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Notes - 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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(A) Page 36
See, concerning the lands of the west that Europeans have not yet penetrated, the two voyages undertaken by Major Long, at the expense of Congress.
Concerning the great American desert, Mr. Long says notably that a line must be drawn about parallel to the 20th degree of longitude (meridian of Washington),1 beginning at the Red River and ending at the Platte River. Extending from this imaginary line to the Rocky Mountains, which border the Mississippi Valley in the west, are immense plains, generally covered with sand which is unsuitable for agriculture, or strewn with granite stones. They are deprived of water in the summer. There only great herds of buffalo and wild horses are found. Some Indian hordes are seen as well, but only a small number.
Major Long has heard it said that, ascending the Platte River, in the same direction, this same desert would always be found on the left; but he was not able personally to verify the accuracy of this report. Long’s Expedition, vol. II, p. 361.
Whatever confidence Major Long’s account merits, it must not be forgotten, however, that he only crossed the country that he is speaking about, without making any great zigzags outside the line that he followed.
(B) Page 38
South America, in the region between the tropics, produces an incredible profusion of climbing plants known by the generic name of creepers. The flora of the Antilles alone offers more than forty different species.
Among the most graceful of these bushes is the grenadilla. Descourtiz,a in his description of the plant kingdom of the Antilles, says that this lovely plant attaches itself to trees by means of its tendrils, and forms moving arcades and colonnades, made rich and elegant by the beauty of the crimson flowers, variegated with blue, that decorate them and that delight the sense of smell with the scent they give off; vol. I, p. 265.
The acacia with large pods is a very thick creeper that grows rapidly and, going from tree to tree, sometimes covers more than a half-league; vol. III, p. 227.
(C) Page 40 On the American Languages
The languages spoken by the Indians of America, from the Arctic Pole to Cape Horn, are all formed, it is said, on the same model, and subject to the same grammatical rules; from that it can be concluded that, in all likelihood, all the Indian nations came from the same stock.
Each tribal band of the American continent speaks a different dialect; but the languages strictly speaking are very few in number, which would tend as well to prove that the nations of the New World do not have a very ancient origin.
Finally the languages of America are extremely regular, so it is probable that the peoples who use them have not yet been subjected to great revolutions and have not mixed with foreign nations by necessity or voluntarily; for it is in general the union of several languages into a single one that produces irregularities of grammar.
Not long ago the American languages, and in particular, the languages of North America, attracted the serious attention of philologists. It was discovered then, for the first time, that this idiom of a barbarous people was the product of a system of very complicated ideas and of very clever combinations. It was noticed that these languages were very rich and that, when forming them, great care had been taken to show consideration for the sensitivity of the ear.
The grammatical system of the Americans differs from all others on several points, but principally in this one.
Some peoples of Europe, among others the Germans, have the ability to combine different expressions as needed, and thus to give a complex meaning to certain words. The Indians have extended this ability in the most surprising way, and have succeeded in fixing so to speak at a single point a very large number of ideas. This will be easily understood with the help of an example cited by Mr. Duponceau, in the Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society.
When, he says, a Delaware woman plays with a cat or with a dog, you sometimes hear her pronounce the word kuligatschis. The word is composed in this way: K is the sign of the second person and means you or your; uli, which is pronounced ouli, is a fragment of the word wulit, which means beautiful, pretty; gat is another fragment of the word wichgat, which means paw; finally schis, which is pronounced chise, is the diminutive ending which carries with it the idea of smallness. Thus, in a single word, the Indian woman has said: Your pretty little paw.
Here is another example that shows with what felicity the savages of America know how to compose their words.
A young man in the Delaware language is called pilapé. This word is formed from pilsit, chaste, innocent; and from lénapé, man: that is to say man in his purity and his innocence.
This ability to combine words is noticeable above all in a very strange way of forming verbs. The most complicated action is often rendered by a single verb; nearly all the nuances of the idea bear upon the verb and modify it.
Those who would like to examine in more detail this subject that I myself have only touched on very superficially, should read:
(D) Page 42
We find in Charlevoix, volume I, p. 235, the history of the first war that the French of Canada had to sustain, in 1610, against the Iroquois. The latter, although armed with bows and arrows, offered a desperate resistance to the French and their allies. Charlevoix, who is not good at doing portraits, shows very well in this piece the contrast that the mores of the Europeans presented to those of the savages, as well as the different ways in which these two races understood honor.
“The French,” he says, “grabbed the beaver skins that covered the Iroquois, whom they saw spread out over the ground; the Hurons, their allies, were scandalized by this spectacle. The latter, on their side, began to exercise their ordinary cruelties on the prisoners, and devoured one of those who had been killed, which horrified the French. “Thus,” adds Charlevoix, “these barbarians gloried in a disinterestedness that they were surprised not to find in our nation, and did not understand that there was much less evil in stripping the dead than in eating their flesh like wild beasts.”
The same Charlevoix, in another place, vol. I, p. 230 [-231 (ed.)], depicts in this way the first torture that Champlain witnessed, and the return of the Hurons to their village.
“After having done eight leagues,” he says, “our allies stopped, and, taking one of their captives, they reproached him for all the cruelties that he had exercised on the warriors of their nation who had fallen into his hands, and they declared to him that he must expect to be treated in the same manner, adding that, if he had courage, he would display it by singing. He soon started to sing his song [of death, then his song (ed.)] of war, and all those that he knew, but with a very sad tone, says Champlain, who had not yet had the time to know that all of the music of the savages is somewhat lugubrious. His torture, accompanied by all the horrors that we will speak of later, frightened the French who in vain did their utmost to put an end to it.c The following night, because a Huron dreamed that they were being pursued, the retreat changed into a veritable flight, and the savages did not stop anywhere again until they were out of any danger.
“From the moment that they saw the huts of their village, they cut long sticks to which they attached their share of the scalps and carried them triumphantly. At this sight the women ran, jumped in swimming, and, reaching the canoes took these bloody scalps from the hands of their husbands, and hung them around their necks.
“These warriors offered one of these horrible trophies to Champlain, and also made him a present of some bows and some arrows, the only spoils of the Iroquois that they had wanted to take, begging him to show them to the king of France.”
Champlain lived alone all one winter amid these barbarians, without his person or his property being compromised for one instant.
