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CHAPTER 12: Administrative Centralization and Some Remedies - 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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Administrative Centralization and Some Remedies
We have observed that Tocqueville’s 1835 volumes advocated the political, moral, social, and economic benefits of local liberties; lamented democracy’s encouragement of centralization; distinguished between two types of centralization, governmental and administrative; and warned that the administrative variety undermined freedom. Between 1835 and 1840 Tocqueville continued to be haunted by “ce mot de centralisation,” and the longer he revolved the idea, the more meanings he discovered.
Shortly after the first part of the Democracy appeared, Tocqueville journeyed for a second time to England where centralization again became one of the major themes of his travel notes.1 On 11 May 1835, Henry Reeve confirmed Tocqueville’s impression that “a strong tendency to centralization” existed in England. The exchange led Tocqueville to a brief but key summation of ideas. In a few brief sentences he sketched much of the last part of his famous work.
“Centralization, a democratic instinct; instinct of a society which has succeeded in escaping from the individualistic system of the Middle Ages. Preparation for despotism. Why is centralization dear to the habits of democracy? Great question to delve into in the third volume of my work, if I can fit it in. A fundamental question.”2
Two weeks later Tocqueville asked another English friend, John Stuart Mill, whether he also believed that England was moving toward centralization, and, if so, whether he was worried by the tendency. Mill admitted the movement, but denied any great concern.
Up to now centralization has been the thing most foreign to the English temperament.
(1) Our habits or the nature of our temperament do not in the least draw us towards general ideas;... So we have divided administrative functions up infinitely and have made them independent of one another. We have not done this deliberately, but from our sheer inability to comprehend general ideas on the subject of government or anything else.
(2)... The taste for making others submit to a way of life which one thinks more useful to them than they do themselves, is not a common taste in England. We are attacking the present parochial and provincial institutions because they serve as tools of the aristocracy. Taking power from our adversaries we naturally hope to vest it in the government, because nothing is prepared within the present institutions for inheriting some of this power. But if democracy was organized in our parishes and our counties so that it could take over the tasks of government, I am sure that we would leave them quite independent of the central government. Perhaps we will try to do it too late, and by a compromise the government will be enriched with the chief spoils from the aristocracy.
But Tocqueville did not find Mill’s explanation entirely convincing, and he suggested another idea to the Englishman. “Could it not be that what you call the English temperament, is the aristocratic temperament? Would it not be part of the aristocratic temperament to isolate oneself and, as each enjoys a fine estate, to be more afraid of being disturbed in one’s own domain, than wishful to extend it over others? Is not the instinct of democracy exactly the opposite, and may it not be that the present tendency which you consider as an accident, is an almost necessary consequence of the basic cause?”3
Both men agreed that there was a trend toward greater centralized supervision of individual and local affairs, but what Mill understood as an historical circumstance, Tocqueville perceived as characteristic of the advance of démocratie. Beyond this, their conversation also reminded Tocqueville of a basic structural principle that he had noticed in America nearly four years earlier: the division or fragmentation of administrative power. Mill’s remarks reemphasized as well a lesson of special importance for France: the need to prepare localities for eventual responsibility.
On three later occasions, Tocqueville filled several pages of his English travel diaries with long and significant reflections on centralization, each of which anticipated sections of the last part of his book.
Ideas concerning centralization.... How one should conceive of society’s obligations to its members.
Is society obliged, as we think in France, to guarantee the individual and to create his well-being? Or is not its only duty rather to give the individual easy and sure means to guarantee it for himself and to create his own well-being?
The first notion; simpler, more general, more uniform, more easily grasped by half-enlightened and superficial minds.
The second; more complicated, not uniform in its application, harder to grasp; but the only one that is true, the only one compatible with the existence of political liberty, the only one that can make citizens or even men.
