Democracy in America

Democracy in America

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by Alexis de Tocqueville
     
 

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Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-59) came to America in 1831 to see what a great republic was like. What struck him most was the country's equality of conditions, its democracy. The book he wrote on his return to France, Democracy in America, is both the best ever written on democracy and the best ever written on America. It remains the most often quotedSee more details below

Overview


Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-59) came to America in 1831 to see what a great republic was like. What struck him most was the country's equality of conditions, its democracy. The book he wrote on his return to France, Democracy in America, is both the best ever written on democracy and the best ever written on America. It remains the most often quoted book about the United States, not only because it has something to interest and please everyone, but also because it has something to teach everyone.

Harvey Mansfield and Delba Winthrop's new translation of Democracy in America is only the third since the original two-volume work was published in 1835 and 1840. It is a spectacular achievement, capturing the elegance, subtlety, and profundity of Tocqueville's original. Mansfield and Winthrop have restored the nuances of his language, with the expressed goal "to convey Tocqueville's thought as he held it rather than to restate it in comparable terms of today." The result is a translation with minimal interpretation, avoiding the problem that Tocqueville himself read in the first translation of Democracy in America.

The strength of the translation is only one reason that Mansfield and Winthrop's Democracy in America will become the authoritative edition of the text. Also included is a superb and substantial introduction placing the work and its author in the broader context of the traditions of political philosophy and statesmanship. Together in one volume, the new translation, the introduction, and the translators' annotations of references no longer familiar to us combine to offer the most readable and faithful version of Tocqueville's masterpiece.

As we approach the 160th anniversary of the publication of Democracy in
America, Mansfield and Winthrop have provided an additional reason to celebrate.
Lavishly prepared and produced, this long-awaited new translation will surely become the authoritative edition of Tocqueville's profound and prescient masterwork.

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Editorial Reviews

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."
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."
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

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

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.” –The New York Times

“The Bradley edition of Tocqueville’s classic is the best now available in English.” –Charles A. Beard

“Professor Bradley’s edition should remain the standard one for our time.” –F. O. Matthiessen

With an Introduction by Alan Ryan

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780226805368
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
Publication date:
04/28/2002
Series:
Fieldwork Encounters and Discoveries Series
Edition description:
1
Pages:
722
Sales rank:
120,630
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 2.00(d)

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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