Front Page Titles (by Subject) Would Laws and Mores Be Sufficient to Maintain Democratic Institutions Elsewhere than in America? - Democracy in America: Historical-Critical Edition, vol. 2
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Would Laws and Mores Be Sufficient to Maintain Democratic Institutions Elsewhere than in America? - 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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Would Laws and Mores Be Sufficient to Maintain Democratic Institutions Elsewhere than in America?
The Anglo-Americans, transported to Europe, would be obliged to modify their laws.—Democratic institutions must be distinguished from American institutions.—You can imagine democratic laws better than or at least different from those that American democracy has given itself.—The example of America proves only that we must not despair of regulating democracy with the aid of laws and mores.
I saidn that the success of democratic institutions in the United States was due to the laws themselves and to mores more than to the nature of the country.
But does it follow that these same causes alone transported elsewhere have the same power, and if the country cannot take the place of laws and mores, can laws and mores in turn take the place of the country?
Here you will understand without difficulty that the elements of proof are lacking. In the New World you meet peoples other than the Anglo-Americans, and since these peoples are subject to the same physical causes as the latter, I have been able to compare them to each other.
But outside of America there are no nations that, deprived of the same physical advantages as the Anglo-Americans, have still adopted their laws and their mores.
Therefore we do not have a point of comparison in this matter; we can only hazard opinions.
It seems to me first that the institutions of the United States must be carefully distinguished from democratic institutions in general.
When I think of the state of Europe, its great peoples, its populous cities, its formidable armies, the complexities of its politics, I cannot believe that the Anglo-Americans themselves, transported with their ideas, their religion, their mores to our soil, could live there without considerably modifying their laws.
But you can imagine a democratic people organized in a different manner from the American people.
Is it impossible to conceive of a government based on the real will of the majority, but in which the majority, doing violence to its natural instincts of equality, in favor of order and the stability of the State, would consent to vest a family or a man with all the attributions of the executive power? Can you not imagine a democratic society in which national forces would be more centralized than in the United States, in which the people would exercise a less direct and less irresistible dominion over general affairs, and in which, nonetheless, each citizen, vested with certain rights, would, within his sphere, take part in the working of the government?o
What I saw among the Anglo-Americans leads me to believe that democratic institutions of this nature, introduced prudently into society,p which would mix little by little with the habits and would gradually merge with the very opinions of the people, would be able to subsist elsewhere than in America.q
If the laws of the United States were the only democratic laws that could be imagined or the most perfect that it is possible to find, I understand that you could conclude that the success of the laws of the United States proves nothing for the success of democratic laws in general, in a country less favored by nature.
But if the laws of the Americans seem to me defective in many points, and it is easy for me to imagine others, the special nature of the country does not prove to me that democratic institutions cannot succeed among a people where, physical circumstances being less favorable, the laws would be better.
If men showed themselves to be different in America from what they are elsewhere; if their social state gave birth among them to habits and opinions contrary to those that are born in Europe from this same social state, what happens in the American democracies would teach nothing about what should happen in other democracies.
If the Americans showed the same tendencies as all the other democratic peoples, and their legislators resorted to the nature of the country and to the favor of circumstances in order to keep these tendencies within just limits, the prosperity of the United States, having to be attributed to purely physical causes, would prove nothing in favor of peoples who would like to follow their example without having their natural advantages.r
But neither the one nor the other of these suppositions is justified by the facts.
I encountered in America passions analogous to those we see in Europe. Some were due to the very nature of the human heart; others, to the democratic state of society.
Thus I found in the United States the restlessness of heart that is natural to man when, all conditions being more or less equal, each one sees the same chances to rise. There I encountered the democratic sentiment of envy expressed in a thousand different ways. I observed that the people often showed, in the conduct of affairs, a great blend of presumption and ignorance, and I concluded that in America, as among us, men were subject to the same imperfections and exposed to the same miseries.
