CORRESPONDENCE & CONVERSATIONS OF ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE
WITH NASSAU WILLIAM SENIOR
FROM 1834 TO 1859
IN TWO VOLUMES VOLUME II
LONDON: HENRY S. KING & Co., 65 CORNHILL 1872
* * * * *
CONTENTS OF THE SECOND VOLUME
The army master of France Comparison with the 18th Brumaire Aggressive acts of the President Coup d'Etat planned for March 1852 Socialism leads to despotism War necessary to maintain Louis Napoleon State prisoners on December 2 Louis Napoleon's devotion to the Pope Latent Bonapartism of the French President's reception at Notre Dame Frank hypocrites Mischievous public men Extradition of Kossuth January 29, 1849 Stunner's account of it contradicted The Second Napoleon a copy of the First Relies on Russian support Compulsory voting Life of a cavalry officer Victims of the Coup d'Etat
Letters in 1852-3.
Effect of the Orleans confiscation on the English Firmness of Prussia Mr. Greg's writings Communication from Schwartzenberg New Reform Bill Democracy or aristocracy Reform Bill not wanted Twenty-five thousand men at Cherbourg Easier to understand Lord Derby than Lord John Preparations at Cherbourg a delusion Conversation with King Leopold No symptoms of aristocratic re-action in England England's democratic tendencies Idleness of young aristocrats Death of Protection Revolutions leading to masquerades Tory reforms Imperial marriage New Reform Bill a blunder
Journal in 1853.
Prosperity in Paris Dangers incurred by overbuilding Discharged workmen effect Revolutions Probable monetary panic Empire can be firmly established only by a successful war Agents undermining the Empire Violence and corruption of the Government Growing unpopularity of Louis Napoleon Consequences of his death He probably will try the resource of war Conquest would establish his power War must produce humiliation or slavery to France Corruption is destroying the army and navy Emperor cannot tolerate opposition Will try a plebiscite
Letters in 1853.
Blackstone a mere lawyer Feudal institutions in France and England Gentleman and Gentilhomme Life of seclusion Interference of police with letters Mrs. Crete's conversations at St. Cyr Great writers of the eighteenth century Political torpor unfavourable to intellectual product English not fond of generalities Curious archives at Tours Frightful picture they present Sufficient to account for the Revolution of 1789 La Marck's memoir of Mirabeau Court would not trust Mirabeau The elder Mirabeau influenced by Revolution Revolution could not have been averted Works of David Hume Effect of intolerance of the press Honesty and shortsightedness of La Fayette Laws must be originated by philosophers Carried into effect by practical men Napoleon carried out laws Too fond of centralisation Country life destroyed by it Royer Collard Danton Madame Tallien Tocqueville independent of society Studious and regular life Influence of writers as compared with active politicians
Journal in 1854.
Criticism of the Journals The speakers generally recognised Aware that they were being reported The Legitimists Necessity of Crimean War Probable management of it English view of the Fusion Bourbons desire Constitutional Government Socialists would prefer the Empire They rejoiced in the Orleans confiscation Empire might be secured by liberal institutions Policy of G. English new Reform Bill Dangers of universal suffrage Baraguay d'Hilliers and Randon Lent in the Provinces Chenonceaux Montalembert's speech Cinq Mars Appearance of prosperity Petite culture in Touraine Tyranny more mischievous than civil war Centralisation of Louis XIV. a means of taxation Under Louis Napoleon, centralisation more powerful than ever Power of the Prefet Courts of Law tools of the Executive Prefet's candidate must succeed Empire could not sustain a defeat Loss of aristocracy in France Napoleon estranged Legitimists by the murder of the Duc d'Enghien Louis Philippe attempted to govern through the middle classes Temporary restoration of aristocratic power under the republic Overthrown by the second Empire Legitimists inferior to their ancestors Dulness of modern society and books Effects of competition
Letters in 1854-5.
Tocqueville attends the Academy Proposed visit to Germany Return to France English adulation of Louis Napoleon Mismanagement of Crimean War Continental disparagement of England Necessity for a conscription in England Disastrous effects of the war for English aristocracy Peace premature
Journals in 1855.
Effects of the Emperor going to the Crimea Prince Napoleon Discontent in England Disparagement of England Austria alone profited by Crimean War Despotism of Louis Napoleon consolidated by it Centralisation in Algeria Criticism of Mr. Senior's Article Places Louis Napoleon too high English alliances not dependent on the Empire Louis Napoleon will covet the Rhine Childish admiration of Emperor by British public Real friends of England are the friends of her institutions
Extracts from Mr. Senior's Article.
Description of political parties Imperialists Legitimists Orleanists Orleanist-Fusionists form the bulk of the Royalists Legitimists unfit for public life Republican party not to be despised Parliamentarians Desire only free institutions No public opinion expressed in the Provinces Power of Centralisation Increased under Louis Philippe Power of the Prefet Foreign policy of Louis Napoleon Of former French Sovereigns Invasion of Rome prepared in 1847 Eastern question, a legacy from Louis Philippe Fault as an administrator Mismanagement of the war His Ministers mere clerks Free institutions may secure his throne English Alliance Russian influence Revolutions followed by despotism Lessons taught by history
Letters in 1855-6.
Tocqueville burns his letter Conversation of May 28 Amusing letters from the Army Enjoyment of home Fall of Sebastopol Cost of the war Russia dangerous to Europe How to restrain her Progress in the East No public excitement in France
Journal in 1856.
The 'Ancien Regime' Master of Paris, Master of France Opposition to Suez Canal Mischievous effect of English Opposition Expenditure under the Empire Effect of Opposition to the Suez Canal Tripartite Treaty 'Friponnerie' of the Government Tripartite Treaty Suez Canal French floating batteries Fortifications of Malta Emperor's orders to Canrobert A campaign must be managed on the spot
Letters in 1856-7.
The 'Ancien Regime' King 'Bomba' American Rebellion Lord Aberdeen on the Crimean War Eccentricities of English public men Remedy for rise in house-rent The rise produced by excessive public works Dulness of Paris Mr. Senior's Journal in Egypt Chinese war
Journal in 1857.
Flatness of society in Paris Dexterity of Louis Napoleon Is maintained by the fear of the 'Rouges' Due de Nemours' letter Tocqueville disapproves of contingent promises Empire rests on the army and the people Slavery of the Press Public speaking in France English and French speakers American speakers Length of speeches French public men Lamartine Falloux Foreign French Narvaez and Kossuth French conversers Montalembert Monsieur, Madame, and Mademoiselle Tu and vous Feeling respecting heretics Prejudices of the Ancien Regime French poetry Fashion in Literature Montalembert's changes of opinion Increasing population of Paris Its dangerous character No right to relief Sudden influx of workmen Soldiers likely to side with the people Lamoriciere's heroism June 1848 French army National characteristics Change in French only apparent Martin's History of France He is a centraliser and an absolutist Secret police
Letters in 1857-8.
Reception in England Indian Mutiny Financial question Unpopularity of England Law of Public Safety
Journal in 1858.
Talleyrand as a writer English ignorance of French affairs Change of feeling respecting Louis Napoleon 'Loi de surete publique' Manner in which it has been carried out Deportation a slow death Influence of 'hommes de lettres' French army Russian army French navy Napoleon indifferent to the navy Mr. Senior's Athens journal Otho and Louis Napoleon Qualities which obtain influence Character of Louis Napoleon Tocqueville's comments on the above conversation Tocqueville on Novels Intellectual and moral inferiority of the age Education of French women 'Messe d'une heure' Influence of Madame Recamier Duchesse de Dino
Letters in 1858-9.
Failing health Mr. Senior's visit to Sir John Boileau Promise of Lord Stanley Character of Guizot Spectacle afforded by English Politics Tocqueville at Cannes Louis Napoleon's loss of popularity Death of Alexis de Tocqueville Grief it occasioned in England
Journal at Tocqueville in 1861.
Madame de Tocqueville house at Valognes Chateau de Tocqueville Beaumont on Italian affairs Piedmontese unpopular with the lower classes Popular with the higher classes in Naples Influence of Orsini Subjection of the French Effect of Universal Suffrage Causes which may overthrow Louis Napoleon Popularity of a war with England Condition of the Roman people Different sorts of courage in different nations Destructiveness of war not found out at first Effect of service on conscript Expenditure of Louis Napoleon Forebodings of the Empress Prince Napoleon Ampere on Roman affairs Inquisition Infidelity Mortara affair Torpor of Roman Government Interference with marriages Ampere expects Piedmont to take possession of Rome Does not think that Naples will submit to Piedmont Wishes of Naples only negative Ampere's reading Execution of three generations Familiarity with death in 1793 Sanson Public executioners The 'Chambre noire' Violation of correspondence Toleration of Ennui Prisoners of State M. and Madame de La Fayette Mirabeau and La Fayette Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette Evils of Democratic despotism Ignorance and indolence of 'La jeune France' Algeria a God-send Family life in France Moral effect of Primogeniture Descent of Title Shipwreck off Gatteville Ampere reads 'Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme' The modern Nouveau Riche Society under the Republic Madame Recamier Chateaubriand and Madame Mohl Ballanche Extensiveness of French literature French and English poetry The 'Misanthrope' Tocqueville's political career Under Louis Philippe in 1835 Independence In 1839 and 1840 Opposition to Guizot Inaction of Louis Philippe Tocqueville would not submit to be a minister without power Mistaken independence of party Could not court popularity Reform came too late Faults in the Constitution Defence of the Constitution Tocqueville wished for a double election of the President Centralisation useful to a usurper England in the American War Defence of England Politics of a farmer Wages in Normandy Evils of Universal Suffrage Influence of the clergy Prince Napoleon Constitutional monarchy preferable to a republic Republic preferable to a despotism Probable gross faults of a republic Evils of socialist opinions Mischievous effects of strikes Mistaken tolerance of them in England Tocqueville's tomb
* * * * *
Mr. Senior's report of M. de Montalembert's speech in 1854
TOCQUEVILLE DURING THE EMPIRE
FROM DECEMBER 23, 1851 TO APRIL 20, 1858.
