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A. de Tocqueville before America

Higher education: A law student in Paris

Selinunte © BNF

Selinunte © BNF

In 1823, having received his baccalaureate, Alexis de Tocqueville returned to Paris to continue his studies. His father had been appointed prefect of the Somme, and had already left the city of Metz. What he would study was very much an open question. His cousin, Louis de Kergorlay, who entered the Ecole Polytechnique the following year, wanted him to follow a military career, but both his tutor and the fragile state of his health ruled this out. Thus, between 1823 and 1826, Alexis de Tocqueville studied law, studies that culminated, as was the custom, in the presentation of two theses, one in Latin and the other in French. Far from being excited by this course of study, the young Tocqueville showed little enthusiasm for learning legal theory, and was profoundly bored by the lectures at university. It should be pointed out that at the time, the study of law was restricted to studying Roman law and the descriptive commentary of the Civil Code and various legal procedures, but the subject itself did not seem attractive to him at all. He doubtless showed much more interest in the Voyage to Italy and Sicily which he made with his brother Edouard between December 1826 and April 1827. The trip marked, as was proper in the early 19th century, the end of his days as a student, which then led to a short career as a judge.

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Alexis de Tocqueville's law degree

Alexis de Tocqueville's law degree, dated August 30, 1826
© CHAN

Alexis de Tocqueville's qualifying title to practice law

Alexis de Tocqueville's qualifying title to practice law, dated August 30, 1826
© CHAN

Thesis for the law degree

Thesis for the law degree
© AD Manche/A. Poirier

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