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Foreword - Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America: Historical-Critical Edition, vol. 1 
Democracy in America: Historical-Critical Edition of De la démocratie en Amérique, ed. Eduardo Nolla, translated from the French by James T. Schleifer. A Bilingual French-English editions, (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2010). Vol. 1.
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This bilingual edition of Tocqueville’s work contains a new English translation of the French critical edition published in 1990. The copyright to the French version is held by J. Vrin and it is not available online. The copyright to the English translation, the translator’s note, and index is held by Liberty Fund.
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“In this regard, you will pardon me, I hope, if I express a regret that I believe is general. You have pushed too far a scruple, otherwise very laudable, of not wanting to publish anything that had not absolutely received the final touch of the author. I know well the conscientiousness that caused our friend to present the expression of his thought to the public only after he had brought it to the highest perfection that he felt capable of giving it; but it is one thing to put a piece of writing aside in order to make it more perfect and something else to want it suppressed when fate has decreed that the process of perfecting it cannot take place. Even the rough drafts of a thinker and observer like Tocqueville would be of inestimable value for thinkers to come; and unless he opposed it while alive, it seems to me that there would be no disadvantage in publishing his imperfect manuscripts while presenting them only for what they are and scrupulously retaining all the indications of an intention to go back to some piece and to submit its ideas to a later verification.”1
In these words, following the publication of the complete works, John Stuart Mill expressed his regret to the editor, Gustave de Beaumont, for not having been able to read the whole body of Tocqueville’s unpublished papers.
Within the framework of this edition, I wanted to revisit Beaumont’s decision and in part to satisfy Mill’s desire. I have resolved not only to offer to the reader the text of Democracy in America revised and corrected, but also to give an important place to the notes, drafts, and materials of all kinds that accompanied the period of its writing.
I have therefore chosen to present to the reader at the same time a new edition of the Democracy and a different edition. This new Democracy is not only the one that Tocqueville presented to the reader of 1835 and then to the reader of 1840. It is enlarged, amplified by a body of texts that has never existed in the form that I give it today. If the added pages that follow are indeed from Tocqueville’s pen, most of them existed only as support, as necessary scaffolding for the construction of the work. As such, they were naturally meant to disappear from the final version.
Drawn out of obscurity, they are going to reappear in the middle of the known text. These fragments, revived by the choice of the editor, appear between brackets in the main text and in notes. They must be treated with caution. Although they have been brought back to life here, it is advisable not to forget that Tocqueville had condemned them to disappearance. If they often lead to some interesting site, they also lead many times to a labyrinth or to an impenetrable wall. Then we will be forced to agree with the judgment that once relegated them to oblivion.
What interest does their presence have then? Above all that of vividly highlighting the extraordinary complexity of the writing of the Democracy and aiding in its comprehension by presenting a portion of the erasures and over-writings, the prodigious “layering” of Tocqueville’s great work. The reader will discover, for example, how Tocqueville, often hesitant, uncertain about the direction to follow, asks for advice from his family and friends, and how the latter guide his thought when writing some paragraphs and sentences. He will better understand the reasons for certain additions and deletions. He will also be able to note certain changes due to the criticisms made by the first readers of the manuscript. Finally and above all, he will see how Tocqueville proceeded with the elaboration of the main ideas of his book.
Every text is unstable for a long time. When it has acquired a certain coherence and the author judges it complete, it is printed. Every typographic reproduction leads, however, to adulteration, an adulteration as necessary as it is inevitable. The printed book cannot convey either the handwriting or the look of the manuscript. Only a facsimile, a perfect reproduction of the original, made on the same paper, damaged by time and humidity, would manage to show to the reader Democracy in America in all its complexity and liveliness. But it would be an illusory Democracy, entirely as hard to read and grasp as the original, and one whose intrinsic value would be lost.
If the edition that is being presented today is careful to restore to the Democracy part of its difficulties of composition, of its mistaken ideas, and of its faltering efforts, it is not trying to and cannot in any way take the place of the manuscript, any more than it can come close to being a facsimile. A good number of research projects will still have to return to the unique object that the manuscript represents.2
The Manuscripts of Tocqueville
The preparation of the first edition of the complete works goes back to 1859, and comes just after the death of Tocqueville. The work of Gustave de Beaumont, who held Tocqueville’s manuscripts from his widow, Mary Mottley, was done with the aid of Louis de Kergorlay.
Beaumont knew Tocqueville’s obsession to publish nothing that had not been read and reread a hundred times. Since the author was no longer there to ensure the correction of his texts, Beaumont took charge of it. In so doing, he doctored certain passages; he deleted certain others without indication; and finally he destroyed an indeterminate number of documents (perhaps in response to the demands of Tocqueville’s wife).
