Front Page Titles (by Subject) 296.: LORD BROUGHAM AND M. DE TOCQUEVILLE MORNING CHRONICLE, 20 FEB., 1843, P. 3 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIV - Newspaper Writings January 1835 - June 1847 Part III
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296.: LORD BROUGHAM AND M. DE TOCQUEVILLE MORNING CHRONICLE, 20 FEB., 1843, P. 3 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIV - Newspaper Writings January 1835 - June 1847 Part III 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIV - Newspaper Writings January 1835 - June 1847 Part III, ed. Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson, Introduction by Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986).
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LORD BROUGHAM AND M. DE TOCQUEVILLE
Alexis Clérel de Tocqueville (1805-59), the French historian and social analyst whom Mill knew and whose De la démocratie en Amérique he had twice fully reviewed and praised (CW, Vol. XVIII, pp. 47-90 and 153-204), had made a speech on 28 Jan., 1843, in the Chamber of Deputies on the Right of Search (Moniteur, 1843, pp. 162-4). Lord Brougham took exception to his remarks on 2 Feb., in the course of a speech at the opening of Parliament (PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 66, cols. 33-48). Tocqueville’s letter of protest of 10 Feb. and Brougham’s reply of 14 Feb. were printed in the Morning Chronicle on 16 Feb., p. 5 (and in the Spectator, 18 Feb., pp. 154-55, and elsewhere). In the course of a letter to Tocqueville of 20 Feb. enclosing a copy of this item, Mill remarks that he is not surprised at English misunderstanding of Tocqueville’s position: “il est très naturel que les Anglais ne comprennent pas la France, pas plus que les Français ne comprennent l’Angleterre” (EL, CW, Vol. XIII, p. 570). His letter, headed as title with the subhead, “To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle,” is described in his bibliography as “A letter signed A and headed ‘Lord Brougham and M. de Tocqueville’ in the Morning Chronicle of 20th February 1843”
(MacMinn, p. 55).
You have aided in giving publicity to a correspondence between Lord Brougham and M. de Tocqueville, which, from the interest of the subject, and the celebrity of the disputants, has attracted considerable attention, and in which, not unnaturally, perhaps, the victory seems to have been generally awarded to our own countryman. Will you, in justice to one of the most eminent thinkers and writers of the age, allow it to be pointed out through your journal, that M. de Tocqueville’s meaning has been entirely misunderstood and misinterpreted by Lord Brougham? It is seldom worth while to occupy the public with questions implicating only the good sense and candour of an individual; but as the writings of M. de Tocqueville are of value to all Europe, his reputation is so too; and in the present state of feeling in this country towards France, a state of feeling which Lord Brougham has very laudably endeavoured to mitigate, it is a real evil that one of the best and wisest men in France should be undeservedly deemed to exhibit in himself a concentration of the worst prejudices and faults of his weaker countrymen.
Lord Brougham accused M. de Tocqueville of “marvellous ignorance”1 on a question on which he had made an elaborate speech to the Chamber of Deputies, the question of the right of search. Lord Brougham supposes him to have said that, by the treaties in force, an English cruiser could carry a French vessel to an English port, to be tried and sentenced for slave-trading by an English tribunal; and marvellous indeed must have been M. de Tocqueville’s ignorance if he had believed this to be the case. M. de Tocqueville thought he had done enough to repel the imputation, by sending to Lord Brougham the printed report of his speech,2 but it seems he reckoned without his antagonist; for Lord Brougham, with the words before him, persists in the accusation, and says that M. de Tocqueville must have meant what he says he did not mean, and cannot possibly have meant what he affirms he did.3 Let us see which is right. These are the words:
“Les traités de 1831 et de 1833 contiennent une disposition tout aussi singulière; ils accordent au tribunal d’une nation le droit de juger une nation étrangère.”4 They grant to a tribunal of either nation the right of judging another nation.
Now will any one who knows either French, or common sense, deliberately assert that “juger unenation” ever means, or can possibly mean, to judge, not the nation, but the captain and crew of a vessel belonging to a merchant of that nation? “Juger une nation” can bear only one meaning—to give judgment against the nation itself, that is, against its government; and this is what, under the treaties in question, the courts of another and a foreign country can do. M. de Tocqueville meant, that if a French vessel, seized by England as a slave-trader, and tried, where alone, under the treaties, it can be tried, by a French court, is pronounced by that court to have been seized wrongfully, the French court can award damages against the English government; or an English court could award them against the French government in the reverse case: and this provision M. de Tocqueville (I believe quite rightly) called extraordinary, and unheard of previously to the slave-trade treaties. That he was understood in this sense by his audience, is proved by M. Berryer’s exclamation, “Oui, pour l’indemnité!” and M. de Tocqueville was about to explain himself more fully, when the general sense of the chamber was expressed that it was unnecessary.5 When M. de Tocqueville is speaking of what the treaties permit to be done by one nation against ships or persons of another, he does not designate these last as “une nation,” but as “des criminels d’une nation.”6
Surely either Lord Brougham’s knowledge of French, or his candour, or at least his calmness and considerateness, are greatly at fault here.
