real sources of her power, and because I believe these sources to be permanent, and entirely beyond the reach of foreign attack. (I have not time now to tell you why.) But I am deeply convinced that it is not by taking from her a town, or even a province, nor by diplomatic precautions, still less by placing sentinels along her frontier, that the Western Powers will permanently stop her progress.
A temporary bulwark may be raised against her, but a mere accident may destroy it, or a change of alliances or a domestic policy may render it useless.
I am convinced that Russia can be stopped only by raising before her powers created by the hatred which she inspires, whose vital and constant interest it shall be to keep themselves united and to keep her in. In other words, by the resurrection of Poland, and by the re-animation of Turkey.
I do not believe that either of these means can now be adopted. The detestable jealousies and ambitions of the European nations resemble, as you say in your letter, nothing better than the quarrels of the Greeks in the face of Philip. Not one will sacrifice her passions or her objects.
About a month ago I read some remarkable articles, which you perhaps have seen, in the German papers, on the progress which Russia is making in the extreme East. The writer seems to be a man of sense and well informed.
It appears that during the last five years, Russia, profiting by the Chinese disturbances, has seized, not only the mouth of the Amoor, but a large territory in Mongolia, and has also gained a considerable portion of the tribes which inhabit it. You know that these tribes once overran all Asia, and have twice conquered China. The means have always been the same–some accident which, for an instant, has united these tribes in submission to the will of one man. Now, says the writer, very plausibly, the Czar may bring this about, and do what has been done by Genghis Khan, and, indeed, by others.
If these designs are carried out, all Upper Asia will be at the mercy of a man, who, though the seat of his power be in Europe, can unite and close on one point the Mongols.
I know more about Sir G. Lewis’s book than you do. I have read it through, and I do not say, as you do, that it must be a good book, but that it _is_ a good book. Pray say as much to Sir George when you see him, as a letter of mine to Lady Theresa on the subject may have miscarried.
It is as necessary now for friends to write in duplicate from town to town, as it is if they are separated by the ocean and fear that the ship which carries their letters may be lost. I hear that our friend John Mill has lately published an excellent book. Is it true? at all events remember me to him.
Adieu, my dear Senior. Do not forget us any more than we forget you. Kindest regards to Mrs. Senior, and Miss Senior, and Mrs. Grote.
A. DE TOCQUEVILLE.
[Footnote 1: The work referred to was probably that on the _Early History of Rome_.–ED.]
Paris, April 1, 1856.
I write a few lines to you at Marseilles, my dear Senior, as you wished. I hope that you will terminate your great journey as felicitously as you seem to me to have carried it on from the beginning. The undertaking appears to have been a complete success. I wish that it might induce you next year to cross over the ocean to America. I should be much interested in hearing and reading your remarks upon that society. But perhaps Mrs. Senior will not be so ready to start off again; so, that I may not involve myself in a quarrel with her, I will say no more on the subject.
I am longing to see you, for beside our old and intimate friendship I shall be delighted to talk with such an interesting converser, and, above all, to find myself again in the company of (as Mrs. Grote calls you) ‘the boy.’ You will find me, however, in all the vexations of correcting proofs and the other worries connected with bringing out a book. It will not appear till the end of this month.
I can tell you no more about politics than you may learn from the newspapers. Peace, though much desired has caused no public excitement The truth is that just now we are not _excitable_. As long as she remains in this condition France will not strike one of those blows by which she sometimes shakes Europe and overturns herself.
Reeve has been and Milnes still is here. We have talked much of you with these two old friends. Good bye, or rather, thank God, _a bientot_.
A thousand kind remembrances to Mrs. Senior.
A. DE TOCQUEVILLE.
[Footnote 1: Mr. Senior was on his return from Egypt.–ED.]
[Footnote 2: The _Ancien Regime_.]
_Paris, May_ 16.–M. de Tocqueville has scarcely been visible since my return to Paris. Madame de Tocqueville has been absent. She returned yesterday, and they spent this evening with us.
Tocqueville is full of his book, which is to appear in about a week. His days and nights are devoted to correcting the press and to writing notes–which he thought would be trifling, but which grow in length and importance.
The object of the work is to account for the rapid progress of the Revolution, to point out the principal causes which enabled a few comparatively obscure men to overthrow in six weeks a Monarchy of many centuries.
‘I am inclined,’ I said, ‘to attribute the rapidity with which the old institutions of France fell, to the fact that there was no _lex loci_ in France. That the laws, or rather the customs, of the different provinces were dissimilar, and that nothing was defined. That as soon as the foundations or the limits of any power were examined, it crumbled to pieces; so that the Assembly became omnipotent in the absence of any authority with ascertained rights and jurisdiction.’
‘There is much truth in that,’ answered Tocqueville, ‘but there is also much truth in what looks like an opposite theory–namely, that the Monarchy fell because its power was too extensive and too absolute. Nothing is so favourable to revolution as centralisation, because whoever can seize the central point is obeyed down to the extremities. Now the centralisation of France under the old Monarchy, though not so complete as its Democratic and Imperial tyrants afterwards made it, was great. Power was concentrated in Paris and in the provincial capitals. The smaller towns and the agricultural population were unorganised and defenceless. The 14th of July revealed the terrible secret that the Master of Paris is the Master of France.’
_Paris, May_ 18.–I spent the day at Athy, the country-seat of M. Lafosse, who had been my companion in our Egyptian journey.
‘What do you hear,’ I asked, ‘of the Empress?’
‘Nothing,’ he answered, ‘but what is favourable; all her instincts and prejudices are good. Lesseps, who is nearly related to her, has many of her letters, written during the courtship, in which she speaks of her dear Louis with the utmost affection, and dwells on the hope that if ever she should become his wife, she may be able to induce him to liberalise his Government.’
‘And now,’ he said, ‘tell me what you heard in England about our Canal?’
‘I heard nothing,’ I answered, ‘except from Maclean. He told me that he thought that the Maritime Canal, if supplied from the sea, would become stagnant and unwholesome, and gradually fill. That that plan was formed when the levels of the two seas were supposed to differ, so that there would be a constant current.
‘”Now that the equality of their levels has been ascertained,” he said to me, “the only mode of obtaining a current is to employ the Nile instead of the sea.” “But can the Nile spare the water?” I asked. “Certainly,” he answered. “An hour a day of the water from the Nile, even when at its lowest, would be ample.” “And what do the other engineers say?” I asked. “Randall,” he replied, “agrees with me. The others are at present for the salt water. But we are to meet in time and discuss it thoroughly.”‘
‘It is not the opinion of the engineers,’ answered Lafosse, ‘that I want, but that of the politicians.
‘We are told that Lord Palmerston threatens to prevent it as long as he is Minister. This makes us very angry. We think that we perceive in his opposition his old hatred of France and of everything that France supports or even favours–feelings which we hoped the Alliance had cured.
‘The matter,’ he continued, ‘was to have been brought before the Congress. Buol had promised to Nigrelli to do so, and Cavour to Lesseps and Paleocapa. But after the occupation of Italy, and the Belgian press, and the rights of Neutrals had been introduced, the Congress got impatient, and it was thought inexpedient to ask them to attend to another episodical matter. The Emperor, however, did something. He asked Ali Pasha, the Turkish Minister, what were the Sultan’s views. “They will be governed,” said Ali Pasha, “in a great measure by those of his allies.” “As one of them,” said the Emperor, “I am most anxious for its success.” “In that case,” replied Ali Pasha, “the Sultan can have no objection to it in principle, though he may wish to annex to his firman some conditions–for instance, as to the occupation of the forts at each end by a mixed garrison of Turks and Egyptians.” The Emperor then turned to Lord Clarendon. “What are your views,” he asked, “as to the Suez Canal?” “It is a grave matter,” answered Lord Clarendon, “and one on which I have no instructions. But I believe it to be impracticable.” “Well,” replied the Emperor, “but supposing for the sake of the argument, that it is practicable, what are your intentions?” “I cannot but think,” answered Lord Clarendon, “that any new channel of commerce must be beneficial to England. The real difficulty is the influence which the Canal may have in the relations of Egypt and Turkey.” “If that be the only obstacle,” replied the Emperor, “there is not much in it, for Ali Pasha has just told me that if _we_ make no objection the Sultan makes none. We cannot be more Turkish than the Turk.”‘
‘I am most anxious,’ added Lafosse, ‘that this stupid opposition of yours should come to an end. Trifling as the matter may seem, it endangers the cordiality of the Alliance. The people of England, who do not know how jealous and _passionnes_ we are, cannot estimate the mistrust and the irritation which it excites. That an enterprise on which the French, wisely or foolishly, have set their hearts, should be stopped by the caprice of a wrong-headed Englishman, hurts our vanity; and everything that hurts our vanity offends us much more than what injures our serious interests.
‘If the engineers and the capitalists decide in favour of the scheme, you will have to yield at last. You had much better do so now, when you can do it with a good grace. Do not let your acquiescence be extorted.’
[Footnote 1: M. Lafosse died many years ago. He was a friend of M. de Lesseps, by whom he and Mr. Senior were invited to join the expedition to Egypt–ED.]
_Paris, May_ 19.–After breakfast I spent a couple of hours with Cousin.
‘You have been in England,’ he said, ‘since you left Egypt. What is the news as to our Canal? Will Palmerston let us have it? You must stay a few weeks in Paris to estimate the effect of your opposition to it. We consider Palmerston’s conduct as a proof that his hatred of France is unabated, and the acquiescence of the rest of your Cabinet as a proof that, now we are no longer necessary to you, now that we have destroyed for you the maritime power of Russia, you are indifferent to our friendship.
‘I know nothing myself as to the merits of the Canal. I distrust Lesseps and everything that he undertakes. He has much talent and too much activity, but they only lead him and his friends into scrapes. I daresay that the Canal is one, and that it will ruin its shareholders; but as I am anxious we should not quarrel with England, I am most anxious that this silly subject of dispute should be removed.’
