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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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Tocqueville, June 30, 1855.
I have only just arrived here, my dear Senior, after wandering for nearly a month from friend to friend all through the Touraine and the Maine. As you may think, I am, on returning home after so long an absence, overpowered with trifling business. I cannot, therefore, comply to-day with your request and write to you the letter you ask for: I will write it after much thought and at length. The subject is well worthy of the trouble. Shall I at the same time send back to you the conversation which I have corrected, and in what way? The post would be very unsafe and expensive. Give me, therefore, your instructions on this point. But above all, give us news of yourselves and of all our friends.
My wife has borne the journey better than I expected, and the delight we feel in finding ourselves here once more will completely restore her.
This delight is really very great and in proportion to the annoyance of wandering about as we have done for three years without ever finding a place which entirely suited us.
As to public news, I have heard none since I left Paris. The only spot which a single ray of light can ever reach is Paris. All the rest is in profound darkness. If you hear anything important, pray tell me.
Adieu, dear Senior. Remember me to Mrs. and Miss Senior, and believe in our long and very sincere affection,
A. de Tocqueville.
Tocqueville, July 25, 1855.
I wrote to you yesterday, my dear Senior, a long letter according to my promise.
But when I read it over I felt that it was absurd to send such a letter by the post, especially to a foreigner, and I burnt it.
Since the assault of the 18th,1 the interference of the police in private correspondence has become more active. Many of my friends as well as I myself have perceived it. More letters have been kept back and more have been stopped. Two of mine have been lost. You may remember that two letters from me failed to reach you, three years ago. The danger is greater in the country, where handwritings are known, than in Paris. You advise me to put my letters into a cover directed to your Embassy, which will forward them. But this is no security. If a letter be suspected, it is easy to open and re-seal it, and still easier simply to suppress it.
And, in fact, after all, you have lost little. I wrote to you only what I have a hundred times said to you. We have lived so much together, and with such perfect mutual confidence, that it is difficult for either of us to say anything new to the other.
Besides, on reading over again, with attention, your note of our last conversation,2 I have nothing to alter. All that I could do would be to develope a little more my opinions, and to support them by additional arguments. I feel more and more their truth, and that the progress of events will confirm them much more than any reasonings of mine can do.
We are annoyed and disturbed, having the house full of workmen. I am trying to warm it by hot air, and am forced to bore through very old and very thick walls; but we shall be repaid by being able to live here during the winter.
I am amusing myself with the letters which our young soldiers in the East, peasants from this parish, write home to their families, and which are brought to me. This correspondence should be read in order to understand the singular character of the French peasant. It is strange to see the ease with which these men become accustomed to the risks of military life, to danger and to death, and yet how their hearts cling to their fields and to the occupations of country life. The horrors of war are described with simplicity, and almost with enjoyment. But in the midst of these accounts one finds such phrases as these: “What crop do you intend to sow in such a field next year?” “How is the mare?” “Has the cow a fine calf?” &c. No minds can be more versatile, and at the same time more constant. I have always thought that, after all, the peasantry were superior to all other classes in France. But these men are deplorably in want of knowledge and education, or rather the education to which they have been subjected for centuries past has taught them to make a bad use of their natural good qualities.
It seems to me that Lord John’s resignation will enable your Cabinet to stand, at least for some time. All that has passed in England since the beginning of the war grieves me deeply. Seen from a distance, your Constitution appears to me an admirable machine which is getting out of order, partly from the wearing out of its works, partly from the unskilfulness of its workers. Such a spectacle is useful to our Government.
I asked you some questions, which you have not answered. Is Mrs. Grote returned from Germany? Is she well? Has she received my letter addressed to her at Heidelberg? The last question is always doubtful when one writes from France.
I send you a letter from the Count de Fénelon, which I think will interest you. You will give it me back when we meet.
I am very curious to know what you will think of Egypt; and I hope that we shall be established in Paris when you return.
A. de Tocqueville.
Tocqueville, September 19, 1855.
Your letter, my dear Senior, of the 26th of August, has much interested me. I see that you are resolved on your great journey. I could say like Alexander, if the comparison were not too ambitious, that I should wish to be in your place if I were not in my own; but I cannot get satiated with the pleasure of being at home after so long an absence. Everything is pleasure in this country life, among my own fields. Even the solitude is charming; but were I anywhere else, I should envy you your tour.
Everything in Egypt is curious: the past, the present, and the future. I hope to learn much from your Journal, which I trust that I shall have. We shall certainly meet you in Paris.
The noise made by the fall of Sebastopol has echoed even to this distant corner of France. It is a glorious event, and has delighted every Frenchman of every party and of every opinion, for in these matters we are one man.
