Democracy in America

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Overview

No other book is as pervasively woven into the fabric of American public life and culture as Democracy in America. Tocqueville's study of nineteenth-century America is cited often and everywhere: from presidential addresses to high-school speeches, from the editorial pages of national newspapers to local radio broadcasts, from high-school and college classrooms to Sunday sermons. This Norton Critical Edition is based on the 1835 and 1840 English translations of Tocqueville's two volumes by his friend Henry Reeve. It allows today's readers to experience the book as Tocqueville's contemporaries did. It is accompanied by a full-scale introduction addressing Democracy in America's canonical place in American life and by essential explanatory annotations.

"Backgrounds" includes related letters from Tocqueville to Ernest de Chabrol, Henry Reeve, and John Quincy Adams, among others, in which he shares impressions of his nine-and-a-half-month journey through the United States. A collection of nine European and American reviews-including those by Sainte-Beuve. Pellegrino Rossi, John C. Spencer, and John Stuart Mill-allows readers to assess Democracy in America's contemporary reception. Recent interpretations by David Riesman, Max Lerner, Robert Nisbet, James T. Schleifer, Catherine Zuckert, Sheldon S. Wolin, Edward C. Banfield, Daniel T. Rodgers, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Sean Wilentz, Henry Steele Commager, James T. Kloppenberg, and Tamara M. Teale explore Tocqueville's influence on American political thought and on democracy's legacy. A Selected Bibliography is also included.

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
New York Review of Books
The editors have written more than a mere introduction; they have written in fact a small book, a remarkably comprehensive and yet succinct study of Tocqueville's political thought. . . . Mansfield and Winthrop have made a remarkably comprehensive and tightly argued case for Tocqueville as the greatest political theorist of democracy, a theorist who is just as relevant today as he was in the nineteenth century.

— Gordon S. Wood

Choice

"It would be difficult to think of a greater service to the study of Tocqueville than the one performed by Mansfield and Winthrop in their impeccable new edition and translation of Democracy in America. . . . The publisher is justified in claiming that this version will henceforth be seen as the 'authoritative' edition in English."
The New Criterion
The Mansfield-Winthrop work will henceforth be the preferred English version of Democracy in America not only because of the superior translation and critical apparatus, but also because of its long and masterly introductory essay, itself an important contribution to the literature on Tocqueville.

— Roger Kimball

Wall Street Journal
If Tocqueville is an indispensable guide to understanding the American experience, Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop are indispensable guides to Tocqueville himself. In the introduction to their fresh and limpid translation of Democracy in America—what will surely be the definitive translation for some time to come—they offer a helpful summary of Tocqueville's philosophical and political thought.

— Thomas Pavel

Times Literary Supplement

"An instructive account. . .of the historical sources of The Old Regime."
Newsweek
[A] major new translation. . . . Tocqueville's insights confirm his brilliance and remind us that many features of national character are virtually indestructible.

— Robert J. Samuelson

The New Yorker
This will be the English translation of Tocqueville for a long time, and it has the additional bonus that the introduction is as succinct an introduction to Tocqueville, or at least to the conservative view of him and his achievement, as one can find.

