue—in short, the whole interior administration for which Government is instituted, go on by force of the original impulse given to them under the Convention, and under the Empire; just as the human heart beats, and the human lungs play, independently of the will of their possessor. This is the most consoling result of our recent experience. If, as it seems probable, we are to pass the rest of our lives among revolutions, it is some comfort that a revolution is no longer the period of destruction, or even of disorganisation, that it once was.
‘The political horizon,’ said Tocqueville, ‘is darker, that is to say, obscurer, than I ever knew it to be. At Sorrento I thought that I could see a little before me. Since I am in Paris I give up all attempts at prophecy or even conjecture. One thing only is certain, that a legal solution of the questions that will have to be decided next year is impossible. The President will not consent to consider himself ineligible. Even if he were to do so, his friends would not act on that supposition. He will certainly be on the list of candidates, and the result perhaps most to be desired, or least to be deprecated, is that he should be re-elected by a majority so large as to be considered to speak the voice of the nation, and therefore to legalise its own act though opposed to the existing law. It must be remembered that by that time the new Assembly will have been elected, and the present Assembly therefore, though technically possessed of its full powers, will have lost its moral influence, and will be unable to oppose the public will.
‘But even this result, though less formidable than the simultaneous change of the holders of all executive power and of all legislative power, will be an event of which the certain mischief will be great, the possible mischief enormous. What will be the effect on men’s minds of a violation of the Constitution deliberately made by the nation, at the instigation of its chief magistrate? Who will respect a Constitution which the people has set aside in one of its most important provisions? That Constitution, bad as it is, is our only bulwark. Nothing else stands between us and either anarchy or despotism. The President is formidable enough as he is. What will he be when his mere election will have been a triumph over the only restraint that keeps him in—the Constitution? It is difficult even now to protect property from systematic plunder, and authority from organised revolt. What will be the difficulty after the Executive itself for many months has been employing thousands of agents to urge the people to break the law and has succeeded? Every exit seems besieged by some frightful spectre.
‘At present there is a lull; parties are preparing for the discussion as to the revision of the Constitution, which cannot come on until the 28th.’
May 8.—Mrs. Grote and I drank tea with Tocqueville. We talked of V.’s1 theory as to the unfitness of France for a mixed Government.
‘I do not see,’ said Tocqueville, ‘why what has been, should not be again. We endured a mixed Government for thirty-three years, why should we be incapable of enduring one now?
‘I admit, however, that in order to enable a Government, in which the supreme power is divided, to be permanent; to last, as yours has done, for centuries, the ruling authorities must possess an amount of patience and forbearance which never has been granted to ours, and therefore I do not expect a mixed Government in France to be permanent, that is to say to be uninterrupted. Among thousands of possibilities, that which appears to me the least improbable is, that during the greater part of the next hundred years, France will be subject to a Constitutional Monarchy, from time to time interrupted by a despotic or by a democratic revolution.’
‘Of course,’ I said, ‘the form of mixed Government under which you are living will not last?’
‘Of course,’ he answered, ‘it will not. A despotic monarchy, or a despotic aristocracy, may retain its power for centuries, against the will of its subjects, but an unpopular democracy sounds like a contradiction in terms, and must soon become a contradiction in fact. As soon as the people has found the means of ascertaining and expressing its will, it will select, or accept, or submit to the master whom it prefers to self-government.
‘Those who imposed on us this Constitution knew that it would be unpopular; they tried to prolong its existence, first by pre-determining the mode in which it should be altered, and secondly by making that legal mode almost impracticable. Three quarters of the Assembly will not join in the vote, from which a third, perhaps nearly a half, of its members fear much more than they hope.’
‘Will you then break,’ I said, ‘the band which you cannot untie—will you proceed to a revision on a simple majority?’
‘I believe,’ he answered, ‘that the Government will make the attempt—and it was the fear of having to do this that prevented my friends and me from taking office. The danger of such a course is enormously increased by the new electoral law. Under a system of universal suffrage, the new Constituent Assembly could not have been said to be illegally elected. It would really have represented the whole nation. Now it will represent only a minority. Those who wish to resist its acts may proclaim them void, as the acts of a political body doubly illegal—illegally convoked and illegally nominated. The whole conduct and tone of the present administration convinces me that they have considered this risk and are resolved to encounter it. They are bolder than I am.’
