Part 4 out of 5
we do interfere, we do more harm than good.'
We talked of the manner in which the _loi de surete publique_ has been
carried out. And I mentioned 600 as the number of those who had suffered
under it, as acknowledged to me by Blanchard in the beginning of March.
'It is much greater now,' said Lanjuinais. 'Berryer on his return from
Italy, a week ago, slept in Marseilles. He was informed that more than
900 persons had passed through Marseilles, _deportes_ under the new law
to Algeria. They were of all classes: artisans and labourers mixed with
men of the higher and middle classes. To these must be added those
transported to Cayenne, who were sent by way of Havre. As for the number
_expulses_ and _internes_ there are no data.'
'In the Department of Var, a man was found guilty in 1848 of joining in
one of the revolutionary movements of that time. His complete innocence
was soon proved; he was released, and has lived quietly on his little
estate ever since. He was arrested under the new law and ordered to be
_deporte_ to Algeria. His friends, in fact all his neighbours,
remonstrated, and sent to Paris the proof that the original conviction
was a mistake. "Qu'il aille tout de meme," was Espinasse's answer.
'In Calvados the Prefet, finding no one whom he could conscientiously
arrest, took hold of one of the most respectable men in the department.
"If," he said, "I had arrested a man against whom there was plausible
ground for suspicion, he might have been transported. This man _must_ be
'Has he been released?' I asked.
'I have not heard,' was the answer. 'In all probability he has been.'
'In my department,' said Tocqueville, 'the _sous-prefet_, ordered by the
Prefet to arrest somebody in the arrondissement, was in the same
perplexity as the Prefet of Calvados. "I can find no fit person," he said
to me. I believe that he reported the difficulty to the Prefet, and that
the vacancy was supplied from some other arrondissement.
'What makes this frightful,' he added, 'is that we now know that
deportation is merely a slow death. Scarcely any of the victims of 1851
and 1852 are living.'
'I foretold that,' I said, 'at the time, as you will find if you look at
my article on Lamartine, published in the "Edinburgh Review."'
[Footnote 1: See _Journals in France and Italy_.--ED.]
_April_ 20.--We talked of the political influence in France of the
_hommes de lettres_.
'It began,' said Tocqueville, 'with the Restoration. Until that time we
had sometimes, though very rarely, statesmen who became writers, but
never writers who became statesmen,'
'You had _hommes de lettres_,' I said, 'in the early Revolutionary
Assemblies--Mirabeau for instance.'
'Mirabeau,' he answered, 'is your best example, for Mirabeau, until he
became a statesman, lived by his pen. Still I should scarcely call a man
of his high birth and great expectations _un homme de lettres_. That
appellation seems to belong to a man who owes his position in early life
to literature. Such a man is Thiers, or Guizot, as opposed to such men as
Gladstone, Lord John Russell, or Montalembert.'
_Wednesday, April_ 21.--I dined with D. and met, among several others,
Admiral Matthieu the Imperial Hydrographer, and a general whose name I
did not catch. I talked to the general about the army.
'We are increasing it,' he said, 'but not very materially. We are rather
giving ourselves the means of a future rapid increase, than making an
immediate augmentation. We are raising the number of men from 354,000 to
392,400, in round numbers to 400,000; but the principal increase is in
the _cadres_, the officers attached to each battalion. We have increased
them by more than one third. So that if a war should break out we can
instantly--that is to say in three months, increase our army to 600,000
or even 700,000 men. Soldiers are never wanting in France, the difficulty
always is to find officers.'
'I hear,' I said, 'that you are making great improvements in your
'We are,' he answered. 'We are applying to it the principle of the Minie
musket, and we are improving the material. We hope to make our guns as
capable of resisting rapid and continued firing as well and as long as
the English and the Swedish guns, which are the best in Europe, can do.
And we find that we can throw a ball on the Minie principle with equal
precision twice as far. This will double the force of all our batteries.'
'Are _you_,' he asked me, 'among those who have taken shares in the
'No,' I said. 'They are the last that I wish to encourage.'
'Englishmen or Frenchmen,' he answered, 'who help Russia to make
railways, put me in mind of the Dutch who sold powder to their besiegers.
'The thinness of her population--that is, the vast space over which it is
scattered--alone prevents Russia from being the mistress of Europe. If
her 64,000,000 were as concentrated as our 34,000,000 are, she would be
irresistible. She loses always far more men in marching than in
'The events of the war,' I said, 'lead me to believe that the goodness of
the Russian soldier is exaggerated. They were always beaten, often by
'In the first place,' he answered, 'those who were beaten at Sebastopol
were not the best Russian soldiers. They were short small men, generally
drawn from the neighbouring provinces. The Russian Imperial Guards and
the Russian Army in Poland are far superior to any that we encountered in
the Crimea. In the second place, they were ill commanded. The
improvements of weapons, of science and of discipline, have raised the
privates of all the great military nations to about the same level.
Success now depends on numbers and on generalship. With railways Russia
will be able to bring quickly a preponderating force to any point on her
frontier. Her officers are already good, and for money she can import the
best generals; indeed, I do not see why she should not breed them. Russia
is civilised enough to produce men of the highest military qualities.'
I asked Admiral Matthieu about the naval preparations of France.
'The "Moniteur,"' I said, 'denies that you are making any.'
'The "Moniteur,"' he answered, 'does not tell the truth. We are
augmenting largely, both the number and the efficacy of our fleet.
'Four years ago, at the beginning of the Russian war, we resolved to
build a steam fleet of 150 steam ships of different sizes for fighting,
and 74 steam ships for the transfer service, and to carry fuel and
stores. Though we set about this in the beginning, as we thought, of a
long war, we have not allowed the peace to interrupt it. We are devoting
to it sixty-five millions a year (2,600,000_l_.) of which from fifteen to
seventeen millions are employed every year in building new ships, and
from forty to forty-two in adding steam power to the old ones. We hope to
finish this great work in fourteen years.'
'What,' I asked, 'is the amount of your present fleet of steamers?'
'We have thirty-three screws,' he answered, 'fifty-seven paddles, and
sixty-two sailing vessels in commission, and seventy-three, mostly
steamers, _en reserve_, as you would say, in ordinary.'
'Manned by how many men?' I asked.
'By twenty-five thousand sailors,' he answered, 'and eleven thousand
marines. But our _inscription maritime_ would give us in a few months or
less one hundred thousand more. Since the times of Louis XVI. the French
Navy has never been so formidable, positively or relatively.'
'How,' I asked, 'has your "Napoleon" succeeded?'
'Admirably,' he answered. 'I have not seen the "Wellington," but she is a
much finer ship than the Agamemnon. Her speed is wonderful. A month ago
she left Toulon at seven in the morning, and reached Ajaccio by four in
the evening. But the great improvement is in our men. Napoleon knew
nothing and cared nothing about sailors. He took no care about their
training, and often wasted them in land operations, for which landsmen
would have done as well.
'In 1814 he left Toulon absolutely unguarded, and sent all the sailors to
join Augereau. You might have walked into it.
'In 1810 or 1811 I was on board a French corvette which fought an action
with an English vessel, the "Lively." We passed three times under her
stern, and raked her each time. We ought to have cleared her decks. Not a
shot touched her. The other day at Cherbourg I saw a broadside fired at a
floating mark three cables off, the usual distance at which ships engage.
Ten balls hit it, and we could see that all the others passed near enough
to shake it by their wind.
'A ship of eighty guns has now forty _canonniers_ and forty _maitres de
pieces_. All practical artillerymen, and even the able seamen, can point
a gun. Nelson's manoeuvre of breaking the line could not be used against
a French fleet, such as a French fleet is now. The leading ships would be
destroyed one after another, by the concentrated fire. Formerly our
officers dreaded a maritime war. They knew that defeat awaited them,
possibly death. Now they are confident, and eager to try their hands.'
In the evening L. took me into a corner, and we had a long conversation.
He had been reading my 'Athens Journal.'
'What struck me,' he said, 'in every page of it, was the resemblance of
King Otho to Louis Napoleon.'
'I see the resemblance,' I answered, 'but it is the resemblance of a
dwarf to a giant.'
'No,' he replied. 'Of a man five feet seven inches high to one five feet
eleven inches. There are not more than four inches between them. There is
the same cunning, the same coldness, the same vindictiveness, the same
silence, the same perseverance, the same unscrupulousness, the same
selfishness, the same anxiety to appear to do everything that is done,
and above all, the same determination to destroy, or to seduce by
corruption or by violence, every man and every institution favourable to
liberty, independence, or self-government. In one respect Otho had the
more difficult task. He found himself, in 1843, subject to a Constitution
carefully framed under the advice of England for the express purpose of
controlling him. He did not attempt to get rid of it by a _coup d'etat_,
or even to alter it, but cunningly and skilfully perverted it into an
instrument of despotism. Louis Napoleon destroyed the Constitution which
he found, and made a new one, copied from that which had been gradually
elaborated by his uncle, which as a restraint is intentionally powerless
'A man,' he continued, 'may acquire influence either by possessing in a
higher degree the qualities which belong to his country and to his time,
or by possessing those in which they are deficient.
'Wellington is an example of this first sort. His excellences were those
of an Englishman carried almost to perfection.
'Louis Napoleon belongs to the second. If his merits had been impetuous
courage, rapidity of ideas, quickness of decision, frankness, versatility
and resource, he would have been surrounded by his equals or his
superiors. He predominated over those with whom he came in contact
because he differed from them. Because he was calm, slow, reserved,
silent, and persevering. Because he is a Dutchman, not a Frenchman.'
'He seems,' I said, 'to have lost his calmness.'
'Yes,' answered L. 'But under what a shock! And observe that though the
greatest risk was encountered by _him_, the terror was greatest among his
_entourage_. I do not believe that if he had been left to himself he
would have lost his prudence or his self-possession. He did not for the
first day. Passions are contagious. Everyone who approached him was
agitated by terror and anger. His intrepidity and self-reliance, great as
they are, were disturbed by the hubbub all round him. His great defects
are three. First, his habit of self-contemplation. He belongs to the men
whom the Germans call subjective, whose eye is always turned inwardly;
who think only of themselves, of their own character, and of their own
fortunes. Secondly, his jealousy of able men. He wishes to be what you
called him, a giant, and as Nature has not made him positively tall, he
tries to be comparatively so, by surrounding himself with dwarfs. His
third defect is the disproportion of his wishes to his means. His desires
are enormous. No power, no wealth, no expenditure would satisfy them.
