Democracy in America: Specially Edited and Abridged for the Modern Reader

By Alexis de Tocqueville, Richard D. Heffner, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson

22,968 ratings - 4.03* vote

No better study of a nation's institutions and culture than Tocqueville's Democracy in America has ever been written by a foreign observer; none perhaps as good." —New York TimesRichard D. Heffner, historian, radio and television commentator, and author of A Documentary History of the United States , has selected Tocqueville's most striking and pertinent passages to mak No better study of a nation's institutions and culture than Tocqueville's Democracy in America has

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Book details

Mass Market Paperback, 320 pages
February 1st 1956 by Signet-Mentor

(first published 1835)

Original Title
De la démocratie en Amérique
ISBN
0451628012 (ISBN13: 9780451628015)
Edition Language
English

Community Reviews

Roy Lotz

I struggle to penetrate God’s point of view, from which vantage point I try to observe and judge human affairs.

A few months ago, bored at work and with no other obligations to tie me to New York, I decided that I would look into employment in Europe; and now, several months and an irksome visa process later, I am on the verge of setting off to Madrid. Unsurprisingly, I’m very excited to go; but of course leaving one’s home is always bittersweet. This is partly why I picked up Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, as a sort of literary good-bye kiss to this odd, uncouth, chaotic, and fantastic place which has, up until now, molded my character, sustained my body, and contained my thoughts.

This turned out to be an excellent choice, for this book is without a doubt the best book ever written on the United States. I am able to say this, even though I haven’t even read a fraction of the books written on this country, because I simply can’t imagine how anyone could have done it better. As it is, I can hardly believe that Tocqueville could understand so much in the short span of his life; and when I recall that he wrote this book after only 9 months in America, while he was still in his thirties, I am doubly astounded. This seems scarcely human.

Part of the reason for his seemingly miraculous ability is that, with Tocqueville, you find two things conjoined which are normally encountered separately: extremely keen powers of observation, and a forceful analytic mind. With most travel writers, you encounter only the former; and with most political philosophers, only the latter. The product of this combination is a nearly perfect marriage of facts and reasoning, of survey and criticism, the ideas always hovering just above the reality, transforming the apparently senseless fabric of society into a sensible and intelligible whole. Almost everything he sees, he understands; and not only does he understand what he sees, but so often hits upon the why.

Although this book covers an enormous amount of ground—religion, slavery, culture, government, the role of women, just to name a few topics—there is one central question that runs through every subject: What does the appearance of democracy mean for the future of humanity? Tocqueville sees this question as the most pressing and significant one of his time; for, as he perceived, what was happening then in America was destined to inspire Europe and perhaps the whole world to adopt this new form of government, which would forever change the face of society. In short, Tocqueville is seeking to understand America so that he could understand the future; and the plan of the book follows these two goals successively. The first volume, published in 1835, is a thorough analysis of the United States; and the second volume, published in 1840, is a comparison of democracy and aristocracy, an attempt to pinpoint how a switch to a democratic government causes far-reaching changes in the whole culture.

Tocqueville is famously ambivalent about American democracy. He often sounds greatly impressed at what he finds, noting how hardworking and self-reliant are most Americans; and yet so often, particularly in the second volume, Tocqueville sounds gloomy and pessimistic about what the future holds. Much of his analysis is centered on the idea of social equality. He often reminds the reader—and by the way, Tocqueville wrote this for a French audience—that Americans, rich or poor, famous or obscure, will treat everyone as an equal. The entire idea of castes or classes has, in Tocqueville’s opinion, been abolished; and this has had many effects. Most obviously, it gives free reign to American ambition, for anyone can potentially climb from the bottom to the top; thus results the ceaseless activity and endless financial scheming of Americans. And even those who are quite well-off are not spared from this fever of ambition, for the lack of inherited wealth and stable fortunes means that the rich must continually exert effort to maintain their fortunes. (Whether this is true anymore is another story.)

Thus we find a kind of money-obsession, where everyone must constantly keep their minds in their wallets. In America, money is not only real currency, but cultural currency as well, a marker of success; and in this context, the creature comforts of life, which after all only money can buy, are elevated to great importance. Rich food, warm beds, spacious houses—these are praised above the simpler pleasures in life, such as agreeable conversation or pleasant walks on sunny days, as the former require money while the latter are free and available to anyone. The central irony of a classless society is that it forces everyone to focus constantly on their status, as it is always in jeopardy. You can imagine how shocking this must have been for Tocqueville, the son of an aristocratic family. There simply was no class of Americans who had the leisure of retiring from the cares of the world and contemplating the “higher” but less practical things in life. All thought was consumed in activity.

