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View of America

• Alexis de Tocqueville was a citizen of France, sent to
observe American prisons, by the French government
in the 1830‟s. While in America, he began a journal,
commenting on the “exceptionalism” of America and
its citizens.

• He focused on five characteristics: Liberty, Equality,
Individualism, Popular Sovereignty and Laissez Faire.

• Our class assignment was to select an era of American
History, after the Civil War, and look at through de
Tocqueville‟s eyes.
Progressive Era
• 1890s – 1920s
What‟s significant and intriguing about this time period is
that it‟s one of the first times the United States takes action in
the nation‟s mistake. Because of all of the corruption that
came about during the Gilded Age, it was America‟s time to
truly take responsibility and clean up the mistakes for the
betterment of its citizens.
• Protection against tyrannical government.
•Biggest danger = tyranny of the minority.
•Americans are devoted to the rule of law.
•American‟s religious faith is strengthened, individual liberty.

During the Progressive Era, many groups sought liberty. Women,
for example, fought for the right to vote, and other freedoms that
were denied. Workers demanded fair pay, because corruption
manipulated businesses. The fight for child labor laws also arose
during this time period.
•A society of equals.
•European society built around hereditary distinctions:
separating the nobles, middle class, and peasants.
•In America, there were differences but equality, anyone could
own land and escalate in life.

Equality wasn‟t something common during the Progressive Era.
Women were yet to be given their basic rights, there was
discrimination present, especially in the workplace. “Minorities”
worked in harsh, dangerous conditions with a lower pay than
that of white men.
•Americans were free to flourish without hereditary
•Believed one could rise in society (The American Dream.)
•Individuals even organized themselves into their own, private
voluntary associations.

The Progressive Era and Individualism are two completely
opposite ideas. Individualism focuses on the protection of
American citizens, whereas the Progressive Era focused
primarily on an egalitarian society.
Popular Sovereignty
•Popular Sovereignty.
•Participation of the common people in political life – voting.
•Goal was peace and prosperity.

The time period after the Gilded Age was characterized by the time
period in which laws for the protection of citizens was improved.
Society was beginning to grow in voice, as political leaders were
now unable to function without their votes. Also, laws such as that
of the meatpacking industry, were passed and forced by and for the
Laissez Faire
•Government took over “hands off” approach to the economy.
•Key value of Americans was each individual was the best judge
of their own interest.
•He feared that Americans would rely to heavily on the

Americans during the Progressive Era strongly supported laissez-
faire. Because there were many political parties present and
elections occurring, the people refused to settle for government
intervention, especially after the political machines.
“The surface of American
society is covered with a
layer of democratic paint,
but from time to time one
can see the old
aristocratic colors
breaking through. “
Although the United States
focuses on the idea of
democracy and equality, since
really, the law makes it clear,
society still unravels a sense of
aristocracy. Those who are the
wealthiest are admired and
seen as the ones with the most
power. Also, humanity today
obsesses over the idea of
wealth and their position on
the social and economic ladder.
De Tocqueville Quote
Alexis de Tocqueville had a very peaceful vision for the
United States. He believed in equal opportunity, that
every member of society would live in harmony with the
government and with one another. Seeing how the nation
is today, de Tocqueville would see both good and bad.
Good, because the United States has remained
democratic. People are more active than ever in elections.
There are many ethnicities and economic parties
intertwined. However, even though every „minority‟ of
the past has received equal freedom, there still exists
discrimination. Unfairness and prejudice is still present,
economic downfalls still occur. The United States will
never be perfect, but de Tocqueville could see how strong
and successful it still manages to be.