Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter 22 a: Why Democratic Peoples Naturally Desire Peace and Democratic Armies Naturally Desire War - Democracy in America: Historical-Critical Edition, vol. 4
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chapter 22 a: Why Democratic Peoples Naturally Desire Peace and Democratic Armies Naturally Desire War - Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America: Historical-Critical Edition, vol. 4 
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. 4.
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Why Democratic Peoples Naturally Desire Peace and Democratic Armies Naturally Desire War
The same interests, the same fears, the same passions that divert democratic peoples from revolutions distance them from war; the military spirit and the revolutionary spirit grow weaker at the same time and for the same reasons.b
The ever-increasing number of property owners friendly to peace, the development of personal wealth, which war so rapidly devours, this leniency of morals, this softness of heart, this predisposition toward pity that equality inspires, this coldness of reason that makes men hardly sensitive to the poetic and violent emotions which arise among arms, all these causes join together to extinguish military spirit.
I believe that you can accept as a general and constant rule that, among civilized peoples, warrior passions will become rarer and less intense, as conditions will be more equal.
War, however, is an accident to which all peoples are subject, democratic peoples as well as others. Whatever taste these nations have for peace, they must clearly keep themselves ready to repulse war, or in other words, they must have an army.
Fortune, which has done such distinctive things to favor the inhabitants of the United States, placed them in the middle of a wilderness where they have, so to speak, no neighbors. A few thousand soldiers are sufficient for them, but this is American and not democratic.
Equality of conditions, and the mores as well as the institutions that derive from it, do not release a democratic people from the obligation to maintain armies, and its armies always exercise a very great influence on its fate. So it is singularly important to inquire what the natural instincts are of those who compose its armies.
Among aristocratic peoples, among those above all in which birth alone determines rank, inequality is found in the army as in the nation; the officer is the noble, the soldier is the serf. The one is necessarily called to command, the other to obey. So in aristocratic armies, the ambition of the soldier has very narrow limits.
Nor is that of the officers unlimited.
An aristocratic body is not only part of a hierarchy; it always contains an internal hierarchy; the members who compose it are placed some above the others, in a certain way that does not vary. This one is naturally called by birth to command a regiment, and that one a company; having reached the extreme limits of their hopes, they stop on their own and remain satisfied with their lot.
There is first of all one great cause that in aristocracies tempers the desire of the officer for advancement.
Among aristocratic peoples, the officer, apart from his rank in the army, still occupies an elevated rank in society; the first is almost always in his eyes only an accessory to the second; the noble, by embracing the career of arms, obeys ambition less than a sort of duty that his birth imposes on him. He enters the army in order to employ honorably the idle years of his youth, and in order to be able to bring back to his household and to his peers a few honorable memories of military life; but his principal objective there is not to gain property, consideration and power; for he possesses these advantages on his own and enjoys them without leaving home.
In democratic armies, all the soldiers can become officers, which generalizes the desire for advancement and extends the limits of military ambition almost infinitely.
On his side, the officer sees nothing that naturally and inevitably stops him at one rank rather than at another, and each rank has an immense value in his eyes, because his rank in society depends almost always on his rank in the army.
Among democratic peoples, it often happens that the officer has no property except his pay, and can expect consideration only from his military honors. So every time he changes offices, he changes fortune and is in a way another man. What was incidental to existence in aristocratic armies has thus become the main thing, everything, existence itself.
Under the old French monarchy,c officers were given only their title of nobility. Today, they are given only their military title. This small change in the conventions of language is sufficient to indicate that a great revolution has taken place in the constitution of society and in that of the army.
Within democratic armies, the desire to advance is almost universal; it is ardent, tenacious, continual; it increases with all the other desires, and is extinguished only with life. Now, it is easy to see that, of all the armies of the world, those in which advancement must be slowest in time of peace are democratic armies. Since the number of ranks is naturally limited, the number of competitors almost innumerable, and the inflexible law of equality bears on all, no one can make rapid progress, and many cannot budge. Thus the need to advance is greater, and the ease of advancing less than elsewhere.d
All of the ambitious men contained in a democratic army therefore wish vehemently for war, because war empties places and finally allows violation of the right of seniority, which is the only privilege natural to democracy.
We thus arrive at this singular consequence that, of all armies, the ones that most ardently desire war are democratic armies, and that, among peoples, those who most love peace are democratic peoples; and what really makes the thing extraordinary is that it is equality which produces these opposite effects simultaneously.
Citizens, being equal, conceive daily the desire and discover the possibility of changing their condition and of increasing their well-being; that disposes them to love peace, which makes industry prosper and allows each man to push his small enterprises tranquilly to their end; and from the other side, this same equality, by augmenting the value of military honors in the eyes of those who follow the career of arms, and by making honors accessible to all, makes soldiers dream of battlefields. From both sides, the restlessness of heart is the same, the taste for enjoyments is as insatiable, ambition is equal; only the means to satisfy it is different.
