Annals of the Fondazione Luigi Einaudi

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Economics, History and Political Science

The Annals is a forum for the free exchange of ideas
among scholars working in the field of social sciences
Volume LIII 1 - 2019

‘All but the Form is Serious’. Slavery, Racism and Democracy in Gustave de Beaumont’s ‘Marie’

Francesco Gallino,
pp. 93-116
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This paper examines Gustave de Beaumont’s often neglected political thought as expressed in his 1835 novel Marie, ou de l’esclavage aux États-Unis. Despite being most commonly seen as a sort of “addendum” to Alexis de Tocqueville’s thought, Marie entails original and stimulating social and political views. I argue that these views can be read as fragments of a consistent theoretical pattern, a dizygotic twin of Tocqueville’s better-known “liberalisme d’espece nouvelle”. In order to test this hypothesis I focus my analysis on three of Marie’s main themes: slavery, race, and political democracy. I argue that, through the novel’s narrative form, Beaumont both displays a keen analysis of slavery (rejecting its understanding as a negative condition – that is, as something flourishing within legal voids – and highlighting instead the deliberate political efforts which allow its perpetration) and a constructivist conception of race belonging. Nonetheless, by intertwining Pascal’s dualism between coeur and raison and Montesquieu’s dialectic between moeurs and lois, Beaumont proposes a distinctly conservative declination of the “tyranny of the majority” theory, suggesting that only a monarchic political power is strong enough to protect minorities from popular hate. As a whole, Marie’s liberalism seems at the same time more socially progressive and more politically conservative