Democracy in America

Democracy in America Paperback – April 1, 2002, by Alexis de Tocqueville (Author), Harvey C. Mansfield (Translator), Delba Winthrop Translator. In 1831, the then twenty-seven-year-old Alexis de Tocqueville was sent with Gustave de Beaumont to America by the French Government to study and report on the American prison system.

Over a period of nine months, the two traveled all over America, making notes on the prison systems and all aspects of American society and government. From these notes, Tocqueville wrote Democracy in America, an exhaustive analysis of the American form of government’s successes and failures, a republican representative democracy. Tocqueville believed that humanity’s social and economic conditions were progressively becoming more equal over the past seven hundred years.

In his opinion, the future was inevitably drawing humanity towards the democratic ideal, thus diminishing the power of the aristocracy. Tocqueville’s predictions of the changing nature of human civilization seem almost clairvoyant in retrospect. First published in two volumes in 1835 and 1840, Democracy in America remains one of the most important historical documents of America and political analysis of its form of government. This edition includes both unabridged volumes as translated by Harvey C. Mansfield (Translator), Delba Winthrop.


Alexis de Tocqueville was born on July 29, 1805, and died in his fifty-fourth year on April 16, 1859, not a long life, and one often addicted to ill health. He was born a French aristocrat and lived as one. He was also a liberal who rejected the Old regime Of aristocracy and doubted the revolution that overturned it. An aristocratic liberal he was, and if we knew everything contained in that difficult combination, we could Stop here. But since we do not, the formula will serve as a beginning. In thought as in life, Tocqueville always held to freedom and nobility, and his question was how to keep them together.

Tocqueville was born into an ancient Norman family named Carrel; one of his ancestors had fought in the company of William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings. Through marriage, negotiation, and action at law, the Carrels acquired Tocqueville’s fief in Normandy, and in 1661 took that name. Alexis’s grandfather was a chevalier; his father Herve became a count in 1820. In 1793 Herve had married the granddaughter Of Malesherbes, a great figure late in the Old Regime: botanist, correspondent of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, both minister and critic Of Louis XVI, and courageous defender Of the king at his trial in 1792—1793. Malesherbes and Herve de Tocqueville were imprisoned during the Terror, the former guillotined together with a sister, a daughter, a son-in-law, and a granddaughter and her husband.

Herve was spared and released in 1794; his hair had turned snow-white at the age of twenty-two. Herve became the guardian of the two orphans of Malesherbes’s son-in-law, who was the elder brother of the great writer Francis Renee Chateaubriand. In his Memoirs, Chateaubriand speaks Of seeing his nephews growing up with Alexis, future author Of Democracy in America. He remarks in one Of his epigrams: “Alexis de Tocqueville went through civilized America while I visited its forests.”‘ Here is the hauteur of the aristocrat that Tocqueville could have imitated but did not. If he remained in any powerful sense an aristocrat, it was only after having concluded that all partisan sentiment in favor of aristocracy is now vain and nostalgic. He himself had no children and no particular wish to sustain his own noble family. He once said that he would passionately desire to have children as he could imagine them but had “no very keen desire to draw from the great lottery of paternity.

However sharp his sympathetic appreciation for aristocratic society, and it was considered this was not a man of aristocratic feeling, ready to make sacrifices as pere de faille on behalf of aristocratic illusions. The irresistible democratic revolution is the theme of Tocqueville’s three great books. It is outlined in his Introduction to Democracy in America (the first volume published in 1835, the second in 1840). It is applied to his own time in his Souvenirs (written in 1851 but not for publication; first published only in 1893). He recounts the (ultimately) socialist revolution that he witnessed in 1848. And he uncovers its remote origins in The Old Regime and the Revolution, published in 1856 with a promise he could not fulfill to write further on the events of the Revolution and provide a judgment on its result.

