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His family

His father, Hervé de Tocqueville: A great servant of the State under the Restoration

The count of Tocqueville

The count Hervé Bonaventure Clérel de Tocqueville
© AD Manche/Poirier

Under the First Empire, Hervé de Tocqueville's convictions kept him from the career of statesman that he had wanted. Beginning in 1804, he had to content himself with the office of mayor of Verneuil-sur-Seine, whose very local prerogatives were, to his way of thinking, much closer to feudalism than any delegation of centralized power. His hostility to the Napoleonic regime was evident, for example, when he performed nineteen hasty marriages in a row, thus allowing the young grooms to avoid conscription. It was said that he acted as an informer for the Count d'Artois. When Napoleon I fell, he seized the opportunity to play a role in the establishment of a new power by joining, along with his son Hippolyte the Horse Guard, in order to be able to take part in royalist rallies in favor of the restoration of the Bourbons.

« My father has just been elevated to the peerage. Four years ago he wanted this badly, and asked for it. Now that he no longer seeks it, he finds himself included in the group. So goes the world. He expressed his disapproval of the measure before it was taken. He has not changed his mind since, and I am convinced that he was right. »
(Letter to Louis de Kergorlay,
November 23, 1827)

On June 18, 1814, he was appointed Prefect of Maine-et-Loire, due in particular to his being the son-in-law of Monsieur de Malesherbes. This marked the beginning of his brilliant career as a prefect under the Restoration, interrupted only by the return of Napoleon during the Hundred Days, which forced him to quite his post and find refuge with his family at Lannion and then at Caen. After Waterloo, the royal power decided not to reappoint him to Angers, and instead named him Prefect of the Côte-d'Or on January 31, 1816, and then Prefect of Moselle on March 25, 1817. He remained in Metz for more than six years, which gave him time to complete the reforms he had undertaken, and for his administration to leave a lasting mark - both politically as well as economically. It was only in 1823, and against his wishes, that the administration brought him closer to Paris (and his spouse), in compliance with an old request that he had himself drawn up, and that had been supported by a petition of the marquis de Rosanbo, his brother-in-law.

The Saint-Etienne Cathedral in Metz

The Saint-Etienne Cathedral in Metz
© Bibliothèque de Metz

The Metz battlements

The Metz battlements
© Bibliothèque de Metz
















Reluctantly, he left the Moselle for the Somme, a department that pleased him little, and in 1826, he finally obtained the post that he had always desired: the very prestigious post of Prefect of Seine-et-Oise. He only occupied this position for a short time, however, as he was named a peer of France on November 4, 1827. A peerage was as unexciting to him as the post of Prefect of Versailles, to the point that his son admitted that he voiced his disappointment even before the nomination had become effective. Nevertheless, he took his new role very seriously, and frequently held the floor to deal with economic and political problems, and in 1829 published a brochure, De la Charte provinciale, in which he expressed his personal position on municipal and departmental law that he had helped to establish as a member of the commission dealing with such matters. But the Revolution of 1830 stripped him of his peerage, as well as any desire to take part in public life.

Archives

Letter dated May 17, 1812 from Hervé de Tocqueville, Mayor of Verneuil-sur-Seine

Letter dated May 17, 1812 from Hervé de Tocqueville, Mayor of Verneuil-sur-Seine
© AD Yvelines

Prefect of Maine-et-Loire

Prefect of Maine-et-Loire
© AD Maine-et-Loire

Prefect of the Somme

Prefect of the Somme
© AD Somme

Prefect of the Somme

Prefect of the Somme
© AD Somme

Prefect of the Seine-et-Oise

Prefect of the Seine-et-Oise
© AD Yvelines

Elévation to the peerage

Elévation to the peerage, private collection
© AD Manche/Poirier

Administrative description of Hervé de Tocqueville at the moment of his taking office

Administrative description of Hervé de Tocqueville at the moment of his taking office
© CHAN

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