Democracy in America. English Edition. Vol. 2. - Online Library of Liberty
A contemporary study of the early American nation and its evolving democracy, from a French aristocrat and sociologist. In Alexis de Tocqueville, a young. Editorial Reviews. Review. "The editors have written more than a mere introduction; they have Publication Date: October 18, ; Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC; Language: English; ASIN: BH4LC6W; Text-to-Speech: Enabled. Source: Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America: Historical-Critical Edition .. about American society had to wait until the letter to Édouard dated 28 May.
If each person undertook to form all his opinions himself and to pursue truth in isolation, along paths opened up by himself alone, it is improbable that a great number of men would ever unite together in any common belief.
So for society to exist, and, with even more reason, for this society to prosper, all the minds of the citizens must always be brought and held together by some principal ideas; and that cannot happen without each one of them coming at times to draw his opinions from the same source and consenting to receive a certain number of ready-made beliefs.
On this foundation he builds himself the structure of his own thoughts. It is not his will that leads him to proceed in this manner; the inflexible law of his condition compels him to do so. There is in this world no philosopher so great that he does not believe Edition: A man who would undertake to examine everything by himself would only be able to give a little time and attention to each thing; this work would keep his mind in a perpetual agitation that would prevent him from penetrating any truth deeply and from settling reliably on any certitude.
His intelligence would be independent and weak at the very same time. So, among the various subjects of human opinions, he must make a choice and adopt many beliefs without discussing them, in order to go more deeply into a small number that he has reserved to examine for himself.
Religion, by providing the mind with a clear and precise solution to a great number of metaphysical and moral questions as important as they are difficult to resolve, leaves the mind the strength and the leisure to proceed with calmness and with energy in the whole area that religion abandons to it; and it is not precisely because of religion, but with the help of the liberty and the peace that religion gained for it, that the human mind has often done such great things in the centuries of faith.
Its place is variable, but it necessarily Edition: Individual independence can be greater or lesser; it cannot be limitless. Thus, the question is not to know if an intellectual authority k exists in democratic centuries, but only to know where its repository is and what its extent will be.
I showed in the preceding chapter how equality of conditions made men conceive a kind of instinctive unbelief in the supernatural, and a very high and often exaggerated idea of human reason. So men who live during these times of equality are not easily led to place the intellectual authority to which they submit outside and above humanity. It is in themselves or their fellows that they ordinarily look for the sources of truth.
That would be enough to prove that a new religion cannot be established during these centuries, and that all attempts to bring it to life would be not only impious, but also ridiculous and unreasonable.
You can predict that democratic peoples will not easily believe in divine missions, that they will readily scoff at new prophets and that they will want to find the principal arbiter of their beliefs within the limits of humanity and not beyond.
When conditions are unequal and men dissimilar, there are some individuals very enlightened, very learned, very powerful because of their intelligence, and a multitude very ignorant and very limited. So men who live in times of aristocracy are naturally led to take as guide for their opinions the superior reason of one man or of one class, while they are little disposed to recognize the infallibility of the mass.
The disposition to believe the mass increases, and more and more it is opinion that leads the world. Not only is common opinion the sole guide that remains for individual reason among democratic peoples; but also it has among these peoples an infinitely greater power than among any other. In times of equality, men, Edition: This same equality that makes him independent of each one of his fellow citizens in particular, delivers him isolated and defenseless to the action of the greatest number.
It does not persuade, it imposes its beliefs and makes them penetrate souls by a kind of immense pressure of the mind of all on the intelligence of each. In the United States, the majority takes charge of providing individuals with a host of ready-made opinions, and thus relieves them of the obligation to form for themselves opinions that are their own.
A great number of theories in matters of philosophy, morality and politics are adopted in this way by each person without examination on faith in the public; and, Edition: For there is nothing more familiar to man than recognizing a superior wisdom in the one who oppresses him. The sources of this influence must be sought in equality itself, and not in Edition: It is to be believed that the intellectual dominion of the greatest number would be less absolute among a democratic people subject to a king, than within a pure democracy; but it will always be very absolute, and, whatever the political laws may be that govern men in centuries of equality, you can predict that faith in common opinion will become a sort of religion whose prophet will be the majority.
