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England and Ireland


Before returning to France, Tocqueville and Beaumont wanted to complete their new-found understanding of the British way of life with a visit to Ireland. They thus disembarked at Dublin on July 6, 1835, and continued their enquiry until August 16. They not only saw the capital, but also visited the center, south and west of the island. They thus spent over a month in a country that - even though it had the same laws and government as England - presented a social situation that was both complex and, often, alarming. They were extremely dismayed to discover the painful, hate-filled stand-off between a greedy and hegemonic aristocracy and a peasantry in the depths of misery, made still more acute by differences in race and religion.

« You cannot imagine what depths of misery the poor people of Ireland have suffered from five centuries of oppression, civil turmoil, and religious hostility. It is a dreadful labyrinth in which one must painfully feel one's way, and we shall
only glimpse the entrance. »
(Letter to his father,
July 16, 1835)

And though the description of the poverty that reigned in Irish peasant families that Tocqueville sent to his cousin Eugénie de Grancey sometimes took a humorous turn,   play sound extractlire l'extrait sonore  he was profoundly struck by the abject misery and want that he saw. This memory, along with that of the urban misery in Manchester, served to strengthen his perception of the various forms of pauperism that coexisted in modern societies. Tocqueville took fairly well-developed notes of all that he had observed during this trip, but never put them in book form, in accordance with the agreement that he had made with Beaumont: one would write about Ireland, and the other about America. Thus Tocqueville let Beaumont visit Scotland by himself, while he boarded a ship on August 18 at Southampton, headed for Cherbourg via Guernsey. The picturesque, comic account of his return to France, when he was out of money, testifies to the often hazardous nature of his trips abroad, and also make for some of the most amusing pages in his oeuvre.


Dublin, Anonymous © BNF


Southampton, Anonymous

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