Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter 24 a: What Makes Democratic Armies Weaker Than Other Armies While Beginning a Military Campaign and More Formidable When the War Is Prolonged b - Democracy in America: Historical-Critical Edition, vol. 4
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chapter 24 a: What Makes Democratic Armies Weaker Than Other Armies While Beginning a Military Campaign and More Formidable When the War Is Prolonged b - 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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What Makes Democratic Armies Weaker Than Other Armies While Beginning a Military Campaign and More Formidable When the War Is Prolongedb
Every army that begins a military campaign after a long peace risks being defeated; every army that has waged war for a long time has great chances to win: this truth is particularly applicable to democratic armies.
In aristocracies, the military life, being a privileged career, is honored even in times of peace. Men who have great talents, great enlightenment and a great ambition embrace it; the army is, in everything, at the level of the nation; often it even surpasses it.
We have seen how, on the contrary, among democratic peoples, the elite of the nation moves little by little away from the military career in order to seek, by other roads, consideration, power and above all wealth. After a long peace, and in democratic times periods of peace are long, the army is always inferior to the country itself. War finds it in this state;c and until war has changed it, there is a danger for the country and for the army.
I showed how, in democratic armies and in times of peace, the right of seniority is the supreme and inflexible law for advancement. That follows not only, as I said, from the constitution of these armies, but also from the very constitution of the people, and will always be found.
Moreover, since among these peoples the officer is something in the country only because of his military position, and since he draws all his consideration and all his comfort from it, he only withdraws or is excluded from the army at the very end of life.
The result of these two causes is that when, after a long peace, a democratic people finally takes up arms, all the leaders of its army are found to be old men. I am not speaking only about the generals, but about the subordinate officers, most of whom have remained immobile, or have been able to move only step by step. If you consider a democratic army after a long peace, you see with surprise that all the soldiers are not far from childhood and all the leaders are in their waning years; so that the first lack experience; and the second, vigor.
That is a great cause of reverses; for the first condition to conduct war well is to be young; I would not have dared to say it, if the greatest captain of modern times had not said so.
These two causes do not act in the same way on aristocratic armies.
Since you advance there by right of birth much more than by right of seniority, you always find in all the ranks a certain number of young men who bring to war all the first energy of body and soul.
Moreover, as men who seek military honors among an aristocratic people have an assured position in civilian society, they rarely wait in the army for the approach of old age to surprise them. After devoting to the career of arms the most vigorous years of their youth, they withdraw and go to spend the remainder of their mature years at home.
A long peace not only fills democratic armies with old officers, it also gives to all the officers habits of body and mind that make them little suited to war. The man who has lived for a long time amid the peaceful and halfhearted atmosphere of democratic mores yields with difficulty at first to the hard work and austere duties that war imposes. If he does not absolutely lose the taste for arms, he at least takes on ways of living that prevent him from winning.
Among aristocratic peoples, the softness of civilian life exercises less influence on military mores, because among these peoples the aristocracy leads the army. Now, an aristocracy, however immersed in delights it may be, always has several other passions than that of well-being, and it readily makes the temporary sacrifice of its well-being in order to satisfy those passions better.
I showed how in democratic armies, in times of peace, the delays in advancement are extreme. The officers at first bear this state of things with impatience; they become agitated, restless and despairing; but in the long run, most of them resign themselves to it. Those who have the most ambition and resources leave the army; the others, finally adjusting their tastes and their desires to their mediocre lot, end up considering the military life from a civilian perspective. What they value most about it is the comfort and the stability that accompany it; on the assurance of this small fortune, they base the entire picture of their future, and they ask only to be able to enjoy it peacefully.
Thus, not only does a long peace fill democratic armies with old officers, but it often gives the instincts of old men even to those who are still at a vigorous age.d
I have equally shown how among democratic nations, in times of peace, the military career was little honored and not much followed.
This public disfavor is a very heavy burden that weighs on the spirit of the army. Souls are as if bent down by it; and when war finally arrives, they cannot regain their elasticity and their vigor in a moment.
A similar cause of moral weakness is not found in aristocratic armies. [<Among aristocratic peoples the career of arms is always honored, whatever the current of public opinion might otherwise be.>] Officers there never find themselves lowered in their own eyes and in those of their fellows, because apart from their military grandeur, they are great by themselves.
If the influence of peace made itself felt in the two armies in the same way, the results would still be different.
When the officers of an aristocratic army have lost the warrior spirit and the desire to raise themselves by the profession of arms, they still keep a certain respect for the honor of their order and an old habit of being first and giving the example. But when the officers of a democratic army no longer have love of war and military ambition, nothing remains.
