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That the Greatest Danger to the American Republics Comes from the Omnipotence of the Majority - Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America: Historical-Critical Edition, vol. 2 
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. 2.
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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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That the Greatest Danger to the American Republics Comes from the Omnipotence of the Majority
Democratic republics risk perishing by the bad use of their power, and not by powerlessness.—The government of the American republics more centralized and more energetic than that of the monarchies of Europe.—Danger that results.—Opinion of Madison and of Jefferson on this subject.
Governments usually perish by powerlessness or by tyranny. In the first case, power escapes from them; in the other, it is wrested from them.e
Many men, seeing democratic Statesf fall into anarchy, have thought that government in these States was naturally weak and powerless. The truth is that, once war has flared up there among the parties, government loses its effect on society. But I do not think that the nature of a democratic power is to lack strength and resources; I believe, on the contrary, that it is almost always the abuse of its forces and the bad use of its resources that make it perish. Anarchy is almost always born out of its tyranny or its lack of skill, but not out of its powerlessness.
Stability must not be confused with strength, the greatness of something with its duration. In democratic republics, the power that leads5 society is not stable, for it often changes hands and objectives. But, wherever it goes, its strength is nearly irresistible.
The government of the American republics seems to me as centralized and more energetic than that of the absolute monarchies of Europe. So I do not think that they will perish from weakness.6
If liberty is ever lost in America, it will be necessary to lay the blame on the omnipotence of the majority that will have brought minorities to despair and will have forced them to appeal to physical force. Then you will see anarchy, but it will arrive as a consequence of despotism.
President James Madison expressed the same thoughts (see the Federalist, No 51.)
It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. [. . . (ed.) . . .] Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit.
In a society under the forms of which the stronger faction can readily unite and oppress the weaker, anarchy may as truly be said to reign as in a state of nature, where the weaker individual is not secured against the violence of the stronger; and as, in the latter state, even the stronger individualsg are prompted, by the uncertainty of their condition, to submit to a government which may protect the weak as well as themselves; so, in the former state, will the more powerful factions or parties be gradually induced, by a like motive, to wish for a government which will protect all parties, the weaker as well as the more powerful. It can be little doubted that if the State of Rhode Island was separated from the Confederacy and left to itself, the insecurity of rights under the popular form of government within such narrow limits would be displayed by such reiterated oppressions of factious majorities that some power altogether independent of the people would soon be called for by the voice of the very factions whose misrule had proved the necessity of it.
[In another place he said: “[The] facility of lawmaking seems to be the disease to which our government is most liable.”]
Jefferson also said: “The executive power, in our government, is not the only, and perhaps not the principal object of my concern. The tyranny of legislators is now and will be for many years to come the most formidable danger. That of the executive power will come in its turn, but in a more distant period.”7
In this matter, I like to cite Jefferson in preference to all others, because I consider him the most powerful apostle democracy has ever had.j
Of What Tempers Tyranny of the Majority in the United States
[e. ] Washington, 15 January 1832.
There are two ways for a government to perish:
1. By lack of power (like the first Union, for example).
2. By bad use of power, like all tyrannies.
It is by this last evil that the American republics will perish.
The first mode is more rapid than the second. The latter is no less certain (YTC, BIIb, p. 13).
This note does not appear in YTC, CVe and has not been published in Voyage, OC, V, 1. YTC, BIIb, and YTC, CVe are two different copies of the same original, but copy BIIb, which is later, contains texts that do not appear in the first copy.
[f. ] The manuscript says “free States.”
[5. ] Power can be centralized in an assembly; then it is strong, but not stable. It can be centralized in a man; then it is less strong, but it is more stable.
[6. ] It is useless, I think, to warn the reader that here, as in all the rest of the chapter, I am speaking, not about the federal government, but about the individual governments of each state that the majority leads despotically.
[g. ] In the manuscript: “the strongest individuals.”
[j. ] Édouard de Tocqueville: “In this chapter, very well written moreover and of great interest, you completely avoid the defect for which I reproached you in the notes for the preceding chapter. Here you coldly judge democracy, without admiration and without weakness; you tell the truth about it, all the while recognizing its qualities and its advantages” (YTC, CIIIb, 1, p. 90).