Even if he had his uncle's genius and his uncle's indefatigability, he
would sink, as his uncle did, under the exorbitance of his attempts. As
he is not a man of genius, or even a man of remarkable ability, as he is
ignorant, uninventive and idle, you will see him flounder and fall from
one failure to another.
'During the three years that Drouyn de L'Huys was his minister he was
intent on home affairs--on his marriage, on the Louvre, on the artillery,
on his _bonnes fortunes_, and on the new delights of unbounded
expenditure. He left foreign affairs altogether to his minister. When
Drouyn de L'Huys left him, the road before him was plain--he had only to
carry on the war. But when the war was over, the road ended; neither
he nor Walewski nor any of his _entourage_ know anything of the country
in which they are travelling. You see them wandering at hazard. Sometimes
trying to find their way to Russia, sometimes to England. Making a treaty
with Austria, then attempting to injure her, and failing; attempting to
injure Turkey, and failing; bullying Naples, and failing; threatening
Switzerland, threatening Belgium, and at last demanding from England an
Alien Bill, which they ought to know to be incompatible with the laws and
hateful to the feelings of the people.
'He is not satisfied with seeing the country prosperous and respected
abroad. He wants to dazzle. His policy, domestic and foreign, is a policy
of vanity and ostentation--motives which mislead everyone both in private
and in public life.
'His great moral merits are kindness and sympathy. He is a faithful
attached friend, and wishes to serve all who come near him.
'His greatest moral fault is his ignorance of the difference between
right and wrong; perhaps his natural insensibility to it, his want of the
organs by which that difference is perceived--a defect which he inherits
from his uncle.'
'The uncle,' I said, 'had at least one moral sense--he could understand
the difference between pecuniary honesty and dishonesty, a difference
which this man seems not to see, or not to value.'
'I agree with you,' said L. 'He cannot value it, or he would not look
complacently on the peculation which surrounds him. Every six months some
magnificent hotel rises in the Champs Elysees, built by a man who had
nothing, and has been a minister for a year or two.'
On my return I found Tocqueville with the ladies. I gave him an outline
of what L. had said.
'No one,' he said, 'knows Louis Napoleon better than L.'
'My opportunities of judging him have been much fewer, but as far as they
have gone, they lead to the same conclusions. L. perhaps has not dwelt
enough on his indolence. Probably as he grows older, and the effects of
his early habits tell on him, it increases. I am told that it is
difficult to make him attend to business, that he prolongs audiences
apparently to kill time.
'One of the few of my acquaintances who go near him, was detained by him
for an hour to answer questions about the members of the _Corps
legislatif_. Louis Napoleon inquired about their families, their
fortunes, their previous histories. Nothing about their personal
qualities. These are things that do not interest him. He supposes that
men differ only in externals. "That the _fond_ is the same in everyone."'
_April 26_.--Tocqueville spent the evening with us.
We talked of Novels.
'I read none,' he said, 'that end ill. Why should one voluntarily subject
oneself to painful emotions? To emotions created by an imaginary cause
and therefore impelling you to no action. I like vivid emotions, but I
seek them in real life, in society, in travelling, in business, but above
all in political business. There is no happiness comparable to political
success, when your own excitement is justified by the magnitude of the
questions at issue, and is doubled and redoubled by the sympathy of your
supporters. Having enjoyed that, I am ashamed of being excited by the
visionary sorrows of heroes and heroines.
'I had a friend,' he continued, 'a Benedictine, who is now ninety-seven.
He was, therefore, about thirteen when Louis XVI. began to reign. He is a
man of talents and knowledge, has always lived in the world, has attended
to all that he has seen and heard, and is still unimpaired in mind, and
so strong in body that when I leave him he goes down to embrace me, after
the fashion of the eighteenth century, at the bottom of his staircase.'
'And what effect,' I asked, 'has the contemplation of seventy years of
revolution produced in him? Does he look back, like Talleyrand, to the
_ancien regime_ as a golden age?'
'He admits,' said Tocqueville, 'the material superiority of our own age,
but he believes that, intellectually and morally, we are far inferior to
our grandfathers. And I agree with him. Those seventy years of revolution
have destroyed our courage, our hopefulness, our self-reliance, our
public spirit, and, as respects by far the majority of the higher
classes, our passions, except the vulgarest and most selfish ones--vanity
and covetousness. Even ambition seems extinct. The men who seek power,
seek it not for itself, not as the means of doing good to their country,
but as a means of getting money and flatterers.
'It is remarkable,' he continued, 'that women whose influence is
generally greatest under despotisms, have none now. They have lost it,
partly in consequence of the gross vulgarity of our dominant passions,
and partly from their own nullity. They are like London houses, all built
and furnished on exactly the same model, and that a most uninteresting
one. Whether a girl is bred up at home or in a convent, she has the same
masters, gets a smattering of the same accomplishments, reads the same
dull books, and contributes to society the same little contingent of
'When a young lady comes out I know beforehand how her mother and her
aunts will describe her. "Elle a les gouts simples. Elle est pieuse. Elle
aime la campagne. Elle aime la lecture. Elle n'aime pas le bal. Elle
n'aime pas le monde, elle y ira seulement pour plaire a sa mere." I try
sometimes to escape from these generalities, but there is nothing behind
'And how long,' I asked, 'does this simple, pious, retiring character
'Till the orange flowers of her wedding chaplet are withered,' he
answered. 'In three months she goes to the _messe d'une heure_.'
'What is the "messe d'une heure?"' I asked.
'A priest,' he answered, 'must celebrate Mass fasting; and in strictness
ought to do so before noon. But to accommodate fashionable ladies who
cannot rise by noon, priests are found who will starve all the morning,
and say Mass in the afternoon. It is an irregular proceeding, though
winked at by the ecclesiastical authorities. Still to attend it is rather
discreditable; it is a middle term between the highly meritorious
practice of going to early Mass, and the scandalous one of never going at
'What was the education,' I asked, 'of women under the _ancien regime_?'
'The convent,' he answered.
'It must have been better,' I said, 'than the present education, since
the women of that time were superior to ours.'
'It was so far better,' he answered, 'that it did no harm. A girl at that
time was taught nothing. She came from the convent a sheet of white
paper. _Now_ her mind is a paper scribbled over with trash. The women of
that time were thrown into a world far superior to ours, and with the
sagacity, curiosity, and flexibility of French women, caught knowledge
and tact and expression from the men.
'I knew well,' he continued, 'Madame Recamier. Few traces of her former
beauty then remained, but we were all her lovers and her slaves. The
talent, labour, and skill which she wasted in her _salon_, would have
gained and governed an empire. She was virtuous, if it be virtuous to
persuade every one of a dozen men that you wish to favour him, though
some circumstance always occurs to prevent your doing so. Every friend
thought himself preferred. She governed us by little distinctions, by
letting one man come five minutes before the others, or stay five minutes
after. Just as Louis XIV. raised one courtier to the seventh heaven by
giving him the _bougeoir_, and another by leaning on his arm, or taking
his shirt from him.
'She said little, but knew what each man's _fort_ was, and placed from
time to time a _mot_ which led him to it. If anything were peculiarly
well said, her face brightened. You saw that her attention was always
active and always intelligent.
'And yet I doubt whether she really enjoyed conversation. _Tenir salon_
was to her a game, which she played well, and almost always successfully,
but she must sometimes have been exhausted by the effort. Her _salon_ was
perhaps pleasanter to us than it was to herself.
'One of the last,' he continued, 'of that class of potentates was the
Duchesse de Dino. Her early married life was active and brilliant, but
not intellectually. It was not till about forty, when she had exhausted
other excitements, that she took to _bel esprit._ But she performed her
part as if she had been bred to it.'
This was our last conversation. I left Paris the next day, and we never
Tocqueville, June 30, 1858.
I must complain, a little of your silence, my dear Senior. I hear that
before you left Paris you suffered a great deal from your throat. Is it
true, or have you recovered?
I have not either much to boast of on the score of health since we
parted. The illness which I had in Paris became still worse, and when I
got a little better in that way I had a violent bronchial attack. I even
began to spit blood, which had not happened to me for many years, and I
am still almost reduced to silence. Still I am beginning to mend, and I
hope, please God, to be able to _speak_ to my friends when they visit me.
You are aware that I wished to induce my wife to accompany me to the
South; but the length of the journey, the difficulties of transport, the
heat, and indeed the state of my health, were reasons which she brought
forward with so much force that we have remained here, and shall not
leave till the end of September. We still hope that you and Miss Senior
will join us the first week in that month. We shall be very happy to have
you both with us. This is no compliment ... I hope soon to be able to
enjoy more frequent communication with my English friends. A steamboat is
about to run from Cherbourg to the coast of England. We shall then be
able to visit each other as neighbours (_voisiner_).
Between ourselves, I do not think that the events in England during the
last six months are of a nature to raise the reputation of Parliamentary
Government in the rest of the world. _A bientot!_
A. DE TOCQUEVILLE.
Kensington, July 5, 1858.
My dear Tocqueville,--If I had written to you three days ago, I should
have talked of the pleasure which my daughter and I expected from our
visit to Tocqueville. But our plans are changed. Edward Ellice is going
to pay a last visit to America, and has begged me to accompany him. He is
a great proprietor in both America and Canada--knows everybody in both
countries, and is besides a most able and interesting companion. So I
have accepted the proposal, and start on the 30th of this month for
Boston. We shall return in the beginning of November.
I am _very_ sorry to lose the visit to Normandy, but I trust that it is
We are grieved to hear that neither you nor Madame de Tocqueville are as
well as your friends could wish you to be.
My _grippe_, after lasting for three months, has gradually subsided, and
I look to the voyage to America as a cure for all remains of it.
I have most punctually carried your remembrances to all the persons
honoured by being inscribed on your card.
Though I have often seen Gladstone, it has always been among many other
persons, and he has been so full of talk, that I have never been able to
allude to your subject. I mentioned it to Mrs. Gladstone on Saturday
last: she said that there was not a person in all France whom her husband
so much admired and venerated as you--therefore, if there was any
appearance of neglect, it could have arisen only from hurry or mistake. I
shall see him again on Thursday, when we are going all together to a
rehearsal of Ristori's, and I will talk to him: we shall there be quiet.