(E) Page 64
Although the Puritan rigor that prevailed at the birth of the English colonies of America has already become much weaker, you still find extraordinary traces of it in the habits and in the laws.
In 1792, at the very period when the anti-Christian republic of France began its ephemeral existence, the legislative body of Massachusetts promulgated the law that you are about to read, in order to force citizens to observe Sunday. Here are the preamble and the principal provisions of this law, which deserves to attract all the reader’s attention:
Whereas, says the legislator, Sunday observance is in the public interest; that it produces a useful suspension of work; that it leads men to reflect upon the duties of life and the errors to which humanity is so prone; that it allows us in private and in public to honor God, creator and governor of the universe, and allows us to devote ourselves to those acts of charity that are the adornment and the relief of Christian societies;
Whereas some irreligious or thoughtless persons, forgetting the duties imposed by Sunday and the benefits that society gains from them, profane the Holy Day in pursuit of their pleasures or their work; that this behavior is contrary to their own interests as Christians; that, in addition, it is of a nature to disturb those who do not follow their example, and brings real harm to the entire society by introducing the taste for dissipation and dissolute habits;
The Senate and the House of Representatives order the following:
The tythingmen must stop travelers and inquire after the reason that has forced them to be on the road on Sunday. Whoever refuses to answer will be condemned to a fine that could be 5 pounds sterling.
If the reason given by the traveler does not seem sufficient to the tythingman, he will bring the said traveler before the justice of the peace of the district (Law of 8 March 1792. General Laws of Massachusetts, vol. I, p. 410).
On 11 March 1797, a new law increased the level of fines, half of which was to belong to the one who brought proceedings against the offender. Same collection, vol. I, p. 535.
On 16 February, 1816, a new law confirmed these same measures. Same collection, vol. II, p. 405.
Analogous provisions exist in the laws of the state of New York, revised in 1827 and 1828. (See Revised Statutes, 1st part, ch. XX, p. 675). It is said there that on Sunday no one will be able to hunt, fish, gamble or frequent establishments where drink is served. No one will be able to travel, if it is not out of necessity.
This is not the only trace left in the laws by the religious spirit and the austere mores of the first emigrants.
You read in the revised statutes of the state of New York, vol. I, p. 662 [-663 (ed.)], the following article:
Every person who shall win or lose at play, or by betting at any time, the sum or value of twenty-five dollars or upwards, within the space of twenty-four hours, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and on conviction shall be fined not less than five times the value or sum so lost or won; which [. . . (ed.) . . .] shall be paid to the overseers of the poor of the town. [. . . (ed.) . . .]
Every person who shall [. . . (ed.) . . .] lose at any time or sitting the sum or value of twenty-five dollars or upwards[. . . (Ed) . . .] may [. . . (ed.) . . .] sue for and recover the money. [. . . (ed.) . . .] The overseers of the poor of the town where the offense was committed may sue for and recover the sum or value so lost and paid, together with treble the said sum or value, from the winner thereof for the benefit of the poor.
The laws that we have just cited are very recent; but who could comprehend them without going back to the very origin of the colonies? I do not doubt that today the penal portion of this legislation is only very rarely applied; the laws retain their inflexibility when the mores have already bent before the movement of the times. Sunday observance in America, however, is still what most strikes the foreigner.d
There is notably a large American city in which, beginning Saturday evening, social movement is as if suspended. You cross it at the hour that seems to invite those of mature years to business and youth to pleasure, and you find yourself in a profound solitude. Not only is no one working, but also no one appears to be alive. You hear neither the movement of industry nor the accents of joy, nor even the confused murmurings that arise constantly within a large city. Chains are hung in the vicinity of the churches; the half-closed shutters of the houses only reluctantly allow a ray of sunlight to penetrate the dwelling of the citizens. Scarcely here and there do you see an isolated man who is passing noiselessly through deserted crossroads and along abandoned streets.
The next morning at the beginning of day, the rattle of carriages, the noise of hammers, the cries of the population begin again to make themselves heard; the city awakens; a restless crowd rushes toward the centers of commerce and industry; everyone stirs, everyone becomes agitated, everyone hurries around you. A sort of lethargic drowsiness is followed by a feverish activity; you would say that each person has only a single day at his disposal in order to gain wealth and to enjoy it.
(F) Page 70
It is needless to say that, in the chapter that you have just read, I did not intend to do a history of America. My only goal was to enable the reader to appreciate the influence that the opinions and mores of the first emigrants exercised on the fate of the different colonies and on that of the Union in general. So I had to limit myself to citing a few unconnected fragments.
I do not know if I am wrong, but it seems to me that by following the path that I am only pointing out here, someone could present some portraits of the first years of the American republic that would be worthy of the attention of the public, and that would undoubtedly provide material for statesmen to consider. Not able to devote myself to this work, I wanted at least to facilitate it for others. So I believed that I should present here a short list and an abridged analysis of the works that seemed to me most useful to draw upon.
In the number of general documents that could fruitfully be consulted, I will place first the work entitled: Historical Collection of State Papers and other authentic documents, intended as materials for an history of the United States of America, by Ebenezer Hazard.
The first volume of this compilation, which was printed in Philadelphia in 1792, contains the exact text of all the charters granted by the crown of England to the emigrants, as well as the principal acts of the colonial governments during the first years of their existence. You find there, among others, a great number of authentic documents on the affairs of New England and Virginia during this period.
The second volume is dedicated almost entirely to the acts of the confederation of 1643. This federal pact, which took place among the colonies of New England, with the goal of resisting the Indians, was the first example of union given by the Anglo-Americans. There were also several other confederations of the same nature, until that of 1776, which led to the independence of the colonies.
The historical collection of Philadelphia is found in the Royal Library.
Each colony has as well its historical memorials, several of which are very precious. I begin my study with Virginia, which is the state populated earliest.
The first of all the historians of Virginia is its founder Captain John Smith. Captain Smith left us a volume in quarto, entitled: The General History of Virginia and New-England, by Captain John Smith, some time governor in those countryes and admiral of New-England, printed in London in 1627. (This volume is found at the Royal Library.) The work of Smith is embellished with very interesting maps and plates, which date from the time when it was printed. The account of the historian extends from the year 1584 to 1626. Smith’s book is esteemed and deserves to be so. The author is one of the most famous adventurers who appeared in the century full of adventurers; he lived at the end of that century. The book itself breathes this fervor of discoveries, this spirit of enterprise that characterized the men of that time; there you find those chivalrous mores that were mixed with business and were made to serve the acquisition of wealth.
