Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter 1: Equality Naturally Gives Men the Taste for Free Institutions - Democracy in America: Historical-Critical Edition, vol. 4
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chapter 1: Equality Naturally Gives Men the Taste for Free Institutions - 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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This bilingual edition of Tocqueville’s work contains a new English translation of the French critical edition published in 1990. The copyright to the French version is held by J. Vrin and it is not available online. The copyright to the English translation, the translator’s note, and index is held by Liberty Fund.
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Equality Naturally Gives Men the Taste for Free Institutions
Equality, which makes men independent of each other, makes them contract the habit and the taste to follow only their will in their personal actions. This complete independence, which they enjoy continually vis-à-vis their equals and in the practice of private life, disposes them to consider all authority with a discontented eye, and soon suggests to them the idea and the love of political liberty. So men who live in these times march on a natural slope that leads them toward free institutions. Take one of them at random; go back, if possible, to his primitive instincts; you will discover that, among the different governments, the one that he conceives first and that he prizes most, is the government whose leader he has elected and whose actions he controls.a
Of all the political effects that equality of conditions produces, it is this love of independence that first strikes our attention and that timid spirits fear even more; and we cannot say that they are absolutely wrong to be afraid, for anarchy has more frightening features in democratic countries than elsewhere.b Since citizens have no effect on each other, at the instant when the national power that keeps them all in their place becomes absent, it seems that disorder must immediately be at its height and that, with each citizen on his own, the social body is suddenly going to find itself reduced to dust.
I am convinced nevertheless that anarchy is not the principal evil that democratic centuries must fear, but the least.
Equality produces, in fact, two tendencies: one leads men directly to independence and can push them suddenly as far as anarchy; the other leads them by a longer, more secret, but surer road toward servitude.
Peoples easily see the first and resist it; they allow themselves to be carried along by the other without seeing it; it is particularly important to show it.
As for me,c far from reproaching equality for the unruliness that it inspires, I praise it principally for that. I admire equality when I see it deposit deep within the mind and heart of each man this obscure notion of and this instinctive propensity for political independence. In this way equality prepares the remedy for the evil to which it gives birth. It is from this side that I am attached to it.
[a. ] In the manuscript: “. . . government based on the principle of sovereignty of the people.”
[b. ] What to do to combine the spirit of equality and the spirit of liberty and make liberty reign amid a leveled society.
This part is the most important for me./
The hydra of anarchy is the sacramental phrase of all the enemies of liberty. The cowardly, the corrupt, the servile try to outdo each other in repeating it. The weak and the honest say it also.
It is a monster that I must look in the face. For it is after all the great enemy of my ideas. What I want to bring along and to convince are honest souls. Well! The latter, at the point we have reached, are not afraid of despotism. They tremble before the hydra of anarchy. The fact is that there exists today a singular phenomenon for which we must account.
[To the side: It is honest men led by rogues who have always enslaved the world.
They do not see that in this way they are preparing habits, ideas, laws for all types of despotism, that of all or of one man. These men who today ask of power only to save them from anarchy resemble those drowning men who cling to a dead body and drag it away with them. By violent and reactionary laws, by the violation of existing laws, by the absence of laws, they destroy the ideas of the just and the unjust, of the permissible and the forbidden, of the legal and the illegal, and they thus open the door to all anarchical tyrannies. They are the pioneers of anarchy.]
Liberty and power gradually become weaker and each one in its own way. They are two exhausted and stiff old men who struggle with each other without either one winning, because their weaknesses, not their strengths, are equal; and grappling with each other, they roll together in the same dust.
Thus, those who say that liberty is weak are right. Those who maintain that power is weak are also right. What to conclude from that? Fix all the force of my mind on that.
[To the side: I believe, moreover, that the same symptoms presented themselves before the temporary or definitive enslavement of all peoples.]
To show that arbitrary and anti-liberal measures will not save us from the hydra of anarchy and to demonstrate that legal and liberal measures will not lead there, that is what we must above all work hard to do.
What modern nation (three illegible words) despotism, and how to break despotism without anarchy. Despotism is party to anarchy.
[To the side] What to think of the future of an unfortunate country in which there is an honest and pure man who says that he is not concerned about its posterity, but about himself; who says that country in the general sense is a word, that he very much wants the country to be and to remain free, provided that his fortune and his life remain sure, but that rather than putting these things in dogma [danger (ed.)], tyranny seems better to him; who says that he prefers a permanent, meddlesome, civilizing despotism to a temporary anarchy? And what to hope for his century when the other honest and pure men who surround the former approve his language? This is [illegible word] the sad spectacle that I had today, 7 February 1837 (YTC, CVd, pp. 16-18).
[c. ] “As for me, I consider this taste for natural independence as the most precious present that equality has given to men” (YTC, CVk, 2, pp. 45-46).