This results in a society of the ordinary individual. In America, there are few “great men” (as Tocqueville would say) but a great many good ones. Americans are self-reliant, but not daring; they are often decent, but never saintly. They will sometimes risk their lives in pursuit of a fortune, but never their fortunes for the sake their lives. An American might temporarily accept hardship if there is a financial reward on the other end; but how many Americans would forsake their fortunes, their comforts, their houses and property, for the sake of an idea, a principle, a dream? Thus a kind of narrow ambition pervades the society, where everyone is hoping to better their lot, but almost nobody is hoping to do something beyond acquiring money and things. One can easily imagine the young Tocqueville, his mind filled with Machiavelli and Montesquieu, meeting American after American with no time or inclination for something as intangible as knowledge.

In the midst of his large-scale cultural analysis, Tocqueville sometimes pauses for a time, putting off the role of philosopher to take up the role of prophet. Tocqueville does get many of his predictions wrong. For example, he did not at all foresee the Civil War—and in fact he thought Americans would never willingly risk their property fighting each other—and instead he thought that there would be a gigantic race war between blacks and whites in the south. But Tocqueville was otherwise quite right about race relations in the slave-owning states. He predicts that slavery could not possibly last, and that it would soon be abolished; and he notes that abolishing slavery will probably be the easiest task in improving the relationship between blacks and whites. For although slavery can be destroyed through legal action, the effects of slavery, the deep-rooted racial prejudice and hatred, cannot so easily be wiped clean. In support of this view, Tocqueville notes how badly treated are free blacks in the northern states, where slavery is banned. Without a place in society, they are shunned and fall into poverty. The persistence of the color line in America is a testament to Tocqueville’s genius and our failure to prove him wrong.

But perhaps the most arresting prediction Tocqueville makes is about the future rivalry of the United States with Russia. Here are his words:
Americans struggle against obstacles placed there by nature; Russians are in conflict with men. The former fight the wilderness and barbarity; the latter, civilization with all its weaponry: thus, American victories are achieved with the plowshare, Russia’s with the soldier’s sword.

To achieve their aim, the former rely upon self-interest and allow free scope to the unguided strength and common sense of individuals.

The latter focus the whole power of society upon a single man.

The former deploy freedom as their main mode of action; the latter, slavish obedience.

The point of departure is different, their paths are diverse but each of them seems destined by some secret providential design to hold in their hands the fate of half the world at some date in the future.

While discussing such an obviously brilliant man as was Tocqueville, whose ideas have become foundational in the study of American society, it seems almost petty to praise his prose style. But I would be doing an injustice to any readers of this review if I failed to mention that Tocqueville is an extraordinary writer. I was consistently captivated by his ability to sum up his thoughts into crisp aphorisms and to compress his analyses into perfectly composed paragraphs. I can only imagine how much better it is in the original French. Here is only a brief example:
Commerce is a natural opponent of all violent passions. It likes moderation, delights in compromise, carefully avoids angry outbursts. It is patient, flexible, subtle, and has recourse to extreme measures only when absolute necessity obliges it to do so. Commerce makes men independent of each other, gives them quite another idea of their personal value, persuades them to manage their own affairs, and teaches them to be successful. Hence it inclines them to liberty but draws them away from revolutions.

In the brief space of a book review—even a long one—I cannot hope to do justice to such a wide-ranging, carefully argued, and incisive book as this. So I hope that I have managed to persuade you to at least add this work to your to-read list, long as it may be already. For my part, I can’t imagine a better book to have read as I prepare myself to visit a new continent, about the same age as was Tocqueville when he visited these shores, for my own travels in a strange place. And although, lowly American that I am, I cannot hope to achieve even a fraction of what Tocqueville has, perhaps his voice echoing in my ears will be enough to encourage me to look, to listen, and to understand.

Russell Bittner

I don’t mind admitting that Alexis de Toqueville’s Democracy in America is quite possible the most demanding piece of exposition I’ve read since Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind. I suspect it’s one of those books — analogous, if you will, to Cervantes’ Don Quixote, Melville’s Moby Dick, Proust’s In Search of Lost Time or Musil’s Man Without Qualities — that avid readers want to have read, but never have.

I finally did.

If you can find the time (and the quiet) to read fifty pages of this book a day, you can accomplish it in under three weeks. If you can devote yourself to more than fifty pages a day — and have the concentration necessary to make sense of what you’re reading — you’re a better (wo)man than I am.

I couldn’t. In spite of my best efforts and virtually ideal conditions (most often in some secluded spot in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden), I found myself having to read many sentences two and three times over.