But what is remarkable above all in Captain Smith is that he mixed, with the virtues of his contemporaries, qualities that remained foreign to most of them; his style is simple and clear, all of his accounts have the stamp of truth, his descriptions are not ornate.
This author throws precious light on the state of the Indians at the period of the discovery of North America.
The second historian to consult is Beverley. The work of Beverley, which forms a volume in duodecimo, was translated into French and printed in Amsterdam in 1707. The author begins his accounts in the year 1585 and ends them in the year 1700. The first part of his book contains historical documents, properly so called, relative to the early years of the colony. The second contains a curious portrait of the state of the Indians at that distant period. The third gives very clear ideas about the mores, social state, laws and political habits of the Virginians at the time of the author.
Beverly was of Virginian origin, which made him say at the beginning “that he begs readers not to examine his work with too strict a critical eye, seeing that since he was born in the Indies, he does not aspire to purity of language.” Despite this modesty of the colonist, the author shows throughout his book that he bears the supremacy of the mother country with impatience. You find as well in the work of Beverley numerous traces of this spirit of civil liberty that has, since that time, animated the English colonies of America. You also find the trace of the divisions that have existed for such a long time among them, and that delayed their independence. Beverley detests his Catholic neighbors of Maryland still more than the English government. The style of this author is simple; his accounts are often full of interest and inspire confidence. The French translation of Beverley’s history is found in the Royal Library.
I saw in America, but I was not able to find again in France, a work that also merits consultation; it is entitled: History of Virginia, by William Stith. This book offers interesting details, but it seemed long and diffuse to me.
The oldest and best document that you can consult on the history of the Carolinas is a small book in quarto, entitled: The History of Carolina, by John Lawson, printed in London in 1718.
The work of Lawson contains first a voyage of discovery in the west of Carolina. This voyage is written as a journal; the accounts of the author are confused; his observations are very superficial; you only find a quite striking portrait of the ravages caused by smallpox and brandy among the savages of this period, and an interesting portrait of the corruption of mores that reigned among them, and that the presence of the Europeans favored.
The second part of the work of Lawson is dedicated to retracing the physical state of Carolina and to making its products known.
In the third part, the author does an interesting description of the mores, customs and government of the Indians of this period.
There is often spirit and originality in this portion of the book.
The history by Lawson ends with the charter granted to Carolina at the time of Charles II.
The general tone of this work is light, often licentious, and forms a perfect contrast with the profoundly grave style of the works published at this same time in New England.
The history by Lawson is an extremely rare document in America that cannot be obtained in Europe. There is, however, a copy of it in the Royal Library.
From the southern extremity of the United States, I pass immediately to the northern extremity. The intermediate space was populated only later.
I must first point out a very curious compilation entitled: Collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society, printed for the first time in Boston in 1792, reprinted in 1806. This work is not in the Royal Library, nor, I believe, in any other.
The collection (which continues) contains a host of very precious documents relating to the history of the different states of New England. There you find unpublished correspondence and authentic pieces that were hidden away in the provincial archives. The complete work of Gookin relating to the Indians has been inserted there.
Several times, in the course of the chapter to which this note belongs, I pointed out the work of Nathaniel Morton entitled: New England’s Memorial. What I said about this work is enough to prove that it is worthy to draw the attention of those who would like to know the history of New England. The book by Nathaniel Morton forms a volume in octavo, reprinted in Boston in 1826. It is not in the Royal Library.
The most respected and most important document that we possess on the history of New England is the work of the Reverend Cotton Mather, entitled: Magnalia Christi Americana, or the ecclesiastical history of New England, 1620-1698, 2 vol. in octavo, reprinted in Hartford in 1820. I do not believe that it is found in the Royal Library.
The author divided his work into seven books.
The first presents the history of what prepared and led to the founding of New England.
The second contains the life of the first governors and principal magistrates who administered this country.
The third is consecrated to the life and works of the evangelical ministers who, during this same period, led souls there.
In the fourth, the author describes the founding and development of the university of Cambridge (Massachusetts).
In the fifth, he explains the principles and discipline of the Church of New England.
The sixth is consecrated to retracing certain facts that denote, according to Mather, the salutary action of Providence on the inhabitants of New England.
In the seventh, finally, the author teaches us the heresies and troubles to which the Church of New England has been exposed.
Cotton Mather was an evangelical minister who, born in Boston, spent his life there.
All the ardor and all the religious passions that led to the founding of New England animate and give life to his accounts. You frequently find traces of bad taste in his way of writing; but he captivates, because he is full of enthusiasm that ends by communicating itself to the reader. He is often intolerant, more often gullible; but you never see in him the desire to deceive; sometimes his work even presents beautiful passages and true and profound ideas such as these:
Before the arrival of the Puritans, he says, vol. I, ch. IV, p. 61, the English had tried several times to settle the country that we live in; but since they did not aim higher than the success of their material interests, they were soon defeated by obstacles; this wasn’t the case with the men who arrived in America, pushed and sustained by a noble religious idea. Although the latter found more enemies than perhaps the founders of any other colony ever had, they persisted in their plan, and the settlement that they established still exists today.
Mather sometimes mixes, with the austerity of these portraits, images full of sweetness and tenderness. After speaking about an English lady whose religious fervor had brought her to America with her husband, and who soon succumbed to the hardships and miseries of exile, he adds:
“As for her virtuous spouse, Isaac Johnson, Esq., He try’d to live without her, lik’d it not, and dy’d” (V. I, p. 71.)
Mather’s book admirably reveals the time and country that he is trying to describe.
If he wants to teach us what motives led the Puritans to seek a refuge beyond the seas, he says:
The God of Heaven served as it were, a summons upon the spirits of his people in the English nation; stirring up the spirits of thousands which never saw the faces of each other, with a most unanimous inclination to leave all the pleasant accommodations of their native country; and go over a terrible ocean, into a more terrible desart [sic], for the pure enjoyment of all his ordinances.
