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demned, by philosophers, whose authority had banished him from his presence, and he had disputed, and by priests, in whose re- whose scaffold, including three generations ligion he but coldly acquiesced.
of victims, touched the hardened conscience We believe the main cause of this result of a sanguinary mob, so that no more execuis to be found in the singular unity of pur- tions could be ventured upon in that place. pose which pervaded his whole moral and Such reflections were assuredly not favorintellectual being. If a clear and lofty the- able to an appreciation of freedom or to the ory of life, to which a man can adapt his perception of political truth ; but even these duties and his actions, is a comfort and a tragic phantoms were less hostile to the destrength to any one in his march through the velopment of liberal ideas than the condition world, it is no less desirable for a thinker to into which good society in France had fallen possess an object of mental contemplation, after the violent tension and anxiety of rearound which new experiences and fresh in- cent years. Hopeless of escape from evil ferences can continually cluster, which will government, men only tried to put it out of grow with his knowledge and expand with sight as much as possible, and pleasure, so his observation, and which, without disturb- long foregone, became the sole occupation of ing his judgment, may fill him with the pow- existence. Seria ludo was the motto of the ers of a prophet and the ardor of an apostle. wisest and the best: among the most reSuch was to M. de Tocqueville the conscious fined of the upper classes the art of converness of the facts and influences of Democracy sation was the main criterion of superiority; in the present and future generations of civ- and the highest faculties found their eserilized Man, and the effect of this permanent cise in private theatricals, family mystificastudy, discreetly used and sanely regulated, tions, and every kind of elaborate amusestood out in strange contrast to the diffuse ment. Then the tact and beauty of Madame fancies and distracted notions of the political Récamier sufficed to rule over Parisian life ; sciolists of our age. France had abounded then no one asked for poetry deeper than in men who had been mastered by ideas, but Delille's, or for piety more earnest than that the spectacle was new of a mind replete with of Chateaubriand. In this atmosphere, and a great thought yet entirely free from any with no graver education, grew up young concomitant delusion,-at once passionately Clérel de Tocqueville. He was free from absorbed and absolutely judicial,—without care as to his future destination, for his faprejudice either on one side from partiality ther had purchased him a magistracy, accordor on another from fear of its imputation, ing to the customs of the profession, in which laboring for the strictest evidence of truths his natural acuteness, and still more his juinstinctively apprehended, and seeking for dicial turn of mind, would in the ordinary every corroboration of certainties already course of events elevate him to the highest known.
dignities the bench, with no exclusive sacThe phenomenon was all the more sur- rifice of his tastes or time. If he desired to prising, because there was nothing in the attain greater wealth or higher social posiearly life and associations of De Tocqueville tion, few alliances would be inaccessible to a by which this strong impression could natu- descendant of M. de Malesherbes, endowed rally have been induced. Although his youth with rare natural graces and the most amiahad not, like that of M. Guizot, been im- ble temper. His days might glide by in the pressed with the terrors of flight in the light domestic enjoyments that so well suited his of burning châteaux, still it was passed affectionate and unselfish disposition, and in amidst the near remembrances of the atroci- the performence of interesting duties which ties and passions of the Revolution. He he would discharge with ease and satisfacwell knew how, six months after the union tion under a form of procedure where much of his own house with that of the Lamoig- more depends upon the good sense and equinons, his parents had been cast into the table disposition of the judge than on techConciergerie, and had only escaped death by nical knowledge or the formalities of law. the fall of Robespierre. His childhood had But this was not to be : while yet a boy listened to the anecdotes of his grandsire, he said to M. de Beaumont, his friend through M. de Malesherbes, the veteran of liberty, life, and now his biographer, “ Il n'y a à dire: who died in defence of the sovereign who lc'est l'homme politique qu'il faut faire en