Unlike other aristocrats of his time, Tocqueville did not despair of democracy. He neither scorned it nor opposed it. On the whole, he approved of it—or at least accepted it with every appearance of willingness. Readers of Democracy in America have always disagreed over how democratic he was both in mind and heart. Still, it is fair to say that he directed much of his energy to warn the reactionaries in his country that democracy was irreversible and irresistible and to show them that it was wrong to hate the consequences of the French Revolution.

He believed that the beginnings of democracy antedated the Revolution. Its worst aspects—which were not violence and disruption—were even initiated by the monarchy’s Old Regime. So, far from hiding or sulking, like a displaced refugee of the old order, or from reluctantly accepting duties that were pressed upon him, Tocqueville sought out opportunities for engagement in politics. In 1837, when, perhaps, he should have been working without interruption on the second volume of Democracy in America, he ran for the Chamber of Deputies in the regime of Louis-Philippe and was defeated.

In 1839 he ran again and was elected; he was reelected in 1842 and again in 1846. He became a leading figure of the liberal newspaper Le commerce in 1844; then, as the Chamber turned to the Right, he helped create a “Young Left.” On January 27, 1848, he gave a famous speech in the Chamber warning, with an accuracy that surprised even him, of the “wind of revolution” that was in the air;’ here, in addition to the more general predictions of Democracy in America, was an instance of his uncanny ability to sense the drifts and trends of politics.

Later in that year, after the fall of Louis-Philippe’s monarchy, he was elected to the Second Republic’s constituent assembly and served on the committee that prepared its constitution. In 1848, he was elected to the new Assembly and served briefly, honorably, and unsuccessfully as Minister of Foreign Affairs in a cabinet that lasted from June 2 to October 31. By the following spring, he had been stricken with the illness, probably tuberculosis, that would eventually claim his life.

Tocqueville did his best to govern, as he said, “in a regular, moderate, conservative, and quite a constitutional way,” but he was in a situation in which “everyone wanted to depart from the constitution.”6 In such a predicament, a consistent line of conduct is almost impossible. In any case, the French had put their new republic on borrowed time by electing Louis Napoleon as its president. His coup d’etat put an end to the republic came in December 1851, at which time Tocqueville, as a protesting deputy, was imprisoned for two days, then released. Suffering under an illiberal regime and ill health, he was now free to write his book on the Old Regime.

Yet, for him, the freedom to write and publish was not enough. He also wanted political freedom, and he wanted to taste it for himself by holding office. He seems to have understood the desire to distinguish oneself as essentially political be-cause the goods of this world, even the intellectual joys of understanding, never give satisfaction or repose. The theory itself is a sort of activity fraught with restiveness, and as such, not surely superior to action. Writing in 1840 to his older brother Edouard, he explained himself.
What moves the soul is different, but the soul is the same this restive and insatiable soul that despises all goods of the world and which, nonetheless, incessantly needs to be stirred to seize them, to escape the grievous numbness that is experienced as soon as it relies for a moment on itself. This is a sad story. It is a little bit the story of all men, but some more than others, and myself more than anyone I know.

Volume One



1. External Configuration of North America

2 On the Point of Departure and Its Importance for the Future of the Anglo-Americans

  • Reasons for Some Singularities That the Laws and Customs of the Anglo-Americans Present

3.Social State of the Anglo-Americans

  • That the Salient Point of the Social State of the Anglo-Americans Is It’s Essentially Democratic
  • Political Consequences of the Social State of the Anglo-Americans

4. On the Principle of the Sovereignty of the People in America
5. Necessity of Studying What Takes Place in the Particular States before Speaking of the Government of the Union

  • On the Township System in America Size of the Township  Powers of the Township in New England
  • On Township Existence
  • On the Spirit of the Township in New England
  • On the County in New England
  • On Administration in New England  General Ideas about Administration in the United States
  • On the State Legislative Power of the State
  • On the Executive Power of the State
  • On the Political Effect of Administrative Decentralization in the United States

