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T Feb 28 Tocqueville Democracy in America:

Vol. 1, Part 1, Ch.. 3-4;

Part 2, Ch. 1, 4, 6-7;

Vol. 2, Part 1, Ch. 1, 2, 5;
Part 2, Chaps. 1, 5, 7; Part III, Ch. 12; Part IV, Ch. 2-4, 6

Chapter 3: Social State of the Anglo-Americans
The Striking Feature in the Social Condition of the Anglo-Americans is that it is
Essentially Democratic
The social state is the primary cause of most laws, and in America the social state is
"eminently democratic." There was a high degree of equality among immigrants, and people
are respected on the basis of intellect and virtue.
The South has rich landowners and slaves, but is not quite an aristocracy because there are
no aristocratic privileges.
The laws of inheritance in America yielded the final advance of equality. If inheritance law
requires equal sharing of property among the children, the land will be continually broken
up and great landed fortunes will be nearly impossible to sustain. The connection between
the land and the family name which exists when there are laws of primogeniture is
eradicated. As a result, wealth circulates in America with great rapidity.
There is not only equality in wealth, but also equality in education. None are totally
ignorant, and few are highly educated. There is no class with both the taste and leisure for
intellectual pleasures. This state of affairs creates a "middling standard." There is no
aristocratic element in the society.
Political Consequences of the Social State of the Anglo-Americans
For equality in the political sphere, either every citizen or no citizen can have rights. The
passion for equality often overrides the desire for freedom; consequently people often
surrender freedom for the sake of equality.
This chapter essentially continues to explain the equality that exists in America and the
tension between equality and freedom. A negative element of equality which Tocqueville
mentions briefly is its tendency to act as a leveler, bringing down those who would, in a
more aristocratic society, become outstanding individuals. While Tocqueville is saddened by
this loss, he sees it as inevitable. The second, more serious danger of the democratic
passion for equality is its tendency to be pursued at the cost of liberty. Tocqueville will
speak later on in the book about the specific dangers of the tyranny of the majority and
democratic despotism. (See Volume 1: Chapter 7; Volume 2: Part II, Chapter 1; Part IV,
Chapter 6)
Chapter 4: The Principle of the Sovereignty of the People in America
The sovereignty of the people is recognized by both mores and laws in America. In the
colonies, this principle spread secretly within the provincial assemblies. With the advent of
the Revolution, the dogma of the sovereignty of the people took possession of the
government and was coded into law. The upper classes acquiesced to this principle in order
to gain the goodwill of the people and enacted legislation which strengthened it. Voting
qualifications were progressively eradicated. In America, the people really do rule.
Recognizing the sovereignty of the people is essential for a democratic government. The
Americans have done this and followed this principle to its logical conclusions to an
extraordinary degree, largely as a result of their strong passion for equality. This principle
can become dangerous, however, in that it may lead to a tyranny of the majority.
Vol. I, Part 2, Chapters 1-5
Chapter 1: Why It Can Strictly Be Said That the People Govern in the United
The people both make and execute the laws in the United States, by electing their
representatives and serving on juries. "The majority rules in the name of the people."
Chapter 4: Political Association in the United States
Americans use the right of assembly more frequently and effectively than anywhere else in
the world. The right of association is related to the freedom to write, but associations are
more powerful than the press. Political associations can become extremely powerful, even
dangerously so. While freedom of the press is "the constitutive element in freedom" and
therefore cannot be limited, the freedom of association may have to be limited. In America,
however, there are no limitations. Its danger has been seen already, however, in the
nullification crisis South Carolina. Yet in spite of the danger, unlimited freedom of
association is good in the United States because it is a guarantee against the tyranny of the
Association is natural to human beings, and is therefore an inalienable right. In the United
States, as opposed to Europe, associations are primarily peaceful and use legal means,
precisely because they know that such means can indeed have an effect. Universal suffrage
is perhaps the best guarantee against the violence of political associations in the United
States, because no association can claim to represent a majority. It is obvious that
association represent only a minority, and thus their moral force is diminished.
