Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter 2 a: That the Ideas of Democratic Peoples in Matters of Government Naturally Favor the Concentration of Powers b - Democracy in America: Historical-Critical Edition, vol. 4
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chapter 2 a: That the Ideas of Democratic Peoples in Matters of Government Naturally Favor the Concentration of Powers 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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That the Ideas of Democratic Peoples in Matters of Government Naturally Favor the Concentration of Powersb
[The principal notions that men form in the matter of government are not entirely arbitrary. They are born in each period out of the social state, and the mind receives them rather than creating them.]c
The idea of secondary powers, placed between the sovereign and the subjects, presented itself naturally to the imagination of aristocratic peoples, because these powers included within them individuals or familiesthat birth, enlightenment, wealth kept unrivaled and that seemed destined to command. This same idea is naturally absent from the minds of men in centuries of equality because of opposite reasons; you can only introduce it to their minds artificially, and you can only maintain it there with difficulty; while without thinking about it, so to speak, they conceive the idea of a unique and central power that by itself leads all citizens.
In politics, moreover, as in philosophy and in religion, the minds of democratic peoples receive simple and general ideas with delight. They are repulsed by complicated systems, and they are pleased to imagine a great nation all of whose citizens resemble a single model and are directed by a single power.
After the idea of a unique and central power, the one that presents itself most spontaneously to the minds of men in centuries of equality is the idea of a uniform legislation. As each one of them sees himself as little different from his neighbors, he understands poorly why the rule that is applicable to one man would not be equally applicable to all the others. The least privileges are therefore repugnant to his reason. The slightest dissimilarities in the political institutions of the same people wound him, and legislative uniformity seems to him to be the first condition of good government.
I find, on the contrary, that the same notion of a uniform rule, imposed equally on all the members of the social body, is as if foreign to the human mind in aristocratic centuries. It does not accept it, or it rejects it.
These opposite tendencies of the mind end up, on both sides, by becoming such blind instincts and such invincible habits, that they still direct actions, in spite of particular facts. Sometimes, despite the immense variety of the Middle Ages, perfectly similar individuals were found; this did not prevent the legislator from assigning to each one of them diverse duties and different rights. And, on the contrary, in our times, governments wear themselves out in order to impose the same customs and the same laws on populations that are not yet similar.
As conditions become equal among a people, individuals appear smaller and society seems larger; or rather, each citizen, having become similar to all the others, is lost in the crowd, and you no longer notice anything except the vast and magnificent image of the people itself.d
This naturally gives men of democratic times a very high opinion of the privileges of the society and a very humble idea of the rights of the individual.e They easily agree that the interest of the one is everything and that the interest of the other is nothing. They grant readily enough that the power that represents the society possesses much more enlightenment and wisdom than any one of the men who compose it, and that its duty, as well as its right, is to take each citizen by the hand and to lead him.f
If you really want to examine our contemporaries closely, and to penetrate to the root of their political opinions, you will find a few of the ideas that I have just reproduced, and you will perhaps be astonished to find so much agreement among men who are so often at war with each other.
The Americans believe that, in each state,TN8 social power must emanate directly from the people; but once this power is constituted, they imagine, so to speak, no limits for it; they readily recognize that it has the right to do everything.
As for the particular privileges granted to cities, to families or to individuals, they have lost even the idea. Their minds have never foreseen that the same law could not be applied uniformly to all the parts of the same state and to all the men who inhabit it.
[≠In Europe we reject the dogma of sovereignty of the people that the Americans accept; we give power another origin.≠]g
These same opinions are spreading more and more in Europe; they are being introduced within the very heart of nations that most violently reject the dogma of sovereignty of the people. These nations give power a different origin than the Americans; but they envisage power with the same features. Among all nations, the notion of intermediary power is growing dim and fading.h The idea of a right inherent in certain individuals is disappearing rapidly from the minds of men; the idea of the all-powerful and so to speak unique right of society is coming to take its place. These ideas take root and grow as conditions become more equal and men more similar; equality gives birth to them and they in their turn hasten the progress of equality.j
In France, where the revolution I am speaking about is more advanced than in any other people of Europe, these same opinions have entirely taken hold of the mind. When you listen attentively to the voices of our different parties, you will see that there is not one of them that does not adopt them. Most consider that the government acts badly; but all think that the government must act constantly and put its hand to everything. Even those who wage war most harshly against each other do not fail to agree on this point. The unity, ubiquity, omnipotence of the social power, the uniformity of its rules, form the salient feature that characterizes all the political systems born in our times. You find them at the bottom of the most bizarre utopias.k The human mind still pursues these images when it dreams.
If such ideas present themselves spontaneously to the mind of individuals, they occur even more readily to the imagination of princes.