— Adam Gopnik

New York Review of Books - Gordon S. Wood
"The editors have written more than a mere introduction; they have written in fact a small book, a remarkably comprehensive and yet succinct study of Tocqueville's political thought. . . . Mansfield and Winthrop have made a remarkably comprehensive and tightly argued case for Tocqueville as the greatest political theorist of democracy, a theorist who is just as relevant today as he was in the nineteenth century."
The New Criterion - Roger Kimball
"The Mansfield-Winthrop work will henceforth be the preferred English version of Democracy in America not only because of the superior translation and critical apparatus, but also because of its long and masterly introductory essay, itself an important contribution to the literature on Tocqueville."
Wall Street Journal - Thomas Pavel
"If Tocqueville is an indispensable guide to understanding the American experience, Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop are indispensable guides to Tocqueville himself. In the introduction to their fresh and limpid translation of Democracy in America—what will surely be the definitive translation for some time to come—they offer a helpful summary of Tocqueville's philosophical and political thought."
Times Literary Supplement - Robert P. George
"Democracy in America will continue to be read with profit as long as the United States survives as a republic and, indeed, as long as democracy endures. It deserves faithful translators, careful expositors and insightful commentators. In Mansfield and Winthrop it has found them."
Newsweek - Robert J. Samuelson
"[A] major new translation. . . . Tocqueville's insights confirm his brilliance and remind us that many features of national character are virtually indestructible."
The New Yorker - Adam Gopnik
"This will be the English translation of Tocqueville for a long time, and it has the additional bonus that the introduction is as succinct an introduction to Tocqueville, or at least to the conservative view of him and his achievement, as one can find."
From the Publisher
"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."
The New York Times

Praise for the work of Joseph Epstein:

"Epstein is one of the premier contemporary American essayists...What is so remarkable about Epstein as an essay writer is that he'll begin a discussion at some personal place...and end up in another place relevant to us all. He enjoys making language work, not making it jump through hoops for show." —Booklist

"Joseph Epstein is an essayist in the brilliant tradition of Charles Lamb. He moves so effortlessly from the amusingly personal to the broadly philosophical that it takes a moment before you realize how far out into the intellectual cosmos you've been taken."
—Tom Wolfe

"Joseph Epstein's essays no more need his identifying byline than Van Gogh's paintings need his signature. Epstein's style—call it learned whimsy—is unmistakable; for Epstein addicts, indispensable."
—George Will

"Joseph Epstein is the liveliest, most erudite and engaging essayist we have." —James Atlas

"If Epstein's ultimate ancestor is Montaigne, his more immediate master is Mencken. Like Mencken, he has fashioned a style that successfully combines elegance and even bookishness with street-smart colloquial directness. And there is nothing remote or aloof about him."
—John Gross, Chicago Tribune

Choice
"It would be difficult to think of a greater service to the study of Tocqueville than the one performed by Mansfield and Winthrop in their impeccable new edition and translation of Democracy in America. . . . The publisher is justified in claiming that this version will henceforth be seen as the 'authoritative' edition in English."
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060956660
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/28/2000
  • Series: Harper Perennial
  • Pages: 800
  • Product dimensions: 5.32 (w) x 8.04 (h) x 1.79 (d)

Meet the Author

Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville (French: 29 July 1805 - 16 April 1859) was a French political thinker and historian best known for his works Democracy in America (appearing in two volumes: 1835 and 1840) and The Old Regime and the Revolution (1856). In both of these, he analyzed the improved living standards and social conditions of individuals, as well as their relationship to the market and state in Western societies. Democracy 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 (1830-1848) and then during the Second Republic (1849-1851) which succeeded the February 1848 Revolution. He retired from political life after Louis Napoléon Bonaparte's 2 December 1851 coup, and thereafter began work on The Old Regime and the Revolution.

He argued that the importance of the French Revolution was to continue the process of modernizing and centralizing the French state which had 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 government, but was skeptical of the extremes of democracy.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Physical Configuration
of North America


North America divided into two vast regions, one sloping toward the pole, the other toward the equator. Mississippi valley and its geology. The Atlantic coast and the foundation of the English colonies. Contrast between North and South America at the time of discovery. North American forests and prairies. Nomadic native tribes and their appearance, mores, and languages. Traces of an unknown people.

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 lands to the north of the first region slope so imperceptibly that they may almost be described as plains, and there are no high mountains or deep valleys in the whole of this vast level expanse.

Chance seems to trace the serpentine courses of the streams; great rivers mingle, separate, and meet again; they get lost in a thousand marshes, meandering continually through the watery labyrinth they have formed, and only after innumerable detours do they finally reach the Arctic sea.The Great Lakes, which bring this region to an end, are not framed, as are most lakes in the Old World, by hills or rocks; their banks are level, hardly rising more than a few feet above the water. So each is like a huge cup filled to the brim. The slightest change of global structure would tilt their waters to the pole or to the tropics.