6. On Judicial Power in the United States and Its Action on Political Society

  • Other Powers Granted to American Judges

7 . On Political Judgment in the United States

8.On the Federal Constitution

  • History of the Federal Constitution
  • Summary Picture of the Federal Constitution
  • Prerogatives of the Federal Government
  • Federal Powers
  • Legislative Powers
  • Another difference between the Senate and the Hone of Representatives
  • On the Executive Power
  • How the Position of the precedent of the United States differs from That of a Constitutional King in France Accidental Cause That can increase the Influence of the power
  • Why the President of the United States Does Not Need to Have a Majority in the Houses to Direct Affairs  On the election of the President
  • Mode of Election
  • Crick of the Election
  • On the Reelection of the President
  • On the Federal Courts
  • Manner of Settling the Competence of the Federal Courts
  • Different Cases of Jurisdiction Manner of Proceeding of Federal Courts
  • Elevated Rank Held by the Supreme Court among the Great Powers of the State
  • How the Federal Constitution Is Superior to the Constitutions of the States
  • What Distinguishes the Federal Constitution of the United States of America from all other  Federal  Constitutions
  • On the Advantages of the Federal System Generally, and Its Special Utility for America
  • What Keeps the Federal System from Being within Reach of All Peoples, and What Has Permitted the Anglo-Americans to Adopt It


1 How One Can Say Strictly That in the United States the People Govern
2. On Parting in the Uniting States On the Remains of the Aristocratic Party in the United States
3 On Freedom of the Press in the United States
4 On Political Association in the United States
5 On the Government of Democracy in America

  • On Universal Suffrage
  • On the Choices of the People and the Instincts of American Democracy in Its Choices
  • On the Cause That Can come in Part Correct  Piece Instincts of Democracy
  • Influence That American Democracy Exerts on Electoral Laws
  • On Public Officials under the Empire of American Democracy
  • On the Arbitrariness of Magistrates under the Empire of American Democracy
  • Administrative Instability in the United States
  • On Public Costs under the Empire of American Democracy
  • On the Instincts of American Democracy in Fixing the Salaries of Officials
  • The difficulty of Discerning the Causes That Incline the American Government to Economy
  • Can the Public Expenditures of the United States Be Compared to Those of France
  • On the Corruption and Vices of Those Who Govern in Democracy
  • On the Effects on Public Morality That Result 210 Of What Efforts Democracy Is Capable
  • On the Power That American Democracy Generally Exercises over itself
  • How American Democracy Conducts External Affairs of State

7. On the Omnipotence of the Majority in the United States  What Are the Red Advantages That American Society Derives from the Government of Democracy

  • On the General Tendency of the Laws under the Empire of American Democracy, and on the Instinct of Those Who Apply Then
  • On Public Spirit in the United States
  • On the Idea of Rights in the United States
  • On Respect for the Law in the United States
  • Activity Reigning in All Parts of the Body Politic of the United States; Influence That It Exerts on Society
  • Effect of the  Omnipotence of the Majority in America Increases the Legislative and Administrative Instability That Is Natural to Democracies
  • Tyranny of the Majority
  • Effects of the Omnipotence of the Majority on the Arbitrariness of American Officials
  • On the Power That the Majority in America Exercises over Thought
  • Effects of the Tyranny of the Majority on the National Character of the Americans; On the Spirit of a Court in the united states
  • That the Greatest Danger of the American Republics Comes from the Omnipotence of the Majority


8. What Tempers the Tyranny of the Majority in the United States

  • Absence of Administrative Centralization On the Spirit of the Lawyer in the United States and How It Serves as a Counterweight to Democracy
  • On the Jury in the United States Considered as a Political Institution

