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Algeria

A new survey on Algerian territory (1846)
« It is not only cruel but absurd and impractical to seek to repress and exterminate the natives. But what can be done to bring the two races into genuine contact ? I sadly confess that on this point my mind is confused and hesitant. »
(Letter to Francisque de Corcelle, December 1, 1846)

Following his first trip to Algeria, Tocqueville became one of the foremost specialists on the Algerian question in the Chamber of Deputies and, along with Beaumont, he was one of the most active members of the royal extra-parliamentary committee between January 20, 1842 and 1844. To his great regret, this committee was not very productive. During the parliamentary session of 1846, in the course of a vote to allocate special credits to Algeria, he seized the opportunity to take the floor of the Chamber, and delivered a famous speech in which he severely criticized France's policy towards Algeria. According to Tocqueville, although the question of Algeria was of the highest importance, it had only ever been treated haphazardly. A ministry for Algeria was necessary.
He saw the immediate need to make another trip to Algeria to compare his analysis with the reality of the situation. Since 1841, the political situation in Algeria had changed a great deal; although it was largely peaceful from a military standpoint since the defeat suffered by Abd-el-Kader, from a administrative point of view matters were still extremely delicate.
He set off for Algiers accompanied by his wife (who would watch over both his health and his fidelity), reaching it early in November. Until he left the country on the 29th of December, Tocqueville carried out a systematic survey of the military situation, of the state of the country and its inhabitants - both natives and colonists - and of the territory's widespread bureaucratic chaos. To carry this out, he hastened to meet Marshal Bugeaud, to whom he made clear his disagreement with the methods being used, and accepted to accompany him on a long tour (with propagandistic overtones) by the overland route as far as Oran. He took advantage of this trip not only to admire the magnificent landscapes that he discovered at Orléansville, Blida, Medea et Miliana, but also to methodically question all of the officers from the Arab bureaus that rushed up to meet the Marshal to "convey the state of their district or take orders". It was also a chance to assess "the state of despondency" and misery of the natives, as well as "the hatred that reigned between the two races", i.e. between the natives and the French colonists. After having gathered all these observations, he gave up accompanying the convoy all the way to Oran, preferring instead to return to Algiers, where he rejoined his spouse on November 30th.

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Portrait of Bugeaud

Portrait of Bugeaud
Anonymous © CAOM

Oran

Oran, cover page of the book by Genty de Bussy
© CAOM

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Algerian Journeys

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