Wednesday, May 14.—Before breakfast I sat for some time with Tocqueville. We talked of the ministerial plans.
‘To hope,’ said Tocqueville, ‘for a legal majority of the revision, is childish; though I have no doubt that an actual, and even a considerable one will be obtained. But I do not believe that that majority will sanction a revision in defiance of the law. Nor do I think that the Government will make the attempt without the sanction of the Assembly. It would be a “politique à se casser le cou, même à se faire couper le cou.” If the President attempts it, he will find himself in Vincennes.’
‘What then,’ I asked, ‘will the Government do?’
‘Nothing,’ he answered; ‘it will drift down the current, and that current is carrying us towards a rock, towards a Rouge Assembly.
‘I have always told you,’ he continued, ‘that there is no danger of a Rouge Assembly unless the Government create it. This Government is creating it. Its administration is a blister to the country. Everything is done that can irritate the friends of progress and even of liberty.
‘Faucher1 is a man of great honesty, great courage, and great knowledge—except the knowledge of men. He is active, obstinate, and injudicious. Such men are the ruin of a ministry, indeed of a party.’
‘What are the faults,’ I asked, ‘to which you refer when you describe this as an irritating Government?’
‘In this country,’ he answered, ‘the whole nature of the internal administration depends on the impulse and direction given to it by its chiefs.
‘According to the instructions of the minister, any given law is executed loosely and indulgently, or strictly, or not at all. Under Faucher all is rigour and vigour. All the strings are stretched to the utmost. National guards are disbanded. Mayors are dismissed. Journals are suspended. The hand of Government is everywhere felt, and everywhere presses heavily.’
Saturday, May 17.—I found Tocqueville with us this afternoon when I returned from the Duc de Broglie’s.
He asked me what were the Duc de Broglie’s views,1 and was glad to hear that he was determined to stand by the Republic.
‘The Monarchical parties,’ he said, ‘are contemptible; the Legitimists are hated and feared by nine-tenths of the people; the Orleanists are a set of generals without an army; the Bonapartists have an army but no leaders.’
But he does not share the Duke’s expectation that on the question of revision the minority will yield.
‘It might yield,’ he said, ‘if the majority were compact and earnest; it might yield if the majority were cordially supported by the nation. But the nation is divided; it knows that the Constitution is faulty, but it is not sure that it will be exchanged for anything better. It would see with pleasure a few points selected for amendment, but it looks forward with terror to a new Constituent Assembly which may avow principles which were with difficulty rejected in 1848; which may bring back le droit au travail and le droit au secours. The majority shares these fears, and though it will vote for the revision, because it would be unable to justify to its constituents a refusal to amend what it admits to be defective, a large portion of it will not be sorry that the legal majority is not obtained.’
‘But why,’ I said, ‘not vote for a restricted revision, for the covering only of what experience has shown to be palpable blots?’
‘Because,’ he answered, ‘even a respectable majority cannot be obtained for the purpose. The instant you come to details, each party looks to its own interests, and there is scarcely a point on which even three out of five agree. I own that I am inclined to think that one of the least objectionable parts of our Constitution is the difficulty which it throws in the way of change. The framers foresaw that the period of revision would be one of great danger, and they wisely endeavoured to postpone it, at least until the experiment of the Republic should have been made. This has not yet been done; for a Constitution which all who administer it are striving to overthrow, cannot be said to have been fairly tried. This general desire for revision is not the result of an appreciation of the merits and defects of the Constitution—it is the restlessness of a sick man who wishes to turn in his bed. All parties seem convinced that the revision will produce some form of Monarchy. Hence the violence with which it is urged on by the anti-Republicans and opposed by the Montagne. I do not share this conviction. Under our system of voting by lists, a compact minority which concentrates all its votes on its own candidates, has a great chance of beating a divided majority which supports as many candidates as it contains factions. I should not be surprised at seeing Rouge representatives from many of the departments on which the anti-Republican parties now rely. So clearly do I see the dangers of the revision, that I could not bring myself to vote for it, if I saw any other less dangerous course. But danger surrounds us on every side. Great and general as the alarm is, I believe it to be less than that which is justified by our situation.