Democracy in America is no doubt more worthy of a dissertation than of a review. And I suspect that thousands of dissertations have been written on this oeuvre. The book is dense — with a capital “D” — and any sort of commentary on it could rival exegesis of the Torah.

Dense it is. But also prescient — with a capital “P.” If you can’t find the time or the circumstances to devote yourself to a reading of the entire work, read just Chapter 10 of Part II, Volume One (“Some Considerations Concerning the Present State and Probable Future of the Three Races that Inhabit the Territory of the United States”). And keep in mind that Volume One was published in 1835; the “Trail of Tears” (the expulsion of the Cherokee Nation from Georgia to a circumscribed territory in Oklahoma) happened only three years later; and the Civil War was still relatively far off!

But what of de Tocqueville’s observation at the conclusion of Volume One concerning Americans and Russians — ions before the start of the Cold War? Allow me to quote at length from pp. 475-476, as I don’t want to shortchange the man:


"There are today two great peoples on earth, who, though they started from different points, seem to be advancing toward the same goal: the Russians and the Anglo-Americans.

Both grew in obscurity, and while humanity’s gaze was focused elsewhere, they abruptly vaulted to the first rank among nations: the world learned almost simultaneously of their birth and of their grandeur.

All other peoples seem close to achieving the limits traced for them by nature and henceforth need only to preserve what they already have; but these two are still growing. All the others have stopped, or move forward only with the greatest of effort. Only these two march with an easy and rapid stride down a road whose end no eye can yet perceive.

The American does battle with the obstacles that nature has placed before him; the Russian grapples with men. One combats wilderness and barbarity; the other, civilization with all its arms. The American makes his conquests with the farmer’s ploughshare, the Russian with the soldier’s sword.

To achieve his goal, the American relies on personal interest and allows individuals to exercise their strength and reason without guidance.

The Russian in a sense concentrates all of society in the power of one man.

The American’s principal means of action is liberty; the Russian’s, servitude.

Their points of departure are different, their ways diverse. Yet each seems called by a secret design of Providence some day to sway the destinies of half the globe."


Just as prescient are de Tocqueville’s observations in Volume Two, Part II, Chapter 20 (pp. 649 – 652 in the Arthur Goldhammer/Literary Classics of the United States, © 2004 edition I’ve just read). In these four pages (titled “How Industry Could Give Rise to an Aristocracy”), de Tocqueville not only foresees the dangers of the industrial process known as “Taylorism” introduced decades later by the Ford Motor Company, but also adumbrates the condition of alienation between worker and owner/manager, haves and have-nots, into which we in the U. S. are now inexorably slipping. (Should you have any interest in understanding more about this latter development, I would respectfully refer you to Naomi Klein’s book, The Shock Doctrine, which I reviewed here at Goodreads at the end of last month.)

And what of this concluding observation 150 years before the deluge of widgets and gadgets in which most of the current generation of digital addicts would appear to be drowning? “Habitual inattention must be regarded as the greatest defect of the democratic mind (last sentence on p. 718).” There are no doubt other good reasons for the seemingly constant state of distraction of so many young minds — and de Tocqueville carefully lays out his argument in the pages leading up to his conclusion. And yet, one has to wonder whether the “democratic mind” as it has come to be in these United States and elsewhere in the Western World at the beginning of the twenty-first century was the incubator or the egg in our so-called “high-tech (r)evolution.”

Please allow me to return to p. 198 to conclude with one last citation, even if I could go on and on with others worth their aphoristic weight in gold. “Time no more stops for nations than it does for individuals. Both advance daily toward a future of which they know nothing.”

“…(A) future of which they know nothing.” Scary stuff — but worthwhile (to say the least!) reading.

RRB
6/14/13
Brooklyn, NY

Manuel Antão

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.




Wisdom of the American People: "Democracy in America" by Alexis de Tocqueville, Gerald Bevan (Trans.)



Like many people, I think that Donald Trump might not give up power if he loses the presidential election. And if he tries a coup, I'm afraid that he could succeed. I don’t think that’s the likely outcome, but it’s not something I’d discount. Deeply I want to believe in the robustness of American democracy, whose persistence (with its own specific glories, quirks, failures and hypocrisies) is something I've always taken more or less for granted. But tyranny has its own momentum, which, with some bad luck, can become unstoppable.

Glenn Russell




Alexis de Tocqueville captures the spirit of American democracy back when he wrote his classic in 1835. But what of the spirit of democracy in current day America where every citizen has the God given right to be a spectator or participate in exciting entertainment? The following fiction by author Lawrence Millman hits the bull's-eye.

THE ORIGIN OF DEMOCRACY
A few years ago the Murmansk Opera came to town. And my friend Clint decided to take his wife Erma to a production of The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevronia at the local grange. Now Clint had never been near an opera before. Closet he had come was the tri-annual demolition derby sponsored by the Loyal Order of moose. So you can imagine his confusion when, by the middle of the second act, not a single junker had gone to meet its Maker. He had hoped at least to see a skirmish of Ladas and Moskvitches, with perhaps something from the Eastern Block, like a Skoda, thrown in. "When they gonna bring on the cars? he asked Erma. Sh-h-h, said the man sitting behind him. Nor did any cars show up the the end of the third act. Clint felt cheated. "If the next act don't have a bang-up," he said, "I'm gettin' our money back. Sh-h-h, hissed the man behind him. At which point Clint turned around: "It's a goddamn free country. I got every right to speak my mind. It's guaranteed by the, um, constipation." "Constitution," whispered Erma. "Like I said," Clint said. And when the next act brought only an apotheosis or two, he stormed out of the grange. Minutes later he reappeared driving his Dodge-Studebacker pickup mix. He drove it right onto the stage, sideswiping a baritone and dispersing the Chorus of the Russian People. "Ain't no Communist gonna destroy the sacred privilege of a car." Clint said. The audience gave him a standing ovation. And soon a whole armada of Fords, Chevys, Dodge Darts, and Buicks was crowding onto the stage, honking and cruising and bashing each other. The man who'd been sitting behind Clint kept yelling, "Quiet! Quiet! I want to hear the opera." But it was too late. The majority ruled.



*The Origin of Democracy by Lawrence Millman appeared in Unscheduled Departures - The Asylum Anthology of Short Fiction edited by Greg Boyd

Ahmad Sharabiani

‭De la democratie en Amerique = On Democracy in America = Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville
De La Démocratie en Amérique published in two volumes, the first in 1835 and the second in 1840) is a classic French text by Alexis de Tocqueville. Its title translates as On Democracy in America, but English translations are usually simply entitled Democracy in America. In the book, Tocqueville examines the democratic revolution that he believed had been occurring over the previous several hundred years.
عنوانها: دموکراسی در دنیای جدید؛ دموکراسی در امریکا؛ تحلیل دموکراسی در امریکا؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: یازدهم ماه مارس سال 1971 میلادی
عنوان: تحلیل دموکراسی در دنیای جدید؛ نویسنده: شارل هانری موریس کارل دو توکویل؛ یا: الکسی دو توکویل؛ با مقدمه هارولد نسکی؛ مترجم: رحمت الله مقدم (رحمت الله مقدم مراغه ای)؛ تهران، بنگاه ترجمه و نشر کتاب، 1346؛ در 815 ص؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، نشر همراه، 1380، در 743 ص؛ شابک: 9641319505؛ موضوع: دموکراسی در امریکا قرن 19 م
عنوان: تحلیل دموکراسی در امریکا؛ نویسنده: شارل هانری موریس کارل دو توکویل؛ یا: الکسی دو توکویل؛ با مقدمه هارولد نسکی؛ مترجم: رحمت الله مقدم (رحمت الله مقدم مراغه ای)؛ تهران، زوار، فرانکلین، 1347؛ در 815 ص؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، علمی فرهنگی، 1383، در هشتاد و یک و 574 ص؛ چاپ سوم: 1393، شابک: 9789644455285؛ موضوع: دموکراسی در امریکا قرن 19 م
جناب بزرگ نادرزاد نیز در دو جلد این کتاب را برای نشر فرهنگ جاوید ترجمه کرده است که جلد دوم آن در سال 1394 هجری خورشیدی بوده است
در سال 1831 میلادی، الکسی دو توکویل و گوستاو دو بیومون از سوی دولت فرانسه اعزام شدند، تا نظام زندان آمریکا را مورد مطالعه قرار دهند. توکویل در نامه‌ های متأخرش می‌گوید که او و بیومون از کسب و کار رسمیشان به عنوان زمینه‌ ای استفاده کردند تا در عوض جامعهٔ آمریکا را مورد مطالعه قرار دهند. آنان در ماه می همانسال به نیویورک رسیدند، و نه ماه در ایالات متحده سفر کردند، زندان‌ها را مورد مطالعه قرار دادند و در خصوص جامعهٔ آمریکا از جمله ویژگی‌های مذهبی، سیاسی و اقتصادی آن اطلاعات گردآوری کردند. این دو به طور جزئی از کانادا نیز دیدن کردند. ا. شربیانی