Things here are in a very odd state. The Government is supported by the
Tories because it calls itself Tory, and by the Whigs and Radicals
because it obeys them. On such terms it may last for an indefinite time.
Kindest regards from us all to you both.
9 Hyde Park Gate, Kensington, August 2, 1858.
My dear Tocqueville,--I ought, as you know, to be on the Atlantic by this
time; but I was attacked, ten days ago, with lumbar neuralgia, which they
are trying, literally, to rub away. If I am quite well on the 13th, I
shall go on the 14th to America.
I was attacked at Sir John Boileau's, where I spent some days with the
Guizots, Mrs. Austin, and Stanley and Lord John Russell.
Guizot is in excellent spirits, and, what is rare in an ex-premier,
dwells more on the present and the future than on the past. Mrs. Austin
is placid and discursive.
Lord John seems to me well pleased with the present state of
affairs--which he thinks, I believe with reason, will bring him back to
power. He thinks that Malmesbury and Disraeli are doing well, and praises
much the subordinates of the Government. Considering that no one believes
Lord Derby to be wise, or Disraeli to be either wise or honest, it is
marvellous that they get on as well as they do. The man who has risen
most is Lord Stanley, and, as he has the inestimable advantage of youth,
I believe him to be predestined to influence our fortunes long.
The world, I think, is gradually coming over to an opinion, which, when I
maintained it thirty years ago, was treated as a ridiculous paradox--that
India is and always has been a great misfortune to us; and, that if it
were possible to get quit of it, we should be richer and stronger.
But it is clear that we are to keep it, at least for my life.
Kindest regards from us all to you and Madame de Tocqueville.
Tocqueville, August 21, 1858.
My dear Senior,--I hear indirectly that you are extremely ill. Your
letter told me only that you were suffering from neuralgia which you
hoped to be rid of in a few days, but Mrs. Grote informs me that the
malady continues and has even assumed a more serious character.
If you could write or dictate a few lines to me, you would please me
I am inconsolable for the failure of your American journey. I expected
the most curious results from it I hoped that your journal would enable
me once more to understand the present state of a country which has
so changed since I saw it that I feel that I now know nothing of it. What
a blessing, however, that you had not started! What would have become of
you if the painful attack from which you are suffering had seized you
2,000 miles away from home, and in the midst of that agitated society
where no one has time to be ill or to think of those who are ill? It must
be owned that Fortune has favoured you by sending you this illness just
at the moment of your departure instead of ten days later.
I have been much interested by your visit to Sir John Boileau. You saw
there M. Guizot in one of his best lights. The energy with which he
stands up under the pressure of age and of ill-fortune, and is not only
resigned in his new situation, but as vigorous, as animated, and as
cheerful as ever, shows a character admirably tempered and a pride which
nothing will bend.
I do not so well understand the cheerfulness of Lord John Russell. For
the spectacle now exhibited by England, in which a party finds no
difficulty in maintaining itself in power by carrying into practice ideas
which it has always opposed, and by relying for support on its natural
enemies, is not of a nature to raise the reputation of your institutions,
or of your public men. I should have a great deal more to say to you on
this and other subjects if I were not afraid of tiring you. I leave off,
therefore, by assuring you that we are longing to hear of your recovery.
A. DE TOCQUEVILLE.
Cannes, December 12, 1858.
I wish, my dear friend, to reassure you myself on the false reports which
have been spread regarding my health. Far from finding myself worse than
when we arrived, I am already much better.
I am just now an invalid who takes his daily walks of two hours in the
mountains after eating an excellent breakfast. I am not, however, well.
If I were I should not long remain a citizen of Cannes.
I have almost renounced the use of speech, and consequently the society
of human beings; which is all the more sad as my wife, my sole companion,
is herself very unwell, not dangerously, but enough to make me
anxious. When I say my sole companion, I am wrong, for my eldest brother
has had the kindness to shut himself up with us for a month.
Adieu, dear Senior. A thousand kind remembrances from us to all your
A. DE TOCQUEVILLE.
Cannes, March 15, 1859.
You say, my dear Senior, in the letter which I have just received, that I
like to hear from my friends, not to write to them. It is true that I
delight in the letters of my friends, especially of my English friends;
but it is a calumny to say that I do not like to answer them. It is true
that I am in your debt: one great cause is, that a man who lives at
Cannes knows nothing of what is passing. My solitary confinement, which
is bad enough in every way, makes me a bad correspondent, by depressing
my spirits and rendering every exertion painful.
Mrs. Grote, in a very kind and interesting letter, which I received from
her yesterday, says, that Lord Brougham, on his late arrival in London,
gave a lamentable description of my health. If he confined himself to
January, he was right. It is impossible to exaggerate my sufferings
during that month. But, since that time, all has changed, as if from day
to night, or rather from night to day. To talk now of what I was in
January is like making a speech about the Spanish marriages.
I am grieved to find that you have suffered so much this year from
bronchitis. I fear that your larynx can scarcely endure an English
winter. But it is very hard to be obliged to expatriate oneself every
year. I fear, however, that such must be my fate for some winters to
come, and the pain with which I anticipate it makes me sympathise more
acutely with you.
We know not, as yet, whether we are to have peace or war. Whichever it
be, a mortal blow has struck the popularity of Louis Napoleon. What
maintained him was the belief that he was the protector of our material
interests: interests to which we now sacrifice all others. The events of
the last month show, with the utmost vividness, that these very interests
may be endangered by the arbitrary and irrational will of a despot. The
feelings, therefore, which were his real support are now bitterly hostile
I feel, in short, that a considerable change in our Government is
Even our poor _Corps legislatif_, a week ago, refused to take into
consideration the Budget, until it was informed whether it were to be a
war budget or a peace budget. Great was the fury of those who represented
the Government. They exclaimed that the Chamber misapprehended its
jurisdiction, and that it had nothing to do with political questions. The
Chamber, however, or rather its committee on the Budget, held its ground,
and extorted from the Government some explanations.
Adieu, my dear Senior. Say everything that is kind to the Grotes, the
Reeves, the Lewises--in short, to all our common friends, and believe in
the sincerity of my friendship.
A. DE TOCQUEVILLE.
[This was M. de Tocqueville's last letter to Mr. Senior. He died on the
16th of April.--ED.]
Hotel Westminster, Rue de la Paix, April 25, 1859.
My dear Madame de Tocqueville,--I was in the country, and it was only
last Friday, as I was passing through London on my way to Paris, that I
heard of the irreparable loss that we, indeed that France and Europe,
It cannot alleviate your distress to be told how universal and deep is
the sympathy with it--quite as much in England as in France.
It has thrown a gloom over society, not only over that portion which had
the happiness and the honour of intimacy with M.A. de Tocqueville, but
even of his acquaintances, and of those too whose acquaintance was only
with his works.
I have, as you know, been for about a year, the depositary of a large
packet confided to me by M. de Tocqueville last spring. About six months
ago he begged me to return it to him, in Paris, when I had a safe
opportunity. No such opportunity offered itself, so that the packet
remains in my library awaiting your orders.
Since I began this letter I have been informed by M. de Corcelle that you
are likely to be soon in Paris. I shall not venture to send it by the
post, lest it should cross you on the road.
I shall anxiously inquire as to your arrival, in the hope that you will
allow one who most sincerely loved and admired your husband, morally and
intellectually, to see you as soon as you feel yourself equal to it.
Believe me, my dear Madame de Tocqueville, with the truest sympathy,
yours most truly,
NASSAU W. SENIOR.
[Mr. Senior continued an active correspondence with Madame de
Tocqueville, and we saw her whenever we were in Paris. Our long-promised
visit to Tocqueville took place in 1861.--ED.]
_Tocqueville, Sunday, August_ 11, 1861.--We left Paris on Saturday
evening, got to Valognes by the Cherbourg railway by six the next
morning, and were furnished there with a good carriage and horses, which
took us, and our servants and luggage, in three hours to Tocqueville.
Valognes has been immortalised by Le Sage in Turcaret. It is a town of
about 6,000 inhabitants, built of granite, and therefore little altered
from what it was 200 years ago. Over many of the doors are the armorial
bearings of the provincial nobility who made it a small winter capital:
the practice is not wholly extinct. I asked who was the inhabitant of an
imposing old house. 'M. de Neridoze,' answered our landlady, 'd'une
tres-haute noblesse.' I went over one in which Madame de Tocqueville
thinks of passing the winter. It is of two stories. The ground floor
given up to kitchen, laundry, and damp-looking servants' rooms; the first
floor in this form:--
Bedroom. Drawing-room. Dining-room. Hall. Bedroom.
The longer side looks into the street, the shorter, which is to be Madame
de Tocqueville's bedroom, into a small garden.
_August_ 11.--At Tocqueville we find M. and Madame de Beaumont, their
second son--a charming boy of ten years old, and Ampere.
It is eleven years since I was here. Nothing has been done to the
interior of the house. This is about the plan of ground floor.
Drawing-room. Billiard-room. Dining-room.
The first floor corresponds to the ground floor, except that on the
western sides a passage runs, into which the library, which is over the
drawing-room, and the bedrooms open. The second consists of garrets. My
room is on the first floor of the eastern tower, with deep windows
looking south and east. The room dedicated by Tocqueville to Ampere is
above me. Creepers in great luxuriance cover the walls up to the first
floor windows. The little park consists of from thirty to forty acres,
well wooded and traversed by an avenue in this form, leading from the
road to the front of the house.
* * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * *
To the west the ground rises to a wild common commanding the sea, the
lighthouses of Gatteville, Barfleur, La Hogue, and a green plain covered
with woods and hedgerow trees, and studded with church towers and spires
of the picturesque forms of the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth
centuries. It has no grand features, except the sea and the rocky coast
of the Cherbourg peninsula, but it is full of variety and beauty. I can
understand Tocqueville's delight in the house and in the country. The
weather is perfect; the thermometer in my bedroom, the walls of which are
about six feet thick, is 71 deg., in the sun it is 80 deg.; but there is a strong
_August 12th._--Madame de Beaumont, my daughter, and Ampere drove, and
Beaumont and I walked, to the coast about three miles and a half off. Our
road ran through the gay wooded plain which I have described.
We talked of Italian affairs.
'Up to the annexation of Tuscany,' said Beaumont, 'I fully approve of all
that has been done. Parma, Modena, and Tuscany were eager to join
Piedmont. During the anxious interval of six months, while the decision
of Louis Napoleon was doubtful, the conduct of the Tuscans was above all
praise. Perhaps the general wish of the people of Romagna justified the
Piedmontese in seizing it. Though there the difficult question as to the
expediency of stripping the Pope of his temporal power rises.
