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Politics & Views


The Second Republic

Representative of the people

The Constitution of 1848

The Constitution of 1848, anonymous
© PMVP/Briant

Tocqueville was more at home in the new Constituent Assembly than he had been in the Chamber of Deputies, and quickly threw himself into the most urgent tasks facing the new representatives of the people. The first of these was the creation of a Constitution for the Second Republic, and in the first round of voting he was elected member of the Committee in charge of drawing up this text that was essential for the organization of the new regime and its longevity. Other committee members included Cormenin, Lamennais, Vivien, Dufaure, Barrot and his friend Beaumont. Within the framework of this task, Tocqueville made two major speeches: the first concerned the right to work, a principle whose adoption into the Constitution was awaited by the workers responsible for the 1848 Revolution, and whom Tocqueville opposed in the name of individual freedom and the rejection of the socialization of society.

Constitution review committee

Constitution review committee, anonymous
© BNF

The second speech firmly supported the principle of the election of the President of the Republic by the people. In fact, Tocqueville had tried in vain to defend the principle of bicameralism - which the United States had proved to be valid - in order to counterbalance the overwhelming power of a single Chamber. The Committee finally opted for the election of the President by universal suffrage, and for a single term. Above all, Tocqueville wanted to avoid future revolutions by guaranteeing the new regime a form of political stability, which he wanted to support with free and moderate institutions through a form of balance between the various powers. But he was disappointed with the functioning of this Committee entrusted with the creation of the Constitution, as well as with the results that it produced.

« The proposed constitution contained 139 articles and was prepared in less than a month. It would have been impossible to work faster, but one could have done better. »
(Souvenirs)

He was also disappointed with his participation in the Education Committee, which was supposed to discuss major questions concerning the free and mandatory nature of schooling, as well as the question of the freedom of teaching. The debates during the various sessions were confused, as we can see from the various minutes that have come down to us.
His disappointment was even greater when he discovered, after the first presidential election, that Louis Napoleon Bonaparte had won a large majority of votes over Cavaignac, who had temporarily held the position since 1848, and whom Tocqueville had supported. He clearly saw Louis Napoléon as an enemy of the Republic, and even thought of ending his political career before finally standing for election to the Legislative Assembly. His mandate as deputy from La Manche was thus renewed on May 13, 1849, while he was on his first trip to Germany with his wife. Hoping that the change in ministers imposed by the election of the new Assembly, he cut short his trip and returned to France, persuaded that he and some of his political allies could and should come to the rescue of the Republic.

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Political Figures

Allons, voilà mon pointu de neveu..

Allons, voilà mon pointu de neveu..., anonymous
© PMVP / Briant

Archives

Nomination of Alexis de Tocqueville to the Constitution Committee

Nomination of Alexis de Tocqueville to the Constitution Committee, May 17, 1848
© CHAN

Official poster announcing the presidential election of December 1848

Official poster announcing the presidential election of December 1848, private collection
© AD Manche/A. Poirier

Poster announcing an uncovered slander about the presidential election

Poster announcing an uncovered slander about the presidential election
© AD Manche/Poirier

Tally of votes obtained by the candidates for the department of La Manche

Tally of votes obtained by the candidates for the department of La Manche
© CHAN

Composition of Barrot's new cabinet

Composition of Barrot's new cabinet
© AD Manche/A. Poirier

Citizens' protest in the Cherbourg arrondissement

Citizens' protest in the Cherbourg arrondissement © CHAN

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