‘Louis Napoleon,’ he continued, ‘professed to wish that you should allow the Sultan to give his consent; but I doubt whether he is sincere. I am not sure that he is not pleased at seeing the Parisians occupied by something besides his own doings, especially as it promotes the national dislike of England. Now that the war is over we want an object. He tries to give us one by launching us into enormous speculations. He is trying to make us English; to give us a taste for great and hazardous undertakings, leading to great gains, great losses, profuse expenditure, and sudden fortunes and failures. Such things suit _you_; they do not suit _us_. Our habits are economical and prudent, perhaps timid. We like the petty commerce of commission and detail, we prefer domestic manufactures to factories, we like to grow moderately rich by small profits, small expenditure, and constant accumulation. We hate the _nouveaux riches_, and scarcely wish to be among them. The progress for which we wish is political progress–not within, for there we are satisfied to oscillate, and shall be most happy if in 1860 we find ourselves where we were in 1820–but without. I believe that our master’s _sortie_ against Belgium was a pilot balloon. He wished to see what amount of opposition he had to fear from you, and from Belgium, and how far we should support him. He has found the two former greater than he expected. I am not sure that he is dissatisfied with the last.’
I spent the morning at H.’s. He too attacked me about the Canal.
‘Do entreat,’ he said, ‘your public men to overrule their ill-conditioned colleague. I told you a year ago, the mischief that you were doing, but I do not think that you believed me. You may find too late that I was right.’
I repeated to him Ellice’s opinion that the commerce of England would not use the canal.
‘I have heard that,’ he said, ‘from Ellice himself, but I differ from him. I agree with him, indeed, that your sailing vessels will not use the canal, but I believe that a few years hence you will have no purely sailing vessels, except for the small coasting trade. Every large ship will have a propeller; and with propellers, to be employed occasionally, and sails for ordinary use, the Mediterranean and the Red Sea are very manageable. I believe that the canal will be useful, and particularly to you. But whatever be the real merits of the scheme, for God’s sake let it be tried. Do not treat us like children, and say, “We know better what is good for you than you do yourselves. You shall not make your canal because you would lose money by it.”‘
‘What did you hear,’ I said, ‘about the Congress?’
‘I heard,’ he answered, ‘that Clarendon was very good, and was the best, and that Walewski was very bad, and was the worst.’
‘Can you tell me,’ I said, ‘the real history of the Tripartite Treaty?’
‘I can,’ he answered. ‘There was an old engagement between the three Powers, entered into last spring, that if they succeeded in the war, they would unite to force Russia to perform any conditions to which she might submit.
‘This engagement had been allowed to sleep; I will not say that it was forgotten, but no one seemed disposed to revert to it. But after the twenty-second Protocol, when Piedmont was allowed to threaten Austria, and neither England nor France defended her, Buol got alarmed. He feared that Austria might be left exposed to the vengeance of Russia on the north and east, and to that of the Italian Liberals on the South. An alliance with France and England, though only for a specified purpose, at least would relieve Austria from the appearance of insulation. She would be able to talk of the two greatest Powers in Europe as her allies, and would thus acquire a moral force which might save her from attack. He recalled, therefore, the old engagement to the recollection of Clarendon and Louis Napoleon, and summoned them to fulfil it. I do not believe that either of them was pleased. But the engagement was formal, and its performance, though open to misconstruction, and intended by Austria to be misconstrued, was attended by some advantages, though different ones, to France and to England. So both your Government and ours complied.’
_Tuesday, May 20_.–The Tocquevilles and Rivet drank tea with us.
I mentioned to Tocqueville the subject of my conversations with Cousin and H.
‘I agree with Cousin,’ he said. ‘The attempt to turn our national activity into speculation and commerce has often been made, but has never had any permanent success. The men who make these sudden fortunes are not happy, for they are always suspected of _friponnerie_, and the Government to which they belong is suspected of _friponnerie_. Still less happy are those who have attempted to make them, and have failed. And those who have not been able even to make the attempt are envious and sulky. So that the whole world becomes suspicious and dissatisfied.
‘And even if it were universal, mere material prosperity is not enough for us. Our Government must give us something more: must gratify our ambition, or, at least, our vanity.’
‘The Government,’ said Rivet, ‘has been making a desperate plunge in order to escape from the accusation of _friponnerie_. It has denounced in the “Moniteur” the _faiseurs_; it has dismissed a poor _aide-de-camp_ of Jerome’s for doing what everybody has been doing ever since the _coup d’etat_. When Ponsard’s comedy, which was known to be a furious satire on the _agioteurs_, was first played, Louis Napoleon took the whole orchestra and pit stalls, and filled them with people instructed to applaud every allusion to the _faiseurs_. And he himself stood in his box, his body almost out of it, clapping most energetically every attack on them.’
‘At the same time,’ I said, ‘has he not forced the Orleans Company and the Lyons Company to buy the Grand Central at much more than its worth? And was not that done in order to enable certain _faiseurs_ to realise their gains?’
‘He has forced the Orleans Company,’ said Rivet, ‘to buy up, or rather to amalgamate the Grand Central; but I will not say at more than its value. The amount to be paid is to depend on the comparative earnings of the different lines, for two years before and two years after the purchase.’
‘But,’ I said, ‘is it not true, first, that the Orleans Company was unwilling to make the purchase? and, secondly, that thereupon the Grand Central shares rose much in the market?’
‘Both these facts,’ answered Rivet, ‘are true.’
‘Do you believe,’ I said to Tocqueville, ‘H.’s history of the Tripartite Treaty?’
‘I do,’ he answered. ‘I do not think that at the time when it was made we liked it. It suited you, who wish to preserve the _statu quo_ in Europe, which keeps us your inferiors, or, at least, not your superiors. _You_ have nothing to gain by a change. We have. The _statu quo_ does not suit us. The Tripartite Treaty is a sort of chain–not a heavy one, or a strong one–but one which we should not have put on if we could have avoided it.’
‘Do you agree,’ I asked Tocqueville, ‘with Lafosse, Cousin, and H. as to the effect in Paris of our opposition to the Suez Canal?’
‘I agree,’ he answered, ‘in every word that they have said. There is nothing that has done you so much mischief in France, and indeed in Europe.
‘I am no engineer; I should be sorry to pronounce a decided opinion as to the feasibility or the utility of the canal; but your opposition makes us believe that it is practicable.’
‘Those among us,’ I answered, ‘who fear it, sometimes found their fear on grounds unconnected with its practicability. They say that it is a political, not a commercial, scheme. That the object is to give to French engineers and French shareholders a strip of land separating Egypt from Syria, and increasing the French interest in Egypt.’
‘What is the value,’ answered Tocqueville, ‘of a strip of land in the desert where no one can live? And why are the shareholders to be French? The Greeks, the Syrians, the Dalmatians, the Italians, and the Sicilians are the people who will use the canal, if anybody uses it. They will form the bulk of the shareholders, if shareholders there are.
‘My strong suspicion is, that if you had not opposed it, there never would have been any shareholders, and that if you now withdraw your opposition, and let the scheme go on until calls are made, the subscribers, who are ready enough with their names as patriotic manifestations against you as long as no money is to be paid, will withdraw _en masse_ from an undertaking which, at the very best, is a most hazardous one.
‘As to our influence in Egypt, your journal shows that it is a pet project of the Viceroy. He hopes to get money and fame from it. You _imitate_ both his covetousness and his vanity, and throw him for support upon us.’
_Paris, May_ 21–The Tocquevilles and Chrzanowski drank tea with us.
We talked of the French iron floating batteries.
‘I saw one at Cherbourg,’ said Tocqueville, ‘and talked much with her commander. He was not in good spirits about his vessel, and feared some great disaster. However, she did well at Kinburn.’
‘She suffered little at Kinburn,’ said Chrzanowski, ‘because she ventured little. She did not approach the batteries nearer than 600 metres. At that distance there is little risk and little service. To knock down a wall two metres thick from a distance of 600 metres would require at least 300 blows. How far her own iron sides would have withstood at that distance the fire of heavy guns I will not attempt to say, as I never saw her. The best material to resist shot is lead. It contracts over the ball and crushes it.’
‘Kinburn, however,’ said Tocqueville, ‘surrendered to our floating batteries.’
‘Kinburn surrendered,’ said Chrzanowski, ‘because you landed 10,000 men, and occupied the isthmus which connects Kinburn with the main land. The garrison saw that they were invested, and had no hope of relief. They were not Quixotic enough, or heroic enough, to prolong a hopeless resistance. Scarcely any garrison does so.’
We talked of Malta; and I said that Malta was the only great fortification which I had seen totally unprovided with earth-works.
‘The stone,’ said Chrzanowski, ‘is soft and will not splinter.’
‘I was struck,’ I said, ‘with the lightness of the armament; the largest guns that I saw, except some recently placed in Fort St. Elmo, were twenty-four pounders.’
‘For land defence,’ he answered, ‘twenty-four pounders are serviceable guns. They are manageable and act with great effect within the short distance within which they are generally used. It is against ships that large guns are wanted. A very large ball or shell is wasted on the trenches, but may sink a ship. The great strength of the land defences of Malta arises from the nature of the ground on which Valetta and Floriana are built, indeed of which the whole island consists. It is a rock generally bare or covered with only a few inches of earth. Approaches could not be dug in it. It would be necessary to bring earth or sand in ships, and to make the trenches with sand-bags or gabions.’
I asked him if he had read Louis Napoleon’s orders to Canrobert, published in Bazancourt’s book?
‘I have,’ he answered. ‘They show a depth of ignorance and a depth of conceit, compared to which even Thiers is modest and skilful. Canrobert is not a great general, but he is not a man to whom a civilian, who never saw a shot fired, ought to give lectures on what he calls “the great principles” or “the absolute principles of war.” He seems to have taken the correspondence between Napoleon and Joseph for his model, forgetting that Canrobert is to him what Napoleon was to Joseph. Then he applies his principles as absurdly as he enunciates them. Thus he orders Canrobert to send a fleet carrying 25,000 men to the breach at Aboutcha, to land 3,000 of them, to send them three leagues up the country, and not to land any more, until those first sent have established themselves beyond the defile of Agen. Of course those 3,000 men would be useless if the enemy were _not_ in force, or destroyed if they _were_ in force. To send on a small body and not to support them is the grossest of faults. It is the fault which you committed at the Redan, when the men who had got on to the works were left by you for an hour unsupported, instead of reinforcements being poured in after them as quickly as they could be sent.