That first edition, which elicited considerable criticism, possesses almost as many good qualities as failings. We know that the editorial practices of the period differed markedly from ours, that mutilations and corrections of all sorts did not as clearly give rise to condemnation. Some of the people cited in the correspondence were still alive at the time of publication. Finally, the political situation of the Second Empire weighed on the decision of the editor to make a certain number of modifications.
It is no less true that Beaumont provided an impressive work in a relatively short time. Nine volumes appeared in the space of seven years.
Mary Mottley died in 1865. Since her relations with the Tocqueville family were never good, she bequeathed all of her husband’s papers to Gustave de Beaumont. The family of the latter possessed them until 1891. At that time Christian de Tocqueville acquired them.
Not long after the end of the First World War, Paul Lambert White, professor at Yale University, became interested in Tocqueville’s manuscripts. He went to France, where he consulted and catalogued all of the manuscripts in the possession of the Tocqueville family. Moreover, he obtained the authorization to have the manuscripts that concerned America copied. M. Bonnel, the schoolteacher at Tocqueville, was charged with this work.3
At the death of Paul White, George W. Pierson, then a doctoral student at Yale, went in turn to France with the encouragement of John M.= S. Allison. He proceeded to do a new catalogue of the manuscripts4 and obtained the money necessary for the continuation of the work of copying. In this way Bonnel continued to work and to send copies regularly to the United States.
Several years after World War II, a new inventory revealed the disappearance of most of the manuscripts copied for the American university by Bonnel. Yale found itself from that time on in possession of invaluable documents.
Little by little, the collection grew, augmented over the years by new acquisitions and bequests. One of the most important contributions was the purchase, over a period of about twenty years (from 1953 to 1973), of the quasi-totality of the manuscripts of Gustave de Beaumont. In 1954, Yale acquired the manuscript and the final drafts of Democracy in America. At that time, the American university became the sole depository of the vast majority of the texts, notes, and correspondence relating to Tocqueville’s principal work.5
The collection holds original manuscripts as well as copies of lost originals. In the work of this edition, the drafts and the manuscript called the “working manuscript” of the Democracy have received particular attention.
The greater part of the drafts of the second part of the Democracy, to which the author gave the name “rubish”6 and which constitutes perhaps the most interesting portion of the Yale collection, is unfortunately in very bad condition. Insects and moisture have led to its deterioration, the handwriting is particularly hard to read, and the paper is crumbling into pieces. A quantity of minuscule bits of paper remains at the bottom of the two boxes that protect the Rubish.7
Other drafts of the second part of the book, and all those belonging to the first part, exist only as copies (that all together number about 1,500 pages divided into sixteen notebooks); they can be relatively trusted.8
To all of that, the notes written by Tocqueville during his journey to America9 must be added, and a group of more than three hundred letters, some still unpublished. This involves Tocqueville’s and Beaumont’s correspondence with Americans and the English during and after their visit to the United States, and letters written to their families and to various French correspondents.10
Other documents that are of interest for understanding the Democracy include bibliographies, lists of questions posed by Tocqueville and Beaumont to the Americans they spoke to, and above all, numerous documents in Beaumont’s hand for the writing of his novel, Marie, ou l’esclavage aux États-Unis, and for that of his essay on Ireland.
Some Details Concerning the Present Edition
Theodore Sedgwick, a correspondent of Tocqueville, said jokingly that the handwriting of the latter oscillated between hieroglyphics and cuneiform.11 The condition of notes meant by Tocqueville to be read only by himself can be imagined.
Following a system frequently used at the time, the draft occupies the right side of the folio and leaves the left side free for notes and variants.12 The text, nonetheless, often extends beyond the right side and successively invades the left side, the margins, and the space between the lines.
Supplementary sheets are added at the end of each chapter, small pieces of paper are glued over the original, and sometimes other papers are even stuck to the first ones. Crosses, x’s, ovals, circles, letters, and diacritical signs are multiplied to indicate transfers and additions. It is clear that an exact reproduction of the many minor changes in the text of the manuscript is as unnecessary as it would be boring, and I have not bothered with it.
Notes in the margin testify to Tocqueville’s doubts about certain passages, his desire to review them, and sometimes his intention to ask for the opinion of his friends or their criticisms. The fragments that he intended to eliminate are generally circled.