‘The Constitution,’ he added, ‘with all its defects might be endurable, if we could only believe in its permanence. But we read History. We see that republican institutions have never lasted in France, and we infer that those which we have now must be short-lived. This reading of History is our bane. If we could forget the past, we might apply a calm impartial judgment to the present. But we are always thinking of precedents. Sometimes we draw them from our own history, sometimes from yours. Sometimes we use the precedent as an example, sometimes as a warning. But as the circumstances under which we apply it always differ materially from those under which it originally took place, it almost always misleads us.
‘We indicted Louis XVI. for conspiracy against the nation, because you had indicted Charles I. We substituted Louis Philippe for Charles X. as you had substituted Mary for James.
‘Louis XVI. believed that Charles I. had lost his crown and his life by raising his standard at Edge Hill. So he tried non-resistance. Charles X. saw that his brother’s submission was fatal, and had recourse to the ordonnances and to his army. Louis Philippe recollected the fate of Charles X. and forbad his troops to act. Thus the pendulum oscillates, and generally oscillates wrong.’
Thursday, May 22.—Before breakfast I called on Tocqueville. We talked of the prospects of Louis Napoleon.
‘They have become far less favourable,’ said Tocqueville, ‘during the last six months, and are darkening every day.
‘There are three modes only in which he can attempt to retain power. One, of course, is through the revision of the Constitution; but this is not practicable, unless the state of public feeling not only changes, but runs in a direction opposite to its present current. The Chamber will not by the legal majority vote the revision, and will not, in the absence of that majority, sanction the revision.
‘Another is a coup d’état. He may summon a Constituent body in defiance both of the Constitution and of the Assembly. This too would fail; the national guards and the army would side with the Assembly. It is very doubtful whether the Assembly and the President together could effect a coup d’état. Neither of them could do so in opposition to the other.
‘The last means is to be re-elected, though an illegal candidate, by an overwhelming majority. If this be his plan, his whole conduct is opposed to it. For that purpose he ought to be on good terms with the Assembly: he is constantly attacking it. He ought to appear to have no selfish views: all that he does seems to be prompted by personal motives—by vanity as respects the present, by ambition as respects the future. His administration ought to be as conciliatory as the safety of the country will allow it to be. Its roughness and insolence, its arbitrary dismissal of public functionaries, its suspension of newspapers, its interference in elections, the rudeness of its subordinates—in short, its generally irritating and unscrupulous character, are making enemies every day. In my own department, La Manche, one of the most conservative in France, the Rouge candidates, though happily still in a minority, are twice as strong as they were six months ago. Either he does not know what his ministers are doing, or he does not know what the effect of such a system must be.’
‘Though the revision of the Constitution,’ I said, ‘is impossible at present, the time for it must come. Do you think that an Upper Chamber will be one of the elements of the new one?’
‘I hope,’ he continued, ‘that it will be. I voted for it and I shall vote for it again. A single Chamber seems to me to be a bad instrument of legislation. Still, however, as an antagonistic force, as a means of keeping in check the enormous power which we have given to our executive, it is more efficient than a double Chamber. I think that the Assembly has resisted the encroachments of the President better than could have been done by two Houses, each employing only a portion of the supreme legislative authority.’
‘I suppose,’ I said, ‘that you will in time return to Hereditary Monarchy.’
‘It would be rash,’ he answered, ‘to say that we shall not, but I do not see my way to it. The Fusion does not gain ground. In fact, what is called Fusion by the Orleanists is simply going over to the Legitimist side; for what do they get for the party which they call their own? They offer to make Henri V. King; and what is he to do for them in return? To acknowledge that the Comte de Paris is his cousin and heir—which will not be more certain, nor more notorious than it was before. The Anti-Fusionists of the Orleans party hate the Fusionists more bitterly even than they do the Legitimists.’
‘What are Thiers’ views?’ I asked.
‘His conduct,’ answered Tocqueville, ‘is inexplicable. He is attacking the President, the Republicans, and the Legitimists with a violence which, if his power were equal to his animosity, would end in bringing on some great catastrophe. His opposition to the Fusionists may perhaps be explained, for he sees Guizot among them, and you may often predict what will be the conduct of Thiers or of Guizot, if you know what the other will do. But knowing, as he must do, that the immediate restoration of the Orleanist branch is impossible, he must, one would think, know that his attacks on every other means of government must, if they could succeed, produce anarchy.’