9. On the Principal Causes Tending to Maintain the Democratic Republic in the United States 264

  • On the Accidental or Providential Causes Contributing to the Maintenance of the Democratic Republic in the United States
  • On the influence of the low of the Maintenance of the Democratic Republic in the United States
  • On the Influence of The more on the Maintenance of the Democratic Republic in the United States
  • On Religion Considered as a Political Institution How It Serves Powerfully the Maintenance of the Democratic Republic among the Americans
  • Indirect Influence That Religious Beliefs Exert on Political Society in the United States
  • On the Principal Causes That Make Religion Powerful in America
  • How the Enlightenment, the Habits, and the Practical Experience of the Americans Contribute to the Success of Democratic institutions
  • That the Laws Serve to Maintain a Democratic Republic in the United States More than Physical Causes, and Mores More than laws
  • would Laws and more Suffice to Maintain incineration institutions Elsewhere than in America
  • Importance of What Precedes about Europe


8.Some Considerations on the Present State and the Probable Future of the Three Races That Inhabit the Territory of the United States

  • Present State and Probable Future of the Indian Tribes That Inhabit the Territory Possessed by the Union
  • Position That the Black Race Occupies in the United States; Dangers Incurred by Whites from Its Presence
  • What Are the Chances That the American union Will last What Dangers Threaten It
  • On Republican Institutions in the United States; What Are Their Chances of Longevity
  • Some Considerations on the case of the Commercial Greatness of the United States


Volume Two


1 On the Philosophic Method of the Americans
2 On the Principal Source of Beliefs among Democratic Peoples
3 Why the Americans Show More Aptitude and Taste for General Ideas than Their English Fathers
4 Why the Americans Have Never Been as Passionate as the French for General Ideas in Political Matters as
5. How, in the United States, Religion Knows How to Make Use of Democratic Instincts
6. On the Progress of Catholicism in the United States
7 . That Makes the Mind of Democratic Peoples Lean toward Pantheism
8 How Equality Suggests to the Americans the Idea of the Indefinite Perfectibility of Man
9 How the Example of the Americans Does Not Prove That a Democratic People Can Have No Aptitude and Taste for the Sciences, Literature, and the Arts
10. Why the Americans Apply Themselves to the Practice of the Sciences Rather than to the Theory
11. In What Spirit the Americans Cultivate the Arts
12. Why the Americans at the Same Time Raise Such Little and
13. The Literary Face of Democratic Centuries
14. On the Literary Industry
15 . Why the Study of Greek and Latin Literature Is Particularly Useful in Democratic Societies
16 How American Democracy Has Modified the English Language
17 On Some Sources of Poetry in Democratic Nations
18 Why American Writers and Orators Are Often Bombastic
19 Some Observations on the Theater of Democratic Peoples
20 On Some Tendency Particular to a historian in Democratic Centuries
21 On Parliamentary Eloquence in the United States


1 Why Democratic Peoples Show a More Ardent and More Lasting Love for Equality than for Freedom
2 On individualism in Democratic Countries
3 How Individualism Is Greater at the End of a Democratic Revolution than in Any Other Period
4 How the American Combat Individualistic with Free institutions
5 On the Use That the Americans Make of Association in Civil Life
6 On the Relation between Associations and Newspapers
7 Relation between Associations  and Political Associations
8 How the Americans Combat Individualism by the Doctrine of Self-Interest Well Understood
9 How the Americans Apply the Doctrine of Self-Interest Well Understood in the Matter of Religion
10 On the Taste for Material will-Being in America
11 On the Particular Effects That the Love of Material Enjoyments Produces in Democratic Centuries
12 Why Certain Americans Display Such an Exalted Spiritualism
13 Why the Americans Show Themselves So Restive in the Midst of Their Well-Being
14 How the Taste for Material Enjoyments among Americans Is United with Love of Freedom and with Care for Public Affairs
15 How Religious Beliefs at Times Turn the Souls of the Americans toward Immaterial Enjoyments
16 How the Excessive Love of Well-Being Can Be Harmful to Well-Being
17 How in Times of Equality and Doubt It Is Important to Move Back the Object of Human Actions
18 Why among the Americans All Honest Professions Are Reputed Honorable
19 What Makes Almost All Americans Incline toward Industrial Professions
20 How Aristocracy Could Issue from Industry