Thus intellectual authority will be different, but it will not be less; and, far from believing that it must disappear, I foresee that it would easily become too great and that it might well be that it would finally enclose the action of individual reason within more narrow limits than are suitable for the grandeur and happiness of the human species. I see very clearly in equality two tendencies: Men would not have found the means to live independently; they would only have discovered, a difficult thing, a new face of servitude.
I cannot say it enough: For me, when I feel the hand of power pressing on my head, knowing who is oppressing me matters little to me, and I am no more inclined to put my head in the yoke, because a million arms present it to me.
He sees at a single glance and separately all the beings who make up humanity, and he notices Edition: So God does not need general ideas; that is to say he never feels the necessity to encompass a very great number of analogous objects within the same form in order to think about them more comfortably.
It is not so with man. If the human mind undertook to examine and to judge individually all the particular cases that strike it, it would soon be lost amid the immensity of details and would no longer see anything; in this extremity, it resorts to an imperfect, but necessary procedure that helps its weakness and proves it.
General ideas do not attest to the strength of human intelligence, but rather to its insufficiency, for there are no beings exactly the same in nature: As societies grow older, they acquire knowledge of new facts and each day, almost without knowing it, they take hold of a few particular truths. As man grasps more truths of this nature, he is naturally led to conceive a greater number of general ideas. You cannot see a multitude of particular facts separately, without finally discovering the common bond that holds them together.
Several individuals make the notion of the species emerge; several species lead necessarily to that of the genus.
Tocqueville’s Democracy in America - Online Library of Liberty
So the older and more extensive the enlightenment of a people, the greater will always be their habit of and taste for general ideas. But there are still other reasons that push men to generalize their ideas or move them away from doing so. The Americans make much more frequent use than the English of general ideas and delight much more in doing so; that seems very strange at first, if you consider that these two peoples have the same origin, that they lived for centuries under the same laws and that they still constantly communicate their opinions and their mores to one another.
His nomination as juge auditeur at Versailles, on 5 Aprilprecipitated his return to Paris. The Machine at Law Tocqueville spent the first months at the prefecture of his father.DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA: Alexis de Tocqueville - FULL AudioBook: Volume 1, Part 1/2
It had spread into the neighboring provinces and had recently acquired the patronymic de Beaumont. Jules de Beaumont was the mayor there during the Empire. It was in this setting, little different from that of Verneuil, that Gustave had spent his childhood. At the home of the Beaumonts, the family read together and devoted itself to music, painting, and charitable works. In FebruaryGustave de Beaumont was named substitut du procureur du roi at Versailles.
Tocqueville struck up a friendship with him when he assumed his responsibility as juge auditeur, 43 in June The future author of Democracy chose a legal career with some hesitation.
He would attribute a large part of his failure in politics to this difficulty. Gustave de Beaumont placed him under his protection.
The distance that separated him from his friend did not interrupt their friendship. Beaumont came to Versailles as soon as his work allowed. The July Revolution broke out soon after.
It was going to change considerably the life of the two young magistrates. The July Days Although they belonged to a milieu largely hostile to the French Revolution, Tocqueville and Beaumont were not contemporaneous with the event. As such, their ideas, without being completely opposite to those of their relatives, were inevitably different. They witnessed the July Revolution with more disillusionment and sadness than hatred.
In a letter to Henry Reeve, 49 Tocqueville admitted: Some absolutely want to make me a party man and I am not; I am given passions and I have only opinions, or rather I have only one passion, the love of liberty and human dignity.
In my view, all governmental forms are only more or less perfect means to satisfy that holy and legitimate passion of men. I am given alternately democratic or aristocratic prejudices; I would perhaps have had one or the other, if I had been born in another century and in another country. But the chance of my birth has made it very easy for me to defend myself from both. I came into the world at the end of a long Revolution that, after destroying the old state, had created nothing lasting.