nous," and what he meant by this is exhib-| friend that he finds an attraction even in ited by his whole existence. By the disso- the history of Smollett, “ the poorest writer lution of the empire, other politics than ad- the world has produced," and derives a cerministration or intrigue had become possible tain satisfaction from the reflection “how in France; and the experience of some years many great deeds were compatible with so of profound peace had shown that constitu- much individual meanness and so much pubtional institutions were capable of generat- lic vice.” And thus, too, on to the latest work ing the practice and habits of liberty among and to the last moments of his life, there a people who had lost even a desire to pos- ever seemed to stand before his imagination sess it. The organization which had brought two great moral figures sufficient to occupy order out of the social chaos of the Consulate, his entire being, ever correlative, continuand which Napoleon had so long and so suc- ally intermingled: the one, France, her revcessfully adopted to raise himself and level olution and its consequences; the other, all about him, had produced a nation inca- England, her constitutional liberty and its pable of acting or thinking, or even wishing gigantic democratic development in the for themselves; and yet, by the time when United States of America. Tocqueville rose to manhood, France was The worth of this direction given to his fully engaged in the problem of free gov- early mind can hardly be overrated. That ernment,-earnestly interested in the play with his ardor for the happiness of humanity, of the new machine, - duly suspicious of and his devotion to social problems, he monarchical or of democratic encroachment, should have abstained from all that range -conscious that on the issue of this experi- of speculation which has been the sole susment depended the question whether the fu- tenance of German thought in its long poture of the French people was to be a secure litical famine, and with which French idealand wholesome progress to the highest civ-ists in all critical times have filled themilization or a series of incoherent efforts and selves to bursting, is certainly remarkable. reactions, of panics and submissions, of ex- But there was an ethical basis which untravagant hopes and ignoble despairs. If derlay the whole of his political system, , these days had not all the exciting ideals and and which as an expositor of past and presenchanting delusions of those of 1789, of ent history, he constantly asserted, and in which M. de Talleyrand used to speak as the his own practice of statesmanship, with one only ones he had ever known worth living, exception, unswervingly maintained. This at any rate, they afforded ample materials for principle may be defined as the application, the observation of a young and fervid mind. in its fullest sense, of the doctrine of Free In De Tocqueville the fabric rose with the Will to the communities of mankind. Libincidents of every hour, with the last speech, erty, with its duties and responsibilities, the new book, the newspaper article, the li- seemed to him the necessity of all civil sobel, the prosecution, the verdict, the changes ciety worth the name, apart from and above of ministers, the menaces of angry author- all consequences, right or wrong, good or ity, and the counter-threats of popular re-evil. A man or a nation may indeed live sistance. Besides these a certain instinct without freedom, the slave may be happier directed his reflective powers to the old en- than the citizen, and the patriarchal rule emy, and in one sense the conqueror, of his more beneficent than the capricious democcountry, with feelings of more interest than racy ; but such he did not conceive to be the perhaps he liked to own. If the government normal condition of the creatures whom God of France was to rest on representative prin- has placed on the earth, endowed with conciples, where could she look for example, for science and with reason. Laws, as the exwarning, for contrast, for comparison, for il- pression of that conscience, and Order, as lustration, but to England ? Thus the very the result of that reason, must be the highfirst letter in this correspondence, written at est objects of human study and mortal atnineteen, contains a project for an adventure tainment; but, if either the one or the other to spend " incognito” two days in London, depend solely on external authority, they " to see those rascally English, who, we are can hardly occupy the attention or claim the told, are so strong and flourishing ;” just as, interest of a true politician. Just as the eighteen years afterwards, he tells the same value of education consists in the thing
learnt, in the powers developed, in the tional character, and both originated and
comforts of peoples, but in those manifestaEach History assumed for him the char- tions of feeling and desire which we comacter of a Biography, and his interest in it prehend under the name of Manners. Unwas exactly proportioned to the amount of der such an analysis the old definitions of individuality and the variety of faculty it Governments positively disappear; the pardisplayed. The mere adventures of a nation, ticles, so to say, that we had looked upon as however exciting or surprising, were to him the most antagonistic are found together in but as the reading of a child, compared with solution, or act on one another so as to prothe absorbing study of the exhibition of duce the most unexpected results. Thus it passions and of the operations of intellect. is shown that it was the centralization of the He had an indulgence, almost a respect, for