Money In America

In 1830, France was once more swept up in revolution, only this time at the end of it was installed one king to replace another. Louis-Phillipe became, in fact, France’s last king as a result of that July Revolution. The country was trying to make sense of its imperial past with the growing democratic sentiments of the 19th century. Despite being one of the richest men in all Europe and aligned with the Bourbons, he was Duke of Orleans and married to a Neapolitan princess, the reign of Louis-Phillipe I was supposed to be a milder form of dominion, the so-called citizen king or bourgeois monarch.

Caught up in the upheaval of 1830 were many who had been aligned with the deposed Charles X. Because the citizen king was viewed as a usurper throughout much of France, his time on the throne tended to be more repressive, particularly toward those who had at least been in the Charles court and government. Among them was a Versailles lawyer named Gustave de Beaumont, who, sensing that the political winds had shifted despite the grand upheaval toward (outwardly, at least) more liberal sentiments, gained permission to get out of the country.

Beaumont would travel to the United States ostensibly to study in grand and comprehensive detail its penal system. He set out in April 1831 taking with him a young 25-year old friend, a former magistrate who had similarly found himself of disfavor under the bourgeois monarch. The two landed in Rhode Island and traveled all over the country doing quite a bit more investigation than strictly prison life in the United States. It was, in fact, an examination of this country’s political soul.

The pair returned to France in 1832 to the stark contrast of what must have been near constant unsettled dynamics, from political to economic life (though in those days there was no difference between politics and economics). Beaumont was largely responsible for the authoring the official work derived from their journey, On the Penitentiary System in the United States and Its Application In France. His partner, Alexis de Tocqueville, was more interested in America as an ideal, completing in 1835 the first part of what would be one of the most influential books of the whole 19th century, Democracy In America.

Because of the age in which they landed, there was at the time really no single America. It was still a collection of states but grouped in binary arrangement by the economic ends of its politics. There was the slavery South of agriculture and plantations set against the industrial North with its factories. These two vastly different systems collided at several points, but most especially along the Ohio River. It struck de Tocqueville as one of the most rigorous juxtapositions in all of his journeys:

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Disclosure: This material has been distributed fo or informational purposes only. It is the opinion of the author and should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any ...

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