Democracy in America (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)

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Overview

A study of America's national government, egalitarian ideals, and character offers reflections on the effect of majority rule on the rights of individuals and provides insight into the rewards and responsibilities of a democratic government, in a new tra

Out of Alexis de Toqueville's travels through the U.S. in the 1830's came an insightful study of a young democracy and its institutions.

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Overview

A study of America's national government, egalitarian ideals, and character offers reflections on the effect of majority rule on the rights of individuals and provides insight into the rewards and responsibilities of a democratic government, in a new tra

Out of Alexis de Toqueville's travels through the U.S. in the 1830's came an insightful study of a young democracy and its institutions.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
<:st> Political philosophers Mansfield (government, Harvard U.) and Winthrop (constitutional government, Harvard U.) present a new translation<-->only the third since the original two-volume work was published in 1835 and 1840<-->aiming to restore the nuances of Tocqueville's language. Tocqueville himself was not satisfied with the 19th-century translation; the other, prepared in the late 1960s (Harper & Row), is cited in This translation is based on a recent critical French edition (Editions Gallimard, 1992). Mansfield and Winthrop provide a substantial introduction placing the work and its author in historical and philosophical context, as well as annotations elucidating references that are no longer familiar to readers. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Caleb Crain
Thanks to [Tocqueville's] prescience, a new edition of ''Democracy in America'' is always timely.
New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780606265928
  • Publisher: Sanval, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/1/2003
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Edition description: THIS EDITION IS INTENDED FOR USE IN SCHOOLS AND LIBRARIES ONLY
  • Pages: 935
  • Product dimensions: 4.90 (w) x 7.60 (h) x 1.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) was born in Verneuil, France. A historian and political scientist, he came to the United States in 1831 to report on the prison system. His experiences would later become the basis for his classic study Democracy in America.

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Democracy in America



By Alexis de Tocqueville


University of Chicago Press



Copyright © 2003


University of Chicago
All right reserved.


ISBN: 0-226-80536-0





Chapter One


On the Use That the Americans Make of
Association in Civil Life

I do not wish to speak of those political associations with the aid of
which men seek to defend themselves against the despotic action of a
majority or against the encroachments of royal power. I have already
treated this subject elsewhere. It is clear that if each citizen, as he
becomes individually weaker and consequently more incapable in isolation
of preserving his freedom, does not learn the art of uniting with those
like him to defend it, tyranny will necessarily grow with equality.

Here it is a question only of the associations that are formed in civil
life and which have an object that is in no way political.

The political associations that exist in the United States form only a
detail in the midst of the immense picture that the sum of associations
presents there.

Americans of all ages, all conditions, all minds constantly unite. Not
only do they have commercial and industrial associations in which all take
part, but they also have a thousand other kinds: religious, moral, grave,
futile, very general and very particular, immense and very small;
Americansuse associations to give fetes, to found seminaries, to build
inns, to raise churches, to distribute books, to send missionaries to the
antipodes; in this manner they create hospitals, prisons, schools.
Finally, if it is a question of bringing to light a truth or developing a
sentiment with the support of a great example, they associate. Everywhere
that, at the head of a new undertaking, you see the government in France
and a great lord in England, count on it that you will perceive an
association in the United States.

In America I encountered sorts of associations of which, I confess, I had
no idea, and I often admired the infinite art with which the inhabitants
of the United States managed to fix a common goal to the efforts of many
men and to get them to advance to it freely.

I have since traveled through England, from which the Americans took some
of their laws and many of their usages, and it appeared to me that there
they were very far from making as constant and as skilled a use of
association.

It often happens that the English execute very great things in isolation,
whereas there is scarcely an undertaking so small that Americans do not
unite for it. It is evident that the former consider association as a
powerful means of action; but the latter seem to see in it the sole means
they have of acting.

Thus the most democratic country on earth is found to be, above all, the
one where men in our day have most perfected the art of pursuing the
object of their common desires in common and have applied this new science
to the most objects. Does this result from an accident or could it be that
there in fact exists a necessary relation between associations and
equality?

Aristocratic societies always include within them, in the midst of a
multitude of individuals who can do nothing by themselves, a few very
powerful and very wealthy citizens; each of these can execute great
undertakings by himself.