old monarchy in France which mainly led to passions which he himself never felt ; lov- its destruction, while in the United States ing, as he said, “ those that are good, and the weakness of the Federal Government is not quite sure that he hated the bad," for proved to be tending to the dissolution of they showed a strength which irresistibly the Union. Thus is traced the growth of soattracted him amid the doubt and languor cial equality in France, in opposition to of modern times. He was ready to recog- every law and every institution ; and thus nize the importance of intellectual processes, is examined the problem of an aristocracy for which he himself had no inclination. of intellect and wealth in North America Voltaire, he remarks, might call metaphys- gradually separating itself from the troubleics “the romance of the mind ; ” but he felt some duties of public life and leaving the that they penetrated, by means of religious destinies of the nation in the hands of the doctrine and moral speculation, into the na- masses, without temperate and foresecing
leaders. Thus M. de Tocqueville, amid the of any treatment of history which professed anger of the Assembly, anticipated the rey- to be purely scientific. With as absolute an olution of 1848 as about to burst forth, not assertion of the worthlessness of any moral from any love of license or popular passion, agencies that do not spring from or correbut from the worse influence of false ideas spond with the laws of human nature as Mr. and erroneous political economy. And thus, Buckle himself could pronounce, he continin 1849, he quitted official life with so clear ually comments on the inability of our reaa prognostication of the coming Empire, son, at the best, to do more than register that he hardly expected a coup d'état as the the great phenomena as they unfold theminstrument of a design which the panic of selves, and the imperfection of the most the nation at itself and its own acts had al- acute deduction when compared with the exready made secure.
perience of one life of ordinary duration. Regarding, then, the sources of political He forcibly represents this feeling in a late action as so deep and various, De Tocque- letter, where he adverts to the clearness with ville seems to have acknowledged the ele- which we now perceive that the French Revment of democracy in modern societies as olution grew out of the evils and discrepthe inevitable historical consequence of the ancies of the old régime, the Empire out of progress of mankind ; and when M. de the excesses and follies of the Revolution, Kergorlay and other friends were ready to the Restoration out of the violences of the admit the power as too painfully manifest, Empire, the Revolution of 1830 out of the but at the same time assumed it to be noth- inconsistencies of the Restoration, the Reing more than a disease to be checked or a public out of the defects of the representadanger to be averted, they shocked his tive Monarchy, and the Empire again out of moral convictions quite as much as his the wild hopes and still wilder fears that the political creed. Had the lot of De Tocque- Republic engendered ; yet all this with how ville been cast in Austria or in Russia, he little result in illustrating or pointing out would probably have been content to limit what is now to come! If he had lived a the exercise of his faculties and the sphere little longer, what an example of the fallacy of his happiness to domestic affections and of man's profoundest thoughts and acutest the occupations of literature; and while he inferences would he himself have mournwould not have interfered with the police, fully acknowledged in the unnatural and inand hardly with the administration of affairs, credible convulsions of the United States of he would never have been a conspirator or a America ! disturber of society. As a citizen however of De Tocqueville might well ask those who a state calling itself free, it was essentially re- accused him of fanciful or extravagant pulsive to him to use his own freedom to re- opinions—and there were some such among strain the desires of other men any further his closest friends—what was there beyond than was needed to ensure the liberty and se- the presence of imperative facts and the curity of all. He accepted the mediæral dis- duty of interpreting for the best the obvious tinction of liberty as a privilege, but it was as designs of Providence, which could induce a privilege which every man might, and in- him to show respect to democracy? He had deed ought, to win and to enjoy. He did not not the robust frame and superabundant acshrink from the revolutionary definition of tivity which give even to gentle natures a Liberty as a universal right, but it was that delight in popular tumult and infectious exhe held it to be, as he eloquently describes citement, nor had he that half-sensual, halfthe right of Life itself, not an object either imaginative temperament, so frequent among of pleasure or of pain, but a serious charge his countrymen, which reconciles a taste for which the lowliest, as the highest, is bound license with pure and generous aims. to sustain to the last with honor. Besides Whatever might be his views on that