Democracy in America, Volumes One and Two by Alexis de Tocqueville, trans. Henry Reeve is a publication of the Pennsylvania State University. This Portable . De La Démocratie En Amérique. “THIS IS BY FAR THE Tocqueville, Alexis de. Item Number: First American edition of Tocqueville’s magnum opus. Octavo. Did you know? During his travels in the United States, one of the first things that surprised Alexis de Tocqueville about American culture was how early everyone .
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He was best known for his works Amerlca in America appearing in two volumes, and and The Old Regime and the Revolution In both, he analyzed the improved living standards and social conditions of individuals as well as their relationship to the market and state in Western societies. Aledis in America was published after Tocqueville’s travels in the United States and is today considered an early work of sociology and political science. Tocqueville was active in French politics, first under the July Monarchy — and then during the Second Republic — which succeeded the February Revolution.
He argued the importance of the French Revolution was to continue the process of modernizing and centralizing the French state which amfrica begun under King Louis XIV. The failure of the Revolution came from the inexperience of the deputies who were too wedded to abstract Enlightenment ideals.
Tocqueville was a classical liberal who advocated parliamentary governmentbut he was skeptical of the extremes of democracy. Alexis de Tocqueville came from an old Norman aristocratic family. Under the Bourbon RestorationTocqueville’s father became a noble peer and prefect. Tocqueville, who despised the July Monarchy —began his political career in From tohe served as deputy of the Manche department Valognes. In parliament, he sat on the centre-left  defended abolitionist views and upheld free trade while supporting the colonisation of Algeria carried on by Louis-Philippe ‘s regime.
Inhe sought to found a Young Left Jeune Gauche party which would advocate wage increases, a progressive tax and other labor concerns in order to undermine the appeal of the socialists. According to one account, Tocqueville’s political position became untenable during this time in the sense that he was mistrusted democratis both the left and right and was looking for an excuse to leave France.
Inhe obtained from the July Monarchy a mission to examine prisons and penitentiaries in the United States and proceeded there with his lifelong friend Gustave de Beaumont. While Tocqueville did visit some prisons, he traveled widely in the United States and took extensive notes about his observations and reflections.
Marie or Slavery in the United States In andhe traveled to Algeria. He went as far as openly advocating racial segregation between the European colonists and the Arabs through the implementation of two different legislative systems a half century before implementation of the Indigenous code based on religion.
InTocqueville made a journey through Ireland. His observations provide one of the best pictures of how Ireland stood before the Great Famine — Ameruca observations chronicle the growing Catholic middle class and the appalling conditions in which most Catholic tenant farmers lived.
Alexis de Tocqueville
Tocqueville made clear both his libertarian sympathies and his affinity for his Irish co-religionists. After the fall of the July Monarchy vemocratie the February RevolutionTocqueville was elected a member of the Constituent Assembly ofwhere he became a member alxis the Commission charged with the drafting of the new Constitution of the Second Republic — He defended bicameralism the wisdom of two parliamentary chambers and the election of the President of the Republic by universal suffrage.
As the countryside was thought to be more conservative than the labouring population of Paris, universal suffrage was conceived as a means to counteract the revolutionary spirit of Paris. During the Second Republic, Tocqueville sided with the parti de l’Ordre against the socialists. A few days after the February insurrection, he believed that a violent clash between the Parisian workers’ population led by socialists agitating in favor of a “Democratic and Social Republic” and the conservatives, which included the aristocracy and the rural population, was inescapable.
As Tocqueville had foreseen, these social tensions eventually exploded during the June Days Uprising of Led by General Cavaignacthe suppression was supported by Tocqueville, who advocated the “regularization” of the state of democraie declared by Cavaignac and other measures promoting suspension of the constitutional order.
His proposals underlined the importance of his North American experience as his amendment about the President and his reelection.
A supporter of Cavaignac and of the parti de l’OrdreTocqueville accepted an invitation to enter Odilon Barrot ‘s government as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 3 June to 31 October During the troubled days of Junehe pleaded with Interior Minister Jules Dufaure for the reestablishment of the state of siege in the capital and approved the arrest of demonstrators. Tocqueville, who since February had supported laws restricting political freedoms, approved the two laws voted immediately after the June days which restricted the liberty of clubs and freedom of the press.
