Part 2 out of 5
Antoinette. When matters grew formidable (in 1791) Royer Collard was
himself induced to become an agent or go-between of the Court for buying
up Danton. He sought an opportunity, and after some prefatory
conversations Royer Collard led Danton to the point. 'No,' said Danton,
'I cannot listen to any such suggestions now. Times are altered. It is
too late. 'Nous le detronerons et puis nous le tuerons,' added he in an
emphatic tone. Royer Collard of course gave up the hope of succeeding.
Danton's passion for a young girl, whom he married, became his ruin.
While he was honeymooning it by some river's margin, Robespierre got the
upper hand in the Assembly, and caused him to be seized--_mis en
jugement_--and soon afterwards guillotined. The woman did not know, it is
affirmed, that it was Danton who set the massacres of 1792 agoing; she
thought him a good-hearted man. He set all his personal enemies free out
of their prisons prior to the commencement of the massacres; wishing to
be able to boast of having spared his enemies, as a proof that he was
actuated by no ignoble vengeance, but only by a patriotic impulse. He
was a low, mean-souled fanatic, who had no clear conception of what he
was aiming at, but who delighted in the horrid excitement prevailing
around him. It was Tallien who had the chief share in the deposition of
Robespierre and the transactions of the 9th thermidor. Madame Tallien was
then in prison, and going to be executed in a few days (she was not yet
married to Tallien then). She wrote, by stealth of course, a few emphatic
words, with a toothpick and soot wetted, to Tallien which nerved him to
the conflict, and she was saved. Talleyrand told De Tocqueville she was
beyond everything captivating, beautiful, and interesting. She afterwards
became the mistress of Barras, and finally married the Prince de Chimay.
De Tocqueville has been at Vore, Helvetius' chateau in La Perche--a fine
place, and Helvetius lived _en seigneur_ there. A grand-daughter of
Helvetius married M. de Rochambeau, uncle, by mother's side, of Alexis:
so that the great-grandchildren are De Tocqueville's first cousins.
In the 'Souvenirs' of M. Berryer (_pere_) he describes the scene of the
9th thermidor, in which he was actively concerned in the interest of the
Convention, and saw Robespierre borne past him with his shattered jaw
along the Quai Pelletier. Also went to the terrace of the Tuileries
gardens to assure himself that Robespierre was really executed the next
day; heard the execrations and shouts which attended his last moments,
but did not stay to witness them. Release of the Duchess of St. Aignan,
under sentence of death, by his father.
_February_ 18.--A. de Tocqueville came to see me, and we walked out for
half-an-hour. He said he had now spent over eight months in a seclusion
such as he had never experienced in his whole life. That, partly his
own debilitated health, partly the impaired state of his wife's general
powers (nervous system inclusive), partly the extreme aversion he felt
for public affairs and the topics of the day connected with politics; all
these considerations had determined him upon withdrawing himself from
society for a certain space, and _that_ to a considerable distance from
all his friends and relations. A physician, also of widely extended fame
(Dr. Brittonneau), happening to reside close to where they have lodged
themselves, formed an additional link in the chain of motives for
settling themselves at Tours. M. de Tocqueville had some misgivings at
first as to whether, after passing twenty years in active public life,
and in the frequent society of men who occupied the most distinguished
position in the political world, as well as of others not less eminent in
that of letters; whether, he said, the monotony and stillness of his new
mode of life would not be too much for his spirits and render his mind
indolent and depressed. 'But,' said he, 'I have been agreeably reassured.
I have come to regard society as a thing which I can perfectly well do
without. I desire nothing better than to occupy myself, as I have been
doing, with the composition of a work which I am in hopes will travel
over somewhat other than beaten ground. I have found many materials for
my purpose in this spot, and the pursuit has got hold of me to a degree
which renders intellectual labour a source of pleasure; and I prosecute
it steadily, unless when my health is out of order; which, happily, does
not occur so frequently since the last three or four months. My wife's
company serves to encourage me in my work, and to cheer me in every
respect, since an entire sympathy subsists between us, as you know; we
seem to require no addition, and our lives revolve in the most inflexible
routine possible. I rise at half-past five, and work seriously till
half-past nine; then dress for _dejeuner_ at ten. I commonly walk
half-an-hour afterwards, and then set to on some other study--usually of
late in the German language--till two P.M., when I go out again and walk
for two hours, if weather allows. In the evenings I read to amuse myself,
often reading aloud to Madame de Tocqueville, and go to bed at ten P.M.
regularly every night.'
'Sometimes,' said De Tocqueville, 'I reflect on the difference which may
be discerned between the amount of what a man can effect by even the most
strenuous and well-directed efforts, whether as a public servant or as a
leading man in political life, and what a writer of impressive books has
it in his power to effect. It is true that a man of talent and courage
may acquire a creditable position, may exercise great influence over
other individuals engaged in the same career, and may enjoy a certain
measure of triumphant success in cases where he can put out his strength.
At the same time it strikes me that the best of these exaggerates
immensely the amount of good which he has been able to effect. I look
back upon prodigiously vivid passages in various public men's lives, in
this century, with a melancholy reflection of how little influence their
magnificent efforts have really exercised over the march of human
affairs. A man is apt to believe he has done great things when his
hearers and contemporaries are strongly affected, either by a powerful
speech, or an animated address, or an act of opportune courage, or the
like. But, if we investigate the positive amount of what the individual
has effected in the way of bettering or advancing the general interests
of mankind, by personal exertion on the public stage, I regret to say I
can find hardly an instance of more than a transient, though beneficial,
flash of excitement produced on the public mind. I do not here speak of
men invested with great power--princes, prime ministers, popes, generals
and the like. Of course _they_ produce lasting traces of their _power_,
whether it be for good or evil; and, indeed, _individuals_ have on their
side considerable power to work _mischief_, though not often to work
good. I begin to think that a man not invested with a considerable amount
of political _power_ can do but little good by slaving at the oar of
independent political action. Now, on the contrary, what a vast effect a
_writer_ can produce, when he possesses the requisite knowledge and
endowments! In his cabinet, his thoughts collected, his ideas well
arranged, he may hope to imprint indelible traces on the line of human
progress. What orator, what brilliant patriot at the tribune, could ever
effect the extensive fermentation in a whole nation's sentiments achieved
by Voltaire and Jean Jacques?
'I have certainly seen reason to change some of my views on social facts,
as well as some reasonings founded on imperfect observation. But the
_fond_ of my opinions can never undergo a change--certain irrevocable
maxims and propositions _must_ constitute the basis of thinking minds.
How such changes can come about as I have lived to see in some men's
states of opinion is to me incomprehensible. Lafayette was foolish enough
to give his support to certain conspiracies--certainly to that of
Befort's, in Alsace. What folly! to seek to upset a despotism by the
agency of the _soldiery_, in the nineteenth century!'
[Footnote 1: Mr. Senior's Journals.--ED.]
[Footnote 2: See _Royal and Republican France_, by H. Reeve Esq. vol.
CONVERSATIONS WITH MR. SENIOR.
_St. Cyr, Tuesday, February_ 21, 1854.--On the 20th I left Paris for
Le Tresorier, a country-house in the village of St. Cyr, near Tours,
which the Tocquevilles have been inhabiting for some months. It stands in
a large enclosure of about fifteen acres, of which about ten are orchard
and vineyard, and the remainder are occupied by the house, stables, and a
large garden. The house has a great deal of accommodation, and they pay
for it, imperfectly furnished, 3,000 francs a year, and keep up the
garden, which costs about 500 francs more, being one man at one and
a-half francs a day.
This is considered dear; but the sheltered position of the house, looking
south, and protected by a hill to the north-east, induced the
Tocquevilles to pay for it about 1,000 francs more than its market value.
I will throw together the conversations of February 22 and 23. They began
by my giving to him a general account of the opinions of my friends in
'I believe,' said Tocqueville, 'that I should have found out many of your
interlocutors without your naming them. I am sure that I should Thiers,
Duvergier, Broglie, and Rivet; perhaps Faucher--certainly Cousin. I
translate into French what you make them say, and hear them speak. I
recognise Dumon and Lavergne, but I should not have discovered them. The
conversation of neither of them has the marked, peculiar flavour that
distinguishes that of the others. You must recollect, however, that some
of your friends knew, and most of the others must have suspected, that
you were taking notes. Thiers speaks evidently for the purpose of being
reported. To be sure that shows what are the opinions that men wish to be
supposed to entertain, and they often betray what they think that they
conceal. Still it must be admitted that you had not always the natural
man.' 'I am sorry,' he added, 'that you have not penetrated more into the
salons of the Legitimists. You have never got further than a Fusionist.
The Legitimists are not the Russians that Thiers describes them. Still
less do they desire to see Henri V. restored by foreign intervention.
They and their cause have suffered too bitterly for having committed
that crime, or that fault, for them to be capable of repeating it. They
are anti-national so far as not to rejoice in any victories obtained by
France under this man's guidance. But I cannot believe that they would
rejoice in her defeat. They have been so injured in their fortunes and
their influence, have been so long an oppressed caste--excluded from
power, and even from sympathy--that they have acquired the faults of
slaves--have become timid and frivolous, or bitter.
