Front Page Titles (by Subject) PART V: Democracy, the Individual, and the Masses - The Making of Tocqueville's Democracy in America
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PART V: Democracy, the Individual, and the Masses - 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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Democracy, the Individual, and the Masses
The Tyranny of the Majority
As his ongoing analysis of centralization and despotism demonstrates, Tocqueville focused, at times, largely on the saving of political liberty in democratic times. Later his emphasis shifted somewhat, and he concentrated instead on intellectual liberty. These two freedoms are not unrelated; both are connected to what was always central to Tocqueville’s understanding of liberty: the dignity and responsibility of the individual. But freedom for the development and expression of new and/or uncommon ideas was increasingly important to Tocqueville. He sought more and more, in the face of democracy’s advance, to preserve the individual who dared to think differently. He wanted neither sheep for the bureaucratic shepherd nor identical pieces of a democratic mass.
Between 1831 and 1840 Tocqueville considered at least four major democratic despotisms. One, legislative omnipotence, had a prominent place in 1835, but declined rapidly in importance after that. Another, tyranny d’un seul, also had a key part in 1835, enjoyed a second flurry of interest in 1836 and 1837 in the guise of the military dictator, and then went, as well, into eclipse. A third, administrative despotism, made a brief, relatively unheralded appearance in 1835; this modest beginning was followed by a steady increase in importance until, by 1840, Tocqueville’s image of the oppressive bureaucratic state dominated the last section of the Democracy. The fourth variety played a major role in 1835 and then, in more subtle form, entered almost as significantly into the 1840 volumes. This final vision remains perhaps the best known of Tocqueville’s concepts of democratic despotism: the tyranny of the majority.
Among the first entries in Tocqueville’s American diaries was a conversation with Albert Gallatin. While discussing the legal profession Gallatin made several points about the political roles of American judges and the influence of public opinion. “The judges ... are held in very high esteem. Being entirely dependent on public opinion, they need to make continual efforts to keep this esteem.... I look on the judges ... as the regulators of the irregular movements of our democracy, and as those who maintain the equilibrium of the system.”1
After talking of reasons for bicameralism, John Canfield Spencer of Canandaigua, New York, also focused on the connection between public opinion and American judges, but his comments were somewhat more critical. “They are a little too fond of flattering the people, and ... they will not fight courageously against a view that they believe is shared by the masses. We have seen some examples of that in cases with a political side to them.”2
In September, Jared Sparks put the whole matter into a broader context. “The political dogma of the country is that the majority is always right. By and large we are very well satisfied to have adopted it, but one can not deny that experience often gives the lie to the principle. (He quoted several examples of this.) Sometimes the majority has wished to oppress the minority.”3 This was the first mention of an idea that would become one of the fundamental themes of the Democracy.
The next day, in response to these remarks, Tocqueville fixed a new intellectual guidepost in one of his pocket notebooks. One of “two great social principles which seem to me to rule American society and to which one must always return to find the reason for all the laws and habits which govern it” was that “the majority may be mistaken on some points, but finally it is always right and there is no moral power above it.... A completely democratic government,” he continued, recalling Gallatin, Spencer, Sparks, and others, “is so dangerous an instrument that, even in America, men have been obliged to take a host of precautions against the errors and passions of Democracy. The establishment of two chambers, the governor’s veto, and above all the establishment of the judges.”4
Soon, as though to test Sparks’s observation, Tocqueville began to record specific instances of the dangers of democracy and of the majority’s occasional desire “to oppress the minority.”
“The people is always right,” that is the dogma of the republic just as, “the king can do no wrong,” is the religion of monarchic states. It is a great question to decide whether the one is more false than the other: but what is very sure is that neither the one nor the other is true.
Mr. Washington Smith told me yesterday that almost all the crimes in America were due to the abuse of alcoholic drinks. “But,” said I, “why do you not put a duty on brandy?”
“Our legislators have often thought about it,” he answered. “But are afraid of a revolt, and besides the members who voted a law like that would be very sure of not being re-elected, the drinkers being in a majority and temperance unpopular.”
Yesterday also another Mr. Smith, a very respected Quaker, told me: “The Negroes have the right to vote at elections, but they cannot go to the Poll without being ill treated.”
“And why,” said I, “is the law not carried out on their behalf?”
He answered me: “The laws have no force with us when public opinion does not support them. Now the people is imbued with very strong prejudices against the Negroes, and the magistrates feel that they have not the strength to enforce laws which are favorable to the latter.”5
The Pennsylvanians’ examples demonstrated that the majority could oppress not only by pressuring judges or other officials or by legislating unjust measures, but also by refusing either to enact or to enforce laws which countered popular prejudices. Particularly when racial minorities were involved, sovereignty of the people or majority rule sometimes led directly to great injustice.
In 1835 Tocqueville would combine this information with two other examples and conclude: “The people, surrounded by flatterers, find it hard to master themselves. Whenever anyone tries to persuade them to accept a privation or a discomfort, even for an aim that their reason approves, they always begin by refusing. The Americans rightly boast of their obedience to the laws. But one must add that in America legislation is made by the people and for the people. Therefore law in the United States patently favors those who everywhere else have the greatest interest in violating it. It is therefore fair to suppose that an irksome law of which the majority did not see the immediate utility either would not be passed or would not be obeyed.”6
On 1 November 1831, Tocqueville spoke with Mr. Stewart, “a distinguished Baltimore doctor,” and heard that public opinion had even more subtle influences. The physician described the immense power of religion in America and the pressures on men like himself to be known as “believers.”
“Does not such a state of affairs,” Tocqueville interjected, “make for many hypocrites?”
“Yes, but especially it keeps them from speaking. Public opinion does with us what the Inquisition could never do.... I have known a lot of young people who ... thought they had discovered that the Christian religion was not true; carried away by the ardor of youth they have started loudly proclaiming this opinion.... What then! Some have been forced to leave the country or to vegetate miserably there. Others, feeling the struggle unequal, have been constrained to an external religious conformity, or have at least kept quiet. The number who have thus been suppressed by public opinion is very considerable. Anti-Christian books are never published here, or at least that is very rare.”7
Tocqueville realized that what Mr. Stewart described was a different sort of democratic despotism: an almost irresistible pressure on individuals to conform to the ideas of the many. By 1835 this awesome power of public opinion would become the most disturbing and original feature of his portrait of the tyranny of the majority.