[The coup d'etat took place on the 2nd, and Mr. Senior reached Paris on the 21st of December.—ED.]
Paris, December 23, 1851.—I dined with Mrs. Grot and drank tea with the Tocquevilles.
'This,' said Tocqueville, 'is a new phase in our history. Every previous revolution has been made by a political party. This is the first time that the army has seized France, bound and gagged her, and laid her at the feet of its ruler.'
'Was not the 18th fructidor,' I said, 'almost a parallel case? Then, as now, there was a quarrel between the executive and the legislature. The Directory, like Louis Napoleon, dismissed the ministers, in whom the legislature had confidence, and appointed its own tools in their places, denounced the legislature to the country, and flattered and corrupted the army. The legislature tried the usual tactics of parliamentary opposition, censured the Government, and refused the supplies. The Directory prepared a coup d'etat. The legislature tried to obtain a military force, and failed; they planned an impeachment of the Directory, and found the existing law insufficient. They brought forward a new law defining the responsibility of the executive, and the night after they had begun to discuss it, their halls were occupied by a military force, and the members of the opposition were seized in the room in which they had met to denounce the treason of the Directory.'
'So far,' he answered, 'the two events resemble one another. Each was a military attack on the legislature by the executive. But the Directors were the representatives of a party. The Councils and the greater part of the aristocracy, and the bourgeoisie, were Bonapartists; the lower orders were Republican, the army was merely an instrument; it conquered, not for itself, but for the Republican party.
'The 18th brumaire was nearer to this—for that ended, as this has begun, in a military tyranny. But the 18th brumaire was almost as much a civil as a military revolution. A majority in the Councils was with Bonaparte. Louis Napoleon had not a real friend in the Assembly. All the educated classes supported the 18th brumaire; all the educated classes repudiate the 2nd of December. Bonaparte's Consular Chair was sustained by all the elite of France. This man cannot obtain a decent supporter. Montalembert, Baroche, and Fould—an Ultramontane, a country lawyer, and a Jewish banker—are his most respectable associates. For a real parallel you must go back 1,800 years.'
I said that some persons, for whose judgment I had the highest respect, seemed to treat it as a contest between two conspirators, the Assembly and the President, and to think the difference between his conduct and theirs to be that he struck first.
'This,' said Tocqueville, 'I utterly deny. He, indeed, began to conspire from November 10, 1848. His direct instructions to Oudinot, and his letter to Ney, only a few months after his election, showed his determination not to submit to Parliamentary Government. Then followed his dismissal of Ministry after Ministry, until he had degraded the.office to a clerkship. Then came the semi-regal progress, then the reviews of Satory, the encouragement of treasonable cries, the selection for all the high appointments in the army of Paris of men whose infamous characters fitted them to be tools. Then he publicly insulted the Assembly at Dijon, and at last, in October, we knew that his plans were laid. It was then only that we began to think what were our means of defence, but that was no more a conspiracy than it is a conspiracy in travellers to look for their pistols when they see a band of robbers advancing.
'M. Baze's proposition was absurd only because it was impracticable. It was a precaution against immediate danger, but if it had been voted, it could not have been executed. The army had already been so corrupted, that it would have disregarded the orders of the Assembly. I have often talked over our situation with Lamoriciere and my other military friends. We saw what was coming as clearly as we now look back to it; but we had no means of preventing it.'
'But was not your intended law of responsibility,' I said, 'an attack on your part?'
'That law,' he said, 'was not ours. It was sent up to us by the Conseil d'Etat which had been two years and a half employed on it, and ought to have sent it to us much sooner. We thought it dangerous—that is to say, we thought that, though quite right in itself, it would irritate the President, and that in our defenceless state it was unwise to do so. The bureau, therefore, to which it was referred refused to declare it urgent: a proof that it would not have passed with the clauses which, though reasonable, the President thought fit to disapprove. Our conspiracy was that of the lambs against the wolf.
'Though I have said,' he continued, 'that he has been conspiring ever since his election, I do not believe that he intended to strike so soon. His plan was to wait till next March when the fears of May 1852 would be most intense. Two circumstances forced him on more rapidly. One was the candidature of the Prince de Joinville. He thought him the only dangerous competitor. The other was an agitation set on foot by the Legitimists in the Conseils generaux for the repeal of the law of May 31. That law was his moral weapon against the Assembly, and he feared that if he delayed, it might be abolished without him.'
'And how long,' I asked, 'will this tyranny last?'
'It will last,' he answered, 'until it is unpopular with the mass of the people. At present the disapprobation is confined to the educated classes. We cannot bear to be deprived of the power of speaking or of writing. We cannot bear that the fate of France should depend on the selfishness, or the vanity, or the fears, or the caprice of one man, a foreigner by race and by education, and of a set of military ruffians and of infamous civilians, fit only to have formed the staff and the privy council of Catiline. We cannot bear that the people which carried the torch of Liberty through Europe should now be employed in quenching all its lights. But these are not the feelings of the multitude. Their insane fear of Socialism throws them headlong into the arms of despotism. As in Prussia, as in Hungary, as in Austria, as in Italy, so in France, the democrats have served the cause of the absolutists. May 1852 was a spectre constantly swelling as it drew nearer. But now that the weakness of the Red party has been proved, now that 10,000 of those who are supposed to be its most active members are to be sent to die of hunger and marsh fever in Cayenne, the people will regret the price at which their visionary enemy has been put down. Thirty-seven years of liberty have made a free press and free parliamentary discussion necessaries to us. If Louis Napoleon refuses them, he will be execrated as a tyrant. If he grants them, they must destroy him. We always criticise our rulers severely, often unjustly. It is impossible that so rash and wrong-headed a man surrounded, and always wishing to be surrounded, by men whose infamous character is their recommendation to him, should not commit blunders and follies without end. They will be exposed, perhaps exaggerated by the press, and from the tribune. As soon as he is discredited the army will turn against him. It sympathises with the people from which it has recently been separated and to which it is soon to return. It will never support an unpopular despot. I have no fears therefore for the ultimate destinies of my country. It seems to me that the Revolution of the 2nd of December is more dangerous to the rest of Europe than it is to us. That it ought to alarm England much more than France. We shall get rid of Louis Napoleon in a few years, perhaps in a few months, but there is no saying how much mischief he may do in those years, or even in those months, to his neighbours.'
'Surely,' said Madame de Tocqueville, 'he will wish to remain at peace with England.'
'I am not sure at all of that,' said Tocqueville. 'He cannot sit down a mere quiet administrator. He must do something to distract public attention; he must give us a substitute for the political excitement which has amused us during the last forty years. Great social improvements are uncertain, difficult, and slow; but glory may be obtained in a week. A war with England, at its beginning, is always popular. How many thousand volunteers would he have for a "pointe" on London?
'The best that can happen to you is to be excluded from the councils of the great family of despots. Besides, what is to be done to amuse these 400,000 bayonets, his masters as well as ours? Crosses, promotions, honours, gratuities, are already showered on the army of Paris. It has already received a thing unheard of in our history—the honours and recompenses of a campaign for the butchery on the Boulevards. Will not the other armies demand their share of work and reward? As long as the civil war in the Provinces lasts they may be employed there. But it will soon be over. What is then to be done with them? Are they to be marched on Switzerland, or on Piedmont, or on Belgium? And will England quietly look on?'
Our conversation was here interrupted by the entrance of the Abbe Gioberti, and of Sieur Capponi, a Sicilian.
Paris, December 31, 1851.—I dined with the Tocquevilles and met Mrs. Grote, Rivet, and Corcelle.
'The gayest time,' said Tocqueville, 'that I ever passed was in the Quai d'Orsay. The elite of France in education, in birth, and in talents, particularly in the talents of society, was collected within the walls of that barrack.
'A long struggle was over, in which our part had not been timidly played; we had done our duty, we had gone through some perils, and we had some to encounter, and we were all in the high spirits which excitement and dangers shared with others, when not too formidable, create. From the courtyard in which we had been penned for a couple of hours, where the Duc de Broglie and I tore our chicken with our hands and teeth, we were transferred to a long sort of gallery, or garret, running along through the higher part of the building, a spare dormitory for the soldiers when the better rooms are filled. Those who chose to take the trouble went below, hired palliasses from the soldiers, and carried them up for themselves. I was too idle and lay on the floor in my cloak. Instead of sleeping we spent the night in shooting from palliasse to palliasse anecdotes, repartees, jokes, and pleasantries. "C'etait un feu roulant, une pluie de bons mots." Things amused us in that state of excitement which sound flat when repeated.
