Democracy in America De la Démocratie en Amérique
Bilingual Editon, Volume 1
Автор(и) : Alexis de Tocqueville
Издател : Liberty Fund
Място на издаване : Indianapolis, USA
Година на издаване : 2010
ISBN : 978-0-86597-719-8 CL (vol. 1)
Брой страници : 276
Език : английски
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In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville and his friend Gustave de Beaumont visited the United States on behalf of the French government to study American prisons. In their nine months in the U.S. they studied not just the prison system but every aspect of American life, public and private—the political, economic, religious, cultural, and above all social life of the young nation. From Tocqueville's copious notes of what he had seen and heard came the classic text De la Démocratie en Amérique, published in two large volumes, the first in 1835, the second in 1840. The first volume focused primarily on political society; the second, on civil society. Tocqueville's account of the travels and adventures of the two Frenchmen aimed to get down the truth about America, not only to praise the new country's strengths but also to critique its shortcomings when these were all too evident to outside eyes.
For Tocqueville, virtually every aspect of the new republic was fascinating: the laws and the customs, the manners and the mores of a people so very different from the populations of the kingdoms of Europe. He was particularly interested in the success of democracy in America, specifically of republican representative democracy, which seemed to have failed elsewhere, most conspicuously in revolutionary France. Perhaps because Tocqueville, an aristocrat, was by no means sympathetic to ""pure"" democracy, which seemed tainted by its associations with the Terror of the French Revolution, he examined American democracy with a thoroughness such as had never been seen before, and seldom if ever since. Tocqueville considered the tendency of democracy to degenerate into either the tyranny of the majority or what he called soft despotism, a sovereign power that “extends its arms over the entire society; it covers the surface of society with a network of small, complicated, minute, and uniform rules. . . .it does not tyrannize, it hinders, it represses, it enervates, it extinguishes, it stupifies, and finally it reduces each nation to being nothing more than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.” (Book IV, chapter 6.)
Tocqueville noted that religion played a leading role in American life in the 1830s, due to its being constitutionally separated from government. Far from objecting to this situation, he observed that Americans found this disestablishment quite satisfactory, in contrast to France, with its outright antagonism between avowedly religious people and supporters of democracy.
That the Salient Point of the Social State of the Anglo-Americans Is to Be Essentially Democratic
First emigrants of New England.—Equal among themselves.—Aristocratic laws introduced in the South.—Period of the Revolution.—Change in the inheritance laws.—Effects produced by this change.—Equality pushed to its extreme limits in the new states of the West.—Intellectual equality.
Several important remarks about the social state of the Anglo-Americans could be made, but one dominates all the others.
The social state of the Americans is eminently democratic. It has had this character since the birth of the colonies; it has it even more today.
[As soon as you look at the civil and political society of the United States, you discover two great facts that dominate all the others and from which the others are derived. Democracy constitutes the social state; the dogma of the sovereignty of the people, the political law.
These two things are not analogous. Democracy is society’s way of being. Sovereignty of the people, a form of [v. the essence of] government. Nor are they inseparable, because democracy is even more compatible with despotism than with liberty.
Alexis de Tocqueville
Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–1859) was a French writer and politician. With his friend Gustave Beaumont he spent nine months in America and with him published a study of the American penal system and its applicability to France. Tocqueville's fame was established by his De la Démocratie en Amérique, published in two volumes in 1835 and 1840. He was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1839, was a member of the Constituent Assembly in 1848 and of the Legislative Assembly in 1849, was minister of foreign affairs in 1849, and was imprisoned in 1851 for his opposition to the coup d’état of Louis-Napoléon. At his death he had completed volume 1 of his L’Ancien Régime et la Révolution (1856).