Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER 11: Where Would Power Accumulate? - The Making of Tocqueville's Democracy in America
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CHAPTER 11: Where Would Power Accumulate? - 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).
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Where Would Power Accumulate?
Tocqueville’s knowledge of events in France since 1789 made him acutely aware of the variety of tyrannies which men were able to fashion. In January 1832, after observing the well-ordered American republic, he would recall: “What we [in France] have called the republic has never been anything but a monstrosity that one does not know how to classify ... and what does it matter to me whether tyranny is clothed in a royal mantle or in a Tribune’s toga? If I feel its hand heavy on me? When Danton had wretched men, whose only crime was not to think as he did, slaughtered in the prisons, was that liberty? ... When the majority of the Convention proscribed the minority,... when an opinion was a crime,... was that liberty? But some one might say, I am looking into the blood-stained annals of the Terror. Let us pass over the time of necessary severities, shall I see liberty reign in the time when the Directory destroyed the newspapers ... ? When Bonaparte as Consul substituted the power, the tyranny of one man for the tyranny of factions? Again was that liberty, was that a republic? No, in France we have seen anarchy and despotism in all its forms, but nothing that looked like a republic.”1
His catalogue of abuses might easily have included more recent personal observations of the reactionary and oppressive policies of Charles X during the last years of the Restoration and the troubling transformation undergone by the “men of 1830” who had apparently abandoned their liberal principles upon coming to power. His experiences with the mob during the July Revolution had also made a strong impression. In a letter of 1837 to Henry Reeve, he would react with skepticism to accounts of the enthusiasm shown in England for the new Queen, Victoria, and would soberly remind his friend of the totally contrasting emotions of the crowds towards Charles X in 1825 and 1830. “I confess to you that that has given me a natural and lasting coldness for popular demonstrations.”2
During the early nineteenth century, political theorists like Benjamin Constant, Pierre-Paul Royer-Collard, François Guizot, and others also repeatedly attempted to alert their countrymen to the dangers of arbitrary government whether under the guise of royal prerogative, popular sovereignty, or whatever. One of the common themes of liberals and doctrinaires alike was the limitation and balancing of powers so as to avoid any absolute authority.3
So Tocqueville arrived in America already mindful of the dangers of consolidated authority and of the oppressive potential of capricious governments of any sort, whether of assemblies, factions, individuals, or the mob. Looking back over forty years, he wondered whether France was destined to endless episodes of social and political upheaval. When and where would the cycle of revolution end? In a letter written from Cincinnati in December 1831, he speculated about this question and for the first time posed a dilemma that would lie at the heart of the making of the Democracy. “The clearest fact is that we live in an epoch of transition; but are we going toward liberty? are we heading for despotism? God alone knows exactly what to believe on this point.”4
One of the curiosities that first struck Tocqueville and Beaumont in the United States—and a feature also related to the theme of centralization—was the peculiar status of American public officials, especially of the chief executives of states and nation. By the first of June, he observed: “They [public officials] are absolutely on the same footing as the rest of the citizens. They are dressed the same, stay at the same inn when away from home, are accessible at every moment, and shake everybody by the hand. They exercise a certain power defined by the law; beyond that they are not at all above the rest.”5
At first this official humility only reinforced the impression of general social equality which so captivated the two aristocrats. Familiarity between citizen and government officer seemed merely one of the most telling features of America’s unique social condition. But during the autumn and winter, Tocqueville began to see another meaning in this low executive profile. American executives often were, in fact, relatively powerless and had little political stature. The governor of New York spent half of each year supervising his farm. The governor of Massachusetts, Jared Sparks told him, “has but little power.” And the governor of Ohio apparently also counted “for absolutely nothing.”6
The only substantial qualification of this opinion came in October when Tocqueville read Isaac Goodwin’s Town Officer and noticed with surprise the extensive authority of certain local magistrates within their allotted areas of competence. “When the social state allows a people to choose its magistrates, the magistrates so elected can without disadvantage be clothed in a power which no despotic authority would dare to confer on them. So it is that the selectmen in New England have ... a power of censorship [that] would be found revolting under the most absolute monarchy. People submit to it easily here. When once things are organized on that basis, the lower the qualification to vote and the shorter the time for which a magistrate holds office, by so much greater is the magistrate’s power.”7