While they can be dangerous in some situations and political climates, associations are
highly beneficial in the United States, because they guard against the tyranny of the
majority and are not inclined to violence or revolution. Tocqueville writes that "the
omnipotence of the majority seems to me such a danger to the American republics that the
dangerous expedient used to curb it is actually something good." In a sense, this dynamic is
quite ironic, because it demonstrates how, at least in this case, "extreme democracy
forestalls the dangers of democracy."
Vol. I, Part 2, Chapters 6-10
Chapter 6: The Real Advantages Derived by American Society From Democratic
The General Tendency of Laws Under the Sway of American Democracy and
the Instincts of Those Who Apply Them
The defects of democracy are obvious, but the advantages can only be seen in the long run.
Laws in America "are often defective or incomplete." Democracy's laws tend toward the
good of the greatest number, but an aristocracy is much more skilled in legislation.
Democracy's lack of skill is not fatal, however, because mistakes are retrievable. In
addition, the people keep watch on the actions of their legislators and make sure that they
are not deviating from the public interest. Legislators may not be highly skilled, but they will
never pursue aims hostile to the majority.
Public Spirit in the United States
There are two types of patriotism. One type stems from an instinctive love, based on feeling
rather than reason, and is often ephemeral. The other is a more rational and lasting
patriotism, "engendered by enlightenment," and "mingled with personal interest." The best
way to promote this more steady patriotism is to make people take a personal interest in
their country's fate by giving them a share in government. This is what the United States
has done, and the result is that Americans are extremely patriotic.
The Idea of Rights in the United States
Rights are absolutely essential for a cohesive and prosperous society. In America, because
everyone has some sort of property, all recognize the right of property in principle.
Likewise, the democratic government "makes the idea of political rights penetrate right
down to the last citizen." A moral and religious conception of rights seems to be
disappearing; therefore it is absolutely essential to link the idea of rights to personal
interest. America has been able to do this by giving people political rights from the
beginning, but in other countries it may be difficult to extend political rights because, having
been deprived of rights for so long, the people may use them unwisely.
Respect for Laws in the United States
Giving the people a part in lawmaking can result in a lower quality of legislation but also can
give the laws greater moral strength. In America people have a personal interest in obeying
the laws, even laws which they disagree with, because they know that at some point they
will share the opinion of the majority and will want the minority to follow the law as well.
While the rich may often be in the minority, their discontent is not dangerous because their
wealth makes breaking the law too risky.
Activity Prevailing in All Parts of the Political Body in the United States; the
Influence Thereby Exerted on Society
The rush of political activity always present in the United States is remarkable. There are
always people calling for reform, lobbying for a cause, or expressing some concern. The
American's greatest pleasure comes from talking about and taking a hand in the
government of society. These habits of freedom are a great guard against despotism.
While the people may not manage public affairs well, it is good for society anyway because
taking responsibility for government broadens people's concerns beyond their own interests
and makes them care for society at large. Things may not be done well, but many things
are accomplished because of the extraordinary amount of political energy and activity.
Democracy does not engender great virtue or nobility, but it also lessens the number of
great crimes and increases general well-being.
This chapter expands on some of the previous chapters ideas about the generally poor
quality of American legislation, but also point out many of the advantages of the democratic
method. One advantage is that while the laws in a democracy may not be crafted with the
utmost skill, they are at least not positively dangerous or aimed against the well-being of
the majority, as they very well might be in an aristocracy. Furthermore, the popular origin
of laws gives them greater moral force. In addition, allowing people to have a role in the
government of the nation makes them see the nation's interests as their and be more
patriotic. The most important effect of the people's ability to take part in making the laws,
however, the strong public spirit and practice in freedom which such activity provides.