'They have ceased to be anxious about anything but to be let alone. But
they are a large, a rich, and comparatively well-educated body. Your
picture is incomplete without them, _et il sera toujours tres-difficile
de gouverner sans eux._
I quite agree,' he continued, 'with Thiers as to the necessity of this
war. Your interests may be more immediate and greater, but ours are very
great. When I say ours, I mean those of France as a country that is
resolved to enjoy constitutional government. I am not sure that if Russia
were to become mistress of the Continent she would not allow France to
continue a quasi-independent despotism under her protectorate. But she
will never willingly allow us to lie powerful and free.
'I sympathise, too, with Thiers's fears as to the result. I do not
believe that Napoleon himself, with all his energy, and all his
diligence, and all his intelligence, would have thought it possible to
conduct a great war to which his Minister of War was opposed. A man who
has no heart in his business will neglect it, or do it imperfectly. His
first step would have been to dismiss St.-Arnaud. Then, look at the other
two on whose skill and energy we have to depend. One is Ducos, Minister
of Marine, a man of mere commonplace talents and character. The other is
Binneau, Minister of Finance, somewhat inferior to Ducos. Binneau ought
to provide resources. He ought to check the preposterous waste of the
Court. He has not intelligence enough to do the one, or courage enough to
attempt the other. The real Prime Minister is without doubt Louis
Napoleon himself. But he is not a man of business. He does not understand
details. He may order certain things to be done, but he will not be able
to ascertain whether the proper means have been taken. He does not know
indeed what these means are. He does not trust those who do. A war which
would have tasked all the powers of Napoleon, and of Napoleon's Ministers
and generals, is to be carried on without any master-mind to direct it,
or any good instruments to execute it. I fear some great disaster.
'Such a disaster might throw,' he continued, 'this man from the eminence
on which he is balanced, not rooted. It might produce a popular outbreak,
of which the anarchical party might take advantage. Or, what is perhaps
more to be feared, it might frighten Louis Napoleon into a change of
policy. He is quite capable of turning short round--giving up
everything--key of the Grotto, protectorate of the orthodox, even the
Dardanelles and the Bosphorus--to Nicholas, and asking to be repaid by
'I cannot escape from the _cauchemar_ that a couple of years hence France
and England may be at war. Nicholas's expectations have been deceived,
but his plan was not unskilfully laid. He had a fair right to conjecture
that you would think the dangers of this alliance such as to be even
greater than those of allowing him to obtain his protectorate.
'In deciding otherwise, you have taken the brave and the magnanimous
course. I hope that it may prove the successful one.
'I am sorry,' continued Tocqueville, 'to see the language of your
newspapers as to the fusion. I did not choose to take part in it. I hate
to have anything to do with pretenders. But as a mere measure of
precaution it is a wise one. It decides what shall be the conduct of the
Royalist party in the event--not an improbable one--of France being
suddenly left without a ruler.
'Your unmeasured praise of Louis Napoleon and your unmeasured abuse of
the Bourbons are, to a certain degree, the interference in our politics
which you professedly disclaim. I admit the anti-English prejudices
of the Bourbons, and I admit that they are not likely to be abated by
your alliance with a Bonaparte. But the opinions of a constitutional
sovereign do not, like those of a despot, decide the conduct of his
country. The country is anxious for peace, and, above all, peace with
you--for more than peace, for mutual good-feeling. The Bourbons cannot
return except with a constitution. It has become the tradition of the
family, it is their title to the throne. There is not a _vieille
marquise_ in the Faubourg St.-Germain who believes in divine right.
'The higher classes in France are Bourbonists because they are
Constitutionalists, because they believe that constitutional monarchy is
the government best suited to France, and that the Bourbons offer us the
fairest chance of it.
'Among the middle classes there is without doubt much inclination for the
social equality of a Republic. But they are alarmed at its instability;
they have never known one live for more than a year or two, or die except
'As for the lower classes, the country people think little about
politics, the sensible portion of the artizans care about nothing but
cheap and regular work; the others are Socialists, and, next to the
government of a Rouge Assembly, wish for that of a Rouge despot.'
'In London,' I said, 'a few weeks ago I came across a French Socialist,
not indeed of the lower orders--for he was a Professor of
Mathematics--but participating in their feelings. "I prefer," he said, "a
Bonaparte to a Bourbon--a Bonaparte must rely on the people, one can
always get something out of him." "What have you got," I asked, "from
this man?" "A great deal," he answered. "We got the Orleans
confiscation--that was a great step. _Il portait attente a la propriete_.
Then he represents the power and majesty of the people. He is like the
people, above all law. _Les Bourbons nous chicanaient._"'
'That was the true faith of a Rouge,' said Tocqueville 'If this man,' he
added, 'had any self-control, if he would allow us a very moderate degree
of liberty, he might enjoy a reign--probably found a dynasty. He had
everything in his favour; the prestige of his name, the acquiescence of
Europe, the dread of the Socialists, and the contempt felt for the
Republicans. We were tired of Louis Philippe. We remembered the _branche
ainee_ only to dislike it, and the Assembly only to despise it. We never
shall be loyal subjects, but we might have been discontented ones, with
as much moderation as is in our nature.'
'What is the _nuance_,' I said, 'of G----?'
'G----,' answered Tocqueville, 'is an honest man, uncorrupt and
public-spirited; he is a clear, logical, but bitter speaker; his words
fall from the tribune like drops of gall. He has great perspicacity, but
rather a narrow range. His vision is neither distant nor comprehensive.
He wears a pair of blinkers, which allow him to see only what he looks
straight at--and that is the English Constitution. For what is to the
right and to the left he has no eyes, and unhappily what is to the right
and to the left is France.
'Then he has a strong will, perfect self-reliance, and the most restless
activity. All these qualities give him great influence. He led the
_centre gauche_ into most of its errors. H---- used to say, "If you
want to know what I shall do, ask G----."
'Among the secondary causes of February 1848 he stands prominent. He
planned the banquets. Such demonstrations are safe in England. He
inferred, according to his usual mode of reasoning, that they would not
be dangerous in France. He forgot that in England there is an aristocracy
that leads, and even controls, the people.
'I am alarmed,' he continued, 'by your Reform Bill. Your new six-pound
franchise must, I suppose, double the constituencies; it is a further
step to universal suffrage, the most fatal and the least remediable of
'While you preserve your aristocracy, you will preserve your freedom; if
that goes, you will fall into the worst of tyrannies, that of a despot,
appointed and controlled, so far as he is controlled at all, by a
Madame de Tocqueville asked me if I had seen the Empress.
'No,' I said, 'but Mrs. Senior has, and thinks her beautiful.'
'She is much more so,' said Madame de Tocqueville, 'than her portraits.
Her face in perfect repose gets long, and there is a little drooping
about the corners of the mouth. This has a bad effect when she is
serious, as everyone is when sitting for a picture, but disappears as
soon as she speaks. I remember dining in company with her at the
President's--I sat next to him--she was nearly opposite, and close to her
a lady who was much admired. I said to the President, looking towards
Mademoiselle de Montigo, "Really I think that she is far the prettier of
the two." He gazed at her for an instant, and said, "I quite agree with
you; she is charming." It may be a _bon menage_'
'To come back,' I said, 'to our Eastern question. What is Baraguay
'A _brouillon_,' said Tocqueville. 'He is the most impracticable man in
France. His vanity, his ill-temper, and his jealousy make him quarrel
with everybody with whom he comes in contact. In the interest of our
alliance you should get him recalled.'
'What sort of man,' I asked, 'shall I find General Randon?'
'Very intelligent,' said Tocqueville. 'He was to have had the command of
the Roman army when Oudinot gave it up; but, just as he was going, it was
discovered that he was a Protestant. He was not so accommodating as one
of our generals during the Restoration. He also was a Protestant. The Duc
d'Angouleme one day said to him, "Vous etes protestant, general?" The
poor man answered in some alarm, for he knew the Duke's
ultra-Catholicism, "Tout ce que vous voulez, monseigneur."'
[Footnote 1: My conversations with M. de Tocqueville during this visit
were written out after my return from Paris and sent to him. He returned
them with the remarks which I have inserted.--N.W. SENIOR.]
[Footnote 2: Le portrait va plus loin que ma pensee.--_A. de
Tocqueville_. The picture expresses more than my idea.]
[Footnote 3: Cela va plus loin que ma pensee. Je crois que le vote
universel peut se concilier avec d'autres institutions, qui diminuerait
le danger.--_A. de Tocqueville._
This goes farther than my idea. I think that universal suffrage may be
combined with other institutions, which would diminish the danger.]
[Footnote 4: Cela aussi va plus loin que ma pensee. Je crois
tres-desirable le maintien des institutions aristocratiques en
Angleterre. Mais je suis loin de dire que leur abolition menerait
necessairement au despotisme, surtout si elles s'affaiblissaient peu a
peu et n'etaient pas renversees par une revolution.--_A. de Tocqueville_.
This also goes farther than my idea. I think the maintenance in England
of aristocratic institutions very desirable. But I am far from saying
that their abolition would necessarily lead to despotism, especially if
their power were diminished gradually and without the shock of a
_To N.W. Senior, Esq._
St. Cyr, March 18, 1854.
Your letter was a real joy to us, my dear Senior. As you consent to be
ill lodged, we offer to you with all our hearts the bachelor's room which
you saw. You will find there only a bed, without curtains, and some very
shabby furniture. But you will find hosts who will be charmed to have you
and your MSS. I beg you not to forget the latter.
My wife, as housekeeper, desires me to give you an important piece of
advice. In the provinces, especially during Lent, it is difficult to get
good meat on Fridays and Saturdays, and though you are a great sinner,
she has no wish to force you to do penance, especially against your will,
as that would take away all the merit. She advises you, therefore, to
arrange to spend with us Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and
Thursday, and to avoid Friday and Saturday, and especially the whole of
the Holy Week.