'I remember Kerrel, a man of great humour, exciting shouts of laughter by exclaiming, with great solemnity, as he looked round on the floor, strewed with mattresses and statesmen, and lighted by a couple of tallow candles, "Voila donc ou en est reduit ce fameux parti de l'ordre." Those who were kept au secret, deprived of mutual support, were in a very different state of mind; some were depressed, others were enraged. Bedeau was left alone for twenty-four hours; at last a man came and offered him some sugar. He flew at his throat and the poor turnkey ran off, fancying his prisoner was mad.'
We talked of Louis Napoleon's devotion to the Pope.
'It is of recent date,' said Corcelle. 'In January and February 1849 he was inclined to interfere in support of the Roman Republic against the Austrians. And when in April he resolved to move on Rome, it was not out of any love for the Pope. In fact, the Pope did not then wish for us. He told Corcelle that he hoped to be restored by General Zucchi, who commanded a body of Roman troops in the neighbourhood of Bologna. No one at that time believed the Republican party in Rome to be capable of a serious defence. Probably they would not have made one if they had not admitted Garibaldi and his band two days before we appeared before their gates.'
I mentioned to Tocqueville Beaumont's opinion that France will again become a republic.
'I will not venture,' he answered, 'to affirm, with respect to any form whatever of government, that we shall never adopt it; but I own that I see no prospect of a French republic within any assignable period. We are, indeed, less opposed to a republic now than we were in 1848. We have found that it does not imply war, or bankruptcy, or tyranny; but we still feel that it is not the government that suits us. This was apparent from the beginning. Louis Napoleon had the merit, or the luck, to discover, what few suspected, the latent Bonapartism of the nation. The 10th of December showed that the memory of the Emperor, vague and indefinite, but therefore the more imposing, still dwelt like an heroic legend in the imaginations of the peasantry. When Louis Napoleon's violence and folly have destroyed the charm with which he has worked, all eyes will turn, not towards a republic, but to Henri V.'
'Was much money,' I asked, 'spent at his election?'
'Very little,' answered Tocqueville. 'The ex-Duke of Brunswick lent him 300,000 francs on a promise of assistance as soon as he should be able to afford it; and I suppose that we shall have to perform the promise, and to interfere to restore him to his duchy; but that was all that was spent. In fact he had no money of his own, and scarcely anyone, except the Duke, thought well enough of his prospects to lend him any. He used to sit in the Assembly silent and alone, pitied by some members and neglected by all. Silence, indeed, was necessary to his success.
Paris, January 2nd, 1852.—I dined with Mrs. Grote and drank tea with the Tocquevilles.
'What is your report,' they asked, 'of the President's reception in Notre Dame. We hear that it was cold.'
'So,' I answered, 'it seemed to me.'
'I am told,' said Tocqueville, 'that it was still colder on his road. He does not shine in public exhibitions. He does not belong to the highest class of hypocrites, who cheat by frankness and cordiality.'
'Such,' I said, 'as Iago. It is a class of villains of which the specimens are not common.'
'They are common enough with us,' said Tocqueville. 'We call them faux bonshommes. H. was an instance. He had passed a longish life with the character of a frank, open-hearted soldier. When he became Minister, the facts which he stated from the tribune appeared often strange, but coming from so honest a man we accepted them. One falsehood, however, after another was exposed, and at last we discovered that H. himself, with all his military bluntness and sincerity, was a most intrepid, unscrupulous liar.
'What is the explanation,' he continued, 'of Kossuth's reception in England? I can understand enthusiasm for a democrat in America, but what claim had he to the sympathy of aristocratic England?'
'Our aristocracy,' I answered, 'expressed no sympathy, and as to the mayors, and corporations, and public meetings, they looked upon him merely as an oppressed man, the champion of an oppressed country.'
'I think,' said Tocqueville, 'that he has been the most mischievous man in Europe.'
'More so,' I said, 'than Mazzini? More so than Lamartine?'
At this instant Corcelle came in.
'We are adjusting,' said Tocqueville, 'the palm of mischievousness.'
'I am all for Lamartine,' answered Corcelle; 'without him the others would have been powerless.'
'But,' I said, 'if Lamartine had never existed, would not the revolution of 1848 still have occurred?'
'It would have certainly occurred' said Tocqueville; 'that is to say, the oligarchy of Louis Philippe would have come to an end, probably to a violent one, but it would have been something to have delayed it; and it cannot be denied that Lamartine's eloquence and courage saved us from great dangers during the Provisional Government. Kossuth's influence was purely mischievous. But for him, Austria might now be a constitutional empire, with Hungary for its most powerful member, a barrier against Russia instead of her slave.'
'I must put in a word,' said Corcelle, 'for Lord Palmerston. If Lamartine produced Kossuth, Lord Palmerston produced Lamartine and Mazzini and Charles Albert—in short, all the incendiaries whose folly and wickedness have ended in producing Louis Napoleon.'
'Notwithstanding,' I said, 'your disapprobation of Kossuth, you joined us in preventing his extradition.'
'We did,' answered Tocqueville. 'It was owing to the influence of Lord Normanby over the President. It was a fine succes de tribune. It gave your Government and ours an occasion to boast of their courage and of their generosity, but a more dangerous experiment was never made. You reckoned on the prudence and forbearance of Austria and Russia. Luckily, Nicholas and Nesselrode are prudent men, and luckily the Turks sent to St. Petersburg Fuad Effendi, an excellent diplomatist, a much better than Lamoriciere or Lord Bloomfield. He refused to see either of them, disclaimed their advice or assistance, and addressed himself solely to the justice and generosity of the Emperor. He admitted that Russia was powerful enough to seize the refugees, but implored him not to set such an example, and—he committed nothing to paper. He left nothing, and took away nothing which could wound the pride of Nicholas; and thus he succeeded.
'Two days after, came a long remonstrance from Lord Palmerston, which Lord Bloomfield was desired to read to Nesselrode, and leave with him. A man of the world, seeing that the thing was done, would have withheld an irritating document. But Bloomfield went with it to Nesselrode. Nesselrode would have nothing to say to it. "Mon Dieu!" he said, "we have given up all our demands; why tease us by trying to prove that we ought not to have made them?" Bloomfield said that his orders were precise. "Lisez donc," cried Nesselrode, "mais il sera tres-ennuyeux." Before he had got half through Nesselrode interrupted him. "I have heard all this," he said, "from Lamoriciere, only in half the number of words. Cannot you consider it as read?" Bloomfield, however, was inexorable.'
I recurred to a subject on which I had talked to both of them before—the tumult of January 29, 1849.
'George Sumner,' I said, 'assures me that it was a plot, concocted by Faucher and the President, to force the Assembly to fix a day for its dissolution, instead of continuing to sit until it should have completed the Constitution by framing the organic laws which, even on December 2 last, were incomplete. He affirms that it was the model which was followed on December 2; that during the night the Palais Bourbon was surrounded by troops; that the members were allowed to enter, but were informed, not publicly, but one by one, that they were not to be allowed to separate until they had fixed, or agreed to fix, the day of their dissolution; and that under the pressure of military intimidation, the majority, which was opposed to such a dissolution, gave way and consented to the vote, which was actually carried two days after.'
'No such proposition was made to me,' said Tocqueville, 'nor, as far as I know, to anybody else; but I own that I never understood January 29. It is certain that the Palais Bourbon, or at least its avenues, were taken possession of during the night; that there was a vast display of military force, and also of democratic force; that the two bodies remained en face for some time, and that the crowd dispersed under the influence of a cold rain.'
'I too,' said Corcelle, 'disbelieve Sumner's story. The question as to the time of dissolution depended on only a few votes, and though it is true that it was voted two days after, I never heard that the military demonstration of January 29 accelerated the vote. The explanation which has been made to me is one which I mentioned the other day, namely, that the President complained to Changarnier, who at that time commanded the army of Paris, that due weight seemed not to be given to his 6,000,000 votes, and that the Assembly appeared inclined to consider him a subordinate power, instead of the Chef d'Etat, to whom, not to the Assembly, the nation had confided its destinies. In short, that the President indicated an intention to make a coup d'etat, and that the troops were assembled by Changarnier for the purpose of resisting it, if attempted, and at all events of intimidating the President by showing him how quickly a force could be collected for the defence of the Assembly.'
Sunday, January 4.—I dined with the Tocquevilles alone. The only guest, Mrs. Grote, who was to have accompanied me, being unwell.
'So enormous,' said Tocqueville, 'are the advantages of Louis Napoleon's situation, that he may defy any ordinary enemy. He has, however, a most formidable one in himself. He is essentially a copyist. He can originate nothing; his opinions, his theories, his maxims, even his plots, all are borrowed, and from the most dangerous of models—from a man who, though he possessed genius and industry such as are not seen coupled, or indeed single, once in a thousand years, yet ruined himself by the extravagance of his attempts. It would be well for him if he would utterly forget all his uncle's history. He might then trust to his own sense, and to that of his advisers. It is true that neither the one nor the other would be a good guide, but either would probably lead him into fewer dangers than a blind imitation of what was done fifty years ago by a man very unlike himself, and in a state of society both in France and in the rest of Europe, very unlike that which now exists.'
Lanjuinais and Madame B., a relation of the family, came in.