Lord Brougham further accuses M. de Tocqueville of having omitted all mention of the unratified American treaty.7 On this point I do not feel quite competent to defend M. de Tocqueville. If he knew of the treaty, he probably thought that, never having gone beyond the preliminary stages, it could not constitute a diplomatic precedent. I am ready to join with any one in regretting that so wise a man did not feel and use the strong argument which this treaty, even though unratified, affords against those French orators and journalists who pretend that the right of search, existing under the treaties in force, is offensive to even the keenest susceptibility on the subject of national honour and independence. But we must not be too severe upon an orator in a deliberative assembly for not thinking it his business to point out and expose the exaggerations on his own side. M. de Tocqueville himself has not been guilty of contending that these treaties offend national honour; at least, I can find nothing to that effect in his speech. His objection to them is of a much more reasonable kind. He says these treaties give to the cruisers of each nation extensive powers of interrupting and molesting the trading vessels of the other, and this arrangement might work well and harmoniously as long as there was perfect good will and friendly feeling between the two nations; but when, unhappily, feelings of sympathy and alliance have given place for the present to those of mutual irritation and jealousy, the same degree of interference can scarcely continue to be exercised without producing collisions and a growing exasperation, which must endanger every year more and more the peace between the two countries. Therefore, says he, if you wish for peace, invite the English government to abolish these treaties, the entire inefficacy of which, for their avowed object, is confessed by the best English authorities; professing at the same time your wish to unite with England, and with as many other civilised nations as possible, in urging upon the only two Christian countries whose laws still permit the importation of slaves, the abolition of the traffic, and the adoption of effectual means for closing their markets, which, and which alone, will really put an end to the trade. And, said M. de Tocqueville, if this were the tone taken by our government, I do not believe the British nation would be so unreasonable as to reject, still less to resent, the proposition.8
These views of M. de Tocqueville may be right or wrong, but they surely are such as may be held by an honest and rational person, without exposing him to the imputation of wishing to exasperate the unhappy animosity which at present exists against England in a great portion of the French people. There are men who seek to increase this animosity; but no one can read in a candid spirit this speech of M. de Tocqueville, and believe him to be one of them; on the contrary, though violent against the Guizot ministry, it is so moderate on the main question, that no one in France could see anything in it but a desire to mollify, instead of inflaming, the hostile feeling towards this country. It is really hard that because other Frenchmen hate England, or because other Frenchmen are absurd and intemperate, their offences should be visited on, perhaps, the one Frenchman by whom such imputations are least merited, and who is likely to feel them the most acutely: indeed, the fact of his having so felt them is the main reason of his having, by the tone of his letter, given to his adversary the advantage of superior temper, of which that adversary has made such skilful use, and to which I conceive he is chiefly indebted for his apparent victory.
[1 ]Brougham, speech of 2 Feb., col. 42.
[2 ]Tocqueville, letter of 10 Feb., Morning Chronicle, 16 Feb., p. 5.
[3 ]Brougham, letter of 14 Feb., ibid.
[4 ]Tocqueville, speech of 28 Jan., Moniteur, 1843, p. 163 (quoted by Brougham, letter of 14 Feb., p. 5). The treaties referred to are “Convention between France and Great Britain for the More Effectual Suppression of the Traffic in Slaves” (30 Nov., 1831), and “Supplementary Slave Trade Convention between France and Great Britain” (22 Mar., 1833), in The Consolidated Treaty Series, Vol. LXXXII, pp. 271-5, and Vol. LXXXIII, pp. 259-75.
[5 ]The interjection by Berryer is reported and the concurrence of the Chamber expressed in Moniteur, 1843, p. 163.
[6 ]Tocqueville, speech of 28 Jan., p. 163.
[7 ]Brougham, letter of 14 Feb., p. 5. For the unratified treaty, see “Correspondence with Foreign Powers Relative to the Slave Trade: the United States,” Journals of the House of Commons, 1823, LXXIII, 707-11.
[8 ]Tocqueville, speech of 28 Jan., pp. 163-4.