unthis, there pervades all De Tocqueville's practical speculation, the ultimate destiny of writings an earnest sense of the moral gov- the human race, he regarded with open conzrnment of the world by a superior Will di- tempt all “phalansterian " and similar projsecting the inclinations of mankind. The ects for the immediate or rapid perfectibility rame mental temper which made all despot- of mankind; and while he saw the demoim odious to him rendered him distrustful cratic spirit to be compatible with mental depression and torpid monotony of life in the extension of his useful influence or for small communities such as the Russian vil- the honorable connection of his name with lage, he knew it, in the masses of large cit- the history of his country, he never seems ies, to be ever tending towards the repres- for a moment to have considered his own sion of original thought and a lower stand career as a prime object, or to have let the ard of intelligence and morality. His own hopes or fears concerning it weigh with him refined and delicate appreciation of imper- a grain in comparison with the idea to be fection and rudeness, whether in manners, realized or the thing to be done. He knew in literature, or in speech, made the inter- himself to be placed in an age and among a course of ordinary persons distasteful to people when and where it became a wise him, and gave a consciousness of effort to man to be prepared for every eventuality, his every public appearance and contact with and in face of such catastrophes as made the the vulgar majority. And above all, he had consideration of his personal comfort and an abiding sense of reverence which was an importance thoroughly insignificant. One impassable bar between him and the chief only personal feeling appears prominently advocates of liberalism, not only in France, in these pages-sadness at the inadequacy but throughout Europe. It requires to read of his physical powers to sustain him through these letters to feel how heavily the aliena- all he desires to accomplish, and the prestion, on the one hand, of the friends of free-cience of the shortness of the time that dom from the religious sentiment, and the would be allotted to him. “I cannot help formal alliance between despotism and piety thinking," he writes, “ that Providence, who on the other, pressed upon a mind that has already bestowed on me so many keenly loved to trace the same hand in the undevi- felt and elevated enjoyments, does not inating orbits of the planets as in those revo- tend my life to be long : I am not strong lutions of society which advance for centu- enough to bear incessant work, yet inactivries through a thousand obstacles, and which ity kills me.” In another letter : “I own are still proceeding in the midst of the ruins that in one respect my future is clouded ; I they themselves have made. It was hard cannot reckon on the first condition of sucenough, he thought, for the politician of our cess, which is life.” Once more, after a times to have to reconcile equality with lib- course of severe study: “Still to benefit by erty, without the necessity of identifying the all this knowledge one must live.” If he freedom of Man with the negation of God. had been left to fight alone against despond
Yet it may be that the main zest of the ency and disease, that conflict would have character of De Tocqueville lies in this very ended still sooner. “Of all the blessingą contradiction, and herein also the secret of which God has given me,” he says, " the his fame. Now that he is gone to rest, and greatest is to have lighted on Marie; she that we have here before us the chronicle of watches over me without my knowing it" his thoughts and motives, from youth to So again : “I think I should have died if death, as he showed them to friends in a Marie had not watched over me, mind and country where friendship is the custom of body." Happy the recollection for her wo society and the solace of existence, we can still remains on earth that“ she could soften, estimate the constancy of the striver and calm, and strengthen him in the difficulties the nobility of the strife. While the politics which disturbed him, but left her serene;" of other men are the reflex of their natural that without her even his magnanimous dispositions, their inclinations, or their in- spirit might have sunk yet sooner under the terests, De Tocqueville was always dealing afflictions of his country, which he bore as with truths wherein he saw quite as much to his own, and that her heart was with him repel as to please, and arriving at results in those latter years of social isolation when more often suggestive of defeat than of vic- he felt himself shut out of the intellectual tory to the principles he served. Interests commonwealth of his age and nation, the in the ordinary sense of the word he could hermit and the martyr of liberty. It is hardly be said to admit into his theory of pleasant also to remember that this lady is life. Conscious of his own worth, sensitive a countrywoman of our own, whom De Tocto the gratifications of praise, ambitious queville first met at Versailles in his early enough to make any personal sacrifice for practice of the law, and married soon after