This active support in favor of laws restricting political freedoms stands in contrast of his defense of freedoms in Democracy in America. According to Tocqueville, he favored order as “the sine vemocratie non for the conduct of serious politics.
Against this image of Tocqueville, biographer Joseph Epstein has concluded: He fought as best he could for the political liberty in which he so ardently believed—had given it, in all, thirteen years of his life [ He would spend the days remaining to him fighting the same fight, but conducting it now from libraries, archives, and his own desk”. A longtime sufferer from bouts of tuberculosisTocqueville would eventually succumb to the disease on 16 April and was buried in the Tocqueville cemetery in Normandy.
Tocqueville’s professed religion was Roman Catholicism. In Democracy in Americapublished inTocqueville wrote of the New World and its burgeoning democratic order. Observing from the perspective of a detached social aleexis, Tocqueville wrote of his travels through the United States in the early 19th century when the Market RevolutionWestern expansion and Jacksonian democracy amerca radically transforming the fabric of American life. According to Joshua Kaplan, one purpose of writing Democracy in America was to help the people of France get a better understanding of their position between a fading aristocratic order and an emerging democratic order and to help them sort out the confusion.
Tocqueville was an ardent supporter of liberty. The above is often misquoted as a slavery quote because of previous translations of the French text.
Alexis de Tocqueville – Wikipedia
The most recent translation from Arthur Goldhammer in translates the meaning to be as stated above. Examples of misquoted sources are numerous on the internet,  but the text does not contain the words “Americans were so enamored by equality” anywhere.
His view on tocquevillf reflects his belief in liberty and the need for individuals to be able to act freely while respecting others’ rights. Of centralized government, he wrote that it “excels in preventing, not doing”. He continues to comment on equality by saying: As none of them is strong enough to fight alone with advantage, the only guarantee of liberty is for everyone to combine forces. But such a combination tocueville not always in evidence”.
Tocqueville explicitly cites inequality as being incentive for poor to become rich and notes that it is not often that two generations within a family maintain success and that it is inheritance laws that split and eventually break apart someone’s estate that cause a constant cycle of churn between the poor and rich, thereby over generations making the poor rich and rich poor.
He cites protective laws in France at the time that protected an estate from being split apart among heirs, thereby preserving wealth and preventing a churn of wealth such as was perceived by him in within the United States. Tocqueville’s main purpose was to analyze the functioning of political society and various forms of political associations, although he brought some tofqueville on civil society too and relations between political and civil society.
For Tocqueville, as for Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Karl Marxcivil society was a sphere of private entrepreneurship and civilian affairs regulated by civil code.
De la Démocratie en Amérique, 4 vols. – Online Library of Liberty
According to political scientist Joshua Kaplan, Tocqueville did not originate the concept of individualism, instead he changed its meaning and saw it as a “calm and considered feeling which deposes each citizen to isolate himself from the mass of his fellows and to withdraw into the circle of family and friends [ When individualism was a positive amerifa and prompted people to work together for common purposes and seen as “self-interest properly understood”, then it helped to counterbalance the danger of the tyranny of the majority since people could “take control over their own lives” without government aid.
Others, such as the Catholic writer Daniel Schwindtdisagree with Kaplan’s interpretation, arguing instead that Tocqueville saw individualism as just another form of egotism and not an improvement over it. Egoism springs from a blind instinct; individualism from wrong-headed thinking rather than from depraved feelings. It originates as much from defects of intelligence as from the mistakes of the heart.
Egoism blights the americx of every virtue; individualism at first dries up only the source of public virtue. In the longer term it attacks and destroys all the others and will finally merge with egoism.
Online Library of Liberty
Tocqueville warned that modern democracy may be adept at inventing new forms of tyranny because radical equality could lead to the materialism of an expanding bourgeoisie and to the selfishness of individualism.
In contrast, a despotism under a democracy could see “a multitude of men”, uniformly alike, equal, “constantly circling for petty pleasures”, unaware of fellow citizens and subject to the will of a powerful state which exerted an “immense protective power”. Tocqueville’s penetrating analysis sought to understand the peculiar nature of American political life.
