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Politics & Views

The Second Republic

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Jupiter (Barrot), par Cham

Jupiter (Barrot), Cham, engraving from the Comical National Assembly series, 1848; private collection
© Olivier Ménard

In 1849, Tocqueville was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs under Barrot's second ministry, thus reaching the highest levels of political responsibility. Nevertheless, his stay at the top of the State, which might have passed for his finest political hour, lasted only five months, from June 3 to October 31, 1849. It ended in the inability of the ministry to support the Republic against the vaguely imperial leanings of its president and of Tocqueville, in particular, in the areas under his responsibility. It should be pointed out that the new cabinet, like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, inherited a political situation that was, both internally and externally, extremely delicate.
In the spring of 1849, the formation of a new government was complicated, and the source of a number of negotiations: Barrot, remaining as head of government, demanded that he be joined by Dufaure, who himself interceded on behalf of Tocqueville. Alexis, resigned to the fact that he would not be put in charge of public education as he had wanted, accepted the appointment to Foreign Affairs. He demanded that his friend Lanjuinais also be appointed, who was given the Ministry of Trade and Agriculture.

« I felt strongly that I should serve only briefly in the government rather than dwell in it, but I hoped to stay long enough to do my country some signal service and add to my stature. That was enough to draw me in. »

Similarly, when he took up his functions at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tocqueville hastened to surround himself with his closest friends, and named Arthur de Gobineau as head of cabinet, Lamoricière as French ambassador to Russia - following which the Tsar formally recognized the Republic - and Beaumont as the government's representative in Vienna. He even decided to send Corcelle to Italy to represent him in the Rome Afffair, which rapidly became one of the most complicated and delicate questions that Tocqueville had to deal with as minister. In fact, upon his arrival at the ministry, France had already chosen sides - and badly so - since an order had already been issued to support and restore Pope Pius IX in the Papal States against the new Republic of Garibaldi and Mazzini. Although Tocqueville refused from the start to justify the policies of his predecessor - of which he disapproved, and which seemed to mix up a series of more and less worthy goals in order to restore the Pope's temporal authority, as well as impose liberal institutions on central Italy - he refused to allow France to lose face in this affair, and wanted to act accordingly. To do so, he intensified hostilities in order to shorten them, and to take Rome as quickly as possible.

« Once I settled in at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was confronted with the state of affairs, I was terrified by the number of difficulties I saw, and by their magnitude. »

He no doubt thought that French policy could impose a constitutional regime on the Roman States, but he was unsuccessful in this. His failure in the matter, which was also due to a number of misunderstandings with Corcelle and his troubled role, caused the downfall of Barrot's second ministry on October 31, 1849. The cabinet was sharply dissolved by a message from Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, who accused it of not "sufficiently maintaining order within, and the dignity of France without",
which hurt Tocqueville deeply.

Political Figures

The French army lands at Civita-Vecchia

The French army lands at Civita-Vecchia, anonymous

Tocqueville and Lanjuinais yoked to the ministry

Tocqueville and Lanjuinais yoked to the ministry,
Alexis de Tocqueville, private collection
© AD Manche/A. Poirier

The government of France, Alexis de Tocqueville

"The government of France", sketch; Alexis de Tocqueville, private collection
© AD Manche/A.Poirier

The Ministry of Babel

The Ministry of Babel, Bertall © AD Manche/A. Poirier


The Italian affair

The Italian Affair
© Archives diplomatiques de Nantes

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