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Voyages


The July Monarchy

His career as a deputy
« I am like a cog in a machine, a cog that is rotating very rapidly but has failed to engage with the mechanism, so that I do nothing and accomplish nothing. Yet it seems to me that in other times and with other men, I could have done better. . For the real nightmare of our time is that we see nothing worthy of love or hatred but only of contempt. »
(Souvenirs)

After the success of Democracy in America, Tocqueville, who had long dreamed of a political career, stood for election for the first time on November 4, 1837. He hesitated for a long time before choosing his constituency, and had seriously planned on representing Paris's 10th arrondissement, which at the time consisted of the Faubourg Saint-Germain and the Latin Quarter. He finally decided to reconnect with his roots, and ran for the seat of deputy from Valognes in department of La Manche. His first attempt was a failure: the incumbent, Polydor Le Marois, who would become his local political opponent in years to come, won the second-round election by 247 votes to 221. This would be Tocqueville's only electoral upset of his career - he was elected to this same seat on March 2, 1839, winning 318 votes to 240 for Polydor Le Marois. He was reelected in July 1842, and again on August 1, 1846, as well as under the Second Republic.

Le ventre législatif in 1834, Daumier

Le ventre législatif in 1834, Honoré Daumier © BNF

Alexis de Tocqueville's chamber portfolio

Alexis de Tocqueville's chamber portfolio, private collection
© AD Manche/A. Poirier

When he entered the Chamber of Deputies in 1839, Tocqueville - in an attempt to erase the legitimist connotations that his family's name evoked, and to show his solidarity with his constituents - insisted on being seated on the left side of the Chamber, where he was given seat number 319, in the center left of the assembly. He had much more difficulty finding his place in the "miserable political world" and those who took part in it, given that he refused any alliance with Thiers and Guizot, and that he found the lack of any organized opposition deplorable. His marginal position did not improve as the parliamentary sessions went on, one after the other. He was the first to bemoan his political powerlessness, while continuing to refuse any sort of permanent alliance with his colleagues.

« I spent ten years of my life in the company of very great minds, who, though constantly active, never became passionate and who, though they searched for serious disagreements with all their perspicacity, never found any.
. I am not sure that any parliament has ever included such a variety of brilliant and talented men. Yet I can assure you that these great orators bored one another to death. »
(Souvenirs)

He took on the role of "special deputy", in charge of specific dossiers such the emancipation of slaves in the French colonies, the colonization of Algeria, and prison reform, for which his previous experience, his specific abilities and his taste for literature gris served him particularly well.
In the aftermath of the 1846 elections, which the conservatives won, Tocqueville and some of his political alles, like Corcelle and Dufaure, attempted to found a "Young Left" party. The party, in an attempt to combine political liberalism with social justice, proposed to take action in areas such as the corruption of elected officials, redistribution of taxation, and increased forms of social aid. But the attempt was fruitless, and did not rescue Tocqueville from political isolation, nor did it save the Chamber from an immobility that became so entrenched in the final years of the regime that it threatened the regime itself.

See
Political Figures

Caricature Guizot's parrot

Caricature Guizot's parrot, Honoré Daumier; Musée de Lisieux
© AD Manche/A. Poirier

Archives

Acknowledgment of the surname of Tocqueville

Acknowledgment of the surname of Tocqueville
© CHAN

Deputy's dossier belonging to Alexis de Tocqueville

Deputy's dossier belonging to Alexis de Tocqueville (cover), 1846
© CHAN

Minutes of the election of Alexis de Tocqueville as deputy

Minutes of the election of Alexis de Tocqueville as deputy
© CHAN

Extraits du rôle d'Alexis de Tocqueville dans la Manche

Extraits du rôle d'Alexis de Tocqueville
© CHAN

Projet de loi sur la régence

Bill concerning the Regency
© CHAN

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