In aristocratic societies men have no need to unite to act because they
are kept very much together.

Each wealthy and powerful citizen in them forms as it were the head of a
permanent and obligatory association that is composed of all those he
holds in dependence to him, whom he makes cooperate in the execution of
his designs.

In democratic peoples, on the contrary, all citizens are independent and
weak; they can do almost nothing by themselves, and none of them can
oblige those like themselves to lend them their cooperation. They
therefore all fall into impotence if they do not learn to aid each other
freely.

If men who live in democratic countries had neither the right nor the
taste to unite in political goals, their independence would run great
risks, but they could preserve their wealth and their enlightenment for a
long time; whereas if they did not acquire the practice of associating
with each other in ordinary life, civilization itself would be in peril. A
people among whom particular persons lost the power of doing great things
in isolation, without acquiring the ability to produce them in common,
would soon return to barbarism.

Unhappily, the same social state that renders associations so necessary to
democratic peoples renders them more difficult for them than for all
others.

When several members of an aristocracy want to associate with each other
they easily succeed in doing so. As each of them brings great force to
society, the number of members can be very few, and, when the members are
few in number, it is very easy for them to know each other, to understand
each other, and to establish fixed rules.

The same facility is not found in democratic nations, where it is always
necessary that those associating be very numerous in order that the
association have some power.

I know that there are many of my contemporaries whom this does not
embarrass. They judge that as citizens become weaker and more incapable,
it is necessary to render the government more skillful and more active in
order that society be able to execute what individuals can no longer do.
They believe they have answered everything in saying that. But I think
they are mistaken.

A government could take the place of some of the greatest American
associations, and within the Union several particular states already have
attempted it. But what political power would ever be in a state to suffice
for the innumerable multitude of small undertakings that American citizens
execute every day with the aid of an association?

It is easy to foresee that the time is approaching when a man by himself
alone will be less and less in a state to produce the things that are the
most common and the most necessary to his life. The task of the social
power will therefore constantly increase, and its very efforts will make
it vaster each day. The more it puts itself in place of associations, the
more particular persons, losing the idea of associating with each other,
will need it to come to their aid: these are causes and effects that
generate each other without rest. Will the public administration in the
end direct all the industries for which an isolated citizen cannot
suffice? and if there finally comes a moment when, as a consequence of the
extreme division of landed property, the land is partitioned infinitely,
so that it can no longer be cultivated except by associations of laborers,
will the head of the government have to leave the helm of state to come
hold the plow?

The morality and intelligence of a democratic people would risk no fewer
dangers than its business and its industry if the government came to take
the place of associations everywhere.

Sentiments and ideas renew themselves, the heart is enlarged, and the
human mind is developed only by the reciprocal action of men upon one
another.

I have shown that this action is almost nonexistent in a democratic
country. It is therefore necessary to create it artificially there. And
this is what associations alone can do.

When the members of an aristocracy adopt a new idea or conceive a novel
sentiment, they place it in a way next to themselves on the great stage
they are on, and in thus exposing it to the view of the crowd, they easily
introduce it into the minds or hearts of all those who surround them.

In democratic countries, only the social power is naturally in a state to
act like this, but it is easy to see that its action is always
insufficient and often dangerous.

A government can no more suffice on its own to maintain and renew the
circulation of sentiments and ideas in a great people than to conduct all
its industrial undertakings. As soon as it tries to leave the political
sphere to project itself on this new track, it will exercise an
insupportable tyranny even without wishing to; for a government knows only
how to dictate precise rules; it imposes the sentiments and the ideas that
it favors, and it is always hard to distinguish its counsels from its
orders.

This will be still worse if it believes itself really interested in having
nothing stir. It will then hold itself motionless and let itself be numbed
by a voluntary somnolence.

It is therefore necessary that it not act alone.

In democratic peoples, associations must take the place of the powerful
particular persons whom equality of conditions has made disappear.

As soon as several of the inhabitants of the United States have conceived
a sentiment or an idea that they want to produce in the world, they seek
each other out; and when they have found each other, they unite. From then
on, they are no longer isolated men, but a power one sees from afar, whose
actions serve as an example; a power that speaks, and to which one
listens.