Still another episode related to Tocqueville in Baltimore demonstrated how the majority sometimes enforced conformity by violent actions which were, in turn, sanctioned or even encouraged by other popular institutions, such as the militia and jury.
“Mr. Cruse, a very talented man and editor of one of the principal newspapers in Baltimore, told me today: With us there is no power external to the people; whatever it wants, one must submit. The militia itself is the people, and is of no avail when it shares or excuses the passions of the majority. We saw a terrible instance of this twenty years ago. It was the time of the war against England, a war which was very popular in the South. A journalist ventured violently to attack war feeling. The people assembled, broke his presses, and attacked the houses where he and his friends (belonging to the first families of the town) had shut themselves up. An attempt was made to call out the militia; they refused to march against the rioters, and did not answer the call. The municipal authorities could only save the journalist and his friends by sending them to prison. The people did not feel itself satisfied. That night it assembled and marched against the prison. Again one tried to assemble the militia, but without being able to do so. The prison was taken by storm; one of the prisoners was killed on the spot and the rest left for dead; one wanted to make prosecutions, but the juries acquitted the offenders.”8
This story was a particularly troubling example of the power of the people. How apt some earlier jottings on the jury now seemed. “The jury is the most powerful and the most direct application of the sovereignty of the people. Because the jury is nothing but the people made judge of what is allowed and of what it is forbidden to do against society.”9
Leading citizens of Ohio repeatedly told Tocqueville in December about alarming democratic excesses in their state. There democracy seemed at flood level, and still rising. “At the moment we are making the experiment of a democracy without limits.”10 The result was mediocre leadership, impulsive legislation, poor administration, and, most alarming, growing judicial dependency.11
When Tocqueville asked if it were not dangerous to entrust to the legislature the powers to appoint and to limit the tenure of judges, Salmon P. Chase agreed that it was. “The judges in America are there to hold the balance between all parties, and their function is particularly to oppose the impetuosity and mistakes of democracy. [How closely he echoed Gallatin.] Sprung from it, depending on it for the future, they cannot have that independence.”12
A first reading of James Kent’s Commentaries at the end of the month underscored these concerns. The Chancellor particularly stressed the desirability of judicial independence. “It is ... salutary in protecting the constitution and laws from the encroachments and tyranny of factions.”13
The legislators, he implied, also needed a certain insulation from the immediate desires of the people. It especially disturbed Tocqueville to learn from Kent that “in several constitutions in the United States, the right of the electors to force their representatives to vote in a certain way has been recognized. The principle is contested by the best minds. If it was generally adopted, it would deal a deadly blow at the representative system, that great discovery of modern times, which seems destined to exercise so great an influence over the fate of humanity. It would then be the people itself that acted, the deputies becoming its mere passive agents.”14 So, in some states, the mandate was a significant additional means to enforce the will of the majority.
Not long afterward, another American reviewed some basic flaws in the government of Alabama and “all the new States in the South-West.” “The erroneous opinion,” he summarized, “is spreading daily more and more among us ... that the people can do everything and is capable of ruling almost directly.”15
Tocqueville’s journey in the New World had enabled him to compile a formidable list of ways in which the many in America wielded their extraordinary and apparently growing power. The majority exercised more and more direct control over legislatures, which in turn increasingly dominated the executive and judicial branches. It spoke through juries and acted (or failed to act) through the militia. Sometimes it even coerced minorities by violence or threats of violence.16 Perhaps most noteworthy was the overwhelming authority which public opinion in America had not only over judges, legislators, and other public officials, but also over minorities and private nonconforming individuals. It was this subtle but irresistible moral pressure which the majority could bring to bear, rather than any political, legal, or even physical coercion, which most troubled the visiting Frenchmen.
By the time Tocqueville finally gathered his materials in Paris and began to write, he had apparently already decided that an analysis of this worrisome trend toward popular omnipotence would be a significant part of his book. In his compilation of sources he used as one organizing theme: “Sovereignty of the people. Tyranny of the majority. Democracy, irresistible march of Democracy.—... Tyrannical power over speech. Power without counterweight.—Generating principles of American constitutions.”17 Here apparently was Tocqueville’s first written use of the phrase which would become so familiar, tyranny of the majority.
As the task of composition proceeded, Tocqueville also continued to develop a catalogue of possible checks on the power of the majority in the United States; “On What Tends to Moderate the Omnipotence of the Majority in America”: “In America there are a thousand natural causes which, so to speak, by themselves work together to moderate the omnipotence of the majority. The absence of ranks,18 the extreme harmony of interests which reigns among all in the United States, the material prosperity of the country, the diffusion of enlightenment (lumières), and the mildness of moeurs, which is the result of the progress of civilization, greatly favor the mildness of the government. I have already indicated the different causes; the time has come to examine what barriers the institutions themselves have taken care to raise against the power from which they come.”19
During the journey, Tocqueville had received a strongly negative impression of the authority of American state and national executives. In his drafts he now declared: “In America the executive power is nothing and can do nothing. All of the force of the government is confided to the society itself organized under the most democratic form that has ever existed. In America all danger comes from the people; it is never born outside of them.”20 After further reading and reflection he finally concluded that, as a result of this general executive debility, “The veto of the governor is not a barrier to the democracy; the governor proceeds entirely from it.”21 On this point, at least, Tocqueville had changed his mind, and Jared Sparks had been judged wrong.
The significance which Sparks, the Ohioans, Kent, Story, the writers of the Federalist, and others placed on the maintenance of judicial independence and the high opinion that they all had of the American judiciary made it unlikely that Tocqueville would ever similarly deemphasize the “establishment of the judges” as a check on the majority’s power.22 The drafts of the 1835 Democracy continued to declare that “the judicial power in the United States is a barrier raised by design against the omnipotence of the majority. We can consider it as the only powerful or real obstacle that American laws have placed before the steps of the people.”23
In a fragment, Tocqueville presented a thumbnail sketch of the independent judge who, armed with the power to declare laws unconstitutional, worked to maintain the balance of the system and to preserve liberty.
Influence Exercised by the Judicial Power on the Power of the Majority.
When political society in the United States is examined, at first glance one notices only a single principle which seems to bind all the parts strongly together: the people appear as the only power. Nothing seems able to oppose their will nor to thwart their plans.