Dan

Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville

de Tocqueville, a young French diplomat, wrote this remarkable essay in two books based on his travels to the United States in the 1830s. He was a student of the consequences of the French revolution and had a very disdainful view of power for a diplomat — in particular the elite’s ability to eventually exploit the loopholes and take power back from the people. It quickly becomes obvious from this treatise that de Tocqueville had enormous admiration for America’s experiment in democracy and also her progress. He also points out sadly that some day the experiment would come to an end.

de Tocqueville came to the U.S. in part to better understand sociology and prison reform. His real aim and his lasting work, that congealed in his mind along the way, became America and her democratic system. In his analyses here he often uses England, France and the South American countries as points of comparison to counterbalance the U.S. study because these were the countries of importance that had constitutions or most resembled democracies that he was most familiar with.

Beyond a brief history lesson of very early America that is quite interesting, de Tocqueville dissects America’s local, state and federal levels of government and the different branches of the federal government. Many of his observations are still fresh and one even could say prescient given our political situation in the United States. Of course he came decades after Washington and Adams and Jefferson and does not spend much time discussing these key people but rather the systems of government. Here are some key takeaways.

1. de Tocqueville believed the biggest reason for the success of America’s democratic experiment fifty years into it was due to the mannerisms of Americans — not the Constitution. By mannerisms he meant not just discourse but the work habits and pragmatism. He did not hold as much faith in Constitutions as France and Mexico’s were similar to the U.S. and both governments had major issues with corruption and inefficiencies.

The manners of the Americans of the United States are, then, the real cause which renders that people the only one of the American nations that is able to support a democratic government.

2. In conjunction with the first point, he was enamored of the Puritan work ethic and disappointed in the French to the north in Canada who did very little with either the land or opportunities in his opinion. He spent a hundred pages discussing the Northeast and the Puritan influence. This was quite interesting.

I have met with men in New England who were on the point of leaving a country, where they might have remained in easy circumstances, to go to seek their fortune in the wilds. Not far from that district I found a French population in Canada, which was closely crowded on a narrow territory. Nature offers the solitudes of the New World to Europeans; but they are not always acquainted with the means of turning her gifts to account. Other peoples of America have the same physical conditions of prosperity as the Anglo-Americans, but without their laws and their manners; and these peoples are wretched. The laws and manners of the Anglo-Americans are therefore that efficient cause of their greatness which is the object of my inquiry.

3. de Tocqueville disliked the populist and current president of the time Andrew Jackson calling him a man of violent temper and mediocre talents. Hmmm that sounds familiar. His cruel policy toward Native Americans and the undue accolades pertaining to the Battle of New Orleans were other points that de Tocqueville wrote about. Nevertheless he did comment that Jackson advocated a diminished role of centralized government in most areas including the role of banks. I think if de Tocqueville had understood slavery better he might have had a more enlightened view as to why Jackson so often opposed central government policies.

Far from wishing to extend the federal power, the President belongs to the party which is desirous of limiting that power to the bare and precise letter of the Constitution, and which never puts a construction upon that act favorable to the Government of the Union; far from standing forth as the champion of centralization, General Jackson is the agent of all the jealousies of the States.

4. de Tocqueville had a few, largely unremarkable, chapters on the two other peoples living in America beyond the Europeans; African-American slaves and Native Americans. His views of Native Americans were somewhat empathetic. His views on slaves were quite racist. He simply could not understand why slaves didn’t revolt at every opportunity. This racist statement of his about the plight of slaves is actually one of the milder ones he makes.

He [the slave] quietly enjoys the privileges of his debasement. If he becomes free, independence is often felt by him to be a heavier burden than slavery

5. Switching gears. de Tocqueville talked extensively about townships and local communities and how they were the bedrock of America’s success. One of the more enlightening aspects of the book. He returns to this point often.

Town-meetings are to liberty what primary schools are to science; they bring it within the people's reach, they teach men how to use and how to enjoy it. A nation may establish a system of free government, but without the spirit of municipal institutions it cannot have the spirit of liberty

6. de Tocqueville also points out that a geographically isolated America does not have the pressures of warring neighbors like in France. But he believes the U.S. deserves credit for maintaining peace among themselves not an easy thing to do.


The American Union has no enemies to contend with; it stands in the wilds like an island in the ocean. But the Spaniards of South America were no less isolated by nature; yet their position has not relieved them from the charge of standing armies. They make war upon each other when they have no foreign enemies to oppose; and the Anglo-American democracy is the only one to maintain peace.

