Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER 5: Was Race a Sufficient Explanation of the American Character? - The Making of Tocqueville's Democracy in America
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
CHAPTER 5: Was Race a Sufficient Explanation of the American Character? - James T. Schleifer, The Making of Tocqueville’s Democracy in America 
The Making of Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, Foreword by George W. Pierson (2nd edition) (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2000).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Was Race a Sufficient Explanation of the American Character?
Tocqueville’s fortnight in the wilderness, while transforming his ideas about the effects of the natural environment, had also alerted him to another possible physical explanation of American society: Americans were what they were because of their biological inheritance.
“The village of Saginaw,” Tocqueville wrote in August, “is the last point inhabited by the Europeans, toward the northwest of the vast peninsula of Michigan. It can be considered an advance post, a sort of refuge that the whites have come to place among the Indian nations....
“... Thirty persons, men, women, old men, and children, at the time of our passage composed the whole of this little society, scarce formed, germ confided to the wilderness that the wilderness is to make fruitful.
“Chance, interest, or passions had gathered these thirty persons in this narrow space. Between them were no ties; they differed profoundly from each other. One noted among them Canadians, Americans, Indians, and half-breeds.”1 Even the Canadians and the Americans, both Europeans by heritage, were basically dissimilar. The first remained essentially French; the second, thoroughly English.
Such profound contrasts among the few inhabitants of one isolated village baffled Tocqueville and pushed him toward some rather radical reflections.
Philosophers have believed that human nature, everywhere the same, varied only following the institutions and laws of the different societies. That’s one of those opinions that seems to be disproved at every page of the history of the world. Nations like individuals all show themselves with a face that is their own. The characteristic features of their visage are reproduced through all the transformations they undergo. Laws, customs, religions change, empire and wealth come and go, external appearance varies, clothes differ, prejudices replace each other. Under all these changes you recognize always the same people. It’s always the same people which is growing up. Something inflexible appears in human flexibility. [But what was this indelible “something” which, more than other causes, determined the features of a society?]
... Thus, in this unknown corner of the world, the hand of God had already thrown the seeds of diverse nations. Already several different races ... found themselves face to face.
A few exiled members of the great human family have met in the immensity of the woods. Their needs are common;... and they throw at each other only looks of hatred and suspicion. The colour of their skin, poverty or wealth, ignorance or knowledge, have already established indestructible classifications among them: national prejudices, the prejudices of education and birth divide and isolate them.
... The profound lines which birth and opinion have traced between the destinies of these men do not end with life but stretch beyond the tomb. Six religions or sects share the faith of this embryo society.
In this long passage, Tocqueville returned to an idea which he had already briefly introduced several times in his travel diaries and letters: the concept of national character (which he sometimes loosely called “race”).2 As early as April 1831, while still on shipboard, he and Mr. Peter Schermerhorn had discussed the “National Character of the Americans.”3 And among first impressions at Newport, Rhode Island, in May, had been the following description: “The inhabitants differ but little superficially from the French. They wear the same clothes, and their physiognomies are so varied that it would be hard to say from what races they have derived their features. I think it must be thus in all the United States.”4
Additional observations, more developed but otherwise similar to those elicited by Schermerhorn and Newport, had appeared in one of Tocqueville’s alphabetic notebooks on 29 May: “When one reflects on the nature of the society here, one sees [that] ... American society is composed of a thousand different elements recently assembled. The men who live under its laws are still English, French, German, and Dutch. They have neither religion, morals nor ideas in common; up to the present one cannot say that there is an American character, at least unless it is the very fact of not having any. There is no common memory, no national attachments here. What then can be the only bond that unites the different parts of this huge body? Interest.”5
So, though surprised and puzzled by certain peculiarities, Tocqueville clearly assumed from the very first that some identifiable American character existed. His initial task was to isolate the essential qualities. But how profoundly did national traits from Europe influence society in the New World? And what forces (of blood or inheritance, of education or social custom) shaped and fostered the dominant American characteristics?