But there is a man who presents himself as, in some sense, above the people; he does not hold his mandate from them; he has nothing to fear, so to speak, from their anger, nor anything to hope from their favor. However, he is clothed with more power than any of the representatives of the people; for by a single blow, he can strike with sterility the work which issued from the common will.24
But would judges in America remain truly independent? From Alexander Hamilton, Tocqueville learned that the judicial branch was by its very nature feeble. “Importance of the judicial power as barrier to Democracy; its weakness. See Federalist, p. 332.”25
In Paper Number 78, Hamilton argued: “The judiciary is beyond comparison the weakest of the three departments of power.... from the natural feebleness of the judiciary, it is in continual jeopardy of being overpowered, awed, or influenced by its co-ordinate branches; ... as nothing can contribute so much to its firmness and independence as permanency in office, this quality may therefore be justly regarded as an indispensable ingredient in its constitution, and, in a great measure, as the citadel of the public justice and the public security.”26
Yet the Frenchman knew from conversations and other readings that judicial independence was at that very time under attack in America. Justice Story’s book, for example, warned him once again of the growing trend to submit judges to popular election.27 Pushed on the one hand to argue how necessary and potent a barrier the judiciary was to popular passions, and on the other to recognize the inherent weakness of the courts and the growing tendency toward judicial dependence, Tocqueville was caught between contrary lessons. He finally resolved the dilemma by concluding in a draft: “So the high prerogatives granted to American magistrates never place them out of the reach of the majority, and their independence is not such that a single dominating power always exists at the heart of the society to which all must definitively submit. The judicial power retards the people, it can not stop them.”28
In the New World Tocqueville had also heard repeatedly that the states were the primary arena for popular excesses. Works by Kent and Story, read or reread in Paris, now repeated this message. He also discovered in the Federalist Papers that Madison, on more than one occasion, severely criticized the states for serious flaws in their governments. According to Madison, the proposed Constitution would be a superior frame of government precisely because it guarded against many of the weaknesses inherent in most of the state constitutions: submissive executives, dependent judges, and unchecked legislatures.29
When Tocqueville came to consider the threat of tyranny of the majority, he argued in a draft: “So in the democratic republics [of America] the majority forms a genuine power.... Yet this power of the majority can be moderated in its exercise by the efforts of the law-maker. The authors of the federal Constitution worked in this sense. They sought to hobble the march of the majority. In the individual states, on the contrary, men strove to render it more rapid and more irresistible.”30
He wrote even more strongly elsewhere: “The Union can not present a tyrannical majority. Each state would be able to do so.... Two causes: 1. The division of sovereignty [federalism]; 2. The splitting up of administration [administrative decentralization].” So like other democratic despotisms, tyranny of the majority might be checked, in part, by decentralization. “Since the national majority is thus thwarted in its designs by the majority of the inhabitants of a city or locality, the tyranny which can be very great at several points cannot become general.... And since these two majorities may find themselves opposed in their designs, liberty always finds some sanctuary and the despotism which can be exerted irresistibly at several points of the territory, cannot however become general.”31
The words of the 1835 Democracy would not be so absolute, but Tocqueville would remark that “however far the national majority may be carried away by its passions in its ardor for its projects, it cannot make all the citizens everywhere bow to its will in the same way and at the same time.”32
He would also mention in a footnote: “There is no need to remind the reader that here, and throughout this chapter [“The Omnipotence of the Majority in the United States and Its Effects”], I am speaking not of the federal government but of the governments of each state, where a despotic majority is in control.”33
On the basis of observations and readings Tocqueville was therefore at times inclined to accept the efficacy of American federalism and administrative decentralization as barriers to the tyranny of the majority on the national level.34 Apparently the people could not abuse the power of the central government as easily as they sometimes did that of the states. (Decentralization even tended to blunt the possibility of majoritarian despotism on the state level.) So at times, for Tocqueville, the tyranny of the majority—at least in its more concrete political and legal manifestations—was largely a danger within the states.
But by 1835 Tocqueville would make an important distinction which significantly qualified this positive evaluation of decentralization and the federal Constitution as barriers to popular oppression. There were dangers beyond those which threatened in the states. In America the majority actually wielded two different powers: legal and political control (“une immense puissance de fait”) and authority over opinion and thought (“une puissance d’opinion presque aussi grande”).35
The first was exercised largely through the branches of government (particularly through the legislature, the special instrument of majority), the jury system, the force publique (militia and police), and other institutions. It was this power which state constitutions had artificially enhanced and which could so easily degenerate into tyranny.
The second and more original portion of Tocqueville’s vision of majoritarian despotism resulted from the more subtle influences suggested by the narrative of Mr. Stewart. In 1835 he would observe:
It is when one comes to look into the use made of thought in America that one most clearly sees how far the power of the majority goes beyond all powers known to us in Europe.
Thought is an invisible power and one almost impossible to lay hands on, which makes sport of all tyrannies. In our day the most absolute sovereigns in Europe cannot prevent certain thoughts hostile to their power from silently circulating in their states and even in their own courts. It is not like that in America; while the majority is in doubt, one talks; but when it has irrevocably pronounced, everyone is silent, and friends and enemies alike seem to make for its bandwagon....
I know no country in which, generally speaking, there is less independence of mind and true freedom of discussion than in America.36 ...
In America the majority has enclosed thought within a formidable fence. A writer is free inside that area, but woe to the man who goes beyond it. Not that he stands in fear of an auto-da-fé, but he must face all kinds of unpleasantness and everyday persecution....
Formerly tyranny used the clumsy weapons of chains and hangmen; nowadays even despotism, though it seemed to have nothing more to learn, has been perfected by civilization.
Princes made violence a physical thing, but our contemporary democratic republics have turned it into something as intellectual as the human will it is intended to constrain....
Absolute monarchies brought despotism into dishonor; we must beware lest democratic republics rehabilitate it, and while they make it more oppressive toward some, they do not rid it of its detestable and degrading character in the eyes of the greatest number.37
In his drafts, Tocqueville attempted to explain his conclusions. “That tyranny in America acts directly on the soul and does not torment the body results from two causes: 1. that it [tyranny] is exercised by a majority and not by a man. A man, never being able to obtain the voluntary support of the mass, can not inflict on his enemy this moral punishment which arises from isolation and public contempt. He is obliged to act directly in order to get at him. 2. that, in effect, moeurs have become milder and people have perfected and intellectualized despotism.”38
In some unpublished paragraphs from the working manuscript of his chapter on the press in America, Tocqueville also pointedly declared that, on certain issues, the power of the majority over thought had effectively destroyed freedom of the press and imposed a unique and highly effective type of censorship.