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 square 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.

The Mississippi rises in the borderland between our two regions, not far from the highest point in the plain which links them.

Another river which rises nearby flows down into the polar seas. The Mississippi itself sometimes seems in doubt which way to go; it twists backward several times, and only after slowing down in lakes and marshes seems finally to make up its mind and meander on toward the south.

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 square miles.

Thirteen hundred and sixty-four miles above its mouth, the river already has a mean depth of fifteen feet, and ships of three hundred tons can go over four hundred and fifty miles up it.

Fifty-seven large navigable rivers flow into it. Among the tributaries of the Mississippi are one river thirteen hundred leagues long, another of nine hundred leagues," another of six hundred, another of five hundred; there are four other rivers of two hundred leagues, not to mention the innumerable small stream on every side which augment its flood.

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 further you go from its banks, the sparser the vegetation and the poorer becomes the soil, and everything wilts or dies. Nowhere have the great convulsions of the world left more evident traces than in the valley of the Mississippi. The aspect of 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. The surface of the earth is covered with granitic sand and irregularly shaped stones, through which a few plants just manage to force their way; it looks like a fertile field covered by the ruins of some vast structure. Analysis of this sand and these rocks easily demonstrates that they are exactly like those on the bare and jagged peaks of the Rocky Mountains. No doubt the rains which washed all the soil down to the bottom of the valley, in the end brought portions of the rocks too; they were rolled down the neighboring slopes, and after they had been dashed one against another, were scattered at the base of the mountains from which they had fallen. (See Appendix I, A.)

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 forty-eight leagues broad on the average, but three hundred and ninety leagues long. The soil in this part of the American continent can be cultivated only with difficulty. The vegetation is scanty and uniform.

It was on that inhospital shore that the first efforts of human...

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Table of Contents

Note on this Reeve Edition
Preface to this Edition
Introductory Notice
Introductory Chapter 3
Ch. I Exterior form of North America 14
Ch. II Origin of the Anglo-Americans, and its importance in relation to their future condition 20
Ch. III Social condition of the Anglo-Americans 35
Ch. IV The principle of the sovereignty of the people in America 41
Ch. V Necessity of examining the condition of the States before that of the Union at Large 44
Ch. VI Judicial power in the United States, and its influence on political society 73
Ch. VII Political jurisdiction in the United States 79
Ch. VIII The Federal Constitution 84
Ch. IX Why the people may strictly be said to govern in the United States 133
Ch. X Parties in the United States 134
Ch. XI Liberty of the Press in the United States 140
Ch. XII Political associations in the United States 147
Ch. XIII Government of the Democracy in America 154
Ch. XIV What the real advantages are which American Society derives from the Government of the Democracy 186
Ch. XV Unlimited power of the majority in the United States, and its consequences 201
Ch. XVI Causes which mitigate the tyranny of the majority in the United States 215
Ch. XVII Principal causes which tend to maintain the Democratic Republic in the United States 228
Ch. XVIII The present and probable future condition of the three Races which inhabit the territory of the United States 264
Opinions of the Present Work 344
Endnotes 347
Appendix 640
Index 691
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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2003

    Democracy?

    One important thing to note is that America is not supposed to be a Democracy. America is a Republic. The founders were very specific when they spoke of the two. They were very weary of a Democracy (or mobocracy). The book isn't a bad read if you can get past that fact.

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2012

    This one won't open on my Nook Color.

    When I try to open the book, I get an error dialog that says, "Sorry, cannot open this book." Well, I'm sorry, but I can't recommend what I can't read. I highly recommend "Democracy in America", just not this particular version of the book.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2012

    This one won't open on my Nook Color.

    When I try to open the book, I get an error dialog that says, "Sorry, cannot open this book." Well, I'm sorry, but I can't recommend what I can't read. I highly recommend "Democracy in America", just not this particular version of the book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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