‘In fact,’ he continued, ‘the horrible and mutual blunders of that campaign arose from its being managed by the two Emperors from Paris and from St. Petersburg, Nicholas and Alexander were our best friends. Louis Napoleon was our worst enemy.
‘There is nothing which ought to be so much left to the discretion of those on the spot as war. Even a commander-in-chief actually present in a field of battle can do little after the action, if it be really a great one, has once begun.
‘If we suppose 80,000 men to be engaged on each side, each line will extend at least three miles. Supposing the general to be in the centre, it will take an _aide-de-camp_ ten minutes to gallop to him from one of the wings, and ten minutes to gallop back. But in twenty minutes all may be altered.’
[Footnote 1: ‘Chrzanowski has passed thirty years fighting against or for the Russians. He began military life in 1811 as a sous lieutenant of artillery in the Polish corps which was attached to the French army. With that army he served during the march to Moscow, and the retreat. At the peace, what remained of his corps became a part of the army of the kingdom of Poland. He had attained the rank of major in that army when the insurrection on the accession of Nicholas broke out. About one hundred officers belonging to the staff of the properly Russian army were implicated, or supposed to be implicated, in that insurrection, and were dismissed, and their places were supplied from the army of the kingdom of Poland. Among those so transferred to the Russian army was Chrzanowski. He was attached to the staff of Wittgenstein, and afterwards of Marshal Diebitsch, in the Turkish campaigns of 1828 and 1829. In 1830 he took part with his countrymen in the insurrection against the Muscovites, and quitted Poland when it was finally absorbed in the Russian Empire. A few years after a quarrel was brewing between England and Russia. Muscovite agents were stirring up Persia and Affghanistan against us, and it was thought that we might have to oppose them on the shores of the Black Sea. Chrzanowski was attached to the British Embassy at Constantinople and was employed for some years in ascertaining what assistance Turkey, both in Europe and in Asia, could afford to us. In 1849 he was selected by Charles Albert to command the army of the kingdom of Sardinia.
‘That army was constituted on the Prussian system, which makes every man serve, and no man a soldier. It was, in fact, a militia. The men were enlisted for only fourteen months, at the end of that time they were sent home, and were recalled when they were wanted, having forgotten their military training and acquired the habits of cottiers and artisans. They had scarcely any officers, or even _sous_ officers, that knew anything of their business. The drill sergeants required to be drilled. The generals, and indeed the greater part of the officers, were divided into hostile factions–Absolutists, Rouges, Constitutional Liberals, and even Austrians–for at that time, in the exaggerated terror occasioned by the revolutions of 1848, Austria and Russia were looked up to by the greater part of the noblesse of the Continent as the supporters of order against Mazzini, Kossuth, Ledru Rollin, and Palmerston. The Absolutists and the Austrians made common cause, whereas the Rouges or Mazzinists were bitterest against the Constitutional Liberals. Such an army, even if there had been no treason, could not have withstood a disciplined enemy. When it fell a victim to its own defects, and to the treachery of Ramorino, Chrzanowski retired to Paris.’–(_Extracted from Mr. Senior’s article in the ‘North British Review.’_)
Chrzanowski died several years ago.–ED.]
Kensington, August 20, 1856.
My dear Tocqueville,–A few weeks after my return to London your book reached me–of course from the time that I got it, I employed all my leisure in reading it.
Nothing, even of yours, has, I think, so much instructed and delighted me. Much of it, perhaps, was not quite so new to me as to many others; as I had had the privilege of hearing it from you–but even the views which were familiar to me in their outline were made almost new by their details.
It is painful to think how difficult it is to create a Constitutional Government, and how difficult to preserve one, and, what is the same, how easy to destroy one.
* * * * *
Mrs. Senior is going to Wales and to Ireland, where I join her, after having paid a long-promised visit to Lord Aberdeen.
I like the conversation of retired statesmen, and he is one of our wisest. Thiers has just left us. I spent two evenings with him, but on the first he was engrossed by Lord Clarendon, and on the second by the Duc d’Aumale and by Lord Palmerston. They were curious _rapprochements_, at least the first and third. It was the first meeting of Palmerston and Duc d’Aumale. I am very much pleased with the latter. He is sensible, well informed, and unaffected.
Kindest regards, &c.
Tocqueville, September 4, 1856.
I have read, my dear Senior, your letter with great pleasure. Your criticism delights me, for I rely on your judgment and on your sincerity. I am charmed that you have found in my book more than you had learned from our conversations, on my view of our history. We have known one another so long, we have conversed so much and so unreservedly, that it is difficult for either of us to write anything that the other will think new. I was afraid that what may appear original to the public might seem trite to you.
The Reeves have been with us; we have passed together an agreeable fortnight. I had charged Reeve to bring you, whether you would or not. Did he make the attempt? I am sure that you would have enjoyed your visit, and we should have rejoiced to have under our roof two such old friends as you and Reeve.
I am glad that you have printed your article; pray try to send it to me.
It seems that you intend this winter to anchor in Rome. It increases my regret that I cannot be there. It is out of the question. My wife’s health and mine are so much improved that the journey is not necessary, and business of all kinds keeps us at home. If you push on to Naples, you will, perhaps, enjoy the absence of the rascally king whom you and I found there five years ago. I applaud the virtuous indignation of the English against this little despot, and their sympathy with the unhappy wretches whom he detains arbitrarily to die slowly in his prisons, which, though not placed in the African deserts or the marshes of Cayenne, are bad enough. The interest which your great nation takes in the cause of humanity and liberty, even when that cause suffers in another country, delights me. What I regret is that your generous indignation is directed against so petty a tyrant.
I must say that America is a _puer robustus_. Yet I cannot desire, as many persons do, its dismemberment. Such an event would inflict a great wound on the whole human race; for it would introduce war into a great continent from whence it has been banished for more than a century.
The breaking up of the American Union will be a solemn moment in the history of the world. I never met an American who did not feel this, and I believe that it will not be rashly or easily undertaken. There will, before actual rupture, be always a last interval, in which one or both parties will draw back. Has not this occurred twice?
Adieu, dear Senior. Do not be long without letting us hear from you, and remember us affectionately to Mrs. Senior and to your daughter.
Ashton House, near Phoenix Park, Dublin, September 26, 1856.
My dear Tocqueville,–Your letter found me at Haddo House, Aberdeenshire, where we have been spending a fortnight with Lord Aberdeen.
It has been very interesting. Lord Aberdeen is one of our wisest statesmen.
* * * * *
I found Lord Aberdeen deprecating the war, notwithstanding its success, utterly incredulous as to the aggressive intentions attributed to Nicholas, and in fact throwing the blame of the war on Lord Stratford and, to a certain degree, on Louis Napoleon.
I found him also much disturbed by our Naples demonstration, believing it to be an unwarranted interference with an independent Government.
* * * * *
Tocqueville, November 2, 1856.
I am grateful to you, my dear Senior, for your kindness in telling me what I most wished to hear. The judgments of such men as those with whom you have been living, while they delight me, impose on me the duty of unrelaxed efforts.
Your fortnight at Lord Aberdeen’s amused me exceedingly, and not the least amusing part were the eccentricities of A.B.
There is one point in which the English seem to me to differ from ourselves, and, indeed, from all other nations, so widely that they form almost a distinct species of men. There is often scarcely any connection between what they say and what they do.
No people carry so far, especially when speaking in public, violence of language, outrageousness of theories, and extravagance in the inference drawn from those theories. Thus your A.B. says that the Irish have not shot half enough landlords. Yet no people act with more moderation. A quarter of what is said in England at a public meeting, or even round a dinner-table, without anything being done or intended to be done, would in France announce violence, which would almost always be more furious than the language had been.
We Frenchmen are not so different from our antipodes as we are from a nation, partly our own progeny, which is separated from us by only a large ditch.
I wonder whether you have heard how our illustrious master is relieving the working-people from the constant rise of house-rent. When they are turned out of their lodgings he re-establishes them by force; if they are distrained on for non-payment of rent, he will not allow the tribunals to treat the distress as legal. What think you, as a political economist, of this form of outdoor relief?
What makes the thing amusing is, that the Government which uses this violent mode of lodging the working classes, is the very same Government which, by its mad public works, by drawing to Paris suddenly a hundred thousand workmen, and by destroying suddenly ten thousand houses, has created the deficiency of habitations. It seems, however, that the systematic intimidation and oppression of the rich in favour of the poor, is every day becoming more and more one of the principles of our Government.
I read yesterday a circular from the prefect of La Sarthe, a public document, stuck up on the church-doors and in the market-places, which, after urging the landed proprietors of the department to assess themselves for the relief of the poor, adds, that their insensibility becomes more odious when it is remembered that for many years they have been growing rich by the rise of prices, which is spreading misery among the lower orders.
The real character of our Government, its frightful mixture of socialism and despotism, was never better shown.
I have said enough to prevent your getting my letter. If it _should_ escape the rogue who manages our post-office, let me know as soon as you can.
A. DE. TOCQUEVILLE.
Tocqueville, February 11, 1857.
I must ask you, my dear Senior, to tell me yourself how you have borne this long winter. I suppose that it has been the same in England as in Normandy, for the two climates are alike.
Here we have been buried for ten or twelve days under a foot of snow, and it froze hard during the whole time. How has your larynx endured this trial? I assure you that we take great interest in that larynx of yours. Give us therefore some news of it.
Your letter gave us fresh pleasure by announcing your intention of passing April and May in Paris. We shall certainly be there at the same time, and perhaps before. I hope that we shall see you continually. We are, you know, among the very many people who delight in your society; besides, we have an excellent right to your friendship.
I am looking forward with great pleasure to your Egypt. What I already know of that country leads me to think that of all your reminiscences it will afford the most novelty and interest.
I do not think that your visit to Paris will be a very valuable addition to your journals. If I may judge by the letters which I receive thence, society there has never been flatter, nor more insipid, nor more entirely without any dominant idea. I need not tell you that your opinion of our statesmen is the same as that which prevails in Paris, but it is of such an ancient date, and is so obvious, that it cannot give rise to interesting discussions.
A-propos of statesmen, we cannot understand how a man who made, _inter pocula_, the speech of —- on his travels can remain in a government. I think that even ours, though so long-suffering towards its agents, could not tolerate anything similar even if it should secretly approve. Absolute power has its limits. The Prince de Ligne, in a discourse which you have doubtless read, seems to me to have described it in one word by saying that it was the speech of a _gamin_.