Now you are provided with the necessary instructions. Choose your own
day, and give us twenty-four hours' warning.
A. DE TOCQUEVILLE.
St. Cyr, March 31, 1854.
My dear Senior,--As you are willing to encounter hard meat and river
fish, I have no objection to your new plan. I see in it even this
advantage, that you will be able to tell us _de visu_ what went on in the
Corps Legislatif, which will greatly interest us.
The condemnation of Montalembert seems to me to be certain; but I am no
less curious to know how that honourable assembly will contrive to
condemn a private letter which appeared in a foreign country, and which
was probably published without the authorisation and against the will of
It is a servile trick, which I should like to see played.
Do not hesitate to postpone your visit if the sitting of the Corps
Legislatif should not take place on Monday.
A. DE TOCQUEVILLE.
I passed the 3rd and 4th of April in the Corps Legislatif listening to
the debate on the demand by the Government of permission to prosecute M.
de Montalembert, a member of the Corps Legislatif, for the publication of
a letter to M. Dupin, which it treated as libellous. As it was supposed
that M. de Montalembert's speech would be suppressed, I wrote as
much of it as I could carry in my recollection; the only other
vehicle--notes--not being allowed to be taken. On the evening of the
5th of April I left Paris for St. Cyr.
[Footnote 1: See Appendix.]
_St. Cyr, Thursday, April 6_, 1854.--I drove with Tocqueville to
Chenonceaux, a chateau of the sixteenth century, about sixteen miles from
Tours, on the Cher. I say _on_ the Cher, for such is literally its
position. It is a habitable bridge, stretching across the water.
The two first arches, which spring from the right bank of the river, and
the piers which form their abutments, are about one hundred feet wide,
and support a considerable house. The others support merely a gallery,
called by our guide the ballroom of Catherine de Medicis, ending in a
small theatre. The view from the windows of the river flowing through
wooded meadows is beautiful and peculiar. Every window looks on the
river; many rooms, as is the case with the gallery, look both up and down
it. It must be a charming summer residence. The rooms still retain the
furniture which was put into them by Diane de Poictiers and Catherine de
Medicis; very curious and very uncomfortable; high narrow chairs, short
sofas, many-footed tables, and diminutive mirrors. The sculptured
pilasters, scrolls, bas-reliefs and tracery of the outside are not of
fine workmanship, but are graceful and picturesque. The associations are
interesting, beginning with Francis I. and ending with Rousseau, who
spent there the autumn of 1746, as the guest of Madame Dupin, and wrote a
comedy for its little theatre. The present proprietor, the Marquis de
Villeneuve, is Madame Dupin's grandson.
In the evening we read my report of the debate on Montalembert.
'It is difficult,' said Tocqueville, 'to wish that so great a speech had
been suppressed. But I am inclined to think that Montalembert's wiser
course was to remain silent. What good will his speech do? It will not be
published. Yours is probably the only report of it. So far as the public
hears anything of it, the versions coming through an unfavourable medium
will be misrepresentations. In a letter which I received from Paris
this morning it is called virulent. It was of great importance that the
minority against granting the consent should be large, and I have no
doubt that this speech diminished it by twenty or thirty. It must have
wounded many, frightened many, and afforded a pretext to many. Perhaps,
however, it was not in human nature for such a speaker as Montalembert to
resist the last opportunity of uttering bold truths in a French
_Friday, April_ 7.--We drove to-day along the Loire to Langrais, about
twelve miles below Tours.
Here is a castle of the thirteenth century, consisting of two centre and
two corner towers, and a curtain between them, terminating in a rocky
promontory. Nothing can be more perfect than the masonry, or more elegant
than the few ornaments. The outside is covered with marks of bullets,
which appear to have rattled against it with little effect.
On our return we visited the castles of Cinq Mars and Luynes. Langrais,
Cinq Mars, and Luynes were all the property of Effiat, Marquis of Cinq
Mars, who with De Thou conspired against Richelieu in the latter part of
Louis XIII.'s reign, and was beheaded. The towers of Cinq Mars were, in
the words of his sentence, 'rasees a la hauteur de l'infamie,' and remain
now cut down to half their original height. Luynes stands finely,
crowning a knoll overlooking the Loire. It is square, with twelve towers,
two on each side and four in the corners, and a vast ditch, and must have
been strong. Nearly a mile from it are the remains of a Roman aqueduct,
of which about thirty piers and six perfect arches remain. It is of
stone, except the arches, which have a mixture of brick. The peasants, by
digging under the foundations, are rapidly destroying it. An old man told
us that he had seen six or seven piers tumble. A little nearer to Tours
is the Pile de Cinq Mars, a solid, nearly square tower of Roman brickwork
more than ninety feet high, and about twelve feet by fourteen feet thick.
On one side there appear to have been inscriptions or bas-reliefs. Ampere
believes it to have been a Roman tomb; but the antiquaries are divided
and perplexed. Being absolutely solid, it could not have been built for
I am struck during my walks and drives by the appearance of prosperity.
The country about Tours is dotted with country-houses, quite as numerous
as in any part of England. In St. Cyr alone there must be between twenty
and thirty, and the houses of the peasants are far better than the best
cottages of English labourers. Everyone seems to have attached to it a
considerable piece of land, from ten acres to two, cultivated in vines,
vegetables and fruit. These and green crops are nearly the only produce;
there is very little grain. All the persons whom I met appeared to be
healthy and well-clad. The soil and climate are good, and the proximity
to Tours insures a market; but physical advantages are not enough to
insure prosperity. The neighbourhood of Cork enjoys a good climate, soil,
and market, but the inhabitants are not prosperous.
After some discussion Tocqueville agreed with me in attributing the
comfort of the Tourainese to the slowness with which population
increases. In the commune of Tocqueville the births are only three to a
marriage, but both Monsieur and Madame de Tocqueville think that the
number of children here is still less. I scarcely meet any.
Marriages are late, and very seldom take place until a house and a bit of
ground and some capital have been inherited or accumulated. Touraine is
the best specimen of the _petite culture_ that I have seen. The want of
wood makes it objectionable as a summer residence.
We are now suffering from heat. After eight in the morning it is too hot
to walk along the naked glaring roads, yet this is only the first week in
_Saturday, April_ 8.--The sun has been so scorching during our two last
drives that we have given ourselves a holiday to-day, and only dawdled
We went first to the cathedral, which I never see without increased
pleasure. Though nearly four hundred years passed from its commencement
in the twelfth century to its completion in the fifteenth, the whole
interior is as harmonious as if it had been finished by the artist who
began it. I know nothing in Gothic architecture superior to the grandeur,
richness, and yet lightness of the choir and eastern apse. Thence we
went to St. Julien's, a fine old church of the thirteenth century,
desecrated in the Revolution, but now under restoration.
Thence to the Hotel Gouin, a specimen of the purely domestic architecture
of the fifteenth century, covered with elegant tracery and scroll-work in
white marble. We ended with Plessis-les-Tours, Louis XI.'s castle, which
stands on a flat, somewhat marshy, tongue of land stretching between the
Loire and the Cher. All that remains is a small portion of one of the
inner courts, probably a guard-room, and a cellar pointed out to us as
the prison in which Louis XI kept Cardinal de la Balue for several years.
The cellar itself is not bad for a prison of those days, but he is said
to have passed his first year or two in a grated vault under the
staircase, in which he could neither stand up nor lie at full length.
'It is remarkable,' said Tocqueville, 'that the glorious reigns in French
history, such as those of Louis Onze, Louis Quatorze, and Napoleon ended
in the utmost misery and exhaustion, while the periods at which we are
accustomed to look as those of disturbance and insecurity were those of
comparative prosperity and progress. It seems as if tyranny were worse
than civil war.'
'And yet,' I said, 'the amount of revenue which these despots managed to
squeeze out of France was never large. The taxation under Napoleon was
much less than under Louis Philippe.'
'Yes,' said Tocqueville, 'but it was the want of power to tax avowedly
that led them into indirect modes of raising money, which were far more
mischievous; just as our servants put us to more expense by their jobs
than they would do if they simply robbed us to twice the amount of their
'Louis XIV. destroyed all the municipal franchises of France, and paved
the way for this centralized tyranny, not from any dislike of municipal
elections, but merely in order to be able himself to sell the places
which the citizens had been accustomed to grant.'
_Sunday, April_ 9.--Another sultry day. I waited till the sun was low,
and then sauntered by the side of the river with Tocqueville.
'The worst faults of this Government,' said Tocqueville, 'are those which
do not alarm the public.
'It is depriving us of the local franchises and local self-government
which we have extorted from the central power in a struggle of forty
years. The Restoration and the Government of July were as absolute
centralizers as Napoleon himself. The local power which they were forced
to surrender they made over to the narrow pays legal, the privileged
ten-pounders, who were then attempting to govern France. The Republic
gave the name of Conseils-generaux to the people, and thus dethroned the
notaires who had governed those assemblies when they represented only the
_bourgeoisie_. The Republic made the maires elective. The Republic placed
education in the hands of local authorities. Under its influence, the
communes, the cantons, and the departments were becoming real
administrative bodies. They are now mere geographical divisions. The
prefet appoints the maires. The prefet appoints in every canton a
commissaire de police--seldom a respectable man, as the office is not
honourable. The gardes champetres, who are our local police, are put
under his control. The recteur, who was a sort of local Minister of
Education in every department, is suppressed. His powers are transferred
to the prefet. The prefet appoints, promotes, and dismisses all the
masters of the _ecoles primaires._ He has the power to convert the
commune into a mere unorganised aggregation of individuals, by dismissing
every communal functionary, and placing its concerns in the hands of his
own nominees. There are many hundreds of communes that have been thus
treated, and whose masters now are uneducated peasants. The prefet can
dissolve the Conseil-general of his department and, although he cannot
directly name its successors, he does so virtually.