These opposing predispositions of the nation and of the army make democratic societies run great dangers.
When the military spirit deserts a people, the military career immediately ceases to be honored, and men of war fall to the lowest rank of public officials. They are little esteemed and no longer understood. Then the opposite of what is seen in aristocratic centuries happens. It is no longer the principal citizens who enter the army, but the least. Men give themselves to military ambition only when no other is allowed. This forms a vicious circle from which it is difficult to escape. The elite of the nation avoids the military career, because this career is not honored; and it is not honored, because the elite of the nation no longer enters it.
[≠Although the military man has in general a better-regulated and milder existence in democratic times than in all the others, he nonetheless experiences an unbearable uneasiness there; his body is better nourished, better clothed, but his soul suffers.≠]
So you must not be astonished if democratic armies often appear restless, muttering, and poorly satisfied with their lot, even though the physical condition there is usually very much milder and discipline less rigid than in all the others. The soldier feels himself in an inferior position, and his wounded pride ends by giving him the taste for war, which makes him necessary, or the love of revolutions, during which he hopes to conquer, weapons in hand, the political influence and the individual consideration that others deny him.
The composition of democratic armies makes this last danger very much to be feared.
In democratic society, nearly all citizens have some property to preserve; but democratic armies are led, in general, by proletarians. Most among them have little to lose in civil disturbances. The mass of the nation naturally fears revolutions more than in centuries of aristocracy; but the leaders of the army fear them much less.
Moreover, since among democratic peoples, as I have said before, the wealthiest, most educated, most capable citizens hardly enter the military career, it happens that the army, as a whole, ends up becoming a small nation apart, in which intelligence is less widespread and habits are cruder than in the large nation. Now, this small uncivilized nation possesses the weapons, and it alone knows how to use them.
What, in fact, increases the danger that the military and turbulent spirit of the army presents to democratic peoples is the pacific temperament of the citizens; there is nothing so dangerous as an army within a nation that is not warlike; the excessive love of all the citizens for tranquillity daily puts the constitution at the mercy of soldiers.
So you can say in a general way that, if democratic peoples are naturally led toward peace by their interests and their instincts, they are constantly drawn toward war and revolutions by their armies.
Military revolutions, which are almost never to be feared in aristocracies, are always to be feared in democratic nations. These dangers must be ranked among the most formidable of all those that their future holds; the attention of statesmen [v: of good citizens] must be applied unrelentingly to finding a remedy for them.
When a nation feels itself tormented internally by the restless ambition of its army, the first thought that presents itself is to give war as a goal for this troublesome ambition.
I do not want to speak ill of war; war almost always enlarges the thought of a people and elevates the heart. There are cases where it alone can arrest the excessive development of certain tendencies that arise naturally from equality, and where war must be considered as necessary for certain inveterate illnessese to which democratic societies are subject.
War has great advantages; but it must not be imagined that war decreases the danger that has just been indicated. It only defers it, and it comes back more terrible after the war, for the army bears peace much more impatiently after having tasted war. War would only be a remedy for a [democratic] people who always wanted glory.
[Napoleon often let it be understood that he would have willingly stopped in the middle of his triumphs if the passions of his soldiers had not, so to speak, compelled him to throw himself constantly into new endeavors.]f
I foresee that all the warrior princes who arise within great democratic nations will find that it is much easier for them to conquer with their army than to make the army live in peace after the victory. There are two things that a democratic people will always have a great deal of difficulty doing: beginning a war and ending it.g
If, moreover, war has particular advantages for democratic peoples, on the other hand it makes them run certain dangers that aristocracies do not have to fear to the same degree. I will cite only two of them.
If war satisfies the army, it hinders and often drives to despair that innumerable crowd of citizens whose small passions daily need peace to be satisfied. So it risks bringing about in another form the disorder that it should prevent.
There is no long war that, in a democratic country, does not put liberty at great risk. It is not that you must fear precisely to see, after each victory, conquering generals seize sovereign power by force, in the manner of Sylla or of Caesar.h The danger is of another kind. War does not always deliver democratic peoples to military government; but it cannot fail to increase immensely, among these peoples, the attributions of the civil government; it almost inevitably centralizes in the government’s hands the direction of all men and the use of everything. If it does not lead suddenly to despotism by violence, it goes there softly by habits.j
All those who seek to destroy liberty within a democratic nation should know that the surest and shortest means to succeed in doing so is war. That is the first axiom of the science.
A remedy seems to offer itself when the ambition of officers and of soldiers comes to be feared; it is to increase the number of places available, by augmenting the army. This relieves the present evil, but mortgages the future even more.