While the old social state of Europe deteriorates and dissolves, sovereigns develop new beliefs about their abilities and their duties; they understand for the first time that the central power that they represent can and must, by itself and on a uniform plan, administer all matters and all men. This opinion, which, I dare say, had never been conceived before our time by the kings of Europe, penetrates the mind of these princes to the deepest level; it remains firm there amid the agitation of all the other opinions.m [A few perceive it very clearly, everyone glimpses it.]n
So the men of today are much less divided than you imagine; they argue constantly in order to know into which hands sovereignty will be placed; but they agree easily about the duties and about the rights of sovereignty. All conceive the government in the image of a unique, simple, providential and creative power.
All the secondary ideas in political matters are in motion; that one remains fixed, inalterable; it never changes.o Writers and statesmen adopt it; the crowd seizes it avidly; the governed and those who govern agree about pursuing it with the same ardor; it comes first; it seems innate.
So it does not come from a caprice of the human mind, but it is a natural condition of the present state of men.
[a. ] Order of this section.
The theoretical and philosophical idea of government among democratic peoples is uniformity and centralization.
[To the side: That democratic peoples imagine liberty only in the form of a great assembly of representatives with strong and regulative executive power.]
Diverse instincts which lead democratic peoples to love centralization of power.
1. Difficulty of knowing to whom to deliver provincial administration.
2. The noble having disappeared, incapacity of local [v: new] men, ignorance, above all at the beginning.
3. Envy of the neighbor. Sentiments above all visible when aristocracy has long reigned in a country
4. That a despot in embryo must loudly profess these doctrines, favor and approve interests.
≠5. Establish only a sole representative assembly, a strong and regulative executive power.≠
5. Establish only national representation, next to it an executive power which would be more or less subject to it, but which would be strong, inquisitorial,regulative.
[To the side: Among democratic peoples, it is not impossible that a government is centralizing and popular at the same time, and it can go so far as calling itself centralizing and liberal, and it is not impossible that it is believed.]
6. Individualism, material enjoyments (YTC, CVd, pp. 31-32).
[b. ] Titles on the jacket that contains the manuscript: “what ideas men naturally conceive in the matter of government in centuries of equality./
“how the ideas that naturally present themselves to men in centuries of equality lead them to concentrate all powers.”
[c. ] To the side: “Be careful that this does not too much resemble the opening regardinghonor.”
[d. ] Note to the side of a first version: “Perhaps all these ideas, which seem to me clear and even too evident, will seem too metaphysical, and perhaps it will be necessary to put them within the reach of the ordinary reader by more detailed explanations?” (Rubish, 2).
[e. ]“To show better also how in the United States the state breaks individuals and even organized groups of men [corps ] with a prodigious ease, since the idea of individualrights there is weaker and more obscure than in England.” Jacket, thoughts to add on the influence exercised by democratic ideas on the forms of government (Rubish, 2).
[f. ] A note in the manuscript: “Can introduce piece (a) there.”
This piece (a) specifies: “<A unique and central government [v: power] charged with dispensing the same laws to the entire State and with regulating in the same way each one of those who inhabit it, an intelligent, far-sighted and strong administration that enlightens, aids, constantly directs individuals, such is the ideal that in democratic times will always occur by itself to the imagination of men as soon as they come to think about government.>”
[Translator’s Note 8:] In this paragraph and in the next one, and in note e for p. 1196 and note a for p. 1206, the translator has repeated the pattern followed in the first volume. Where Tocqueville seems clearly to be referring to the American states, the translator has dropped the uppercase for state. Elsewhere, the uppercase is retained: State.
[g. ] In the margin: “<These opinions have not been borrowed by the Americans from their fathers the English, for at the period of the establishment of the colonies, the English, no more than other Europeans, had not yet conceived of such opinions. Still today they have adopted them only in part. They introduce them only in our times, but with difficulty and as conditions become less different and men more similar.>”
[h. ] In the margin: “<The problem with all this is that it seems to me to anticipate section IV, which I will be able to judge only when I am there. If so, it would be necessary to stop at the end of page 2 and make this chapter the head of the following chapter which would then be titled: How the ideas and the sentiments . . .>” Page 2 of the manuscript ends at the paragraph that begins thus: “If you really want to examine . . .”
[j. ] On a loose sheet in the manuscript:
I listen to those among my fellow citizens who are most hostile to popular forms and I see that, according to them, the public administration must get involved in almost everything and that it must impose the same rules on all. To regulate, to direct, to compel citizens constantly in principal affairs as well as in the least, such for them is its role. I go from there to those who think that all authority must come immediately from the people, and I hear the same discourse coming from them; and I return finally doubting if the most violent adversaries of the government are not more favorable to the concentration of powers than the government itself [v: if the exclusive friends of liberty are not more favorable to the centralization of power than its most violent adversaries].
[k. ] See note b of p. 727.
[n. ] In the margin: “≠This sentence excludes the preceding one. Either the one or the other must be removed.≠”
[o. ] Note in the margin in a first version: “Perhaps here all the ultra-unitary extravagances, Saint-Simonianism . . .” (Rubish, 2).