Lanjuinais had been dining with Kissileff the Russian Minister. Louis Napoleon builds on Russian support, in consequence of the marriage of his cousin, the Prince de Lichtenstein, to the Emperor's daughter. He calls it an alliance de famille, and his organs the 'Constitutionnel' and the 'Patrie' announced a fortnight ago that the Emperor had sent to him the Order of St. Andrew, which is given only to members of the Imperial family, and an autograph letter of congratulation on the coup d'etat.
Kissileff says that all this is false, that neither Order nor letter has been sent, but he has been trying in vain to get a newspaper to insert a denial. It will be denied, he is told, when the proper moment comes.
'It is charming,' said Madame de Tocqueville, 'to see the Emperor of Russia, like ourselves, forced to see his name usurped without redress.'
Madame B. had just seen a friend who left his country-house, and came to Paris without voting, and told those who consulted him that, in the difficulties of the case, he thought abstaining was the safest course. Immediately after the poll was over the Prefect sent to arrest him for malveillance, and he congratulated himself upon being out of the way.
One of Edward de Tocqueville's sons came in soon after; his brother, who is about seventeen, does duty as a private, has no servant, and cleans his own horse; and is delighted with his new life. That of our young cavalry officers is somewhat different. He did not hear of the coup d'etat till a week after it had happened.
'Our regiments,' said Lanjuinais, 'are a kind of convents. The young men who enter them are as dead to the world, as indifferent to the events which interest the society which they have left, as if they were monks. This is what makes them such fit tools for a despot.'
Thursday, January 8, 1852.—From Sir Henry Ellis's I went to Tocqueville's.
'In this darkness,' he said, 'when no one dares to print, and few to speak, though we know generally that atrocious acts of tyranny are perpetrated everyday, it is difficult to ascertain precise facts, so I will give you one. A young man named Hypolite Magin, a gentleman by birth and education, the author of a tragedy eminently successful called "Spartacus," was arrested on the 2nd of December. His friends were told not to be alarmed, that no harm was intended to him, but rather a kindness; that as his liberal opinions were known, he was shut up to prevent his compromising himself by some rash expression. He was sent to Fort Bicetre, where the casemates, miserable damp vaults, have been used as a prison, into which about 3,000 political prisoners have been crammed. His friends became uneasy, not only at the sufferings which he must undergo in five weeks of such an imprisonment in such weather as this, but lest his health should be permanently injured. At length they found that he was there no longer: and how do you suppose that his imprisonment has ended? He is at this instant at sea in a convict ship on his way to Cayenne—untried, indeed unaccused—to die of fever, if he escape the horrors of the passage. Who can say how many similar cases there may be in this wholesale transportation? How many of those who are missing and are supposed to have died at the barricades, or on the Boulevards, may be among the transports, reserved for a more lingering death!'
A proclamation to-day from the Prefect de Police orders all persons to erase from their houses the words 'Liberte,' 'Egalite,' and 'Fraternite' on pain of being proceeded against administrativement.
'There are,' said Tocqueville, 'now three forms of procedure: judiciairement, militairement and administrativement. Under the first a man is tried before a court of law, and, if his crime be grave, is sentenced to one or two years' imprisonment. Under the second he is tried before a drumhead court-martial, and shot. Under the third, without any trial at all, he is transported to Cayenne or Algiers.'
I left Paris next day.
[Footnote 1: I was not able to resist retaining this conversation in the Journals in France.—ED.]
[Footnote 2: It must be remembered that M. de Corcelle is an ardent Roman Catholic.—ED.]
[Footnote 3: This conversation was also retained in the Journals in France.—ED.]
Kensington, January 5, 1852.
My dear Tocqueville,—A private messenger has just offered himself to me, a Mr. Esmeade, who will return in about a fortnight.
The debate on Tuesday night on the Palmerston question was very satisfactory to the Government. Lord John's speech was very well received—Lord Palmerston's very ill; and though the constitution of the present Ministry is so decidedly unhealthy that it is dangerous to predict any length of life to it, yet it looks healthier than people expected. It may last out the Session.
The feeling with respect to Louis Napoleon is stronger, and it tends more to unanimity every day. The Orleans confiscation has, I think, almost too much weight given to it. After his other crimes the mere robbery of a single family, ruffian-like as it is, is a slight addition.
I breakfasted with V. yesterday. He assures me that it is false that a demand of twenty millions, or any other pecuniary demand whatever, has been made in Belgium. Nor has anything been said as to the demolition of any fortresses, except those which were agreed to be dismantled in 1832, and which are unimportant.
The feeling of the people in Belgium is excellent.
Mr. Banfield, who has just returned from the Prussian provinces, says the same with respect to them—and Bunsen assures me that his Government will perish rather than give up a foot of ground. I feel better hopes of the preservation of peace.
Thiers and Duvergier de Hauranne are much fetes, as will be the case with all the exiles.
I have been reading Fiquelmont. He is deeply steeped in all the betises of the commercial, or rather the anti-commercial school; and holds that the benefit of commerce consists not, as might have been supposed, in the things which are imported, but in those which are exported.
These follies, however, are not worth reading; but his constitutional theories—his belief, for instance, that Parliamentary Government is the curse of Europe—are curious.
The last number of the 'Edinburgh Review' contains an article on Reform well worth reading. It is by Greg. He wrote an admirable article in, I think, the April number, on Alton Locke and the English Socialists, and has also written a book, which I began to-day, on the Creed of Christendom. I have long been anxious to get somebody to do what I have not time to do, to look impartially into the evidences of Christianity, and report the result. This book does it.
Lord Normanby does not return to Paris, as you probably know. No explanation is given, but it is supposed to be in compliance with the President's wishes.
I have just sent to the press for the 'Edinburgh Review,' an article on Tronson du Coudray and the 18th fructidor, which you will see in the April number. The greater part of it was written this time last year at Sorrento.
Gladstone has published a new Neapolitan pamphlet, which I will try to send you. It is said to demolish King Ferdinand.
Kindest regards to Madame de Tocqueville. We hope that you will come to us as soon as it is safe.
P.S. and very private.—I have seen a communication from Schwartzenberg to Russia and Prussia, of the 19th December, the doctrine of which is that Louis Napoleon has done a great service by putting down parliamentaryism. That in many respects he is less dangerous than the Orleans, or elder branch, because they have parliamentary leanings. That no alteration of the existing parties must be permitted—and that an attempt to assume an hereditary crown should be discouraged—but that while it shows no aggressive propensities the policy of the Continent ought to be to countenance him, and isoler l'Angleterre, as a foyer of constitutional, that is to say, anarchical, principles.
Bunsen tells me that in October his King was privately asked whether he was ready to destroy the Prussian Constitution—and that he peremptorily refused.
Look at an article on the personal character of Louis Napoleon in the 'Times' of Monday. It is by R——, much built out of my conversation and Z.'s letters.
I have begged Mr. Esmeade to call on you—you will like him. He is a nephew of Sir John Moore.
Kensington, March 19, 1852.
My dear Tocqueville,—I was very glad to see your hand again—though there is little in French affairs on which liberals can write with pleasure.
Ours are become very interesting. Lord John's declaration, at the meeting the other day in Chesham Place, that he shall introduce a larger reform, and surround himself with more advanced adherents, and Lord Derby's, on Monday, that he is opposed to all democratic innovation, appear to me to have changed the position of parties. The question at issue is no longer Free-trade or Protection. Protection is abandoned. It is dead, never to revive. Instead of it we are to fight for Democracy, or Aristocracy. I own that my sympathies are with Aristocracy: I prefer it to either Monarchy or Democracy. I know that it is incident to an aristocratic government that the highest places shall be filled by persons chosen not for their fitness but for their birth and connections, but I am ready to submit to this inconvenience for the sake of its freedom and stability. I had rather have Malmesbury at the Foreign Office, and Lord Derby first Lord of the Treasury, than Nesselrode or Metternich, appointed by a monarch, or Cobden or Bright, whom I suppose we should have under a republic. But above all, I am for the winning horse. If Democracy is to prevail I shall join its ranks, in the hope of making its victory less mischievous.
I wish, however, that the contest had not been forced on. We were very well, before Lord John brought in his Reform Bill, which nobody called for, and I am not at all sure that we shall be as well after it has passed.
As to the immediate prospects of the Ministry, the next three weeks may change much, but it seems probable that they will be forced to dissolve in April, or the beginning of May, that the new Parliament will meet in July, and that they will be turned out about the end of August. And that this time next year we shall be discussing Lord John's new Reform Bill.
I doubt whether our fears of invasion are exaggerated. At this instant, without doubt, Louis Napoleon is thinking of nothing but the Empire; and is kind to Belgium, and pacific to Switzerland in the hope of our recognition.
But I heard yesterday from Lord Hardinge that 25,000 men are at Cherbourg, and that 25,000 more are going there—and that a large sum is devoted to the navy. We know that he governs en conspirateur, and this is likely to extend to his foreign as well as his civil relations.
I see a great deal of Thiers, who is very agreeable and very triste. 'L'exil,' he says, 'est tres-dur.' Remusat seems to bear it more patiently. We hear that we are to have Cousin.
What are your studies in the Bibliotheque Royale? I have begun to read Bastide, and intend to make the publication of my lectures on Political Economy my principal literary pursuit. I delivered the last on Monday.
I shall pass the first fifteen days of April in Brussels, with my old friend Count Arrivabene, 7 Boulevard du Regent.
* * * * *
March 25, 1852.
I send you, my dear Senior, an introduction to Lamoriciere. This letter will be short: you know that I do not write at any length by the post.