“When liberty of the press, as often happens, combines with the sovereignty of the people, one sometimes sees the majority pronounce clearly in favor of one opinion; then the opposing opinion no longer finds a means of being heard.... Certain thoughts seem to disappear all of a sudden from the memory of men. Liberty of the press then exists in name, but in fact censorship reigns and a censorship a thousand times more powerful than that exercised by any power. Note: I do not know a country where on certain questions liberty of the press exists less than in America. There are few despotic countries where the censor does not lean more on the form than on the content of thought. But in America, there are subjects that cannot be touched upon in any way whatsoever.”39
The majority’s almost unlimited power over ideas and opinions thus opened the door to a frightening tyranny of a new and deceptively mild sort. Despite Tocqueville’s repeated assurances that majoritarian despotism was primarily something to fear in the states, the implications of his discussion of this other power of the majority made intellectual tyranny a national and present danger. “There is no freedom of the mind (liberté d’esprit) in America.”40
Nearly a half-century later, in The American Commonwealth (1888), James Bryce criticized Tocqueville’s “tyranny of the majority” on the grounds that the Frenchman’s theory exaggerated the dangers of active oppression of a minority by the majority and slighted the real threat: a pressure so subtle that it would paralyze the will of most dissenters and, almost without their being aware, convert them to the majority’s opinion. The very desire to be different would be undermined and what Bryce called the “fatalism of the multitude” would result.41
But Bryce, it seems, missed the richness of Tocqueville’s concept. Tocqueville did indeed worry about specific acts of oppression which a majority might commit against minorities or dissenting individuals. He also recognized, however, the quiet pressure, the benign but inescapable influence, of the moral authority of the many. In 1835 and increasingly afterward, this passive and deceptively mild side of the tyranny of the majority, this weakening of the individual’s will to stand apart from the crowd, this extremely subtle restriction on the freedom of thought and opinion were what disturbed Tocqueville most.
Tocqueville believed that in addition to barriers erected by circumstance, national character, or governmental structure, there were also limitations of an ideal or moral nature on majoritarian power. Most of the time, the republicans of the New World seemed to recognize this.
In a draft he wrote: “What one calls the Republic in the United States is the tranquil reign of the majority. The majority, after it has had the time to get to know itself and to verify its existence, is the source of all powers. But the majority itself is not all-powerful; above it in the moral realm is humanity and reason.... The majority in its omnipotence recognizes these two barriers and if it has sometimes overturned them, [it is because,] like the men who compose it, the majority has yielded to passions and felt itself carried by them beyond its rights.”42
The 1835 Democracy would declare that the highest limitation on the rule of the majority was justice. “There is one law which has been made, or at least adopted, not by the majority of this or that people, but by the majority of all men. That law is justice.
“Justice therefore forms the boundary to each people’s right.
“A nation is like a jury entrusted to represent universal society and to apply the justice which is its law. Should the jury representing society have greater power than that very society whose laws it applies?
“Consequently, when I refuse to obey an unjust law, I by no means deny the majority’s right to give orders; I only appeal from the sovereignty of the people to the sovereignty of the human race.”43
Even if these ideals did not effectively check the pretensions of the many, they at least provided a rationale for questioning the presumed moral authority of any majority—especially an oppressive one. Humanity, reason, and justice were thus for Tocqueville significant moral safeguards for any minority or individual.
Tocqueville now summarized the major obstacles to the tyranny of the majority in America. A brief outline from his working manuscript mentioned:
Omnipotence of the majority.
Its tyrannical effects....
Its counterweight in the laws—Judicial power. Lack of administrative centralization.
In the moeurs.
And in the local circumstances.
But his 1835 text would finally narrow this list and stress instead the three major institutional barriers to the despotism of the many: administrative decentralization, the legal corps (with its esprit légiste), and the jury. Most other items on his list would be transferred to the more general discussion of what helped to maintain the democratic republic in America.45
In 1835 Tocqueville would begin his textual discussion of the power of the majority with the axiom that democratic government meant rule by the majority. “The very essence of democratic government consists in the absolute sovereignty of the majority (l’empire de la majorité).”46 In America, however, attachment to the idea of the sovereignty of the people had led to the artificial heightening of majority rule in the states; only the framers of the federal Constitution had possessed the wisdom to erect barriers to the majority’s will.
According to the first part of the Democracy the key to the power of the majority was its moral authority (“l’empire moral de la majorité”),47 an authority especially strengthened in the United States by the wide acceptance of the doctrine of equality and the prevailing harmony of interests. Americans assumed that the combined intellects and judgments of the many were superior to those of the few and that the interests of the greater number were naturally to be preferred to the interests of the minority. In addition, the New World republic was not divided into great irreconcilable interest groups. So the privileges and rights of the present majority were recognized without serious quarrel.
Tocqueville would describe several familiar but important results that followed from this overwhelming power. The legislature, as the voice of the majority, became the dominant branch of government and, at the same time, closely mirrored the changing desires of the many. Projects were launched with zeal and energy when the people were stirred, but languished when popular interest waned, as often quickly happened. There was, in short, a chronic instability in the laws and administration wherever the majority reigned so unhampered. Furthermore, since American officials were armed with the moral authority of the majority which had placed them in office, they often enjoyed shockingly arbitrary powers within their own restricted spheres of responsibility.
The omnipotence of the majority, Tocqueville would observe, even more profoundly influenced the American national character. The many had constantly to be flattered and reinforced in its assumption of superiority. The demagogue, the man of little principle, the crowd-praiser, was the more politically viable figure in America; consequently, a low standard of leadership prevailed. Since the majority resisted criticism of its attitudes and actions from either its own leaders or the members of minorities, a currying of favor pervaded the society. Few were willing to speak out; a smug conformity reigned.