It is now reasonable that before we pass any further [he adds] the reasons of this undertaking should be more exactly made known unto the posterity of those that were the undertakers, lest they come at length to forget and neglect the true interest of New-England. Wherefore I shall now transcribe some of them from a manuscript, wherein they were then tendered unto consideration.
[. . . (ed.) . . .]
First, It will be a service unto the Church of great consequence, to carry the Gospel into those parts of the world, and raise a bulwark against the kingdom of antichrist, which the Jesuites [sic] labour to rear up in all parts of the world.
Secondly, All other Churches of Europe have been brought under desolations; and it may be feared that the like judgments are coming upon us; and who knows but God hath provided this place to be a refuge for many, whom he means to save out of the General Destruction.
Thirdly, The land grows weary of her inhabitants, insomuch that man, which is the most precious of all creatures, is here more vile and base than the earth he treads upon: children, neighbors, and friends, especially the poor, are counted the greatest burdens, which if things were right would be the chiefest earthly blessings.
Fourthly, We are grown to that intemperance in all excess of riot, as no mean estate almost will suffice a man to keep sail with his equals, and he that fails in it, must live in scorn and contempt: hence it comes to pass, that all arts and trades are carried in that deceitful manner, and unrighteous course, as it is almost impossible for a good upright man to maintain his constant charge, and live comfortably in them.
Fifthly, The schools of learning and religion are so corrupted, as [. . . (ed.) . . .] most children, even the best, wittiest, and of the fairest hopes, are perverted, corrupted, and utterly overthrown, by the multitude of evil examples and licentious behaviours in these seminaries.
Sixthly, The whole earth is the Lord’s garden, and he hath given it to the sons of Adam, to be tilled and improved by them: why then should we stand starving here for places of habitation and in the mean time suffer whole countries, as profitable for the use of man, to lye [sic] waste without any improvement?
Seventhly, What can be a better or nobler work, and more worthy of a christian, than to erect and support a reformed particular Church in its infancy, and unite our forces with such a company of faithful people, as by a timely assistance may grow stronger and prosper; but for want of it, may be put to great hazard, if not be wholly ruined.
Eighthly, If any such as are known to be godly, and live in wealth and prosperity here, shall forsake all this to join with this reformed church, and with it run the hazard of an hard and mean condition, it will be an example of great use, both for the removing of scandal and to give more life unto the faith of God’s people in their prayers for the plantation, and also to encourage others to join the more willingly in it.
Later, explaining the principles of the Church of New England on moral matters, Mather rises up violently against the custom of drinking toasts at dinner, which he calls a pagan and abominable habit.
He proscribes with the same rigor all ornaments that women can put in their hair, and condemns without pity the fashion of showing the neck and arms that, he says, is becoming established among them.
In another part of the work, he recounts at great length several instances of witchcraft that frightened New England. You see that the visible action of the devil in the affairs of this world seems to him an incontestable and proven truth.
In a great number of places in this same book a spirit of civil liberty and political independence is revealed that characterized the contemporaries of the author. Their principles in matters of government appear at each step. Thus, for example, you see the inhabitants of Massachusetts, from the year 1630 [1636 (ed.)], ten years after the founding of Plymouth, devote 400 pounds sterling to the establishment of the university of Cambridge.
If I pass from general documents relating to the history of New England to those that relate to the various states included in its limits, I will first have to point out the work entitled: The History of the Colony of Massachusetts, by Hutchinson, Lieutenant-Governor of the Massachusetts province, 2 vols. in octavo. A copy of this book is found in the Royal Library; it is a second edition printed in London in 1765.
The history of Hutchinson, which I cited several times in the chapter to which this note relates, begins in the year 1628 and finishes in 1750. A great air of truthfulness reigns in the whole book; the style is simple and unaffected. This history is very detailed.
The best document to consult, for Connecticut, is the history of Benjamin Trumbull, entitled: A Complete History of Connecticut, Civil and Ecclesiastical, 1630-1764, 2 vols. in octavo, printed in 1818 at New Haven. I do not believe that Trumbull’s work is found in the Royal Library.
This history contains a clear and cold exposition of all the events that took place in Connecticut during the period indicated by the title. The author drew upon the best sources, and his accounts retain the stamp of truth. All that he says about the early years of Connecticut is extremely interesting. See notably in his work the Constitution of 1639, vol. I, ch. VI, p. 100 [-103 (ed.)]; and also the Penal Laws of Connecticut, vol. I, ch. VII, p. 123.
The work of Jeremy Belknap entitled: History of New Hampshire, 2 vols. in octavo, printed in Boston in 1792, is rightly well regarded. See particularly, in Belknap’s work, ch. III of the first volume. In this chapter, the author gives extremely valuable details about the political and religious principles of the Puritans, about the causes of their emigration, and about their laws. There you find this interesting quotation from a sermon delivered in 1663:
New England must constantly recall that it was founded for a religious purpose and not for a commercial purpose. It is written on its forehead that it professed purity in matters of doctrine and discipline. May merchants and all those who are busy piling up money remember, therefore, that it is religion, and not gain, that was the object of the founding of these colonies. If there is someone among us who, in his estimation of the world and of religion, looks upon the first as 13 and takes the second only as 12, he is not prompted by the sentiments of a true son of New England.
Readers will find in Belknap more general ideas and more power of thought than that presented until now by the other American historians.
I do not know if this book is found in the Royal Library.
Among the states of the center that are already old, and that merit our interest, the states of New York and Pennsylvania stand out above all. The best history that we have of the state of New York is entitled: History of New York, by William Smith, printed in London in 1757. A French translation exists, also printed in London in 1757, 1 vol. in duodecimo. Smith provides us with useful details on the wars of the French and English in America. He is, of all the American historians, the one who best shows the famous confederation of the Iroquois.
As for Pennsylvania, I cannot do better than to point to the work of Proud entitled: The History of Pennsylvania, From the Original Institution and Settlement of That Province, under the First Proprietor and Governor William Penn, in 1681 till after the Year 1742, by Robert Proud, 2 vols. in octavo, printed in Philadelphia in 1797.
