Gustave de Beaumont
was a French magistrate, prison reformer, and travel companion to the famed philosopher and politician Alexis de Tocqueville
Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville was a French political thinker and historian best known for his Democracy in America and The Old Regime and the Revolution . In both of these works, he explored the effects of the rising equality of social conditions on the individual and the state in...
. While he was very successful in his lifetime, he is often overlooked and his name is synonymous with Tocqueville's achievements.
Beaumont was born on 6 February 1802 in Beaumont-la-Chartre, France to the count Jules de Beaumont and Rose Préau de la Baraudière. He was the youngest of 4 children. Beaumont spent his early years in the chateau de La Borde in his birthplace. Like Tocqueville, Beaumont came from nobility; he was a descendant of the Bonin de la Bonnière family.
Career in Law
In 1826, Beaumont acquired the position of King's Prosecutor at the Tribunal de Première Instance at Versailles
Versailles , a city renowned for its château, the Palace of Versailles, was the de facto capital of the kingdom of France for over a century, from 1682 to 1789. It is now a wealthy suburb of Paris and remains an important administrative and judicial centre...
. It was during this tenure that he first met Alexis de Tocqueville, and they became fast friends. Although Beaumont's eloquence and verve contrasted greatly with Tocqueville's bad rhetoric and asocial behavior, the two stayed close, even when Beaumont was appointed to Paris in 1829 and they were separated for a time.
Journey to America
After receiving a commission from King Louis-Phillipe to inspect American prison systems along with Tocqueville, Beaumont set sail to America on the ship Le Havre
in 1831 as Tocqueville's travelling companion. During their journey, their friendship grew and so did their intellectual involvement. At the conclusion of their 9 month study, they returned to France, and he and Tocqueville published their great political analysis Du système pénitentiare aux Etats-Unis, et de son application en France
(two volumes, 1833). When the first edition was published, Beaumont, sympathetic to social injustice, was working on another book, Marie, ou l'esclavage aux Etats-Unis
(two volumes, 1835), which was a social critique and novel describing the separation of races in a moral society and the conditions of slaves in America. Although the 1833 writing was successful, Tocqueville was given intellectual recognition, which was not the case with Beaumont. This was the first step in Beaumont's having to live in his friend's shadow in fame. Beaumont also wrote L'Irlande, sociale, politique, et religieuse
(two volumes, (1839-42).
Gustave de Beaumont married Clémentine de Lafayette (the granddaughter of the famous general) in 1836. Beaumont wrote a second novel entitled Ireland
about two journeys he had made to the area, one with Tocqueville in 1835, and another with his wife in 1837. Under the July Monarchy
The July Monarchy , officially the Kingdom of France , was a period of liberal constitutional monarchy in France under King Louis-Philippe starting with the July Revolution of 1830 and ending with the Revolution of 1848...
, Beaumont was elected deputy for Mamers in the Sarthe in December 1839. His friendship with Tocqueville was dwindling at this time due to alliance conflicts, and Beaumont's support of a newspaper called Le Siècle
caused their differences to come to a head when he refused to accompany Tocqueville and some friends in the adventure of another daily paper. This rift did not destroy their friendship, but the two did not speak to each other for quite some time.
The Revolutions of 1848
The European Revolutions of 1848, known in some countries as the Spring of Nations, Springtime of the Peoples or the Year of Revolution, were a series of political upheavals throughout Europe in 1848. It was the first Europe-wide collapse of traditional authority, but within a year reactionary...
reconciled them, and soon they were both in agreement in their beliefs on the republic. In August, 1848, Beaumont was elected plenipotentiary minister to London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...
, and at the presidential elections of 10 December, they gave their support to Cavaignac
Louis-Eugène-John-Jacob-Cavaignac , French general, second son of Jean-Baptiste Cavaignac and brother of Éléonore Louis Godefroi Cavaignac, was born at Paris.- Military career :...
. His defeat resulted in Beaumont's resignation, but Beaumont returned to French political affairs by being elected second on the list for the department of La Sarthe in the Legislative assembly
Legislative Assembly is the name given in some countries to either a legislature, or to one of its branch.The name is used by a number of member-states of the Commonwealth of Nations, as well as a number of Latin American countries....
. Tocqueville's election to the post of Ministry of Foreign Affairs benefitted Beaumont, as he was elected French ambassador to Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...
. Cavaignac appointed him Ambassador to England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...
. He and Tocqueville resigned together when the ministry fell, and they retained their views following the coup d'état of 2 December 1851 by withdrawing from public life and refusing to support the imperial regime. One of the opponents of the coup d'état, he was imprisoned for some time in the fortress of Mont Valérien.
Last Years and Death
Although Tocqueville and Beaumont remained close friends, Beaumont was forced financially to turn away from society and retire (along with his family) to his chateau de Beaumont-la-Chartre. Nevertheless, he did not forget his best friend. He oversaw the release of Tocqueville's last book The Old Regime and the Revolution
L'Ancien Régime et la Révolution is a work by the French historian Alexis de Tocqueville translated in English as either The Old Regime and the Revolution or The Old Regime and the French Revolution...
in Paris, while Tocqueville was still grieving for the loss of his father. He was at Tocqueville's side when he died, at Cannes
Cannes is one of the best-known cities of the French Riviera, a busy tourist destination and host of the annual Cannes Film Festival. It is a Commune of France in the Alpes-Maritimes department....
on 16 April 1859. Beaumont took it upon himself to oversee the posthumous publication of his friend's collected works, although he did not live to see the project be finished. Gustave de Beaumont died on 30 March 1866 in Paris, the victim of an epidemic. His wife, Clémentine, completed the project a year after her husband's death.
- De Beaumont, Gustave. Ireland: Social, Political, and Religious, Introduction by Tom Garvin and Andreas Hess, Harvard University Press
Harvard University Press is a publishing house established on January 13, 1913, as a division of Harvard University, and focused on academic publishing. In 2005, it published 220 new titles. It is a member of the Association of American University Presses. Its current director is William P...