The first time I heard it said in the United States that a hundred
thousand men publicly engaged not to make use of strong liquors, the thing
appeared to me more amusing than serious, and at first I did not see well
why such temperate citizens were not content to drink water within their
families.

In the end I understood that those hundred thousand Americans, frightened
by the progress that drunkenness was making around them, wanted to provide
their patronage to sobriety. They had acted precisely like a great lord
who would dress himself very plainly in order to inspire the scorn of
luxury in simple citizens. It is to be believed that if those hundred
thousand men had lived in France, each of them would have addressed
himself individually to the government, begging it to oversee the cabarets
all over the realm.

There is nothing, according to me, that deserves more to attract our
regard than the intellectual and moral associations of America. We easily
perceive the political and industrial associations of the Americans, but
the others escape us; and if we discover them, we understand them badly
because we have almost never seen anything analogous. One ought however to
recognize that they are as necessary as the first to the American people,
and perhaps more so.

In democratic countries the science of association is the mother science;
the progress of all the others depends on the progress of that one.

Among the laws that rule human societies there is one that seems more
precise and clearer than all the others. In order that men remain
civilized or become so, the art of associating must be developed and
perfected among them in the same ratio as equality of conditions
increases.

(Continues...)







Excerpted from Democracy in America
by Alexis de Tocqueville
Copyright © 2003
by University of Chicago.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Introduction

A Note on the Text

The Text of Democracy in America 1

Backgrounds 619

Tocqueville Letters 621

To Ernest de Chabrol, New York, 9 June 1831 621

To M. Louis de Kergolay, Yonkers, 20 June 1831 622

To Ernest de Chabrol, Hartford, 7 October 1831 626

To the Countess de Tocqueville, On the Mississippi, 25 December 1831 627

To Eugene Stoffels, Paris, 21 February 1835 628

To Henry Reeve, Paris, 22 March 1837 629

To John Quincy Adams, Paris, 4 December 1837 630

Reviews of Democracy in America 632

Le Temps, Paris, April 1835 Sainte-Beuve 632

Revue des deux mondes, July-September 1840 Pellegrino Rossi Rossi, Pellegrino 636

Preface to 1838 American Edition of Democracy in America John C. Spencer Spencer, John C. 643

Preface to 1841 American Edition of Democracy in America 646

The North American Review, July 1836 650

The United States Democratic Review, October 1837 659

The Knickerbocker; or The New York Monthly Magazine, September 1838 670

London Review, October 1835 John Stuart Mill Mill, John Stuart 673

Edinburgh Review, October 1840 683

Interpretations 705

Tocqueville as Ethnographer David Riesman Riesman, David 707

Tocqueville and American Civilization Max Lerner Lerner, Max 717

Many Tocquevilles Robert Nisbet Nisbet, Robert 724

From Egoism to Individualism James T. Schleifer Schleifer, James T. 739

Not by Preaching: Tocqueville on the Role of Religion in American Democracy Catherine Zuckert Zuckert, Catherine 750

Archaism and Modernity Sheldon S. Wolin Wolin, Sheldon S. 767

The Illiberal Tocqueville Edward C. Banfield Banfield, Edward C. 777

Of Prophets and Prophecy Daniel T. Rodgers Rodgers, Daniel T. 788

Individualismand Apathy in Tocqueville's Democracy Arthur Schlesinger Jr. Schlesinger, Arthur, Jr. 799

Many Democracies: On Tocqueville and Jacksonian America Sean Wilentz Wilentz, Sean 809

Democracy and the Tyranny of the Majority Henry Steele Commager Commager, Henry Steele 825

Life Everlasting: Tocqueville in America James T. Kloppenberg Kloppenberg, James T. 834

Tocqueville and American Legal Studies: The Paradox of Liberty and Destruction Tamara M. Teale Teale, Tamara M. 848

Selected Bibliography 855

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First Chapter

Democracy in America: Abridged Edition

Chapter One

Physical Configuration of North America

North America has striking geographical features which can be appreciated at first glance.

Land and water, mountains and valleys, seem to have been separated with systematic method, and the simple majesty of this design stands out amid the confusion and immense variety of the scene.

The continent is divided into two vast and almost equal regions.

One region is bounded by the North Pole and the great oceans to east and west, while to the south it stretches down in an irregular triangle to the Great Lakes of Canada.