I am, however, ungrateful to criticise it, for I own that it amused me extremely, and that I thought that Morny especially was drawn from life; but I think that if I had the honour of being Her Britannic Majesty’s Prime Minister, I should not have laughed so heartily. How could so clever a man be guilty of such eccentricities?
In my last letter to our excellent friend Mrs. Grote, I ventured to say that there was one person who wrote even worse than I did, and that it was you. Your last letter has filled me with remorse, for I could actually read it, and even without trouble. I beg, therefore, to make an _amende honorable_, and envy you your power of advancing towards perfection.
* * * * *
I still think of paying a little visit to England in June. Adieu, dear Senior. Do not be angry with me for not writing on politics. Indeed I could tell you nothing, for I know nothing, and besides, just now politics are not to be treated by Frenchmen, _in letters_.
A. DE TOCQUEVILLE.
Tocqueville, March 8, 1857.
I still write to you, my dear Senior, from hence. We cannot tear ourselves away from the charms of our retreat, or from a thousand little employments. We shall scarcely reach Paris, therefore, before you. You will, therefore, yourself bring me the remainder of your curious journal. What I have already seen makes me most anxious to read the rest. I have never read anything which gave me more valuable information on Egypt and Oriental politics in general. As soon as I possibly can, I look forward to continuing its perusal.
The papers tell us that your Ministry has been beaten on the Chinese War. It seems to me to have been an ill-chosen battle-field. The war was, perhaps, somewhat wantonly begun, and very roughly managed; but the fault lay with distant and subordinate agents. Now that it has begun, no Cabinet can avoid carrying it on vigorously. The existing Ministry will do as well for this as any other. As there is no line of policy to be changed, the upsetting is merely to put in the people who are now out.
If the Ministry falls, the man least to be pitied will be our friend Lewis. He will go out after having obtained a brilliant triumph on his own ground, and he will enjoy the good fortune, rare to public men, of quitting power greater than he was when he took it, and with the enviable reputation of owing his greatness, not merely to his talents, but also to the respect and the confidence which he has universally inspired.
All this delights me; for I feel towards him, and towards all his family, a true friendship.
To return to China.
It seems to me that the relations between that country and Europe are changed, and dangerously changed.
Till now, Europe has had to deal only with a Chinese government–the most wretched of governments. Now you will find opposed to you a people; and a people, however miserable and corrupt, is invincible on its own territory, if it be supported and impelled by common and violent passions.
Yet I should be sorry to die before I have seen China open to the eyes as well as to the arms of Europe.
Do you believe in a dissolution? If so, when?
A thousand regards to Mrs. Grote, to the great historian, to the Reeves, and generally to all who are kind enough to remember my existence.
I delight in the prospect of meeting you in Paris; yet I fear that you will find it dull. All that I hear from the great town shows me that never, at least during the last two hundred years, has intellectual life been less active.
If there be talent in the official circles, it is not the talent of conversation, and among those who formerly possessed that talent, there is so much torpidity, such want of interest on public affairs, such ignorance as to what is passing, and so little wish to hear about it, that no one, I am told, knows what to talk about or to take interest in. Your conversation, however, is so agreeable and stimulating that it is capable of reanimating the dead. Come and try to work this miracle.
A thousand remembrances.
A. DE TOCQUEVILLE.
_Paris, Hotel Bedford, April_ 9, 1857.–We reached this place last night.
The Tocquevilles are in our hotel. I went to them in the evening.
Tocqueville asked me how long I intended to remain.
‘Four weeks,’ I answered.
‘I do not think,’ he replied, ‘that you will be able to do so. Paris has become so dull that no one will voluntarily spend a month here. The change which five years have produced is marvellous.
‘We have lost our interest not only in public affairs, but in all serious matters.’
‘You will return then to the social habits of Louis Quinze,’ I said. ‘You were as despotically governed then as you are now; and yet the _salons_ of Madame Geoffrin were amusing.’
‘We may do so in time,’ he answered, ‘but that time is to come. At present we talk of nothing but the Bourse. The conversation of our _salons_ resembles more that of the time of Law, than that of the time of Marmontel.’
I spent the evening at Lamartine’s. There were few people there, and the conversation was certainly dull enough to justify Tocqueville’s fears.
_April_ 10.–Tocqueville drank tea with us.
We talked of the Empress, and of the possibility of her being Regent of France.
‘That supposes,’ I said, ‘first, that _Celui-ci_ holds his power until his death; and, secondly, that his son will succeed him.’
‘I expect both events,’ answered Tocqueville. ‘It is impossible to deny that Louis Napoleon has shown great dexterity and tact. His system of government is detestable if we suppose the welfare of France to be his object; but skilful if its aim be merely the preservation of his own power.
‘Such being his purpose, he has committed no great faults. Wonderful, almost incredible, as his elevation is, it has not intoxicated him.’
‘It has not intoxicated him,’ I answered, ‘because he was prepared for it–he always expected it.’
‘He could scarcely,’ replied Tocqueville, ‘have really and soberly expected it until 1848.
‘Boulogne and Strasbourg were the struggles of a desperate man, who staked merely a life of poverty, obscurity, and exile. Even if either of them had succeeded, the success could not have been permanent. A surprise, if it had thrown him upon the throne, could not have kept him there. Even after 1848, though the Bourbons were discredited, we should not have tolerated a Bonaparte if we had not lost all our self-possession in our terror of the Rouges. That terror created him, that terror supports him; and habit, and the dread of the bloodshed and distress, and the unknown chances of a revolution, will, I think, maintain him during his life.
‘The same feelings will give the succession to his heir. Whether the heir will keep it, is a different question.’
_Sunday, April_ 12.–Tocqueville drank tea with us. I asked him if he had seen the Due de Nemours’ letter.
‘I have not seen it,’ he answered. ‘In fact, I have not wished to see it. I disapprove of the Fusionists, and the anti-Fusionists, and the Legitimists, and the Orleanists-in short, of all the parties who are forming plans of action in events which may not happen, or may not happen in my time, or may be accompanied by circumstances rendering those plans absurd, or mischievous, or impracticable,’
‘But though you have not read the letter,’ I said, ‘you know generally what are its contents.’
‘Of course I do,’ he replied. ‘And I cannot blame the Comte de Chambord for doing what I do myself–for refusing to bind himself in contingencies, and to disgust his friends in the hope of conciliating his enemies.’
‘Do you believe,’ I asked, ‘that the mere promise of a Constitution would offend the Legitimists?’
‘I do not think,’ he answered, ‘that they would object to a Constitution giving them what they would consider their fair share of power and influence.
‘Under Louis Philippe they had neither, but it was in a great measure their own fault.
‘They have neither under this Government, for its principle is to rest on the army and on the people, and to ignore the existence of the educated classes.
‘You see _that_ in its management of the press. ‘Montalembert, or Guizot, or Falloux, or I may publish what we like. We are not read by the soldier or by the _proletaire_. But the newspaper press is subject to a slavery to which it was never reduced before. The system was first elaborated in Austria, and I daresay will be copied by all the Continental autocrats, for no inventions travel so quickly as despotic ones.
‘The public _avertissements_ are comparatively unimportant. Before a journal gets one of those its suppression has probably been decided on. Every day there are communications between the literary police and the different editors. Such or such a line of argument is altogether forbidden, another is allowed to be used to a certain extent. Some subjects are tabooed, others are to be treated partially.
‘As the mental food of the lower orders is supplied by the newspapers, this paternal Government takes care that it shall not be too exciting.’
[Footnote 1: The lowest class.–ED.]
_Paris, Monday, April_ 13.–Tocqueville, Jobez, Marcet, St.-Hilaire, Charles Sumner, and Lord Granville breakfasted with us.
The conversation turned on public speaking.
‘Very few indeed of our speakers,’ said Tocqueville, ‘have ever ventured to improvise: Barrot could do it. We have told him sometimes that a speech must be answered immediately; and when he objected that he had nothing to say, we used to insist, and to assure him that as soon as he was in the tribune, the ideas and the words would come; and so they did. I have known him go on under such circumstances for an hour; of course neither the matter nor the form could be first rate, but they were sufficient.’
‘In fact,’ said Lord Granville, ‘much of what is called improvisation is mere recollection. A man who has to speak night after night, gets on most subjects a set of thoughts, and even of expressions, which naturally pour in on him as soon as his argument touches the train which leads to them.
‘One of our eminent speakers,’ he continued, ‘Lord Grey, is perhaps best when he has not had time to prepare himself. He is so full of knowledge and of inferences, that he has always enough ready to make an excellent speech. When he prepares himself, there is _too_ much; he gives the House more facts and more deductions than it can digest.’
‘Do you agree with me,’ I asked, ‘in thinking that Lord Melbourne was best when he improvised?’
‘I agree with you,’ answered Lord Granville, ‘that his set speeches were cold and affected. He was natural only when he was quite careless, or when he was much excited, and then he was admirable.’
‘Did not Thiers improvise?’ I asked.
‘Never,’ answered Tocqueville. ‘He prepared himself most carefully. So did Guizot. We see from the “Revue retrospective” that he even prepared his replies. His long experience enabled him to foresee what he should have to answer. Pasquier used to bring his speech ready written. It lay on the desk before him, but he never looked at it.’
‘That seems to me,’ I said, ‘very difficult. It is like swimming with corks. One would be always tempted to look down on the paper.’
‘It is almost equally difficult,’ said Tocqueville, ‘to make a speech of which the words are prepared. There is a struggle between the invention and the memory. You trust thoroughly to neither, and therefore are not served thoroughly by either.’
‘Yet that,’ said Marcet, ‘is what our Swiss pastors are required to do. They are forbidden to read, and forbidden to extemporise, and by practice they speak from memory–some well, all tolerably.’
‘Brougham,’ said Lord Granville, ‘used to introduce his most elaborately prepared passages by a slight hesitation. When he seemed to pause in search of thoughts, or of words, we knew that he had a sentence ready cut and dried.’
‘Who,’ I asked Sumner, ‘are your best speakers in America?’
‘The best,’ he said, ‘is Seward; after him perhaps comes Winthrop.’