Because the people have had political rights from the beginning in America, the habits of
freedom are deeply entrenched. Tocqueville writes that "if despotism ever came to be
established in the United States it would find it even more difficult to overcome the habits
that have sprung from freedom than to conquer the love of freedom itself."
In discussing the benefits of America's deep-rooted habits of political freedom, Tocqueville
makes a very significant comment in relation to the nature of freedom and the difficulty of
acquiring and maintaining it. He states: "It cannot be repeated too often: nothing is more
fertile in marvels than the art of being free, but nothing is harder than freedom's
apprenticeship. The same is not true of despotism. Despotism often presents itself as the
repairer of all the ills suffered, the support of just rights, defender of the oppressed, and
founder of order. Peoples are lulled to sleep by the temporary prosperity it engenders, and
when they do wake up, they are wretched. But liberty is generally born in stormy weather,
growing with difficulty amid civil discords, and only when it is already old does one see the
blessings it has brought." This statement is crucial in that it reveals one of the most
pressing dilemma's which Tocqueville faces, especially in regard to his desire to improve the
political situation in France. Tocqueville realizes that the French lack the "apprenticeship" in
liberty which the Americans have had, and that it is very difficult to make people appreciate
freedom enough to make the sacrifices necessary to attain it. Tending to be short-sighted,
people will see that despotism can bring great stability, order, and even prosperity to the
country, and so may be willing to surrender their freedom. Tocqueville elaborates on this
idea, especially with regard to the tension between liberty and equality, in Volume II, Part
II, Chapter 1.
The idea that democracy has a "middling effect" on the people is also explained more fully
in this chapter. Tocqueville had mentioned this tendency briefly earlier in the book, but here
he speaks about it more at length. He observes that democracies do not tend to produce
men of great heroism or virtue, but rather mild, average characters. "If you think it
profitable to turn man's intellectual and moral activity toward the necessities of physical life
and use them to produce well-being, if you think that reason is more use to men than
genius, if your object is not to create heroic virtues but rather tranquil habits, if you would
rather contemplate vices than crimes, . . . then it is good to make conditions equal and to
establish democratic government." Significantly, however, Tocqueville notes that whatever a
person may think is best actually does not matter, because forces beyond human control
are naturally leading to an ever-increasing equality of conditions. The only way to react is
simply to make the best of the situations, trying to enhance democracy's strengths and
minimize its weaknesses.
Chapter 7: The Omnipotence of the Majority in the United States and Its
The essence of democratic government is the sovereignty of the majority's will. The
Americans want their legislators to be elected directly and to serve short terms in office so
that the people have more chances to exert their influence. The legislature is also the most
powerful branch of the government. In some states, even the judges are elected by
majority vote.
The moral authority of the majority stems from "the theory of equality applied to
brains"that is, since everyone's opinion is of equal worth, the best opinion must be the
opinion of the majority. The majority's authority is further strengthened by the idea that the
interest of the greater number should take precedence over that of the lesser number.
These ideas have not created class antagonisms in the United States because most colonial
settlers were already relatively equal in status, wealth and education. In addition, most
people support the rights of the majority because the hope one day to profit from them.
How in America the Omnipotence of the Majority Increases the Legislative and
Administrative Instability Natural to Democracies
The vices of democracy increase with the growing power of the majority. For instance,
legislative instability plagues the United States, because the legislative powerthe power
most influenced by the will of the majorityis sovereign. As a result, American laws have an
extremely short duration, and execution of the laws is unstable as well. The public easily
becomes impassioned to fight for certain causes, but when achieving goals require patience
and tenacity, they quickly give up.
Tyranny of the Majority
Justice places boundaries on the will of the majority. If a single person can abuse authority
against his adversaries, a majority can do the same against a minority. For a society to
function, it is necessary to have some social power superior to all others, but that power is
dangerous when there is no obstacle to restrain and moderate it.
The biggest problem with the democratic government of the United States is not its
weakness but its overwhelming strength, and "the shortage of guarantees against tyranny."