7. de Tocqueville certainly had some interesting things to say about both impeachment and re-elections of presidents. He did not think a president should be eligible for re-election. Nor did he think the prosecutors in an impeachment trial should be withheld the ability to criminally prosecute the accused. Better to have a president fearful of jail — or in the case of treason the ultimate penalty. Although he did acknowledge that he doubted a real tyrant would be stopped by the threat of jail either.

By preventing political tribunals from inflicting judicial punishments the Americans seem to have eluded the worst consequences of legislative tyranny, rather than tyranny itself.

8. de Tocqueville also wrote presciently of a future Mexican-American war. It took only thirteen years for his prediction to come true. He thought nothing would slow the ambition of America’s westward expansion. How right he was.

Thus, the Spaniards and the Anglo-Americans are, properly speaking, the only two races which divide the possession of the New World. The limits of separation between them have been settled by a treaty; but although the conditions of that treaty are exceedingly favorable to the Anglo-Americans, I do not doubt that they will shortly infringe this arrangement.

9. The last takeaway is around the question of how great empires end. This is one near and dear to most of our hearts. And de Tocqueville has some important things to say here. Sadly no practical solutions. DeTocqueville could not have imagined the technological globalization we have today nor Nuclear weapons nor the Climate Crisis. So I’m not convinced that making government local will solve the big problems. But I could be wrong.

All the passions which are most fatal to republican institutions spread with an increasing territory, whilst the virtues which maintain their dignity do not augment in the same proportion. The ambition of the citizens increases with the power of the State; the strength of parties with the importance of the ends they have in view; but that devotion to the common weal which is the surest check on destructive passions is not stronger in a large than in a small republic.

4 stars. Highly readable book for being nearly two centuries old. The version I read was translated to English in the 1870’s. It is lengthy but reads quite quickly. Most every section stands on its own. I probably would have given five stars if de Tocqueville wasn’t so obtuse about slavery. Other than this blind spot his deductive reasoning is quite remarkable and pertinent to today’s political climate.

HBalikov

It amazed me that my country, the USA, was looked on as a democracy worth emulating within its first half century of existence. Though some see Democracy in America as a recounting of travels, and others see it a deconstruction of a foreign country, I think I am with a fair number of others who consider Tocqueville as trying to find what France might adapt for its own institutions. That, of course, started with our penal system because that is what “paid the freight” for Tocqueville and his compatriot, Gustave de Beaumont to spend many months seeing much of America.

I have struggled with writing this review for months because it is so easy to drill down on any one of more than a dozen topics including: America’s Constitution; the nature of the democratic family; the Indians that Tocqueville observed; Blacks and slavery; the importance of local government; the judiciary; the tyranny of the majority; the role of political parties; the foundation of education; freedom of speech; how mores influence democracy; American culture; individualism; the desire for wealth; the strength of lawyers; and, how Christianity fits with democracy.

What permeates this two-volume work are Tocqueville’s thoughts and concerns about how democracy can and should work. For instance, Americans were not the first “individuals” but Tocqueville invented the word individualism and applied it to Americans. He believed there was a danger in this American individualism, particularly the tendency to withdraw from the public sphere. It was in private life that individuals could see themselves as unique, yet he feared that this would encourage withdrawal from the public sphere and mitigated their participation in the life of the community, thus damaging the foundation of democracy.

Tocqueville consistently holds that democracy is not just a form of government—it is a way of life. Beyond democratic institutions, he sees democratic values and attitudes and family structures and culture. Tocqueville uses the term “mores of democracy” to describe the larger idea of democratic values and habits. In addition to being essential to understanding our democracy, Tocqueville was concerned as to whether nations without a tradition of democracy could quickly create an egalitarian and free society. A concern that is just as appropriate today.

There are so many aspects of America and Americans that he found worth considering. Reading these almost 200 years since he wrote them down, it is easy to point to what may not be now relevant. But the astounding impact of this book is how much of it is enduring and how many of the questions that he raised are still relevant.

No summary of that is a substitute for your willingness to take time to immerse yourself in his experiences. I leave you with something that, I hope, will further encourage you to do so.


Key events before and during Beaumont and Tocqueville’s time in America (My thanks to one of my professors for his notes.)

