Alexis de Tocqueville
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Canada and the West

Frontispiece for 'Travels in North America' by the Prince de Wied

Indian Tribes
"One of the things that most piqued our curiosity in coming to America was to explore the extreme limits of European civilization and even, time permitting, to visit some of the Indian tribes that chose to flee into the wilds rather than submit to what Whites call the pleasures of social life."
(Two Weeks in the Wilderness)
Frontispiece for "Travels in North America" by the Prince de Wied (detail), Karl Bodmer; Blérancourt, musée national de la Coopération franco-américaine © RMN/Philippe Bernard

Two weeks in the Wilderness, watercolor drawing, Alexis de Tocqueville

Singular Personages
"These Indians are singular personages. They imagine that when a man has a roof over his head, weapons for hunting, and a clear sky above, he can wish for nothing more."
(Letter to his cousin Eugénie de Grancey, October 10, 1831)
Two weeks in the Wilderness, watercolor drawing by Alexis de Tocqueville on the back of his manuscript, 1831; private collection © AD Manche

The Entombment of Atala, Anne-Louis Girodet De Roussy-Trioson

Atala
"By the way, do you know what Atala and her kind are like? . Atala is an Indian girl of dark café-au-lait complexion whose stiff, shiny tresses hang straight as drumsticks down to the bottom of her back. Usually she has a big, fat, slightly hooked nose, a wide mouth bristling with sparkling teeth, and two black eyes that even in broad daylight bear a certain resemblance to a cat's eyes at night."
(Letter to his sister-in-law Emilie, September 7, 1831)
The Entombment of Atala, Anne-Louis Girodet De Roussy-Trioson; Paris, musée du Louvre © RMN/René-Gabriel Ojéda

Indian couple with child at the edge of a river; study for 'The Natchez', Eugène Delacroix

Natchez
First encounter with Indians, July 20, 1831:
"Others saw clearly that the Indian would probably die, but one read in their faces this half-expressed thought: 'What is the life of an Indian?' The fact is that this thought was the basis for what everyone was feeling. In the midst of this disciplined, proper, charitable American society there reigns a chilling selfishness and complete insensitivity insofar as the natives of the country are concerned."
(Notebook A)
Indian couple with child at the edge of a river; study for "The Natchez", 1823-1824, Eugène Delacroix; Paris, musée du Louvre © RMN/Gérard Blot

North American hut

North American Cabin
"The farmer's house, or as they call it here, the 'log house.' . Like the adjacent field, this rustic dwelling spoke of recent and hasty effort. . Its walls and roof were made of rough-hewn tree trunks plugged with moss and earth to prevent the cold and rain from penetrating within."
(Two Weeks in the Wilderness)
North American hut; Département des Estampes © BNF

'The Cross in the Wilderness' after a poem by F.D. Hermans , Thomas Cole

The Cross in the Wilderness
"The wilderness there was no doubt just as it had appeared to the first men six thousand years ago: blooming, delightful, and fragrant. It was a magnificent abode, a living palace, built for man, but the master had yet to take up residence. . Around us reigned a universal serenity and calm."
(Two Weeks in the Wilderness)
The Cross in the Wilderness after a poem by F.D. Hermans, Thomas Cole; Paris, musée du Louvre © RMN/Christian Jean

View of South-Bay village on the shores of Oneida Lake (near French Island), July 8, 1831; drawing, Gustave de Beaumont

Lake Oneida
"There is no happiness in the world except on the shores of Lake Oneida."
(Journey to Lake Oneida)
View of South-Bay village on the shores of Oneida Lake (near French Island), July 8, 1831; drawing, Gustave de Beaumont; private collection © Beinecke rare books and manuscript library of Yale

'Niagara Falls', anonymous

Thundering Waters
"We headed directly for Niagara. At a distance of two leagues, the falls were already as loud as a storm. In Indian, 'Niagara' means 'thundering waters.' It would be impossible to find a more splendid or accurate description. . In my opinion, Niagara Falls outstrips everything that has been said or written about it in Europe, as well as well as anything that one can imagine in advance."
(Letter to his mother, August 21, 1831)
Niagara Falls, anonymous; Département des Estampes © BNF