To augment the army can produce a lasting effect in an aristocratic society, because in these societies military ambition is limited to a single type of men, and stops, for each man, at a certain limit; so that you can manage to satisfy almost all of those who feel military ambition.
But among a democratic people, nothing is gained by increasing the army, because the number of ambitious men always increases in exactly the same proportion as the army itself. Those whose wishes you have fulfilled by creating new posts are immediately replaced by a new crowd that you cannot satisfy, and the first soon begin to complain again; for the same agitation of spirit that reigns among the citizens of a democracy shows itself in the army;k what men want there is not to gain a certain rank, but always to advance. If the desires are not very vast, they are reborn constantly. So a democratic people that augments its army only softens, for a moment, the ambition of men of war; but soon it becomes more formidable, because those who feel it are more numerous.m
I think, for my part, that a restless and turbulent spirit is an evil inherent in the very constitution of democratic armies, and that we must give up on curing it. The legislators of democracies must not imagine finding a military organization that by itself has the strength to calm and to contain men of war; they would exhaust themselves in vain efforts before attaining it.
It is not in the army that you can find the remedy for the vices of the army, but in the country.
Democratic peoples naturally fear trouble and despotism. It is only a matter of making these instincts into thoughtful, intelligent and stable tastes. When citizens have finally learned to make peaceful and useful use of liberty and have felt its benefits; when they have contracted a manly love of order and have voluntarily yielded to the established rule, these same citizens, while entering into the career of arms, bring these habits and these mores to the army without knowing it and as if despite themselves. The general spirit of the nation, penetrating the particular spirit of the army, tempers the opinions and the desires that arise from the military state, or by the omnipotent force of public opinion, it suppresses them. Have enlightened, well-ordered, steady and free citizens, and you will have disciplined and obedient soldiers.
Every law that, while repressing the turbulent spirit of the army, would tend to diminish, within the nation, the spirit of civil liberty and to obscure the idea of law and of rights would therefore go against its purpose. It would favor the establishment of a military tyranny much more than it would harm it.
After all, and no matter what you do, a great army within a democratic people will always be a great danger; and the most effective means of decreasing this danger will be to reduce the army; but it is a remedy that not all peoples are able to use.n
[a. ] “What I said in the preceding chapter explains why democratic peoples naturally love peace.
“Democratic armies naturally love war, because in these armies ambition is much more general and more (illegible word) than in all others, and because in times of peace advancement is more difficult.
“These opposite dispositions of the people and of the army make democraticsocieties run great dangers.
“Remedies indicated for averting these dangers” (YTC, CVf, p. 49).
In the Rubish, all the manuscripts belonging to the chapters on war are gathered in the same jacket with the title: influence of equality on warrior passions.
Initially the titles of the chapters were the following:
military spirit. [Chapter 22]
how a democratic army could cease to be warlike and remain turbulent. [This section constitutes the current chapter 22.]
which class in the democratic army is the most naturally warlike and revolutionary. [Chapter 23]
rubish of chapter 4. [Chapter 24]
influence of equality on military discipline. [Chapter 25]
rubish of chapter 6. [Chapter 26]
Tocqueville finished drafting these chapters at the end of the month of April 1838.
“The objection which presents itself to all these chapters is that I do not have a sufficient personal knowledge of the matter” (Rubish, 2).
[b. ] At this place you find in the manuscript a reference to note (a). In the rubish, a jacket bears the notation “Piece that originally was inserted at sign (a) and that must not be definitively deleted except after consultation.
“To have copied after reestablishing page 2, which I took out for another use.” This jacket contains ideas that already appear in the chapter. A copy, reproduced in YTC, CVk, 1, pp. 89-91, bears this commentary: “Piece copied separately; I must pay attention to it at the final examination./
“Piece that originally began the chapter. I removed it as extending and reproducing ideas if not entirely similar, at least very analogous to those contained in the preceding chapter. To see again” (YTC, CVk, 1, p. 89).
[c. ] Under the old regime and still currently in England generals were called by their title of nobility. In France they are given only their military title. There is a great political revolution mixed with this revolution in the conventions of language.
They count on their salary to live, on their military cross, on their ranks to appear, shine ..., even more, all can equally attain everything. When a great prince said to young soldiers that the baton of Maréchal de France could be found in the knapsack of each one of them, he was only translating into an energetic and original form the common thought (Rubish, 2).
[d. ] Democratic army./
L[ouis (ed.)]. said to me today (17 March 1837) about the army of Africa some damning things if they are true, which I still doubt to the extent that he said.
He told me that this army was not very warlike, that you had all the difficulty in the world making it fight, that the soldier thought only about finishing his time and returning to France, the officer thought only about reaching with the least danger possible the time of his retirement, that the softness there was surprising, that the regiments arrived in Africa only grudgingly, that there they took part in expeditions only grudgingly and that in the expeditions they exposed themselves as little as they could.