May 23.—Z. paid me his promised visit.1
The Tocquevilles drank tea with us, the first time that either of them had ventured out in the evening.
I repeated my conversation with Z.
‘I think,’ said Tocqueville, ‘that Z. is too confident as to the maintenance of the law of the 31st of May. It is impossible to deny that that law is inconsistent with a Constitution which professes to rest on universal suffrage. It is impossible to deny that in many places, especially in the country, it has worked exceedingly ill; that its obscurity has frequently occasioned it to be misinterpreted, and not seldom has enabled the persons entrusted with the register to admit or reject claims according to the politics of the claimant; and that it has disfranchised many hundreds of thousands on technical grounds. The pressure on the Assembly for its repeal will be great. The Montagne however, by its intemperance, is doing all it can to force the Assembly to retain its law as a point of honour. That party is probably not unwilling that so irritating a grievance should be kept alive. But the decision may not rest with the Assembly. It is true that if the President were to attempt a coup d’état for an obviously selfish purpose, he would fail. But I am not sure that he would fail if he were to try a popular coup d’état. It is not easy to resist the combined action of the mob and the executive.
‘The new electoral law is eminently unfavourable to the prolongation of his power; it disfranchises his supporters, and it will prevent his re-election from being the work of the nation. It is a favourite too with his enemy the Assembly. There are strong reasons for his striving to get rid of it by force; and he is quite rash enough to make the attempt.’
Tocqueville was amused by Z.’s enumeration of the concessions made by the Legitimists, and would not admit that the Orleanists gave up nothing.
‘It is true,’ he said, ‘that they have no legal claims to the Crown. It is true that they have few friends; and it follows that they have no immediate chance of success. I foresee no possible combination of events which during the next three or four years would enable them to mount the throne to the exclusion of Henri V. But it is not true that they have no prospects, no avenir. If they have fewer friends than Henri V., they have fewer enemies. They offer to the French people a form of Government which suits us far better than a Republic, and they offer it untainted by the feudal insolence of the old régime, or by the wars and calamities of the Empire.
‘The least objectionable Monarchy would be the Monarchy of the Comte de Paris. As I said before, that is now impossible. The Protestantism of the Duchess of Orleans is alone an insurmountable objection. It opposes to her the whole influence of the clergy, and that influence is stronger now than it has been since the death of Louis XIV.
‘Nothing so much strengthened the Legitimists as the Protestantism which surrounded the Orleanists. But a few years hence, when the age of the Comte de Paris diminishes the fear of his mother’s influence; when Guizot has retired from politics to history; when we are thoroughly tired of Presidents and Executive Commissions, we may think of using la branche cadette, as the best lever to raise us out of the mire of liberty, equality, and fraternity.
‘In co-operating to bring back Henri V. the Orleanists give up this chance. It may not be great, but it is something.’
We left Paris on the next morning.
Versailles, July 2, 1851.
My dear Senior,—
One of my best friends, who is at the same time a very distinguished member of our Assembly, M. de Combarel, is going to pass a few days in London with Madame de Combarel. I recommend them very particularly to your kindness, and shall be grateful for any attentions which you may be inclined to confer on them. M. de Combarel is well informed as to the complicated state of our affairs, and you will be glad to discuss them with him.
Living as I do in the country1 and absorbed by the labour imposed on me by the commission for the revision, I was not able to visit Lord Monteagle till the day before he left Paris, when I did not find him at home. Pray be so good as to express to him my regret and make my excuses.
A. de Tocqueville.
Kensington, July 15, 1851.
My dear Tocqueville,—
The Combarels did not present themselves. They were probably too much engaged with the matériel of London to hunt up the personnel. I hope that we may be more fortunate another time.
Well, your report is out, and has enchanted everybody. It has also convinced everybody, except perhaps me. You remember that when we talked over the question of the prolongation you thought the re-election of Louis Napoleon, though an illegal candidate, by a large majority—a majority speaking the voice of the people, the least objectionable solution. Perhaps his Dijon échappée, or perhaps his allocution at Poictiers, have induced you to change your mind.
I see now that you are less favourable to the scrutin de liste. There are few subjects on which so much may be said on each side, as on the comparative advantages and disadvantages of separate and collective voting.