1828.....Tocqueville meets Gustave de Beaumont, who will be his traveling companion in America, and Mary Motley, whom he will later marry.
1830......Tocqueville reluctantly takes an oath of loyalty to the new king following the July Revolution and is appointed a substitute judge. Beaumont and Tocqueville propose a trip to America to study the American penal system.
Jan. 1, 1831.....William Lloyd Garrison publishes the first issue of The Liberator.
Feb. 6, 1831.....Beaumont and Tocqueville are granted an 18-month leave to study the American penal system.
Mar. 18, 1831...The Supreme Court rules on Cherokee Nation v. Georgia.
Apr. 2, 1831......They set sail for America.
May 9, 1831......Beaumont and Tocqueville arrive in Newport, Rhode Island.
May 11, 1831.....They arrive in New York City.
May 27, 1831.....They travel up the Hudson River to visit Sing Sing Penitentiary.
June 30, 1831........They leave New York City.
July 4, 1831...........They attend July 4th festivities in Albany.
July 9, 1831............They begin their visit to Auburn Penitentiary.
July 16, 1831..........They arrive in Canandaigua, New York, and stay with John C. Spencer.
July 18, 1831..........They arrive in Buffalo.
July 22, 1831..........They arrive in Detroit and depart for Saginaw.
July 26, 1831..........John C. Calhoun definitively declares himself for nullification.
Aug. 9, 1831...........Tocqueville and Beaumont arrive in Green Bay.
Aug. 18, 1831..........They visit Niagara Falls.
Aug. 22, 1831...........Nat Turner’s rebellion begins.
Aug. 23, 1831...........They arrive in Montreal.
Sept. 9, 1831.............They arrive in Boston for a stay of almost four weeks.
Sept. 28, 1831............The Anti-Masonic Convention meets.
Oct. 12, 1831..............They arrive in Philadelphia for a two-week stay, visiting Eastern State Penitentiary several times.
Oct. 28, 1831...............They travel to Baltimore, where they encounter slavery for the first time.
Nov. 12, 1831..............The first steam-powered train makes its maiden voyage.
Nov. 25, 1831..............Tocqueville and Beaumont leave Pittsburgh on an Ohio River boat for Cincinnati but hit a rock the next day.
Dec. 7, 1831..................They arrive in Nashville.
Dec. 25, 1831.................They begin their trip to New Orleans from Memphis on a steamboat. Jan. 1, 1832...............................They arrive in New Orleans.
Jan. 3, 1832.....................They begin a long voyage on land and sea through the South.
Jan. 15, 1832....................They arrive in Norfolk, Virginia.
Jan. 17, 1832....................They arrive in Washington.
Jan. 19, 1832.....................Tocqueville and Beaumont meet President Andrew Jackson.
Feb. 6, 1832.......................They arrive in New York.
Feb. 20, 1832.....................They board a ship for their return voyage to France.

Hai Quan

Update 1/10/2921
IS THIS A ZOO OR A CIRCUS?
You tell men
With the storming of Trump's cultists at the Legislative Building resulting in 5 deaths and dozen injured, I found my review ( written long before this tragi-comic incident) of this book, expressing my antipathy to what is known as DEMOCRACY in this land JUSTIFIED.

Looking at all the dark dealing before Trump "winning " the presidential election, his "Making America great again" hullabaloo, his thousands of lying statements that was recorded by many persons his attempt at insurgency and numerous of his sexual harassment accusations ,his secret payment to buy a paid hooker's silence, it seems to me the whole scene is that of a pack of MONKEYS in a zoo than a circus.
Why? In a circus there ain't no gun fire and death.Actually it ain't no zoo either, because similarly, ain't no gun fire and death in ain't no zoo also


I don't know if this shameful drama can be found WITHIN any animal species
What disgraceful !
End of update
******
(READERS are also invited to check out my comment made for Jemery Perron 's book review.Thank you.)
*******
The serf mentality is a common trait to all or almost all people who walk in the surface of this planet.It encompasses people in all walks of life, from the bottom to the top of this human heap save for the 0.1% top, composed of the like of Queen Elizabeth , Emperors Trump, Xi Jinping , Putin and their Royal Courtiers.
This mentality is unique trait exists exclusively in human only.You don't see it among other animal species.
In almost all animal species, democratic principle is observed faithfully.
A pack of wolves would chase and swarm a deer for example.Sucessful, they will partake the carcass very much equally or somewhat equally.
Similar scene can be seen with other carnivores .
You don't see a situation where the strongest wolves keep almost all of the carcass for themselves, chasing away all weaker wolves and leave them starved.
But look at human being society , look at that old witch perching in that jeweled chair at Downing street.
What do you see her and her brood ,and her brood 's brood stuffing into their stingking mouths ? What kind of the clothings they are wearing, what castle are their abodes , what kind of wheels and flying metal birds they use to move about, how many real estate they own, how much money in their bank accounts and thousand of other kind of possession they own including precious metal and stone.Perhaps they own half of everything that exist in this planet thanks for centuries of Vikingism , Rob/ Kill/Plunder.