There is no one to whom a person can turn if has suffered injustice, because everything is
controlled by the majority. The fact that America has not yet fallen into this tyranny of the
majority is due not to its governmental institutions or laws but to its mores.
Effect of the Omnipotence of the Majority on the Arbitrary Power of the
American Public Officials
The majority allows the magistrates to have a large amount of arbitrary power because it
knows that they are constantly under its supervision. "It treats them as a master treats his
servants if, always seeing them under his eyes, he could direct or correct them at any
The Power Exercised by the Majority in America over Thought
Control of public thought is the most complete form of tyranny. In America, once the
majority's opinion has been pronounced, no one contradicts it. There is extremely little
independence of mind and freedom of discussion. People who disagree with the majority
have no other power to whom they can resort for help, because the majority is the sole
authority and source of strength. This control extends over writing as well as speech. There
may be no official restrictions on writing, but if a person challenges the opinion of the
majority all doorsprofessionally and sociallyare shut to him. In democratic republics,
tyranny "leaves the body alone and goes straight for the soul." This tyranny of the majority
is the reason for the lack of literary genius in America, because great writers need freedom
of spirit. Right now the power of the majority is well-used, because mores are good, but it
may not always be so.
Effects of the Majority's Tyranny on American National Character; the Courtier
Spirit in the United States
The rareness of outstanding politicians in America is due to the despotism of the majority.
In democracies the temptation to live off of one's passions is much greater than in
monarchies or aristocracies, and the result is that standards of conduct in general are
When speaking to people in private one finds that their opinions differ and that they may
criticize the government, but in public everyone seems to be of one mind. Politicians in the
United States are of such poor quality because they are the flatterers of the majority and
have submitted themselves to its tyranny in order to gain power.
The Greatest Danger to the American Republics Comes from the Omnipotence
of the Majority
The power directing society in a democracy may be unstable, but it is extremely strong.
America thus has to fear tyranny much more than anarchy, and if anarchy comes about it
will be the result of tyranny driving the minority to desperation. Tocqueville quotes
Jefferson, who writes that it is necessary "to guard one part of society against the
injustice of the other part,'" and that "the tyranny of the legislature is the most formidable
dread at present.'"
Always concerned with the maintenance of freedom in a nation, Tocqueville is especially
troubled by the tendency of democracies to succumb to the tyranny of the majority, a
tyranny no less real and no less terrible than an autocratic tyranny. In the United States,
where the principle of the sovereignty of the people reigns supreme, the force of the
majority is overpowering. While so far the omnipotence of the majority has only resulted in
small inconveniences such as legislative incompleteness, "the consequences of this state of
affairs are fate-laden and dangerous for the future." Omnipotence in human hands is always
dangerous; "only God can be omnipotent without danger, because His wisdom and justice
are always equal to His power." The rule of the majority in America is living proof that
majority's power is well out of proportion with its wisdom and justice.
The dangerous effects of the omnipotence of the majority are already evident in the lack of
free thought in America. While, in principle and by law, everyone can say, think or write
whatever he likes, in reality the opinion of the majority becomes an unquestionable dogma.
"Formerly," write Tocqueville, "tyranny used the clumsy weapons of chains and hangmen;
nowadays even despotism, though it seemed to have nothing more to learn, has been
perfected by civilization." Tyranny in democracies goes straight to the soul. It is all the more
dangerous precisely because it is hidden and exercises no external physical constraints;
thus hardly anyone is able to recognize and no one reacts against it. Besides, a majority of
the people are benefiting from it, and consequently will not want to oppose it. Therefore the
tyranny of the majority is a great danger to all nations in which the ideals of equality and
sovereignty of the people are paramount. The ways to combat this fatal tendency have been
touched upon in previous chaptersfor instance, local liberties, good mores, an independent
executive, and a strong judiciarybut they will be systematically discussed in the following

Vol. 2, Part 1, Ch. 1, 2, 5;
Part 2, Chaps. 1, 5, 7;
Part III, Ch. 12;
Part IV, Ch. 2-4, 6
Vol. II, Part 1, Chapters 1-21
Part I: Influence of Democracy on the Intellectual Movements in the United
Chapter I: Concerning the Philosophical Approach of the Americans
The American people pay little attention to philosophy, yet they all think according to the
same method. Most people rely on individual effort and judgment for their decisions. There
is a distaste for accepting anything on the basis of authority, and they think that everything
can be explained by human intelligence. As a result they have an aversion to the
supernatural. Basically, the Americans are following Descartes's method perfectly, allowing
all traditional ideas to be open for attack. This method can only take root in a society where
there is a high degree of equality.
