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Correspondence. - Alexis de Tocqueville, Correspondence and Conversations of Alexis de Tocqueville with Nassau William Senior from 1834-1859, vol. 2 (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. II.
Part of: Correspondence and Conversations of Alexis de Tocqueville with Nassau William Senior from 1834-1859, 2 vols.
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Paris, Sunday, May 14, 1854.
My dear Tocqueville,—
I write to you in meditatione fugœ. We start for England in an hour’s time. The last news that I heard of you was the day before yesterday from Cousin. He read me your letter, which sounded to me like that of a man in not very bad health or hopes. I trust that the attack of which Madame de Tocqueville wrote to us has quite passed off.
Thiers, who asked very anxiously after you to-day, is earnest that you should be present at the election on the 18th. The Academy, he said, is very jealous. Vous serez très-mal vu, if you do not come.
You are at last going seriously to work in the war. By the end of the year you will have, military and naval, 700,000 men in arms.
I wish that they were nearer to the enemy.
Pray remember us most kindly to Madame de Tocqueville, and let us know where you go as soon as you are decided.
N. W. Senior.
St. Cyr, May 21, 1854.
I followed the advice which you were commissioned to give me, my dear Senior. I have just been to Paris, but as I stayed there only twenty-four hours I have not brought back any distinct impressions.
I saw only Academicians who talked about the Academy, and —— who knew nothing of politics. It is true that such is now the case with everyone. Politics, which used to be transacted in open day, have now become a secret process into which none can penetrate except the two or three alchemists who are engaged in its preparation.
You heard of course that after your little visit, which we enjoyed so much, I became very unwell, and my mind was only less affected than my body. I spent a month very much out of spirits and very much tired of myself. During the last eight or ten days I have felt much better. My visit to our friends the Beaumonts did me a great deal of good, and I owe a grudge to the Academy for forcing me to shorten it.
I still intend to visit Germany, but the plan depends on the state of my health. When it is bad I am inclined to give up the journey, when I am better I take it up again and look forward to it with pleasure. On the whole I think that I shall go. But it is impossible for me to settle my route beforehand. Even if I were stronger it would be difficult, for such an expedition must always be uncertain.
I am not going to Germany to see any place in particular, but intend to go hither and thither wherever I can find certain documents and people.
I received yesterday a letter from our friend Ampère. He is still in Rome, still more and more enchanted with the place, and using every argument to induce us to spend there with him the winter of 1856. His descriptions are so attractive that we may very likely be persuaded, especially if we had any chance of meeting you there, for you are one of the people whose society always increases the happiness of life. However, we have plenty of time for talking over this plan.
Adieu, dear Senior.
A. de Tocqueville.
Wildbad, September 19, 1854.
You gave me great pleasure, my dear Senior, by making me acquainted with Sir George and Lady Theresa Lewis.
I must really thank you sincerely for it, for the time passed with them has been the most agreeable part of our journey.
You have no doubt heard of the mischance which has put a stop to our peregrinations: my wife was seized two months ago at Bonn by a violent attack of rheumatism. The waters of Wildbad were recommended to her, and she has been taking them for more than twenty-five days without experiencing any relief. We are promised that the effects will be felt afterwards; but these fine promises only half reassure us, and we shall set out again on our travels in very bad spirits.
Our original intention was to spend the autumn in the North of Germany, but in Madame de Tocqueville’s condition it is evident that there is nothing else to be done but to return home as fast as we can.
We are somewhat consoled by the arrival of our common friend Ampère. He was returning from Italy, through Germany, and, hearing of our misfortune, he has come to look after us in these wild mountains of the Black Forest amidst which Wildbad is situated. He has been with us a week, and I hope that he will accompany us home.
Our intention is to spend a month or six weeks with my father near Compiègne. Towards the first week in November we shall establish ourselves in Paris for the winter. We hope to see you there at the end of this year or the beginning of next.
Ampère, my wife, and I constantly talk of you. If you could overhear us I think you would not be very much dissatisfied. They insist upon being very particularly remembered to you, and as for me I beg you to believe in my most sincere attachment.
A. de Tocqueville.
Compiègne, January 22, 1855.
It was a long time since I had seen your handwriting, my dear Senior, and I was beginning to complain of you; your letter therefore was a double pleasure.
I see that you have resumed your intention of visiting Algiers, and I am anxious that you should carry it into effect.
I hope that we shall be in Paris when you pass through. We put off our departure from day to day; not that we are kept by the charms of our present abode; the house is too small for us and scantily furnished, but I find it such a favourable retreat for study, that I have great difficulty in tearing myself away from it.
I hear, as you do, with great satisfaction of the mutual good feeling of our armies in the Crimea. It far exceeds my expectations.