We have all been spinning round in the whirlpool of the London season; but by next week it will become calmer.
Our politics are all as flat as possible. Papal aggression, or at least the bill against it, has been found out to be a humbug. Since I have been here I have read the Papal bull and Cardinal Wiseman’s pastoral. They are written on the model of Chinese state papers. Nothing but puerile flatulence. It must be degrading to humanity to be governed, and directed spiritually and temporarily, by people who can seriously publish such nonsense.
Gladstone is come back foaming against Naples. Lord Aberdeen has shown me a letter of his which treats the King of Naples, and generally the Italian Governments, much worse than even my journals do. I see that on Italian matters we are becoming Carbonari, and look rather with hope than fear to the probability of a French army crossing the Alps to drive out the King, Grand Dukes, and Pope.
Kindest regards from us all to you and Madame de Tocqueville. Let us hear when you can.
N. W. Senior.
Versailles, July 27, 1851.
My dear Senior,—
I am satisfied with the general effect which my report has produced in France, and delighted by its reception in England. I care almost as much about what is said of me on your side of the Channel as I do for what is said of me on ours. So many of my opinions and feelings are English, that England is to me almost a second country intellectually.
How comes it that my reasons in favour of the revision have not convinced you? What inconsistency is there between this report and my conversations with you at Sorrento?
I then thought the unconstitutional re-election of the President very probable. I think so still. Although Louis Napoleon has effectually alienated the higher classes, and almost all our eminent political men; although his popularity among the lower classes has much diminished, and is diminishing every day; notwithstanding all this, I confess that I still think his re-election nearly inevitable, partly in consequence of the want of any competitor, and partly in consequence of our general anxiety. I believe that the Bonapartist current, if it can be turned aside at all, can be turned aside only by meeting a revolutionary current, which will be still more dangerous; and lastly, I believe that if he were to be illegally re-elected, any amount of attack on our liberties would become possible.
So convinced was I of this six months ago, that I remember telling you that I should probably retire from public life in order to have nothing to do with a government which may try to destroy, in law or in fact, all constitutional institutions, and perhaps, exhausted as we are, might for a time succeed.
The government which I should prefer, if I thought it possible, would be a republic; but, believing its continuance impossible, I should see without regret Louis Napoleon become our permanent ruler, if I could believe that he would be supported by the higher classes, and would be able and desirous to rule constitutionally. But I told you then that I did not believe either of these things to be possible, and all that I see convinces me that I was right.
The President is as proof against all constitutional ideas as Charles X. was. He has his own idea of legitimacy, and he believes as firmly in the imperial constitution as Charles X. did in divine right. Then he separates himself more and more every day from almost all the men whose talents or experience fit them for public business, and is reduced to rely on the instincts and passions of the peuple1 properly so called. His re-election, therefore, especially if illegal, may have disastrous consequences. And yet it is inevitable, unless resisted by an appeal to revolutionary passions, which I do not wish to rouse in the nation.
What is the result of this, but a desire for a revision, which may either, by changing the nature and the origin of the executive, render his re-election impossible, or by rendering it legal, may render it less dangerous?
Many persons in France, and some even in England, have reproached me for having stuck so firmly to the Constitution, and for having led the Assembly to declare its adherence. I have been accused even of having foreseen an illegal re-election, and of having urged the Assembly to resist one. This is an error, as anyone who reads carefully my report will see.
I do not foretell, I did not wish to foretell, what the Assembly will do, or ought to do, on an unconstitutional re-election. It will depend on circumstances, particularly on the number of votes. There might be a manifestation of public opinion to which it might be prudent and patriotic to yield.
What I have said, and made the Assembly say, is, that during the interval which separates us from 1852, no illegality is to be permitted; that no party, not even the Government, is to be allowed to propose an illegal candidate; that we must act, and force everyone else to act, in such a manner as to leave the nation mistress of herself, able to consult her own interests, and to follow her own opinions.
I have said all this as forcibly as I could. First, because I thought that to say so was useful to the country. Secondly, because I thought that it was right that I should say this.
A time may come when I myself may think that the people ought to be allowed to violate the Constitution. But I will let this be done by others. My hand shall never strike the flag of law.
Then this agitation for revision has two motives—one, a sincere wish for it, in order to improve the Constitution; the other, an intrigue for the purpose of undermining and injuring the Constitution. The former is mine; the latter I cannot join in.