'Perhaps, too, the facility with which Sicily submitted was a
justification. But I cannot pardon the seizure of Naples. It is clear to
me that if the Neapolitans had been left to themselves they would have
driven out the Garibaldians. Garibaldi himself felt this: nothing but a
conviction of its necessity would have induced him to call for the
assistance of the Piedmontese. I do not believe that in defiance of all
international law-indeed in defiance of all international
morality--Cavour would have given that assistance if the public opinion
of Piedmont had allowed him to refuse it. And what is the consequence? A
civil war which is laying waste the country. The Piedmontese call their
adversaries brigands. There are without doubt among them men whose motive
is plunder, but the great majority are in arms in defence of the
independence of their country. They are no more brigands now than they
were when they resisted King Joseph. The Piedmontese are as much
foreigners to them as the French were: as much hated and as lawfully
resisted. They may be conquered, they probably will be conquered. An
ignorant corrupt population, inhabiting a small country, unsupported by
its higher classes--its fleet, its fortresses, and all the machinery of
its government, in the hands of its enemies--cannot permanently resist;
but the war will be atrocious, and the more cruel on the part of Piedmont
because it is unjust.'
'You admit,' I said, 'that the higher classes side with Piedmont?'
'I admit that,' he answered; 'but you must recollect how few they are in
number, and how small is the influence which they exercise. In general, I
detest universal suffrage, I detest democracy and everything belonging to
it, but if it were possible to obtain honestly and truly the opinion of
the people, I would ask it and obey it. I believe that it would be better
to allow the Neapolitans, ignorant and debased as they are, to choose
their own sovereign and their own form of government, than to let them be
forced by years of violence to become the unwilling subjects of
'Do you believe,' I said, 'that it is possible to obtain through
universal suffrage the honest and true opinion of a people?'
'Not,' he answered, 'if the Government interferes. I believe that in
Savoy not one person in fifty was in favour of annexation to France. But
this is an extreme case.
'The Bourbons are deservedly hated and despised by the Neapolitans, the
Piedmontese are not despised, but are hated still more intensely. There
is no native royal stock. The people are obviously unfit for a Republic.
It would be as well, I think, to let them select a King as to impose one
on them. The King whom Piedmont, without a shadow of right, is imposing
on them is the one whom they most detest.'
'If I go to Rome,' I asked, 'in the winter, whom shall I find there?'
'I think,' he answered, 'that it will be the Piedmontese. The present
state of things is full of personal danger to Louis Napoleon. As his
policy is purely selfish, he will, at any sacrifice, put an end to it.
That sacrifice may be the unity of Catholicism. The Pope, no longer a
sovereign, will be under the influence of the Government in whose
territory he resides, and the other Catholic Powers may follow the
example of Greece and of Russia, and create each an independent Spiritual
Government. It would be a new excitement for _Celui-ci_ to make himself
Head of the Church.'
'Assassinations,' I said, 'even when successful have seldom produced
important and permanent effects, but Orsini's failure has influenced and
is influencing the destinies of Europe.'
'If I were an Italian liberal,' said Beaumont, 'I would erect a statue to
him. The policy and almost the disposition of Louis Napoleon have been
changed by the _attentat_. He has become as timid as he once was
intrepid. He began by courting the Pope and the clergy. He despised the
French assassins, who were few in number and unconnected, and who had
proved their unskilfulness on Louis Philippe; but Orsini showed him that
he had to elect between the Pope and the Austrians on one side, and the
Carbonari on the other. He has chosen the alliance of the Carbonari. He
has made himself their tool, and will continue to do so.
'They are the only enemies whom he fears, at least for the present.
'France is absolutely passive. The uneducated masses from whom he holds
his power are utterly indifferent to liberty, and he has too much sense
to irritate them by wanton oppression. They do not know that he is
degrading the French character, they do not even feel that he is wasting
the capital of France, they do not know that he is adding twenty millions
every year to the national debt. They think of his loans merely as
investments, and the more profligately extravagant are the terms and the
amount, the better they like them.'
'Ten years ago,' I said, 'the cry that I heard was, "Ca ne durera pas."'
'That was my opinion,' he answered; 'indeed, it was the opinion of
everybody. I thought the Duc de Broglie desponding when he gave it three
years. We none of us believed that the love of liberty was dead in
'It is not,' I said, 'dead, for among the higher classes it still lives,
and among the lower it never existed.'
'Perhaps,' he answered, 'our great mistakes were that we miscalculated
the courage of the educated classes, and the degree in which universal
suffrage would throw power into the hands of the uneducated. Not a human
being in my commune reads a newspaper or indeed reads anything: yet it
contains 300 electors. In the towns there is some knowledge and some
political feeling, but for political purposes they are carefully swamped
by being joined to uneducated agricultural districts.
'Still I think I might enter the _Corps legislatif_ for our capital Le
Mans. Perhaps at a general election twenty liberals might come in. But
what good could they do? The opposition in the last session strengthened
Louis Napoleon. It gave him the prestige of liberality and success.'
'You think him, then,' I said, 'safe for the rest of his life?'
'Nothing,' he answered, 'is safe in France, and the thing most unsafe is
a Government. Our caprices are as violent as they are sudden. They
resemble those of a half-tamed beast of prey, which licks its keeper's
hand to-day, and may tear him to-morrow. But if his life be not so long
as to enable the fruits of his follies to show themselves in their
natural consequences--unsuccessful war, or defeated diplomacy, or
bankruptcy, or heavily increased taxation--he may die in the Tuileries.
'But I infer from his conduct that he thinks an insurrection against his
tyranny possible, and that he is preparing to meet it by a popular war--
that is to say, by a war with England.
'I found my opinion not so much on the enormous maritime preparations, as
on the long-continued systematic attempts to raise against England our
old national enmity. All the provincial papers are in the hands of the
Government. The constantly recurring topic of every one of them is, the
perfidy and the malignity of England. She is described as opposing all
our diplomacy, as resisting all our aggrandisement, as snarling and
growling at our acquisition of Savoy, as threatening us if we accept
Sardinia, as trying to drive the Pope from Rome because we protect him,
as trying to separate the Danubian provinces because we wish to unite
them, as preventing the Suez Canal because we proposed it--in short, on
every occasion and in every part of the world as putting herself in our
way. To these complaints, which are not without foundation, are added
others of which our ignorant people do not see the absurdity. They are
told that the enormous conscription, and the great naval expenditure, are
rendered necessary by the aggressive armaments of England. That you are
preparing to lay waste all our coasts, to burn our arsenals, to subsidise
against us a new Coalition, and perhaps lead its armies again to Paris.
'The Emperor's moderation, his love of England, and his love of peace,
are said to be the only obstacles to, a violent rupture. But they are
prepared for these obstacles at length giving way. "The Emperor," they
are told, "is getting tired of his insolent, and hostile, and quarrelsome
allies. He is getting tired of a peace which is more expensive than a
war. Some day the cup will flow over. 'Il en finira avec eux,' will
dictate a peace in London, will free the oppressed Irish nationality,
will make England pay the expense of the war, and then having conquered
the only enemy that France can fear, will let her enjoy, for the first
time, real peace, a reduced conscription, and low taxation."
'Such is the language of all the provincial papers and of all the
provincial authorities, and it has its effect. There never was a time
when a war with England would be so popular. He does not wish for one, he
knows that it would be extremely dangerous, but he is accustomed to play
for great stakes, and if submitting to any loss of his popularity, or to
any limitation of his power is the alternative, he will run the risk. He
keeps it, as his last card, in reserve, to be played only in extremity,
but to be ready when that extremity has arrived.'
_Tuesday, August_ 13.--We drove to La Prenelle, a church at the point of
a high table-land running from Tocqueville towards the bay of La Hogue,
and commanding nearly all the Cherbourg peninsula. On three sides of us
was the sea, separated from us by a wooded, well-inhabited plain, whose
churches rose among the trees, and containing the towns and lofty
lighthouses of Gatteville, Barfleur, Vast, and La Hogue. We sat on the
point from whence James II. saw the battle of La Hogue, and admired the
courage of his English rebels.
Ampere has spent much of his life in Rome, and is engaged on a work in
which its history is to be illustrated by its monuments.
We talked of the Roman people.
'Nothing,' said Ampere, 'can be more degraded than the higher classes.
With the exception of Antonelli, who is charming, full of knowledge,
intelligence, and grace, and of the Duke of Sermoneta, who is almost
equally distinguished, there is scarcely a noble of my acquaintance who
has any merits, moral or intellectual.
'They are surrounded by the finest ancient and modern art, and care
nothing for it. The eminent men of every country visit Rome--the Romans
avoid them for they have nothing to talk to them about.
'Politics are of course unsafe, literature they have none. They never
read. A cardinal told me something which I doubted, and I asked him where
he had found it. "In certi libri," he answered.
'Another, who has a fine old library, begged me to use it. "You will do
the room good," he said. "No one has been there for years." Even scandal
and gossip must be avoided under an Ecclesiastical Government.
'They never ride, they never shoot, they never visit their estates, they
give no parties; if it were not for the theatre and for their lawsuits
they would sink into vegetable life.'
'Sermoneta,' I said, 'told me that many of his lawsuits were hereditary,
and would probably descend to his son.'
'If Sermoneta,' said Ampere, 'with his positive intelligence and his
comparative vigour, cannot get through them, what is to be expected from
others? They have, however, one merit, one point of contact with the rest
of the world--their hatred of their Government. They seem to perceive,
not clearly, for they perceive nothing clearly, but they dimly see, that
the want of liberty is a still greater misfortune to the higher classes
than to the lower.
'But the people are a fine race. Well led they will make excellent
soldiers. They have the cruelty of their ancestors, perhaps I ought to
say of their predecessors, but they have also their courage.'
'They showed,' said Beaumont, 'courage in the defence of Rome, but
courage behind walls is the commonest of all courages. No training could
make the Spaniards stand against us in the open field, but they were
heroes in Saragossa. The caprices of courage and cowardice are
innumerable. The French have no moral courage, they cannot stand
ridicule, they cannot encounter disapprobation, they bow before
oppression; a French soldier condemned by a court-martial cries for mercy
like a child. The same man in battle appears indifferent to death. The
Spaniard runs away without shame, but submits to death when it is
inevitable without terror. None of the prisoners taken on either side in
the Spanish civil war asked for pardon.'
