Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

came to the assistance of the Assembly in June 1848. The Republic was wise enough to impose no oaths. It did not require those who were willing to serve it to begin by openly disavowing their traditionary opinions and principles. The Legitimists took their places in the Conseils-généraux. They joined with the bourgeoisie in local administration, the only means by which men of different classes can coalesce.

*The socialist tendencies which are imputed to this Second Empire, the oath which it most imprudently imposes, its pretensions to form a dynasty, and its assertion of the principle most abhorrent to them, elective monarchy, have thrown them back into disaffection. And I believe their disaffection to be one of our great dangers—a danger certainly increased by the Fusion. The principal object of the Fusion is to influence the army. The great terror of the army is division in itself. It will accept anything, give up anything, dare anything, to avoid civil war. Rather than be divided between the two branches, it would have adhered to the Empire. Now it can throw off the Bonapartes without occasioning a disputed succession.

When you say, I asked, “that the Legitimists are not the successors of the old aristocracy in cultivation, intelligence, or energy, do you mean to ascribe to them positive or relative inferiority in these qualities ?'

'In energy,' answered Tocqueville, “their deficiency is positive. They are ready to suffer for their cause, they are not ready to exert themselves for it. In intelligence and cultivation they are superior to any other class in

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

France; but they are inferior to the English aristocracy, and they are inferior, as I said before, to their ancestors of the eighteenth century. There existed in the highest Parisian society towards the end of that century a comprehensiveness of curiosity and inquiry, a freedom of opinion, an independence, and soundness of judgment, never seen. before or since. Its pursuits, its pleasures, its admirations, its vanities, were all intellectual. Look at the success of Hume. His manners were awkward ; he was a heavy, though an instructive, converser ; he spoke bad French; he would pass now for an intelligent bore. But such was the worship then paid to talents and knowledgeespecially to knowledge, and talents employed on the destruction of prejudices—that Hume was, for years, the lion of all the salons of Paris. The fashionable beauties quarrelled for the fat philosopher. Nor was their admiration or affection put on, or even transitory. He retained some of them as intimate friends for life. If the brilliant talkers and writers of that time were to return to life, I do not believe that gas, or steam, or chloroform, or the electric telegraph, would so much astonish them as the dulness of modern society, and the mediocrity of modern books.'

In the evening we discussed the new scheme of throwing open the service of India and of the Government offices to public competition.

We have followed,' said Tocqueville, 'that system to a great extent for many years. Our object was twofold. One was to depress the aristocracy of wealth, birth, and connexions. In this we have succeeded.

The Ecole Polytechnique, and the other schools in which the vacancies are given to those who pass the best examinations, are filled by youths belonging to the middle classes, who, undistracted by society, or amusement, or by any literary or scientific pursuits, except those immediately bearing on their examinations, beat their better-born competitors, who will not degrade themselves into the mere slaves of success in the concours. Our other object was to obtain the best public servants. In that we have failed. We have brought knowledge and ability to an average ; diminished the number of incompetent employés, and reduced, almost to nothing, the number of distinguished ones. Continued application to a small number of subjects, and those always the same, not selected by the student, but imposed on him by the inflexible rule of the establishment, without reference to his tastes or to his powers, is as bad for the mind as the constant exercise of one set of muscles would be for the body.

We have a name for those who have been thus educated. They are called “ polytechnisés.” If you follow our example, you will increase your second-rates, and extinguish your first-rates; and what is perhaps a more important result, whether you consider it a good or an evil, you will make a large stride in the direction in which you have lately made so many—the removing the government and the administration of England from the hands of the higher classes into those of the middle and lower ones.'

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

CORRESPONDENCE.

Paris, Sunday, May 14, 1854. My dear Tocqueville, -I write to you in meditatione fuga. We start for England in an hour's time. The last news that I heard of you was the day before yesterday from Cousin. He read me your letter, which sounded to me like that of a man in not very bad health or hopes. I trust that the attack of which Madame de Tocqueville wrote to us has quite passed off.

Thiers, who asked very anxiously after you to-day, is earnest that you should be present at the election on the 18th. The Academy, he said, is very jealous. Vous serez très-mal vu, if you do not come.

You are at last going seriously to work in the war. By the end of the year you will have, military and naval, 700,000 men in arms.

I wish that they were nearer to the enemy.

Pray remember us most kindly to Madame de Tocqueville, and let us know where you go as soon as you are decided.

Ever yours,

N. W. SENIOR

St. Cyr, May 21, 1854. I followed the advice which you were commissioned to give me, my dear Senior. I have just been to Paris, but as I stayed there only twenty-four hours I have not brought back any distinct impressions.

I saw only Academicians who talked about the Academy, and who knew nothing of politics.

It is true that such is now the case with everyone. Politics, which used to be transacted in open day, have now become a secret process into which none can penetrate except the two or three alchemists who are engaged in its preparation.

You heard of course that after your little visit, which we enjoyed so much, I became very unwell, and my mind was only less affected than my body. I spent a month very much out of spirits and very much tired of myself. During the last eight or ten days I have felt much better. My visit to our friends the Beaumonts did me a great deal of good, and I owe a grudge to the Academy for forcing me to shorten it.

I still intend to visit Germany, but the plan depends on the state of my health. When it is bad I am inclined to give up the journey, when I am better I take it up again and look forward to it with pleasure. On the whole I think that I shall go. But it is impossible for me to settle my route beforehand. Even if I were stronger it would be difficult, for such an expedition must always be uncertain.

I am not going to Germany to see any place in particular, but intend to go hither and thither wherever I can find certain documents and people.

I received yesterday a letter from our friend Ampère. He is still in Rome, still more and more enchanted with the place, and using every argument to induce us to spend there with him the winter of 1856. His descriptions are so attractive that we may very likely be persuaded, especially if we had any chance of meeting

$

[ocr errors]
« НазадПродовжити »