'No candidate for an elective office can succeed unless he is supported
by the Government. The prefet can destroy the prosperity of every commune
that displeases him. He can dismiss its functionaries, close its schools,
obstruct its improvements, and withhold the assistance in money which the
Government habitually gives to forward the public purposes of a commune.
'The Courts of Law, both criminal and civil, are the tools of the
Executive. The Government appoints the judges, the prefet provides the
jury, and _la haute police_ acts without either.
'All power of combination, even of mutual communication, except from
mouth to mouth, is gone. The newspapers are suppressed or intimidated,
the printers are the slaves of the prefet, as they lose their privilege
if they offend; the secrecy of the post is habitually and avowedly
violated; there are spies to watch and report conversation.
'Every individual stands defenceless and insulated in the face of this
unscrupulous Executive with its thousands of armed hands and its
thousands of watching eyes. The only opposition that is ventured is the
abstaining from voting. Whatever be the office, whatever be the man, the
candidate of the prefet comes in; but if he is a man who would have been
universally rejected in a state of freedom, the bolder electors show
their indignation by their absence. I do not believe that, even with
peace, and with the prosperity which usually accompanies peace, such a
Government could long keep down such a country as France. Whether its
existence would be prolonged by a successful war I will not decide.
Perhaps it might be.
'That it cannot carry on a war only moderately successful, or a war which
from its difficulties and its distance may be generally believed to be
ill managed, still less a war stained by some real disaster, seems to me
certain--if anything in the future of France can be called certain.
'The vast democratic sea on which the Empire floats is governed by
currents and agitated by ground-swells, which the Government discovers
only by their effects. It knows nothing of the passions which influence
these great, apparently slumbering, masses; indeed it takes care, by
stifling their expression, to prevent their being known. Universal
suffrage is a detestable element of government, but it is a powerful
'But,' I said, 'the people will not have an opportunity of using that
instrument. All the great elective bodies have some years before them.'
'That is true,' said Tocqueville, 'and therefore their rage will break
out in a more direct, and perhaps more formidable, form. Depend on it,
this Government can exist, even for a time, only on the condition of
brilliant, successful war, or prosperous peace. It is bound to be rapidly
and clearly victorious. If it fail in this, it will sink--or perhaps, in
its terrors and its struggles, it will catch at the other alternative,
'The French public is too ignorant to care much about Russian
aggrandisement. So far as it fancies that the strength of Russia is the
weakness of England, it is pleased with it. I am not sure that the most
dishonourable peace with Nicholas would not give to Louis Napoleon an
immediate popularity. I am sure that it would, if it were accompanied by
any baits to the national vanity and cupidity; by the offer of Savoy for
instance, or the Balearic Islands. And if you were to quarrel with us for
accepting them, it would be easy to turn against you our old feelings of
jealousy and hatred.'
We saw vast columns of smoke on the other side of the river. Those whom
we questioned believed them to arise from an intentional fire. Such fires
are symptoms of popular discontent. They preceded the revolution of 1830.
They have become frequent of late in this country.
_Monday, April_ 10.--Tocqueville and I drove this morning to
Azy-le-Rideau, another Francis I. chateau, on an island formed by the
Indre. It is less beautifully situated than Chenonceaux; the river Indre
is smaller and more sluggish than the Cher; the site of the castle is in
a hollow, and the trees round it approach too near, and are the tall and
closely planted poles which the French seem to admire. But the
architecture, both in its outlines and in its details, is charming.
It is of white stone, in this form, with two curtains and four
towers. The whole outside and the ceilings and cornices within are
covered with delicate arabesques.
O ______________ 0
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0 \ | |
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Like Chenonceaux, it escaped the revolution, and is now, with its
furniture of the sixteenth century, the residence of the Marquis de
Biancourt, descended from its ancient proprietors.
As we sauntered over the gardens, our conversation turned on the old
aristocracy of France.
'The loss of our aristocracy,' said Tocqueville, 'is a misfortune from
which we have not even begun to recover. The Legitimists are their
territorial successors; they are the successors in their manners, in
their loyalty, and in their prejudices of _caste_; but they are not their
successors in cultivation, or intelligence, or energy, or, therefore, in
influence. Between them and the _bourgeoisie_ is a chasm, which shows no
tendency to close. Nothing but a common interest and a common pursuit
will bring them together.
'If the murder of the Duc d'Enghien had not made them recoil in terror
and disgust from Napoleon, they might have perhaps been welded into one
mass with his new aristocracy of services, talents, and wealth. They were
ready to adhere to him during the Consulate. During the Restoration they
were always at war with the _bourgeoisie_, and therefore with the
constitution, on which the power of their enemies depended. When the
result of that war was the defeat and expulsion of their leader, Charles
X., their hostility extended from the _bourgeoisie_ and the constitution
up to the Crown. Louis Philippe tried to govern by means of the middle
classes alone. Perhaps it was inevitable that he should make the attempt.
It certainly was inevitable that he should fail. The higher classes, and
the lower classes, all equally offended, combined to overthrow him. Under
the Republic they again took, to a certain extent, their place in the
State. They led the country people, who came to the assistance of the
Assembly in June 1848. The Republic was wise enough to impose no oaths.
It did not require those who were willing to serve it to begin by openly
disavowing their traditionary opinions and principles. The Legitimists
took their places in the Conseils-generaux. They joined with the
_bourgeoisie_ in local administration, the only means by which men of
different classes can coalesce.
'The socialist tendencies which are imputed to this Second Empire, the
oath which it most imprudently imposes, its pretensions to form a dynasty
and its assertion of the principle most abhorrent to them, elective
monarchy, have thrown them back into disaffection. And I believe their
disaffection to be one of our great dangers--a danger certainly increased
by the Fusion. The principal object of the Fusion is to influence the
army. The great terror of the army is division in itself. It will accept
anything, give up anything, dare anything, to avoid civil war. Rather
than be divided between the two branches, it would have adhered to the
Empire. Now it can throw off the Bonapartes without occasioning a
'When you say,' I asked, 'that the Legitimists are not the successors of
the old aristocracy in cultivation, intelligence, or energy, do you mean
to ascribe to them positive or relative inferiority in these qualities?'
'In energy,' answered Tocqueville, 'their deficiency is positive. They
are ready to suffer for their cause, they are not ready to exert
themselves for it. In intelligence and cultivation they are superior to
any other class in France; but they are inferior to the English
aristocracy, and they are inferior, as I said before, to their ancestors
of the eighteenth century. There existed in the highest Parisian society
towards the end of that century a comprehensiveness of curiosity and
inquiry, a freedom of opinion, an independence, and soundness of
judgment, never seen before or since. Its pursuits, its pleasures, its
admirations, its vanities, were all intellectual. Look at the success of
Hume. His manners were awkward; he was a heavy, though an instructive,
converser; he spoke bad French; he would pass now for an intelligent
bore. But such was the worship then paid to talents and
knowledge--especially to knowledge, and talents employed on the
destruction of prejudices--that Hume was, for years, the lion of all the
salons of Paris. The fashionable beauties quarrelled for the fat
philosopher. Nor was their admiration or affection put on, or even
transitory. He retained some of them as intimate friends for life.
If the brilliant talkers and writers of that time were to return to life,
I do not believe that gas, or steam, or chloroform, or the electric
telegraph, would so much astonish them as the dulness of modern society,
and the mediocrity of modern books.'
In the evening we discussed the new scheme of throwing open the service
of India and of the Government offices to public competition.
'We have followed,' said Tocqueville, 'that system to a great extent for
many years. Our object was twofold. One was to depress the aristocracy of
wealth, birth, and connexions. In this we have succeeded.
The Ecole Polytechnique, and the other schools in which the vacancies are
given to those who pass the best examinations, are filled by youths
belonging to the middle classes, who, undistracted by society, or
amusement, or by any literary or scientific pursuits, except those
immediately bearing on their examinations, beat their better-born
competitors, who will not degrade themselves into the mere slaves of
success in the _concours_. Our other object was to obtain the best public
servants. In that we have failed. We have brought knowledge and ability
to an average; diminished the number of incompetent _employes_, and
reduced, almost to nothing, the number of distinguished ones. Continued
application to a small number of subjects, and those always the same, not
selected by the student, but imposed on him by the inflexible rule of the
establishment, without reference to his tastes or to his powers, is as
bad for the mind as the constant exercise of one set of muscles would be
for the body.
'We have a name for those who have been thus educated. They are called
"polytechnises." If you follow our example, you will increase your
second-rates, and extinguish your first-rates; and what is perhaps a more
important result, whether you consider it a good or an evil, you will
make a large stride in the direction in which you have lately made so
many--the removing the government and the administration of England from
the hands of the higher classes into those of the middle and lower ones.'
Paris, Sunday, May 14, 1854.
My dear Tocqueville,--I write to you _in meditatione fugae_. 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 tres-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.
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 Ampere. 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 Ampere. 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
Compiegne. 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.
