Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Tocqueville, Alexis Charles Henri Clérel, Count de

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Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography
Tocqueville, Alexis Charles Henri Clérel, Count de

TOCQUEVILLE, Alexis Charles Henri Clérel, Count de, French statesman, b. in Paris, 29 July, 1805; d. in Cannes, 16 April, 1859. He passed his early youth at his father's castle of Verneuil, near Mantes, received his education in the College of Metz, and studied law in Paris in 1823-'6, being graduated as licencié in the latter year. Through the influence of his family he was named, 5 April, 1827, judge auditor at the tribunal of Versailles, and soon afterward assistant judge. Later he became deputy assistant district attorney of the same city, and made the acquaintance of Gustave de Beaumont, with whom he was sent in 1831 to the United States by the secretary of the interior to study the penitentiary system of the country. They landed at Boston on 12 May, and remained in the United States till March, 1832, visiting the principal prisons. They returned to France with six folio volumes of documents. Tocqueville published a few weeks later “Note sur le système pénitentiaire et sur la mission confiée par M. le Ministre de l'intérieur à MM. de Beaumont et de Tocqueville” (Paris, 1832), which attracted considerable attention. Tocqueville, becoming dissatisfied with his legal duties, resigned on 21 May, 1832, and opened an attorney's office. His “Du système pénitentiaire aux États-Unis et de son application en France” (Paris, 1832: 2d ed., with additions, 2 vols., 1836) was written in association with Gustave de Beaumont, and translated into several languages, including an English version by Francis Lieber (Philadelphia, 1833). The authors approved the solitary system as practised in the penitentiary of Cherry hill, in Philadelphia, and they caused the penitentiary system of France, and eventually of the continent, to be entirely remodelled. The French academy awarded them a Montyon prize, and the success of their work was then considered as unprecedented in the annals of literature. He then visited England, married there in 1835, and in January of the latter year published the first part of his “De la Démocratie en Amérique” (2 vols., Paris. 1835), which procured for the author an extraordinary prize of eight thousand francs from the French academy. In the report of award it is called “one of the most remarkable works published in the nineteenth century, and such as the academy has seldom been called upon to crown.” It was followed by the second part early in 1840. The work was translated into several languages, including an English version by Henry Reeve, entitled “Democracy in America,” with a preface and notes by John Spencer (4 vols.. New York, 1839-'40). Reeve's translation has been edited by Francis Bowen (2 vols., Cambridge, 1862), and there is also an abridgment, entitled “American Institutions and their Influence” (New York, 1856). The author was created a knight of the Legion of honor, 6 June, 1837, elected a member of the French academy of moral sciences, 6 Jan., 1838, and given a seat in the Académie Française, 23 Dec., 1841. In parliament, where he served in 1839-'48, Tocqueville advocated the abolition of slavery, and urged the colonization of Algiers, which he visited in 1841 and 1846. Being returned to the constituent assembly after the revolution of 1848, he was chosen a member of the committee on legislation, elected vice-president of the assembly in 1849, and, after attending the diplomatic conferences in Brussels upon Italian affairs, was secretary of foreign relations from 2 June till 31 Oct., 1849, and strongly supported the French expedition to Rome. He was arrested at the coup d'état of 2 Dec., 1851, and afterward retired to private life. Besides those already cited, his works include “État social et politique de la France,” written at the invitation of John Stuart Mill, who translated and published it in the “Westminster Review” for April, 1836; “Mémoire sur le paupérisme” (Cherbourg, 1836); “Lettre sur le système pénitentiaire” (Paris, 1838); “Lettre à Lord Brougham sur le droit de visite” (1843); “Le droit au travail” (1843); and “L'ancien régime et la revolution” (1856; translated into English, New York, 1856). Tocqueville's inedited works and correspondence were published by his friend, Gustave de Beaumont (2 vols., Paris, 1861; 2 vols., English translation, Boston, 1861); and the latter also published a complete edition of Tocqueville's works (9 vols., Paris, 1861-'5).