67 Enlightening Quotes By Alexis De Tocqueville, The Author Of Democracy In America
Alexis de Tocqueville was a French diplomat, political scientist and historian who was known for his books on democracy. He was fascinated by the way people lived in democratic countries. He argued that the importance of the French Revolution was to continue the process of modernizing and centralizing the French state. Tocqueville had also played a major role in eradication of racism that further contributed to healthier relationships between nations. He blamed the failure of the French Revolution on the inexperience of the deputies with abstract Enlightenment ideals. He also tried making reforms to democratic governments by implementing rules that curbed the misuse of authority and freedom. Though Tocqueville had not seen what slavery would be under democracy, he advocated its abolishment. Check out some enlightening quotes by Tocqueville.
The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money. America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great. I do not know if the people of the United States would vote for superior men if they ran for office, but there can be no doubt that such men do not run. Americans are so enamored of equality, they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom. Nothing is more wonderful than the art of being free, but nothing is harder to learn how to use than freedom. Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith. There are many men of principle in both parties in America, but there is no party of principle. History is a gallery of pictures in which there are few originals and many copies. Everybody feels the evil, but no one has courage or energy enough to seek the cure Society is endangered not by the great profligacy of a few, but by the laxity of morals amongst all. There are two things which a democratic people will always find very difficult - to begin a war and to end it. When I refuse to obey an unjust law, I do not contest the right of the majority to command, but I simply appeal from the sovereignty of the people to the sovereignty of mankind. Society was cut in two: those who had nothing united in common envy; those who had anything united in common terror. The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens. I am unaware of his plans but I shall never stop believing in them because I cannot fathom them and I prefer to mistrust my own intellectual capacities than his justice. We can state with conviction, therefore, that a man's support for absolute government is in direct proportion to the contempt he feels for his country. The happy and powerful do not go into exile, and there are no surer guarantees of equality among men than poverty and misfortune. The surface of American society is covered with a layer of democratic paint, but from time to time one can see the old aristocratic colours breaking through. A man's admiration for absolute government is proportionate to the contempt he feels for those around him. On close inspection, we shall find that religion, and not fear, has ever been the cause of the long-lived prosperity of an absolute government. Slavery...dishonors labor. It introduces idleness into society, and with idleness, ignorance and pride, luxury and distress. It enervates the powers of the mind and benumbs the activity of man. The most perilous moment for a bad government is one when it seeks to mend its ways. I am unacquainted with His designs, but I shall not cease to believe in them because I cannot fathom them, and I had rather mistrust my own capacity than His justice The more alike men are, the weaker each feels in the face of all. The most durable monument of human labor is that which recalls the wretchedness and nothingness of man. Men will not accept truth at the hands of their enemies, and truth is seldom offered to them by their friends Patriotism is most often nothing more but an extension of individual egoism What is called family pride is often founded on the illusion of self-love. A man wishes to perpetuate and immortalize himself. Men who so uneasily tolerate superiors patiently suffer a master, and show themselves proud and servile at the same time. This demonstrated to me that those who regard universal suffrage as a guarantee for good choices are under a complete illusion. Universal suffrage has other advantages, but not that one. America is a land of wonders, in which everything is in constant motion and every change seems an improvement. There is no country in the world in which everything can be provided for by laws, or in which political institutions can prove a substitute for common sense and public morality. Next to hating their enemies, men are most inclined to flatter them. I had rather mistrust my own capacity than God's justice. In democratic society each citizen is habitually busy with the contemplation of a very petty object, which is himself. Patriotism and religion are the only two motives in the world which can permanently direct the whole of a body politic to one end. No protracted war can fail to endanger the freedom of a democratic country Under wage labor, the art advances, the artisan declines. In America religion is the road to knowledge, and the observance of the divine laws leads man to civil freedom. Despotism may govern without faith, but liberty cannot. Town-meetings are to liberty what primary schools are to science; [Patriotism] is in itself a kind of religion: it does not reason, but it acts from the impulse of faith and sentiment. One of the commonest weaknesses of human intelligence is the wish to reconcile opposing principles and to purchase harmony at the expensive of logic. In reality it is far less prejudicial to witness the immorality of the great than to witness that immorality which leads to greatness. For benefits by their very greatness spotlight the difference in conditions and arouse a secret annoyance in those who profit from them. But the charm of simple good manners is almost irresistible. He who in given cases consents to obey his fellows with servility, and who submits his will, and even his thoughts, to their control, how can he pretend that he wishes to be free? Nations, as well as men, almost always betray the most prominent features of their future destiny in their earliest years. One's love for despotism is in exact proportion to one's contempt for one's country. The revolution of the United States was the result of a mature and dignified taste for freedom, and not of a vague or ill-defined craving for independence. Despotism alone can provide that atmosphere of secrecy which favors crooked dealing and enables the freebooters of finance to make illicit fortunes. All those who seek to destroy the liberties of a democratic nation ought to know that war is the surest and shortest means to accomplish it. Nothing conceivable is so petty, so insipid, so crowded with paltry interests, in one word, so anti-poetic, as the life of a man in the United States. 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. I am unacquainted with a more deplorable spectacle than that of a people unable either to defend or to maintain its independence. Amongst civilized nations revolts are rarely excited, except by such persons as have nothing to lose by them; Now I know of only two methods of establishing equality in the political world; every citizen must be put in possession of his rights, or rights must be granted to no one. The will of the nation" is one of those expressions which have been most profusely abused by the wily and the despotic of every age. In the township, as well as everywhere else, the people is the only source of power; but in no stage of government does the body of citizens exercise a more immediate influence. Each man is forever thrown back on himself alone, and there is danger that he may be shut up in the solitude of his own heart. In the United States, the majority undertakes to supply a multitude of ready-made opinions for the use of individuals, who are thus relieved from the necessity of forming opinions of their own.
But a democracy can only obtain truth as the result of experience, and many nations may forfeit their existence whilst they are awaiting the consequences of their errors.
When justice is more certain and more mild, is at the same time more efficacious.
To be a government of "liberty regulated by law," with such results in the development of strength, in population, wealth, and military and commercial power, as no age had ever witnessed.
No African has ever voluntarily emigrated to the shores of the New World; whence it must be inferred, that all the blacks who are now to be found in that hemisphere are either slaves or freedmen.
There is a natural prejudice which prompts men to despise whomsoever has been their inferior long after he is become their equal;
Slavery received, but the prejudice to which it has given birth remains stationary. No form or combination of social polity has yet been devised to make an energetic people out of a community of pusillanimous and enfeebled citizens.