Ampere, 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.
Compiegne, 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
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
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.
Compiegne, 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.
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.
Compiegne, 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
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.
[Footnote 1: An article in the _North British Review_, see p. 107.--ED.]
_Paris, Hotel Bedford.--Friday, March_ 2, 1855.--We slept on the 27th at
Calais, on the 28th at Amiens, and reached this place last night.
Tocqueville called on us this morning. We talked of the probability of
Louis Napoleon's going to the Crimea.
I said, 'that the report made by Lord John Russell, who talked the matter
over with him, was, that he certainly had once intended to go, and had
not given it up.'
'I do not value,' said Tocqueville, 'Lord John's inferences from anything
that he heard or saw in his audiences. All Louis Napoleon's words and
looks, are, whether intentionally or not, misleading. Now that his having
direct issue seems out of the question, and that the deeper and deeper
discredit into which the heir presumptive is falling, seems to put _him_
out of the question too, we are looking to this journey with great alarm.
We feel that, for the present, his life is necessary to us, and we feel
that it would be exposed to many hazards. He ought to incur some military
risks, if he is present at a battle or an assault, and his courage and
his fatalism, will lead him to many which he ought to avoid. But it is
disease rather than bullets that we fear. He will have to travel hard,
and to be exposed, under exciting circumstances, to a climate which is
not a safe one even to the strong.'
'But,' I said, 'he will not be exposed to it long. I have heard thirty,
or at most forty, days proposed as the length of his absence.'
'Who can say that?' answered Tocqueville. 'If he goes there, he must stay
there until Sebastopol falls. It will not do for him to leave Paris in
order merely to look at the works, pat the generals on the back,
compliment the army, and leave it in the trenches. Unless his journey
produces some great success--in short, unless it gives us Sebastopol--it
will be considered a failure; and a failure he cannot afford. I repeat
that he must stay there till Sebastopol falls. But that may be months.
And what may months bring forth in such a country as France? In such a
city as Paris? In such times as these? Then he cannot safely leave his
cousin--Jerome Plon swears that he will not go, and I do not see how he
can be taken by force.'
'I do not understand,' I said, 'Jerome's conduct. It seemed as if he had
the ball at his feet. The _role_ of an heir is the easiest in the world.
He has only to behave decently in order to be popular.'
'Jerome's chances,' answered Tocqueville, 'of the popularity which is to
be obtained by decent behaviour were over long before he became an heir.
His talents are considerable, but he has no principles, and no good
sense. He is Corsican to the bone. I watched him among his Montagnards in
'Nothing could be more perverse than his votes, nor more offensive than
his speeches. He is unfit to conciliate the sensible portion of society,
and naturally throws himself into the arms of those who are waiting to
receive him--the violent, the rapacious, and the anarchical: this gives
him at least some adherents.'
'What do you hear,' I asked, 'of his conduct in the East?'
'I hear,' said Tocqueville, 'that he showed want, not so much of courage,
as of temper and of subordination. He would not obey orders; he would not
even transmit them, so that Canrobert was forced to communicate directly
with the officers of Napoleon's division, and at last required him to
take sick leave, or to submit to a court-martial.'
'I thought,' I said, 'that he was really ill.'
'That is not the general opinion,' said Tocqueville. 'He showed himself
at a ball directly after his return, with no outward symptoms of ill
The conversation turned on English politics.
'So many of my friendships,' said Tocqueville, 'and so many of my
sympathies, are English, that what is passing _in_ your country, and
_respecting_ your country, gives me great pain, and greater anxiety. To
us, whom unhappily experience has rendered sensitive of approaching
storms, your last six months have a frightfully revolutionary appearance.
'There is with you, as there was with us in 1847, a general _malaise_ in
the midst of general prosperity. Your people seem, as was the case with
ours, to have become tired of their public men, and to be losing faith in
their institutions. What else do these complaints of what is called "the
system" mean? When you complain that the Government patronage is bartered
for political support, that the dunces of a family are selected for the
public service, and selected expressly because they could not get on in
an open profession; that as their places are a sort of property, they are
promoted only by seniority, and never dismissed for any, except for some
moral, delinquency; that therefore the seniors in all your departments
are old men, whose original dulness has been cherished by a life without
the stimulus of hope or fear, you describe a vessel which seems to have
become too crazy to endure anything but the calmest sea and the most
favourable winds. You have tried its sea-worthiness in one department,
your military organisation, and you find that it literally falls to
pieces. You are incapable of managing a line of operations extending only
seven miles from its base. The next storm may attack your Colonial
Administration. Will that stand any better? Altogether your machinery
seems throughout out of gear. If you set to work actively and fearlessly,
without reference to private interests, or to private expectations, or to
private feelings, to repair, remove and replace, you may escape our
misfortunes; but I see no proofs that you are sufficiently bold, or
indeed that you are sufficiently alarmed. Then as to what is passing
here. A year ago we probably overrated your military power. I believe
that now we most mischievously underrate it. A year ago nothing alarmed
us more than a whisper of the chance of a war with England. We talk of
one now with great composure. We believe that it would not be difficult
to throw 100,000 men upon your shores, and we believe that half that
number would walk over England or Ireland. You are mistaken if you think
that these opinions will die away of themselves, or will be eradicated by
anything but some decisive military success. I do not agree with those
who think that it is your interest that Russia should submit while
Sebastopol stands. You might save money and men by a speedy peace, but
you would not regain your reputation. If you are caught by a peace before
you have an opportunity of doing so, I advise you to let it be on your
part an armed peace. Prepare yourselves for a new struggle with a new
enemy, and let your preparations be, not only as effective as you can
make them, but also as notorious.'
[Footnote 1: Note inserted by M de Tocqueville in my Journal, after
reading the preceding conversation.
'J'ai entendu universellement louer sans restriction le courage heroique
de vos soldats, mais en meme temps j'ai trouve repandu cette croyance,
qu'on s'etait trompe de l'importance de l'Angleterre dans le monde, comme
puissance militaire proprement dite, qui consiste autant a _administrer_
la guerre qu'a combattre, et surtout qu'il lui etait impossible, ce qu'on
ne croyait pas jusque la, d'elever de grandes armees, meme dans les cas
les plus pressants. Je n'avais rien entendu de pareil depuis mon enfance.
On vous croit absolument dans notre dependance, et du sein de la grande
inimite qui regne entre les deux peuples, je vois naitre des idees qui,
le jour ou nos deux gouvernements cesseront d'etre d'accord, nous
precipiteront dans la guerre contre vous, beaucoup plus facilement que
cela n'eut pu avoir lieu depuis la chute du premier Empire. Cela
m'afflige, et pour l'avenir de Alliance anglaise (dont vous savez que j'ai
toujours ete un grand partisan), et non moins aussi, je l'avoue, pour la
cause de vos institutions libres. Ce qui se passe n'est pas de nature a
la relever dans notre esprit. Je vous pardonnerais de deconsiderer vos
principes par les louanges dont vous accablez le gouvernement absolu qui
regne en France, mais je voudrais du moins que vous ne le fissiez pas
d'une maniere encore plus efficace par vos propres fautes, et par la
comparaison qu'elles suggerent. Il me semble, du reste, bien difficile
de dire ce qui resultera pour vous meme du contact intime et prolonge
avec notre gouvernement, et surtout de l'action commune et du melange
des deux armees. J'en doute, je vous l'avouerai, que l'aristocratie
anglaise s'en trouve bien, et quoique A B ait entonne l'autre jour une
veritable hymne en l'honneur de celle ci, je ne crois pas que ce qui
passe soit de nature a rendre ces chances plus grandes dans l'avenir'--_A
'I heard universal and unqualified praise of the heroic courage of your
soldiers, but at the same time I found spread abroad the persuasion that
the importance of England had been overrated as a military Power properly
so called--a Power which consists in administering as much as in
fighting; and above all, that it was impossible (and this had never
before been believed), for her to raise large armies, even under the most
pressing circumstances. I never heard anything like it since my
childhood. You are supposed to be entirely dependent upon us, and from
the midst of the great intimacy which subsists between the two countries,
I see springing up ideas which, on the day when our two Governments cease
to be of one mind, will precipitate our country into a war against you,
much more easily than has been possible since the fall of the first
Empire. This grieves me, both on account of the duration of the English
Alliance (of which you know that I have always been a great partisan),
and no less, I own, for the sake of your free institutions. Passing
events are not calculated to raise them in our estimation. I forgive you
for discrediting your principles by the praise which you lavish on the
absolute government which reigns in France, but I would have you at least
not to do so in a still more efficacious manner by your own blunders and
by the comparisons which they suggest. It seems to me, however, very
difficult to predict the result to yourselves of the long and intimate
contact with, our Government, and, above all, of the united action and
amalgamation of the two armies. I own that I doubt its having a good
effect on the future of the English aristocracy, and although A.B. struck
up the other day a real hymn in its praise, I do not think that present
events are of a nature to increase its chance in the future.']
_Paris, Saturday, March_ 3.--Tocqueville called on us soon after
We talked of the loss and gain of Europe by the war. We agreed that
Russia and England have both lost by it. Russia probably the most in
power, England in reputation. That Prussia, though commercially a gainer,
is humiliated and irritated by the superiority claimed by Austria and
conceded to her.