He claims that the army presented the same spectacle at Anvers, and he adds that if we enter into war with Europe we will without fail be defeated.
[In the margin: L[ouis (ed.)]. fell into agreement that nothing similar was seen before 1830.]
It seems to me that I am able to conclude from all that he said that the principal causes of this state of things could be reduced to this:
The first four causes that I have just talked about are accidental and transitory, but it is not sure that the fifth is not due profoundly to the state of a democratic army in peace, and it necessitates attracting my most serious attention (In the Rubishhow a democratic army could cease to be warlike and remain turbulent). Certain ideas of these chapters are already found in a letter of 10 November 1836 to Kergorlay (Correspondance avec Kergorlay, OC, XIII, 1, pp. 416-17).
[e. ] In the manuscript: “. . . as a necessary remedy for certain moral illnesses . . .”
[f. ] “<That was not due to a particular disposition of his soldiers, but to the very constitution of his army.>/
“<Such an idea never occurred to the mind of Frederick II or that of Louis XIV>” (Rubish, 2).
[g. ] “When a democracy makes war, it must do it admirably, because the entire desire of amelioration that torments all individuals turns toward ranks, salaries, glory. War is then nourished by all the possible industries that it destroys” (Rubish, 2).
[h. ] In a first version of the rubish, he adds: “or of Bonaparte” (Rubish, 2).
[j. ] War bringing about and cementing the union of the clerk and the soldier./
It is by this path that I must arrive at this idea:
At first paint administrative tyranny preparing and establishing itself under the government whose general forms are liberal.
Then an accident, among others, war, giving the opportunity to concentrate the higher powers and leading to the union cited above.
[To the side: Military monarchy becomes established in this way, not by brutal, violent, irregular military power, but on the contrary, by regular, plain, clear, absolute military power, society having become an army, and the military before all the others, not as a warrior, but as master and administrator. The warrior will always be at the second rank in democratic societies, capital idea. ]
That will be striking, because the danger is not imaginary.
Reread the chapter on the military spirit at that point.
10 April 1838 (YTC, CVj, 2, pp. 10-11).
In another draft:
War unites many wills in the same end; it suggests very energetic and very noble passions; it creates enthusiasm, elevates the soul, suggests devotion. In these regards war gets into the health of a democratic people, which without war could collapse indefinitely.
But to make war, a very energetic and almost tyrannical central power must be created; it must be allowed many arbitrary or violent acts. The result of war can put in the hands of this power the liberty of the nation, always badly guaranteed in democracies, above all in emerging democracies.
War, which can be good from time to time when a people is strongly and long organized democratically, must therefore be avoided with great care during the entire period of transition.
M. Thiers told me one day last year (1836): “War will show the weakness of democratic governments; it will cover them with confusion and will force peoples, out of the sentiment of their preservation, to put their affairs back into a few hands. War cannot fail to make understood the insufficiency of the government of journalists and of lawyers,” he added.
M. L’Ad., one of the ardent and unintelligent partisans of M. Thiers, said the other day (18 April) in front of me that representative government was a sad thing; that liberty of the press notably would be incompatible with our security, if we were at war, and that at the first general war it would have to be suppressed.
All that shows why those who aim for despotism must desire war and why in fact they desire it and push for it (YTC, CVd, pp. 14-15).
In the same notebook you find, a bit before, this other note on the same subject:
There are two ways to arrive at despotism by liberty:
Local liberties--------no great liberty.
Great liberty---------no local liberties.
I want to say it not for the instruction of governments, which have nothing to learn in this matter, but for that of peoples (YTC, CVd, pp. 48-49).
Tocqueville is referring very probably to the ideas on decentralization set forth by Argenson in Considérations sur le gouvernement ancien et présent de la France (Amsterdam, 1784), in particular chapters 6, 7, and 8.
[k. ] In the margin: “<When I see a democratic people, out of fear of men of war, augment the number of places in the army, I cannot prevent myself from thinking of the Romans of the decadence who bought peace with the barbarians and soon found them again the following year more enterprising and more numerous.>”
[m. ] The more I reflect on this the more I think that it is by armies that democracies will perish, that that is the great danger of modern times, the chance for democraticdespotism for the future. Difficulty of cutting down on a democratic army when it exists. Difficulty of not having an army when the neighbors have one. Near impossibility of not being dragged into war or into seditions if armed.
To work on this fact. There are great truths there to put into relief./
29 September 1836.
You find on the same page this other note, which seems to be later: “Periods of transition. Ease of pushing democratic peoples toward war, of seizing power by arms. Danger to which you must always have your eyes open. Thiers” (Rubish, 2).
[n. ] On a page of the manuscript, next to a variant of the paragraphs that finish the chapter: “Two things to do: