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A. de Tocqueville before America

1827-1830, the magistracy in Versailles:
A crucial period in his intellectual education
« It goes without saying that what we must develop in ourselves is the politician. And to do that we must study history, especially the history of the men who most immediately preceded us in the world. »
(Letter to Gustave de Beaumont, October 25, 1829)

In truth, during the years at Versailles, in addition to court proceedings, Alexis de Tocqueville's mind was equally taken up by the new friends that he met, including Ernest de Blosseville, Ernest de Chabrol and above all Gustave de Beaumont. Beaumont would later become his constant traveling companion as well as one his most faithful friends, but even during this period had a great influence on him. They immediately became great friends. For a time, they shared an apartment on the Rue d'Anjou in Versailles (until Gustave obtained a paid position as deputy public prosecutor on September 27, 1829, which made his new friend acutely jealous). Their friendship was also an intellectual one, since they both decided, in parallel to their work at the court, to follow a rigorous program of study. This included, in addition to various lecture courses by economists and historians, regular attendance between 1823 and 1830 of the famous courses given at the Sorbonne by Guizot, entitled The History of Civilization in Europe and in France. This teaching - which influenced Tocqueville's thinking for some time, and encouraged him to break with his family's legitimism and become more aligned with the liberal movement - left him with the taste for large historical syntheses. His time in Versailles thus considerable changed Tocqueville and made him more independent with respect to his family, especially since it was also at this time that he met Marie Mottley who would become his mistress, and that he began to dream of a political career.

« Secondly, my companions, though they all look rather like prigs, nevertheless have more resources than I thought at first... On closer examination, I have found one or two among them who are truly honorable young men, full of worthy sentiments and quite conscientious. This discovery has enabled me to overcome the disgust I naturally felt for legal forms and mores. »
(Letter to Louis de Kergorlay, July 23, 1827)

Caricature of Guizot's parrot

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

Portrait of Gustave de Beaumont © AD Sarthe

Portrait of Gustave de Beaumont © AD Sarthe

Archives

Notes taken during the courses of François Guizot at the Sorbonne

Notes taken during the courses of François Guizot at the Sorbonne
© AD Manche/A. Poirier

Loyalty oath of Alexis de Tocqueville to the position of apprentice magistrate

Loyalty oath of Alexis de Tocqueville to the position of apprentice magistrate
© AD Yvelines

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