'You cannot,' said Tocqueville, 'estimate the opinions of Germany without
going there. There is a general feeling among the smaller Powers of
internal insecurity and external weakness, and Austria is looked up to as
the supporter of order against the revolutionists, and of Germany against
Russia. Austria alone has profited by the general calamities. Without
actually drawing the sword she has possession of the Principalities, she
has thrust down Prussia into the second rank, she has emancipated herself
from Russia, she has become the ally of France and of England, and even
of her old enemy Piedmont, she is safe in Italy. Poland and Hungary are
still her difficulties, and very great ones, but as her general strength
increases, she can better deal with them.'
'Has not France, I said, 'been also a gainer, by becoming head of the
coalition against Russia?'
'Whatever we have gained,' answered Tocqueville, 'has been dearly
purchased, so far as it has consolidated this despotism. For a whole year
we have felt that the life, and even the reign, of Louis Napoleon was
necessary to us. They will continue necessary to us during the remainder
of the war. We are acquiring habits of obedience, almost of resignation.
His popularity has not increased. He and his court are as much shunned by
the educated classes as they were three years ago; we still repeat "que
ca ne peut pas durer," but we repeat it with less conviction.'
We passed the spring in Algeria, and returned to Paris the latter part of
_Paris, May 26,_1855.--After breakfast I went to the Institut.
M. Passy read to us a long paper on the Art of Government. He spoke so
low and so monotonously that no one attended. I sat next to Tocqueville,
and, as it was not decent to talk, we conversed a little in writing. He
had been reading my Algiers Journal, and thus commented upon it:--
'Il y a tout un cote, particulierement curieux, de l'Algerie, qui vous a
echappe parce que vous n'avez pu ou voulu vous imposer l'ennui de causer
souvent avec les colons, et que ce cote-la ne se voit pas en parlant
avec les gouvernants; c'est l'abus de la centralisation. L'Afrique peut
etre consideree comme le tableau le plus complet et le plus
extraordinaire des vices de ce systeme.
'Je suis convaincu que seul, sans les Arabes, le soleil, le desert, et la
fievre, il suffirait pour nous empecher de coloniser. Tout ce que la
centralisation laisse entrevoir de defauts, de ridicules et absurdites,
d'oppression, de paperasseries en France, est grossi en Afrique au
centuple. C'est comme un pou vu dans un microscope.'
'J'ai cause,' I answered, 'avec Vialar et avec mon hote aux eaux
ferrugineuses. Mais ils ne se sont pas plaints de la centralisation.'
'Ils ne se sont pas plaints,' he answered, 'du mot que, peut-etre, ils ne
connaissaient pas. Mais si vous les aviez fait entrer dans les details de
l'administration publique, ou meme de leurs affaires privees, vous auriez
vu que le colon est plus gene dans tous ses mouvements, et plus _gouverne
pour son plus grand bien_ que vous ne l'avez ete quand il s'est agi de
'Violar faisait allusion a cela quand il vous a dit que les chemins
manquaient parce que le Gouvernement ne voulait pas laisser les gouvernes
[Footnote 1: 'One whole side, and that a very curious one, of Algeria,
has escaped you, because you could not, or would not, inflict on yourself
the bore of talking frequently with the colonists, and this side cannot
be seen in conversing with officials--it is the abuse of centralisation.
Africa may be considered as the most complete and most extraordinary
picture of the vices of this system. I am convinced that it alone,
without the Arabs, the sun, the desert and the fever, would be enough to
prevent us from colonising. All the defects of centralisation, its
oppressions, its faults, its absurdities, its endless documents, which
are dimly perceived in France, become one hundred times bigger in Africa.
It is like a louse in a microscope.'
'I conversed,' I answered, 'with Violar and with my landlord at the
mineral waters, and they did not complain of centralisation.' 'They did
not complain,' he answered, 'of the word, which perhaps is unknown to
them. But if you had made them enter into the details of the public
administration, or even of their own private affairs, you would have seen
that the colonist is more confined in all his movements, and more
_governed, for his good_, than you were with regard to your passport.
'This is what Violar meant when he told you that roads were wanting,
because the Government would not permit its subjects to interfere in
_Monday, May_ 28.--Tocqueville called on me.
I asked him for criticisms on my article on the State of the Continent in
the 'North British Review' of February 1855.
[Footnote 1: See p. 107.]
'Of course,' I said, 'it must be full of blunders. No one who writes on
the politics of a foreign country can avoid them. I want your help to
correct a few of them.'
'Since you ask me,' he answered, 'for a candid criticism, I will give you
one. I accuse you rather of misappreciation than of misstatement. First
with respect to Louis Napoleon. After having described accurately, in the
beginning of your paper, his unscrupulous, systematic oppression, you end
by saying that, after all, you place him high among our sovereigns.'
'You must recollect,' I answered, 'that the article was written for the
"Edinburgh Review," the organ of our Government, edited by Lord
Clarendon's brother-in-law--and that the editor thought its criticisms of
Louis Napoleon so severe, that after having printed it, he was afraid to
publish it. I went quite as far as I prudently could. I accused him, as
you admit, of unscrupulous oppression, of ignorance of the feelings of
the people, of being an idle administrator, of being unacquainted with
business himself, and not employing those who understand it, of being
impatient of contradiction, of refusing advice and punishing censure--in
short, I have praised nothing but his foreign policy--and I have
mentioned two errors in that.'
'But I have a graver accusation to bring against you,' replied
Tocqueville. 'You couple as events mutually dependent the continuance of
the Imperial Government and the continuance of the Anglo-Gallic Alliance.
I believe this opinion not only to be untrue, but to be the reverse of
the truth. I believe the Empire and the Alliance to be not merely, not
mutually dependent, but to be incompatible, except upon terms which you
are resolved never to grant The Empire is essentially warlike--and war in
the mind of a Bonaparte, and of the friends of a Bonaparte, means the
Rhine. This war is merely a stepping stone. It is carried on for purposes
in which the mass of the people of France take no interest. Up to the
present time its burthens have been little felt, as it has been supported
by loans, and the limits of the legal conscription have not been
exceeded. But when the necessity comes for increased taxation and
anticipated conscriptions, Louis Napoleon must have recourse to the real
passions of the French _bourgeoisie_ and peasantry--the love of conquest,
_et la haine de l'Anglais_. Don't fancy that such feelings are dead, they
are scarcely asleep. They might be roused in a week, in a day, and they
_will_ be roused as soon as he thinks that they are wanted.
'What do you suppose was the effect in France of Louis Napoleon's triumph
'Those who know England attributed it to the ignorance and childishness
of the multitude. Those who thought that the shouts of the mob had any
real meaning either hung down their heads in shame at the
self-degradation of a great nation, or attributed them to fear. The
latter was the general feeling. "Il faut," said all our lower classes,
"que ces gens-la aient grande peur de nous."
'You accuse, in the second place, all the Royalist parties of dislike of
'Do you suppose that you are more popular with the others? That the
Republicans love your aristocracy, or the Imperialists your freedom? The
real friends of England are the friends of her institutions. They are
the body, small perhaps numerically, and now beaten down, of those who
adore Constitutional Liberty. They have maintained the mutual good
feeling between France and England against the passions of the
Republicans and the prejudices of the Legitimists. I trust, as you trust,
that this good feeling is to continue, but it is on precisely opposite
grounds. My hopes are founded, not on the permanence, but on the want of
permanence, of the Empire. I do not believe that a great nation will be
long led by its tail instead of by its head. My only fear is, that the
overthrow of this tyranny may not take place early enough to save us from
war with England, which I believe to be the inevitable consequence of its
We left Paris soon after this conversation.
[The following are a few extracts from the article in the 'North British
'The principal parties into which the educated society of Paris is
divided, are the Imperialists, Royalists, Republicans, and
'The Royalists maybe again subdivided into Orleanists, Legitimists, and
Fusionists; and the Fusionists into Orleanist-Fusionists, and
'The Imperialists do not require to be described. They form a small party
in the salons of Paris, and much the largest party in the provinces.
'Those who are Royalists without being Fusionists are also comparatively
insignificant in numbers. There are a very few Legitimists who pay to the
elder branch the unreasoning worship of superstition; who adore Henri
V. not as a means but as an end; who pray for his reign, not for their
own interests, not for the interests of France, but for his own sake; who
believe that he derives his title from God, and that when the proper time
comes God will restore him; and that to subject his claims to the
smallest compromise--to admit, for instance, as the Fusionists do, that
Louis Philippe was really a king, and that the reign of Henri V. did not
begin the instant that Charles X. expired--would be a sinful contempt
of Divine right, which might deprive his cause of Divine assistance.
'There are also a very few Orleanists who, with a strange confusion of
ideas, do not perceive that a title founded solely on a revolution was
destroyed by a revolution; that if the will of the people was sufficient
to exclude the descendants of Charles X., it also could exclude the
descendants of Louis Philippe; and that the hereditary claims of the
Comte de Paris cannot be urged except on the condition of admitting the
preferable claims of the Comte de Chambord.
'The bulk, then, of the Royalists are Fusionists; but though all the
Fusionists agree in believing that the only government that can be
permanent in France is a monarchy, and that the only monarchy that can be
permanent is one depending on hereditary succession; though they agree in
believing that neither of the Bourbon branches is strong enough to seize
the throne, and that each of them is strong enough to exclude the other,
yet between the Orleanist-Fusionists and the Legitimist-Fusionists the
separation is as marked and the mutual hatred as bitter, as those which
divide the most hostile parties in England.