‘I should have thought it difficult,’ I said, ‘to speak well in the Senate, to only fifty or at most sixty members.’
‘You do not speak,’ answered Sumner, ‘to the Senators. You do not think of them. You know that their minds are made up. Except as to mere executive questions, such as the approval of a public functionary, or the acceptance or modification of a treaty, every senator comes in pledged to a given, or to an assumed, set of opinions and measures. You speak to the public. You speak in order that 500,000 copies of what you say, as was the case with my last speech, may be scattered over the whole Union.’
‘That,’ I said, ‘must much affect the character of your oratory. A speech meant to be read must be a different thing from one meant to be heard. Your speeches must in fact be pamphlets, and that I suppose accounts for their length.’
‘That is true,’ replied Sumner. ‘But when you hear that we speak for a day, or for two days, or, as I have sometimes done, for three days, you must remember that our days are days of only three hours each.’
‘How long,’ I asked, ‘was your last speech?’
‘About five hours,’ he answered. ‘Three hours the first day and two hours the second.’
‘That,’ I said, ‘is not beyond our remotest limit. Brougham indeed, on the amendment of the law, spoke for six hours, during the greater part of the time to an audience of three. The House was filled with fog, and there is an H.B. which represents him gesticulating in the obscurity and the solitude.’
‘He,’ said Lord Granville, ‘put his speech on the Reform Bill at the top.’
‘The speech,’ I said, ‘at the end of which he knelt to implore the Peers to pass the bill, and found it difficult to rise.’
[Footnote 1: Barthelemy de St-Hilaire is now Thiers’ private secretary and right hand.–ED.]
_Tuesday, April_ 14.–Z., Sumner, Lord Granville, Tocqueville, M. Circourt, St.-Hilaire, and Corcelle breakfasted with us.
The conversation took the same turn as yesterday.
‘May I venture,’ said Lord Granville to Z., ‘to ask whom of your opponents you feared the most?’
‘Beyond all comparison,’ answered Z., ‘Thiers.’
‘Was not D.’ I asked, ‘very formidable?’
‘Certainly,’ said Z. ‘But he had not the wit, or the _entrainement_ of Thiers. His sentences were like his action. He had only one gesture, raising and sinking his right arm, and every time that right arm fell, it accompanied a sentence adding a link to a chain of argument, massive and well tempered, without a particle of dross, which coiled round his adversary like a boa constrictor.’
‘And yet,’ said M., ‘he was always languid and embarrassed at starting; it took him ten minutes to get _en train_.’
‘That defect,’ said Lord Granville, ‘belonged to many of our good speakers–to Charles Fox–to Lord Holland. Indeed Fox required the excitement of serious business to become fluent. He never made a tolerable after-dinner speech.’
‘Among the peculiarities of D.,’ said M., ‘are his perfect tact and discretion in the tribune, and his awkwardness in ordinary life. In public and in private he is two different men.’
‘It is impossible,’ said Tocqueville, ‘to deny that D. was great in a deliberative body, but his real scene of action is the bar. He was only _among_ the best speakers in the Constituent Assembly. He is _the_ greatest advocate at the bar.’
‘Although,’ said M—-, ‘at the bar, where he represents only his client, one of the elements of his parliamentary success, his high moral character, does not assist him. Do you remember how, on the debate of the Roman expedition, he annihilated by one sentence Jules Favre who had ventured to assail him? “Les injures,” he said, “sont comme les corps pesants, dont la force depend de la hauteur d’ou ils tombent.”‘
‘One man,’ said Z., ‘who enjoys a great European reputation, I could never think of as a serious adversary, that is Lamartine.
‘He appeared to me to treat the sad realities of political life as materials out of which he could compose strange and picturesque scenes, or draw food for his imagination and his vanity. He seemed always to be saying to himself: “How will the future dramatist or poet, or painter, represent this event, and what will be my part in the picture, or in the poem, or on the stage?”
‘_Il cherchait toujours a poser_.–He could give pleasure, he could give pain–he could amuse, and he could irritate,–but he seldom could persuade, and he never could convince. Even before the gate of the Hotel de Ville, the most brilliant hour of his life, he owed his success rather to his tall figure, his fine features, attractive as well as commanding, his voice, his action–in short, to the assemblage of qualities which the Greeks called [Greek: hupokrisis] than to his eloquence.’
‘Was not,’ I said, ‘his contrast between the red flag and the tricolor eloquent?’
‘It was a fine bit of imagery,’ said Z., ‘and admirably adapted to the occasion. I do not deny to him the power of saying fine things–perhaps fine speeches, but he never made a _good_ speech–a speech which it was difficult to answer.’
‘If anyone,’ he continued, ‘ever takes the trouble to look into our Parliamentary debates, Lamartine will hold a higher comparative rank than he is really entitled to. Most of us were too busy to correct the reports for the “Moniteur.” Lamartine not only corrected them but inserted whole passages.’
‘He inserted,’ said M, ‘not only passages but facts. Such as “_applaudissements_,” “_vive emotion,” “hilarite_,” often when the speech had been received in silence, or unattended to.’
‘I remember,’ said Corcelle, ‘an insertion of that kind in the report of a speech which was never delivered. It was during the Restoration, when written speeches were read, and sometimes were sent to the “Moniteur” in anticipation of their being read. Such had been the case with respect to the speech in question. The intended orator had inserted, like Lamartine, “_vifs applaudissements,” “profonde sensation_,” and other notices of the effect of his speech. The House adjourned unexpectedly before it was delivered, and he forgot to withdraw the report.’
‘Could a man like Lord Althorp,’ I asked, ‘whom it was painful to hear, hold his place as leader of a French Assembly?’
‘Impossible,’ said Tocqueville, ‘unless he were a soldier. We tolerate from a man who has almost necessarily been deprived of a careful education much clumsiness and awkwardness of elocution. Soult did not speak much better than the Duke of Wellington, but he was listened to. He had, like the Duke, an air of command which imposed.’
‘Was there,’ I said, ‘any personal quarrel between Soult and Thiers?’
‘Certainly there was,’ said Z., ‘a little one. I will not say that Soult was in Spain a successful commander, or an agreeable colleague, or an obedient subordinate, but whenever things went wrong there, Soult was the man whom the Emperor sent thither to put them to rights. Great as Thiers may be as a military critic, I venture to put him below Napoleon.’
‘I have been reading,’ I said, ‘Falloux’s reception speech, and was disappointed by it.’
‘In his speech and Brifault’s,’ said Circourt, ‘you may compare the present declamatory style and that of thirty years ago. Brifault has, or attempts to have, the _legerete_ and the prettiness of the Restoration. Falloux is _grandiose_ and emphatic, as we all are now.’
‘Falloux,’ said Z., ‘made an excellent speech the first time that he addressed the Chamber of Deputies. The next time he was not so successful, and after that he ceased to be listened to.
‘But in the Constituent Assembly, and indeed in the Legislative, he acquired an ascendency. In those Assemblies, great moral qualities and a high social position were rarer than they were among the Deputies, and in the dangers of the country they were more wanted. Falloux possesses them all. He is honest and brave, and in his province employs liberally and usefully a large fortune.’
‘Were those the merits,’ I asked, ‘which opened to him the doors of the Academy?’
‘Certainly,’ answered Z. ‘As a man of letters he is nothing, as a statesman not much. We elected him in honour of his courage and his honesty, and perhaps with some regard to his fortune. We are the only independent body left, and we value in a candidate no quality more than independence.’
‘I am told,’ I said, ‘that Falloux is now an ultra-Legitimist.’
‘That is not true,’ said Z. ‘He is a Legitimist, but a liberal one. He would tolerate no Government, whatever were its other claims, that was not constitutional.’
‘Your Academic ceremonies,’ I said ‘seem to me not very well imagined. There is something _fade_, almost ridiculous, in the literary minuet in which the _recipiendaire_ and the receiver are trotted out to show their paces to each other and to the Academy. The new member extolling the predecessor of whom he is the unworthy successor, the old member lauding his new colleague to his face, and assuring him that he, too, is one of the ornaments of the Society.’
‘Particularly,’ said —-, ‘when, as was the case the other day, it is notorious that neither of them has any real respect for the idol which he is forced to crown. Then the political innuendoes, the under-currents of censure of the present conveyed in praise of the past, become tiresome after we have listened to them for five years. We long to hear people talk frankly and directly, instead of saying one thing for the mere purpose of showing that they are thinking of another thing. The Emperor revenged himself on Falloux by his antithesis: “_que le desordre les avait uni, et que l’ordre les avait separe_.'”
‘How did Falloux reply to it?’ I asked.
‘Feebly,’ said —-. ‘He muttered something about _l’ordre_ having no firmer adherent than himself. In these formal audiences our great man has the advantage. He has his _mot_ ready prepared, and you cannot discuss with him.’
We talked of the French spoken by foreigners. ‘The best,’ said Circourt, ‘is that of the Swedes and Russians, the worst that of the Germans.’
‘Louis Philippe,’ said Z., ‘used to maintain that the best test of a man’s general talents was his power of speaking foreign languages. It was an opinion that flattered his vanity, for he spoke like a native French, Italian, English, and German.’
‘It is scarcely possible,’ said Tocqueville, ‘for a man to be original in any language but his own; in all others he is forced to say what he can, and that is generally something that he recollects.’
‘I was much struck by that,’ said Z., ‘when conversing with Narvaez. He had been talking sensibly but rather dully in French, I begged him to talk Spanish, which I understand though I cannot speak. The whole man was changed. It was as if a curtain had been drawn up from between us. Instead of hammering at commonplaces, he became pointed, and spirited, and eloquent.’
‘Is he an educated man?’ I asked.
‘For a Spaniard,’ answered Z., ‘yes. He has the quickness, the finesse, and the elegance of mind and of manner which belong to the South. The want of book-learning contributes to his originality.’
‘The most wonderful speaker in a foreign language,’ said Sumner, ‘was Kossuth. He must have been between forty and fifty before he heard an English word. Yet he spoke it fluently, eloquently, and even idiomatically. He would have made his fortune among us as a stump-orator.’
_Tuesday, April_ 28.–Tocqueville drank tea with us.
We talked rather of people than of things.
