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His friends

Francisque de Corcelle

Among de Tocqueville's political colleagues who became friends, Francisque de Corcelle was the one with whom Alexis worked the most closely. The two men were from very different family backgrounds and geographic origins, and their friendship sometimes suffered from it; there were stormy moments and times of irritation and incomprehension. Originally from Burgundy, Francisque de Corcelle was older than Tocqueville by three years. He was the son of Claude Tircuy de Corcelle and de Hélène Rivérieulx de Varax, but was mainly brought up by his uncle, François de Corcelle. After embracing the Napoleonic cause, his family, and in particular his father, belonged to the circle of supporters of La Fayette, whose granddaughter would marry Francisque de Corcelle in 1831. Prior to this, his early political life was a turbulent one, and was marked by his support of the Charbonnerie movement.

« I defy you to make me angry and prevent me from being your friend. »
(Letter from F. de Corcelle to A. de Tocqueville, 1849)

He met Tocqueville in 1835, at the publication of Democracy in America, about which de Corcelle published a lengthy review in the Revue des deux Mondes. By this time, the former carbonaro had calmed down and espoused less radical political convictions. Like Tocqueville, he entered the Chamber of Deputies in 1839 and made his first trip to Algeria in 1841, and even became one of the most active protagonists in the unfortunate adventure of the newspaper Commerce. However, it was under the Second Republic at the time of the Rome Affair that the two friends worked together the closest. From June to November 1849, Francisque de Corcelle, who had entered into a diplomatic career, was the French government's official envoy to Italy, a time when Alexis de Tocqueville was Minister of Foreign Affairs. Both men became deeply involved in this delicate affair and - although they were in daily contact during the crisis - they often found themselves on opposite sides in this political and diplomatic tangle, which got the better of Second Minister Barrot. However, their deep friendship, which had suffered somewhat during months of difficult relations, held firm. Until Tocqueville's death, de Corcelle remained one of his privileged guests; Alexis particularly seemed to appreciate de Corcelle's enthusiasm and unpredictable nature. This is clear in a letter that Tocqueville sent to Beaumont, in which he described a visit by the de Corcelle family to the chateau de Tocqueville, and Francisque de Corcelle's extreme state of excitement.

Portrait of Francisque de Corcelle

Portrait of Francisque de Corcelle, anonymous; Département des Estampes
© BNF

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