In describing the American, he agreed with thinkers such as Aristotle and Montesquieu that the balance of property determined the balance of political power, but his conclusions ameica that differed radically from those of his predecessors.
Tocqueville tried to understand why the United States was so different from Europe in the last throes of aristocracy.
In contrast to the aristocratic ethic, the United States was a society where hard work and money-making was the dominant ethic, where the common man enjoyed a level of dignity which was unprecedented, where commoners never deferred to elites and where what he alexus as crass individualism and market capitalism had taken root to an extraordinary degree.
Tocqueville asserted that the values that had triumphed in the North and were present in the South had begun to suffocate old-world ethics and social arrangements. Legislatures abolished primogeniture and entails tocquevillw, resulting in more widely distributed land holdings. This was a contrast ameica the general aristocratic pattern in which only the eldest child, usually a man, inherited the estate, which had the effect of keeping large alxeis intact from generation to generation.
In contrast, in the United States landed elites were less likely to pass on fortunes to a single child by the action of primogeniturewhich slexis that as time went by large estates became broken up within a few generations which in turn made the children more equal overall. As Tocqueville understood it, this rapidly democratizing society had a population devoted to “middling” values which wanted to amass through hard work vast fortunes.
In Tocqueville’s mind, this explained why the United States was so different from Europe. In Europe, he inn, nobody cared about making money. The lower classes had no hope of gaining more than minimal wealth while the upper classes found it crass, vulgar and unbecoming of their sort to care about something as unseemly as money and many were virtually guaranteed wealth and took it for granted. At the same time in the United States, workers would see people fashioned in exquisite attire and merely proclaim that through hard work they too would soon possess the fortune necessary to enjoy such luxuries.
Despite maintaining that the balance of property determined the balance of power, Tocqueville argued that as the United States showed, equitable property holdings did not ensure the rule aoexis the best men. In fact, it did quite the opposite as the widespread, relatively equitable property ownership which distinguished the United States and determined its mores and values also explained why the United States masses held elites in such contempt.
Beyond the eradication of old-world aristocracy, ordinary Americans also refused to defer to those possessing, as Tocqueville put it, superior talent and intelligence and these natural elites could aexis enjoy much share in political power as a result.
Ordinary Americans enjoyed too much power and claimed too great a voice in the tocquevulle sphere to defer to intellectual superiors. This culture promoted a relatively pronounced equality, Tocqueville argued, but the same mores and opinions that ensured such equality also promoted mediocrity. Those who possessed true virtue and talent were left with limited choices.
Tocqueville said that those with the most education tocquevills intelligence were left with two choices. They could join limited intellectual circles to explore aelxis weighty and complex problems facing society, or they could use their superior talents to amass vast fortunes in the private sector.
Tocqueville wrote that he did not know of any country where there was “less independence of mind, and true freedom of discussion, than in America”. He blamed the omnipotence of majority rule as a chief factor in stifling thinking: A writer is free inside that area, but woe to the man who goes beyond it, not that he stands in fear of an inquisition, but he must face all kinds of unpleasantness in every day persecution.
A career in politics is closed to him for he has offended the only power that holds the keys”. Uniquely positioned at a crossroads in American history, Tocqueville’s Democracy in America attempted to capture the essence of American culture and values.
Though a supporter of colonialism, Tocqueville could clearly perceive the evils that black people and natives had been subjected to in the United States. Tocqueville devoted the last chapter of the first volume of Democracy in America to the question while his travel companion Gustave de Beaumont wholly focused on slavery and its fallouts for the American nation in Marie or Slavery in America.
Tocqueville tocquevillle among the American races:. The first who attracts the eye, the first in enlightenment, in power and in happiness, is the white man, the European, man par excellence; below him appear the Negro and the Indian.
These two unfortunate races have neither birth, nor face, nor language, nor mores in common; only their misfortunes look alike. Both occupy an equally inferior position in the country that they inhabit; both experience the effects of tyranny; and if their miseries are different, they can accuse the same author for them.
Tocqueville contrasted the settlers of Virginia with the middle class, religious Puritans who founded New England and analyzed the debasing influence of slavery:.