But local leaders apparently benefited from this republican trait far more than did the chief officers of states and nation. Even the President apparently shared the weakness characteristic of major executives. Joel Poinsett told Tocqueville in January that “The President in fact has ... little influence on [the people’s] happiness. It is in very truth Congress that rules.” The Chief Executive, Tocqueville summarized, was “without power.”8
As Tocqueville traveled to the West and South, he began to learn why major executives had so little authority. In these sections, his acquaintances began more frequently and passionately to mention the various dangers of democratic rule. Talk of “democratic excesses” became increasingly common. Several leading citizens of Ohio complained, for instance, that “we have granted too much to democracy here,” or that “our [state] Constitution tends toward too unlimited a democracy.”9 And two gentlemen from Cincinnati were particularly distressed by the legislature’s new power to appoint judges.10 On 3 December 1831, Timothy Walker expanded upon these feelings:
Our [state] Constitution was drafted at a time when the democratic party represented by Jefferson was triumphing throughout the Union. One cannot fail to recognize the political feelings under the power of which it was drafted. It is democratic. The government is a very great deal weaker beyond bounds than any other. The Governor counts for absolutely nothing and is paid only 1,200 dollars. The people appoint the Justices of the Peace and control(?) the ordinary judges. The Legislature and the Senate change every year....
At the moment we are making the experiment of a democracy without limits; everything tends that way; but can we make it work? No one can yet assert that.11
In January, the lawyer from Montgomery, Alabama, agreed. “The erroneous opinion is spreading daily more and more among us that the people can do anything and is capable of ruling almost directly. From that springs an unbelievable weakening of anything that could look like executive power; it is the outstanding characteristic and the capital defect of our [state] Constitution, and of those of all the new States in the South-West of the Union.”12
The tendency was apparently to strip the executive of all real power, to undermine the independence of the judiciary by introducing election (either directly by the electorate or indirectly by the legislature), and to submit the legislature to the immediate control of the people through “universal” suffrage, frequent election, and mandates.13 The result was more and more direct rule by “the people.” And the legislature, as the instrument of the will of the majority, increasingly overshadowed the other two branches of government. One of the hallmarks of the American system appeared to be an almost mandatory combination of executive weakness and legislative supremacy. The only exception to this rule seemed to be the troubling arbitrariness of certain local officers.
Tocqueville believed that despotism would result from extreme centralization. But which hands would wield this consolidated authority? Who or what would the probable tyrant be? The drafts of the Democracy offered several answers. Tocqueville’s knowledge of the Convention, his observations in America, and his readings of the Federalist Papers combined to suggest an initial type of democratic despotism: legislative omnipotence.
“Tyrannie de la démocratie. Confusion of all powers in the hands of the assemblies. Weakness of the executive power for reacting against these assemblies to which it is only an instrument. See the very curious article of the Federalist on this subject. p. 213. id. 215. id. 224. Moreover that is a necessary result of the reign of democracy. There is force only in the people; there can be force only in the constitutional power which represents them.
“In America the executive and judiciary powers depend absolutely on the legislative power. It fixes their salaries in general, modifies their organization, and nothing is provided so that they might resist its encroachments. Feder. p. 205 [sic: 215?].”14
In Number 48 of the Federalist, Madison discussed the best means for rendering the three branches of government mutually independent. In his argument he criticized the makers of previous American state constitutions for overlooking the threat of legislative preponderance.
I shall undertake ... to show that unless [the legislative, executive, and judiciary] departments be so far connected and blended as to give to each a constitutional control over the others, the degree of separation which the maxim requires, as essential to a free government, can never in practice be duly maintained....
Will it be sufficient to mark, with precision, the boundaries of these departments in the constitution of the government, and to trust to these parchment barriers against the encroaching spirit of power? This is the security which appears to have been principally relied on by the compilers of most of the American constitutions. But experience assures us that the efficacy of the provision has been greatly overrated; ... The legislative department is everywhere extending the sphere of its activity and drawing all power into its impetuous vortex.
The founders of our republics have so much merit for the wisdom which they have displayed that no task can be less pleasing than that of pointing out the errors into which they have fallen. A respect for truth, however, obliges us to remark that they seem never for a moment to have turned their eyes from the danger, to liberty, from the overgrown and all-grasping prerogative of an hereditary magistrate.... They seem never to have recollected the danger from legislative usurpations, which, by assembling all power in the same hands, must lead to the same tyranny as is threatened by executive usurpations.”15
American constitution-makers had apparently been so concerned since the 1770s about avoiding repetitions of what they saw as the executive oppression and corruption of George III and his various agents that they had failed to grant their own executives power enough to withstand the equally dangerous pretensions of assemblies.
To seal his argument, Madison offered the examples of Virginia and Pennsylvania and, for the former, quoted at length from Jefferson’s Notes On the State of Virginia. While criticizing the constitution of his state Jefferson had observed: “All the powers of government, legislative, executive, and judiciary, result to the legislative body. The concentrating of these in the same hands is precisely the definition of despotic government. It will be no alleviation that these powers will be exercised by a plurality of hands, and not by a single one. One hundred and seventy three despots would surely be as oppressive as one.”16
In Number 51, Madison returned to the same point and once again joined a statement of the principle of departmental balance with a critique of state constitutions for failing in most cases to provide the necessary safeguards. “But it is not possible to give each department an equal power of self-defense. In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates.” (The essay then offered several remedies for this “inconveniency,” including bicameralism, the qualified veto, and some specific connection between the executive and the upper house of the legislature.) “If the principles on which these observations are founded be just,... and they be applied as a criterion to the several State constitutions, and to the federal Constitution, it will be found that if the latter does not perfectly correspond with them, the former are infinitely less able to bear such a test.”17
In accord with Madison, Tocqueville’s drafts also assumed that power in democratic societies concentrated naturally in the assembly (as the body representing the people) and, recalling the states of the West and Southwest, maintained that the American states had artificially heightened this and other tendencies.18 His manuscripts also agreed, therefore, that in democracies (and particularly in the individual American states) legislative despotism was a primary threat to liberty. In 1835 all of these ideas would emerge.
Democracies are naturally inclined to concentrate all the power of society in the hands of the legislative power. That being the authority which springs most directly from the people, it is also that which shares its all-embracing power most.
Hence one notes its habitual tendency to gather every kind of authority in its hands....
Two main dangers threaten the existence of democracies:
Complete subjection of the legislative power to the will of the electoral body.
Concentration of all the other powers of government in the hands of the legislative power.
The lawgivers of the states favored the growth of these dangers. The lawgivers of the Union did what they could to render them less formidable.19
Elsewhere in the 1835 Democracy Tocqueville would observe:
In America the legislature of each state is faced by no power capable of resisting it. Nothing can check its progress, neither privileges, nor local immunities, nor personal influence, nor even the authority of reason, for it represents the majority, which claims to be the unique organ of reason. So its own will sets the sole limits of its action....
The republics of the New World are not going to perish, as is often asserted, for lack of centralization; so far from being inadequately centralized, one can assert that the American governments carry it much too far [Cf. the “beautiful theory” of Madison];... The legislative assemblies are constantly absorbing various remnants of governmental powers; they tend to appropriate them all to themselves, as the French Convention did.20
Once again Tocqueville’s drafts, as we have observed, credited an idea to a specific source which would not be cited in the printed text. Even in the margin of his working manuscript, next to this last sentence about legislative usurpations and the Convention, Tocqueville observed: “Moreover this is a defect inherent in a government of democratic form. See the Federalist. page 213.”21 Only the published work would fail to indicate Madison’s considerable contribution.
As a final witness to the truth of this analysis, Tocqueville—like Madison—would call upon Jefferson: “The executive, in our government is not the sole, it is scarcely the principal, object of my jealousy. The tyranny of the legislature is the most formidable dread at present and will be for many years. That of the executive will come in its turn, but it will be at a remote period.”22
As these excerpts indicate, the unlimited power of the “people” underlay any possible legislative tyranny in a democracy. So between 1832 and 1835, as the first two volumes of the Democracy took shape, a vision of a second type of democratic despotism emerged: Tocqueville’s famous notion of the tyranny of the majority, which we will later take up separately.23
A third possible democratic despot in 1835 would be the state. Administrative (or bureaucratic), rather than legislative or popular, consolidation of power would be the means; but tyranny would still be the end.24 We have seen how, in both America and England, Tocqueville frequently speculated on the possible links between an overly centralized administration and tyranny. Vigorous local institutions, he repeatedly observed, seemed essential to a truly free society. But the concept of local liberties went beyond the mere power of municipalities to manage their own affairs. As the New England town demonstrated, local initiative, by fostering citizen interest in public affairs, also encouraged the birth of all sorts of private associations, organizations highly desirable in democratic nations. An undated draft observed: “Aristocracies are natural associations which need neither enlightenment, nor planning to resist the great national association that we call the government. Because of that they are more favorable to liberty than democracy is. Associations can also form in a democracy, but only by means of enlightenment and talents and they are never lasting. In general when an oppressive government has been able to form in a democracy, it encounters only isolated men, not any collective forces. Thus its irresistible strength.”25
Precisely this stimulus to the individual’s public participation and sense of responsibility was the most valuable function of local liberties. “Administrative centralization works toward despotism and destroys civic virtue. People get used to living as strangers, as settlers (colons) in their own country, to saying: ‘That does not concern me. Let the government look after that.’ ”26 In these brief remarks, probably dating from 1833, Tocqueville for the first time explicitly wove together three themes that would later become fundamental: centralization, despotism, and individualisme.27
These remarks also indicated more broadly that what left democratic societies so vulnerable to the usurpations of the state was, in part, the lack of intermediate social and political groupings—such as local governments, associations, families, or classes—which might serve as buffers between the individual and the nation as a whole.28 Another analysis warned more pointedly that consolidated nations, like France, tended naturally “to concentrate social forces indefinitely until pure administrative despotism is reached.”29
The 1835 Democracy would offer at least one portrait of this centralized and bureaucratic tyranny:
What good is it to me, after all, if there is an authority always busy to see to the tranquil enjoyment of my pleasures and going ahead to brush all dangers away from my path without giving me even the trouble to think about it, if that authority, which protects me from the smallest thorn on my journey, is also the absolute master of my liberty and of my life? ...
There are countries in Europe where the inhabitant feels like some sort of farm laborer (colon) indifferent to the fate of the place where he dwells. The greatest changes may take place in his country without his concurrence; he does not even know precisely what has happened; he is in doubt; he has heard tell by chance of what goes on. Worse still, the condition of his village, the policing of his road, and the repair of his church and parsonage do not concern him; he thinks that all those things have nothing to do with him at all, but belong to a powerful stranger called the government.30
Elsewhere Tocqueville would add: “One appreciates that centralization of government acquires immense strength when it is combined with administrative centralization. In that way it accustoms men to set aside their own wills constantly and completely, to obey not just once and in one respect, but always in everything. Then they are not only tamed by force, but their habits too are trained; they are isolated and then dropped one by one into the common mass.”31
These passages would announce the ultimate danger in the democratic tendency toward administrative centralization and would strikingly foreshadow the final section of the 1840 Democracy.32 Democratic nations would slide inexorably toward the concentration of power in the hands of the state. Under centralization, individuals would grow accustomed to obedience. Each person would begin to feel isolated and weak and become lost in the crowd. All authority would accumulate at some center. And liberty would finally succumb to despotism. Yet relatively little other than these few passages in the first two volumes of Tocqueville’s book would point to the possibility of administrative or bureaucratic tyranny. This third vision of democratic despotism would not become primary until five more years of reflection had passed.
Still another, a fourth possible embodiment of democratic tyranny was of a more traditional sort: the gathering of all power into the hands of a single despot (le despotisme d’un seul). Given increasing equality of conditions, men could either strive to combine equality and liberty or they could accept equality alone and fall under “the yoke of a single man.”33 “How can we believe that the lower classes of society, nearly equal to the others in knowledge, more energetic than they, will put up with remaining excluded from the government? Can that possibly be imagined? Perhaps this will lead to the establishment of tyranny. Why democracy endures a tyrant rather than superiority of ranks and a hierarchy. Equality, dominant passion of democracies. Finish by this piece, men have only one way to be free, but they have two to be equal.”34
And in 1835 he would declare: “Now, I know of only two ways of making equality prevail in the political sphere; rights must be given either to every citizen or to nobody. So, for a people who have reached the Anglo-Americans’ social state, it is hard to see any middle course between the sovereignty of all and the absolute power of one man.”35
To Tocqueville this danger seemed particularly acute if the potential tyrant was a military hero (le despotisme d’un seul militaire). The principal inspiration for this fear was almost certainly Napoleon, but America had clearly reinforced Tocqueville’s view. During the American journey, he had heard about Andrew Jackson’s incompetence and corruption and read about his demagogic attitudes.36 But Jared Sparks had told him that, although most informed persons opposed Jackson, “the majority is still at the General’s disposal.”37 The riddle of Jackson’s attraction had not been solved by a January 1832 meeting in the White House; Tocqueville and Beaumont had left Old Hickory’s presence singularly unimpressed.38
How then did a man so seemingly undistinguished in character or ability maintain such a hold on the emotions of the American people? Reflecting upon his knowledge of history (especially of Bonaparte’s career) Tocqueville thought he saw an answer. “How can one be in doubt about the pernicious influence of military glory in a republic? What determines the people’s choice in favor of General Jackson who, as it would seem, is a very mediocre man? What still guarantees him the votes of the people in spite of the opposition of the enlightened classes? The battle of New Orleans.”39
Here essentially was the glib and one-sided answer which he would confidently offer his readers in 1835. After declaring that military glory was the most terrible scourge for republics, he would observe:
How can one deny the incredible influence military glory has over a nation’s spirit? General Jackson, whom the Americans have for the second time chosen to be at their head, is a man of violent character and middling capacities; nothing in the whole of his career indicated him to have the qualities needed for governing a free people; moreover, a majority of the enlightened classes in the Union have always been against him. Who, then, put him on the President’s chair and keeps him there still? It is all due to the memory of a victory he won twenty years ago under the walls of New Orleans. But that New Orleans victory was a very commonplace feat of arms which could attract prolonged attention only in a country where there are no battles; and the nation who thus let itself be carried away by the prestige of glory is, most assuredly, the coldest, most calculating, the least militaristic, and if one may put it so, the most prosaic in all the world.40
As if to drive his point home, Tocqueville would add an illustration later deleted from his working manuscript. “During our stay in America a medal was struck in honor of General Jackson which had for its inscription: ‘What Caesar did Jackson surpassed.’ ”41 This sensitivity to the danger of new Caesars (or Napoleons) would remain with Tocqueville throughout his life, influencing the shape of the Democracy and becoming especially acute after the painful experiences of 1848–51.42
In 1835 the Democracy would especially emphasize this threat of the despotism of a single man.
If it is true that there will soon be nothing intermediate between the sway of democracy and the yoke of a single man, should we not rather steer toward the former than voluntarily submit to the latter? And if we must finally reach a state of complete equality, is it not better to let ourselves be leveled down by freedom rather than by a despot? ...
... I do think that if we do not succeed in gradually introducing democratic institutions among us, and if we despair of imparting to all citizens those ideas and sentiments which first prepare them for freedom and then allow them to enjoy it, there will be no independence left for anybody, neither for the middle classes nor for the nobility, neither for the poor nor for the rich, but only an equal tyranny for all; and I foresee that if the peaceful dominion of the majority is not established among us in good time, we shall sooner or later fall under the unlimited authority of a single man.43
Shortly after the publication of the first part of the Democracy, Tocqueville, in an effort to clarify his views to Kergolay, would more precisely if less eloquently restate his opinions. Louis had apparently been deeply troubled by what he had understood to be certain implications of Alexis’s book. So Tocqueville would explain:
Conditions once equal, I admit that I no longer see any intermediary between a democratic government ... and the government of an individual (d’un seul) operating without control. I do not doubt for an instant that we will arrive with time at the one or at the other. But, I do not want the second; if an absolute government ever managed to establish itself in a country democratic in its social condition and demoralized like France, we can not imagine what the limits of tyranny would be; we have already seen some fine examples of this regime under Bonaparte and if Louis Philippe were free, he would make us see many even more perfect ones. There remains then the first. I hardly like that one any better, but I prefer it to the other, moreover if I fail to reach the former, I am certain that I will never escape the other. So between two evils, I choose the lesser. But it is very difficult to establish a democratic government among us? Agreed. Also, I would not attempt it if I had a choice. Is it impossible to succeed at it? I doubt very much that it is impossible, for apart from political reasons which I have not the time to develop, I can not believe that for several centuries God has pushed two or three hundred million men toward equality of conditions in order to bring them in the end to the despotism of Tiberius or Claudius.44
So something (someone) like the worst of the Roman emperors, le despotisme d’un seul, was the fourth and most frequently mentioned despotism that Tocqueville would foresee in 1835. In these passages, the options were: a democratic government in harmony with the developing equality of conditions (either a monarchy or a republic) or a tyrant. Tocqueville’s moral presuppositions encouraged him to hope for the first. For him it was morally inconceivable that the mighty labors of God in the world were directed toward a long night of tyranny.