This work particularly deserves the attention of the reader; it contains a host of very interesting documents on Penn, the doctrine of the Quakers, the character, mores, customs of the first inhabitants of Pennsylvania. As far as I know, it is not in the Royal Library.
I do not need to add that among the most important documents relative to Pennsylvania are the works of Penn himself and those of Franklin. These works are known by a great number of readers.
Most of the books that I have just cited had already been consulted by me during my stay in America. The Royal Library has kindly entrusted me with some of them; others have been loaned to me by Mr. Warden, former consul general of the United States to Paris, author of an excellent book on America. I do not want to conclude this note without extending to Mr. Warden the expression of my gratitude.
(G) Page 84
You find what follows in the Mémoires de Jefferson:
In the first years of the English settlement in Virginia, when land was obtained for little, or even for nothing, several far-seeing individuals acquired great land concessions, and desiring to maintain the splendor of their families, they entailed their wealth to their descendants. The transmission of these properties from generation to generation, to men who carried the same name, had finally produced a distinct class of families that, with the legal privilege of perpetuating their wealth, thus formed a kind of patrician order distinguished by the grandeur and the luxury of their holdings. It was from among this group that the king usually chose the members of his council (Jefferson’s Memoirs).
In the United States, the principal provisions of English law relating to inheritance were universally rejected.
The first rule of inheritance is, says Mr. Kent, that if a person owning real estate, dies seized, or as owner, without devising the same, the estate shall descend to his lawful descendants in the direct line of lineal descent; and if there be but one person, then to him or her alone, and if more than one person, and all of equal degree of consanguinity to the ancestor, then the inheritance shall descend to the several persons as tenants in common in equal parts [. . . (ed.) . . .] without distinction of sex.
This rule was prescribed for the first time in the state of New York by a statute of 23 February 1786 (see Revised Statutes, vol. III; Appendix, p. 48); it has been adopted since in the revised statutes of the same state. It prevails now throughout the United States, the sole exception being that, in the state of Vermont, the male heir has a double share. Kent’s Commentaries, vol. IV, p. 370.
Mr. Kent, in the same work, vol. IV, pp. 1-22, reviews American legislation relative to entail. The outcome is that before the American Revolution the English laws on entail formed the common law in the colonies. Entail strictly speaking (Estates’ tail) was abolished in Virginia in 1776 (this abolition took place on the motion of Jefferson; see Jefferson’s Memoirs), in the state of New York in 1786. The same abolition has taken place since in North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Missouri. In Vermont, the states of Indiana, Illinois, South Carolina and Louisiana, entail has always been unusual. The states that believed they had to keep English legislation relative to entail modified it in a way to remove its principal aristocratic characteristics. “Our general principles in matters of government,” says Mr. Kent, “tend to favor the free circulation of property.”e
What singularly strikes the French reader who studies American legislation relative to inheritance is that our laws on the same matter are still infinitely more democratic than theirs.
American laws divide the wealth of the father equally, but only in the case where his will is not known: “for every man, says the law, in the State of New York (Revised Statutes, vol. III; Appendix, p. 51), has full liberty, power and authority, to dispose of his goods by a will, to bequeath, divide, in favor of whatever person it may be, provided that he does not make out his will in favor of a political body or an organized company.”
French law makes equal or nearly equal division the rule of the testator.
Most of the American republics still allow entail and limit themselves to restricting the effects.
French law allows entail in no case.f
If the social state of Americans is still more democratic than ours, our laws are thus more democratic than theirs. This is explained better than you think: in France democracy is still busy demolishing; in America it reigns tranquilly over the ruins.
(H) Page 97 Summary of Electoral Conditions in the United States
All the states grant the enjoyment of electoral rights at age twenty-one. In all the states, you have to have resided a certain time in the district where you vote. This time varies from three months to two years.
As for the property qualification: in the state of Massachusetts, to be a voter, you have to have 3 pounds sterling of income, or 60 of capital.
In Rhode Island, you have to own property valued at 133 dollars (704 francs).
In Connecticut, you have to have a property with an income of 17 dollars (about 90 francs). A year of service in the militia gives the right to vote as well.
In New Jersey, the voter must have wealth of 50 pounds sterling.
In South Carolina and Maryland, the voter must own 50 acres of land.
In Tennessee, you must own some property.
In the states of Mississippi, Ohio, Georgia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, it is sufficient, to be a voter, to pay taxes: in most of these states, service in the militia is the equivalent of paying taxes.
In Maine and in New Hampshire, it is sufficient not to be included on the list of the poor.
Finally in the states of Missouri, Alabama, Illinois, Louisiana, Indiana, Kentucky, Vermont, no condition is required having to do with the wealth of the voter.
Only North Carolina, I think, imposes on the voter for the Senate conditions other than those imposed on voters for the House of Representatives. The first must own property of 50 acres of land. It is sufficient, in order to be able to elect representatives, to pay a tax.
(I) Page 161
A prohibitive system exists in the United States. The small number of customs officials and the great extent of coastline make smuggling very easy; it is done infinitely less there than elsewhere, however, because each person works to repress it.
Since there is no preventive surveillance in the United States, you see more fires there than in Europe; but in general they are extinguished sooner, because the surrounding population does not fail to go quickly to the place of danger.
(K) Page 165
It is not correct to say that centralization was born out of the French Revolution; the French Revolution perfected it, but did not create it. The taste for centralization and the mania for regulation go back in France to the period when the jurists entered into the government; which takes us back to the time of Philippe le Bel [the Fair]. Since that time, these two things have never ceased to increase. Here is what M. de Malesherbes, speaking in the name of the Cour des aides, said to King Louis XVI in 1775:3
There remained to each body, to each community of citizens the right to administer its own affairs; a right that we do not say was part of the original constitution of the kingdom, for it goes back much further: it is natural law, it is the law of reason. But it has been taken away from your subjects, Sire, and we will not be afraid to say that the administration has fallen in this respect into excesses that can be called childish.