'Indifference to life,' I said, 'and indifference to danger have little
in common. General Fenelon told me that in Algeria he had more than once
to preside at an execution. No Arab showed any fear. Once there were two
men, one of whom was to be flogged, the other to be shot. A mistake was
made and they were going to shoot the wrong man. It was found out in
time, but neither of the men seemed to care about it; yet they
would probably have run away in battle. The Chinese are not brave, but
you can hire a man to be beheaded in your place.'
'So,' said Ampere, 'you could always hire a substitute in our most
murderous wars, when in the course of a year a regiment was killed twice
over. It was hiring a man, not indeed to be beheaded, but to be shot for
'The destructiveness,' said Beaumont, 'of a war is only gradually known.
It is found out soonest in the villages when the deaths of the conscripts
are heard of, or are suspected from their never returning; but in the
towns, from which the substitutes chiefly come, it may be long
undiscovered. Nothing is known but what is officially published, and the
Government lies with an audacity which seems always to succeed. If it
stated the loss of men in a battle at one half of the real number, people
would fancy that it ought to be doubled, and so come near to the truth;
but it avows only one-tenth or only one-twentieth, and then the amount of
falsehood is underestimated.'
'Marshal Randon,' I said, 'told me that the whole loss in the Italian
campaign was under 7,000 men.'
'That is a good instance,' said Beaumont. 'It certainly was 50,000,
perhaps 70,000. But I am guilty of a _delit_ in saying so, and you will
be guilty of a _delit_ if you repeat what I have said. I remember the
case of a man in a barber's shop in Tours, to whom the barber said that
the harvest was bad. He repeated the information, and was punished by
fine and imprisonment for having spread _des nouvelles alarmantes_. Truth
is no excuse; in fact it is an aggravation, for the truer the news the
'In time of peace,' I asked, 'what proportion of the conscripts return
after their six years of service?'
'About three-quarters,' answered Beaumont.
'Then,' I said, 'as you take 100,000 conscripts every year even in peace,
you lose 25,000 of your best young men every year?'
'Certainly,' said Beaumont.
'And are the 75,000 who return improved or deteriorated?' I asked.
'Improved,' said Ampere; 'they are _degourdis_, they are educated, they
submit to authority, they know how to shift for themselves.'
'Deteriorated,' said Beaumont. 'A garrison life destroys the habits of
steady industry, it impairs skill. The returned conscript is more vicious
and less honest than the peasant who has not left his village.'
'And what was the loss,' I asked, 'in the late war?'
'At least twice as great,' said Beaumont, 'as it is in peace. Half of
those who were taken perished. The country would not have borne the
prolongation of the Crimean War.'
'These wars,' I said, 'were short and successful. A war with England can
scarcely be short, and yet you think that he plans one?'
'I think,' said Beaumont, 'that he plans one, but only in the event of
his encountering any serious difficulty at home. You must not infer from
the magnitude of his naval expenditure that he expects one.
'You look at the expense of those preparations, and suppose that so great
a sacrifice would not be made in order to meet an improbable emergency.
But expense is no sacrifice to him. He likes it. He has the morbid
taste for it which some tyrants have had for blood, which his uncle had
for war. Then he is incapable of counting. When he lived at Arenenburg he
used to give every old soldier who visited him an order on Viellard his
treasurer for money. In general the chest was empty. Viellard used to
remonstrate but without effect. The day perhaps after his orders had been
dishonoured he gave new ones.'
'Is it true,' I asked, 'that the civil list is a couple of years' income
I know nothing about it,' said Beaumont; 'in fact, nobody knows anything
about anything, but it is highly probable. Everybody who asks for
anything gets it, everybody is allowed to waste, everybody is allowed to
rob, every folly of the Empress is complied with. Fould raised
objections, and was dismissed.
'She is said to have a room full of revolutionary relics: there is the
bust of Marie Antoinette, the nose broken at one of the sacks of the
Tuileries. There is a picture of Simon beating Louis XVII. Her poor child
has been frightened by it, and she is always dwelling on the dangers of
'So,' I said, 'did Queen Adelaide--William IV.'s Queen. From the passing
of the Reform Bill she fully expected to die on the scaffold.'
'There is more reason,' he answered, 'for the Empress's fears.'
'Not,' I said, 'if she fears the scaffold. Judicial murder, at least in
that form, is out of fashion. Cayenne and Lambressa are your guillotines,
and the Empress is safe from them.'
'But there are other modes of violent death,' he answered; 'from one of
which she escaped almost by miracle.'
'How did she behave,' I asked, 'at the _attentat?_'
'Little is known,' he answered, 'except that the Emperor said to her, as
he led her upstairs to her box: "Allons, il faut faire notre metier."'
'Then she is disturbed by religious fears. The little prince has been
taught to say to his father every morning: "Papa, ne faites pas de mal a
mon parrain." The Pope was his godfather.'
'If the Emperor dies, the real power will pass into the hands of Prince
Napoleon. And very dangerous hands they will be. He has more talent than
the Emperor, and longer views. Louis Napoleon is a revolutionist from
selfishness. Prince Napoleon is selfish enough, but he has also passion.
He detests everything that is venerable, everything that is established
'There is little value now for property or for law, though the Government
professes to respect them. What, will it be when the Government professes
to hate them?'
_Wednesday, August_ 14.--We talked at breakfast of Rome.
'Is there,' said Beaumont to Ampere, 'still an Inquisition at Rome?'
'There is,' said Ampere, 'but it is torpid. It punishes bad priests, but
does little else.'
'If a Roman,' I asked, 'were an avowed infidel, would it take notice of
'Probably not,' said Ampere, 'but his _cure_ might--not for his
infidelity, but for his avowing it. The _cure_ who has always the powers
of a _commissaire de police,_ might put him in prison if he went into a
_cafe_ and publicly denied the Immaculate Conception, or if he neglected
going to church or to confession: but the Inquisition no longer cares
'Is there much infidelity,' I asked, 'in Rome?'
'Much,' said Ampere, 'among the laity. The clergy do not actively
disbelieve. They go through their functions without ever seriously
inquiring whether what they have to teach be true or false. No persons
were more annoyed by the Mortara business than the clergy, with the
exception of Antonelli. He hates and fears the man who set it on foot,
the Archbishop of Bologna, and therefore was glad to see him expose
himself, and lose all hope of the Secretaryship, but he took care to
prevent the recurrence of such a scandal. He revived an old law
prohibiting Jews from keeping Christian nurses. But he could scarcely
order restitution. According to the Church it would have been giving the
child to the Devil, and, what is worse, robbing God of him. The Pope's
piety is selfish. His great object is his own salvation. He would not
endanger that, to confer any benefit upon, or to avert any evil from
Rome; or indeed from the whole world. This makes him difficult to
negotiate with. If anything is proposed to him which his confessor
affirms to be dangerous to his soul, he listens to no arguments. As for
Mortara himself, he is a poor creature. A friend of mine went to see him
in his convent. All that he could get from him was:
'"Sono venuti i Carabinieri."
'"And what did they do to you?"
'"M' hanno portato qui."
'"M' hanno dato pasticci; erano molto buoni."
'What is most teasing,' continued Ampere, 'in the Roman Government is not
so much its active oppression as its torpidity. It hates to act. An
Englishman had with great difficulty obtained permission to light Rome
with gas. He went to the Government in December, and told them that
everything was ready, and that the gas would be lighted on the 1st of
'"Could you not," they answered, "put it off till April?"
'"But it is in winter," he replied; "that it is wanted. Every thing is
ready. Why should we wait?"
'"It is a new thing," they replied; "people will be frightened. It may
have consequences. At least put it off till March."
'"But they will be as much frightened in March," he replied.
'"If it must be done," they said, "as a kindness to His Holiness and to
us put it off till February."
'There is, however, one sort of oppression which even we should find it
difficult to tolerate.
'A Monsignore has a young friend without money, but an excellent Catholic
and an excellent politician, a fervid believer in the Immaculate
Conception and in the excellence of the Papal Government. He wishes to
reward such admirable opinions: but the Pope has little to give.
Monsignore looks out for some young heiress, sends for her father,
describes his pious and loyal _protege_, and proposes marriage. Her
father objects--says that his daughter cannot afford to marry a poor man,
or that she does not wish to marry at all--or that he or she has some
'Monsignore insists. He assures the father that what he is proposing is
most favourable to the salvation of his daughter, that he suggests it
principally for the benefit of her soul, and that the father's objections
are inspired by the Evil One. The father breaks off the conversation and
goes home. He finds that his daughter has disappeared. He returns furious
to Monsignore, is received with the utmost politeness and is informed
that his daughter is perfectly safe under the protection of a cardinal
who himself did her the honour of fetching her in his gilded coach. "You
have only," the Monsignore says, "to be reasonable, and she shall be
returned to you."
'The father flies to the cardinal.
'The same politeness and the same answer.
'"Do not oppose," he is told, "the will of the Pope, who, in this matter,
seeks only your daughter's happiness here and hereafter. She is now with
me. If you will give up your sinful obstinacy she shall be restored to
you to-day. If not, it will be our duty to place her in a convent, where
she will be taken the utmost care of, but she will not leave it except to
marry the person whom His Holiness thinks most fitted to promote the
welfare of her soul."
'I have known several cases in which this attempt has been made. With
such timid slaves as the Roman nobility it always succeeds.'
[Footnote 1: The Jewish child who was taken away from his parents and
_Thursday, August_ 15.--This is the fete of St. Louis--the great fete of
Tocqueville. Madame de Tocqueville and Madame de Beaumont spent much of
the morning in church.
Beaumont and his son walked to the coast to bathe. Minnie, Ampere, and I
strolled among the deep shady lanes of the plateau above the castle.
Throughout Normandy the fields are small and are divided by mounds
planted with trees. The farmhouses, and even the cottages, are built of
primitive rock, granite, or old red sandstone. At a distance, peeping out
of the trees that surround them, they look pretty, but they, have more
than the usual French untidiness. The outhouses are roofless, the
farmyards are full of pools and dung heaps, which often extend into the
road; and the byroads themselves are quagmires when they do not consist
of pointed stones. I was struck by the paucity of the children and the
absence of new houses. The population of Normandy is diminishing.
We conversed on the subject of Italy.