The aristocracy was already dead when I was born, and democracy did not yet exist; so my instinct could not carry me blindly toward either the one or the other. As part of the old aristocracy of my country myself, I had neither hatred nor natural jealousy against the aristocracy, and since this aristocracy was destroyed, I did not have any natural love for it either, for we are strongly attached only to what is alive. I was close enough to it to know it well, far enough away to judge it without passion.
I will say as much about the democratic element. No family memory, no personal interest gave me a natural and necessary inclination toward democracy. But as for me, I had received no injury from it; I had no particular reason to love it or to hate it, apart from those provided by my reason.
In a word, I was in such good equilibrium between the past and the future that I felt naturally and instinctively drawn to neither the one nor the other, and it did not take great efforts for me to look calmly at both sides.
Beaumont found himself in a quite similar situation. In Paris on 30 Julyhe wrote in his memoirs: I did not have one; no one said anything to me. At the gate of Saint-Cloud, I have just seen the convoy of the monarchy pass by, the King, the children of France, the ministers are in carriages surrounded by body guards. Would you believe, the escutcheons of the royal carriages are hidden beneath mud coverings. A partisan of the Bourbons, Tocqueville owed a certain loyalty to his social origins, but the accomplished deed of the change of dynasty led him in fact to discover a great fidelity to France.
Nonetheless, the fact of putting the honor of France as well as the principles of the Charter and of liberty before the Bourbons put them closer to liberal positions than they and Tocqueville in particular believed. This loyalty to the nation rather than to the Bourbons nevertheless isolated them from their milieu. Friends and relatives withdrew from public life as the possibility of overturning the monarchy seemed more unreal, in particular after the month of August, when all officials were asked to swear an oath of loyalty to Louis-Philippe.
Tocqueville swore an oath, and justified his decision by the fear of anarchy: I swore an oath to the new government. I believed that by acting in this way I have fulfilled the strict duty of a Frenchman.
In our current state, if Louis-Philippe were overthrown, it would certainly not be to the profit of Henry V, but of the republic and of anarchy. Those who love their country must therefore rally openly to the new power that is arising, since it alone can now save France from itself. I despise the new king; I believe his right to the throne less than doubtful, and yet I will support him more firmly, I think, than those who smoothed the way for him and who will not take long to be his masters or his enemies.
The morning of the ordinances I declared before the assembled tribunal that henceforth resistance seemed legitimate to me and that I would resist in my narrow sphere. When the movement went so far as to overthrow the dynasty, I hid from no one my opposition to this measure. I said that I would wage civil war if it took place. Once it was an accomplished fact, I continued to believe what I had always believed, that the strictest duty was not toward a man or a family, but toward country.
The salvation of France, at the point where we were, seemed to me to be in maintaining the new king. So I promised to support him, without hiding the fact that I did not do it for him. I protested that I did not intend an oath that bound me forever to any cause other than to the interest of our country, and I did not hide the fact that the moment that the new dynasty became incompatible with that interest, I would conspire against it.
The Pennsylvania system provided for incarceration in solitary confinement night and day as well as individual work by each person in his cell. The Auburn system, in the state of New York, provided for imprisonment in solitary confinement and work in common, but under the strict law of silence.
About his American plans, Tocqueville gave the following argument that he confided to his friend Stoffels: My position in France is bad on all points, at least as I see it; for either the government will consolidate itself, which is not very probable, or it will be destroyed. In the first case, my situation is not very pleasant and will not be for a long while. I do not want advancement, because that would tie me to men whose intentions I suspect.
If I support those men, I am doing something that is in accord with neither my principles nor my position. So there I am necessarily reduced to the role of a neutral, which is to say to the most pitiful role of all, especially when you occupy a lower grade.
To all of that, add that the future is until now so obscure that it is impossible to say which party we should, in the interest of our country, desire to have the definitive victory. Now, suppose that this government is overthrown; amid the disruption that will follow, I have no chance to make myself known, for I am starting too low. I still have done nothing to attract public attention. There is my future in France; I sketched it without exaggeration. Now, suppose that, without ceasing to be a magistrate and still maintaining my rights of seniority, I go to America; fifteen months go by; the parties become clear in France; you see clearly which one is incompatible with the grandeur and tranquility of your country; you then return with a clear and decided opinion and free of any engagement with whomsoever in the world.