One basis for Tocqueville’s continuing reputation is his perceptive recognition of new developments and his conscientious call for new names and understandings. In his drafts, he now demonstrated these talents while musing about democratic despotism. “Here a portrait of the new tyranny, without counterbalance in the institutions, in the moeurs.”45 His published text would repeat: “If absolute power were to be established again among the democratic nations of Europe, I have no doubt that it would take a new form and display features unknown to our fathers.”46 But, as we have just noticed, when he attempted in 1835 to describe this new despotism, he would search for analogies in ancient history and end by writing of despotisme d’un seul and by specifically portraying a military tyrant modeled on the Roman emperors.
“To find anything analogous to what might happen now with us, it is not in our history that we must seek. Perhaps it is better to delve into the memorials of antiquity and carry our minds back to the terrible centuries of Roman tyranny, when mores (moeurs) had been corrupted, memories obliterated, customs destroyed; when opinions became changeable and freedom, driven out from the laws, was uncertain where it could find asylum....
“I find those very blind who think to rediscover the monarchy of Henry IV or Louis XIV. For my part, when I consider the state already reached by several European nations and that toward which all are tending, I am led to believe that there will soon be no room except for either democratic freedom or the tyranny of the Caesars.”47
So, despite Tocqueville’s recognition that something very different was possibly at hand, no truly original image of the “new tyranny,” of the supposedly novel democratic despotism, would emerge in 1835. Although Tocqueville would present a theory and even a brief portrait of administrative tyranny, he would not identify it in 1835 as the new despotism. Instead, his efforts to describe the possible coming oppression would draw upon examples from the distant past and emphasize the tyrant rather than the all-powerful bureaucracy. The centralized bureaucratic state would have to await its prominent place until the publication of the 1840 Democracy.
So at least four major despotisms appeared in Tocqueville’s notes, drafts, and manuscripts between 1831 and 1835: legislative omnipotence, tyranny of the majority, administrative (or bureaucratic) despotism, and the rule of a tyrant (especially a military hero). Ambiguities persisted, however. Although in America legislatures by far overshadowed the other two branches, democratic executives (especially on the local level) had amazingly arbitrary authority. And was not legislative power itself merely the shadow of popular rule? Furthermore, how were “direct rule by the people” and “tyranny of the majority” to be distinguished? Did “administrative” and “bureaucratic” mean the same thing? Might not a tyrant (military or civilian) exert his will through the administration (or bureaucracy) rather than through direct, personal rule? And finally, was not a democratic tyrant possible? Despite these issues, Tocqueville had begun to analyze the many possible meanings of “democratic despotism.”
Of Tocqueville’s several 1835 visions of despotism, legislative tyranny may be said to have turned out to be the least real (for America). Tocqueville understood the presidency well enough to predict accurately the growing stature of the Chief Executive once the United States became entangled in major wars or momentous foreign affairs.48 But his awareness of the potential power of the President was not enough to overcome his belief—reinforced by “Publius”—in the inherent tendency of legislatures to usurp authority. One reason for this was probably his conviction that, in a democracy, it was the legislator who truly represented the people and who therefore wielded the power and spoke with the moral authority of the people. Here his failure to notice one of the major symbolic changes of Jackson’s presidency cost him dearly; a recognition of how the President might be seen as the only representative of all of the people would perhaps have dramatically altered his sense of where the greater danger resided in America. Here again his reliance on the Federalist Papers, with their effort to downplay the prerogatives of the President to a populace wary of executive power, probably helped to lead him astray. It also seems likely, in this case, that his knowledge of the French Revolution and especially his sensitivity to the excesses of the Convention influenced his perceptions of the American situation far too much.49 Moreover, despite his astute analysis of the functions of the American judiciary and of the extraordinary roles in American politics and society played by lawyers, judges, juries, and courts, he apparently could not imagine a judicial branch so independent and powerful that it might, in itself, ever become an effective instrument of oppression. So in his 1835 Democracy, Tocqueville ended by projecting an image of a possible legislative despotism in the United States that turned out to be largely illusory.