It will contain nothing but thanks for your long and interesting letter brought by Rivet, who returned delighted with the English in general, and with you in particular.
I see that the disturbed state of politics occasioned by Sir Robert Peel's policy, is passing away, and that your political world is again dividing itself into the two great sects, one of which tries to narrow, the other to extend, the area of political power—one of which tries to lift you into aristocracy, the other to depress you into democracy.
The political game will be simpler. I can understand better the conservative policy of Lord Derby than the democratic one of Lord John Russell. As the friends of free-trade are more numerous than those of democracy, I think that it would have been easier to attack the Government on its commercial than on its political illiberality.
Then in this great nation, called Europe, similar currents of opinions and feelings prevail, different as may be the institutions and characters of its different populations. We see over the whole continent so general and so irresistible a reaction against democracy, and even against liberty, that I cannot believe that it will stop short on our side of the Channel; and if the Whigs become Radical, I shall not be surprised at the permanence in England of a Tory Government allied to foreign despots.
But I ought not to talk on such matters, for I live at the bottom of a well, seeing nothing, and regretting that it is not sufficiently closed above to prevent my hearing anything. Your visions of 25,000 troops at Cherbourg, to be followed by 25,000 more, are mere phantoms. There is nothing of the kind, and there will be nothing. I speak with knowledge, for I come from Cherbourg. I have been attending an extraordinary meeting of our Conseil general on the subject of a projected railway. My reception touched and delighted me. I was unanimously, and certainly freely, elected president.
* * * * *
A. DE TOCQUEVILLE.
Friday evening, April 17, 1852.
My dear Tocqueville,—My letter is not likely to be a very amusing one, for I begin it on the dullest occasion and in the dullest of towns, namely at Ostend, while waiting for the packet-boat which is to take me to London.
A thousand thanks for your letter to Lamoriciere. He was very kind to me, and I hope hereafter, in Paris or in London, to improve the acquaintance.
I saw no other French in Brussels. The most interesting conversation that I had was with the King.
I found him convinced that the decree annexing Belgium to France had been drawn up, and that it was the interference of Nicholas, and his expression of a determination not to suffer the existing temporal limits to be altered, that had occasioned it to be withdrawn. I am happy, however, to think, as you also appear to think, that your great man is now intent on peaceful triumphs.
He would scarcely have created such a mass of speculative activity in France if he intended suddenly to check it by war. I hope that by the time Masters in Chancery are abolished, I shall find France intersected by a network of railroads and run from Paris to Marseilles in a day.
I venture to differ from you as to the probable progress of reaction in England. I see no symptom of it; on the contrary, democracy seems to me to continue its triumphant march without a check. The Protectionists are in power, they take for their leader in the House of Commons a man without birth or connection, merely because he is a good speaker. This could not have been done even ten years ago. They bow to the popular will as to free-trade, and acknowledge that, even if they have a majority in the Houses of Lords and Commons, they will not venture to re-impose a Corn-law if the people do not ask for it. Never was such a homage paid to the world 'without doors.'
Then Lord John says that he objects to the Ballot, because those who have no votes have a right to know how those who have votes use them.
The example of the Continent will not affect us, or if it do affect us, will rather strengthen our democracy. We are not accustomed to copy, and shall treat the reaction in France, Austria, and Prussia rather as a warning than as a model.
I suspect that Lord John, who, though not, I think, a very wise statesman, is a clever tactician, takes the same view that I do, and has selected Reform for his platform, believing it to be a strong one.
We were delighted with Rivet, and hope that he will soon come again. Lamoriciere tells me that he is going to take the waters of Aix-la-Chapelle, but, if his exile continues, will probably come to England next year.
Kindest regards to Madame de Tocqueville.
Kensington, April 30, 1852.
My dear Tocqueville,—A thousand thanks for your letter. I saw M. de Lamoriciere three times, and had a glimpse of Madame de L. who seemed very pleasing. I was delighted with his spirit and intelligence, but understand the criticism that he is soldatesque.
I had a long and very interesting conversation with the King, and saw much of my excellent friends Arrivabene and Quetelet. But after all Brussels is not Paris. I was more than ever struck by the ugliness of the country and the provincialness of the society.
I returned on April 18, sprained my ancle on the 19th, and have been on my back ever since. I have spent the time in looking through Fonfrede, who is a remarkable writer, and makes some remarkable prophecies, in finishing Grote's ninth and tenth volumes, in reading Kenrick's 'Ancient Egypt,' which is worth studying, and in reading through Horace, whom I find that I understand much better after my Roman experience.
I differ from you as to the chances of reaction in this country. I believe that we are still travelling the road which you have so well mapped out, which leads to democracy. Our extreme gauche, which we call the Manchester School, employs its whole efforts in that direction. It has great energy, activity, and combination. The duties of Parliament and of Government have become so onerous, and the facing our democratic constituencies is so disagreeable, and an idle life of society, literature, art, and travelling has become so pleasant, that our younger aristocracy seem to be giving up politics, and hence you hear the universal complaint that there are no young men of promise in public life.
The House of Commons is full of middle-aged lawyers, merchants, manufacturers, and country-gentlemen, who take to politics late in life, without the early special training which fitted for it the last generation.
I fear that the time may come when to be in the House of Commons may be thought a bore, a somewhat vulgar spouting club, like the Marylebone Vestry, or the City of London Common Council.
I do not know whether Lord Derby has gained much in the last four months, but Lord John has certainly lost. His Reform Bill was a very crude gachis, without principle, and I think very mischievous. I ventured to say nearly as much to Lord Lansdowne, who sat by my sofa for an hour on Sunday, and he did not take up its defence. Then his opposition to the present Ministry has been factious, and to punish him, he was left the other day in a minority of fifty per cent. People begin now to speculate on the possibility of Lord Derby's reconstructing his minority on rather a larger basis, and maintaining himself for three or four years; which, in these times, is a good old age for a Minister. One admirable result of these changes is the death of Protection. Those who defended it in opposition are found to abandon it now they are in power. So it has not a friend left.
Pray send me word, by yourself or by Mrs. Grote, when you leave Paris. My vacation begins on May 8, but I shall not move unless I recover the use of my legs, nor then I think, if I find that you will be absent.
Kindest regards to Madame de Tocqueville.
Paris, November 13, 1852.
I am unlucky, my dear Senior, about your letters of introduction. You know how much I have wished and tried to make the acquaintance of Lord and Lady Ashburton, but without success. I should also, I am sure, have had great pleasure in meeting Mr. Greg.
This time I was prevented by ill health.
* * * * *
Two or three months ago, I wrote to you from the country a letter which was addressed to Kensington. Did you receive it? and if so, why have you not answered it?
I wrote upon politics, but especially I asked you about yourselves, your occupations and projects, some questions to which I was very anxious to have answers. At any rate, do now what you ought to have done then—write to me.
I do not now write about politics, because we do not talk, or at least write about them in France any more than in Naples; besides, such subjects are not suitable to an invalid.
I will only tell you, as important and authentic pieces of information, that the new court ladies have taken to trains and little pages, and that the new courtiers hunt the stag with their master in the Forest of Fontainebleau in dresses of the time of Louis XIV. and cocked hats.
Good-bye! Heaven preserve you from the mistakes which lead to revolutions, and from the revolutions which lead to masquerades. A thousand kind regards.
A. DE TOCQUEVILLE.
London, December 4, 1852.
My dear Tocqueville,—Your letter of November 13 is, I think, the first that I have received from you since March.
That which you addressed to me at Kensington, two months ago, did not reach me. I have written to you one or two; I do not know with what success.
I grieve to hear of rheumatism and pleurisy. You say nothing of Madame de Tocqueville, whence I hope that I may infer that she, at least, is well.
We have all been flourishing. We passed the vacation in Wales and Ireland, and brought back a curious journal, which I hope to send or bring to you.
I do not think that I shall venture to Paris at Christmas, though Ellice and Thiers are trying to persuade me. I have too vivid a recollection of the fog, cold, and dirt of last year; but I fully resolve to be with you at Easter—that is, about March 24.
The present Government, with all its want of principle and truth, and with all its want of experience, is doing much better than I expected.
The law reforms are far bolder than any that my friends ever proposed, and the budget, which was brought forward last night, contains more that is good, and less that is bad, than was hoped or feared.
Its worst portion is the abolition of half the malt tax, which leaves all the expense of collection undiminished, besides being a removal of a tax on a luxury which I do not wish to see cheaper. It is probable, however, that the doubling of the house tax will be rejected, in which case Disraeli will probably retain the malt tax, and the budget will sink into a commonplace one.
The removal of certain burdens on navigation and the change in the income tax are thought good, and generally the Government has gained by the budget. I am now inclined to think that it may last for some months longer—perhaps for some years.
In the meantime we are in a state of great prosperity: high wages, great accumulation of capital, low prices of consumable articles, and high prices of stocks and land.
February 27, 1853.
My dear Tocqueville,—I profit by Sir H. Ellis's visit to write, not venturing to trust the post.
We are grieved to hear that both you and Madame de Tocqueville have been suffering. We have borne this disagreeable winter better than perhaps we had a right to expect; but still we have suffered.
Mrs. Grote tells me that you rather complain that the English newspapers approve of the marriage; a marriage which you all disapprove.