'The Orleanist-Fusionists are generally _roturiers_. They feel towards
the _noblesse_ the hatred which has accumulated during twelve centuries
of past oppression and the resentment excited by present insolence. Of
all the noble families of France the most noble is that of Bourbon. The
head of that house has always called himself _le premier gentilhomme de
France_. The Bourbons therefore suffer, and in an exaggerated degree,
the odium which weighs down the caste to which they belong. It was this
odium, this detestation of privilege and precedence and exclusiveness,
or, as it is sometimes called, this love of equality, which raised the
barricades of 1830. It was to flatter these feelings that Louis Philippe
sent his sons to the public schools and to the National Guard, and tried
to establish his Government on the narrow foundation of the
_bourgeoisie_. Louis Philippe and one or two of the members of his
family, succeeded in obtaining some personal popularity, but it was only
in the comparatively small class, the _pays legal_, with which they
shared the emoluments of Government, and it was not sufficient to raise a
single hand in their defence when the masses, whom the Court could not
bribe or caress, rose against it. The Orleanist-Fusionists are
Bourbonists only from calculation. They wish for the Comte de Paris for
their king, not from any affection for him or for his family, but because
they think that such an arrangement offers to France the best chance of
a stable Government in some degree under popular control: and they are
ready to tolerate the intermediate reign of Henri V. as an evil, but one
which must be endured as a means of obtaining something else, not very
good in itself but less objectionable to them than a Bonapartist dynasty
or a Republic.
* * * * *
'The Legitimists have been so injured in fortune and in influence, they
have been so long an oppressed caste, excluded from power, and even from
sympathy, that they have acquired the faults of slaves, have become
timid, or frivolous, or bitter. Their long retirement from public life
has made them unfit for it. The older members of the party have forgotten
its habits and its duties, the younger ones have never learnt them. Their
long absence from the Chambers and from the departmental and municipal
councils, from the central and from the local government of France, has
deprived them of all aptitude for business. The bulk of them are
worshippers of wealth, or ease, or pleasure, or safety. The only
unselfish feeling which they cherish is attachment to their hereditary
sovereign. They revere Henri V. as the ruler pointed out to them by
Providence: they love him as the representative of Charles X. the
champion of their order, who died in exile for having attempted to
restore to them the Government of France. They hope that on his
restoration the _canaille_ of lawyers, and _litterateurs_, and
adventurers, who have trampled on the _gentilshommes_ ever since 1830,
will be turned down to their proper places, and that ancient descent will
again be the passport to the high offices of the State and to the society
of the Sovereign. The advent of Henri V., which to the Orleanist branch
of the Fusionists is a painful means, is to the Legitimist branch a
desirable end. The succession of the Comte de Paris, to which the
Orleanists look with hope, is foreseen by the Legitimists with
misgivings. The Fusionist party is in fact kept together not by common
sympathies but by common antipathies; each branch of it hates or
distrusts the idol of the other, but they co-operate because each
branch hates still more bitterly, and distrusts still more deeply, the
Imperialists and the Republicans.
'Among the educated classes there are few Republicans, using that word to
designate those who actually wish to see France a republic. There are
indeed, many who regret the social equality of the republic, the times
when plebeian birth was an aid in the struggle for power, and a
journeyman mason could be a serious candidate for the Presidentship, but
they are alarmed at its instability. They have never known a republic
live for more than a few years, or die except in convulsions. The
Republican party, however, though small, is not to be despised. It is
skilful, determined, and united. And the Socialists and the Communists,
whom we have omitted in our enumeration as not belonging to the educated
classes, would supply the Republican leaders with an army which has more
than once become master of Paris.
'The only party that remains to be described is that to which we have
given the name of Parliamentarians. Under this designation--a designation
that we must admit that we have invented ourselves--we include those who
are distinguished from the Imperialists by their desire for a
parliamentary form of government; and from the Republicans, by their
willingness that that government should be regal; and from the Royalists,
by their willingness that it should be republican. In this class are
included many of the wisest and of the honestest men in France. The only
species of rule to which they are irreconcilably opposed is despotism. No
conduct on the part of Louis Napoleon would conciliate a sincere
Orleanist, or Legitimist, or Fusionist, or Republican. The anti-regal
prejudices of the last, and the loyalty of the other three, must force
them to oppose a Bonapartist dynasty, whatever might be the conduct of
the reigning emperor. But if Louis Napoleon should ever think the time,
to which he professes to look forward, arrived--if he should ever grant
to France, or accept from her, institutions really constitutional;
institutions, under which the will of the nation, freely expressed by a
free press and by freely chosen representatives, should control and
direct the conduct of her governor--the Parliamentarians would eagerly
rally round him. On the same conditions they would support with equal
readiness Henri V. or the Comte de Paris, a president elected by the
people, or a president nominated by an Assembly. They are the friends of
liberty, whatever be the form in which she may present herself.'
* * * * *
'Although our author visits the Provinces, his work contains no report of
their political feelings. The explanation probably is, that he found no
expression of it The despotism under which France is now suffering is
little felt in the capital. It shows itself principally in the subdued
tone of the debates, if debates they can be called, of the Corps
Legislatif, and the inanity of the newspapers. Conversation is as free in
Paris as it was under the Republic. Public opinion would not support the
Government in an attempt to silence the salons of Paris. But Paris
possesses a public opinion, because it possesses one or two thousand
highly educated men whose great amusement, we might say whose great
business, is to converse, to criticise the acts of their rulers, and to
pronounce decisions which float from circle to circle, till they reach
the workshop, and even the barrack. In the provinces there are no such
centres of intelligence and discussion, and, therefore, on political
subjects, there is no public opinion. The consequence is, that the action
of the Government is there really despotic; and it employs its
irresistible power in tearing from the departmental and communal
authorities all the local franchises and local self-government which they
had extorted from the central power in a struggle of forty years.
'Centralisation, though it is generally disclaimed by every party that is
in opposition, is so powerful an instrument that every Monarchical
Government which has ruled France since 1789 has maintained, and even
tried to extend it.
'The Restoration, and the Government of July, were as absolute
centralisers as Napoleon himself. The local power which they were forced
to surrender they made over to the narrow _pays legal_, the privileged
ten-pounders, who were then attempting to govern France. The Republic
gave the election of the _Conseils generaux_ to the people, and thus
dethroned the notaries who governed those assemblies when they
represented only the _bourgeoisie_. The Republic made the Maires
elective; the Republic placed education in the hands of the local
authorities. Under its influence the communes, the cantons, and the
departments were becoming real administrative bodies. They are now
geographical divisions. The Prefet appoints the Maires; the Prefet
appoints in every canton a Commissaire de Police, seldom a respectable
man, as the office is not honourable; the Gardes champetres, who are the
local police, are put under his control; the Recteur, who was a sort of
local Minister of Education in every department, is suppressed; his
powers are transferred to the Prefet; the Prefet appoints, promotes, and
dismisses all the masters of the _ecoles primaires_. The Prefet can
destroy the prosperity of every commune that displeases him. He can
displace the functionaries, close its schools, obstruct its public works,
and withhold the money which the Government habitually gives in aid of
local improvement. He can convert it, indeed, into a mere unorganised
aggregation of individuals, by dismissing every communal functionary, and
placing its concerns in the hands of his own nominees. There are many
hundreds of communes that have been thus treated, and whose masters are
now uneducated peasants. The Prefet can dissolve the _Conseil general_ of
his department, and although he cannot actually name their successors, he
does so virtually. No candidate for an elective office can succeed unless
he is supported by the Government. The Courts of law, criminal and civil,
are the tools of the executive. The Government appoints the judges, the
Prefet provides the jury, and _la Haute Police_ acts without either. All
power of combination, even of mutual communication, except from mouth to
mouth, is gone. The newspapers are suppressed or intimidated, the
printers are the slaves of the Prefet, as they lose their privilege if
they offend; the secrecy of the post is habitually and avowedly violated;
there are spies in every country town to watch and report conversation;
every individual stands defenceless and insulated, in the face of this
unscrupulous executive, with its thousands of armed hands and its
thousands of watching eyes. The only opposition that is ventured is the
abstaining from voting. Whatever be the office, and whatever be the man,
the candidate of the Prefet comes in; but if he is a man who would have
been unanimously rejected in a state of freedom, the bolder electors show
their indignation by their absence.
'In such a state of society the traveller can learn little. Even those
who rule it, know little of the feelings of their subjects. The vast
democratic sea on which the Empire floats is influenced by currents, and
agitated by ground swells which the Government discovers only by their
effects. It knows nothing of the passions which influence these great
apparently slumbering masses. Indeed, it takes care, by stifling their
expression, to prevent their being known.