But when I came to examine attentively the state of society, I discovered without difficulty that the Americans had made great and happy efforts to combat these weaknesses of the human heart and to correct these natural defects of democracy.
Their various municipal laws appeared to me as so many barriers that held within a narrow sphere the restless ambition of citizens, and turned to the profit of the town the same democratic passions that could overturn the State. It seemed to me that American legislators had managed to oppose, not without success, the idea of rights to the sentiments of envy; the immobility of religious morality, to the continual movements of the political world; the experience of the people, to their theoretical ignorance; and their habit of affairs, to the hotheadedness of their desires.
So the Americans did not resort to the nature of the country to combat the dangers that arise from their constitution [v: social state] and from their political laws. To the evils that they share with all democratic peoples, they applied remedies that until now only they were aware of; and although they were the first to try them out, they succeeded.
The mores and laws of the Americans are not the only ones that can be suitable for democratic peoples; but the Americans have shown that we must not despair of regulating democracy with the help of laws and mores.
If other peoples, borrowing from America this general and fruitful idea, and without wishing to imitate the inhabitants of America in the particular application that they have made of this idea, attempted to adapt themselves to the social state that Providence imposes on men today, and thus sought to escape the despotism or the anarchy that threatens them, what reasons do we have to believe that they must fail in their efforts?s
The organization and the establishment of democracy among Christians is the great political problem of our time. The Americans undoubtedly do not solve this problem, but they provide useful lessons to those who want to solve it.
[n. ] In the manuscript: “I proved . . .”
Édouard de Tocqueville (or Louis de Kergorlay?): “I propose to put: I believe that I proved. The peremptory tone must be avoided” (YTC, CIIIb, 1, p. 27).
[o. ] Hervé de Tocqueville:
Here royalty or the monarchy, and if possible the hereditary monarchy, must find a place. It is indispensable that the author establish that the monarchical State is not incompatible with democratic institutions.
Alexis must pay the greatest attention to avoid a pitfall in which he would be destroyed, that of allowing the belief that he has written a book in favor of the republic. Beyond the fact that reason, enlightened by experience, rejects the possibility of establishing republics strictly speaking among the great European nations, the idea and even the word republic are antipathetic to the very great majority of the French. So if Alexis left the slightest doubt about his dispositions on this subject, he would be blamed by the very greatest number and applauded only by a few scatterbrains and a few muddleheads (YTC, CVh, 3, p. 15).
[p. ] In the margin: “I can imagine a democratic nation in which, because political life was more active and more threatened, the executive power was stronger and more active than it has been until now in the New World.”
[q. ] Édouard de Tocqueville or Louis de Kergorlay:
Here you seem to formulate a desire, and that seems to me to move away from the goal of your work, beyond other disadvantages that it can have in my view.
Your book can only aspire to a great and general influence if you are very careful not to make yourself into a party man. Now, if you show yourself or if some see you as a republican, you will be considered as a party man.
Take care that this ending does not appear as a plea on behalf of the republic. I tell you this from my soul and conscience, that ending has the appearance of being so and will be regarded as such; now this is what you have always told me you wanted to avoid.
To show, to demonstrate that free institutions can be established in a lasting way only sheltered by morality and religious spirit is a superb thought. It is your whole book. Try not to compromise it (YTC, CIIIb, 1, pp. 27-28).
[r. ] Édouard de Tocqueville or Louis de Kergorlay: “You give, it seems to me, in this paragraph and in a few others of the preceding chapter much too great an influence to the physical nature of a country on the mores and the tendencies of the inhabitants of this country. This influence is not non-existent, but it is far, I believe, from being what you suppose” (YTC, CIIIb, 1, p. 28).
[s. ] In the manuscript:
If other democratic nations less fortunately situated than the American people, but instructed by experience, succeeded in making use of its discoveries while rejecting its errors, what reason do we have to believe that they must fail in their efforts? So if the example of the United States does not prove in a sufficient way that all countries can adapt themselves to democratic institutions, you can infer even less from it that democratic institutions suit only the United States.