So I think that a democratic people who undertakes a war after a long peace risks being defeated much more than another; but it must not allow itself to be easily demoralized by reverses, for the chances of its army increase with the very duration of the war.
When war, by continuing, has finally torn all citizens away from their peaceful labors and made all their small undertakings fail, it happens that the same passions that made them attach so much value to peace turn toward arms. War, after destroying all industries, becomes itself the great and sole industry, and then the ardent and ambitious desires given birth by equality are directed from all sides toward it alone. This is why these same democratic nations that are so hard to drag onto the field of battle sometimes do such prodigious things there, once you have finally succeeded in having them take up arms.
As war more and more draws all eyes toward the army, as you see it create in a short time great reputations and great fortunes, the elite of the nation takes up the career of arms; all the naturally enterprising, proud and warlike spirits produced not only by the aristocracy, but by the entire country, are drawn in this direction.
Since the number of competitors for military honors is immense, and since war pushes each man roughly into his place, great generals always end up being found. A long war brings about in a democratic army what a revolution brings about in the people itself. It breaks the rules and makes all the extraordinary men appear suddenly. The officers whose soul and body have become old during the peace are pushed aside, retire or die. In their place presses a crowd of young men whom the war has already hardened and whose desires it has expanded and inflamed. The latter want to grow greater at any price and constantly; after them come others who have the same passions and the same desires; and after those, others still, without finding any limits except those of the army. Equality allows ambition to all, and death takes care of providing chances to all ambitions. Death constantly opens ranks, empties places, closes and opens careers.
There is, moreover, a hidden connection between military mores and democratic mores that war exposes.
Men of democracies naturally have the passionate desire to acquire quickly the goods that they covet and to enjoy them easily. Most of them adore chance and fear death much less than pain. In this spirit they conduct commerce and industry; and this same spirit, carried by them onto the fields of battle, leads them readily to risk their lives in order to assure, in one moment, the rewards of victory. No greatness is more satisfying to the imagination of a democratic people than military greatness, a brilliant and sudden greatness that is obtained without work, by risking only your life.
Thus, while interest and tastes move the citizens of a democracy away from war, the habits of their soul prepare them to wage war well; they easily become good soldiers as soon as you have been able to tear them away from their affairs and their well-being.
If peace is particularly harmful to democratic armies, war therefore assures them advantages that other armies never have; and these advantages, although not very noticeable at first, cannot fail, in the long run, to give them victory.e
An aristocratic people who, fighting against a democratic nation, does not succeed in destroying it immediately with the first military campaigns, always greatly risks being defeated by it.
[a. ]1. A democratic army is more unsuited than another to war after a long peace.
2. A democratic army is more formidable than another after a long war.
Of military discipline in democratic armies (YTC, CVf, pp. 50-51).
Former titles of the chapter in the manuscript: “≠why a democratic people risks more than another to be conquered during the first military campaigns.≠/
“why the chances for a democratic army increase as the war continues./
“effects produced by a long peace and a long war on a democratic army.”
[b. ] The soldier./
Modification of the soldier in democracies./
Military discipline. Relationship of the soldier and of the officer. Driving force of actions./
Reaction of this on the sentiment of honor. An aristocratic body of officers formulates arbitrary laws of honor./
[Note, which seems later] Of honor in general in American society. That a democratic society can have virtue, but not what we call honor. Honor is an arbitrary law, a convention that needs to be minutely detailed and interpreted by a body of arbiters.
[In the margin: Honor is an aristocratic convention relative to the manner in which you must envisage human actions./
What I have to say about honor seems to me too important to be said in relation to other things.]
Precede this with an oratorical turn. If I am understood, I am assured of not hurting anyone. But I am afraid of not being able to make myself easily understood (Rubish, 2).
[c. ] In the manuscript:
<But war does not take long to change it.
As the military spirit awakens to the noise of arms, as great national dangers draw all eyes toward the army, as great fortunes suddenly occur on the fields of battle, the military life rises in the esteem of men and the most immense and boldest ambitions turn toward it.
This revolution is inevitable, but it cannot take place in a moment; and there is a danger for the army and for the State until it is accomplished.>
[In the margin] ≠To delete I think because it is not necessary there and is necessary further along.
French of the XIXth century.≠
[d. ] In the margin:
<Perhaps here this idea (I do not believe so).
This troublesome influence of peace makes itself much less felt in aristocratic armies because the officers who are found there, having an assured well-being before entering the career of arms, are only seeking reputation, the sole good that they are lacking. This same need is felt by them at all times. The length of peace does not weaken it and war, no matter when it occurs, always seems to them the best occasion to satisfy it.>
[e. ] In the margin: “≠I had had the idea of introducing there chapter ‘a’ but that would interrupt the thread of the discourse.≠” Chapter “a” is the one that follows.