The fact is that we like the marriage precisely because you dislike it. We are above all things desirous that the present tyranny should end as quickly as possible. It can end only by the general alienation of the French people from the tyrant; and every fault that he commits delights us, because it is a step towards his fall. To say the truth, I wonder that you do not take the same view, and rejoice over his follies as leading to his destruction.
Our new Government is going on well as yet. As the Opposition has turned law reformers, we expect law reform to go on as rapidly as is consistent with the slowly-innovating temper of the English. Large measures respecting charities, education, secondary punishments, and the transfer of land are in preparation, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer is at work on the difficult—I suspect the insoluble—problem of an equitable income tax. I foresee, however, a rock ahead.
This is reform of the constituencies. Lord John Russell, very sillily, promised two years ago a new Reform Bill.
Still more sillily he introduced one last year, and was deservedly turned out for it.
Still more sillily the present Government has accepted his responsibility, and is pledged to bring in a measure of reform next year.
I have been trying to persuade them to pave the way by a Commission of Inquiry, being certain that the facts on which we ought to agitate are imperfectly known. But Lord John is unfavourable, and the other Ministers do not venture to control the leader of the House of Commons. There will, therefore, be no previous inquiry; at least only the indirect one which the Government can make for itself. The measure will be concocted in secrecy, will be found open to unforeseen objections; it will be thrown out in the House, and will excite no enthusiasm in the country. If the Government dissolve, the new Parliament will probably be still more opposed to it than the present Parliament will be; and the Government, being beaten again, will resign.
Such is my prophecy.
Prenez en acte, and we will talk it over in May 1854.
I hope to be in Paris either for the Easter or for the Whitsun vacation—that is, either about the 24th of March or the 5th of May next—and I trust to find you and Madame de Tocqueville, if not quite flourishing, at least quite convalescent.
[Footnote 1: Republished in the Biographical Sketches. Longmans: 1863.—ED.]
[Footnote 2: The letter to which this is an answer is not to be found,—ED.]
[Footnote 3: This letter is not to be found.—ED.]
[Footnote 4: Published in 1868.—ED.]
[Footnote 5: That of the Emperor.—ED.]
Paris, May 9,1853.—I drank tea with the Tocquevilles. Neither of them is well.
In February they were caught, on their journey from Tocqueville to Paris, by the bitter weather of the beginning of that month. It produced rheumatism and then pleurisy with him, and inflammation of the bowels with her; and both are still suffering from the effects either of the disorder or of the remedies.
In the summer Paris will be too hot and Tocqueville too damp. So they have taken a small house at St. Cyr, about a mile from Tours, where they hope for a tolerable climate, easy access to Paris, and the use of the fine library of the cathedral. He entered eagerly on the Eastern question, and agreed on all points with Faucher; admitted the folly and rashness of the French, but deplored the over-caution which had led us to refuse interference, at least effectual interference, and to allow Turkey to sink into virtual subservience to Russia.
Paris, Tuesday, May 17.—Tocqueville and I stood on my balcony, and looked along the Rue de Rivoli and the Place de la Concorde, swarming with equipages, and on the well-dressed crowds in the gardens below. From the height in which we were placed all those apparently small objects, in incessant movement, looked like a gigantic ant-hill disturbed.
'I never,' said Tocqueville, 'have known Paris so animated or apparently so prosperous. Much is to be attributed to the saving of the four previous years. The parsimony of the Parisians ended in 1850; but the parsimony of the provinces, always great, and in unsettled times carried to actual avarice, lasted during the whole of the Republic. Commercial persons tell me that the arrival of capital which comes up for investment from the provinces deranges all their calculations. It is like the sudden burst of vegetation which you have seen during the last week. We have passed suddenly from winter to summer.
'I own,' he continued, 'that it fills me with alarm. Among the innumerable schemes that are afloat, some must be ill-founded, some must be swelled beyond their proper dimensions, and some may be mere swindles. The city of Paris and the Government are spending 150,000,000l. in building in Paris. This is almost as much as the fortifications cost. It has always been said, and I believe with truth, that the revolutionary army of 1848 was mainly recruited from the 40,000 additional workmen whom the fortifications attracted from the country, and left without employment when they were finished. When this enormous extra-expenditure is over, when the Louvre, and the new rue de Rivoli, and the Halles, and the street that is to run from the Hotel de Ville to the northern boundary of Paris, are completed—that is to say, when a city has been built out of public money in two or three years—what will become of the mass of discharged workmen?
'What will become of those on the railways if they are suddenly stopped, as yours were in 1846? What will be the shock if the Credit Foncier or the Credit Mobilier fail, after having borrowed each its milliard? Everything seems to me to be preparing for one of your panics, and the Government has so identified itself with the state of prosperity and state of credit of the country that a panic must produce a revolution. The Government claims the merit of all that is good, and of course is held responsible for all that is bad. If we were to have a bad harvest, it would be laid to the charge of the Emperor.
'Of course,' he continued, 'I do not desire the perpetuation of the present tyranny. Its duration as a dynasty I believe to be absolutely impossible, except in one improbable contingency—a successful war.
'But though, I repeat, I do not desire or expect the permanence of the Empire, I do not wish for its immediate destruction, before we are prepared with a substitute. The agents which are undermining it are sufficiently powerful and sufficiently active to occasion its fall quite as soon as we ought to wish for that fall.'
'And what,' I said, 'are those agents?'
'The principal agents,' he answered, 'are violence in the provinces and corruption in Paris. Since the first outbreak there has not been much violence in Paris. You must have observed that freedom of speech is universal. In every private society, and even in every cafe hatred or contempt of the Government are the main topics of conversation. We are too numerous to be attacked. But in the provinces you will find perfect silence. Anyone who whispers a word against the Emperor may be imprisoned, or perhaps transported. The prefects are empowered by one of the decrees made immediately after the coup d'etat to dissolve any Conseil communal in which there is the least appearance of disaffection, and to nominate three persons to administer the commune. In many cases this has been done, and I could point out to you several communes governed by the prefect's nominees who cannot read. In time, of course, tyranny will produce corruption; but it has not yet prevailed extensively in the country, and the cause which now tends to depopularise him there is arbitrary violence exercised against those whom his agents suppose to be their enemies.
'On the other hand, what is ruining him in Paris is not violence, but corruption.
'The French are not like the Americans; they have no sympathy with smartness. Nothing so much excites their disgust as friponnerie. The main cause that overthrew Louis Philippe was the belief that he and his were fripons—that the representatives bought the electors, that the Minister bought the representatives, and that the King bought the Minister.
'Now, no corruption that ever prevailed in the worst periods of Louis XV., nothing that was done by La Pompadour or the Du Barry resembles what is going on now. Duchatel, whose organs are not over-acute, tells me that he shudders at what is forced on his notice. The perfect absence of publicity, the silence of the press and of the tribune, and even of the bar—for no speeches, except on the most trivial subjects, are allowed to be reported—give full room for conversational exaggeration. Bad as things are, they are made still worse. Now this we cannot bear. It hurts our strongest passion—our vanity. We feel that we are exploites by Persigny, Fould, and Abbattucci, and a swarm of other adventurers. The injury might be tolerated, but not the disgrace.
'Every Government in France has a tendency to become unpopular as it continues. If you were to go down into the street, and inquire into the politics of the first hundred persons whom you met, you would find some Socialists, some Republicans, some Orleanists, &c., but you would find no Louis Napoleonists. Not a voice would utter his name without some expression of contempt or detestation, but principally of contempt.
'If then things take their course—if no accident, such as a fever or a pistol-shot, cut him off—public indignation will spread from Paris to the country, his unpopularity will extend from the people to the army, and then the first street riot will be enough to overthrow him.'
'And what power,' I said, 'will start up in his place?'
'I trust,' answered Tocqueville, 'that the reins will be seized by the Senate. Those who have accepted seats in it excuse themselves by saying, "A time may come when we shall be wanted." Probably the Corps Legislatif will join them; and it seems to me clear that the course which such bodies will take must be the proclamation of Henri V.'
'But what,' I said, 'would be the consequences of the pistol-shot or the fever?'
'The immediate consequence,' answered Tocqueville, 'would be the installation of his successor. Jerome would go to the Tuileries as easily as Charles X. did, but it would precipitate the end. We might bear Louis Napoleon for four or five years, or Jerome for four or five months.'
'It has been thought possible,' I said, 'that in the event of the Jerome dynasty being overset by a military revolution, it might be followed by a military usurpation; that Nero might be succeeded by Galba.'
'That,' said Tocqueville, 'is one of the few things which I hold to be impossible. Nero may be followed by another attempt at a Republic, but if any individual is to succeed him it must be a prince. Mere personal distinction, at least such as is within the bounds of real possibility, will not give the sceptre of France. It will be seized by no one who cannot pretend to an hereditary claim.
'What I fear,' continued Tocqueville, 'is that when this man feels the ground crumbling under him, he will try the resource of war. It will be a most dangerous experiment. Defeat, or even the alternation of success and failure, which is the ordinary course of war, would be fatal to him; but brilliant success might, as I have said before, establish him. It would be playing double or quits. He is by nature a gambler. His self-confidence, his reliance, not only on himself, but on his fortune, exceeds even that of his uncle. He believes himself to have a great military genius. He certainly planned war a year ago. I do not believe that he has abandoned it now, though the general feeling of the country forces him to suspend it. That feeling, however, he might overcome; he might so contrive as to appear to be forced into hostilities; and such is the intoxicating effect of military glory, that the Government which would give us that would be pardoned, whatever were its defects or its crimes.