In his account of the Saginaw experience he first attempted some preliminary answers to these questions. From the viewpoint of Michigan, the peculiar physiognomy displayed by each nation—fashioned primarily by “birth,” “opinion,” and religion—seemed more durable an influence on society than even “laws, customs, religions [which] change; empire and wealth [which] come and go; external appearance [which] varies;... [and] prejudices [which] replace each other. Under all these changes you recognize always the same people.... Something inflexible appears in human flexibility.”6
When, a month later, the traveling companions visited Montreal and Quebec, the lessons of Saginaw were repeated and reinforced. “We have seen in Canada,” Tocqueville later recalled, “Frenchmen who have been living for seventy years under English rule, and remain exactly like their compatriots in France. In the midst of them lives an English population which has lost nothing of its national character.”7
The amazing durability of recognizable French and English traits led Tocqueville, on 7 September, immediately after returning to the United States from Canada, to ask his friend and teacher, the Abbé Lesueur: “Wouldn’t one be truly tempted to believe that the national character of a people depends more on the blood from which it came than on the political institutions or the nature of the country?”8 Clearly, he was close to advancing a biological explanation of national differences.
Yet Tocqueville never made the necessary last step toward an hypothesis based solely on biological inheritance. Instead he continued to advance a pluralistic viewpoint and to explore a variety of possible causes. “American morals are, I think,” he ventured in a diary note of 21 September 1831, “the most chaste that exist in any nation, a fact which can, it seems to me, be attributed to five chief causes.” His first choice was: “Physical constitution. They belong to a Northern race.” But he also emphasized religion, preoccupation with business, special attitudes toward marriage, and the education and character of American women.9 No single answer would do.
The October list of “Reasons for the social state and present government in America” also included under point one, their origin; “Cold and rationalist race.” But again, Tocqueville carefully acknowledged many additional factors as well.10
In November 1831, after learning about the tenacious habits of the Pennsylvania Germans, he continued his speculations:
If nature has not given each people an indelible national character one must at least admit that physical or political causes have made a people’s spirit adopt habits which are very difficult to eradicate, even though it is no longer subject to the influence of any of those causes....
Not less than fifty years ago, colonies of Germans came to settle in Pennsylvania. They have kept intact the spirit and ways of their fatherland.... Immobile in the midst of ... general movement, the German limits his desire to bettering his position and that of his family little by little. He works unendingly, but leaves nothing to chance. He gets rich slowly; he sticks to his domestic hearth, encloses his happiness within his horizon and shows no curiosity to know what there is beyond his last furrow.11
This statement was more cautious than either his account of Saginaw or his query to the old priest had been. Tocqueville here seemed inclined to substitute durable but slowly changing habits or moeurs for the concept of a constant and ineradicable national character. And he hedged on whether physical or political causes most affected these national habits.
About the same time, Joel Poinsett forewarned Tocqueville about the contrast which he would find between Ohio and Kentucky as he continued westward and suggested that the differences could be explained by the moeurs of the settlers: Ohio had been peopled largely by New Englanders, and Kentucky, largely by Virginians.12
By December, however, when the commissioners found themselves in the Ohio Valley, Tocqueville, with the help of comments by John Quincy Adams and Timothy Walker, had pushed beyond Poinsett’s overly facile explanation to ask what had produced the dissimilar sectional characters in the first place. Just as the people of Ohio and Kentucky shared the same favorable environment, they also—except for the Negroes—sprang from the same race. So biology did not supply an answer to account for the sharp contrast any more than physiography had.13 As we have seen, Tocqueville was now forced to look toward social causes, rather than natural or physical causes. Specifically, he decided that slavery best explained the differences he observed, and he theorized that the South’s “peculiar institution” wrought its effects by the gradual transformation of moeurs.14
Henceforth Tocqueville would never again consider bloodlines as the primary or even a possible primary explanation, but would instead devote ever greater attention to national traits or moeurs and the human forces which shaped them.15 A few weeks later he was writing: “I imagine that often what one calls the character of a people is nothing but the character inherent in its social state. So the English character might well be nothing but the aristocratic character. What tends to make me think that is the immense difference between the English and their descendants in America.”16
When on 14 January the Frenchman undertook a further analysis of “What maintains the Republic in the United States,” he significantly made no specific mention of race and clearly implied that moeurs were the “one great reason which dominates all the others.”17 So Tocqueville left the United States, having briefly considered and then rejected a predominantly biological explanation of national differences.