‘Circourt,’ said Tocqueville, ‘is my dictionary. When I wish to know what has been done or what has been said on any occasion, I go to Circourt. He draws out one of the drawers in his capacious head, and finds there all that I want arranged and ticketed.
‘One of the merits of his talk, as it is of his character, is its conscientiousness. He has the truthfulness of a thorough gentleman, and his affections are as strong as his hatreds. I do not believe he would sacrifice a friend even to a good story, and where is there another man of whom that can be said?’
‘What think you of Mrs. T—–?’ I inquired.
‘I like her too,’ he replied, ‘but less than I do Circourt. She has considerable talent, but she thinks and reads only to converse. She has no originality, no convictions. She says what she thinks that she can say well; like a person writing a dialogue or an exercise. Whether the opinion which she expresses be right or wrong, or the story that she tells be true or false, is no concern of hers, provided it be _bien dit_.’
‘The fault of her conversation,’ I said, ‘seems to me to be, that while she is repeating one sentence she is thinking of the next, and that while you are speaking to her, she is considering what is to be her next topic. I have noticed this fault in other very fluent conversers. They are so intent on the future that they neglect the present.’
‘It is rather a French than an English fault,’ said Tocqueville. ‘The English have more curiosity and less vanity, than we have; more desire to hear and less anxiety to shine. They are often, therefore, better _causeurs_ than we are. _Le grand talent pour le silence_, or, in other words, the power of listening which has been imputed to them, is a great conversational virtue. I do not believe that it was said ironically or epigrammatically. The man who bestowed that praise knew how rare a merit silence is.’
‘May we not owe that merit,’ I asked, ‘to our bad French? We shine most when we listen.’
‘A great talker,’ I continued, ‘Montalembert, is to breakfast with us. Whom shall I ask to meet him?’
‘Not me,’ said Tocqueville, ‘unless you will accept me as one of the chorus. I will not take a _premier role_, or any prominent _role_, in a piece in which he is to act. I like his society; that is, I like to sit silent and hear him talk, and I admire his talents; and we have the strong bond of common hatreds, though perhaps we hate on different, or even opposite grounds, and I do not wish for a dispute with him, of which, if I say anything, I shall be in danger. If we differed on only one subject, instead of differing, as we do, on all but one, he would pick out that single subject to attack me on. I am not sure that even as host you will be safe. He is more acute in detecting points of opposition than most men are in finding subjects of agreement. He avoids meeting you on friendly or even on neutral ground. He chooses to have a combat _en champ clos_.
‘Take care,’ he added, ‘and do not have too many _sommites._ They watch one another, are conscious that they are watched, and a coldness creeps over the table.’
‘We had two pleasant breakfasts,’ I said, ‘a fortnight ago. You were leader of the band at one, Z. at the other, and the rest left the stage free to the great actor.’
‘As for me,’ he answered, ‘I often shut myself up, particularly after dinner, or during dinner if it be long. The process of digestion, little, as I can eat, seems to oppress me.
‘Z. is always charming. He has an _aplomb_, an ease, a _verve_ arising from his security that whatever he says will interest and amuse. He is a perfect specimen of an ex-statesman, _homme de lettres_, and _pere de famille_, falling back on literature and the domestic affections. As for me, I have intervals of _sauvagerie_, or rather the times when I am not _sauvage_ are the intervals. I have many, perhaps too many, acquaintances whom I like, and a very few friends whom I love, and a host of relations. I easily tire of Paris, and long to fly to the fields and woods and seashore of my province.’
We passed to the language of conversation.
‘There are three words,’ said Tocqueville, ‘which you have lost, and which I wonder how you do without,–Monsieur, Madame, and Mademoiselle. You are forced always to substitute the name. They are so mixed in all our forms that half of what we say would appear abrupt or blunt without them.
‘Then the _tutoyer_ is a _nuance_ that you want. When husband and wife are talking together they pass insensibly, twenty times perhaps in an hour, from the _vous_ to the _tu_. When matters of business or of serious discussion are introduced, indeed whenever the affections are not concerned, it is _vous_. With the least _soupcon_ of tenderness the _tu_ returns.’
‘Yet,’ I said, ‘you never use the _tu_ before a third person.’
‘Never,’ he answered, ‘in good company. Among the _bourgeoisie_ always. It is odd that an aristocratic form, so easily learned, should not have been adopted by all who pretend to be gentry. I remember being present when an Englishman and his wife, much accustomed to good French society, but unacquainted with this _nuance_, were laboriously _tutoyering_ each other. I relieved them much by assuring them that it was not merely unnecessary, but objectionable.’
_May_ 2.–Tocqueville dined with us.
A lady at the _table d’hote_ was full of a sermon which she had heard at the Madeleine. The preacher said, sinking his voice to an audible whisper, ‘I will tell you a secret, but it must go no farther. There is more religion among the Protestants than with us, they are better acquainted with the Bible, and make more use of their reading: we have much to learn from them.’
I asked Tocqueville, when we were in our own room, as to the feelings of the religious world in France with respect to heretics.
‘The religious laity,’ he answered, ‘have probably little opinion on the subject. They suppose the heretic to be less favourably situated than themselves, but do not waste much thought upon him. The ignorant priests of course consign him to perdition. The better instructed think, like Protestants, that error is dangerous only so far as it influences practice.
‘Dr. Bretonneau, at Tours, was one of the best men that I have known, but an unbeliever. The archbishop tried in his last illness to reconcile him to the Church: Bretonneau died as he had lived. But the archbishop, when lamenting to me his death, expressed his own conviction that so excellent a soul could not perish.
‘You recollect the duchesse in St.-Simon, who, on the death of a sinner of illustrious race, said, “On me dira ce qu’on voudra, on ne me persuadera pas que Dieu n’y regarde deux fois avant de damner un homme de sa qualite.” The archbishop’s feeling was the same, only changing _qualite_ into virtue.
‘There is something amusing,’ he continued, ‘when, separated as we are from it by such a chasm, we look back on the prejudices of the _Ancien Regime_. An old lady once said to me, “I have been reading with great satisfaction the genealogies which prove that Jesus Christ descended from David. Ca montre que notre Seigneur etait Gentilhomme.”‘
‘We are somewhat ashamed,’ I said, ‘in general of Jewish blood, yet the Levis boast of their descent from the Hebrew Levi.’
‘They are proud of it,’ said Tocqueville, ‘because they make themselves out to be cousins of the Blessed Virgin. They have a picture in which a Duc de Levi stands bareheaded before the Virgin. “Couvrez-vous donc, mon cousin,” she says. “C’est pour ma commodite,” he answers.’
The conversation passed to literature.
‘I am glad,’ said Tocqueville, ‘to find that, imperfect as my knowledge of English is, I can feel the difference in styles.’
‘I feel strongly,’ I said, ‘the difference in French styles in prose, but little in poetry.’
‘The fact is,’ said Tocqueville, ‘that the only French poetry, except that of Racine, that is worth reading is the light poetry. I do not think that I could now read Lamartine, though thirty years ago he delighted me.’
‘The French taste,’ I said, ‘in English poetry differs from ours. You read Ossian and the “Night Thoughts.”‘
‘As for Ossian,’ he answered, ‘he does not seem to have been ever popular in England. But the frequent reference to the “Night Thoughts,” in the books and letters of the last century, shows that the poem was then in everybody’s memory. Foreigners are in fact provincials. They take up fashions of literature as country people do fashions of dress, when the capital has left them off. When I was young you probably had ceased to be familiar with Richardson. We knew him by heart. We used to weep over the Lady Clementina, whom I dare say Miss Senior never heard of.
‘During the first Empire, we of the old _regime_ abandoned Paris, as we do now, and for the same reasons. We used to live in our chateaux, where I remember as a boy hearing Sir Charles Grandison and Fielding read aloud. A new novel was then an event. Madame Cottin was much more celebrated than George Sand is now. For all her books were read, and by everybody. Notwithstanding the great merits of George Sand’s style, her plots and her characters are so exaggerated and so unnatural, and her morality is so perverted, that we have ceased to read her.’
We talked of Montalembert, and I mentioned his _sortie_ the other day against the clergy.
‘I can guess pretty well,’ said Tocqueville, ‘what he said to you, for it probably was a _resume_ of his article in the “Correspondant.” Like most men accustomed to public speaking, he repeats himself. He is as honest perhaps as a man who is very _passionne_ can be; but his oscillations are from one extreme to another. Immediately after the _coup d’etat,_ when he believed Louis Napoleon to be Ultramontane, he was as servile as his great enemy the “Univers” is now. “Ce sont les nuances qui se querellent, non les couleurs;” and between him and the “Univers” there is only a _nuance_. The Bishop of Agen has oscillated like him, but began at the other end. The other day the Bishop made a most servile address to the Emperor. He had formerly been a furious anti-Bonapartist. “How is it possible,” said Montalembert, “that a man can rush so completely from one opinion to another? On the 4th of December in 1851 this same Bishop denounced the _coup d’etat_ with such violence that the President sent me to the Nuncio to request his interference. Now he is on his knees before him. Such changes can scarcely be honest.” Montalembert does not see that the only difference between them is that they have trod in opposite directions the very same path.’
_Thursday, May_ 5.–Tocqueville and I dined with M. and Madame de Bourke, and met there General Dumas and Ary Scheffer.
We talked of Delaroche’s pictures, and Scheffer agreed with me in preferring the smaller ones. He thought that Delaroche improved up to the time of his death, and preferred his Moses, and Drowned Martyr, painted in 1853 and 1855, to the other large ones, and his Girondins, finished in 1856, to the earlier small ones.
We passed on to the increased and increasing population of Paris.
‘The population of Paris,’ I said, ‘is only half that of London, while that of the British Islands is not three-fourths that of France. If you were to double the population of Paris, therefore, it would still be proportionally less than that of London.’