'It is your business, and that of Belgium, to put yourselves into such a state of defence as to force him to make his spring on Italy. There he can do you little harm. But to us Frenchmen the consequences of war must be calamitous. If we fail, they are national loss and humiliation. If we succeed, they are slavery.'
'Of course,' I said, 'the corruption that infects the civil service must in time extend to the army, and make it less fit for service.
'Of course it must,' answered Tocqueville. 'It will extend still sooner to the navy? The materiel of a force is more easily injured by jobbing than the personnel. And in the navy the materiel is the principal.
'Our naval strength has never been in proportion to our naval expenditure, and is likely to be less and less so every year, at least during every year of the regne des fripons.'
Tuesday, May 24.—I breakfasted with Sir Henry Ellis and then went to Tocqueville's.
I found there an elderly man, who did not remain long.
When he went, Tocqueville said, 'That is one of our provincial prefects. He has been describing to us the state of public feeling in the South. Contempt for the present Government, he tells us, is spreading there from its headquarters, Paris.
'If the Corps Legislatif is dissolved, he expects the Opposition to obtain a majority in the new House.
'This,' continued Tocqueville, 'is a state of things with which Louis Napoleon is not fit to cope. Opposition makes him furious, particularly Parliamentary opposition. His first impulse will be to go a step further in imitation of his uncle, and abolish the Corps Legislatif, as Napoleon did the Tribunat.
'But nearly half a century of Parliamentary life has made the French of 1853 as different from those of 1803 as the nephew is from his uncle.
'He will scarcely risk another coup d'etat; and the only legal mode of abolishing, or even modifying, the Corps Legislatif is by a plebiscite submitted by ballot to universal suffrage.
'Will he venture on this? And if he do venture, will he succeed? If he fail, will he not sink into a constitutional sovereign, controlled by an Assembly far more unmanageable than we deputies were, as the Ministers are excluded from it?'
'Will he not rather,' I said, 'sink into an exile?'
'That is my hope,' said Tocqueville, 'but I do not expect it quite so soon as Thiers does,'
St. Cyr, July 2, 1853.
I am not going to talk to you, my dear Senior, about the Emperor, or the Empress, or any of the august members of the Imperial Family; nor of the Ministers, nor of any other public functionaries, because I am a well-disposed subject who does not wish that the perusal of his letters should give pain to his Government. I shall write to you upon an historical problem, and discuss with you events which happened five hundred years ago. There could not be a more innocent subject.
I have followed your advice, and I have read, or rather re-read, Blackstone. I studied him twenty years ago. Each time he has made upon me the same impression. Now, as then, I have ventured to consider him (if one may say so without blasphemy) an inferior writer, without liberality of mind or depth of judgment; in short, a commentator and a lawyer, not what we understand by the words jurisconsulte and publiciste. He has, too, in a degree which is sometimes amusing, a mania for admiring all that was done in ancient times, and for attributing to them all that is good in his own. I am inclined to think that, if he had had to write, not on the institutions, but on the products of England, he would have discovered that beer was first made from grapes, and that the hop is a fruit of the vine—rather a degenerate product, it is true, of the wisdom of our ancestors, but as such worthy of respect. It is impossible to imagine an excess more opposite to that of his contemporaries in France, for whom it was enough that a thing was old for it to be bad. But enough of Blackstone; he must make way for what I really want to say to you.
In comparing the feudal institutions in England in the period immediately after the conquest with those of France, you find between them, not only an analogy, but a perfect resemblance, much greater than Blackstone seems to think, or, at any rate, chooses to say. In reality, the system in the two countries is identical. In France, and over the whole Continent, this system produced a caste; in England, an aristocracy. How is it that the word gentleman, which in our language denotes a mere superiority of blood, with you is now used to express a certain social position, and amount of education, independent of birth; so that in two countries the same word, though the sound remains the same, has entirely changed its meaning? When did this revolution take place? How, and through what transitions? Have no books ever treated of this subject in England? Have none of your great writers, philosophers, politicians, or historians, ever noticed this characteristic and pregnant fact, tried to account for it, and to explain it?
If I had the honour of a personal acquaintance with Mr. Macaulay, I should venture to write to ask him these questions. In the excellent history which he is now publishing he alludes to this fact, but he does not try to explain it. And yet, as I have said before, there is none more pregnant, nor containing within it so good an explanation of the difference between the history of England and that of the other feudal nations in Europe. If you should meet Mr. Macaulay, I beg you to ask him, with much respect, to solve these questions for me. But tell me what you yourself think, and if any other eminent writers have treated this subject.
You must think me, my dear friend, very tiresome with all these questions and dissertations; but of what else can I speak? I pass here the life of a Benedictine monk, seeing absolutely no one, and writing whenever I am not walking. I expect this cloistered life to do a great deal of good both to my mind and body. Do not think that in my convent I forget my friends. My wife and I constantly talk of them, and especially of you and of our dear Mrs. Grote. I am reading your MSS., which interest and amuse me extremely. They are my relaxation. I have promised Beaumont to send them to him as soon as I have finished them.
St. Cyr, December 8, 1853.
I must absolutely write to you to-day, my dear Senior. I have long been wishing to do so, but have been deterred by the annoyance I feel at not being able to discuss with you a thousand subjects as interesting to you as they are to me, but which one cannot mention in a letter; for letters are now less secret than ever, and to insist upon writing politics to our friends is equivalent to their not hearing from us at all. But I may, at any rate, without making the police uneasy, assure you of the great pleasure with which we heard that you intended paying us a little visit next month.
There is an excellent hotel at Tours, where you will find good apartments; for the rest, I hope that you will make our house your inn. We are near enough to Tours for me to walk there and back, and we regulate our clocks by the striking of theirs; so you see that it is difficult to be nearer.
I think that it is a capital idea of yours to visit French Africa. The country is curious in itself, also on account of the contrasts afforded by the different populations which spread over the land without ever mixing.
You will find them materials for some of those excellent and interesting articles which you write so well. When you come I shall be able to give you some useful information, for I have devoted much attention to Algiers. I have here a long report which I drew up for the Chamber in 1846, which may give you some valuable ideas, though things have considerably changed since that time.
Kind remembrances, &c.,
A. DE TOCQUEVILLE.
[The following are some more of Mrs. Grote's interesting notes. She preceded Mr. Senior at St. Cyr.—ED.]
The notes relating to St. Cyr are memoranda of various conversations which I enjoyed during a stay of some ten days or so at Tours, in February 1854, with Monsieur Alexis de Tocqueville. I occupied an apartment in the hotel at Tours, and on almost every day passed some hours in the company of this interesting friend, who at this time lived at St. Cyr, in a commodious country-house having its garden, &c, which he rented. I drove out to dine there frequently, and M. de Tocqueville walked over on the intervening days and stayed an hour or two at the hotel with me talking incessantly.—H.G.
St. Cyr, February 13, 1854,—The French allow no author to have a claim to the highest rank unless he joins the perfection of style with the instructiveness of his matter. Only four first-rate writers in the eighteenth century—grands ecrivains, comme grands penseurs originaux; these being Montesquieu, Voltaire, J.J. Rousseau, and Buffon. Helvetius not en premiere ligne, because his forme was not up to the mark. Alexis himself is often hung up for days together, having the thoughts, yet not hitting off the 'phrases' in a way to satisfy his critical ear as to style.
Thinks that when a man is capable of originating a belle pensee, he ought to be also capable of clothing that thought in felicitous language.
Thinks that a torpid state of political life is unfavourable to intellectual product in general.
I instanced the case of Louis XIV. as contradicting this. Not admitted by Tocqueville. The civil wars of Louis XIV.'s reign had engendered considerable activity in the minds of the educated class. This activity generated speculation and scientific inquiry in all the departments of human thoughts. Abstract ideas became the field on which thinkers occupied themselves. No practical outlet under despotism, but a certain social fermentation nevertheless existing, and the want of making itself a vent impelled intellectual life and writings. I instanced Louis XV. 'At least,' I said, 'the torpor of political life was become yet more a habit,' 'Yes,' said Alexis, 'but then there was the principle of discontent very widely diffused, which was the germ of the revolution of 1789. This restless, disaffected state of the national mind gave birth to some new forms of intellectual product, tending to rather more distinct practical results, which filtered down among the middle classes, and became the objects of their desires and projects.' Rousseau and Voltaire eminently serviceable in leading the public sentiment towards the middle of the eighteenth century.
English writers and statesmen having always enjoyed the power of applying their minds to actual circumstances, and of appealing through a free press and free speech also to the public of their day, have never addressed themselves, as French philosophers did, to the cultivation of abstract speculations and general theories. Here and there a writer has been thrown, by his individual tastes and turn of thought, upon the study of political philosophy; but the Englishman, taken as a public writer, commonly addresses himself to practical legislation rather than to recondite studies or logical analysis and investigation of the relations between mankind and their regulations under authorised powers. Since Lord Bacon there have been few, excepting in our later times Mill, Bentham, and his disciples, who have explored the metaphysics of jurisprudence and moral science in England. Hume dealt in the philosophic treatment of political subjects, but did not work them up into anything like a coherent system. English are not fond of generalities, but get on by their instincts, bit by bit, as need arises.
Alexis thinks that the writers of the period antecedent to the revolution of 1789 were quite as much thrown up by the condition of public sentiment as they were the exciters of it. Nothing comprehensive, in matters of social arrangement, can be effected under a state of things like that of England; so easy there for a peculiar grievance to get heard, so easy for a local or class interest to obtain redress against any form of injustice, that legislation must be 'patching.' Next to impossible to reorganise a community without a revolution.
Alexis has been at work for about a year in rummaging amid archives, partly in those of the capital, partly in those of the Touraine. In this last town a complete collection is contained of the records of the old 'Intendance,' under which several provinces were governed. Nothing short of a continuous and laborious poring over the details of Government furnished by these invaluable paperasses could possibly enable a student of the past century to frame to himself any clear conception of the working of the social relations and authorities in old France. There exists no such tableau. The manners of the higher classes and their daily life and habits are well portrayed in heaps of memoirs, and even pretty well understood by our contemporaries. But the whole structure of society, in its relations with the authorised agents of supreme power, including the pressure of those secondary obligations arising out of coutumes du pays, is so little understood as to be scarcely available to a general comprehension of the old French world before 1789.
Alexis says that the reason why the great upheaving of that period has never been to this day sufficiently appreciated, never sufficiently explained, is because the actual living hideousness of the social details and relations of that period, seen from the points of view of a penetrating contemporary looker-on, has never yet been depicted in true colours and with minute particulars. After having dived into the social history of that century, as I have stated, his conviction is that it was impossible that the revolution of 1789 should not burst out. Cause and effect were never more irrevocably associated than in this terrible case. Nothing but the compulsory idleness and obscurity into which Alexis has been thrown since December 1851 would have put even him upon the researches in question. Few perhaps could have addressed themselves to the task with such remarkable powers of interpretation, and with such talents for exploring the connection between thought and action as he is endowed with. Also he is singularly exempt from aristocratical prejudices, and quite capable of sympathising with popular feeling, though naturally not partial to democracy.
February 15.—De Tocqueville came down in close carriage and sat an hour and a half by fireside. Weather horrible. Talked of La Marck's book on Mirabeau; said that the line Mirabeau pursued was perfectly well known to Frenchmen prior to the appearance of La Marck's book; but that the actual details were of course a new revelation, and highly valued accordingly. Asked what we thought of it in England. I told him the leading impression made by the book was the clear perception of the impossibility of effecting any good or coming to terms in any manner of way of the revolutionary leaders with such a Court. That we also had long suspected Mirabeau of being what he was now proved to have been—a man who, imbued though he was with the spirit of revolutionary action and the conviction of the rightfulness of demanding prodigious changes, yet who would willingly have directed the monarch in a method of warding off the terrible consequences of the storm, and who would, if the Court had confided to his hands the task of conciliating the popular feelings, have perhaps preserved the forms of monarchy while affording the requisite concessions to the national demands. But the Court was so steeped in the old sentiment of divine right, and moreover so distrustful of Mirabeau's honour and sagacity (the more so as he was insatiable in his pecuniary requisitions), that they would never place their cause frankly in his hands, nor indeed in anyone else's who was capable of discerning their best interests. Lafayette was regarded as an enemy almost (and was 'jaloused' by Mirabeau as being so popular) on account of his popular sympathies. De Tocqueville said that so diffused was the spirit of revolution at the period preceding the convocation of the Etats-generaux, that the elder Mirabeau, who was a very clever and original-minded man, though strongly tinctured with the old feudal prejudices, nevertheless let the fact be seen in the clearest manner in his own writings. He wrote many tracts on public topics, and De Tocqueville says that the tone in which Mirabeau (pere) handles these proves that he was perfectly cognisant of the universal spread of revolutionary opinions, and even in some degree influenced by them in his own person. Mirabeau (the son) was so aware of the absolute necessity of proclaiming himself emancipated from the old feudalities, that, among other extravagances of his conduct, he started as a shopkeeper at Marseilles for some time, by way of fraternizing with the bourgeoisie; afficheing his liberalism. De Tocqueville quoted Napoleon as saying in one of his conversations at St. Helena that he had been a spectator from a window of the scene at the Tuileries, on the famous August 10, 1792, and that it was his conviction (Napoleon's) that, even at that stage, the revolution might have been averted—at least, the furious character of it might have been turned aside—by judicious modes of negotiation on the part of the King's advisers. De Tocqueville does not concur in Napoleon's opinion. 'Cahiers,' published 1789, contain the whole body of instructions supplied to their respective delegates by the trois etats (clerge, noblesse, et Tiers Etat), on assembling in convocation. Of this entire and voluminous collection (which is deposited in the archives of France) three volumes of extracts are to be bought which were a kind of redige of the larger body of documents. In these three volumes De Tocqueville mentioned, one may trace the course of the public sentiment with perfect clearness. Each class demanded a large instalment of constitutional securities; the nobles perhaps demanded the largest amount of all the three. Nothing could be more thoroughgoing than the requisitions which the body of the noblesse charged their delegates to enforce in the Assembly of the Etats-generaux—'egalisations des charges (taxation), responsabilite des ministres, independance des tribunaux, liberte de la personne, garantie de la propriete contre la couronne,' a balance-sheet annually of the public expenses and public revenue, and, in fact, all the salient privileges necessary in order to enfranchise a community weary of despotism. The clergy asked for what they wanted with equal resolution, and the bourgeoisie likewise; but what the nobles were instructed to demand was the boldest of all. We talked of the letters of the writers of the eighteenth century, and of the correspondence of various eminent men and women with David Hume, which Mr. Hill Burton has published in a supplementary volume in addition to those comprised in his life of David Hume, and which I have with me. I said that the works of Hume being freely printed and circulated caused great pleasure to the French men of letters, mingled with envy at the facility enjoyed by the Englishman of publishing anything he chose; the French writers being debarred, owing to the importunity of the clergy with Louis XV., from publishing freely their works in France, and only managing to get themselves printed by employing printers at the Hague, Amsterdam, and other towns beyond the limits of the kingdom. To my surprise, De Tocqueville replied that this disability, so far from proving disadvantageous to the esprits forts of the period, and the encyclopaedic school, was a source of gain to them in every respect. Every book or tract which bore the stamp of being printed at the Hague or elsewhere, out of France, was speedily caught up and devoured. It was a passport to success. Everyone knowing that, since it was printed there, it must be of a nature to give offence to the ruling powers, and especially to the priesthood, and as such, all who were imbued with the new opinions were sure to run after books bearing this certificate of merit. De Tocqueville said that the savans of 1760-1789 would not have printed in France, had they been free to do so, at the period immediately preceding the accession of Louis XVI.
Talked of Lafayette: said he was as great as pure, good intentions and noble instincts could make a man; but that he was d'un esprit mediocre, and utterly at a loss how to turn affairs to profit at critical junctures—never knew what was coming, no political foresight. Mistake in putting Louis Philippe on the throne sans garantie in 1830; misled by his own disinterested character to think better of public men than he ought to have done. Great personal integrity shown by Lafayette during the Empire, and under the Restoration: not to be cajoled by any monarch.
February 16.—The current fallacy of Napoleon having made the important alterations in the laws of France. All the eminent new enactments originated in the Constituent Assembly, only that they set to work in such sledgehammer fashion, that the carrying out their work became extremely troublesome and difficult. Too abstract in their notions to estimate difficulties of detail in changing the framework of jurisprudence. De Tocqueville said philosophers must always originate laws, but men used to active practical life ought to undertake to direct the transition from old to new arrangements. The Constituent Assembly did prodigious things in the way of clearing the ground of past abominations. Napoleon had the talent of making their work take effect; understood administrative science, but rendered the centralising principle far too predominant, in the view to consolidate his own power afterwards. France has felt this, to her cost, ever since.
Habit formerly (i.e. 300 years back) as prevalent in France as it is in England of gentlemen of moderate fortune residing wholly or by far the greater part of the year on their estates. They ceased to do so from the time when the sovereign took from them all local authority, from the fifteenth century or so. The French country-houses were excessively thickly dotted over the land even up to the year 1600; quantities pulled down after that period. Country life becoming flat after the gentlemen ceased to be of importance in their political relations with their districts, they gave up rural habits and took to living in the provincial towns.
De Tocqueville had many conversations with M. Royer Collard respecting the events of 1789. Difficult to get much out of men of our period relative to their own early manhood. His own father (now 82) much less capable of communicating details of former regime than might have been supposed. Because, says De Tocqueville, youths of eighteen to twenty hardly ever possess the faculty or the inclination to note social peculiarities. They accept what they find going, and scarcely give a thought to the contemplation of what is familiar to them and of every day's experience. Royer Collard was a man of superior mind: had a great deal to relate. De Tocqueville used to pump him whenever an opportunity occurred. Knew Danton well, used to discuss political affairs with him. When revolution was fairly launched, saw him occasionally. Danton was venal to the last degree; received money from the Court over and over again; 'agitated,' and was again sopped by the agents of Marie Antoinette. When matters grew formidable (in 1791) Royer Collard was himself induced to become an agent or go-between of the Court for buying up Danton. He sought an opportunity, and after some prefatory conversations Royer Collard led Danton to the point. 'No,' said Danton, 'I cannot listen to any such suggestions now. Times are altered. It is too late. 'Nous le detronerons et puis nous le tuerons,' added he in an emphatic tone. Royer Collard of course gave up the hope of succeeding.