In the years after, Tocqueville never totally discarded the idea that race played some role in the shaping of human societies. Race, for example, became one element of l’origine.18 But what precisely did he mean by race? By the end of his American journey, he thought usually in terms of tenacious but slowly evolving national characteristics or moeurs rather than inherited biological traits. Yet what was the exact nature of the connection between bloodlines and national character or moeurs? Unfortunately he failed to pinpoint the meanings of these words.19 Once again vaguely defined terms permitted Tocqueville to avoid the painful task of mastering some troubling complexities.
Between 1832 and 1835, while drafting the first part of the Democracy, Tocqueville thought and wrote little about either doctrines of race in the abstract or the cloudy relationships between race, national character, and moeurs. Apparently Beaumont, more forcibly struck while in America by the plight of the Negro and the Indian, claimed these topics as his portion. His Marie, or Slavery in the United States was presented not only as a discussion of race in the United States, but also as a broad picture of American moeurs.20
Insofar as Tocqueville concerned himself with these issues in his first two volumes, he concentrated primarily on the contrasting futures of the three races in America.21 (Distinguishing between Indians, Negroes, and Anglo-Americans did not present quite the same possibilities for confusion as had his earlier comparisons between “French” and “English” inhabitants of Saginaw or the Americans of Ohio and Kentucky.) Even here, however, he refused to explain the divergent destinies of these two minorities and the white majority by referring solely to innate biological differences. “The men scattered over it [the territory occupied or claimed by the United States] are not, as in Europe, shoots of the same stock. It is obvious that there are three naturally distinct, one might almost say hostile, races. Education, law, origin, and external features too have raised almost insurmountable barriers between them; chance has brought them together on the same soil, but they have mixed without combining, and each follows a separate destiny.”22 His lengthy discussion expanded upon this introductory paragraph and repeatedly emphasized the radically dissimilar social, legal, and historical circumstances of the three races. Nowhere would he defend biological determinism.23
After 1835, Tocqueville, increasingly aware of the growing interest in deterministic theories,24 began once again to ponder the significance of biological inheritance for national destinies. During a visit to Switzerland in 1836, for example, he informed Claude-François de Corcelle of his reservations about the Swiss constitution and republic and made the following revealing judgment on racial hypotheses: “I am also already struck with how little political life prevails among the population. The kingdom of England is one hundred times more republican than this republic. Others would say that this is due to the difference of race. But it is an argument that I will never admit except in the last extremity and when absolutely nothing else remains for me to say.”25
In addition, while composing his last two volumes, he penned at least three fragments on racial theories that would unfortunately largely disappear from the 1840 text. His sentiments on race, therefore, have not usually been connected with the writing of his masterpiece on America.
In a draft of the chapter entitled “How Democracy Leads to Ease and Simplicity in the Ordinary Relations between Americans,”26 he described the basic attraction of biological explanations:
Nowadays people talk constantly of the influence exercised by race on the conduct of men.... Race explains all in a word. It seems to me that I can easily discover why we so often have recourse to this argument that our predecessors did not employ. It is incontestable that the race to which men belong exercises some power or other over their acts, but then again it is absolutely impossible to pinpoint what this power is. So we can at will either infinitely restrict its action or extend it to all things according to the needs of the discourse; valuable advantage in a time when we require reasoning with little cost, just as we want to grow rich without trouble.27
Upon rereading, however, he realized: “All this is decidedly out of place. To put somewhere else.... But take the idea for the transition from there. People believe that this reserve of the English comes from the blood. The example of America proves the contrary.”28 So he deleted his digression and relegated it to the “Rubish.” Tocqueville had not yet concluded his musings about race, however.
To say in the preface if not in the book. Idea of races. I do not believe that there are races destined to freedom and others to servitude; the ones to happiness and enlightenment, the others to misfortunes and ignorance.29 These are cowardly doctrines. Doctrines however. Why? That results, during democratic times, from a natural vice of the human mind and heart which causes these people to tend toward materialism. This idea of the invisible influence of race is an essentially materialistic idea. The idée-mère of this book is directly the contrary, since I start invincibly from this point: whatever the tendencies of the social condition (état social), men can always modify them and avert the bad while adapting to the good.30
Yet another fragment, dated 12 March 1838, expressed similar thoughts: “Beware, during democratic centuries, of all soft and cowardly opinions which lull men and paralyze their efforts, such as the system of the physical and moral inferiorities of races.”31
So familiar demands for human freedom, responsibility, and dignity formed the background for these remarks, and Tocqueville’s own moral convictions once again significantly shaped his grande affaire. The text of 1840 would read: “I am aware that many of my contemporaries think that nations on earth are never their own masters and that they are bound to obey some insuperable and unthinking power, the product of pre-existing facts, of race, or soil, or climate. These are false and cowardly doctrines which can only produce feeble men and pusillanimous nations. Providence did not make mankind entirely free or completely enslaved. Providence has, in truth, drawn a predestined circle around each man beyond which he cannot pass; but within those vast limits man is strong and free, and so are peoples.”32
But gone was Tocqueville’s earlier explicit and personal disavowal: “I do not believe that there are races destined to freedom and others to servitude; the ones to happiness and enlightenment, the others to misfortunes and ignorance.”
Some fifteen years later, in October 1853, Tocqueville would receive copies of the first two volumes of Arthur de Gobineau’s Essai sur l’inégalité des races humaines.33 And his initial reactions to his protégé’s doctrines, expressed in three magnificent letters of 11 October, 17 November, and 20 December 1853, have justly become famous.
In the first epistle, he warned the younger man: “If I am a reader very much led, by the lively friendship that I bear toward you, to see your book through rose-colored spectacles, I am, on the other hand, drawn by my pre-existent ideas on the subject to pick a quarrel with you. So I am in no sense an impartial judge, that is to say a good judge. But still, I will do my best.”34
Tocqueville proceeded to offer his basic criticism of the work: “I have never hidden from you ... that I had a great prejudice against what appears to me to be your idée-mère, which seems to me, I confess, to belong to the family of materialistic theories and to be one of its most dangerous members.” [Cf. “This idea of the invisible influence of race is an essentially materialistic idea.”]
By November, after receiving an initial reply from Gobineau, he boldly announced: “I will confess to you frankly that you have not convinced me. All my objections remain.35 Nevertheless, you are quite right to deny being a materialist. Your doctrine is, in effect, rather a sort of fatalism, of predestination if you wish;... [Your system ends] in a very great restriction if not in a complete abolition of human freedom. But I confess to you [that] ... I remain placed at the opposing extreme of these doctrines.36 I believe them very likely false and very surely pernicious.”37 [Cf. “I am aware that many of my contemporaries think that nations on earth are never their own masters and that they are bound to obey some insuperable and unthinking power, the product of pre-existing facts, of race, or soil, or climate.”; also “The idée-mère of this book is directly the contrary.... ”]
He continued: “One can believe that there are, among each of the different families which compose the human race, certain tendencies, certain peculiar aptitudes born from a thousand different causes. But that these tendencies, that these aptitudes are unconquerable, not only is this what has never been proved, but it cannot, in itself, be proved, for it would be necessary to have at one’s disposition not only the past but even the future. [Cf. “It is incontestable that the race to which men belong exercises some power or other over their acts, but then again it is absolutely impossible to pinpoint what this power is.”]
“Still, if your doctrine ... were more useful to humanity! But it is obviously the contrary. What interest can there be in persuading some faint-hearted people who live in barbarism, in indolence, or in servitude, that, since they are so by the nature of their race, nothing can be done to ameliorate their condition, to change their moeurs or modify their government?”
Tocqueville concluded his second letter on a pessimistic note: “We are separated by too wide a distance for the discussion to be fruitful. There is an intellectual world between your doctrine and mine.”
The third letter elaborated on the charge that Gobineau’s theory, since it discouraged effort, was even worse than useless. “You have taken precisely the thesis that has always appeared to me the most dangerous that one could uphold in our time.... The last century had an exaggerated and a bit childish confidence in the power which man exercises over himself and which people exercise over their destiny.... After having believed ourselves capable of self-transformation, we believe ourselves incapable even of self-reformation; after having had an excessive pride, we have fallen into a humility which is not less excessive; we believed ourselves able to do everything, today we believe ourselves able to do nothing; and we like to believe that struggle and effort are henceforth useless, and that our blood, our muscles, and our nerves will always be stronger than our will and our virtue. It is properly the great sickness of our time; sickness completely opposite to that of our fathers. Your book, no matter how you would put it, favors rather than combats it: despite you, it pushes the soul of your contemporaries, already too soft, toward weakness.”38 [Cf. “Beware, during democratic centuries, of all soft and cowardly opinions which lull men and paralyze their efforts, such as the system of the physical and moral inferiorities of races.”; also “These are false and cowardly doctrines which can only produce feeble men and pusillanimous nations.”]
In short, Tocqueville’s initial response to Gobineau’s thesis in 1853 would strikingly parallel, in both argument and word, previous manuscript reflections hidden in the drafts of the second part of the Democracy or the 1840 text itself. So it is a mistake to think that Tocqueville’s fully developed condemnation of racial doctrines first emerged in the 1850s during his epistolary debate with his protégé. An explicit and deeply personal repudiation of such ideas had its roots in his American experience and dated from the late 1830s, when he wrote the last two volumes of his great work.39
Tocqueville’s thoughts about physical causes thus underwent some fascinating developments. He came to America with a special interest in géographie, and during the early weeks of his journey, he, like many others, became persuaded that national destiny depended primarily on the natural environment. His first months in the New World also tempted him toward a racial explanation of national characteristics. In both instances, however, despite a tendency to seize upon a single answer which had momentarily captured his attention, Tocqueville ultimately rejected any monistic thesis.
Moreover, a permanent conversion to pluralistic explanations was greatly speeded by his penchant for what might be called the comparative method. Again and again, Tocqueville’s ideas evolved in response to parallel but sharply contrasting American experiences: the differences between the two “races” of Saginaw, and then between the English and the French Canadians; the juxtaposition of Ohio and Kentucky; the distinctions between the North and South, and even between the two American continents; the comparison of the men of New Orleans with those of Montreal. The cumulative lessons of these succeeding pairs of experiences amply demonstrated the wisdom of one of Tocqueville’s basic methodological principles: “It is only by comparison that one can judge things.”40
Personal convictions also helped to drive him toward certain of his conclusions. Whether deciding the final significance of circonstances or the ultimate influence of race, he often fell back on firmly held beliefs about man’s dignity, freedom, and responsibility. In addition, his strong and persistent distaste for any materialistic doctrine repeatedly led him to stress nonphysical causes, ones which were at least somewhat under human control. So his own moral judgments and leanings joined with his experiences, conversations, and readings in shaping the Democracy.
Finally, key terms involved in his discussions of physical causes, like circonstances or race, remained annoyingly ambiguous. At various times in the development of his thinking, Tocqueville found this vagueness a convenient way to avoid difficult decisions. But, on the other hand, the depth and variety of his insights were often well served by the rich if somewhat imprecise connotations which he sometimes gave a word. Such untamed but valuable complexities were part of what Tocqueville meant when, in 1836, he exclaimed: “I would never have imagined that a subject that I had already revolved in so many ways could present itself to me under so many new faces.”41
[1. ]This and passages below from a “Fortnight in the Wilderness,” quoted in Pierson, Toc. and Bt., pp. 270–75. Another translation may be found in Mayer, Journey, pp. 364–69.
[2. ]For a brief but suggestive discussion of the problems and possibilities surrounding the much-abused term national character, consult “The Study of National Character,” David M. Potter, People of Plenty: Economic Abundance and the American Character, pp. 3–72.
[3. ]See Pierson, Toc. and Bt., p. 49.
[4. ]Ibid., p. 54. Also note Beaumont’s impressions of the town and its people, pp. 54–55.
[5. ]“General Questions,” Sing Sing, 29 May 1831, Alphabetic Notebook 1, Mayer, Journey, p. 211. (Compare these comments with the letter of 9 June 1831 to Chabrol, quoted above, chapter 3.)
[6. ]From the passage on Saginaw, “Fortnight in the Wilderness,” quoted in Pierson, Toc. and Bt., pp. 270–75.
[7. ]21–25 November 1831, Pocket Notebook 3, Mayer, Journey, pp. 161–62.
[8. ]Toc. to M. l’Abbé Lesueur, Albany, 7 September 1831, Toc. letters, Yale, BIa1, Paquet 15, p. 28.
[9. ]“Morals,” undated, Alphabetic Notebook 2, Mayer, Journey, pp. 222–23. Pierson has dated this note 21 September 1831.
[10. ]“Reasons for the social state and present government in America,” Alphabetic Notebook 1, Mayer, Journey, p. 181.
[11. ]21–25 November 1831, Pocket Notebook 3, Mayer, Journey, pp. 161–62.
[12. ]Conversation with Mr. Poinsett, Philadelphia, 20 November 1831, Non-Alphabetic Notebooks 2 and 3, Mayer, Journey, p. 89.
[13. ]See conversation with J. Q. Adams, Boston, 1 October 1831, Non-Alphabetic Notebooks 2 and 3, Mayer, Journey, pp. 60–61; second conversation with Mr. Walker, Cincinnati, 3 December 1831, ibid., pp. 97–98; and comments about “Ohio,” 2 December 1831, Notebook E, ibid., p. 263.
[14. ]A general comparison of North and South also apparently helped to focus Tocqueville’s mind on moeurs: “Influence of moeurs proved by the very differences which exist between the North and the South of the Union.... It is not blood which makes the difference; it is not the laws, nor the social position”; Drafts, Yale, CVj, Paquet 2, cahier 2, p. 19.
[15. ]A final—but by now unnecessary—blow to any possible racial theory came on New Year’s Day 1832, when Tocqueville and Beaumont arrived in New Orleans and once again found large numbers of fellow Frenchmen. But how these citizens of Louisiana differed from the inhabitants of Montreal and Quebec! Biology obviously did not overcome the effects of dissimilar environmental and institutional settings. (See chapter 4 above.)
[16. ]26 December 1831, Pocket Notebook 3, Mayer, Journey, p. 163. Note the striking change since the Saginaw experience. No longer were the Americans simply transplanted Englishmen.
[17. ]Reflections of 14 January 1832, Notebook E, Mayer, Journey, pp. 234–35. Also see Pocket Notebooks 4 and 5, ibid., p. 179.
[18. ]In a draft fragment dated January 1838, Tocqueville wrote: “Many particular causes like climate, race, religion influence the ideas and the feelings of men independently of the social state. The principal aim of this book is not to deny these influences, but to put in relief the particular cause of the social state (l’état social)”; Drafts, Yale, CVk, Paquet 7, cahier 1, pp. 47–48. But by 1840 his list would change, and origin would apparently subsume race; see Democracy (Mayer), p. 417.
[19. ]Vagueness about the relation between race and national character was typical of European thought in the early nineteenth century. As an illustration of Tocqueville’s overlapping definitions, compare the various meanings of moeurs (cited above, chapter 4) with the following explanation of national character: “The cast (tournure) of the ideas and the tastes of a people. A hidden force which struggles against time and revolutions. This intellectual physiognomy of nations that is called the character is apparent across the centuries of their history and in the midst of the innumerable changes which take place in the social state, the beliefs, and the laws”; Drafts, Yale, CVj, Paquet 2, cahier 2, p. 22.
[20. ]See the “Foreword,” Bt. Marie (Chapman), pp. 4–5. Also consult Tocqueville’s note, Democracy (Mayer), p. 340.
[21. ]See the long chapter entitled “Some Considerations Concerning the Present State and Probable Future of the Three Races That Inhabit the Territory of the United States,” Democracy (Mayer), pp. 316–407, especially pp. 316–63.
[22. ]Ibid., pp. 316–17.
[23. ]Consult the chapter from the 1835 Democracy cited above. Also see Songy, “Tocqueville and Slavery,” pp. 17–73, especially pp. 28, 88–110. For a contrary analysis in which Tocqueville’s views are labeled “neoracist,” see Richard W. Resh, “Alexis de Tocqueville and the Negro: Democracy in America Reconsidered.”
[24. ]See, for instance, the 1840 volumes of the Democracy (Mayer), pp. 417, 493–96, “Some Characteristics Peculiar to Historians in Democratic Centuries.”
[25. ]Tocqueville to Corcelle, Berne, 27 July 1836, O.C. (Bt.), 6:62–63.
[26. ]See Democracy (Mayer), pp. 565–67.