But I am not equally pleased with your management of the war. The English ought to know that what has passed and is passing there has sensibly diminished their moral force in Europe. It is an unpleasant truth, but I ought not to conceal it from you. I see proofs of it every day, and I have been struck by it peculiarly in a late visit to Paris, where I saw persons of every rank and of every shade of political opinion. The heroic courage of your soldiers was everywhere and unreservedly praised, but I found also a general belief that the importance of England as a military Power had been greatly exaggerated; that she is utterly devoid of military talent, which is shown as much in administration as in fighting; and that even in the most pressing circumstances she cannot raise a large army.
Since I was a child I never heard such language. You are believed to be absolutely dependent on us; and in the midst of our intimacy I see rising a friendly contempt for you, which if our Governments quarrel, will make a war with you much easier than it has been since the fall of Napoleon.
I grieve at all this, not only as endangering the English alliance, which, as you well know, I cherish, but as injuring the cause of liberty.
I can pardon you for discrediting it by your adulation of our despotism, but I wish that you would not serve despotism more efficaciously by your own faults, and by the comparisons which they suggest.
It seems also difficult to say what may not be the results of your long intimacy with such a Government as ours, and of the contact of the two armies. I doubt whether they will be useful to your aristocracy.
Remember me to Lord Lansdowne and to the Lewises, who added such pleasure to our German tour.
Compiègne, February 15, 1855.
I conclude that this frightful weather is still keeping you in London, my dear Senior. I am comforted by the fact that I myself shall not reach Paris before the 28th.
I do not wish to act the part of the pedagogue in the fable who preaches to people when his sermon can no longer be of any possible use, but I cannot help telling you that it is a great imprudence on your part to allow yourself to be caught in this way by the winter in England. What you now suffer from is only a trifling malady, but it may become a real illness if you persist in preferring pleasure to health. Pray think of this in the future and do not tempt the devil.
I have not read the article to which you refer.1
I can perfectly understand the reserve which was imposed upon you, and which you were forced to impose on yourself.
I confess that I saw with great grief the sudden change in the expressions of the majority of the English, a year ago, respecting our Government. It was then ill consolidated, and in want of the splendid alliance which you offered to it. It was unnecessary that you should praise it, in order to keep it your friend. By doing so you sacrificed honourable opinions and tastes without a motive.
Now things are changed. After you have lost your only army, and our master has made an alliance with Austria, which suits his feelings much better than yours did, he does not depend on you; you, to a certain extent, depend on him. Such being now the case, I can understand the English thinking it their duty to their country to say nothing that can offend the master of France. I can understand even their praising him; I reproach them only for having done so too soon, before it was necessary.
I agree with you that England ought to be satisfied with being the greatest maritime Power, and ought not to aim at being also one of the greatest military Powers.
But the feelings which I described to you as prevalent in France and in Germany, arose not from your want of an army of 500,000 men. They were excited by these two facts.
First, by what was supposed (perhaps falsely) to be the bad military administration of your only army. Secondly, and much more, by your apparent inability to raise another army.
According to continental notions, a nation which cannot raise as many troops as its wants require, loses our respect. It ceases, according to our notions, to be great or even to be patriotic. And I must confess that, considering how difficult it is to procure soldiers by voluntary enlistment, and how easily every nation can obtain them by other means, I do not see how you will be able to hold your high rank, unless your people will consent to something resembling a conscription.
Dangerous as it is to speak of a foreign country, I venture to say that England is mistaken if she thinks that she can continue separated from the rest of the world, and preserve all her peculiar institutions uninfluenced by those which prevail over the whole of the Continent.
In the period in which we live, and, still more, in the period which is approaching, no European nation can long remain absolutely dissimilar to all the others. I believe that a law existing over the whole Continent must in time influence the laws of Great Britain, notwithstanding the sea, and notwithstanding the habits and institutions. which, still more than the sea, have separated you from us, up to the present time.
My prophecies may not be accomplished in our time; but I should not be sorry to deposit this letter with a notary, to be opened, and their truth or falsehood proved, fifty years hence.
Compiègne, February 23, 1855.
. . . My object in my last letter was not by any means, as you seem to think, to accuse your aristocracy of having mismanaged the Crimean war. It has certainly been mismanaged, but who has been in fault?
Indeed I know not, and if I did I should think at the same time that it would not be becoming in a foreigner to set himself up as a judge of the blunders of any other Government than his own.
I thought that I had expressed myself clearly. At any rate what I wanted to say, if I did not say it, is, that the present events created in my opinion a new and great danger for your aristocracy, and that it will suffer severely from the rebound, if it does not make enormous efforts to show itself capable of repairing the past; and that it would be wrong to suppose that by fighting bravely on the field of battle it could retain the direction of the Government.
I did not intend to say more than this.
I will now add that if it persuades itself that it will easily get out of the difficulty by making peace, I think that it will find itself mistaken.
Peace, after what has happened, may be a good thing for England in general, and useful to us, but I doubt whether it will be a gain for your aristocracy. I think that if Chatham could return to life he would agree with me, and would say that under the circumstances the remedy would not be peace but a more successful war.
Kind regards, &c.
A. de Tocqueville.
An article in the North British Review, see p. 107.—Ed.