And just look a bit out there in Downing St
What do you see?
This scenario is not exclusive for the despicable stinking British Royal.
All other ruling gangs that sit on the top of all human heap of all countries are very much the same regardless of whatever political system they adopt

Then why is this fuss about this DEMOCRACY shit?
Why is this argument , discussion, academic mumbo jumbo about this vicious, persisting, bloody exploitation of the NOBLE and HIGH PRIEST upon their sweating, laboring, hard breathing, suffering , tear and blood shedding FOOT SOLDIERS, landless farmers, factory workers , office slaves and all other starving labourers?
What God damn good is this dirty trick they call DEMOCRACY ? Ain't it a very dirty , clever and vicious scheme in which their buddies , the intercontinental mafia inspired cartels in oil, uranium , manufacturers of weaponry including atomic bombs, fighter jets, 'em humongous carriers , subs and missiles and all big ass consumer goods CHIP IN BIG ASS CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTION to their honorable servant , their big ass CANDIDATES who will , as certain as tax and death, ELECTED in any and all elections ( or ERECTIONS?) at all county, city , state and federal levels .
Am I exaggerating? Hardly, just look at ALL of the results of all dirty, tricky ERECTIONS from the beginning of their " democraTRICK" history until now: all 'em mass murderers , snakes, swines ,croc's, thieves, liars squirmed their way to all of 'em most lucrative positions leaving nothing for the starving serfs!

But look: Here are the whole bunch of extremely stupid pseudo academic intelligentsias , the author included , wasting tons of paper and ink in this bogus academic, useless,heartless, cruel,stupid,hypocritical, meaningless and brainless barking, yelping, growling that are driving me nut!
Another God damn bad day !
Morons

How many dimwit among them realize that this babbling from this Alexis de Tocqueville is just a dirty smokescreen to cover French's gun boat piracy that murdered millions of 'em resisting " savages" ( even though 'em male "savages" hardly ever copulate with their own grandma's as the Gauloi did frequently) at far flung islands and continents, to bring home tons of gold and other precious metals, diamond , metal ore and other natural resources needed for their burgeoning industries , including the industries of warship building, canon, missile, nuke war head, Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles , subs, bomber carriers and small arms to further their national policy of international piracy , politely referred to as colonialism.
And here is this big ass politician and a political commentator , lying with a straight (fat) face , as though all the above mentioned French's dirty business never happen, intoning his fake Gospel about his God damn " democracy"

And thousands, hundred thousands if not millions of equally brainless dimwit serfs and middle class loyal slaves are also stupidly SWOONING over it!

Included in the above , of course are rich boys and girls , the nobles and high priests .
No doubt, that trashy bogus academic discourse from that French man is their Gospel..It legitimizes their despicable human blood sucking ,exploiting and oppressing enterprise!

Made me wanna throw up!

Mike (the Paladin)

I'm going with 4 stars here, it isn't always the easiest book to read, but worth it. There is a lot of wisdom in this book, a lot of insight. While history hasn't borne out all his predictions, there have been enough. Sadly also, it looks as though more of the things he said may still prove to be true.

In today's atmosphere, the thoughts here compared to the reality we live in and that "may" be coming to pass....well, it's worth some thought. When America broke away from the "branch" so to speak it was a new thing in the world. No colony had ever done what was done here and it was an idealistic experiment even a dream that was watched by the world. Europe was...somewhat worried and England in particular was very unhappy about the implications. Had the War of 1812 gone differently on this side of the Atlantic we all still might be drinking tea more than coffee as it could have changed everything. But when you say "the War of 1812" in Europe their minds go to battles and events other than here in North America. They think of the Napoleonic war.

But back to the subject. The American Revolution raised questions worldwide and things began to percolate. In France things boiled over not long after they did here. It's notable that many in the academic community are far more enamored with the French Revolution than with the American. You see it was "supposed to be" a "rational Revolution" it was a Godless revolution with all the clergy and God Himself rejected by the leaders and much of the movement (the clergy was seen as close to the royals you see). Unfortunately the French Revolution spun out of control into a rein of terror and then into a military dictatorship.

In the wake of all this a young man (Alexis de Tocqueville) spent 9 months touring the "new" United States and when he returned to France he wrote this book commenting on the social and governmental "situation" and implications.

He was torn between hopeful and...well, not so hopeful.

So I recommend the book. It's interesting, thought provoking and somewhat sobering. I leave you with one quote from said book:

“The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money.”
― Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Think about it.

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