Application of this idea to public administration. Centralization, division within the administrative power. That is an aspect of the matter that I do not want to deal with at the moment, but on which what I see in England and have seen in America casts a flood of light and allows one to form general ideas. The English themselves do not realize the excellence of their system. There is a mania for centralization which has got hold of the democratic party. Why? Passions analogous to those of France in ’89 and from much the same motives. Ridiculousness of medieval institutions. Hate for the aristocracy which has superstitiously preserved them, and uses them to its profit. Spirit of innovation, revolutionary tendency to see abuses only of the present state; general tendency of democracies.
Lucky difficulties which obstruct centralization in England; laws, habits, manners, English spirit rebellious against general or uniform ideas, but fond of peculiarities. Stay-at-home tastes introduced into political life....
Principles of the English4 in questions of public administration.... Division of the local administrative authorities. No hierarchy among them. Continual intervention of the judicial power to make them obey....
Why the English government is strong although the localities are independent. Special and often hierarchic administration for matters of importance to the whole Empire....
Application of these ideas to France. That the future of political liberty depends on the solution of the problem.... We are working towards the independence of the provinces, or to their complete subordination and the destruction of municipal life....
Practical discussion on this subject. Gradual introduction of the English and American principle which, in truth, is only the general principle of free peoples. Precautions that must be taken to preserve a strong central power. Perhaps that is the only way by which it can continue to be.5
Tocqueville touched briefly in these paragraphs on a theme that would become a separate chapter in his work: the fortuitous causes that hinder or hasten centralization in various nations.6 He also explicitly returned here to his search for first principles of public administration. Throughout the passage—sometimes directly, sometimes only by implication—he compared the English and American systems of decentralization and contrasted the structures of both of these “free peoples” with that of France. “The future of political liberty” at home, he was vividly aware, depended greatly on what the French were willing to learn from the English-speaking nations. This type of three-cornered analysis would be frequently applied to a wide variety of issues in the 1840 Democracy and would be another major reason for the “less American” nature of his last two volumes.
Within a week, his thoughts returned to the topic at hand, and his jottings revealed that once again he was wondering where power would accumulate and was connecting the two types of centralization with particular branches of government.
There is a great deal of centralization in England; but of what sort? Legislative and not administrative; governmental rather than administrative; but as with us it sometimes extends down to very small, puerile details. The mania for regimentation, which is not a French mania, but one of men and of power, is found here as elsewhere. But it can only have a single, passing effect, and can only imperfectly achieve its object.
That is because the centralizing power is in the hands of the legislature, not of the executive.
Annoying consequences: Delays, expenses, impossibility of certain measures, impossibility of inspection.
Lucky consequences: Publicity, respect for rights, obligation to refer to local authorities for the execution of the law; natural tendency to divide administrative authority so as not to create too strong a rival power. Centralization very incomplete since it is carried out by a legislative body; principles rather than facts; general in spite of a wish to be detailed.
Greatness and strength of England, which is explained by the power of centralization in certain matters.
Prosperity, wealth, liberty of England, which is explained by its weakness in a thousand others.
Principle of centralization and principle of election of local authorities: principles in direct opposition ... the one is essential to the power and existence of the State, the second to its prosperity and liberty. England has found no other secret. The whole future of free institutions in France depends on the application of these same ideas to the genius of our laws.”7
Though exceedingly compressed, these reflections of 3 July 1835 were fundamental. He repeated his conviction that the “mania for regimentation” was pervasive and returned explicitly once again to the crucial distinction between governmental and administrative centralization (which he significantly linked to the difference between legislative and executive authority). A summary of the benefits and disadvantages of decentralization then followed. And prominent among advantages were the economic ones. Finally, while maintaining that decentralization was essential for “prosperity and liberty,” Tocqueville recognized that nations like France and England needed some degree of centralization to preserve “the power and existence of the State.” A proper combination of these two principles was the basic problem. France needed to move toward some balance between effective national government and independent local authorities.
In still another passage, Tocqueville mulled over at length the possible influence of free institutions on prosperity.
I think it is above all the spirit and habits of liberty which inspire the spirit and habits of trade....
To be free one must have the capacity to plan and persevere in a difficult undertaking, and be accustomed to act on one’s own; to live in freedom one must grow used to a life full of agitation, change and danger; to keep alert the whole time with a restless eye on everything around; that is the price of freedom. All those qualities are equally needed for success in commerce....
Looking at the turn given to the human spirit in England by political life; seeing the Englishman, certain of the support of his laws, relying on himself and unaware of any obstacle except the limit of his own powers, acting without constraint; seeing him, inspired by the sense that he can do anything, look restlessly at what now is, always in search of the best, seeing him like that, I am in no hurry to inquire whether nature has scooped out ports for him, and given him coal and iron. The reason for his commercial prosperity is not there at all: it is in himself.
Do you want to test whether a people is given to industry and commerce? Do not sound its ports, or examine the wood from its forests or the produce of its soil. The spirit of trade will get all those things and, without it, they are useless. Examine whether a people’s laws give men the courage to seek prosperity, freedom to follow it up, the sense and habits to find it, and the assurance of reaping the benefit.8
The essence of this discussion would eventually be transferred directly to the pages of the 1840 Democracy.9 But we should note two striking portions. In the passage above, Tocqueville eloquently enumerated the requirements of freedom: foresight, perseverance, self-reliance, adaptability, courage, vigilance, and a touch of discontent. He also could not prevent the old question of environment from poking through once again. He asserted yet another time that the moral dimension, the “human spirit,” was a more powerful force than physical setting in shaping a society.
The voyage to England in 1835 was an important addition to what Tocqueville had seen and learned in America during 1831 and 1832. On the topic of centralization, much was simply a covering of old ground, but significant details were added by English stimulations to further thought and particularly by a new point of comparison. England served especially as confirmation of certain earlier judgments about the benefits of vigorous localities, the varieties of centralization, the dangers of administrative consolidation of power, and, above all, democracy’s “mania for centralization.”
The theme of centralization would reappear in many parts of Tocqueville’s 1840 volumes. In the second section, “The Influence of Democracy on the Sentiments of the Americans,” for example, he would argue at length that local liberties were essential to citizen participation in public affairs and that freedom of association and liberty of the press were important safeguards against administrative centralization.10
But Tocqueville’s major treatment of centralization in 1840 would come in the final segment of his work: “On the Influence of Democratic Ideas and Feelings on Political Society.” According to the author, this last part of his book, which ultimately proved so difficult to write, would be its culmination: both the most eloquent statement of his “doctrine” and the best possible presentation of his recommendations for the future of France.11 His brother Edouard received an outline of the section in July 1838, just as four months of intensive work got under way.
I will tell you first of all, to speak to you immediately of my grande affaire, that I am back at work and that for the past eight days I am finally busy again; I am resolved not to let go again until these last chapters are finished. I have already sketched the plan; here it is; you will understand me even though I say only a few words because you are abreast of all of my ideas. The idée-mère of the first of the two chapters which remain for me to do (for I have felt the necessity to do two) is on “The General Influence of the Democratic Ideas and Sentiments Which the Book Has Just Exposed on the Form of Government.” I begin by showing how, theoretically, these ideas and sentiments must facilitate the concentration12 of powers. Then I indicate what special and accidental circumstances can hasten or retard this tendency; which leads me to show that the greater part of these circumstances do not exist in America and exist in Europe. So I get to speaking about Europe and showing by facts how all European governments centralize constantly; how the power of the State always grows and that of individuals always diminishes. That leads me to define the type of democratic despotism which could arrive in Europe, and finally to examine in a general way what the tendencies of legislation must be to struggle against this tendency of the social condition. There is the next-to-last chapter, in the middle of which I find myself at this moment. I hope that, like me, you will find something of richness and grandeur there.
The last chapter which, in my plan, must be very short, will be a résumé oratoire of the diverse tendencies of equality, of the necessity of not wanting to compete with this very equality, but of making use of it. This will be something which will tie the end of the book to its introduction. All of that has loftiness; and I get excited looking at it. But the difficulty is immense, and days slip by in a way that makes me despair.13
So Tocqueville now planned two chapters: one, a long discussion of centralization and despotism; the other, a brief summation of the entire book.14 His letter also stated explicitly what his 1840 text would only imply: this final section of his work—perhaps more than any other portion—would speak primarily of Europe, rather than America. The United States, he reiterated, was singularly free from many of the special forces which in Europe tended to hasten the concentration of power and the possible decline into democratic despotism.