This journey, all by itself, has drawn you out of the most common class; the knowledge that you have acquired among so celebrated a people finally brings you out of the crowd. You know just what a vast republic is, why it is practical here, impractical there!
Democracy in America. (Book, ) [afrocolombianidad.info]
All the points of public administration have been successively examined. Returning to France, you feel, certainly, a strength that you did not have when you left. If the moment is favorable, some publication can alert the public to your existence and fix the attention of the parties on you.
If that does not happen, oh well! Your journey at least did you no harm, for you were as unknown in America as you were in France, and returning to your country you are entirely as suited to advance as if you had remained there. There, I think, is a plan that is not in all ways absurd. But the publication that Tocqueville is referring to in the cited passage still lacked a name and substance.
Moreover, the initial intention of Tocqueville and Beaumont was to publish a shared text on the political institutions and mores of the North Americans.
The reasons that Beaumont had for leaving France for a time were not very far from those of Tocqueville. In Marie, he gave the following romantic version that he put in the mouth of the protagonist: Toward the yeara Frenchman resolved to go to America with the intention of settling there. This plan was inspired by various causes. A recent revolution had revived in his country political passions that were believed to be extinct.
His sympathies and his convictions carried him toward one party; his family ties kept him in another. Thus placed between his principles and his feelings, he constantly felt some conflict; to follow the movements of his heart, he would have to stifle the voice of his reason; and if he remained faithful to his beliefs, he would offend his dearest affections.
If it is incorrect that the French government sent Beaumont to the United States for the purpose of removing him from the trial, it remains true that it was bent on including a magistrate of aristocratic origin in a trial in which the king could be implicated.
By proceeding in this way, the government shielded itself from the suspicions of the legitimists and, if the judgment ever implicated the conduct of the monarch, 63 it could always turn against a lawyer who did not have the reputation of being favorable to the new regime.
America Tocqueville and Beaumont left for America on April 2, Their baggage included dozens of letters of introduction and a few works on the United States: For these I have also sometimes relied on his translations. For the Democracy in America itself, I have almost always quoted from the more recent paperback edition, again translated by George Lawrence and edited by J. In a few cases, I have reproduced the older Phillips Bradley edition.
Once or twice I have also attempted an entirely new translation of a significant sentence or passage; these are always indicated. Apart from excerpts from the American notebooks, some miscellaneous correspondence, and the published Democracy itself, the translations appearing in this volume are my own. I have translated Edition: I would like to acknowledge my debt, first of all, to my fellow tocquevillien, George Wilson Pierson, who, by his careful readings of my manuscript at its various stages, by his perceptive comments and suggestions, and by his own high standards of scholarship and style, has left his mark throughout this work.
His advice, support, friendship, and inspiration have been invaluable to me. I am grateful to various other members of the community of scholars: Morgan, for their willingness to read and comment upon the final draft of this volume. I owe thanks to several institutions: Beinecke Research Librarian, who has for some years been closely involved with George Wilson Pierson in overseeing the development of the Yale Tocqueville Collection; and to the Public Services staff behind the main desk.
Their assistance to me over the past decade has been unfailingly gracious. In that uncut manuscript, interested scholars will find some additional textual material and more numerous and detailed notes. The Writing of the First Part of the Democracy When Tocqueville first thought of writing a book about America has never been entirely clear.
In —32, the official mission of the young juge auditeur and his traveling companion, Gustave de Beaumont, was to examine and report upon the American prison systems, but even before leaving France the two friends had determined to study more than criminal codes and penitentiary schemes.
And if events allow us the time, we expect to bring back the elements of a bon ouvrage, or at least of a new work; for nothing exists on this subject. However we must not flatter ourselves yet. The circle seems to expand as fast as we advance It is true that the said mission forces us to devote to prisons an enormous amount of time which would be better spent elsewhere. However that may be, we do not lack either ardor or courage and if some obstacle does not happen to stop us, I hope that we will finish by bringing forth the work that we have had in mind for a year.
