restricted access Appendix 5
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1368 s4s4s4s4s4 a p p e n d i x 5 Letter of Alexis de Tocqueville to Charles Stoffels Versailles, 21 April 1830 I have greatly delayed replying to you, my dear friend, not as muchhowever as would be indicated by the date of your letter, which bears the date 11 April, although it arrived only on the 15th, but you know what a rush of things I am caught up in. Even today, I hardly have the time to say to you all that I would like; I cannot wait any longer, however, without riskingnot finding you at Metz. So pardon me if I only touch very lightly on the question that you treated in depth and remarkably well (I say it to you not as a compliment). And first, my dear friend, I will say to you that you make me out to be much more of a killjoy than I am naturally; you give me a convictionwhere I have only expressed doubts, and an absolute opinion when I have surrounded myself with qualifications. If you have done it for the purpose of the case, as a lawyer wouldsay,nothingbetter;butif youactedinvoluntarily, I must point out the error and reestablish the pointof departure.Ingeneral, my dear Charles, you must not imagine that, when I am discussing something with you, I have always taken care to develop fully the ideas that I put forward. You would in truth do me an honor that I do not deserve. I do not believe that you should talk with your friends as you speak inpublic. To stir the mind, to give the desire to reflect, to raise in passing questions that reflection comes to elaborate, such is the goal of conversation in my opinion; and I never have another with you. So, I beg of you, never take to the letter and, above all, as definitivetheopinionsthatIdonotreexamine and that I often throw out, more as a topic than as the result of reflection. letter to charles stoffels 1369 To come back to the great question that we are debating at this moment, I can put my point of view into two sentences. 1. I doubt that the advanced state of civilization is as superior to the middling state as is proclaimed, even when the march of civilization has been well conducted; 2. I believe that almost always the intellectual education of a people is poorly done and that consequently enlightenment is often a fatal gift. Among all half-civilized peoples, you recognize almost the same base of sentiments, ideas, passions, vices and virtues, more or less hidden it is true, but always easy to recognize. Different characters are to peoples what physiognomy is to the man: they differentiate peoples externally rather than demonstrating a profound and radical difference between them. In the same way, you always find the mixture of the same elements among nations that have reached a very high degree of civilization; here, the bad elements are more numerous than the good ones; elsewhere, the opposite happens, but all are united solely by this social state.Thus,putting aside all special application, you can form theoretically the idea of a halfcivilized people and that of a completely enlightened people; no particular circumstance, good or bad, has come to influence the developmentof these two principles, and I compare these two peoples with each other. Among the first of the two, among the one still half-savage, the social state is imperfect, public force is badly organized, and the struggle between it and individual force is often unequal; there is little security for the individual , little tranquillity for the mass, mores brutal, ideas simple, religion there is almost always poorly understood. That is the bad side. Here is the good: forced back on itself in this way, the soul there finds an admirable spring of action, and individual force finds unexpected development; love of country is not rational, but instinctive, and this blind instinct brings forth miracles; sentiments are clear-cut, convictions profound; consequently devotion is not rare there, enthusiasm is common and scorn for death is deep in the heart and not on the lips. Now let us compare to this half-civilized people the onethathasattained a high degree of civilization. Among the latter, the social body has foreseen everything; theindividual 1370 letter to charles stoffels gives himself the pain of being born; as for the rest, society takes hold of him in the arms of his wet-nurse, it oversees his...