[27. ]“How Democracy Leads to Ease and Simplicity....,” Drafts, Yale, CVh, “Rubish,” tome 4. Also see Bonnel’s copy, CVg, Paquet 9, cahier 1, pp. 98–99. Cf. Tocqueville’s remarks about historians in democratic times, Democracy (Mayer), pp. 493–96.
[28. ]Cf. the 1840 text, Democracy (Mayer), pp. 566–67.
[29. ]Tocqueville’s “Report on Abolition” of July 1839 would read: “It has sometimes been assumed that Negro slavery had its foundation and justification in nature itself. It has been declared that the slave trade was beneficial to its unfortunate victims, and that the slave was happier in the tranquillity of bondage than in the agitation and the struggles that accompany independence. Thank God, the Commission has no such false and odious doctrines to refute. Europe has long since discarded them.” Quoted from Drescher, Social Reform, p. 99. Cf. Beaumont’s opinions as found in Bt. Marie (Chapman), pp. 202–4, 214–16.
[30. ]Undated, Drafts, Yale, CVk, Paquet 7, cahier 1, p. 37.
[31. ]“12 March 1838,” Drafts, Yale, CVg, “Rubish,” tome 3. Also see Bonnel’s copy, CVg, Paquet 9, cahier 1, pp. 143–44.
[32. ]Democracy (Mayer), p. 705. For an interesting discussion of the complexities and paradoxes of Tocqueville’s thoughts on determinism, consult Richard Herr, Tocqueville and the Old Regime, pp. 91–95, especially p. 92.
[33. ]Arthur de Gobineau, Essai sur l’inégalité des races humaines, 4 vols. (Paris 1853 and 1855). Tocqueville and Gobineau had been closely associated since at least 1843, when they first began to correspond with each other. For further discussion of their personal and official relationships, see Jean-Jacques Chevallier’s introduction to O.C. (Mayer), vol. 9, Correspondance d’Alexis de Tocqueville et d’Arthur de Gobineau, edited by Maurice Degros; hereafter cited as O.C. (Mayer), 9. Also consult John Lukacs, editor and translator, Alexis de Tocqueville: The European Revolution and Correspondence with Gobineau; hereafter cited as Lukacs, Toc.: Gobineau.
[34. ]This and following excerpts from Toc. to Gobineau, Saint-Cyr, 11 October 1853, O.C. (Mayer), 9:199–201.
[35. ]Tocqueville was even more blunt in a letter written to Beaumont shortly after receiving Gobineau’s treatise: “He endeavors to prove that everything that takes place in the world may be explained by differences of race. I do not believe a word of it, and yet I think that there is in every nation, whether in consequence of race or of an education which has lasted for centuries, some peculiarity, tenacious if not permanent, which combines with all the events that befall it, and is seen both in good and in bad fortune, in every period of its history.” Quoted from Lukacs, Toc.: Gobineau, p. 16. For the original, consult Toc. to Beaumont, 3 November 1853, O.C. (Mayer), Jardin, 8:3, pp. 163–65.
[36. ]Cf. the following undated fragment: “Idea of necessity, of fatality. Explain how my system differs essentially from that of Mignet and company.... Explain how my system is perfectly compatible with human freedom. Apply these general ideas to Democracy. That is a very beautiful piece to put either at the head or the tail of the work.” Drafts, Yale, CVa, Paquet 8, cahier unique, pp. 58–59. François-Auguste Mignet (1796–1884), historian, close associate of Guizot and Thiers, perpetual secretary of the Académie des sciences morales et politiques after 1837, was not infrequently a valuable aid to Tocqueville’s career.
[37. ]This and following excerpts from Toc. to Gobineau, Saint-Cyr, 17 November 1853, O.C. (Mayer), 9:201–4.
[38. ]Toc. to Gobineau, Saint-Cyr, 20 December 1853, ibid., pp. 205–6.
[39. ]For a perceptive account of some of the contradictions in Tocqueville’s thinking on the matters of race and biological determinism, see Seymour Drescher, Dilemmas of Democracy: Tocqueville and Modernization, pp. 274–76.
[40. ]Original Working Manuscript, Yale, CVIa, tome 1.
[41. ]Toc. to Reeve, Baugy, 21 November 1836, O.C. (Mayer), 6:1, pp. 35–36; quoted above in chapter 2.