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A new survey on Algerian territory (1846)

Moustapha Ben Ismaïl and his family

Moustapha Ben Ismaïl and his family © BNF

During the second half of his stay in Algeria, Tocqueville continued his methodical exploration of the territory by exploring, for example, "for ten days most of the establishments in Sahel, and all those in the plain" of Mitidja. His goal was to examine how the colonists were able to set themselves up in Algeria and even put down roots, despite all of the economic difficulties which they had to face. Nevertheless, he was of the opinion that State intervention to aid colonists should only come indirectly, through the improvement of their conditions, for example, but should never be a substitute for personal initiative. Later, he traveled to Philippeville with his wife. After high winds forced them to land at Bône, and thanks to a carriage sent by General Bedeau, the head of the province of Constantine, he finally managed to reach the city that he had been forced to miss five years earlier. The meeting with Bedeau was fruitful, and Tocqueville was delighted to find in him a correspondent who was in daily contact with the realities of the field, and whose ideas were very close to his own.

« For me, the question of Africa in all its variety and grandeur comes down to this: How to create in Africa a French population with our laws, our mores, and our civilization, while maintaining toward the natives all the respect that justice, humanity, self-interest properly understood, and, as you say, honor strictly oblige us to maintain? »
(Letter to Francisque de Corcelle, October 11, 1846)

By the time he boarded a ship at Algiers to return to France on December 29, 1846, Tocqueville had gathered enough observations, listened to enough of the various players, and seen for himself enough reasons for both optimism and concern to fill the two large parliamentary reports that he drafted the following year as the president and the rapporteur of a new parliamentary committee concerning Algeria. He voiced his opposition to allocating new supplementary credits to Algeria - a decision that would prove to be the downfall of Marshal Bugeaud - and denounced the lack of freedom for the colony's inhabitants. He no longer believed, after this second trip, in the assimilation of the native population and accepted the idea of an unequal society - something for which he has often been reproached. On the other hand, he always remembered the principle of colonization: the need for lengthy reflection on the means necessary to make it a success.

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Constantine, Anonymous

Constantine, seen from the Mansourah

Constantine, seen from the Mansourah, Anonymous


Map of Algeria in 1845

Map of Algeria in 1845

Project for the village of Dalmatie in the community of Blidah

Project for the village of Dalmatie in the community of Blidah © CAOM

Project for a defensive village (house for two colonists)

Project for a defensive village (house for two colonists) © CAOM

Carnet portatifaccess to Travel Notebook with Flash

Algerian Journeys

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