At the point of finishing the composition of Democracy in America, Tocqueville wanted his family and certain of his friends to be able to read the manuscript, comment on it, and critique it. With this intention, in 1834, he hired the services of a copyist.13 This copy of the manuscript, which could have been sent to the publisher once definitively corrected, has been lost except for a few loose sheets that are found with the manuscript. The reading of these pages reveals the difficulties experienced by the copyist; it is probable, from several notes in the manuscript, that Tocqueville himself dictated a good part of the book.14
References made elsewhere give an idea15 of this copy, which contained a certain number of errors, as did, we can assume, the copy that constituted the final version sent to the publisher. The printing process inevitably introduced others.16
The editions that followed worked to correct the errors of the first edition, but added new ones. For his part, Tocqueville also made certain deletions and several additions.17
At the time of the preparation of this edition, I began by comparing the most important French editions (those of 1835, 1838, 1840, and 1850). I discovered a certain number of differences from one edition to another: corrections by the author, modifications of punctuation, omissions, etc. After recovering the missing passages, I then compared the whole text with the manuscript and identified more than a hundred diverse errors. To those, some errors made by Tocqueville had to be added. For the latter, I have merely pointed out the error; I tried to correct it if possible, but I have not in any way modified the text.
I then incorporated the fragments that I chose into the known text.18 To do this, a meticulous selection of texts was made among the multiple variants and versions present in the manuscript; the selection was made for obvious reasons of interest as well as placement. I have deliberately chosen to concentrate the greatest portion of the additions in the chapters that seem to me to have the most interest, and in particular in the second volume of the book. The additions to the main text appear between brackets; they may be preceded and followed by various diacritical signs whose meaning is set forth below.19
The notes consist of marginalia, of variants or versions predating the final version, which belong to the drafts, travel notes, fragments of correspondence, and criticisms put forth by friends and family. Their sources have been carefully and systematically indicated. To these notes is added the critical apparatus that I wanted to be useful as well as succinct.
Finally, at the end of the fourth volume, I have included in the form of appendixes six texts of different types.20 The first two, Journey to Lake Oneida and A Fortnight in the Wilderness, had been written by Tocqueville during his journey in the United States. Everything suggests that they would have constituted appendices to the Democracy if Beaumont had not written Marie. We know in fact from the latter that Tocqueville had judged the two narratives to be too close to his travel companion’s fictional venture to consider publishing them.21
The two texts that follow are part of the drafts. Without the polish and the quality of the two preceding ones, they still have a certain documentary interest.
To include a certain number of ideas that will constitute the keystones of Tocqueville’s political thought, I have added an unpublished letter from the author, dating from 1830 and addressed to Charles Stoffels.
Finally, I believed it was good to recapitulate in appendixes the foreword to the twelfth edition and all of the works cited by Tocqueville in his book as well as in the drafts, in order to aid in the reconstruction of the “Tocqueville library.”
Abbreviations and Symbols Used in This Edition
Note on the Manuscripts
In addition to the documents of Yale University, the editor quotes or reproduces, with the kind permission of the libraries mentioned, the following documents:
I very much want to extend my deep thanks to the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University, which continually put at my disposal the innumerable manuscripts that I was able to consult. My thanks go to the entire staff, and very particularly to two curators, Marjorie G. Wynne and Vincent Giroud. I also thank the Beinecke Library for its kind permission to quote and to reproduce the manuscripts and documents of the Tocqueville collection.
[1. ]The Later Letters of John Stuart Mill, 1849-1873 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1972. J. S. Mill Collected Works, XV), p. 719. [Note: Original is in French.]
[2. ] The working manuscript of Democracy in America is at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University. It is divided among four boxes (with the classification CVIa) and follows the order of chapters of the book. Only chapters 1, 18, 19, and 20 of the second part of the 1840 volume are missing. When, for this edition, I refer to the manuscript, it is this text that I mean.
The Yale collection does not have the definitive version of the Democracy, the one that Tocqueville had sent to the publisher, Charles Gosselin. This version, which George W. Pierson believed that he had seen in France in 1930, was not found at the time of the purchase of the manuscripts of the Democracy in 1954. Everything suggests that this final version did not present perceptible differences from the first edition.
[3. ] White also gained permission to have copies made of certain documents in the hands of Antoine Rédier who was then preparing his book, Comme disait Monsieur de Tocqueville (Paris: Perrin, 1925). These copies were done by the secretaries of Abel Doysié, responsible for copying for the Library of Congress documents belonging to the French diplomatic archives.
[4. ] Yale owns copies of all of the catalogues of Tocqueville’s manuscripts.
[5. ] The other important collection of Tocqueville’s manuscripts is at the château de Tocqueville.
[6. ] The English rubbish means debris, remnants, trash. Following Tocqueville, we spell the word incorrectly throughout this edition. By the word, we mean either the drafts of each chapter (rubish), or the whole body of the drafts of the second part (Rubish).
[7. ] Some omissions could be filled in by consulting the microfilm done at the time of the arrival of the manuscript at Yale and a partial copy of the Rubish in Bonnel’s hand.