1 How Mores Become Milder as Conditions Are Equalized
2 How Democracy Renders the Habitual Relations of the Americans Simpler and Easier
3 Why the Americans Have So Little Over sensitivity in Their Country and Show Themselves to Be So Oversensitive in Ours
4 Consequences of the Preceding Three Chapters
5 How Democracy Modifies the Relations of Servant and Master
6 How Democratic Institutions and Mores Tend to Raise the Price and Shorten the Duration of Leases
7 Influence of Democracy on Wages
8 Influence of Democracy on the Family
9 Education of Girls in the United States
10 How the Girl Is Found beneath the Features of the Wife
11 How Equality of Conditions Contributes to Maintaining Good Mores in America
12 How the Americans Understand the Equality of Man and Woman
13 How Equality Naturally Divides the Americans into a Multitude of Particular Little Societies
14 Some Reflections on American Manners
15 On the Gravity of the Americans and Why It Does Not Prevent Their Often Doing Ill-Considered Things
16 Why the National Vanity of the Americans Is More Restive and More Quarrelsome than That of the English
17 How the Aspect of Society in the United States Is at Once Agitated and Monotonous
18 On Honor in the United States and Democratic Societies

19 Why One Funds So Many Ambitious Men in the United States and So Few Great Ambitions
20 On the Industry in Place-Hunting in Certain Democratic Nations
21 Why Great Revolutions Will Become Rare
22 Why Democratic Peoples Naturally Desire Peace and Democratic Armies Naturally Desire War
23 Which Is the Most Warlike and the Most Revolutionary Class in Democratic Armies
24 What Makes Democratic Armies Weaker Than Other Armies When Entering into a Campaign and More Formidable When War Is Prolonged
25 On Discipline in Democratic Armies
26 Some Considerations on War in Democratic Societies


1 Equality Naturally Gives Men the Taste for Free Institutions
2 That the Ideas of Democratic Peoples in the Matter of Government Are Naturally Favorable to the Concentration of Powers
3 That the Sentiments of Democratic Peoples Are in Accord with Their Ideas to Bring Them to Concentrate Power
4 On Some Particular and Accidental Causes That Serve to Bring a Democratic People to Centralize Power or Turn It Away from That
5 That among European Nations of Our Day Sovereign Power Increases Although Sovereigns Are Less Stable
6 What Kind of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear
7 Continuation of the Preceding Chapters 666 8 General View of the Subject

democracy in amirica

I Page 21.

On all the West’s localities into which the Europeans have still not penetrated, see the two journeys undertaken by Major Long at the expense of Congress. Mr. Long says notably, concerning the great American wilderness, that one must draw a line nearly parallel to the zoth degree of longitude ([from] the meridian of Washington),’ starting from the Red River and [going north,] ending at the Platte River. From this imaginary line to the Rocky Mountains, which are the boundary of the Mississippi valley to the West, extend immense plains, generally covered with sand that resists cultivation or strewn with granite rocks. They are deprived of water in summer. One finds there only great herds of buffalo and wild horses. One also sees some hordes of Indians, but few in number. Major Long has heard it said that in going beyond the Platte River in the same direction, one always encounters the same dessert to one’s left, but he has not been able to verify for himself the exactness of this report. Long’s Expedition, vol. 2, p. 361.* Whatever confidence the account of Major Long merits, one must nevertheless not forget that he did no more than cross the country he speaks of, without making great zigzags outside the line he followed.

II, Page 22.

In its tropical regions, South America produces with an incredible profusion those climbing plants known by the generic name of creepers. The flora of the West Indies alone presents more than forty different species of them. Among the most graceful of those shrubs is the passionflower. That pretty plant, says Discourteous in his description of the vegetable kingdom of the West Indies, attaches itself to trees using the tendrils with which it is provided and forms moving arcades, colonnades rich and elegant with the beauty of the purple flowers varied with blue that decorate them and that delight the sense of smell with the perfume that they give off.

The great-podded acacia is a very thick creeper that develops rapidly and, running from tree to tree, sometimes covers more than half a league.

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