Since powerful ministers made it a political principle not to allow the national assembly to be convoked, we have gone step by step to the point of declaring null and void deliberations of the inhabitants of a village when they are not authorized by an intendant; so that, if this community has an expenditure to make, the assent of the subdelegate of the intendant must be gained, consequently the plan that he adopted must be followed, the workers that he favors must be used, they must be paid as he sees fit; and if the community has a court case to sustain, it must also be authorized to do so by the intendant; the case must be argued before this first tribunal before being brought before the courts. And if the opinion of the intendant is against the inhabitants, or if their adversary has the ear of the intendant, the community is deprived of the ability to defend its rights. Here, Sire, are the means by which some have worked to smother in France all municipal spirit, to extinguish, if it could be done, even the sentiments of citizens; the entire nation has been so to speak prohibited and it has been given guardians.g
What could you say better today, now that the French Revolution has made what are called its conquests in the matter of centralization?
In 1789, Jefferson wrote from Paris to one of his friends: “Never was there a country where the mania for governing too much had taken deeper roots and done more mischief than in France.” Letter to Madison, 28 August 1789.
The truth is that in France, for several centuries, the central power has always done all that it could to extend administrative centralization; in this course it has never had any other limit than its strength.
The central power born from the French Revolution went further in this than any of its predecessors, because it was stronger and more clever than any of them. Louis XIV submitted the details of communal existence to the wishes of the intendant; Napoleon submitted them to those of the minister. It is always the same principle, extended to consequences more or less remote.
(L) Page 170
This immutability of the constitution in France is a necessary consequence of our laws.
And, to speak first about the most important of all the laws, that which regulates the order of succession to the throne, what is more immutable in its principle than a political order based on the natural order of succession from father to son? In 1814, Louis XVIII had this perpetuity of the law of political succession acknowledged in favor of his family. Those who settled the results of the revolution of 1830 followed his example; only they established the perpetuity of the law to the profit of another family; in this they imitated chancellor Maupeou, who, while instituting the new parlement on the ruins of the old, took care to declare in the same ordinance that the new magistrates would be irremovable as their predecessors were.
The laws of 1830 do not, any more than those of 1814, indicate any means to change the constitution. Now, it is clear that the ordinary means of legislation cannot be sufficient for that.
From what does the king derive his powers? From the constitution. From what the peers? From the constitution. From what the deputies? From the constitution. How then would the king, the peers and the deputies be able, by uniting, to change something in a law by the sole virtue of which they govern? Outside the constitution they are nothing; so on what ground would they stand in order to change the constitution? One of two things: either their efforts are powerless against the charter, which continues to exist in spite of them, and then they continue to rule in its name; or they succeed in changing the charter, and then, since the law by which they exist no longer exists, they are no longer anything themselves. By destroying the charter, they are destroyed.
That is still much more obvious in the laws of 1830 than in those of 1814. In 1814, the royal power put itself, in a way, outside and above the constitution; but in 1830, by its own admission, it is created by the constitution and is absolutely nothing without it.
Thus a part of our constitution is immutable, because it has been joined with the destiny of a family; and the whole of the constitution is equally immutable, because no legal means are seen to change it.
All this is not applicable to England. Since England has no written constitution, who can say that its constitution is being changed?
(M) Page 171
The most respected authors who have written about the English constitution establish, as though trying to out do each other, this omnipotence of Parliament.
Delolme says [book I (ed.)], ch. x, p. 77: It is a fundamental principle with the English lawyers, that parliament can do everything, except making a woman a man or a man a woman.
Blackstone expresses himself still more categorically, if not more energetically, than Delolme; in these terms [book V, ch. II]:
“The power and jurisdiction of Parliament,” says sir Edward Coke (4 Inst. 36), “is so transcendent and absolute, that it cannot be confined, either for causes or persons, within any bounds. And of this high court,” he adds, “it may be truly said, Si antiquitatem spectes, est vetustissima; si dignitatem, est honoratissima; si jurisdictionem, est capacissima. It hath sovereign and uncontrollable authority in making, confirming, enlarging, restraining, abrogating, repealing, reviving, and expounding of laws concerning matters of all possible denominations, ecclesiastical, or temporal, civil, military, maritime, or criminal: this being the place where that absolute despotice [sic] power, which must in all governments reside somewhere, is entrusted by the constitution of these kingdoms. All mischief and grievances, operations and remedies, that transcend the ordinary course of laws are within the reach of this extraordinary tribunal. It can regulate or new model the succession to the crown; as was done in the reign of Henry VIII and William III. It can alter the established religion of the land; as was done in a variety of instances, in the reigns of king Henry VIII. and his three children. It can change and create afresh even the constitution of the kingdom and of parliaments themselves; as was done by the act of union and the several statutes for triennial and septennial elections. It can, in short, do everything that is not naturally impossible; and therefore some have not scrupled to call it’s [sic] power, by a figure rather too bold, the omnipotence of parliament.”
(N) Page 185
There is no subject on which the American constitutions agree more than on political jurisdiction.
All the constitutions that deal with this subject give the house of representatives the exclusive right to accuse, except only the Constitution of North Carolina, which grants the same right to the grand juries (article 23).
Nearly all the constitutions give to the senate, or to the assembly that takes its place, the exclusive right to judge.
The only penalties that the political courts can pronounce are: dismissal or banning from public offices in the future. Only the Constitution of Virginia allows pronouncing all types of penalties.
Crimes that can lead to political jurisdiction are: in the federal Constitution (sect. IV, art. I) [Article II, Section 4 (ed.)], in that of Indiana (art. 3, pp. 23 and 24), of New York (art. 5), of Delaware (art. 5), high treason, corruption and other high crimes or misdemeanors;
In the Constitution of Massachusetts (ch. I, sect. II), of North Carolina (art. 23), and of Virginia (p. 252), bad conduct and bad administration;
In the Constitution of New Hampshire (p. 105), corruption, reprehensible schemes, and bad administration;
In Vermont (ch. II, art. 24), bad administration;
In South Carolina (art. 5), Kentucky (art. 5), Tennessee (art. 4), Ohio (art. 1, #23, 24), Louisiana (art. 5), Mississippi (art. 5), Alabama (art. 6), Pennsylvania (art. 4), crimes committed in office.
In the states of Illinois, Georgia, Maine and Connecticut, no crime is specified.
(O) Page 276
It is true that the powers of Europe can wage great maritime wars against the Union; but it is always easier and less dangerous to sustain a maritime war than a continental war. Maritime war requires only a single kind of effort. A commercial people that consents to give its government the money needed is always sure to have fleets. Now, sacrifices of money can be concealed from nations much more easily than sacrifices of men and personal efforts. Defeats at sea, moreover, rarely compromise the existence or the independence of the people who experience them.