Yet the predicted birth never took place. Between June and Septembertheir epistles ceased to mention the project, and when in October news of their plans finally reappeared, Gustave and Alexis had decided to write separate books. Perhaps a major reason for their decision was a growing awareness of the immensity of the original design, for the simplest way to make an overwhelming task manageable would have been to divide it.
Whatever the causes, by late Septemberthe hoped-for ouvrage nouveau had become two. Forced to leave before they wished, their thoughts were brusquely turned toward the future.
In Marchthe two investigators landed once again in France, where both official pressures for prompt submission and personal desires to begin their own books on America urged them to complete the prison report as quickly as possible. With his usual enthusiasm, Beaumont plunged into the task at hand, but Tocqueville, despite his best efforts, fell into an unshakable inertia. All their hopes for the future depended on their American projects, and yet he could not make himself work, and from Paris confessed: I have not done anything, or as little as possible.
My mind is in lethargy and I absolutely do not know when it will awaken. So bring enough courage, ardor, enthusiasm, and so on for two. Meanwhile Tocqueville was dispatched to inspect les bagnes, the infamous French prison ships. Think of our future and of the way in which we should be occupied. It is now in the hands of the printer. Ten pages are already pulled. During the last months ofLouis de Kergolay, a childhood friend, became involved in legitimist plots against the July Monarchy and found himself in prison awaiting trial on charges of disloyalty.
Apparently, he expected to find in England some American Edition: In any case, the episode prevented initial efforts on the Democracy for two more months. He had already prepared methodically for his American work.
Each night in the New World the traveler had entered full accounts of his conversations and ruminations into makeshift notebooks. The Frenchman had even arranged some of his journey diaries topically and alphabetically. The entries consisted largely of specific and easily grasped bits of the American experience, like Convention, Duel, Jury, Washington, Virgin lands, Canals, Roads, Banks, Tariff, Towns, Press, Town-meeting, and Pioneer, mixed with a few words or phrases that ultimately became organizing principles for the entire book: Centralization, Equality, Sovereignty of the people, Public opinion, Union: The names of Joel Roberts Poinsett and John Hazlehurst Bonval Latrobe, for example, appeared frequently and under many different headings.
Nature of books upon which I can draw. Homogeneous ideas, moeurs, needs, passions of the founders of American society.
- Democracy in America.
- Alexis de Tocqueville: Democracy in America (LOA #147)
Influence of the extent of territory—of the nature of the country, of Edition: The point of departure has engendered the society as it is organized today, fait primitif—after which come the consequences formulated as principles.
The author would also deviate from this early outline by reducing the projected tripartite scheme to two: The constituent principles of the American federation. Succinct picture of this constitution.
How it differs from all federations. Advantages of a federal system when it can continue to exist. Manner in which the federal government operates. Future of the Union. The sovereignty of the people among others before descending to the The scale should be turned around.
Then take the town, then the State. Get to the Union only at the end. One can understand the principles of the Union only by knowing the United States Sovereignty of the people applied to the governments. Towns, states, associations, conventions. Sovereignty of the people applied to the direction of ideas. Liberty of the press. Sovereignty of the people applied to the sanction of laws, jury. What facilitates it, its future, not aristocratic, tyrannical. First, the very order of chapters in the first half of the Democracy was intended to illustrate a basic premise of his thinking about American political structures.
An exposition of the underlying principle must come first, he had decided. These institutions reflected the central principle of American society as clearly and as directly as did the administrative and governmental framework of the republic. From personal experiences, reflections, and earlier readings, he first arrived at general principles and then searched for additional facts to support his initial observations.
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Among the first objectives of his research in these materials was the compilation of a factual basis for his discussion of the rise of equality and for his chapters on the history of the Union. Three draft pages presented an assembly of events, discoveries, inventions, and laws from French and European history that demonstrated the steady growth of equality. Is it good or is it bad?
I await you to know. With a line, Tocqueville methodically divided each sheet of paper in half lengthwise. At first he wrote only on the right-hand side of the page; the left half remained clean and available for later corrections. Also, on the left, he sketched brief outlines or summaries of the unfolding chapters, entered an occasional date, noted his own unguarded observations and questions about the work, and recorded some reactions of those who heard or read the manuscript at various stages of development.