Democracy in America

Democracy in America

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781731707833
Publisher: Simon & Brown
Publication date: 11/22/2018
Pages: 912
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 2.03(d)

About the Author

French diplomat and historian Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–59) is notable for both Democracy in America and The Old Regime and the Revolution. Both works analyzed the connections between national character and government, were influential in 19th-century discussions of liberalism and equality, and were rediscovered by sociologists and political scientists of the 20th century.

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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...

Table of Contents


Introduction     ix
A Note on the Text     xvii
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     632
Revue des deux mondes, July-September 1840     636
Preface to 1838 American Edition of Democracy in America     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     673
Edinburgh Review, October 1840     683
Interpretations     705
Tocquevilleas Ethnographer     707
Tocqueville and American Civilization     717
Many Tocquevilles     724
From Egoism to Individualism     739
Not by Preaching: Tocqueville on the Role of Religion in American Democracy     750
Archaism and Modernity     767
The Illiberal Tocqueville     777
Of Prophets and Prophecy     788
Individualism and Apathy in Tocqueville's Democracy     799
Many Democracies: On Tocqueville and Jacksonian America     809
Democracy and the Tyranny of the Majority     825
Life Everlasting: Tocqueville in America     834
Tocqueville and American Legal Studies: The Paradox of Liberty and Destruction     848
Selected Bibliography     855

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Democracy in America 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
De Tocqueville was simply of one of the great social scientists writing about America and Democracy. From reading the book I deduced that De Tocqueville was a social scientist before Marx! He compares European culture and government with the fledgling culture and democracy he observes in America. He is very much impressed with what he sees taking place in America in the 1830's and hopes it will spread to Europe. He at first believed that America's prosperity was simply due to geography and their distance from powerful neighbors, he abandons this idea after his visit to America. He comes to realize that the West is not being peopled 'by new European immigrants to America, but by Americans who he believes have no adversity to taking risks'. De Tocqueville comes to see that Americans are the most broadly educated and politically advanced people in the world and one of the reasons for the success of our form of government. He also foretells America's industrial preeminence and strength through the unfettered spread of ideas and human industry. De Tocqueville also saw the insidious damage that the institution of slavery was causing the country and predicted some 30 years before the Civil War that slavery would probable cause the states to fragment from the union. He also the emergence of stronger states rights over the power of the federal government. He held fast to his belief that the greatest danger to democracy was the trend toward the concentration of power by the federal government. He predicted wrongly that the union would probably break up into 2 or 3 countries because of regional interests and differences. This idea is the only one about America that he gets wrong. Despite some of his misgivings, De Tocqueville, saw that democracy is an 'inescapable development' of the modern world. The arguments in the 'Federalist Papers' were greater than most people realized. He saw a social revolution coming that continues throughout the world today. De Tocqueville realizes at the very beginning of the 'industrial revolution' how industry, centralization and democracy strengthened each other and moved forward together. I am convinced that De Tocqueville is still the preeminent observer of America but is also the father of social science. A must read for anyone interested in American history, political philosophy or the social sciences.
Russell_Kirk More than 1 year ago
Interesting and well written of a perspective on the U.S. in the 19th century; de Tocqueville examines our form of democracy, political associations and the races at that time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This abridged version of the classic was so good that I got the full version which is over twice as long. However, this version does present the ideas well. The translation uses a bit outdated English but the positive side of that is that it reminds you when it was written, i.e. about 1840. It not only predicts current day problems but seems to point to the coming Civil War, the Mexican War and the trouble between labor and big business. Actually so many of the warnings have come to pass that I found myself wondering if we still have a republic.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Toqueville's work unquestionably will last for as long as human nature remains the same. Certainly, it is diverting to read accounts about the topography and anachronistically idiosyncratic habits of the inhabitants of America over a century ago; the fundamental value of his work, however, lies in his understanding of human nature that does not change throughout time. More than most (if not all) writers on the American polity, he perceives how certain tendencies of human nature are revealed in the particular society founded upon practical wisdom, personal responsibility, self-reliance, and faith. Many of his disquisitions on these tendencies that could be accentuated in American democracy are now more thought-provoking than ever. One prominent example is his intuitive grasp of a challenge to Americans. He shows famously how they are practical and intent upon getting things done by combining in 'societies.' A problem could occur if ever the citizens in general become selfish and much less self-reliant: 'individualism' could arise. He articulates a bleak portrait of a society in which none care to take personal responsibility, but are willing to sacrifice freedom for temporary security. This is disquieting for modern society, and it would be well were more people to read his work and learn from it.
mentormom on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Written over 150 years ago, Democracy In America is even more important and compelling today than it was then. This past fall, I had the opportunity to teach a Government class for my college. My class studied the second volume of this invaluable classic. It was such a pleasure to study it through a mentor's eyes. It truly came alive for me in a way that it never had before as I prepared to teach it.Despite his young age, Tocqueville was a master at understanding human nature. Volume II is filled with both compliments for American culture and cautionary advice for us as citizens. It's amazing how accurate his predictions and warnings were. We are falling into the very snares and excesses about which he cautioned. I wish that all Americans would take the time to read this insightful volume. If we would simply heed Tocqueville's admonitions, we would be well on our way to rebuilding our great American culture and securing our liberty. ¿When the taste for physical gratifications among them has grown more rapidly than their education . . . the time will come when men are carried away and lose all self-restraint . . . . It is not necessary to do violence to such a people in order to strip them of the rights they enjoy; they themselves willingly loosen their hold. . . . they neglect their chief business which is to remain their own masters.¿ ~Alexis de Tocqueville
Carolfoasia on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Loved this! It was so interesting to read an outsiders perspective of America in between the American Revolution and Civil War.
Whiskey3pa on LibraryThing 8 months ago
One of the most important things ever written about the US. Really thoughtful and insightful.
callmemiss on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Still the most acute analysis of what makes Americans special.
mramos on LibraryThing 11 months ago
This is a classic treatise by a French aristocrat who comprehensively examines the underpinnings of American democatic institutions. Including the rights and powers provided by the Consitution, forms of governments, and concepts of freedom and equality. In this book he also analyzes the influence of democratic values on intellectual movements, customs and political society. This treatise was originally written in 1835.
Smiley on LibraryThing 11 months ago
What Tocqueville has to say about the American character is still mostly true, but his observations of our political institutions have been supplanted by the welfare state and our role in world empire. Our loss I think. He is almost silent on state institutions, but has some valid, if now sadly historical, observations on local government.
heidilove on LibraryThing 11 months ago
One of the most important political works of its time, Democracy In America is still referred to today.
Hawkeye51 More than 1 year ago
De Toqueville's observations detailing just who the Americans are, remains valid to this day. His writings do not confirm the pretentious belief in American Exceptionalism rather, they expose the subtle differences in how we view individualism and the State and the belief system in continental Europe.
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