As for continental wars, it is clear that the peoples of Europe cannot wage dangerous wars against the American Union.
It is very difficult to transport to and to maintain in America more than 25,000 soldiers; this represents a nation of about 2,000,000 people. The greatest European nation fighting against the Union in this way is in the same position as a nation of 2,000,000 inhabitants would be in a war against one of 12,000,000. Add to this that the American has all of his resources at hand and the European is 1,500 leagues from his, and that the immensity of the territory of the United States alone would present an insurmountable obstacle to conquest.
[1. ] The 20th degree of longitude, following the meridian of Washington, is approximately the equivalent of the 99th degree following the meridian of Paris.
[a. ] M. E. Descourtiz, Voyages d’un naturaliste et ses observations, Dufart Père, 1809, 3 vols.
[b. ] David Zeisberger, “A Grammar of the Language of the Lenni Lanâpé,” translated by P. S. Duponceau, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, III, 1827, pp. 65-250.
[c. ] Tocqueville omits here the details of the dismemberment and death of the Indian.
[2. ] These are officials elected each year who, by their functions, are at the very same time close to the rural guard and to the officer of the criminal investigation department.
[d. ] See the appendix sects in america.
[e. ] The quoted text reads: “The general policy of this country does not encourage restraints upon the power of alienation of land.” Kent’s Commentaries, volume IV, p. 17.
[f. ] Hervé de Tocqueville: “I read that with surprise. The law authorizes the father testator to favor one of his children. In collateral line it leaves a very much greater latitude” (YTC, CIIIb, 2, p. 99).
[3. ] See Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire du droit public de la France en matière d’impôts, p. 654, printed in Brussels in 1779.
[g. ] Count de Boissy d’Anglas, Essais sur la vie, les écrits et les opinions de M. de Malesherbes (Paris: Treuttel and Würtz, 1819), I, pp. 305-6 (quoted in YTC, CVh, 5, p. 3). We know that this idea that the process of centralization predates the Revolution is the principal thesis of the Old Regime and the Revolution.
Also see Luis Díez del Corral, El pensamiento político de Tocqueville (Madrid: Alianza Universidad, 1989), pp. 137-80.
[1. ] Judicial power, above all that of the Union, in that it prevents retroactive laws. Lack of administrative centralization.≠
[q. ] The second sentence reads differently in the French translation of Conseil (volume I, pp. 310-18; the citation is found on page 318).
[n. ] Hervé de Tocqueville:The poor must be deleted everywhere; on the one hand, it does not present a sufficiently clear idea and, on the other hand, does not agree with the condition in America of the class that the author wants to indicate. He says further along that this class lives in affluence, and an effort must always be made to connect ideas to America. Without that, there would be no unity in the composition. I would put here in place of poor, the country in which the last class that I named, etc.
To the side, in the handwriting of Alexis de Tocqueville according to the copyist: “The word poor has a relative, not an absolute meaning. The American poor could often appear rich compared to those of Europe. But they [above: count as] are always the poor [above: the class of the poor] if you compare them to those of their fellow citizens who are richer than they” (YTC, CIIIb, 2, p. 12).
[u. ] In various articles about public expenditures in the United States and in France, which we will speak about later (see note j for p. 349), comparisons of this type abound.
[v. ] “Ask Mr. Livingston if apart from the clerks in the American Treasury Department, there are still lower paid employees” (YTC, CVh, 3, p. 11).
[m. ] The word “former” appears only after the first editions.
[n. ] The budget of the American navy is found on pages 290-91. On page 228, the list of warships is found; the total is 53 (Tocqueville seems to have eliminated from the list a barge, a small unarmed galley with about twenty oars aboard).
[1. ] Mr. Story says, p. 558: “The Senate has very rarely, if ever, been consulted before the clauses of the treaty were settled; the treaty was then submitted to the Senate for ratification.”
[2. ] See Kent’s Commentaries, vol. I, p. 267.
With the kind permission of the Pennsylvania Historical Society.
[b. ] See chapter V of this part (p. 365) and Écrits sur le système pénitentiaire en France et à l’étranger (OC, IV, 1), pp. 327-28, appendix VII of Système pénitentiaire.
[c. ] Probably in Considérations sur les causes de la grandeur des Romains et de leur décadence, chapter XI, in Œuvres complètes, Paris: Pléiade, 1951, II, p. 131.≠So in democratic republics the majority forms a true power. And after it, the body that represents it. The political body that best represents the majority is the legislature. To augment the prerogatives of this body is to augment the power of the majority.Nonetheless, this power of the majority can be moderated in its exercise by the efforts of the law-maker. The authors of the federal Constitution worked in this direction. They sought to hinder the march of the majority. In the individual states, one tried hard, in contrast, to make the march of the majority more rapid and more irresistible≠ (YTC, CVh, 5, p. 14).
[v. ] Mr. Cruse, editor of a newspaper in Baltimore, told this anecdote to Tocqueville(note of 4 November 1831, pocket notebook 3, YTC, BIIa, and Voyage, OC, V, 1, pp. 187-88). The interlocutor of the other conversation is George Washington Smith (conversation of 24 October 1831, alphabetic notebook B, YTC, BIIa, and Voyage, OC, V, 1, pp. 246-47).
[h. ] In Conseil’s edition, vol. I, pp. 340-41. Tocqueville quotes correctly from the French, but in the English Jefferson speaks about the “tyranny of the legislatures,” not of the “legislators.”
[s. ] The first part of the book, as the reader remembers, was published in two volumes.
[1. ] I do not know if that is true in as absolute a way as I indicate. To research. See notably Story, p. 498 (YTC, CVh, 5, pp. 22-23).
[d. ] “It is now a matter of comparing this to France, but for that it would be necessary to have the budget and even statistical details that probably are not to be found [in the National Calendar (ed.)]. Ask D’Aunay and N. [sic] Roger of the French Academy” (YTC, CVh, 1, p. 16). It undoubtedly concerns Félix Le Peletier d’Aunay and Jean-François Roger.