'We disapprove in many respects of the manner in which Louis Napoleon
employs his power, as we disapprove in all respects of the means by which
he seized it; but, on the whole, we place him high among the sovereigns
of France. As respects his foreign policy we put him at the very top. The
foreign policy of the rulers of mankind, whether they be kings, or
ministers, or senates, or demagogues, is generally so hateful, and at the
same time so contemptible, so grasping, so irritable, so unscrupulous,
and so oppressive--so much dictated by ambition, by antipathy and by
vanity, so selfish, often so petty in its objects, and so regardless of
human misery in its means, that a sovereign who behaves to other nations
with merely the honesty and justice and forbearance which are usual
between man and man, deserves the praise of exalted virtue. The
sovereigns of France have probably been as good as the average of
sovereigns. Placed indeed at the head of the first nation of the
Continent, they have probably been better; but how atrocious has been
their conduct towards their neighbour! If we go back no further than to
the Restoration, we find Louis XVIII. forming the Holy Alliance, and
attacking Spain without a shadow of provocation, for the avowed purpose
of crushing her liberties and giving absolute power to the most
detestable of modern tyrants. We find Charles X. invading a dependence
of his ally, the Sultan, and confiscating a province to revenge a tap on
the face given by the Bey of Algiers to a French consul. We find Louis
Philippe breaking the most solemn engagements with almost wanton
faithlessness; renouncing all extension of territory in Africa and then
conquering a country larger than France--a country occupied by tribes who
never were the subjects of the Sultan or of the Bey, and who could be
robbed of their independence only by wholesale and systematic massacre;
we find him joining England, Spain, and Portugal in the Quadruple
Alliance, and deserting them as soon as the time of action had arrived;
joining Russia, Prussia, Austria and England, in the arrangement of the
Eastern question, on the avowed basis that the integrity of the Ottoman
empire should be preserved, and then attempting to rob it of Egypt. We
find him running the risk of a war with America, because she demanded,
too unceremoniously, the payment of a just debt, and with England because
she complained of the ill-treatment of a missionary. We find him trying
to ruin the commerce of Switzerland because the Diet arrested a French
spy, and deposing Queen Pomare because she interfered with the sale of
French brandies; and, as his last act, eluding an express promise by a
miserable verbal equivocation, and sowing the seeds of a future war of
succession in order to get for one of his sons an advantageous
establishment in Spain.
'The greatest blot in the foreign policy of Louis Napoleon is the
invasion of Rome, and for that he is scarcely responsible. It was
originally planned by Louis Philippe and Rossi. The expedition which
sailed from Toulon in 1849 was prepared in 1847. It was despatched in the
first six months of his presidency, in obedience to a vote of the
Assembly, when the Assembly was still the ruler of France; and Louis
Napoleon's celebrated letter to Ney was an attempt, not, perhaps
constitutional or prudent, but well-intentioned, to obtain for the Roman
people liberal and secular institutions instead of ecclesiastical
'His other mistake was the attempt to enforce on Turkey the capitulations
of 1740, and to revive pretentions of the Latins in Jerusalem which had
slept for more than a century. This, again, was a legacy from Louis
Philippe. It was Louis Philippe who claimed a right to restore the dome,
or the portico, we forget which, of the Holy Sepulchre, and to insult the
Greeks by rebuilding it in the Latin instead of the Byzantine form. Louis
Napoleon has the merit, rare in private life, and almost unknown among
princes, of having frankly and unreservedly withdrawn his demands, though
supported by treaty, as soon as he found that they could not be conceded
without danger to the conceding party.
'With these exceptions, his management of the foreign relations of France
has been faultless. To England he has been honest and confiding, to
Russia conciliatory but firm, to Austria kind and forbearing, and he has
treated Prussia with, perhaps, more consideration than that semi-Russian
Court and childishly false and cunning king deserved. He has been
assailed by every form of temptation, through his hopes and through his
fears, and has remained faithful and disinterested. Such conduct deserves
the admiration with which England has repaid it.
'We cannot praise him as an administrator. He is indolent and
procrastinating. He hates details, and therefore does not understand
them. When he has given an order he does not see to its execution;
indeed, he cannot, for he does not know how it ought to be executed. He
directed a fleet to be prepared to co-operate with us in the Baltic in
the spring. Ducos, his Minister of Marine, assured him that it was ready.
The time came, and not a ship was rigged or manned. He asked us to
suspend the expedition for a couple of months. We refused, and sailed
without the French squadron. If the Russians had ventured out, and we
either had beaten them single-handed, or been repulsed for want of the
promised assistance, the effect on France would have been frightful. We
have reason to believe that it was only in the middle of February that he
made up his mind to send an army to Bulgaria. They arrived by driblets,
without any plan of operations, and it was not until August that their
battering train left Toulon. It ought to have reached Sebastopol in May.
In time, however, he must see the necessity of either becoming an active
man of business himself, or of ministering, like other sovereigns,
through his Ministers. Up to the present time many causes have concurred
to occasion him to endeavour to be his own Minister, and to treat those
to whom he gives that name as mere clerks. He is jealous and suspicious,
fond of power, and impatient of contradiction. With the exception of
Drouyn de l'Huys, the eminent men of France, her statesmen and her
generals, stand aloof from him. Those who are not in exile have retired
from public life, and offer neither assistance nor advice. Advice,
indeed, he refuses, and, what is still more useful than advice, censure,
'But the war, though it must last longer, and cost, more in men and in
money than it would have done if it were managed with more intelligence
and activity, must end favourably. Ill managed as it has been by
France, it has been worse managed by Russia. It is impossible that that
semi-barbarous empire, with its scarcely sane autocrat, its corrupt
administration, its disordered finances, and its heterogeneous
populations, should ultimately triumph over the two most powerful nations
of Europe, flanked by Austria, and disposing of the fanatical valour of
Turkey. If Louis Napoleon pleases the vanity of France by military glory,
and rewards her exertions by a triumphant peace; if he employs his
absolute power in promoting her prosperity by further relaxing the
fetters which encumber her industry; if he takes advantage of the
popularity which a successful war, an honourable peace, and internal
prosperity must confer on him, to give to her a little real liberty and a
little real self-government; if he gradually subsides from a [Greek:
_Tyrannos_] to a [Greek: _Basileus_]; if he allows some liberty of the
press, some liberty of election, some liberty of discussion, and some
liberty of decision; he may pass the remainder of his agitated life in
the tranquil exercise of limited, but great and secure power, the ally of
England, and the benefactor of France.
'If this expectation should be realised--and we repeat, that among many
contingencies it appears to us to be the least improbable--it affords to
Europe the best hope of undisturbed peace and progressive civilisation
and prosperity. An alliance with England was one of the favourite dreams
of the first Napoleon. He believed, and with reason, that England and
France united could dictate to all Europe. But in this respect, as indeed
in all others, his purposes were selfish. Being master of France, he
wished France to be mistress of the world. All that he gave to France was
power, all that he required from Europe was submission. The objects for
which he desired our co-operation were precisely those which we wished to
defeat. The friendship from which we recoiled in disgust, almost in
terror, was turned into unrelenting hatred; and in the long struggle
which followed, each party felt that its safety depended on the total
ruin of the other.
'The alliance which the uncle desired as a means of oppressing Europe,
the nephew seeks for the purpose of setting her free. The heavy continued
weight of Russia has, ever since the death of Alexander, kept down all
energy and independence of action, and even of thought, on the Continent.
She has been the patron of every tyrant, the protector of every abuse,
the enemy of every improvement. It was at her instigation that the
Congress of Verona decreed the enslavement of Spain, and that in the
conferences of Leybach it was determined to stifle liberty in Italy.
Every court on the Continent is cursed with a Russian party; and woe be
to the Sovereign and to the Minister who is not at its head: all the
resources of Russian influence and of Russian corruption are lavished to
render his people rebellious and his administration unsuccessful. From
this _peine forte et dure_ we believe that Europe will now be relieved;
and if the people or the sovereigns of the Continent, particularly those
of Germany and Italy, make a tolerable use of the freedom from foreign
dictation which the weakness of Russia will give to them, we look forward
to an indefinite course of prosperity and improvement. Unhappily,
experience, however, forbids us to be sanguine. Forty years ago, an
event, such as we are now contemplating, occurred. A Power which had
deprived the Continent of the power of independent action fell, and for
several years had no successor. Germany and Italy recalled or
re-established their sovereigns, and entrusted them with power such as
they had never possessed before. How they used it may be inferred from
the general outbreak of 1848. A popular indignation, such as could have
been excited only by long years of folly, stupidity, and tyranny, swept
away or shook every throne from Berlin to Palermo. The people was
everywhere for some months triumphant; and its abuse of power produced a
reaction which restored or introduced despotism in every kingdom except
Prussia and Piedmont, and even in Prussia gave to the King power
sufficient to enable him, up to the present moment, to maintain a policy,
mischievous to the interests, disgusting to the sympathies, and injurious
to the honour of his people. But while the Anglo-Gallic alliance
continues, the Continent will be defended from the worst of all evils,
the prevention of domestic improvement, and the aggravation of domestic
disturbance, by foreign intervention. That alliance has already preserved
the liberty of Piedmont. If it had been established sooner, it might have
preserved that of Hesse, and have saved Europe from the revolting
spectacle of the constitutional resistance of a whole people against an
usurping tyrant and a profligate minister crushed by brutal, undisguised
'We repeat that we are not sanguine, that we do not expect the tranquil,
uninterrupted progress which would be the result of the timely concession
on the part of the sovereigns, and of the forbearance and moderation on
the part of their subjects, which, if they could profit by the lessons of
history, would be adopted by both parties. The only lesson, indeed, which
history teaches is, that she teaches none either to subjects or to
sovereigns. But we do trust that when the ruler and his people are
allowed to settle their own affairs between one another, they will come
from time to time to coarse and imperfect, but useful arrangements of
their differences. Rational liberty may advance slowly and unequally; it
may sometimes be arrested, it may sometimes be forced back, but its march
in every decennial period will be perceptible. Like an oak which has
grown up among storms, its durability will be in proportion to the
slowness of its progress.'
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
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, 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, 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
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 Fenelon, 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.
[Footnote 1: On the 18th June, 1855, the French and English made an
unsuccessful assault on Sebastopol.--ED.]
[Footnote 2: That of the 28th May, 1855.--ED.]
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
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