In fact our situation is more complicated, more inextricable, and less intelligible, than it has ever been. We are in one of those strange and terrible positions in which nothing is impossible, and nothing can be foreseen. What is least improbable is the re-election of the President, and also the election of a new Assembly less favourable to him than is generally expected. If this be so, unless Louis Napoleon should take advantage of the first popular impulse which will enable him to rise to absolute power, he may find himself again opposed and hampered by a hostile Assembly.
The nation, though in this strange position, unexampled in history, is perfectly calm and not unprosperous. Trade, excepting agriculture, which has not recovered, does not fall off, perhaps increases. No one ventures on large speculations, but everyone eagerly and perseveringly follows his own business, as if all that is to happen to-morrow were not uncertain. Yet no one can see 1852 approach without terror—great, perhaps exaggerated. We have all, however, been educated by revolutions. We all know that it is our fate to live like a soldier in a campaign, whom the chance of being killed to-morrow does not prevent from caring for his dinner, his bed, and even his amusements. We are all in this position. When I see the attitude of the nation, I must admire it, and confess that, with all its follies and its weaknesses, it is a great people.
Your expectation that the habits of your people will render the Ecclesiastical Titles Act inoperative, seems to me probable. But why enact laws worse than your usages? I confess that I agree with all my heart and soul with those who, like Lord Aberdeen and Mr. Gladstone, oppose, in the spirit of liberty and of free institutions, those vain but dangerous attacks on liberty of conscience. Whither will religious freedom fly if she is driven from England? If those whose principle is freedom of inquiry and toleration become intolerant, what right have they to reproach the intolerance of Rome? Rome, if she violates the conscience of individuals, does not violate her own principles.
It is imprudent to criticise a foreign country, but I cannot but think that, a few years hence, the disturbance created by the Papal Aggression will be compared to the passions which two centuries ago produced the belief in the Popish Plot. This agitation is less violent, but no less unreasonable. Even those who now take part in it will be as little able to account for their conduct as we are.
A. de Tocqueville.
London, July 29, 1851.
My dear Tocqueville,—
A thousand thanks for your valuable and interesting letter.
I think I must have ill explained myself in my last, for I do not think that you have perfectly understood me.
When we talked over the prospects of France last year and this year, you thought the legal revision almost impossible: you thought an illegal revision impossible. You thought it, however, probable that Louis Napoleon, though an illegal candidate, would be re-elected.
So far you have not changed your opinion. But it seems to me that you have changed it on another point.
You seemed to me then inclined to think that Louis Napoleon’s illegal re-election, though a very dangerous event, would be less dangerous than any other solution of the present difficulties. And therefore you were, I think, favourable to its taking place.
Since that time the objections to his re-election seem to preponderate in your mind. His subsequent conduct may have strengthened the personal objections to him; or further reflection may have given additional force to the constitutional objections. This seems to me to be certain, that his chances of re-election are much diminished by your report. You have put forth, in language that never can be forgotten, arguments against it which cannot be refuted.
‘If it had been possible,’ you say, ‘you would have preferred retaining the Republic.’ I rather suppose that you prefer a republic, not to a constitutional monarchy, but to such a constitutional monarchy as, under the circumstances of the case, you are likely to have. The great misfortune of modern Europe seems to me to be the want of aristocracies; at least of good ones. Those of Belgium and Holland I believe are the best on the Continent, but though rich and well-disposed, they are not very intelligent. You might, I think, if you altered your law of succession, and allowed a man to dispose of his property as he liked, create one. For you are active and saving, and large fortunes would, I think, be permanent if once formed.
I quite agree in your vituperation of the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill. The Government fancy themselves forced to carry it, but they are very much ashamed of it; and I have no doubt that the Attornies-General for Ireland and for England, without whose consent no prosecution under it can take place, have had instructions to make it a dead letter.
Have you seen Gladstone’s two letters to Lord Aberdeen on Naples? They are very striking. One of your countrymen informs me that he has ascertained that Lord Palmerston is furious at the superiority in our Exposition of the French products. That he is, therefore, preparing a new French revolution in order to crush your industry, and supplies the expense of a daily dinner of 200 conspirators!
Kindest regards to Madame de Tocqueville. Mrs. Senior is not yet quite recovered, but is going on well. We go to Great Malvern, Worcestershire, on the 7th.
N. W. Senior.
Kensington, November 30, 1851.
My dear Tocqueville,—
I sent to you by Mrs. Grote the Sorrento and Paris journals, those in which you are most interested, for they derive their whole value from your conversation. I have had your last letter copied at the end of the Paris journal, but on trying to correct it I found the copy so hopelessly corrupt that I gave it up. I wish that you could find time to look at it and correct it. Any remarks on the journals will of course be very valuable. If you think fit to show both or either of them to Beaumont, I can have no objection.
We are all looking anxiously across the Channel. Your conversations have so much prepared me for the events which have passed since May, that I seem to be looking at a play which I have read in manuscript.
You would not, however, reveal the dénouement, but your fears as to the result of an alliance between the President and the mob have often occurred to me.
Palmerston is rising with us. We think that he has done nothing very monstrous for some time, unless the sending Gladstone’s pamphlet about be so considered.
Kindest regards from us all to you and Madame de Tocqueville.
N. W. Senior.
To N. W. Senior, Esq.
Paris, November 28, 1851.
I was beginning, dear friend, to complain of your silence when your letter reached me. I read it with great pleasure, and it gave me still more pleasure to talk of you with our friend, Mrs. Grote, who is as agreeable as ever, but who seems to me to be less well in health than the last time that she was in Paris.
I had already heard, and Mrs. Grote, whom I questioned on the subject, confirmed to me, that you had been offered a high place in India.1 It was not right in you to tell me nothing about it, as you know the deep interest which I take in all that concerns you. It seems, however, that there was not much in it. I am delighted. I own that I should like you to leave England, but not to go so far, or to such a completely different climate. It would not have suited your friends, nor, perhaps, your health. What I should wish for you would be some important post in the Mediterranean, which would insure your keeping well, and enable such of your friends as, like myself, find great enjoyment in your society, to obtain it from time to time.
Permit me not to allude to our public affairs, in spite of the gravity of the present circumstances, or rather, on account of that very gravity. Not that there is any obstacle to the freest discussion. But our thoughts are so painful that the best way is not to express them, and even to try, if possible, not to think. There are things which cannot be contemplated calmly when they are close at hand, even though they may have been long foreseen. Our present condition is one of these things. It can end only by some great catastrophe. My clear view of the magnitude and of the proximity of the calamity is so bitterly painful that I try as much as possible to divert from it my thoughts.
Mrs. Grote has forwarded to me the two valuable volumes containing your recollections of Paris and Sorrento. Our state of perpetual though useless excitement has prevented my looking into them. But I fully intend to do so. I shall especially enjoy reading all that will recall to me Sorrento, and the busy yet peaceful months which I spent on the shores of the Bay of Naples. I often look back with tender regret to the place itself, and to the time that I spent there. That delicious and tranquil retreat, coming as it did between the revolution of 1848 and the one which is impending, was like a rest upon some Southern isle between two shipwrecks. Write to me sometimes if only to tell me how you are.
&c. &c. &c.
Alexis de Tocqueville.
Kensington, November 30, 1851.
My dear Tocqueville,—
I wrote nothing to you about the Indian matter, because I never thought very seriously about it. If my health were to fail, or if Masters in Chancery were abolished, I would accept it for a couple of years; but I hope that the former alternative will not take place, and I fear that the latter will not. So that I would bet 100 to 1 against my going to India.
I do not wonder at the grief with which you look at the present state of affairs in France. It fills me also with alarm and regret. I am very anxious to see the state of affairs a little nearer; and if Mrs. Grote stays till the middle of January, I think that I shall brave the cold, and be in Paris about the 2nd—I say the 2nd because I cannot venture to be there le jour de l’an.
To have to visit all one’s friends in one day of about four hours, and carry about with one a hundred packets of useless trifles to be distributed with pretty speeches, would be worse than a Carnival or a holy week in Rome.
I hear, without believing it, that you are thinking of again quitting Paris for a time. If, however, there should be any truth in the report, I trust that we may hope for you here. Your and Madame de Tocqueville’s apartments stand vacant for you, and our winter, bad as it is, is not so bad as yours.