[f. ] It certainly concerns the War of 1812. The person Tocqueville was speaking to was Major Lamard (non-alphabetic notebook 1, YTC, BIIa, and Voyage, OC, V, 1, pp. 75-78).
[k. ] This citation is also found in Marie, II, pp. 291-92.
[q. ] John C. Spencer, on the occasion of a long conversation, provided Tocqueville with information on Red Jacket (alphabetic notebook A, YTC, BIIIa, and Voyage, OC, V, 1, pp. 221-23). Edward Everett, for his part, had sent Beaumont several documents on the Indians, including his speech of 1830 to the House of Representatives. Cf. two letters from Beaumont to Edward Everett dated 18 February and 1 May 1832, YTC, BIc.
[v. ] In the first edition: “of Tanner and will publish them in the course of the year about to begin.”
George W. Pierson (Tocqueville and Beaumont in America, p. 235) indicates that the travelers met Tanner on the steamboat Ohio, on the way to Detroit, 19 July 1831, and that the latter offered them his book. Beaumont gives the following account of a conversation with Tanner, that he places on the Mississippi:The Choctaws were being escorted by an agent of the American government charged with implementing their removal. This man, who did not know the language of the Indians, had an interpreter close to them, an inhabitant of the United States named Tanner, who is famous in America for having spent more than thirty years among the savage tribes of the north. I congratulated myself all the more about meeting him because I had often desired to do so; this circumstance, joined with the interest that the misfortune of the Indians inspired in me, suggested to me the thought of crossing the Mississippi with them and accompanying them to their new territory. ≠I shared this idea with my traveling companion who very much approved it.≠ As soon as I had resolved to do so, I felt a burst of joy and enthusiasm thinking that I was going to see the beautiful forests dreamed of in my imagination, the vast prairies described by Cooper, and the profound solitudes unknown in the Old World.The signal for the departure was given and Tanner, with whom I soon began to converse, assured me that in less than a day we would reach the mouth of the Arkansas and that one day more would be enough for us to move up the river a distance of more than 150 miles. While we descended the Mississippi, I did not cease questioning Tanner about the mores of the Indians and about the causes for their misfortune. He gave me notions full of interest about them that I would like one day to be able to make known in all their scope.—“You, who sympathize with their misfortunes,” he says to me, “hurry to know them!, for soon they will have disappeared from the earth. The forests of Arkansas are given forever to them! These are, it is true, the terms of the treaty! But what mockery! The lands that they occupied in Georgia had also been given to them, thirty years ago, forever! They will be left in this new country that is abandoned to them as long as their lands are not needed. But as soon as the American population finds itself too squeezed together on the left bank of the Mississippi, it will sweep into the fertile countries of the other bank and the Indian will again undergo the fate that was reserved for him, that of retreating before European civilization. Note,” Tanner also said to me, “that it is, to a certain point, in the interest of the Indian to act in this way at the approach of whites; in fact he lives almost exclusively on game, and the game itself moves away as soon as civilized society approaches it. It is enough to put a large road through a country to chase away all the wild buffaloes. The Indian who goes closely along with them is only following his means of existence, but by constantly advancing toward the west, he will meet the Pacific Ocean.—This will be the end of his journey and of his life. How many years will pass before his ruin? You could not say. Each vessel from Europe that brings to America new inhabitants accelerates the destruction of the Indians. After halting in Arkansas, the Choctaws will be pushed back beyond the Rocky Mountains; this will be their second stage; and when the wave of the American population arrives, they will not be able either to remain or to go beyond. Their destiny will be fulfilled.” While Tanner thus spoke to me, I felt penetrated by a profound sadness.
This conversation belongs to the notes and drafts of Marie (YTC, Beaumont, CIX). The details that precede and follow this conversation appear in Marie, II, pp. 48-55 and 292-93.
[b. ] This note does not exist in the manuscript.
[e. ] In the work of Thomas Clarkson An Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species (London: J. Phillips, 1788, pp. 13-16), you find reflections very similar to those of Tocqueville on the difference between modern and ancient slavery; the author likewise cites Aesop and Terence as examples of civilized slaves. Beaumont possessed a French edition of this book in his library (Cf. Marie, I, pp. 296-301), as well as the following works on slavery: Brissot de Warville, Examen critique des “Voyages dans l’Amérique septentrionale” de M. le marquis de Chastellux; Marquis de Condorcet, Réflexions sur l’esclavage des Noirs; Thomas Clarkson, Essai sur les désavantages de la traite; Benjamin S. Frossard, La cause des esclaves nègres et des habitants de la Guinée, portée au tribunal de la justice, de la religion, de la politique; Daniel Lescallier, Réflexions sur le sort des noirs dans nos colonies; Théophile Mandar, Discours sur le commerce et l’esclavage des nègres (this information is contained in the thesis of Alvis Lee Tinnin, Gustave de Beaumont, Prophet of the American Dilemma, New Haven, Yale University, 1961).
[1. ] ≠This is clearly seen. The south, which has the greatest need to remain united, gives signs of impatience. The north and the west, which could by themselves alone form an immense republic, most want the union.
If interests alone were sufficient to maintain the Americans in the Union, there would be no portion of the United States where the federal Constitution had warmer adherents than in the south.
The south needs the north not only to guarantee the importation of its products, but also to defend it from the Negroes who live in its bosom.
The Americans of the south are, however, the only ones who threaten to break the federal bond.
So you must seek reasons other than those taken from interests properly speaking.≠
[d. ] It concerns the American Almanac for 1832, p. 162. The National Calendar also contains figures on the census, but the percentages given by Tocqueville belong to the American Almanac.
[e. ] Draft of the note in the manuscript: “The population grew by 145,000 inhabitants or 13.7 percent in ten years. See fifth census. It seems to me that by following this progression the population of Virginia would take about 75 years to double.”
[q. ] A note in another place of the chapter points out: “On all that see the language of the President in 1833, National Calendar, p. 27.”
[g. ] Tocqueville obtained this information from the American Almanac for 1834, pp. 141-42.
[1. ] ≠They would not serve as well as white sailors and would desert in foreign countries.≠
[“1. ] ≠View of the United States, by Darby, p. 57.≠”
[h. ] In the first edition: “Courant (which was written by the celebrated Franklin) . . .” The error was corrected in the following editions.