‘That is true,’ said Tocqueville, ‘but yet there are many circumstances connected with the Parisian population each of which renders it more dangerous than the London one. In the first place, there is the absence of any right to relief. The English workman knows that neither he nor his family can starve. The Frenchman becomes anxious as soon as his employment is irregular, and desperate when it fails. The English workmen are unacquainted with arms, and have no leaders with military experience. The bulk of the Frenchmen have served, many of them are veterans in civil war, and they have commanders skilled in street-fighting. The English workmen have been gradually attracted to London by a real and permanent demand for their labour. They have wives and children. At least 100,000 men have been added to the working population of Paris since the _coup d’etat._ They are young men in the vigour of their strength and passions, unrestrained by wives or families. They have been drawn hither suddenly and artificially by the demolition and reconstruction of half the town, by the enormous local expenditure of the Government, and by the fifty millions spent in keeping the price of bread in Paris unnaturally low. The 40,000 men collected in Paris by the construction of the fortifications are supposed to have mainly contributed to the revolution of 1848. What is to be expected from this addition of 100,000? Then the repressive force is differently constituted and differently animated. In England you have an army which has chosen arms as a profession, which never thinks of any other employment, and indeed is fit for no other, and never expects any provision except its pay and its pension. The French soldier, ever since 1789, is a citizen. He serves his six years because the law and the colonel force him to do so, but he counts the days until he can return to his province, his cottage, and his field. He sympathises with the passions of the people. In the terrible days of June, the army withstood the cries, the blessings, the imprecations and the seductions of the mob, only because they had the National Guards by their side. Their presence was a guarantee that the cause was just. The National Guards never fought before as they did in those days. Yet at the Chateau d’Eau, the miraculous heroism and the miraculous good luck of Lamoriciere were necessary to keep them together. If he had not exposed himself as no man ever did, and escaped as no man ever did, they would have been broken.’
‘I was there,’ said Scheffer, ‘when his fourth horse was killed under him. As the horse was sinking he drew his feet out of the stirrups and came to the ground without falling; but his cigar dropped from his mouth. He picked it up, and went on with the order which he was giving to an _aide-de-camp._
‘I saw that,’ said Tocqueville. ‘He had placed himself immediately behind a cannon in front of the Chateau d’Eau which fired down the Boulevard du Temple. A murderous fire from the windows in a corner of the Rue du Temple killed all the artillerymen. The instant that Lamoriciere placed himself behind it, I thought that I saw what would happen. I implored him to get behind some shelter, or at least not to pose as a mark. “Recollect,” I said, “that if you go on in this way you must be killed before the day is over-and where shall we all be?”‘
‘”I see the danger of what I am doing,” he answered, “and I dislike it as much as you can do; but it is necessary. The National Guards are shaking; if they break, the Line follows. I must set an example that everyone can see and can understand. This is not a time for taking precautions. If _I_ were to shelter myself, _they_ would run.”‘
‘How does Lamoriciere,’ I asked, ‘bear exile and inactivity in Brussels?’
‘Very ill,’ said Scheffer. ‘He feels that he has compromised the happiness of his wife, whom he married not long before the _coup d’etat._’
‘Changarnier at Malins, who lives alone and has only himself to care for, supports it much better.’
Tocqueville and I walked home together.
‘Scheffer,’ he said, ‘did not tell all that happened at the Chateau d’Eau. Men seldom do when they fight over their battles.’
‘The insurgents by burrowing through walls had got into a house in the rear of our position. They manned the windows, and suddenly fired down on us from a point whence no danger had been feared. This caused a panic among the National Guards, a force of course peculiarly subject to panics. They turned and ran back 250 yards along the Boulevard St. Martin, carrying with them the Line and Lamoriciere himself. He endeavoured to stop them by outcries, and by gesticulations, and indeed by force. He gave to one man who was trying to run by him a blow with his fist, so well meant and well directed that it broke his collar bone.’
‘At length he stopped them, re-formed them, and said: “Now you shall march, I at your head, and the drummer beating the charge, as if you were on parade, up to that house.” They did so. After a few discharges, which miraculously missed Lamoriciere, the men in the house deserted it.’
‘What were you doing at the Chateau d’Eau?’ I asked.
‘We were marching,’ he said, ‘with infantry and artillery on the Boulevard du Temple, across which there was a succession of barricades, which it was necessary to take one by one.
‘As we advanced in the middle, our sappers and miners got into the houses on each side, broke through the party walls, and killed the men at the windows.’
‘Those three days,’ he continued, ‘impress strongly on my mind the dangers of our present state.’
‘It is of no use to take up pavements and straighten streets, and pierce Paris by long military roads, and loop-hole the barracks, if the Executive cannot depend on the army. Ditches and bastions are of no use if the garrison will not man them.’
‘The new law of recruitment, however, may produce a great change. Instead of 80,000 conscripts, 120,000 are to be taken each year. This is about all that are fit for service. They are required to serve for only two years. If the change ended there our army would be still more a militia than it is now. It would be the Prussian Landwehr. But those entitled to their discharge are to be enticed by higher pay, promotions, bounties, and retiring pensions–in short, by all means of seduction, to re-enter for long periods, for ten, or fifteen, or perhaps twenty years. It is hoped that thus a permanent regular army may be formed, with an _esprit de corps_ of its own, unsympathising with the people, and ready to keep it down; and such will, I believe, be the result. But it will take nine or ten years to produce such an army–and the dangers that I fear are immediate.’
‘What are the motives,’ I asked, ‘for the changes as to the conscription, the increase of numbers, and the diminution of the time of service?’
‘They are parts,’ he answered, ‘of the system. The French peasant, and indeed the _ouvrier_, dislikes the service. The proportion of conscripts who will re-enlist is small. Therefore the whole number must be large. The country must be bribed to submit to this by the shortness of the term. The conscript army will be sacrificed to what is to be the regular army. It will be young and ill-trained.’
‘But your new regular army,’ I said, ‘will be more formidable to the enemy than your present force.’
‘I am not sure of that,’ he answered. ‘The merit of the French army was the impetuosity of its attack, the “furia Francese,” as the Italians called it. Young troops have more of this quality than veterans. The Maison du Roi, whose charge at Steenkirk Macaulay has so well described, consisted of boys of eighteen.’
‘I am re-editing,’ I said, ‘my old articles. Among them is one written in 1841 on the National Character of France, England, and America, as displayed towards foreign nations. I have not much to change in what I have said of England or of America. As they have increased in strength they have both become still more arrogant, unjust, and shameless.
‘England has perhaps become a little more prudent America a little less so. But France seems to me to be altered. I described her as a soldier with all the faults of that unsocial character. As ambitious, rapacious, eager for nothing but military glory and territorial aggrandisement. She seems now to have become moderate and pacific, and to be devoted rather to the arts of peace than to those of war.’
‘France _is_ changed,’ answered Tocqueville, ‘and when compared with the France of Louis XIV., or of Napoleon, was already changed when you wrote, though the war-cry raised for political purposes in 1840 deceived you. At the same time, I will not deny that military glory would, more than any other merit, even _now_ strengthen a Government, and that military humiliation would inevitably destroy one. Nor must you overrate the unpopularity of the last war. Only a few even of the higher classes understood its motives. “Que diable veut cette guerre?” said my country neighbour to me; “si c’etait contre les Anglais–mais _avec_ les Anglais, et pour le Grand Turc, qu’est-ce que cela peut signifier?” But when they saw that it cost only men, that they were not invaded or overtaxed, and that prices rose, they got reconciled to it.
‘It was only the speculators of Paris that were tired of it. And if, instead of the Crimea, we had fought near our own frontiers, or for some visible purpose, all our military passions, bad and good, would have broken out.’
[Footnote 1: This article is republished in the _Historical and Philosophical Essays_. Longmans: 1865.–ED.]
_Wednesday, May_ 13.–Tocqueville came in after breakfast, and I walked with him in the shade of the green walls or arcades of the Tuileries chestnuts.
We talked of the Montijos, which led our conversation to Merimee and V.
‘Both of them,’ said Tocqueville, ‘were the friends of Countess Montijo, the mother.
‘V. was among the last persons who knew Eugenie as Countess Theba. He escorted her to the Tuileries the very evening of her marriage. There he took his leave of her. “You are now,” he said, “placed so high that I can only admire you from below.” And I do not believe that they have met since.
‘Merimee took a less sentimental view of the change. He acknowledged his Empress in his former plaything, subsided from a sort of stepfather into a courtier, and so rose to honour and wealth, while V. is satisfied to remain an ex-professor and _un homme de lettres_.’
* * * * *
We met Henri Martin, and I asked Tocqueville what he thought of his History.
‘It has the merit of selling,’ he said, ‘which cannot be said of any other History of France. Martin is laborious and conscientious, and does not tell a story ill; but he is a partisan and is always biassed by his own likings and dislikings. He belongs to the class of theorists, unfortunately not a small one, whose political _beau ideal_ is the absence of all control over the will of the people-who are opposed therefore to an hereditary monarchy-to a permanent President–to a permanent magistracy-to an established Church–in short, to all privileged classes, bodies, or institutions. Equality, not liberty or security, is their object. They are centralisers and absolutists. A despotic Assembly elected by universal suffrage, sitting at most for a year, governing, like the Convention, through its committees, or a single despot, appointed for a week, and not re-eligible, is the sort of ruler that they would prefer. The last five years have perhaps disgusted Martin with his Asiatic democracy, but his earlier volumes are coloured throughout by his prejudices against all systems implying a division of power, and independent authorities controlling and balancing one another.’
We talked of the Secret Police.
‘It has lately,’ said Tocqueville, ‘been unusually troublesome, or rather it has been troublesome to a class of persons whom it seldom ventures to molest. A friend of mine, M. Sauvaire Barthelemy, one of Louis Philippe’s peers, was standing at the door of his hotel reading a letter. A gentleman in plain clothes addressed him, announced himself as an _agent de police_, and asked him if the letter which he was reading was political. “No,” said Barthelemy, “you may see it. It is a _billet de mariage.” “I am directed,” said the agent, “to request you to get into this carriage.” They got in and drove to Mazas. There Barthelemy was shown into a neat room with iron bars to the windows, and ordered to wait. After some time Louis Pietri, the Prefet de Police, arrived.
‘”I am grieved,” he said, “at giving you so much trouble, but I have been commanded to see you in this place, and to inform you that the Emperor cannot bear that a man in your high position should systematically misrepresent him.
‘”L’Empereur fait tout ce qu’il peut pour le bonheur de la France, et il n’entend pas supporter une opposition aussi constante et aussi violente. Effectivement il ne veut pas d’opposition. Voulez-vous le tenir pour dit, Monsieur, et recevoir de nouveau mes excuses du derangement que j’ai du vous causer? Pour le present vous etes libre.”‘
[Mr. Senior left Paris on the next day.