The second starts where the other ends and covers the rest of the continent.

One region slopes gently toward the pole, the other toward the equator.

The second region is broken up more and is better suited as a permanent home for man. Two mountain chains run right across it; the Alleghenies parallel to the Atlantic, and the Rockies to the Pacific.

The area between these two mountain chains is 1,341,649 miles, or about six times that of France.

But the whole of this vast territory is a single valley sloping down from the smooth summits of the Alleghenies and stretching up to the peaks of the Rocky Mountains, with no obstacles in the way.

An immense river flows along the bottom of this valley, and all the waters falling on the mountains on every side drain into it.

Formerly the French called it the St. Louis River, in memory of their distant fatherland, and the Indians in their grandiloquent tongue named it the Father of Waters, the Mississippi.

Sometimes gently flowing along the clay bed which nature has carved out for it, and sometimes swollen by storms, the Mississippi waters some twenty-five hundred miles.

The valley watered by the Mississippi seems created for it alone; it dispenses good and evil at will like a local god. Near the river nature displays an inexhaustible fertility; the farther you go from its banks, the sparser the vegetation and the poorer becomes the soil. Nowhere have the great convulsions of the world left more evident traces than in the valley of the Mississippi. The whole countryside bears witness to the waters' work. Its sterility as well as its abundance is their work. Deep layers of fertile soil accumulated under the primeval ocean and had time to level out. On the right bank of the river there are huge plains as level as a rolled lawn. But nearer the mountains the land becomes more and more uneven and sterile; the soil is punctured in a thousand places by primitive rocks sticking out here and there like the bones of a skeleton when sinews and flesh have perished.

All things considered, the valley of the Mississippi is the most magnificent habitation ever prepared by God for man, and yet one may say that it is still only a vast wilderness.

On the eastern slopes of the Alleghenies, between the mountains and the Atlantic, there is a long strip of rock and sand which seems to have been left behind by the retreating ocean. This strip is only 48 leagues broad on the average,1 390 leagues long.2 The soil in this part of the American continent can be cultivated only with difficulty.

That inhospital shore was the cradle of those English colonies which were one day to become the United States of America. The center of power still remains there, while in the land behind them are assembling, almost in secret, the real elements of the great people to whom the future of the continent doubtless belongs.

When the Europeans landed on the shores of the West Indies, and later of South America, they thought themselves transported to the fabled lands of the poets. Here and there little scented islands float like baskets of flowers on the calm sea. Everything seen in these enchanted islands seems devised to meet man's needs or serve his pleasures.

North America seemed very different; everything there was grave and serious and solemn; one might say that it had been created to be the domain of the intelligence, as the other was that of the senses.

However, these vast wildernesses were not completely unvisited by man; for centuries some nomads had lived under the dark forests or on the meadows of the prairies. From the mouth of the St. Lawrence to the Mississippi Delta, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, the savages had some points of resemblance testifying to a common origin. But, apart from that they were different from all known races of men;3 they were neither white like Europeans nor yellow like most Asiatics nor black like the Negroes; their skin was reddish, their hair long and glossy, their lips thin, and their cheekbones very high. The words of the various languages of the savage peoples of America were different, but they all had the same rules of grammar. The rules differed in several respects from those previously supposed to shape the formation of language among men.

These American languages seem to be the product of new combinations; those who invented them must have possessed an intellectual drive of which present-day Indians hardly seem capable.

The social state of these tribes was also different from anything known in the Old World. They would seem to have multiplied freely in their wilderness without contact with races more civilized than themselves. Hence they were untroubled by those muddled concepts of good and evil and by that deep corruption generally seen among once civilized peoples relapsed into barbarism. The Indian owed nothing to anybody but himself; his virtues, vices, and prejudices were all his own; his nature had matured in wild freedom.

In well-organized countries the coarseness of the common people is not due solely to ignorance and poverty, but is also affected by the fact that, being poor and ignorant, they are in daily contact with the wealthy and educated. The poor and weak feel themselves weighed down by their inferiority; seeing no prospect of regaining equality, they quite give up hope and allow themselves to fall below the proper dignity of mankind.

Democracy in America: Abridged Edition. Copyright © by Alexis de Tocqueville. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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