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public works, by drawing to Paris suddenly a hundred thousand workmen, and by destroying suddenly ten thousand houses, has created the deficiency of habitations. It seems, however, that the systematic intimidation and oppression of the rich in favour of the poor, is every day becoming more and more one of the principles of our Government.
I read yesterday a circular from the prefect of La Sarthe, a public document, stuck up on the church-doors and in the market-places, which, after urging the landed proprietors of the department to assess themselves for the relief of the poor, adds, that their insensibility becomes more odious when it is remembered that for many years they have been growing rich by the rise of prices, which is spreading misery among the lower orders.
The real character of our Government, its frightful mixture of socialism and despotism, was never better shown.
I have said enough to prevent your getting my letter. If it should escape the rogue who manages our post-office, let me know as soon as you can.
A. DE. TOCQUEVILLE.
Tocqueville, February 11, 1857. I must ask you, my dear Senior, to tell me yourself how you have borne this long winter. I suppose that it has been the same in England as in Normandy, for the two climates are alike.
Freedom of Speech.
Here we have been buried for ten or twelve days under a foot of snow, and it froze hard during the whole time. How has your larynx endured this trial? I assure you that we take great interest in that larynx of yours. Give us therefore some news of it.
Your letter gave us fresh pleasure by announcing your intention of passing April and May in Paris. We shall certainly be there at the same time, and perhaps before. I hope that we shall see you continually. We are, you know, among the very many people who delight in your society ; besides, we have an excellent right to your friendship.
I am looking forward with great pleasure to your Egypt. What I already know of that country leads me to think that of all your reminiscences it will afford the most novelty and interest.
I do not think that your visit to Paris will be a very valuable addition to your journals. If I may judge by the letters which I receive thence, society there has never been flatter, nor more insipid, nor more entirely without any dominant idea. I need not tell you that your opinion of our statesmen is the same as that which
prevails in Paris, but it is of such an ancient date, and is so obvious, that it cannot give rise to interesting discussions.
A-propos of statesmen, we cannot understand how a man who made, inter pocula, the speech of — on his
, travels can remain in a government. I think that even ours, though so long-suffering towards its agents, could not tolerate anything similar even if it should secretly approve. Absolute power has its limits. The
Prince de Ligne, in a discourse which you have doubtless read, seems to me to have described it in one word by saying that it was the speech of a gamin.
I am, however, ungrateful to criticise it, for I own that it amused me extremely, and that I thought that Morny especially was drawn from life; but I think that if I had the honour of being Her Britannic Majesty's Prime Minister, I should not have laughed so heartily. How could so clever a man be guilty of such eccentricities? In my
last letter to our excellent friend Mrs. Grote, I ventured to say that there was one person who wrote even worse than I did, and that it was you. Your last letter has filled me with remorse, for I could actually read it, and even without trouble. I beg, therefore, to make an amende honorable, and envy you your power of advancing towards perfection.
I still think of paying a little visit to England in June. Adieu, dear Senior. Do not be angry with me for not writing on politics. Indeed I could tell you nothing, for I know nothing, and besides, just now politics are not to be treated by Frenchmen, in letters.
A. DE TOCQUEVILLE.
Tocqueville, March 8, 1857. I still write to you, my dear Senior, from hence. We cannot tear ourselves away from the charms of our retreat, or from a thousand little employments. We shall scarcely reach Paris, therefore, before you. You will
therefore, yourself bring me the remainder of your curious journal. What I have already seen makes me most anxious to read the rest. I have never read anything which gave me more valuable information on Egypt and Oriental politics in general. As soon as I possibly can, I look forward to continuing its perusal.
The papers tell us that your Ministry has been beaten on the Chinese War. It seems to me to have been an ill-chosen battle-field. The war was, perhaps, somewhat wantonly begun, and very roughly managed; but the fault lay with distant and subordinate agents. Now that it has begun, no Cabinet can avoid carrying it on vigorously. The existing Ministry will do as well for this as any other. As there is no line of policy to be changed, the upsetting is merely to put in the people who are now out.
If the Ministry falls, the man least to be pitied will be our friend Lewis. He will go out after having obtained a brilliant triumph on his own ground, and he will enjoy the good fortune, rare to public men, of quitting power greater than he was when he took it, and with the enviable reputation of owing his greatness, not merely to his talents, but also to the respect and the confidence which he has universally inspired.
All this delights me; for I feel towards him, and towards all his family, a true friendship.
To return to China.
It seems to me that the relations between that country and Europe are changed, and dangerously changed.
Till now, Europe has had to deal only with a Chinese
government—the most wretched of governments. Now you will find opposed to you a people ; and a people, however miserable and corrupt, is invincible on its own territory, if it be supported and impelled by common and violent passions.
Yet I should be sorry to die before I have seen China open to the eyes as well as to the arms of Europe. Do
you believe in a dissolution ? If so, when ? A thousand regards to Mrs. Grote, to the great historian, to the Reeves, and generally to all who are kind enough to remember my existence.
I delight in the prospect of meeting you in Paris ; yet I fear that you will find it dull. All that I hear from the great town shows me that never, at least during the last two hundred years, has intellectual life been less active.
If there be talent in the official circles, it is not the talent of conversation, and among those who formerly possessed that talent, there is so much torpidity, such want of interest on public affairs, such ignorance as to what is passing, and so little wish to hear about it, that no one, I am told, knows what to talk about or to take interest in. Your conversation, however, is so agreeable and stimulating that it is capable of reanimating the dead. Come and try to work this miracle. A thousand remembrances.
A. DE TOCQUEVILLE.