Why is it that the French apply the Cartesian method more strictly than the Americans
although the Americans have more liberty? The first reason is the peculiar power of religion
in America. Religion is believed without discussion, because it has set its own limits so that
laws and politics can change without affecting beliefs. The second reason is that there was
no democratic revolution in America, and consequently no anarchy extreme social
animosities to upset all traditional ideas.
Chapter 2: Concerning the Principal Source of Beliefs Among Democratic
Societies needs at least some dogmatic beliefsthat is, opinions taken on trust without
discussionbecause without common ideas common action is impossible, and without
common action society cannot exist, much less prosper. Even individually, man needs
dogmatic beliefs because there is simply not enough time in life to examine and prove all
the truths which he makes use of in daily life. Anyone who refused to accept anything
without proving it himself would never be firmly convinced of anything. Therefore authority
also plays a part in intellectual and moral life.
Equality tends to give make men overestimate the power of human reason, and generally
look to themselves or those around them for the truth. People are very unlikely to believe in
the ideas of any one man or class, but are very willing to trust public opinion. Since all are
considered to be equally capable of knowing the truth, people assume that truth must lie
with the majority. Even the strength of religion is based mostly on public opinion.
Equality can have two results: inducing men to think innovatively, or leading him to stop
thinking entirely, completely bound by the will of the greatest number.
Chapter 5: How Religion in the United States Makes Use of Democratic
Almost every human action results from some general conception of God and the duties one
owes to one's fellow man. These ideas are therefore extremely important. Yet, preoccupied
by the daily duties, people often lack the time to think these matters over seriously.
Religion provides the answers to the necessary questions of life. Even if the religion is not
true, it greatly contributes to man's happiness and dignity.
When a people's religion is destroyed people despair of finding the answers to the ultimate
questions of human existence. This state debilitates the soul and prepares a people to hand
over their freedom in search of some sort of stability.
Religion is especially important to combat the negative results of egalitarianism, such as
materialism and egoism. Since religion is so crucial in democracies, it is important for
religion to confine itself to its proper sphere; otherwise the antipathy to dogmatic beliefs will
lead to complete loss of faith. In a sense, however, democracy can be helpful to Christian
beliefs because people naturally accept the unity of God and the moral law because such
ideas are consistent with equality.
The taste for well-being is the most dominant passion of democratic peoples, and
consequently a religion which attempts to completely detach people from the goods of this
world would be doomed to fail. Rather, religion needs moderate the excessive taste for well-
being and encourage the use of honest means for its pursuit. In addition, all matters that
are not essential articles of faith religion needs to acquiesce with the majority's opinion,
because the opinion of the majority rules. The American clergy are aware of these needs
and act accordingly. As a result, religion is very strong in America both from its own power
and from the support of public opinion.
Vol. II, Part 2, Chapters 1-20
Volume II, Part II: Influence of Democracy on the Sentiments of the
Chapter 1: Why Democratic Nations Show a More Ardent and Enduring Love for
Equality Than for Liberty
People in democratic nations love equality much more than liberty. The most perfect form of
equality requires complete freedom. Yet imperfect equality can allow for great despotism.