M. de Tocqueville paid his promised visit to England in June, and was received with a perfect ovation.–ED.]
London, July 10, 1857.
I was too ill, my dear friend, to go to you yesterday. Dr. Ferguson tells me that I have been doing too much, and prescribes perfect rest.
I have already read half your journal of 1857. It is very curious; but I am glad that you have disguised me.
It is terrible to be in London, and to see so little of you; but the force of circumstances is greater than the force of wishes.
A. DE TOCQUEVILLE.
Tocqueville, August 6, 1857.
You may already have had news of me through some of our common friends, my dear Senior, but I wish, besides, to give you some myself, and to thank you again for the kind welcome I received from you and in your house during my stay in London.
I regret only that I was unable to be more with you, and that, in spite of myself, I was drawn into a whirlpool which carried me away and prevented me from following my inclinations.
I have returned, however, full of gratitude for the marks of consideration and affection showered upon me in England. I shall never forget them.
I found my wife already installed here, and in good health; and I have resumed my busy and peaceful life with a delight which does honour to my wisdom. For I had been so spoiled in England that I might have been afraid of finding my retreat too much out of the way and too quiet. But nothing of the sort has happened. The excitement of the past month appears to have added charms to the present.
Nevertheless, I have not yet set to work again, but I am full of good resolutions, which I hope to execute as soon as I have completely returned to my usual habits. These first days have been devoted to putting everything into its regular order.
In France we are almost as much interested as you in England in the affairs of India. Everyone, even in the country, asks me for news of what is going on there.
There is a natural disposition to exaggerate the evil and to believe that your dominion is overturned. For my part, I am waiting with the utmost and most painful anxiety for the development of the drama, for no good can possibly result from it; and there is not one civilised nation in the world that ought to rejoice in seeing India escape from the hands of Europeans in order to fall back into a state of anarchy and barbarism worse than before its conquest.
I am quite sure that you will conquer. But it is a serious business.
A military insurrection is the worst of all insurrections, at least in the beginning. You have to deal with barbarians, but they possess the arms of civilised people given to them by yourselves.
My wife, who has preserved her English heart, is particularly affected by the spectacle which Bengal at present affords.
If you have any more particular news than is to be found in the newspapers, you will give us great pleasure by communicating them.
Remember me to Mrs. and Miss Senior, and to your daughter-in-law.
My wife sends many kind regards to them, as well as to you.
Adieu, dear Senior. Believe in my sincere affection.
A. DE TOCQUEVILLE.
P.S.–I fancy that the first effect of the Indian affair will be to draw still closer the alliance between England and France.
Tocqueville, November 15, 1857.
I am somewhat angry with you, my dear Senior, for not having yet given us your news. It is treating our friendship unfairly, I have not written to you because I doubted your following exactly your intended route, but I will write to you at Athens, as I think that you must now be there. If you have followed your itinerary your travels must have been most interesting to you, and they will be equally curious to us. I conclude that you only passed quickly through the Principalities in following the course of the Danube. I, however, had depended on you for furnishing me with clear ideas of a country which is at present so interesting to Europe, and which I think is destined to play an important part in the future. And what say you of our friends the Turks? Was it worth while to spend so much money and to shed so much blood in order to retain in Europe savages who are ill disguised as civilised men? I am impatient to talk to you, and almost equally so to read you.
I shall have little to tell you. I have not stirred from home since I left England, and am leading the life of a gentleman-farmer; a life which pleases me more and more every day, and would really make me happy, if my wife were not suffering from an obstinate neuralgic affection in the face. I fear that she may have to go to some mineral waters, which she would be sorry to do; for, as you know, she hates travelling, and does no justice to the reputation for wandering possessed by the English race.
I can tell you nothing on politics which you will not find in the newspapers. The great question at present for all civilised Governments seems to be the financial. The crisis from which America and England are suffering will probably extend everywhere. As for India, you are out, not perhaps of your difficulties, but of your greatest dangers. This affair, and that of the Crimea, show how little sympathy there is for England abroad. There was everything to interest us in your success–similarity of race, of religion, and of civilisation. Your loss of India could have served no cause but that of barbarism. Yet I venture to affirm that the whole Continent, though it detested the cruelties of your enemies, did not wish you to triumph.
Much of this is, without doubt, to be attributed to the evil passions which make men always desire the fall of the prosperous and the strong. But much belongs to a less dishonourable cause–to the conviction of all nations that England considers them only with reference to her own greatness; that she has less sympathy than any other modern nation; that she never notices what passes among foreigners, what they think, feel, suffer, or do, but with relation to the use which England can make of their actions, their sufferings, their feelings, or their thoughts; and that when she seems most to care for them she really cares only for herself. All this is exaggerated, but not without truth.
Kindest regards from us both to you and to Mrs. Senior.
A. DE TOCQUEVILLE.
[Footnote 1: Mr. Senior was at this time in the East.–ED.]
Tocqueville, February 10, 1858.
I was delighted, my dear Senior, to receive a letter from you dated Marseilles. You are right in remaining till the spring in the South. We trust to meet you in Paris in March.
I say no more, for I cannot write to you on what would most interest you–French politics. Much is to be said on them; but you will understand my silence if you study our new Law of Public Safety, and remember who is the new Home Minister. For the first time in French history has such a post been filled by a general–and what a general!
I defer, therefore, until we meet, the expression of feelings and opinions which cannot be safely transmitted through the post, and only repeat how eager I am for our meeting.
Kind regards to Mrs. Senior.
A. DE TOCQUEVILLE.
[Footnote 1: General Espinasse.]
Tocqueville, February 21, 1858.
I received your letters with great pleasure, my dear Senior, and I think with still greater satisfaction that I shall soon be able to see you.
I shall probably arrive in Paris, with my wife, at about the same time as you will, that is to say, about the 19th of next month. I should have gone earlier if I were not occupied in planting and sowing, for I am doing a little farming to my great amusement.
I am delighted that you intend again to take up your quarters at the Hotel Bedford, as I intend also to stay there if I can find apartments.
I hope that we shall be good neighbours and see each other as frequently as such old friends ought to do. _A bientot!_
A. DE TOCQUEVILLE.
[Mr. Senior ran over to England for a few weeks instead of remaining in Paris. The meeting between the two friends did not, therefore, take place till April.–ED.]
_Paris, Saturday, April_ 17, 1858.–We had a discussion at the Institut to-day as to a bust to fill a niche in the anteroom. Rossi was proposed. His political merits were admitted, but he was placed low as to his literary claims as an economist and a jurist. Dupin suggested Talleyrand, which was received with a universal groan, and failed for want of a seconder. Ultimately the choice fell on Dumont.
‘Nothing that is published of Talleyrand’s,’ said Tocqueville to me as we walked home, ‘has very great merit, nor indeed is much of it his own. He hated writing, let his reports and other state papers be drawn up by others, and merely retouched them. But in the archives of the _Affaires etrangeres_ there is a large quarto volume containing his correspondence with Louis XVIII during the Congress of Vienna. Nothing can be more charming. The great European questions which were then in debate, the diplomatic and social gossip of Vienna, the contemporary literature–in short, all that one clever _homme du monde_ could find to interest and amuse another, are treated with wit, brilliancy, and gaiety, supported by profound good sense. When that volume is published his bust will be placed here by acclamation.’
_Monday, April_ 19.–I dined with Lanjuinais, and met Tocqueville, Rivet, Dufaure, Corcelle, Freslon, and one or two others.
They attacked me about the change of sentiment in England with respect to Louis Napoleon.
‘While he was useful to you,’ they said, ‘you steadily refused to admit that he was a tyrant, or even an usurper. You chose to disbelieve in the 3,000 men, women, and children massacred on the Boulevards of Paris–in the 20,000 poisoned by jungle fever in Cayenne–in the 25,000 who have died of malaria, exposure, and bad food, working in gangs on the roads and in the marshes of the Metidja and Lambressa.’
‘We did not _choose_’, I answered, ‘to disbelieve any thing. We were simply ignorant. _I_ knew all these facts, because I have passed a part of every year since 1847 in Paris; because I walked along the Boulevards on the 20th of December 1851, and saw the walls of every house, from the Bastille to the Madeleine, covered with the marks of musket-balls; because I heard in every society of the thousands who had been massacred, and of the tens of thousands who had been _deportes_; but the untravelled English, and even the travelled English, except the few who live in France among the French, knew nothing of all this. Your press tells nothing. The nine millions of votes given to Louis Napoleon seemed to prove his popularity, and therefore the improbability of the tyranny of which he was accused by his enemies. _I_ knew that those nine millions of votes were extorted, or stolen by violence or fraud. But the English people did not know it. They accepted his election as the will of the nation, and though they might wonder at your choice, did not presume to blame it.’
‘The time,’ they answered, ‘at which light broke in upon you is suspicious. Up to the 14th of January 1858 the oppression under which thirty-four millions of people within twenty-four miles of your coast, with whom you are in constant intercourse, was unknown to you. Their ruler insults you, and you instantly discover that he is an usurper and a tyrant. This looks as if the insult, and the insult alone, opened your eyes.’
‘What opened our eyes,’ I answered, ‘was not the insult but the _loi de surete publique_. It was the first public act which showed to England the nature of your Government.
‘When we found, erected in every department, a revolutionary tribunal, empowered to banish and transport without trial; when we found a rude soldier made Home Minister, and the country divided into five districts to be each governed by a marshal, we saw at once that France was under a violent military despotism. Until that law was passed the surface was smooth. There was nothing in the appearance of France to show to a stranger that she was not governed by a Monarch, practically, indeed, absolute, but governing as many absolute Monarchs have done, mildly and usefully.
‘Of course we might have found out the truth sooner if we had inquired. And perhaps we ought to have inquired. We busy ourselves about our own affairs, and neglect too much those of other countries. In that sense you have a right to say that we chose to be ignorant, since our conduct was such as necessarily to make us ignorant. But it was not because Louis Napoleon was our ally that we chose to be ignorant, but because we habitually turn our eyes from the domestic affairs of the Continent, as things in which we have seldom a right to interfere, and in which, when