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Œuvre


Souvenirs

First part
« I do not want to write the history of the revolution of 1848.
I merely wish to retrace my actions, my ideas, and my impressions via this revolution. »
(Souvenirs, Part 2, Chapter 3)

In the winter of 1850, Tocqueville suffered an initial attack of tuberculosis, and was forced to take a leave of absence from the Legislative Assembly on March 26th of that year. Anxious to recover his health and to take stock of his political commitments, he extended his convalescence at the chateau de Tocqueville where he began to write his Souvenirs, aided by a collection of newspapers that he located at Valognes. The entire first part of the text was written during this period: after presenting the author's project of sketching the portrait of the "general appearance of the period preceding the Revolution of 1848", the book sets out to describe the events of February 1848 from the "first warning signs of this Revolution" through to the fall of the July Monarchy. The first part of the text opens with a long essay on the causes of the failure of the July Monarchy, in which Tocqueville openly accuses the bourgeois ruling class, due to its "spirit of deceit, baseness and corruption" of being entirely isolated "from the people from whose ranks they came", of having diverted public affairs for their benefit, and through this of being responsible for the popular uprising. A second chapter describes the "Campagne des Banquets", in which Tocqueville refused to take part, and ends with three large chapters devoted to the sequence of events during the revolutionary days of February 1848. Recounting the events takes precedence over analysis, but Tocqueville takes the time to deliver a few vicious jabs at the principal protagonists - both victors and vanquished. it has often been said, and rightly so, how much his regard in these pages is that of a political cartoonist, depicting the political world as a sort of bestiary: Lacordaire resembles a vulture, Hébert has "long hair which usuallys falls across his mouth, and which from afar looks like the spiked fur of a cat", Dupin is "half monkey and half jackal, forever sarcastic, grimacing, loping about, and ever ready to pounce upon the unlucky one who stumbles", and Barrot assembles his ministers like a hen gathers her chicks. As if to defend himself, Tocqueville warns the reader that the sum of the events seems to him to be "a bad tragedy performed by bad actors", and that this appearance of human comedy is much more due to the actors themselves than the invention of the author. All irony is cast aside, however, when he recounts with emotion the courage of the duchess d'OrléansMarie-Caroline de Bourbon-Sicile
Duchess of Berry (1798-1870)
In 1832, she instigated a conspiracy to overthrow Louis-Philippe of the House of Orléans in order to bring to the throne the legitimate pretender, Henri V, the last of the Bourbons and posthumous son of her husband, the duc de Berry, who was assassinated in Paris in 1820. After a secret landing on the coast of Provence, her plot went awry, and she was obliged to hide. With the police in pursuit, she managed to reach the Vendée and then Nantes, where she was found and imprisoned in Blaye. Chateaubriand took up her defense and became her official sponsor.
, who came to the Chamber of Deputies to defend, in vain, the solution of the Regency.

Jupiter (Barrot), par Cham

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

Caricature of Alexis Tocqueville

Caricature of Alexis Tocqueville, Cham
© Olivier Ménard

Caricature Guizot's parrot

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

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