'If we are in Rome next winter,' I asked, 'shall we find the French
'I think not,' said Ampere; 'I think that you will find only the
'Every day that Louis Napoleon holds Rome is a day of danger to him, a
danger slight perhaps now, but serious if the occupation be prolonged.
The Anti-papal party, and it includes almost all that are liberal and all
that are energetic, are willing to give him time, but not an indefinite
time. They are quiet only because they trust him. He is a magician who
has sold himself to the Devil. The Devil is patient, but he will not be
cheated. The Carbonari will support Louis Napoleon as long as he is doing
their work, and will allow him to do it in his own way and to take his
own time, as long as they believe he is doing it. But woe to him if they
believe that he is deceiving them. I suspect that they are becoming
impatient, and I suspect too, that he is becoming impatient. This quarrel
between Merode and Goyon is significative. I do not believe that Goyon
used the words imputed to him. We shall probably keep Civita Vecchia, but
we shall give up Rome to the Piedmontese.'
'And will the Pope,' I asked, 'remain?'
'Not this Pope,' said Ampere, 'but his successor. Nor do I see the great
evil of the absence of the Pope from Rome. Popes have often been absent
before, sometimes for long periods.'
'Most of my French friends,' I said, 'are opposed to Italian Unity as
mischievous to France.'
'I do not believe,' he answered, 'in the submission of Naples to this
Piedmontese dynasty, but I shall be delighted to see all Italy north of
the Neapolitan territory united.
'I do not think that we have anything to fear from the kingdom of Italy.
It is as likely to be our friend as to be our enemy. But the Neapolitans,
even if left to themselves, would not willingly give up their
independence, and _Celui-ci_ is trying to prevent their doing so.'
'What do _they_ wish,' I asked, 'and what does _he_ wish?'
'I believe,' he answered, 'that _their_ wishes are only negative.
'They do not wish to recall the Bourbons, and they are resolved not to
keep the Piedmontese. _His_ wish I believe to be to put his cousin there.
Prince Napoleon himself refused Tuscany. It is too small, but he would
like Naples, and Louis Napoleon would be glad to get rid of him. What
would England say?'
'If we believed,' I said, 'in the duration of a Bonaparte dynasty in
France, we should, of course, object to the creation of one in Naples.
But if, as we think it probable, the Bonapartists have to quit France, I
do not see few we should be injured by their occupying the throne of
'I should object to them if I were a Neapolitan. All their instincts are
despotic, democratic, and revolutionary. But even they are better than
the late king was. What chance have the Murats?'
'None,' said Ampere. 'They have spoiled their game, if they had a game,
by their precipitation. The Emperor has disavowed them, the Neapolitans
do not care for them. The Prince de Leuchtenberg, grandson of Eugene
Beauharnais, has been talked of. He is well connected, related to many of
the reigning families of the Continent, and is said to be intelligent and
'If Naples,' I said, 'is to be detached from the kingdom of Italy, Sicily
ought to be detached from Naples. There is quite as much mutual
'Would you like to take it?' he asked.
'Heaven forbid!' I answered. 'It would be another Corfu on a larger
scale. The better we governed them, the more they would hate us. The only
chance for them is to have a king of their own.'
_August_ 15.--In the evening Ampere read to us a comedy called 'Beatrix,'
by a writer of some reputation, and a member of the Institut.
It was very bad, full of exaggerated sentiments, forced situations, and
the cant of philanthropic despotism.
An actress visits the court of a German grand duke. He is absent. His
mother, the duchess, receives her as an equal. The second son falls in
love with her at first sight and wishes to marry her. She is inclined to
consent, when another duchy falls in, the elder duke resigns to his
brother, he becomes king, presses their marriage, his mother does not
oppose, and thereupon Beatrix makes a speech, orders her horses, and
drives off to act somewhere else.
Ampere reads admirably, but no excellence of reading could make such
absurdities endurable. It was written for Ristori, who acted Beatrix in
French with success.
_Friday, August_ 16.--We talked at breakfast of 1793.
'It is difficult,' said Madame de Beaumont, 'to believe that the French
of that day were our ancestors.'
'They resembled you,' I said, 'only in two things: in military courage,
and in political cowardice.'
'They had,' she replied, 'perhaps more passive courage than we have.
My great-great-grandmother, my great-grandmother, and my great-aunt, were
guillotined on the same day. My great-great-grandmother was ninety years
old. When interrogated, she begged them to speak loud, as she was deaf.
'Ecrivez,' said Fouquier Tinville, 'que la citoyenne Noailles a conspire
sourdement contre la Republique.' They were dragged to the Place de la
Republique in the same _tombereau_, and sat waiting their turn on the
'My great-aunt was young and beautiful. The executioner, while fastening
her to the plank, had a rose in his mouth. The Abbe de Noailles, who was
below the scaffold, disguised, to give them, at the risk of his life, a
sign of benediction, was asked how they looked.
'"Comme si,' he said, 'elles allaient a la messe."'
'The habit,' said Ampere, 'of seeing people die produces indifference
even to one's own death. You see that among soldiers. You see it in
epidemics. But this indifference, or, to use a more proper word, this
resignation, helped to prolong the Reign of Terror. If the victims had
resisted, if, like Madame du Barry, they had struggled with the
executioner, it would have excited horror.'
'The cries of even a pig,' said Madame de Beaumont, 'make it disagreeable
to kill it.'
'Sanson,' I said, 'long survived the Revolution; he made a fortune and
lived in retirement at Versailles. A lady was run away with between
Versailles and Paris. An elderly man, at considerable risk, stopped her
horse. She was very grateful, but could not get from him his name. At
last she traced him, and found that it was Sanson.'
'Sanson,' said Beaumont, 'may have been an honest man. Whenever a place
of _bourreau_ is vacant, there are thirty or forty candidates, and they
always produce certificates of their extraordinary kindness and humanity.
It seems to be the post most coveted by men eminent for their
'How many have you?' I asked.
'Eighty-six,' he answered. 'One for each department.'
'And how many executions?'
'About one hundred a year in all France.'
'And what is the salary?'
'Perhaps a couple of thousand francs a year.'
'Really,' said Ampere, 'it is one of the best parts of the patronage of
the Minister of the Interior. _M. le Bourreau_ gets more than a thousand
francs for each operation.'
'We pay by the piece,' I said, 'and find one operator enough for all
'A friend of mine,' said Beaumont, had a remarkably good Swiss servant.
His education was far above his station, and we could not find what had
been his birth or his canton.
'Suddenly he became agitated and melancholy, and at last told my friend
that he must leave him, and why. His father was the hereditary _bourreau_
of a Swiss canton. To the office was attached an estate, to be forfeited
if the office were refused. He had resolved to take neither, and, to
avoid being solicited, had left his country and changed his name. But his
family had traced him, had informed him of his father's death, and had
implored him to accept the succession. He was the only son, and his
mother and sisters would be ruined, if he allowed it to pass to the next
in order of inheritance, a distant cousin. He had not been able to
persist in his refusal.'
'The husband of an acquaintance of mine,' said Madame de Beaumont, 'used
to disappear for two or three hours every day. He would not tell her for
what purpose. At last she found out that he was employed in the _chambre
noire_, the department of the police by which letters passing through the
post are opened. The duties were well paid, and she could not persuade
him to give them up. They were on uneasy terms, when an accident threw a
list of all the names of the _employes_ in the _chambre noire_, into the
hands of an opposition editor, who published them in his newspaper.
'She then separated from him.'
'If the Post-office,' I said, 'were not a Government monopoly, if
everyone had a right to send his letters in the way that he liked best,
there would be some excuse. But the State compels you, under severe
penalties, to use its couriers, undertaking, not tacitly but expressly,
to respect the secrecy of your correspondence, and then systematically
'I should have said,' answered Ampere, 'not expressly but tacitly.'
'No,' I replied; 'expressly. Guizot, when Minister for Foreign Affairs,
proclaimed from the tribune, that in France the secrecy of correspondence
was, under all circumstances, inviolable. This has never been officially
'The English Post-office enters into no such engagements. Any letters may
be legally opened, under an order from a Secretary of State.'
'Are prisoners in England,' asked Beaumont, 'allowed to correspond with
'I believe,' I answered, 'that their letters pass through the Governor's
hands, and that he opens them, or not, at his discretion.'
'Among the tortures,' said Ampere, 'which Continental despots delight to
inflict on their state prisoners the privation of correspondence is one.'
'In ordinary life,' I said, 'the educated endure inaction worse than the
ignorant. A coachman sits for hours on his box without feeling _ennui_.
If his master had to sit quiet all that time, inside the carriage, he
would tear his hair from impatience.
'But the educated seem to tolerate the inactivity of imprisonment better
than their inferiors. We find that our ordinary malefactors cannot endure
solitary imprisonment for more than a year--seldom indeed so long. The
Italian prisoners whom I have known, Zucchi, Borsieri, Poerio,
Gonfalonieri, and Pellico, endured imprisonment lasting from ten to
seventeen years without much injury to mind or body.'
'The spirit of Pellico,' said Madame de Beaumont, 'was broken. When
released, he gave himself up to devotion and works of charity. Perhaps
the humility, resignation, and submission of his book made it still
more mischievous to the Austrian Government. The reader's indignation
against those who could so trample on so unresisting a victim becomes
'If the Austrians,' I said, 'had been wise, they would have shot instead
of imprisoning them. Their deaths would have been forgotten--their
imprisonment has contributed much to the general odium which is
destroying the Austrian Empire.'
'It would have been wiser,' said Beaumont, 'but it would have been more
merciful, and therefore it was not done. But you talk of all these men as
solitarily imprisoned. Some of them had companions.'
'Yes,' I said, 'but they complained that one permanent companion was
worse than solitude. Gonfalonieri said, that one could not be in the same
room, with the same man, a year without hating him.
'One of the Neapolitan prisoners was chained for some time to a brigand.
Afterwards the brigand was replaced by a gentleman. He complained
bitterly of the change.
'The brigand,' said Minnie, 'was his slave, the gentleman had a will of
'How did M. de La Fayette,' I asked Madame de Beaumont, 'bear his five
years' imprisonment at Olmutz?'