I fear that the victory has been bought dearly. There is not a neighbouring village to which the war has not cost some of its children. But they bear it admirably. You know, that in war we show the best side of our character. If our civilians resembled our soldiers we should long ago have been masters of Europe.
This war has never been popular, nor is it popular, yet we bear all its cost with a cheerfulness admirable when you consider the sorrows which it occasions, aggravated by the distress produced by the dearness of bread. If, instead of the Crimea, the seat of war had been the Rhine, with a definite purpose, the whole nation would have risen, as it has done before.
But the object of the war is unintelligible to the people. They only know that France is at war, and must be made, at any price, to triumph.
I must confess, that I myself, who understand the object for which all this blood is shed, and who approve that object, do not feel the interest which such great events ought to excite; for I do not expect a result equal to the sacrifice.
I think, with you, that Russia is a great danger to Europe. I think so more strongly, because I have had peculiar opportunities of studying the real sources of her power, and because I believe these sources to be permanent, and entirely beyond the reach of foreign attack. (I have not time now to tell you why.) But I am deeply convinced that it is not by taking from her a town, or even a province, nor by diplomatic precautions, still less by placing sentinels along her frontier, that the Western Powers will permanently stop her progress.
A temporary bulwark may be raised against her, but a mere accident may destroy it, or a change of alliances or a domestic policy may render it useless.
I am convinced that Russia can be stopped only by raising before her powers created by the hatred which she inspires, whose vital and constant interest it shall be to keep themselves united and to keep her in. In other words, by the resurrection of Poland, and by the re-animation of Turkey.
I do not believe that either of these means can now be adopted. The detestable jealousies and ambitions of the European nations resemble, as you say in your letter, nothing better than the quarrels of the Greeks in the face of Philip. Not one will sacrifice her passions or her objects.
About a month ago I read some remarkable articles, which you perhaps have seen, in the German papers, on the progress which Russia is making in the extreme East. The writer seems to be a man of sense and well informed.
It appears that during the last five years, Russia, profiting by the Chinese disturbances, has seized, not only the mouth of the Amoor, but a large territory in Mongolia, and has also gained a considerable portion of the tribes which inhabit it. You know that these tribes once overran all Asia, and have twice conquered China. The means have always been the same—some accident which, for an instant, has united these tribes in submission to the will of one man. Now, says the writer, very plausibly, the Czar may bring this about, and do what has been done by Genghis Khan, and, indeed, by others.
If these designs are carried out, all Upper Asia will be at the mercy of a man, who, though the seat of his power be in Europe, can unite and close on one point the Mongols.
I know more about Sir G. Lewis’s book1 than you do. I have read it through, and I do not say, as you do, that it must be a good book, but that it is a good book. Pray say as much to Sir George when you see him, as a letter of mine to Lady Theresa on the subject may have miscarried.
It is as necessary now for friends to write in duplicate from town to town, as it is if they are separated by the ocean and fear that the ship which carries their letters may be lost. I hear that our friend John Mill has lately published an excellent book. Is it true? at all events remember me to him.
Adieu, my dear Senior. Do not forget us any more than we forget you. Kindest regards to Mrs. Senior, and Miss Senior, and Mrs. Grote.
A. de Tocqueville.
Paris, April 1, 1856.
I write a few lines to you at Marseilles, my dear Senior, as you wished.1 I hope that you will terminate your great journey as felicitously as you seem to me to have carried it on from the beginning. The undertaking appears to have been a complete success. I wish that it might induce you next year to cross over the ocean to America. I should be much interested in hearing and reading your remarks upon that society. But perhaps Mrs. Senior will not be so ready to start off again; so, that I may not involve myself in a quarrel with her, I will say no more on the subject.
I am longing to see you, for beside our old and intimate friendship I shall be delighted to talk with such an interesting converser, and, above all, to find myself again in the company of (as Mrs. Grote calls you) ‘the boy.’ You will find me, however, in all the vexations of correcting proofs and the other worries connected with bringing out a book.2 It will not appear till the end of this month.
I can tell you no more about politics than you may learn from the newspapers. Peace, though much desired, has caused no public excitement. The truth is that just now we are not excitable. As long as she remains in this condition France will not strike one of those blows by which she sometimes shakes Europe and overturns herself.
Reeve has been and Milnes still is here. We have talked much of you with these two old friends. Good bye, or rather, thank God, à bientôt.
A thousand kind remembrances to Mrs. Senior.
A. de Tocqueville.
On the 18th June, 1855, the French and English made an unsuccessful assault on Sebastopol.—Ed.
That of the 28th May, 1855.—Ed.
The work referred to was probably that on the Early History of Rome.—Ed.
Mr. Senior was on his return from Egypt.—Ed.
The Ancien Régime.—Ed.