[8. ] The comparison of this copy of one part of the Rubish with the original shows some differences and omissions, as well as a certain arbitrariness in the placement of the text on the page. Bonnel also resorted, perhaps a bit too rapidly, to the expedient of “illegible word,” although this type of abuse is more desirable in a copyist than is an excess of imagination. I have corrected a number of obvious errors.
[9. ] These notes have been published in the fifth volume of the Œuvres complètes published by Gallimard. I have nonetheless preferred to refer to the Yale texts, given the presence in that edition, on more than one occasion, of differences and omissions.
[10. ] The letters sent by Beaumont to his family during the American voyage have been published by André Jardin and George W. Pierson with the title Lettres d’Amérique (Paris: PUF, 1973).
[11. ] In a letter of 15 January 1856 (YTC, DIIa).
In a letter of 28 December 1856 to the countess de Grancey (OCB, VII, p. 424), Tocqueville makes the Abbé Lesueur responsible for his bad handwriting: “He had the singular idea of making me learn to write before teaching me spelling. Since I did not know how to write my words, I muddled them as well as I could, drowning my errors in my scribbling. As a result, I have never known how to spell perfectly, and I have continued to scribble indefinitely.” We know, moreover, that Didot, the first publisher of L’Ancien Régime et la Révolution, sent the manuscript back to the author twice in succession because of illegibility.
[12. ] In certain cases, I have reproduced the notes in pencil that are in Tocqueville’s hand.
[13. ] Perhaps Monsieur Parier, cited in note o of p. 384. A letter of Édouard to Alexis de Tocqueville (CIIIb, 2, pp. 65-67, reproduced in note c of pp. 142-43) suggests the idea that the copy was done in notebooks. Two notes in the drafts speak about the price of the copies and the number of pages copied (YTC, CVh, 3, p. 17, and CVh, 2, p. 11).
In a letter to Beaumont of 23 October 1839 (Correspondance avec Beaumont,OC, VIII, 1, p. 389), Tocqueville refers to a copy of the second volume.
[14. ] On the jacket of chapter VII of the fourth part of volume II, we read, for example: twenty minutes. Is this an allusion to the time taken to read the chapter?
[15. ] The commentaries from the Tocqueville family, from Gustave de Beaumont, and from Louis de Kergorlay often reproduce the fragments to which they are referring. Most of the commentaries of the first readers of Tocqueville’s book relate to details of writing, style, and the vocabulary used. Of course, I have reproduced at the bottom of the page only those criticisms that seemed of some theoretical interest.
[16. ] For example, where Tocqueville wanted to say that “aristocratic countries are full of rich and influential individuals who know how to be self-sufficient and who are not easily or secretly oppressed” (II, p. 1267), certain editions assert: “aristocratic countries are full of rich and influential individuals who do not know how to be self-sufficient and who are not easily or secretly oppressed” (my emphasis).
In chapter IV of the second part of the second volume (p. 306), the author maintains that in 1831 the proposal of the partisans of the tariff circulated in a few days “due to the power of the printed word,” while several editions attribute this fact to “the birth of the printed word.” The editions in use contain more than a hundred errors of this type.
[17. ] The reader will find in the notes the reasons that led to certain of these corrections. For instance, the deletion of the allusion to John Quincy Adams (note k for p. 53).
The editors of the new edition of the complete works of Tocqueville, published by Gallimard, preferred to produce the last edition corrected by Tocqueville, the thirteenth, which dates from 1850. That edition nonetheless presents a good number of the errors present in previous editions. It also introduced a certain number of new errors.
[18. ] The writing of the fragments that I cite is not always, as you will see, at the level of the published texts. The sometimes maladroit, sometimes frankly incorrect sentences that are reproduced have clearly not received the attention accorded to the published texts. You will find in particular certain stylistic and grammatical archaisms, as well as certain errors in the use of tenses, moods, and prepositions that I have not tried to modify in any way.
[19. ] The new fragments that this edition presents are reproduced as they can be read in the manuscript. I have nonetheless made a certain number of corrections and modifications necessary for comprehension:
[20. ] The thirteenth edition included for the first time as an appendix the report of Tocqueville to the Académie des sciences morales et politiques on the book by Cherbuliez, De la démocratie en Suisse, and Tocqueville’s speech of 27 January 1848 to the Chamber, in which he foresaw the February revolution. Tocqueville’s intention had been as well to include as an appendix a short work written in October 1847 and published with the title “De la classe moyenne et du people” [“Of the middle class and the people”] (OC, III, 2, p. 738-741), which he sent to Pagnerre (letter from Tocqueville to Pagnerre of 13 September 1850, at the National Assembly). Because of length, the present edition does not reproduce the two appendixes of the 1850 edition.
[21. ] See OCB, V, p. 27.