So unlimited was the power of the majority in the United States that tyranny threatened; the 1835 text would argue that the strength of the many became “not only predominant but irresistible.”48 “Omnipotence in itself seems a bad and dangerous thing.... So when I see the right and capacity to do all given to any authority whatsoever, whether it be called people or king, democracy or aristocracy, and whether the scene of action is a monarchy or a republic, I say: the germ of tyranny is there, and I will go look for other laws under which to live.”49
The American states, Tocqueville would insist, provided almost no real guarantees against the abuse by the many of its authority and the oppression of an individual or a minority. “When a man or a party suffers an injustice in the United States, to whom can he turn? To public opinion? That is what forms the majority. To the legislative body? It represents the majority and obeys it blindly. To the executive power? It is appointed by the majority and serves as its passive instrument. To the police (la force publique)? They are nothing but the majority under arms. A jury? The jury is the majority vested with the right to pronounce judgment; even the judges in certain states are elected by the majority. So, however iniquitous or unreasonable the measure which hurts you, you must submit.”50
He would carefully add, however, that the majority in America did not yet habitually abuse its strength. “I am not asserting that at the present time in America there are frequent acts of tyranny. I do say that one can find no guarantee against it.”51 The omnipotence of the majority did not necessarily mean the tyranny of the majority. The common and despotic misuse of power was still primarily a potentiality and something to fear in America’s future. Tocqueville left unresolved the contradiction between this conclusion and his insistence that intellectual liberty did not exist in America.
Between 1835 and 1840, as work on the final volumes of his book went forward, Tocqueville worried increasingly about the fragility of intellectual freedom in democratic times. His attention began to focus more and more on what he had called in the first half of his book the puissance d’opinion or the power which the majority in America had over thought, rather than on the majority’s legal and political control (puissance de fait). The last part of the Democracy would therefore reflect a growing sensitivity to the overwhelming intellectual authority of the crowd, and other facets of his theory of the omnipotence and possible tyranny of the majority would largely recede from view.
By 1840 the dangerous power of the majority over ideas and opinions would also be closely linked with the larger relationship between the individual and the mass in democratic societies. What he had previously almost always described as the omnipotence (l’omnipotence) or authority of the majority (l’empire de la majorité) or of the greatest number (le plus grand nombre), or the power of public opinion (opinion publique), he would now frequently call the influence of the crowd, the mass, or the public (la foule, la masse, le public).52 Among the many significant consequences of the isolation and weakness of the individual which Tocqueville would emphasize in 1840, for example, would be the tendency of the solitary person to defer intellectually to the views of his fellows. “As equality spreads and men individually become less strong, they ever increasingly let themselves glide with the stream of the crowd and find it hard to maintain alone an opinion abandoned by the rest.”53
In the chapter entitled “Concerning the Principal Source of Beliefs among Democratic Peoples,” he would identify the influence of the many as a major cause “which must in the long run hold the independence of individual thought within fixed, indeed sometimes narrow, bounds.”54
The nearer men are to a common level of uniformity, the less are they inclined to believe blindly in any man or any class. But they are readier to trust the mass, and public opinion becomes more and more mistress of the world.
Not only is public opinion the only guide left to aid private judgment, but its power is infinitely greater in democracies than elsewhere....
The citizen of a democracy comparing himself with the others feels proud of his equality with each. But when he compares himself with all his fellows and measures himself against this vast entity, he is overwhelmed by a sense of his insignificance and weakness....
So in democracies public opinion has a strange power of which aristocratic nations can form no conception. It uses no persuasion to forward its beliefs, but by some mighty pressure of the mind of all upon the intelligence of each it imposes its ideas and makes them penetrate men’s very souls.55
Tocqueville would then proceed to revive the distinction which he had originally made in 1835. He would distinguish between the omnipotence politique de la majorité (augmented by various laws) and the empire ... sur l’intelligence and then argue that, although in the United States the former enhanced the strength and danger of the latter, the intellectual authority of the majority did not necessarily need the support of excessively democratic institutions. Basic democratic social conditions, rather than particular political forms, were the most fundamental causes of the dominance which the mass exercised over thought and opinion.56
Tocqueville would conclude his chapter with a description of the possible tyranny of the majority which would almost exclusively stress the intellectual, rather than any legal or political, consequences of such despotism. “Thus it might happen that, having broken down all the bonds which classes or men formerly imposed on it, the human mind (esprit) might bind itself in tight fetters to the general will of the greatest number.
“If democratic peoples substituted the absolute power of a majority for all the various powers that used excessively to impede or hold back the upsurge of individual thought, the evil itself would only have changed its form. Men would by no means have found the way to live in independence; they would only have succeeded in the difficult task of giving slavery a new face. There is matter for deep reflection there. I cannot say this too often for all those who see freedom of the mind as something sacred and who hate not only despots but also despotism. For myself, if I feel the hand of power heavy on my brow, I am little concerned to know who it is that oppresses me; I am no better inclined to pass my head under the yoke because a million men hold it for me.”57
These and other ideas also appeared in an earlier draft of the second chapter of the 1840 Democracy.58 Previously unpublished, the manuscript, entitled “Concerning the Particular Causes Which Might Be Harmful in America to the Free Development and to the Generalization of Thought,” was a substantially different version that more emphatically stressed the ominous power of the majority over thought. It also revealed more of Tocqueville’s personal reactions to and remedies for this democratic threat to intellectual freedom.
He began in the margin with an outline of the particular causes which worked against theoretical and innovative thinking in America.
Religion (I have already discussed it).
Examine the equality of conditions. Maintained by the material condition of the country.
Despotism of the majority.
Exclusively commercial and industrial character of the country. People direct their efforts only toward certain things.
No memory of another social and political state.
Origin of the middle classes.
I demonstrated in the preceding chapter how dogmatic and traditional opinions maintained in religious matters restricted the innovating mind of the Americans on several sides, so to speak. There is another cause, less powerful, but more general, which threatens to stop and which already slows the free development of thought in the United States. This cause, which I have already indicated in another part of this work, is nothing other than the ... 59 power exercised by the majority in America.
A religion is also a power; but its movements are set in advance and move in a known sphere; and many persons believe that in this sphere its effects are beneficial, and that a dogmatic religion goes further toward obtaining the desired results than one which is rational.
The majority is a ... 60 power which, in a way, goes at random and can successively extend to all things.
Religion is the law; the omnipotence of the majority is arbitrary.
Religion inclines the human mind to stop by itself and to offer obedience, the free choice of a moral and independent being.
The majority compels the human mind to stop, despite what it may want, and by constantly forcing it to obey, ends by taking away even the desire to be free, to act for itself.
In the United States, the pernicious influence exercised on thought by the omnipotence of the majority is noticeable above all in political life. It is principally in governmental matters, on political questions that the majority’s opinion has been formed up to now; but American laws are such that, whatever direction it decides to take, the majority will make its omnipotence equally felt.
So its limits are in its own will and not in the constitution of the country. One cannot conceal the fact that the Americans have let themselves be carried in the direction common to democratic peoples. In democracies, whatever one thinks, the majority and the power that represents it are always provided with a rough strength. And even if the laws in the smallest degree favor rather than combat this tendency, it is nearly impossible to say where the limits of tyranny will be.
It could happen that in democracies people would escape from the domination of class, family, or national attitudes in order to submit to those of the majority. One cannot hide the fact that this is the natural tendency in democracies. It must be combated, not only by those who do not want political tyranny, but also by those who desire the general freedom of the human mind.61 ...
Among aristocratic peoples the interests of class forbid men to see anything other than what exists under their eyes and prevent them from noticing new roads which could lead to truth. It is probable that, once submitted to the omnipotence of the majority, men would not even seek to discover these new paths or would not follow them after they were found.62
The prejudices of all types which are born and maintained in the heart of an aristocracy limit the human mind in certain ways and prevent it from developing along these lines; but it does not attack intellectual freedom in principle and in an absolute manner. In democracies constituted in the way that I mentioned above, the majority in a way oversees the human mind; it compresses its whole scope in a permanent and general manner; and to bend men to its will, it ends by taking away from each of them the habit and the taste of thinking for himself....
... I expect people to serve the cause of democracy, but I want them to do so as moral and independent beings who, while pledging their support, retain the use of their liberty; that people see in the majority the most tolerable of all powers, I understand; but I would like them to be its counselors and not its courtiers....
I say that among democratic peoples, I clearly notice two contrary tendencies. One carries men toward new and general thoughts. The other could reduce them, so to speak, to not thinking at all.63
So if I found myself suddenly charged with giving laws to a democratic people, I would seek clearly to distinguish these two tendencies and to make it so that they did not cancel one another out, or at least that the second did not become preponderant. In this design, I would try not to destroy the authority (l’empire) of the majority, but to moderate its use. And I would do my utmost to assure that after it had overthrown all rival powers, it would limit itself.
This is why—to furnish not a complete picture, but an example—if I lived among a democratic people, I would prefer to see them adopt a monarchical constitution rather than a republican form. I would like it better if they instituted two legislative assemblies rather than one, an immovable judiciary rather than elected judges, provincial powers rather than a centralized administration. For all of these institutions can be combined with democracy without altering its essence.64
As the social state became more democratic, I would put more of a price on obtaining all or some of these things. And while proceeding thus, I would have in view not only saving political liberty, as I have said in another part of this work, but also protecting the general progress of the human mind. If you should say that such maxims are not popular, I will try to console myself with the hope that they are true.65
This draft chapter explained how natural groupings in aristocratic society tended to restrain freedom of thought and how démocratie both liberated men from these older limitations and carried the potential for new and more fearful restrictions. It also briefly contrasted the different ways in which religion and a democratic majority encircled intellectual exploration and development; and it implied that Tocqueville could much more easily concede some benefit to religious limitations on free inquiry.
What was newer about this earlier deleted variation, however, was his statement that, so far, American conformity of opinion was greatest in basic governmental and political attitudes. This explicit observation occurred solely in this draft. Also noteworthy was the program of remedies that concluded the chapter. Once again, as he did in other drafts and would in both 1835 and 1840, Tocqueville stressed decentralization and an independent judiciary. But here he also declared his preference for a democratic monarchy rather than a democratic republic. This idea too would never appear in the text of his Democracy.
Finally and most important, this variant clearly demonstrated that Tocqueville feared not only the silencing of individual and minority ideas and the resulting conformity of opinion; he also dreaded the further possibility that in democratic times new ideas might be denied a hearing and that the advance of civilization might therefore come to a halt. By 1840, these intellectual dangers had apparently become, for Tocqueville, the primary meaning of tyranny of the majority and a major focus of personal anxiety.66
The Tyranny of the Majority: Some Paradoxes
From James Madison, among others, Tocqueville had learned about the nature and inherent structural weaknesses of the Union, the tendency of legislatures to accumulate power, and the danger to liberty which came from excessive centralization. Madison had also helped to teach the Frenchman how the states (because of federalism) and the counties and municipalities (because of the division of administrative authority) served both to help maintain a large republic and to lessen the potentially despotic pressure of public opinion. But, as we have seen, the republican statesman had not been able to persuade Tocqueville that size itself was an advantage to free societies. The Democracy persisted in praising small rather than large nations as the natural sanctuaries of liberty. And in his analysis of the causes and cures of the tyranny of the majority Tocqueville continued to place great hopes in independent and responsible localities as essential centers of freedom during democratic times.
These beliefs led him into a few strange paradoxes, not the least of which was his ranking of the jury as one of the great barriers to majoritarian despotism.1 In 1835 he praised the jury for teaching respect for law, awareness of rights, and a sense of civic responsibility, and for forming the judgment and augmenting the practical knowledge of the people.2 Yet on more than one occasion he had been told that the jury sometimes served as a legal stamp of approval for local excesses and prejudices rather than as a check upon them. “The jury,” he had once declared, “is nothing but the people made judge of what is allowed and of what it is forbidden to do against society.”3
Mr. Cruse had recounted for him the story of a jury during the War of 1812 which had acquitted members of a mob which had pursued and beaten an antiwar journalist and his friends. The crowd had even murdered one opponent of the war.4 In January 1832, Tocqueville had heard another example as well from the lawyer who had discussed Alabama’s reputation for violence and the frequent resorts to knife or gun to settle quarrels there. “But,” Tocqueville had asked, “when a man is killed like that, is his assassin not punished?” “He is always brought to trial, and always acquitted by the jury, unless there are greatly aggravating circumstances.... The violence has become accepted. Each juror feels that he might, on leaving the court, find himself in the same position as the accused, and he acquits.... So it is the people that judges itself, and its prejudices in this matter stand in the way of its good sense.” After hearing this surprising commentary, Tocqueville could not refrain from asking his acquaintance what he thought of the jury system in general. “One of the disadvantages of our juries,” the American replied, “is that they are drawn from too small areas (the counties). The jurors know about the matter before it is argued. It is judged before it is heard and judged in a tavern.”5
So both Mr. Cruse and the lawyer from Alabama had hinted that juries had a critical failing: they would not convict a man for actions—however heinous—which a local majority applauded. The lawyer claimed, moreover, that too often jurors merely reflected regional prejudices and legitimized verdicts previously reached in neighborhood taphouses.