[1. ]12 January , Mayer, Journey, Pocket Notebooks 4 and 5, p. 176.
[2. ]Tocqueville to Reeve, Tocqueville par St. Pierre Eglise, 24 July , Correspondance anglaise, O.C. (Mayer), 6:1, p. 40.
[3. ]For elaboration, see particularly Bagge, Idées politiques, and Ponteil, Institutions.
[4. ]Tocqueville to Hippolyte (?), Cincinnati, 4 December 1831, Toc. letters, Yale, BIa2.
[5. ]“Public Officials,” 1 June 1831, Alphabetic Notebook 1, Mayer, Journey, p. 195. Also see “American Mores,” Notebook E, ibid., p. 273; and “Public Officials,” Auburn, 12 July 1831, Alphabetic Notebook 1, ibid., p. 195.
[6. ]New York: “Public Officials,” Auburn, 12 July 1831, ibid.; Massachusetts: conversation with Mr. Sparks, Non-Alphabetic Notebooks 2 and 3, ibid., p. 58; Ohio: Second conversation with Mr. Walker: important, 3 December 1831, Non-Alphabetic Notebooks 2 and 3, ibid., p. 94.
[7. ]14 October 1831, Pocket Notebook 3, Mayer, Journey, pp. 154–55. Cf. Democracy (Mayer), pp. 253–54.
[8. ]Conversations with Mr. Poinsett, Mayer, Journey, pp. 118, 178. In the 1835 volumes, see especially “The Executive Power,” Democracy (Mayer), pp. 121–22; various sections on the presidency, ibid., pp. 122–38; and a brief comparison of executive power on the state and federal levels, ibid., p. 154.
[9. ]Conversation with Mr. Storer, Cincinnati, 2 December 1831, Non-Alph. Notebooks 2 and 3, Mayer, Journey, p. 90; conversation with Mr. Walker, 2 December 1831, ibid., p. 90.
[10. ]Conversation with Mr. Storer, Cincinnati, 2 December 1831, ibid., p. 90; and conversation with Mr. Chase, 2 December 1831, ibid., p. 93.
[11. ]Second conversation with Mr. Walker: important, 3 December 1831, ibid., pp. 94–95.
[12. ]Conversation with a lawyer from Montgomery, Alabama, 6 January 1832, ibid., p. 108.
[13. ]Concerning mandates, see remarks of 27 December 1831, Notebook E, Mayer, Journey, p. 255; also consult chapter 14 below on tyranny of the majority.
[14. ]Drafts, Yale, CVb, Paquet 13, p. 25; cf. ibid., p. 26.
[15. ]Federalist (Mentor), pp. 308–9. Also consult Papers 47 and 49 which treat the same subject.
[16. ]Ibid., pp. 310–11. Cf. a similar opinion by Tocqueville in his 1840 volumes, Democracy (Mayer), p. 436.
[17. ]Federalist (Mentor), pp. 322–23. Cf. the 1835 volumes, Democracy (Mayer), p. 260, where Tocqueville quotes other excerpts from Number 51.
[18. ]See for example, Drafts, Yale, CVh, Paquet 3, cahier 4, pp. 81–82.
[19. ]Democracy (Mayer), pp. 154–55. Cf. ibid., pp. 121–22.
[20. ]Ibid., pp. 89–90. For further mention of possible legislative tyranny, see ibid., pp. 104, 110–11, 137.
[21. ]“Political Effects of Administrative Decentralization,” Original Working Ms., Yale, CVIa, tome 1.
[22. ]Democracy (Mayer), pp. 260–61.
[23. ]See chapters 14 and 15 below.
[24. ]Consult Drafts, Yale, CVb, Paquet 13, p. 25. Also cf. Democracy (Mayer), pp. 88–89, 96–97.
[25. ]Drafts, Yale, CVh, Paquet 3, cahier 1, p. 82. Cf. Tocqueville’s 1835 chapter on associations, Democracy (Mayer), pp. 189–95.
[26. ]Drafts, Yale, CVb, p. 1. Cf. Democracy (Mayer), pp. 93–94.