'His health,' said Madame de Beaumont, 'was good, but the miseries of his
country and the sufferings of his wife made him very unhappy. When my
grandmother came to him, it was two days before she had strength to tell
him that all his and her family had perished. I was once at Olmutz, and
saw the one room which they had inhabited. It was damp and dark. She
asked to be allowed to leave it for a time for better medical treatment
and change of air. It was granted only on the condition that she should
never return. She refused. The rheumatic attacks which the state of the
prison had produced, continued and increased: she was hopelessly ill when
they were released--and died soon afterwards. The sense of wrong
aggravated their sufferings, for their imprisonment was a gross and
wanton violation of all law, international and municipal. My grandfather
was not an Austrian subject; he had committed no offence against Austria.
She seized him simply because he was a liberal, because his principles
had made him the enemy of tyranny in America and in France; and because
his birth and talents and reputation gave him influence. It was one of
the brutal stupid acts of individual cruelty which characterise the
Austrian despotism, and have done more to ruin it than a wider
oppression--such a one, for instance, as ours, more mischievous, but more
intelligent,--would have done.'
'Freedom,' said Ampere, 'was offered to him on the mere condition of his
not serving in the French army. At that time the Jacobins would have
guillotined him, the Royalists would have forced duel after duel on him
till they had killed him. It seemed impossible that he should ever be
able to draw his sword for France. In fact he never _was_ able. America
offered him an asylum, honours, land, everything that could console an
exile. But he refused to give up the chance, remote as it was, of being
useful to his country, and remained a prisoner till he was delivered by
'He firmly believed,' said Madame de Beaumont, 'that if the Royal Family
would have taken refuge with his army in 1791 he could have saved them,
and probably the Monarchy. His army was then in his hands, a few months
after the Jacobins had corrupted it.'
'Two men,' said Ampere, 'Mirabeau and La Fayette, could have saved the
Monarchy, and were anxious to do so. But neither the King nor the Queen
would trust them.
'Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette are among the historical personages who
have most influenced the destinies of the world. His dulness, torpidity
and indecision, and her frivolity, narrow-minded prejudices and
suspiciousness, are among the causes of our present calamities. They are
among the causes of a state of things which has inflicted on
us, and threatens to inflict on all Europe, the worst of all
Governments--democratic despotism. A Government in which two wills only
prevail--that of the ignorant, envious, ambitious, aggressive multitude,
and that of the despot who, whatever be his natural disposition, is soon
turned, by the intoxication of flattery and of universal power, into a
capricious, fantastic, selfish participator in the worst passions of the
worst portion of his subjects.'
'Such a Government,' I said, 'may be called an anti-aristocracy. It
excludes from power all those who are fit to exercise it.'
'The consequence,' said Beaumont, 'is, that the qualities which fit men
for power not being demanded, are not supplied. Our young men have no
political knowledge or public spirit. Those who have a taste for the
sciences cultivated in the military schools enter the army. The rest
'What do they do?' I asked.
'How they pass their time,' said Madame de Beaumont, 'is a puzzle to me.
They do not read, they do not go into society--I believe that they smoke
and play at dominos, and ride and bet at steeple-chases.
'Those who are on home service in the army are not much better. The time
not spent in the routine of their profession is sluggishly and viciously
wasted. Algeria has been a God-send to us. There our young men have real
duties to perform, and real dangers to provide against and to encounter.
My son, who left St. Cyr only eighteen months ago, is stationed at
Thebessa, 300 miles in the interior. He belongs to a _bureau arabe_,
consisting of a captain, a lieutenant, and himself, and about forty
spahis. He has to act as a judge, as an engineer, to settle the frontier
between the province of Constantine and Tunis--in short, to be one of a
small ruling aristocracy. This is the school which has furnished, and is
furnishing, our best generals and administrators.'
We talked of the interior of French families.
'The ties of relationship,' I said, 'seem to be stronger with you than
they are with us. Cousinship with you is a strong bond, with us it is a
'The habit of living together,' said Beaumont, 'has perhaps much to do
with the strength of our feelings of consanguinity. Our life is
patriarchal. Grandfather, father, and grandson are often under the same
roof. At the Grange thirty of the family were sometimes assembled at
dinner. With you, the sons go off, form separate establishments, see
little of their parents, still less of their cousins, and become
comparatively indifferent to them.'
'I remember,' I said, 'the case of an heir apparent of seventy; his
father was ninety-five. One day the young man was very grumpy. They tried
to find out what was the matter with him; at last he broke out,
"Everybody's father dies except mine."'
'An acquaintance of mine,' said Beaumont, 'not a son, but a son-in-law,
complained equally of the pertinacious longevity of his father-in-law.
"Je n'ai pas cru," he said, "en me mariant, que j'epousais la fille du
Pere Eternel." Your primogeniture,' he continued, 'must be a great source
of unfilial feelings. The eldest son of one of your great families is in
the position of the heir apparent to a throne. His father's death is to
give him suddenly rank, power, and wealth; and we know that royal heirs
apparent are seldom affectionate sons. With us the fortunes are much
smaller, they are equally divided, and the rank that descends to the son
'What regulates,' I asked, 'the descent of titles?'
'It is ill regulated,' said Beaumont 'Titles are now of such little value
that scarcely anyone troubles himself to lay down rules about them.
'In general, however, it is said, that all the sons of dukes and of
marquises are counts. The sons of counts in some families all take the
title of Count. There are, perhaps, thirty Beaumonts. Some call
themselves marquises, some counts, some barons. I am, I believe, the only
one of the family who has assumed no title. Alexis de Tocqueville took
none, but his elder brother, during his father's life, called himself
vicomte and his younger brother baron. Probably Alexis ought then to have
called himself chevalier, and, on his father's death, baron. But, I
repeat, the matter is too unimportant to be subject to any settled rules.
Ancient descent is, with us, of great value, of far more than it is with
you, but titles are worth nothing.'
[Footnote 1: This incident is described in a little book published last
year, the _Memoirs of Madame de Montaign_.--ED.]
[Footnote 2: M. de La Fayette was Madame de Beaumont's grandfather.--ED.]
[Footnote 3: The chateau of M. de La Fayette.--ED.]
_Saturday, August_ 17.--We drove to the coast and ascended the lighthouse
of Gatteville, 85 metres, or about 280 feet high. It stands in the middle
of a coast fringed with frightful reefs, just enough under water to
create no breakers, and a flat plain a couple of miles wide behind, so
that the coast is not seen till you come close to it. In spite of many
lighthouses and buoys, wrecks are frequent. A mysterious one occurred
last February: the lighthouse watchman showed us the spot--a reef just
below the lighthouse about two hundred yards from the shore.
It was at noon--there was a heavy sea, but not a gale. He saw a large
ship steer full on the reef. She struck, fell over on one side till her
yards were in the water, righted herself, fell over on the other, parted
in the middle, and broke up. It did not take five minutes, but during
those five minutes there was the appearance of a violent struggle on
board, and several shots were fired. From the papers which were washed
ashore it appeared that she was from New York, bound for Havre, with a
large cargo and eighty-seven passengers, principally returning emigrants.
No passenger escaped, and only two of the crew: one was an Italian
speaking no French, from whom they could get nothing; the other was an
Englishman from Cardiff, speaking French, but almost obstinately
uncommunicative. He said that he was below when the ship struck, that the
captain had locked the passengers in the cabin, and that he knew nothing
of the causes which had led the ship to go out of her course to run on
The captain may have been drunk or mad. Or there may have been a mutiny
on board, and those who got possession of the ship may have driven her on
the coast, supposing that they could beach her, and ignorant of the
interposed reefs, which, as I have said, are not betrayed by breakers.
Our informant accounted for the loss of all, except two persons, by the
heavy sea, the sharp reefs, and the blows received by those who tried to
swim from the floating cargo. The two who escaped were much bruised.
A man and woman were found tied to one another and tied to a spar. They
seemed to have been killed by blows received from the rocks or from the
In the evening Ampere read to us the 'Bourgeois Gentilhomme.' His reading
is equal to any acting. It kept us all, for the first two acts, which are
the most comic, in one constant roar of laughter.
'The modern _nouveau riche,_ said Beaumont, 'has little resemblance to M.
Jourdain. He talks of his horses and his carriages, builds a great hotel,
and buys pictures. I have a neighbour of this kind; he drives
four-in-hand over the bad roads of La Sarthe, visits with one carriage
one day, and another the next. His jockey stands behind his cabriolet in
top-boots, and his coachman wears a grand fur coat in summer. His own
clothes are always new, sometimes in the most accurate type of a groom,
sometimes in that of a dandy. His talk is of steeple-chases.'
'And does he get on?' I asked.
'Not in the least,' answered Beaumont. 'In England a _nouveau riche_ can
get into Parliament, or help somebody else to get in, and political power
levels all distinctions. Here, wealth gives no power: nothing, indeed,
but office gives power. The only great men in the provinces are the
_prefet_, the _sous-prefet_, and the _maire_. The only great man in Paris
is a minister or a general. Wealth, therefore, unless accompanied by the
social talents, which those who have made their fortunes have seldom had
the leisure or the opportunity to acquire, leads to nothing. The women,
too, of the _parvenus_ always drag them down. They seem to acquire
the _tournure_ of society less easily than the men. Bastide, when
Minister, did pretty well, but his wife used to sign her invitations
'Society,' he continued, 'under the Republic was animated. We had great
interests to discuss, and strong feelings to express, but perhaps the
excitement was too great. People seemed to be almost ashamed to amuse
or to be amused when the welfare of France, her glory or her degradation,
her freedom or her slavery, were, as the event has proved, at stake.'
'I suppose,' I said to Ampere, 'that nothing has ever been better than
the _salon_ of Madame Recamier?'
'We must distinguish,' said Ampere. 'As great painters have many manners,
so Madame Recamier had many _salons_. When I first knew her, in 1820, her
habitual dinner-party consisted of her father, her husband, Ballanche,
and myself. Both her father, M. Bernard, and her husband were agreeable
men. Ballanche was charming.'
'You believe,' I said, 'that Bernard was her father?' 'Certainly I do,'
he replied. 'The suspicion that Recamier might be was founded chiefly on
the strangeness of their conjugal relations. To this, I oppose her
apparent love for M. Bernard, and I explain Recamier's conduct by his
tastes. They were coarse, though he was a man of good manners. He never
spent his evenings at home. He went where he could find more license.
'Perhaps the most agreeable period was at that time of Chateaubriand's
reign when he had ceased to exact a _tete-a-tete_, and Ballanche and I
were admitted at four o'clock. The most illustrious of the _partie
carree_ was Chateaubriand, the most amusing Ballanche. My merit was that
I was the youngest. Later in the evening Madame Mohl, Miss Clarke as she
then was, was a great resource. She is a charming mixture of French
vivacity and English originality, but I think that the French element
predominates. Chateaubriand, always subject to _ennui_, delighted in her.