A third incident, fictional but perhaps suggested by something which Gustave and Alexis had witnessed while attending a trial in America,6 was dramatically described in Marie; Or, Slavery in the United States, Beaumont’s companion piece to the 1835 Democracy.
“One day in New York,” Gustave’s hero, Ludovic, related, “I attended a session in court. Among those awaiting trial sat a young mulatto accused by an American of acts of violence. ‘A white man beaten by a colored man! What an outrage! What viciousness!’ voices cried out everywhere. The public, the jurors themselves were indignant at the accused man, without knowing whether he was guilty. I do not know how to tell you how distressing was my impression as he came to trial—each time the poor mulatto wished to speak, his voice was drowned out, either by the judge or by the noise of the crowd. All the witnesses damned him.... The friends of the plaintiff had good memories; those to whom the defendant appealed remembered nothing. He was found guilty without any deliberation on the part of the jury. A quiver of joy went through the crowd: a murmur a thousand times more cruel to the heart of the unhappy man than the judge’s sentence; for the judge was paid for his task, while the hate of the people was gratuitous. Perhaps he was guilty; but, innocent, would he not have suffered the same fate?”7
Beaumont’s tale echoed the remarks of the two American critics and again exposed a basic flaw in the jury system. That institution could be no more dispassionate, no more just, no more impartial than the public which supplied the jurors. For better or for worse, it was simply a mirror of public opinion and, as such, a potential instrument of tyranny.
So Tocqueville’s extremely positive attitude toward the jury was somewhat puzzling. Although he once observed that the jury was merely “the majority vested with the right to pronounce judgment,”8 he largely failed in his book to recognize or to warn his readers that the jury could also be one of the more fearful tools of an oppressive majority. The 1835 Democracy presented instead an essentially one-sided view of the jury as a major check on majoritarian despotism.
But Tocqueville’s evaluation of the jury—an eminently local institution—was only part of a greater paradox: his stress on the value of the “spirit of locality.” On the one hand, a major antidote that Tocqueville recommended for majoritarian tyranny was administrative decentralization. On the other hand, he seemed to recognize on several occasions that tyranny of the majority was more likely and, if it occurred, more virulent within localities. On one occasion, for instance, he wrote in a draft that the ardor of local passions once kindled could only be compared to intense fraternal hatreds.9 And all of his specific examples of tyranny of the majority took place in the towns and cities of America. It was there that dissenting individuals or minorities found themselves most at the mercy of popular institutions such as the police or the jury, most vulnerable to mob violence, and most exposed to the other more subtle pressures and intimidations of local majorities.
Several times the 1835 Democracy seemed to indicate Tocqueville’s awareness of this melancholy truth. At the beginning of his book he described with some amazement the moral and religious regulations of the Puritans of Massachusetts and Connecticut and could only partially excuse their “bizarre or tyrannical laws” by noting that in those early New England communities of the “like-minded” such measures were voted by the people themselves.10
While comparing large and small nations, he again carefully exposed the potential dangers of the city-state. “In small nations the watchfulness of society penetrates everywhere.... When tyranny is established in a small nation, it is more galling than elsewhere because, operating within a comparatively restricted sphere, it affects everything within that sphere. Unable to engage in any great design, it turns to a multitude of little ones; it is both violent and petty. From the political world which is properly its domain, it penetrates into private life. After actions, it aspires to regiment tastes; after the state, it wants to rule families.”11 What better possible portrait of the public interest in private attitudes and behavior, of the pettiness, and of the pressurized conformity which often prevailed in the small town or locality?
Finally, Tocqueville’s concern about the arbitrary power of public officials in America also reflected, in part, his recognition of the possibility of local oppression.12 After studying the Town Officer he had written to Jared Sparks in December 1831, asking incredulously if the selectmen still had the right to denounce immoral persons publicly and if the constables and tythingmen also still possessed the power to search out and act against blasphemers and others who failed to respect the Sabbath. Tocqueville could not quite believe that local elected officials might actually have such authority to meddle and to censor. In reply Sparks tried to assuage the Frenchman’s sense of shock by assuring him that specific actions were taken only rarely and in particularly flagrant cases. But he did reiterate and reaffirm the basic proposition which had apparently so troubled Tocqueville: local officials did indeed still have the duty to “watch over the morals ... of the inhabitants.”13
Thus the very local control which he applauded as an alternative to administrative centralization and as a major barrier to the tyranny of the majority also facilitated the oppression of individuals and minorities by local majorities. Tocqueville had now come upon a fundamental democratic paradox. Vigorous local government, he insisted, was a necessary counterweight to the democratic trend toward centralization. But it was the local majority that was potentially most oppressive. The locality was, after all, the very heart of the majority’s physical, moral, and psychological power. The normal homogeneity and lack of privacy which marked the town made being different there much more difficult and dangerous. And the more independent the locality, the fewer were the possible restraints on the will of the local majority. A flourishing “spirit of locality” meant that one path to democratic despotism—via administrative centralization—was blocked, but another—via tyranny of the local majority—was opened wide. Yet Tocqueville never saw this basic dilemma about local freedom which he himself had posed.14
We can suggest a few possible reasons for Tocqueville’s effusive praise for local self-government and his failure adequately to acknowledge the enhanced likelihood, given decentralization, for tyranny on the local level. Probably one of the most important explanations was that, while in America, he had obviously been more impressed by the benefits of town government than by its disadvantages. Theoretically, a town of enlightened and politically experienced citizens, such as those in New England, significantly diminished the probability of abuses by a local majority.
But Tocqueville might also have deliberately refrained from any serious critique of local control because of his larger commitment to a program of administrative decentralization in France. He was almost certainly aware that the ignorance and deeply rooted prejudices of the inhabitants of the communes were major arguments cited by the proponents of centralization in response to reformers like Tocqueville who suggested a partial dismantling of the French administrative machine. Why needlessly strengthen the position of your opponents?