[27. ]For elaboration, see chapters 17 and 18 below on individualisme.
[28. ]This concept of the need for intermediate groupings is a striking echo of some of the ideas of Royer-Collard, who called for the recognition of libertés-résistances (including individual liberties, freedom of the press, freedom of education, and separation of religion and politics) and especially advocated the reconstitution of corps intermédiaires, specifically local liberties and associations, as buffers for the individual in face of the state. The many close parallels as well as the numerous important differences between the ideas of Royer-Collard and Tocqueville are intriguing. A thorough comparative analysis of the two theorists would be well worthwhile.
[29. ]Drafts, Yale, CVh, Paquet 3, cahier 1, p. 78. Cf. the chapters above on the nature and future of the American Union where this phrase is already quoted.
[30. ]Democracy (Mayer), p. 93. Also see pp. 90–98.
[31. ]Ibid., p. 87.
[32. ]“On the Influence of Democratic Ideas and Feelings on Political Society,” ibid., pp. 665–705.
[33. ]Ibid., p. 315.
[34. ]Drafts, Yale, CVb, Paquet 13, p. 28. Concerning this choice between despotism or a republic, also see remarks of 30 November 1831, Notebook E, Mayer, Journey, p. 258.
[35. ]Democracy (Mayer), pp. 56–57. Cf. in the 1840 work the chapter entitled “Why Democratic Nations Show a More Ardent and Enduring Love for Equality Than for Liberty,” pp. 503–6, and the final eloquent passage, p. 705.
[36. ]See the following examples from Mayer, Journey: conversation with Mr. Sparks, 19 September 1831, Non-Alphabetic Notebooks 2 and 3, p. 50; “Public Functions,” Daily New York Advertiser, 30 June 1830 (?), Alphabetic Notebook 1, pp. 194–95; “Second Conversation with Mr. Walker: important, 3 December 1831, Non-Alphabetic Notebooks 2 and 3, pp. 96–97; and Vincennes Gazette, 12 November 1831, Pocket Notebook 3, p. 161.
[37. ]Conversation with Mr. Sparks, 19 September 1831, Non-Alphabetic Notebooks 2 and 3, Mayer, Journey, p. 50. Cf. remarks dated 25 October 1831, Pocket Notebook 3, ibid., p. 156; and conversation with Mr. Biddle, Philadelphia, 18 November 1831, Non-Alphabetic Notebooks 2 and 3, ibid., pp. 88–89.
[38. ]Concerning the encounter with Jackson, consult Pierson, Toc. and Bt., pp. 663–66.
[39. ]Remarks of 1 November 1831, Pocket Notebook 3, Mayer, Journey, pp. 157–58. Also see some miscellaneous ideas dated 14 January , Pocket Notebooks 4 and 5, ibid., pp. 179–80.
[40. ]Democracy (Mayer), p. 278.
[41. ]“Accidental or Providential Causes Helping to Maintain a Democratic Republic,” Original Working Ms., Yale, CVIa, tome 2. Cf. Democracy (Mayer), p. 278.
[42. ]See Gargan, Critical Years, pp. 81 note, 198–99, 215, 218–19.
[43. ]Democracy (Mayer), pp. 314–15.
[44. ]Toc. to Kergolay, undated letter, O.C. (Mayer), Jardin and Lesourd, 13:1, p. 373. Compare an outline from the working manuscript:
[45. ]My emphasis. Drafts, Yale, CVh, Paquet 3, cahier 4, pp. 10–11. Other examples of Tocqueville’s sensitivity to “new” things include his discussion of individualisme (see the chapters below), his desire for a new science of politics, his claim to be a liberal of a new type, and his sense that society in the early nineteenth century was new.
[46. ]My emphasis; Democracy (Mayer), p. 312.
[47. ]Ibid., p. 314. Cf. p. 263.
[48. ]Consult the 1835 work, Democracy (Mayer), p. 312.
[49. ]During the early nineteenth century the memory of the Convention and its excesses amounted almost to a fixation with many French political theorists; consult, for example, Bagge, Idées politiques, pp. 141–44. Gargan has remarked specifically on Tocqueville’s deep fear of legislative tyranny in 1848 when he served on the committee charged with drawing up a new constitution for France; Gargan, Critical Years, pp. 100–101.