A short outline of the proposed major chapter was scribbled into a draft.
And a sketch of plans and ideas for the proposed résumé oratoire again highlighted his (relative) abandonment of America and revealed the elevated tone which he hoped to achieve as he concluded his work.
“Ideas to see again.... Last chapter. General survey of the subject. General estimate of the effects of equality. I can only tackle this summary in an open and noble manner, otherwise it would seem out of place and incomplete. I must appear [as] wanting to compress into a narrow frame the whole picture that I have just painted, [as] brushing aside details by closing my eyes to them, [as] no longer being interested in America which opened the way for me.... Begin by recalling the course of the four volumes....
“Finish the book by a grand chapter which attempts to summarize the whole democratic theme and to draw out oratorically the consequences for the world and in particular for Europe and France. Maxims of conciliation, of resignation, of union with the course of Providence, of complete impartiality. A movement simple and solemn like the subject. Essential idea. I must attempt to get away from particular points of view in order to take a position, if possible, among the general points of view which depend neither on time nor place. See as much as possible through the thought of God and judge from there.”16
So Tocqueville’s professed strategy, from the “Introduction” of 1835 to the final summary of 1840, was always to remain ostensibly neutral, to avoid becoming a spokesman for any party, and to assume a posture of dignified detachment. He hoped to place himself on the side of what he perceived as providential necessity and to persuade readers of all political descriptions that they too should use their God-given freedom to shape the best possible democratic future.17
Another letter, written to Royer-Collard about a month after the one to Edouard, again underscored the importance which Tocqueville attached to this final effort and disclosed some of the problems which he was then encountering. “It is true that I am now at the most difficult and delicate place in the whole work. After having examined throughout the course of the book how the fact of equality influences the opinions and sentiments of men, which is an idea more philosophical than political, I am finally at the point of inquiring how these opinions and sentiments, thus modified, influence the working of society and of government. This chapter [the entire last section of the 1840 Democracy] which must terminate the work gives me all sorts of difficulties. One of the greatest is to be concise. I have more things to say than space. I am perpetually stuck between the fear of being too long and that of being too general because of wanting to limit myself. That is the form. The substance gives me plenty of other concerns: I sense that I am treating there the most important idea of our time; its grandeur raises me up, but my own inadequacy weights me down. I catch sight of all that could be said concerning such a subject, and I know that it is not I who will say it.”18
These remarks to Royer-Collard revealed yet another facet of Tocqueville’s own conception of his book. This last segment was meant, in part, to bring both author and reader back to the problems of political reality. While, on the one hand, this section was designed to be lofty and impartial, it was, on the other, equally intended to counteract the unrelentingly philosophical level of the previous parts of the 1840 volumes. Tocqueville wanted finally to put his feet firmly on the ground and to recommend some specific proposals for the reform of French government and society. The letter also exposed an acute anxiety that he might not measure up to his vision of the task at hand. As time passed, as his ideas expanded, and as his hopes for the second half of his book grew, Tocqueville’s doubts about his own capacities also multiplied.
As he worked there were some false starts. Tocqueville’s penchant for making distinctions, for example, led him to declare in a fragment found in the “Rubish” entitled “That Centralization Is the Greatest Peril Facing the Democratic Nations of Europe”: “And I, I say to you: the world is turning toward tyranny. Two tendencies to distinguish: 1. one which tends to concentrate all powers in the state. 2. the other which tends to concentrate the exercise of all powers in the executive.”19 He was presumably attempting here a fuller analysis of administrative centralization. But the distinction between “state” and “executive” concentrations of power apparently struck him as unsatisfactory, for he never elaborated more fully.
The comment remained an important mark of distance traveled, however, for it contrasted sharply with a statement written nearly five years before. “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.”20 Although while writing the 1835 Democracy he had at times been especially concerned about popular and legislative concentrations of power, he now worried not about legislative (or even primarily about executive) power, but about the increasing accumulation of authority in the hands of the State (and its bureaucracy).21 A noteworthy feature of the 1840 volumes would be the near disappearance of any expressed concern about legislative usurpation. The identity of the dreaded center of power had changed drastically.
In the last part of his work Tocqueville would also attempt to identify several significant “particular causes” which hastened centralization in democratic times. One of these would be industrialization.22 In both America and England Tocqueville had witnessed the beneficial effects of decentralization on the economic life of nations, and in 1840 he would discuss this connection briefly.23 But in 1837 and 1838, other relationships began to capture his attention. In a passage from one draft, for example, he tentatively explored the complex connection between industry and démocratie. Note the changes in emphasis from his earlier discussion, written in England, of the links between liberty and trade.
I demonstrated in this chapter how democracy was useful to the development of industry. I would have been able to show as well how industry, in turn, hastened the development of democracy. For these two things work together and react upon one another. Democracy gives birth to the taste for material pleasures which push men toward industry and industry creates a multitude of mediocre fortunes and forms in the very heart of aristocratic nations a class apart where ranks are poorly defined and poorly preserved, where people constantly rise and fall, where they do not enjoy leisure, and where instincts are all democratic. (This class long forms in the heart of aristocratic nations a sort of small democracy which has its separate instincts, opinions, and laws.) As a people expands its commerce and its industry, this democratic class becomes more numerous and more influential; little by little its opinions pass into the moeurs and its ideas into the laws, until finally having become preponderant and, so to speak, unique, it takes hold of power, directs everything as it likes, and establishes democracy.24
In the margin of this paragraph he wondered: “I do not know if I should include this fragment or where I should put it.” Ultimately he decided to delete it.
Events in France during 1837 and 1838 also helped to suggest to Tocqueville that industrial development, stimulated by democracy, in turn greatly encouraged not only democracy, but also the rise of the centralized bureaucracy. During these years Frenchmen debated government proposals concerning the regulation of mines and the construction of a railroad system. The drafts of the Democracy contained repeated mention of these issues and indicated that the general direction of developments troubled Tocqueville. “M. Thiers told me today (27 May 1837) concerning the commission for the railroad from Lyon to Marseilles that he had finished by persuading all the members of this commission that great public works must always be done in France at the expense of the State and by its agents. Do not forget that when I speak of the ultra-centralizing tendency in our time.”25
The following year Tocqueville stated in another fragment that the discussions concerning mines had suggested several ideas to him, especially that the State would inevitably become the great industrial proprietor, in control of all important enterprises, and so would also eventually become the master and director of the entire society.26
On 6 April 1838, he observed to Royer-Collard, again with current government proposals in mind: “In the present century, to deliver to the government the direction of industry is to surrender to it the very heart of the next generations.... It is one more great link added to the long chain that already envelops and presses the existence of the individual on all sides.”27
In the “Rubish” of the chapter concerning centralization as the greatest peril, Tocqueville put his apprehensions even more strongly. “Equality is the great fact of our time. Industrial development [is] the second. Both augment the power of the government or rather the two are only one.”28
And in his working manuscript, at the end of his discussion of the influence of industry on centralization, he wrote: “Perhaps readers will find that I have dwelt too much on this last part. Its importance will be my excuse: the progress of equality and the development of industry are the two great facts of our time. I wanted to show how the one and the other contribute to enlarge the sphere of the central power and each day to restrict individual independence within narrower limits.”29
So in his drafts and working manuscript Tocqueville for a time boldly ranked the industrial revolution with the advance of démocratie (in these places defined as equality) as the two great social developments of modern Western culture. But his 1840 text would back away from that assertion and declare instead: “In the modern nations of Europe there is one great [particular] cause, apart from those already indicated, which constantly aids the growth of government activity and extends its prerogatives, and it is one which has not attracted sufficient attention. I refer to the development of industry, which is favored by the progress of equality.... Governments ... appropriate to themselves and put to their own use the greater part of the new force which industry has created in the world of our time. Industry leads us along, and they lead industry.”30
Tocqueville’s penultimate chapter would also attempt to present his political program for maximizing the benefits of démocratie and minimizing its dangers,31 but not without causing some misgivings about his presumption. The proposed title of this important chapter was simply “Continuation of the Preceding Chapters,” and Tocqueville admitted on the title page in his working manuscript: “This title means nothing at all, but all those that I want to put in its place imply too much. The only [illegible word] title would be: ‘What must be done to avoid the evils that are indicated in the preceding chapters.’ But such a title would announce much more than the chapter can bear.... In such cases, it is better to be meaningless than ambitious.”32 Always modest and still afraid that his elephantine labors might produce only a mouse, he hesitated to affirm that he had the needed answers. He consoled himself by observing elsewhere: “Remedies to the perils which I have just indicated. That it is necessary to direct all efforts against centralization. Even if I could not point out remedies, it would be something just to indicate the perils.”33 But one of Tocqueville’s major purposes for writing was to relate his reflections and warnings to the future of France. So obviously he could not now refrain from offering some recommendations to his readers.
Decentralize. Develop this idea practically, demonstrate clearly that I do not want to decentralize beyond a certain limit.... that I understand that one proceeds in that direction slowly, prudently, but sincerely and firmly. I know of a strong, speedy, agile government in a decentralized country and I understand that it will show these characteristics even more as its wheels become more free of the minute details of administrative centralization.
Give common interests to men, join them in common affairs, facilitate their association, give a practical and simple character to this development, constantly draw them closer together, elevate their spirits and their hearts as much as possible. Govern them honestly and prudently. I can imagine making ourselves guardians to the communes if we want to emancipate them. That the government, if it wishes, may treat the local powers like children, I allow; but not like fools. Only fools are kept under supervision throughout their lives.34
A sketch on an extra sheet enclosed in the working manuscript put his argument more succinctly:
Begin by a sentence indicating that what is going to follow will be a sort of summary; the moral of what precedes.
Danger of democratic peoples without liberty.
Necessity for liberty greater for these peoples than for all others. Those who desire liberty in democratic times must not be enemies of equality but only seek to make the most of it.
One must resign oneself to having a more centralized government in these times than in others.
Means of preventing excessive centralization. Secondary bodies. Aristocratic persons.
If these means should prove worthless, let us find others, but let us find them in order to save human dignity. Seek such means; direct attention to this aspect. The most general idea of the whole book.35
These summaries and outlines reasserted several familiar themes. In 1840 as in 1833, Tocqueville recognized the folly of too radical a reform of the French administrative machine. Nothing that would weaken France in the face of unified and potentially hostile neighbors gained his support. Instead he aimed for limited changes, prudently and gradually achieved. What he proposed specifically was the distribution of more independence and wider responsibilities to the localities and the introduction of greater ease and freedom of association for individuals. Above all he sought to check the tendency toward administrative centralization. If his recommendations smacked of paternalism, of the privileged aristocrat helping out his inferiors, and seemed overly moderate and resigned, Tocqueville was nonetheless still intent on his one fundamental purpose: the preservation of human freedom and dignity.
Tocqueville realized early that the United States benefited from two major levels of political decentralization, the local liberties so lauded by Sparks and others and the unique American system of federalism. But he also recognized from a very early date in his journey that only the first of these types of decentralization could be safely imitated in France. Federalism too closely reflected the American situation physique to be a viable remedy for democratic flaws at home. So although one of the unchanging messages of his entire book was a call for administrative decentralization, what he preached more specifically was the need for more vigorous local government.
From another point of view, however, Tocqueville’s recommendation for decentralization went far beyond support for active municipal government. “Give common interests to men, join them in common affairs, facilitate their association,... constantly draw them closer.”36 In the broadest sense what he urged when he praised decentralization was a pluralistic society. Local liberties were to be supplemented by groups of all sorts. “An association, be it political, industrial, commercial, or even literary or scientific, is an educated and powerful body of citizens which cannot be twisted to any man’s will or quietly trodden down, and by defending its private interests against the encroachments of power, it saves the common liberties.”37
Tocqueville supported any institutions that might become centers for bringing together otherwise isolated individuals and encouraging them to participate in public life. He desired the re-creation of whatever corps secondaires and personnes aristocratiques might serve as “artificial” substitutes for the “natural” groupings that had once served as buffers between the solitary person and the whole nation. To decentralize, in these terms, meant to disperse power in the society. And Tocqueville was quick to offer more ways to achieve this scattering of authority than merely the empowerment of the localities.
As illustrated by the maturation of his ideas on centralization, much more went into the making of the Democracy than the American experiences of 1831 to 1832. French interests, needs, and possibilities helped significantly to shape Tocqueville’s attitudes. Long before the journey to the New World, debate over the governmental proposals of 1828 had already alerted him to the value of local initiative.38 And the observations of his father and others knowledgeable about the administrative situation at home also greatly influenced his evaluation of the prospects for reform and especially his rejection of any plans for extreme decentralization. It was also primarily because of developments in France that he gradually came to recognize that democracy had helped to spawn another fundamental force in the modern world, industrialization, and that the rise of industry, in turn, encouraged some of the harmful effects of democracy. Indeed his insight that democracy (defined as equality) and industrialization were the two major forces at work in the world is another intriguing example of an idea which grew long enough to work its way into Tocqueville’s drafts and even his working manuscript, but then (because it would have blurred the focus of his book?) was uprooted and discarded.
The two voyages to England also contributed to the enrichment of his thought by providing important examples and new points of comparison. England in 1833 apparently helped to lead him to the notion of the two centralizations, and in 1835 it almost certainly sharpened his awareness of industry. Across the channel he also found reinforcement for his key idea that democracy bred centralization.
Very early, Tocqueville focused on the twin issues of the advantages of decentralization and the severe disadvantages of administrative centralization, and throughout both parts of his book he continued to explore these two themes. Most important, during the entire period of the writing of the Democracy—with only one or two brief hesitations—Tocqueville never swerved from his conviction that one of the greatest dangers of démocratie was the trend toward the concentration of power.
[1. ]For further discussion of this visit, consult Drescher, Tocqueville and England, and Mayer, Journeys to England, especially Mayer’s “Introduction,” pp. 13–19.
[2. ]The reader will recall that at this time Tocqueville planned only one additional volume for the second half of his work. Conversation with Reeve, 11 May 1835, Mayer, Journeys to England, pp. 77–78.
[3. ]“Same subject [centralization]. Conversation with John Stuart Mill,” 26 May 1835, ibid., pp. 81–82. Concerning the question of the relationship between democracy and centralization, consult Mill’s reviews of the 1835 and 1840 portions of Tocqueville’s book which appeared in the London Review, October 1835, and the Edinburgh Review, October 1840, respectively. For a stimulating essay comparing and contrasting many of the ideas of Tocqueville and Mill, see Joseph Hamburger, “Mill and Tocqueville on Liberty.”
[4. ]Cf. Tocqueville’s own note here: “I must re-examine the Americans in the light of this question. Analogous principle perhaps more simple and more rational.”
[5. ]“Ideas concerning centralization ...,” “Deduction of Ideas,” Birmingham, 29 June 1835, Mayer, Journeys to England, pp. 95–98.
[6. ]See Democracy (Mayer), pp. 674–79.
[7. ]“Centralization,” Manchester, 3 July 1835, Mayer, Journeys to England, pp. 109–10.
[8. ]“Liberty. Trade.” Dublin, 7 July 1835, Mayer, Journeys to England, pp. 115–16; also see pp. 114–15.
[9. ]Democracy (Mayer), p. 539.
[10. ]See especially, Democracy (Mayer), “How the Americans Combat the Effects of Individualism by Free Institutions,” pp. 509–13; “On the Use Which the Americans Make of Associations in Civil Life,” pp. 513–17; and “On the Connection between Associations and Newspapers,” pp. 517–20.
[11. ]For this section, see Democracy (Mayer), pp. 665–705.
[12. ]Beaumont’s edition has the obviously incorrect reading “construction.”
[13. ]Tocqueville to Baron Edouard de Tocqueville, “Tocqueville, 10 July 1838,” O.C. (Bt.), 7:166–68.
[14. ]The long chapter was to have been most of the final portion of the book, Democracy (Mayer), pp. 665–705; for the summary, see “General Survey of the Subject,” pp. 702–5.
[15. ]Drafts, Yale, CVk, Paquet 7, cahier 1, pp. 73–74.
[16. ]Drafts, Yale, CVk, Paquet 7, cahier 2, pp. 50–52.
[17. ]Cf. the eloquent, final passage of the 1840 text, Democracy (Mayer), p. 705.
[18. ]My translation; Tocqueville to Royer-Collard, “Tocqueville, 15 August 1838,” O.C. (Mayer), Jardin, 11:67. Also see De Lanzac de Laborie, “L’Amitié de Tocqueville et de Royer-Collard: D’après une correspondance inédite,” pp. 885–86.
[19. ]Original Working Ms., Yale, CVIa, tome 4. Cf. Drafts, Yale, CVg, Paquet 9, cahier 2, pp. 68–69.
[20. ]Democracy (Mayer), p. 155. Cf. chapter 10 above.
[21. ]The last section of Tocqueville’s 1840 volumes would be replete with references to the “public administration” and the “State.” For examples, see Democracy (Mayer), pp. 675–76, 682, 688, 693, and 694, and pp. 671, 673, 677, 680, 682, 683, 684, 686, and 696, respectively.
[22. ]Consult Democracy (Mayer), pp. 674–89; on industrialization, see especially pp. 684–87.
[23. ]Ibid., p. 539. Cf. pp. 514–15.
[24. ]Drafts, Yale, CVj, Paquet 2, cahier 2, pp. 16–17.
[25. ]Drafts, Yale, CVd, Paquet 5, p. 30; also see p. 15.
[26. ]Drafts, Yale, CVg, Paquet 9, cahier 2, p. 124; for further discussion of ideas suggested by the mining issue, consult pp. 122–25. Also see Democracy (Mayer), p. 685, footnote 5.
[27. ]Tocqueville to Royer-Collard, “Baugy, this 6 April 1838,” O.C. (Mayer), Jardin, 11:60.
[28. ]“Rubish of the chapter: that centralization is the greatest peril of the democratic nations of Europe,” Original Working Ms., Yale, CVIa, tome 4; cf. Drafts, CVg, Paquet 9, cahier 2, p. 145. In the 1840 volumes this chapter would be titled: “How the Sovereign Power Is Increasing among the European Nations of Our Time, Although the Sovereigns Are Less Stable,” Democracy (Mayer), pp. 679–89.
[29. ]“How the Sovereign Power Is Increasing Among the European Nations,” Original Working Ms., Yale, CVIa, tome 4. Cf. Democracy (Mayer), p. 687.
[30. ]Democracy (Mayer), pp. 684, 687.
[31. ]“Continuation of the Preceding Chapters,” ibid., pp. 695–702.
[32. ]Original Working Ms., Yale, CVIa, tome 4.
[33. ]Drafts, Yale, CVk, Paquet 7, cahier 2, pp. 42–43.
[34. ]Drafts, Yale, CVg, Paquet 9, cahier 2, p. 139.
[35. ]“Continuation of the Preceding Chapters,” Original Working Ms., Yale, CVIa, tome 4. Cf. Democracy (Mayer), pp. 695–96.
[36. ]Drafts, Yale, CVg, Paquet 9, cahier 2, p. 139.
[37. ]Democracy (Mayer), p. 697. Also see the 1835 portion, ibid., p. 192.
[38. ]In 1828 Martignac proposed some limited reorganization of administration on the local level (certain local officials were to be elected rather than appointed). After prolonged debate the proposals, which would have slightly lessened French administrative centralization, were defeated in 1829. For further details consult Ponteil, Monarchie parlementaire; Ponteil, Institutions; and J.-J. Chevallier, Histoire des institutions des régimes politiques de la France moderne, 1789–1958.