A page from original working manuscript of Democracy in Americac. Observing from the perspective of a detached social scientist, Tocqueville wrote of his travels through the United States in the early 19th century when the Market RevolutionWestern expansion and Jacksonian democracy were radically transforming the fabric of American life. Tocqueville was an ardent supporter of liberty.
In part because of its title, most readers have focused on its analysis of democracy. However, in many ways, its central focus was liberty. One early American reviewer stated that "the intelligent American reader can find no better guide" for understanding and preserving liberty.
As de Tocqueville wrote to Henry Reeve, his English translator, his reviewers "insist on making me a party man, and I am not. As Henry Steele Commager said, "Liberty must be worked at, must be achieved, and it has rarely been achieved anywhere in the whole of history. It requires a most extraordinary self-control, self-denial, wisdom, sagacity, vision to protect liberty in the face of all the forces that mitigate and militate against it.
And Tocqueville regarded centralization as the most dangerous of all the threats to liberty. Even more crucial, he recognized that democracy can be the enemy of liberty, and that of the two, liberty is far more important.
The Revolution of the United States was the result of a mature and reflecting preference for freedom, and not of a vague or ill-defined craving for independence.
It profits me but little, after all, that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquility of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life.
How can a populace unaccustomed to freedom in small concerns learn to use it temperately in great affairs? What resistance can be offered to tyranny where each individual is weak. The great end of justice is to substitute the notion of right for that of violence and to place a legal barrier between the government and the use of physical force.
The omnipotence of the majority appears to me to be so full of peril to the American republics that the dangerous means used to bridle it seem to be more advantageous than prejudicial.
The most natural privilege of man, next to the right of acting for himself, is that of combining his exertions with those of his fellow creatures and of acting in common with them. The right of association therefore appears to me almost as inalienable in its nature as the right of personal liberty.
No legislator can attack it without impairing the foundations of society.
Democratic liberty is far from accomplishing all its projects with the skill of an adroit despotism. I am not so much alarmed at the excessive liberty which reigns in that country as at the inadequate securities which one finds there against tyranny.
The only means of preventing men from degrading themselves is to invest no one with that unlimited authority which is the sure method of debasing them.
The Anglo-American relies upon personal interest to accomplish his ends and gives free scope to the unguided strength and common sense of the people.
If the absolute power of a majority were to be substituted by democratic nations. The taste which men have for liberty and that which they feel for equality are, in fact, two different things. But for equality their passion is ardent, insatiable, incessant, invincible; they call for equality in freedom; and if they cannot obtain that, they still call for equality in slavery.
No sooner does a government attempt to go beyond its political sphere. If the slightest rumor of public commotion intrudes into the petty pleasures of private life, they are aroused and alarmed by it.
The fear of anarchy perpetually haunts them, and they are always ready to fling away their freedom at the first disturbance. Americans believe their freedom to be the best instrument and surest safeguard of their welfare. Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate.
That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of poverty and subdivides their inheritances: After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community.
It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd.
The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America Essay example Both Adam Smith and Alexis de Tocqueville agree that an individual is the most qualified to make decisions affecting the sphere of the individual as long as those decisions do not violate the law of justice.
Cosby Analysis of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America Alexis. Liberty: Adam Smith and Alexis De Tocqueville, Free Study Guides and book notes including comprehensive chapter analysis, complete summary analysis, author biography information, character profiles, theme analysis, metaphor analysis, and top ten quotes on classic literature.
Essay Liberty: Adam Smith and Alexis de Tocqueville Both Adam Smith and Alexis de Tocqueville agree that an individual is the most qualified to make decisions affecting the sphere of the individual as long as those decisions do not violate the law of justice.
Jean-Charles-Léonard Simonde de Sismondi; Adam Smith; Hernando de Soto; Herbert Spencer; Baruch Spinoza; Anne Louise Germaine de Staël; a concept explained in Mill's On Liberty and in Democracy in America () by Alexis de Tocqueville.
public works and the administration of justice, financed by taxes based on income.
Alexis de Tocqueville and Gustave de Beaumont in America: Their Friendship and Their Travels, edited by Oliver Zunz, translated by Arthur Goldhammer (University of Virginia Press, ), pages.
Includes previously unpublished letters, essays, and other writings. Tocqueville, Alexis de () Alexis de Tocqueville was one of the foremost scholars of the French Revolution and of the early American republic. Although he was a member of both the Académie Française and the Chamber of Deputies, Tocqueville is best remembered for his work as a .