Equality is so deeply ingrained in laws, social conditions, mores, habits and opinions that
destroying it would be extremely difficult. Political liberty, on the other hand, is easily lost.
In addition, the dangers of liberty are immediate and easy to see, but the dangers of
equality are subtle and visible only in the long run. Conversely, the benefits of liberty can
only be seen over time and exercising liberty requires sacrifice, while the advantages of
equality are felt immediately and easy to obtain. In most modern nations, equality preceded
liberty, and it is a more deep-seated passion. As a result, democratic peoples want equality
even if it means losing liberty.
Chapter 5: On the Use Which the Americans Make of Associations in Civil Life
Americans are continually forming associations of every type. Since citizens in democratic
societies are independent and weak, they need to form associations in order to have some
influence. It is extremely salutary to democratic life that citizens need to form numerous
associations, because it combats individualism and circulates new thoughts and ideas.
Associations take the place of powerful individuals whom equality of conditions have
Chapter 7: Relationships Between Civil and Political Assocations
Political and civil associations are strongly related in that civil associations prepare the way
for political ones, while politics engenders a taste for association and teaches the art of
association. Politics also draws together people of different social circles, and political
associations act "as great free schools to which all citizens come to be taught the general
theory of association." While the unlimited right of political association can be very
dangerous, as stated in Volume One, associations also are highly beneficial and limiting
themthough it may be necessarywill cause harm to society.
Part III Chapter 12: How the American Views the Equality of the Sexes
Some Europeans considers men and women to be not only equal but actually the same.The
Americans recognize the equality of men and women but see that they are different and are
better are different things. While European men tend to flatter women, they consider them
more as seductive objects than as equals. In America women are esteemed and deeply
respected. Americans think that men and women have different duties in life, but the role of
each is equally important and dignified. The chief cause of the extraordinary prosperity of
America is the superiority of American women.
Chapter 2: Why the Ideas of Democratic Peoples About Government Naturally
Favor the Concentration of Political Power
When all are equal the individual loses importance in relation to the whole society. Since the
power of the state comes from the people, democratic peoples see no need to limit it.
Democratic peoples are also attracted by simple, general ideas and the uniformity of central
Chapter 3: How Both the Feelings and the Thoughts of Democratic Nations Are
in Accord in Concentrating Political Power
Individualism makes democratic peoples inclined to allow the state to look after common
needs. In addition, materialism makes them afraid of economic disturbances. Love of
equality breeds itself, because the more equal conditions become, the more shocking the
slightest dissimilarity is. Central government is perfect for making things equal and uniform.
Democracies are therefore tending in that direction.
Chapter 4: Concerning Peculiar and Accidental Causes Which Either Lead a
Democratic People to Complete the Centralization of Government or Divert
Them From It
If people have lived freedom for a long time before becoming equal, the instincts of freedom
combat the inclinations of liberty. This is the case in America, whereas in Europe it is the
opposite. Education also helps men to maintain their independence, because systems which
maintain liberty are more complex than those with a uniform central power. The greatest
accidental cause that would lead to centralization of power in a democracy is the emergence
of a ruler whom the people believe truly represents their interests and instincts. As long as
the ruler makes the people believe he loves equality, he will be able to succeed in
centralizing power.
Chapter 6: What Sort of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear
Democracies are in danger of a milder despotism in times past, in which leaders are not
tyrants but more like schoolmasters. This type of despotism would "degrade men rather
than torment them." The scenario would look something like this: There are a multitude of
equal citizens, completely absorbed in looking after their own comforts and material well-
being, completely apathetic to the rest of society. Above them, there is a huge, protective
power giving them securing and ensuring their happiness. Free choice becomes narrower
and narrower. They allow this to happen because the people are sovereign so they think the
government's policies represent their own choices. This sort of subjection is mostly
concentrated in petty affairs and details of daily life. It seems less severe, but greatly
erodes the ability of people to exercise their free will and even their ability to think for