On Friday, an agreeable American, a Mr. Walker, came to us. I mention him to you because I believe that he intends to call on you. He was Polk’s Secretary of the Treasury.
Kindest regards from us all to you and to Madame de Tocqueville.
Ever yours truly,
N. W. Senior.
END OF THE FIRST VOLUME.
london: printed by
spottiswoode and co., new-street square
and parliament street
‘We used to take long walks over the mountains, for though so frail, he was a great walker. Sometimes we halted in some lovely spot, with the sea spread out before us, and the sky of Naples above us. We rested to take breath, and then resumed our conversations.
The Tocquevilles and Ampère spent almost every evening with us while we were at Sorrento.—Ed.
The following letter, in answer to one from Archbishop Whately, is interesting, not only as a commentary on the preceding conversation, but as showing Mr. Senior’s object in writing these journals:—
Letter from N. W. Senior to Archbishop Whately.
My dear Whately,—
I have read over the Sorrento dialogue, which is open to much of your criticism; but you must recollect that in all these conversations my object is to record what my companions said, not what I said myself. My own words are introduced as sparingly as possible, merely to render intelligible what was said to me. My journals are therefore full of most extravagant opinions and statements, unopposed, indeed uncommented on by me—but certainly no more acquiesced in than what is reflected by a mirror is acquiesced in by the man who holds it.
On the other hand, I do not think that I represent Protestant ministers as worldly or interested, that is, beyond the average. I believe them to be, in general, neither better nor worse than other people.
What Roman Catholic priests may be I do not know from experience, for I never came across them. Tocqueville, in all his conversations, both in Sorrento and in Normandy, speaks well of them.
C. A—— and my Italian friends describe them as immoral and rapacious. I lean to the latter opinion, but on very imperfect data.
Again, I believe that in France, of which we were speaking, and among the higher classes of whom we were speaking, there is much less hostility to Protestants than there is with us towards Catholics. And for this reason, that among the higher classes the men are almost all indifferent to religion, or think the Protestants nearer to the truth than the Roman Catholics.
Those among my French male acquaintances who are Christians are very rarely Roman Catholics in real opinions. They approach much more nearly to Unitarians.
Our religious feelings are kept up by living in an atmosphere of controversy. The French have no fears of their children or relations being converted. I never recollect an instance of a French girl turning Protestant. All that they fear is their turning nuns. They are in general much more afraid of their own priests than of ours.
Ever yours,N. W. Senior.
The President was beginning to show his determination to exercise despotic power. He had succeeded in removing Changarnier from his position as Commander-in-chief, and the Ministers appointed on the 9th were supposed to be tools in the hands of their master. Baroche was Minister of the Interior, Fould of Finance, and Rouher of Justice.—Ed.
A non-official letter addressed by the President to M. Edgar Ney, expressing his admiration of the conduct of the French troops, and his warm approval of the policy which led to the Roman expedition.—Ed.
In 1855, in Algiers, I heard from M. de Fénélon the subsequent history of Ben Ferrhat’s wife. She was fourteen at the time of her marriage in 1842, and therefore twenty-seven in 1855, an age at which an Arab female is an old woman. Ben Ferrhat is a rich man, the Ben-Aga of his tribe. As rich Mussulmans usually do, he has taken younger wives, so that the romance of the life of the first wife is over.—N. W. Senior.
For this conversation see Senior’s Journals in France.—Ed.
M. Faucher was at this time Prime Minister.—Ed.
See Senior’s Journals in France, vol. ii. p. 200.—Ed.
See Senior’s Journals in France, vol. ii. p. 216.
In July 1851 M. de Tocqueville inhabited a country-house near Versailles belonging to M. Rivet, and attended the Legislative Assembly. He was a member of a commission, in which MM. de Montalembert, Jules Favre, Berryer, De Corcelle, De Broglie, Charras, Cavaignac, Odillon Barrot, and Baze were among his colleagues, directed to consider the proposal for the revision of the Constitution. He was the rapporteur, and his report, dated the 8th of July, 1851 (No. 2064 of the papers of that year), is a masterly production, but too long to be introduced in extenso. I cannot, however, resist the temptation of extracting a passage describing the Constitution of 1848.
The lower classes.—Ed.
Mr. Senior had been offered the post of Legislative Member of Council at Calcutta.—Ed.