Front Page Titles (by Subject) Accidental Causes That Can Increase the Influence of the Executive Power - Democracy in America: Historical-Critical Edition, vol. 1
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Accidental Causes That Can Increase the Influence of the Executive Power - 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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Accidental Causes That Can Increase the Influence of the Executive Power
External security that the Union enjoys.—Cautious policy.—Army of 6,000 soldiers.—Only a few ships.—The President possesses some great prerogatives that he does not have the opportunity to use.—In what he does have the opportunity to execute, he is weak.
If the executive power is less strong in America than in France, the cause must be attributed to circumstances perhaps more than to laws.
It is principally in its relations with foreigners that the executive power of a nation finds the opportunity to deploy skill and force.
If the life of the Union were constantly threatened, if its great interests were found involved daily in those of other powerful peoples, you would see the executive power grow in opinion by what would be expected of it and by what it would execute.
The President of the United States is, it is true, the head of the army, but this army is composed of 6,000 soldiers;c he commands the fleet, but the fleet numbers only a few vessels; he directs the foreign affairs of the Union, but the United States has no neighbors. Separated from the rest of the world by the ocean, still too weak to want to dominate the sea, they have no enemies; and their interests are only rarely in contact with those of the other nations of the globe.
This demonstrates well that the practice of government must not be judged by theory.
The President of the United States possesses some nearly royal prerogatives that he does not have the opportunity to use; and the rights that, up to now, he is able to use are very circumscribed. The laws allow him to be strong; circumstances keep him weak.
On the contrary, circumstances, still more than the laws, give royal authority in France its greatest strength.
In France, the executive power struggles constantly against immense obstacles and disposes of immense resources to overcome them. It increases with the greatness of the things that it executes and with the importance of the events that it directs, without thereby modifying its constitution.
Had the laws created it as weak and as circumscribed as that of the Union, its influence would soon become very much greater.
[c. ] 4,000 in the manuscript.