6 - Tocqueville
“A Vile Tragedy Performed by Provincial Actors”
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 March 2021
As a member of the National Assembly and (for five months) Foreign Minister, Tocqueville played an important role in the history of the French Second Republic. His Recollections offer a fascinating picture of the major actors, the revolutionary journées, and his unhappy experience as minister. One remarkable feature of the Recollections is the brutal clarity of Tocqueville’s judgments. By his own account, it was not a work of history but a memoir written “for myself alone.” In prose marked by a somewhat archaic elegance, Tocqueville vividly conveys a sense of the hopes and fears of the propertied classes. He takes a dark view of both the July Monarchy and the republicans and socialists who brought it down. He argues that by limiting politics to a narrow stratum, the July Monarchy had fatally impoverished the notion of public interest and that the radicals who had a chance at power in 1848 were so lacking in political experience that they could only play at revolution, mimicking the roles and gestures of the revolutionaries of 1789–1794. The chapter includes a substantial discussion of Tocqueville’s tenure as Foreign Minister and his role in the French overthrow of the Roman Republic and the restoration of papal power in Rome.
- Writers and RevolutionIntellectuals and the French Revolution of 1848, pp. 203 - 239Publisher: Cambridge University PressPrint publication year: 2021