He has adopted in his books some of the words which she coined. Her
French is as original as the character of her mind, very good, but more
of the last than of the present century.'
'Was Chateaubriand himself,' I said, 'agreeable?'
'Delightful,' said Ampere; 'tres-entrain, tres-facile a vivre, beaucoup
d'imagination et de connaissances.'
'Facile a vivre?' I said. 'I thought that his vanity had been _difficile
'As a public man,' said Ampere, 'yes; and to a certain degree in general
society. But in intimate society, when he was no longer "posing," he was
charming. The charm, however, was rather intellectual than moral.
'I remember his reading to us a part of his memoirs, in which he
describes his early attachment to an English girl, his separation from
her, and their meeting many years after when she asked his protection for
her son. Miss Clarke was absorbed by the story. She wanted to know what
became of the young man, what Chateaubriand had been able to do for him.
Chateaubriand could answer only in generals: that he had done all that he
could, that he had spoken to the Minister, and that he had no doubt that
the young man got what he wanted. But it was evident that even if he had
really attempted to do anything for the son of his old love, he had
totally forgotten the result. I do not think that he was pleased at Miss
Clarke's attention and sympathy being diverted from himself. Later still
in Madame Recamier's life, when she had become blind, and Chateaubriand
deaf, and Ballanche very infirm, the evenings were sad. I had to try to
amuse persons who had become almost unamusable.'
'How did Madame de Chateaubriand,' I asked, 'take the devotion of her
husband to Madame Recamier?'
'Philosophically,' answered Ampere. 'He would not have spent with her the
hours that he passed at the Abbaye au bois. She was glad, probably, to
know that they were not more dangerously employed.'
'Could I read Chateaubriand?' I asked.
'I doubt it,' said Ampere. 'His taste is not English.'
'I _have_ read,' I said, 'and liked, his narrative of the manner in which
he forced on the Spanish war of 1822. I thought it well written.'
'It is, perhaps,' said Ampere, 'the best thing which he has written, as
the intervention to restore Ferdinand, which he effected in spite of
almost everybody, was perhaps the most important passage in his political
'There is something revolting in an interference to crush the liberties
of a foreign nation. But the expedition tended to maintain the Bourbons
on the French throne, and, according to Chateaubriand's ideas, it was
more important to support the principle of legitimacy than that of
liberty. He expected, too, sillily enough, that Ferdinand would give a
Constitution. It is certain, that, bad as the effects of that expedition
were, Chateaubriand was always proud of it.'
'What has Ballanche written?' I asked.
'A dozen volumes,' he answered. 'Poetry, metaphysics, on all sorts of
subjects, with pages of remarkable vigour and _finesse_, containing some
of the best writing in the language, but too unequal and too desultory to
be worth going through.'
'How wonderfully extensive,' I said, 'is French literature! Here is a
voluminous author, some of whose writings, you say, are among the best in
the French language, yet his name, at least as an author, is scarcely
known. He shines only by reflected light, and will live only because he
attached himself to a remarkable man and to a remarkable woman.'
'French literature,' said Ampere, 'is extensive, but yet inferior to
yours. If I were forced to select a single literature and to read nothing
else, I would take the English. In one of the most important departments,
the only one which cannot be re-produced by translation--poetry--you
beat us hollow. We are great only in the drama, and even there you are
perhaps our superiors. We have no short poems comparable to the "Allegro"
or to the "Penseroso," or to the "Country Churchyard."'
'Tocqueville,' I said, 'told me that he did not think that he could
now read Lamartine.'
'Tocqueville,' said Ampere, 'could taste, like every man of genius, the
very finest poetry, but he was not a lover of poetry. He could not read a
hundred bad lines and think himself repaid by finding mixed with them ten
'Ingres,' said Beaumont, 'perhaps our greatest living painter, is one of
the clever cultivated men who do not read. Somebody put the "Misanthrope"
into his hands, "It is wonderfully clever," he said, when he returned it;
"how odd it is that it should be so totally unknown."'
'Let us read it to-night,' I said.
'By all means,' said Madame de Tocqueville; 'though we know it by heart
it will be new when read by M. Ampere.' Accordingly Ampere read it to us
'The tradition of the stage,' he said, 'is that Celimene was Moliere's
'She is made too young,' said Minnie. 'A girl of twenty has not her wit,
or her knowledge of the world.'
'The change of a word,' said Ampere, 'in two or three places would alter
that. The feeblest characters are as usual the good ones. Philinte and
'Alceste is a grand mixture, perhaps the only one on the French stage, of
the comic and the tragic; for in many of the scenes he rises far above
comedy. His love is real impetuous passion. Talma delighted in playing
'The desert,' I said, 'into which he retires, was, I suppose, a distant
country-house. Just such a place as Tocqueville.'
'As Tocqueville,' said Beaumont, 'fifty years ago, without roads, ten
days' journey from Paris, and depending for society on Valognes.'
'As Tocqueville,' said Madame de Tocqueville, 'when my mother-in-law
first married. She spent in it a month and could never be induced to see
'Whom,' I asked, 'did Celimene marry?'
'Of course,' said Ampere, 'Alceste. Probably five years afterwards. By
that time he must have got tired of his desert and she of her coquetry.'
'We know,' I said, 'that Moliere was always in love with his wife,
notwithstanding her _legerete_. What makes me think the tradition that
Celimene was Mademoiselle Moliere true, is that Moliere was certainly
in love with Celimene. She is made as engaging as possible, and her worst
faults do not rise above foibles. Her satire is good-natured. Arsinoe is
her foil, introduced to show what real evil-speaking is.'
'All the women,' said Ampere, 'are in love with Alceste, and they care
about no one else. Celimene's satire of the others is scarcely
good-natured. It is clear, at least, that they did not think so.'
'If Celimene,' said Minnie, 'became Madame Alceste, he probably made her
life a burthen with his jealousy.'
'Of course he was jealous,' said Madame de Beaumont, 'for he was
violently in love. There can scarcely be violent love without jealousy.'
'At least,' said Madame de Tocqueville, 'till people are married.
'If a lover is cool enough to be without jealousy, he ought to pretend
[Footnote 1: Under the _ancien regime_ even the married actresses were
_Sunday, August_ 18.--After breakfast when the ladies were gone to
church, I talked over with Ampere and Beaumont Tocqueville's political
'Why,' I asked, 'did he refuse the support of M. Mole in 1835? Why would
he never take office under Louis Philippe? Why did he associate himself
with the Gauche whom he despised, and oppose the Droit with whom he
sympathised? Is the answer given by M. Guizot to a friend of mine who
asked a nearly similar question, "Parce qu'il voulait etre ou je suis,"
the true one?'
'The answers to your first question,' said Beaumont, 'are two. In 1835
Tocqueville was young and inexperienced. Like most young politicians, he
thought that he ought to be an independent member, and to vote, on every
occasion, according to his conscience, untrammelled by party connections.
He afterwards found his mistake.
'And, secondly, if he had chosen to submit to a leader, it would not have
'Mole represented a principle to which Guizot was then vehemently
opposed, though he was afterwards its incarnation--the subservience of
the Ministry and of the Parliament to the King. In that house of 450
members, there were 220 placemen; 200 were the slaves of the King. They
received from him their orders; from time to time, in obedience to those
orders, they even opposed his Ministers.
'This, however, seldom occurred, for the King contrived always to have a
devoted majority in his Cabinet.
'It was this that drove the Duc de Broglie from the Government and
prevented his ever resuming office.
'"I could not bear," he said to me, "to hear Sebastiani repeat, in every
council and on every occasion, 'Ce que le Roi vient de dire est
parfaitement juste.'" The only Ministers that ventured to have an opinion
of their own were those of the 12th of May 1839, of which Dufaure,
Villemain, and Passy were members, and that of the 1st of March 1840, of
which Thiers was the leader; and Tocqueville supported them both.
'When Guizot, who had maintained the principle of Ministerial and
Parliamentary, in opposition to that of Monarchical Governments, with
unequalled eloquence, vigour, and I may add violence, suddenly turned
round and became the most servile member of the King's servile majority,
Tocqueville fell back into opposition.
'In general it is difficult to act with an opposition systematically and,
at the same time, honestly. For the measures proposed by a Government
are, for the most part, good. But, during the latter part of Louis
Philippe's reign, it was easy, for the Government proposed merely to do
nothing--either abroad or at home. I do not complain of the essence of M.
Guizot's foreign policy, though there was a want of dignity in its forms.
'There was nothing useful to be done, and, under such circumstances, all
action would have been mischievous.
'But at home _every_ thing was to be done. Our code required to be
amended, our commerce and our industry, and our agriculture required to
be freed, our municipal and commercial institutions were to be created,
our taxation was to be revised, and, above all, our parliamentary
system--under which, out of 36,000,000 of French, only 200,000 had votes,
under which the Deputies bought a majority of the 200,000 electors, and
the King bought a majority of the 450 deputies--required absolute
'Louis Philippe would allow nothing to be done. If he could have
prevented it we should not have had a railroad. He would not allow the
most important of all, that to Marseilles, to be finished. He would not
allow our monstrous centralisation, or our monstrous protective system,
to be touched. The owners of forests were permitted to deprive us of
cheap fuel, the owners of forges of cheap iron, the owners of factories
of cheap clothing.
'In some of this stupid inaction Guizot supported him conscientiously,
for, like Thiers, he is ignorant of the first principles of political
economy, but he knows too much the philosophy of Government not to have
felt, on every other point, that the King was wrong.
'If he supposed that Tocqueville wished to be in his place, on the
conditions on which he held office, he was utterly mistaken.
'Tocqueville was ambitious; he wished for power. So did I. We would
gladly have been real Ministers, but nothing would have tempted us to be
the slaves of the _pensee immuable_, or to sit in a Cabinet in which we
were constantly out-voted, or to defend, as Guizot had to do in the
Chamber, conduct which we had disapproved in the Council.
'You ask why Tocqueville joined the Gauche whom he despised, against the
Droit with whom he sympathised?
'He voted with the Gauche only where he thought their votes right. Where
he thought them wrong, as, for instance, in all that respected Algeria,
he left them. They would have abandoned the country, and, when that