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The July Monarchy

The Monarchy and its monarch
« In the political world thus constituted and conducted, what was most lacking, especially toward the end, was political life itself. »

The Revolution of 1830 overcame the last of Tocqueville's legitimist scruples. However, his attachment to the new regime was not exactly enthusiastic, as can be seen in his reticence to swear an oath of allegiance to the Constitutional Charter and the new King of the French. Although the majority of his political career was spent under the July Monarchy, he turned a critical eye on this regime, which represented the triumph of the bourgeoisie. In his Souvenirs, he accused it of being a slave to middle-class interests and of "resembling, towards the end, an industrial firm in which every action is taken with a view to the profits that the management can make out of it." Even Louis-Philippe did not escape his critical eye: he found that the Prince's faults - of which there were many - faithfully reflected the era's vices, which his influence only worsened. The monarch was, to Tocqueville's way of thinking, modest in his tastes, passions, and desires; his limited mind embraced the useful to the detriment of the truth, and his conversation was as full of commonplaces as his entourage was with dishonest courtiers.

« Will we ever again witness the powerful winds of true political passion . passion violent, harsh, and sometimes cruel, but great, selfless, and creative? I cannot get used to what confronts us today. I will never get used to it. »
(Letter to Francisque de Corcelle, October 19, 1839)

According to Tocqueville, the mediocrity of the monarch's personality was reflected in the Chamber of Deputies, where the dynasty of "Thiers, Molé, Guizot" held sway. There was an absence of genuine parliamentary activity organized around major political parties based on clearly announced policies, as Tocqueville would have liked. Instead, political life under the July Monarchy consisted of insignificant questions of interest, compromise, and a spirit of cronyism that ruled over a "little democratic and bourgeois stewpot", from which legitimist and republican representatives were excluded. Tocqueville never found his place in this arrangement, and perhaps it is for this reason that he failed to mention, as posterity has often also done, the more positive aspects of the regime. These included a commitment to freedom of the press, from which Tocqueville himself benefited during his adventure with Le Commerce, and a frequent display of good will, as it showed regarding the fate of slaves in the French colonies, for example. The July Monarchy was definitely more liberal and enlightened than it has been given credit for, but it was too lackluster to meet the heroic aspirations of the young deputy Tocqueville, who had hoped, upon entering on the political scene, to fill his sails with the great wind of History.

Political Figures

Caricature of Louis-Philippe

Caricature of Louis-Philippe, Charles Philippon © PMVP

Louis-Philippe, Winterhalter

Louis-Philippe Ier, king of the French, Franz-Xaver Winterhalter
© RMN / Droits réservés

Caricature of Louis-Philippe

Monsieur Croupion, caricature of Louis-Philippe © PMVP

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