It is also possible that his high opinion of local self-government reflected his own good experiences in the department of La Manche. In his first campaign in the region he had been greeted by cries of “No more nobles!” The spirit of 1789 had seemed very much alive. But within little over one year, Tocqueville had been heard, accepted, and elected; and until Louis Napoleon’s coup d’état the citizens of La Manche would continue to send him to Paris as their representative. So the people in localities could apparently be “educated,” “elevated,” and “molded.” Perhaps the standards of the New England town were not so impossible after all.15
Another peculiar feature of Tocqueville’s discussion of majoritarian tyranny was the way in which he thought of the majority. Tocqueville apparently understood majorité primarily as an abstract, singular, and essentially fixed entity. In his mind, the majority usually involved not tangible and temporary interests, but basic attitudes of social consensus or public opinion. For Tocqueville, the majority in its most essential guise was a commanding moral authority.16
Such a view was in sharp contrast to the concept—first explored by Madison—of majorities as shifting coalitions of interests temporarily formed over particular public issues. In Madison’s scheme, majorities were fluid and pluralistic. Since a member of a majority on one day might easily find himself in the minority on the next, no one’s long-term interests and security would be furthered by the majority’s abuse of power. Enduring (and potentially despotic) majorities would not form except on principles general or innocuous enough to threaten no minority group.17
During 1841, in letters written in criticism of the Democracy, Jared Sparks twice isolated the distinctive features of Tocqueville’s analysis and raised what became common objections. A first epistle declared that “in what he says of the tyranny of the majority, I think he is entirely mistaken.... M. de Tocqueville’s theory can only be true where the majority is an unchangeable body, and where it acts exclusively on the minority, as distinct from itself.” A few months later a second letter added: “I think too much confidence is placed in M. de Tocqueville’s ideas of the ‘tyranny of the majority.’ On this subject his imagination leads him far astray. In practice we perceive no such consequence as he supposes. If the majority were large and always consisted of the same individuals, such a thing might be possible; but with us, as in all free governments,... a man who is in the majority at one time is likely to find himself in the minority a few months afterwards. What inducement has a majority thus constituted to be oppressive? Moreover, M. de Tocqueville often confounds the majority with public opinion.”18
If Tocqueville’s theory of the tyranny of the majority is one of his most famous ideas, it is also one of his most disputed. Others since Sparks have also insisted that Tocqueville’s concept of the majority was too abstract and too rigid, and that his theory was therefore inappropriate to the American political system of compromise, shifting coalitions, and countervailing powers. Some have also objected that his “majority” is really “public opinion” which rules all societies, democratic or otherwise. One commentator has even argued that Tocqueville’s “majority” simply does not exist and that his fear of majoritarian despotism is pure fantasy.19
But in at least one critical instance, Tocqueville’s analysis brilliantly described American reality. In various states of the Union, Tocqueville had noticed the second-class status of free Negroes. Particularly in states where slavery had been abolished, prejudice and injustice severely burdened the Negro population.20 In Massachusetts, for example, “the prejudice is so strong against them that their children cannot be received in the schools.”21 And the white majority in Maryland, Tocqueville had learned, sharply restricted the political rights of free Negroes and created special codes of law to supervise their behavior. Mr. Latrobe of Baltimore had even confessed that he was “very much afraid that the incoming Legislature may pass unjust and oppressive laws against the Blacks. People want to make it intolerable for them to remain in Maryland.”22
In Ohio, too, Mr. Walker had admitted, “We try and discourage [free Negroes] in every possible way. Not only have we made laws allowing them to be expelled at will, but we hamper them in a thousand ways. A Negro has no political rights; he cannot be a juror; he cannot give evidence against a white. That last law sometimes leads to revolting injustices.”23 Apparently the white majority in many states exercised (and therefore abused) its power in order to give legitimacy to its prejudices.
The 1835 Democracy summarized these injustices and concluded:
Race prejudice seems stronger in those states that have abolished slavery than in those where it still exists, and nowhere is it more intolerant than in those states where slavery was never known.
It is true that in the North of the Union the law allows legal marriage between Negroes and whites, but public opinion would regard a white man married to a Negro woman as disgraced, and it would be very difficult to quote an example of such an event.
In almost all the states where slavery has been abolished the Negroes have been given electoral rights, but they would come forward to vote at the risk of their lives. When oppressed, they can bring an action at law, but they will find only white men among their judges. It is true that the laws make them eligible as jurors, but prejudice wards them off. The Negro’s son is excluded from the school to which the European’s child goes. In the theaters he cannot for good money buy the right to sit by his former master’s side; in the hospitals he lies apart. He is allowed to worship the same God as the white man but must not pray at the same altars. He has his own clergy and churches. The gates of heaven are not closed against him, but his inequality stops only just short of the boundaries of the other world. When the Negro is no more, his bones are cast aside, and some difference in condition is found even in the equality of death.
So the Negro is free, but he cannot share the rights, pleasures, labors, griefs, or even the tomb of him whose equal he has been declared; there is nowhere where he can meet him, neither in life nor in death.24
Even more instructive about the abuses which the permanent nature of the white majority in America invited was a passage from Marie.
In a society where everyone suffers equal misery, a general feeling grows up which leads to revolt, and sometimes liberty emerges from excessive oppression.
But in a country where only a fraction of society is oppressed, while the rest is quite comfortable, the majority manages to live at ease at the expense of the smaller number; everything is in order and well-regulated: well-being on the one hand, abject suffering on the other. The unfortunate may complain, but they are not feared, and the disease, however revolting it may be, is not cured because it only grows deeper without spreading.
The misery of the black people oppressed in American society cannot be compared with that of any of the unfortunate classes among other peoples. Everywhere there exists hostility between the rich and the proletariat; however, the two classes are not separated by any insurmountable barrier: the poor become rich, the rich, poor; that is enough to temper the oppression of the one by the other. But when the American crushes the black population with such contempt, he knows that he need never fear to experience the fate reserved for the Negro.25
In a society where all instruments of power—public opinion, legislature, executive, police and militia, jury, even judges in some states—responded to the pressures of an absolute majority, what recourse remained for the oppressed minority? Tocqueville rejected the common opinion that democracies would perish through weakness and disorder, and with Madison argued instead that the real danger was the misuse of concentrated power. While musing on the issue of the omnipotence of the majority, he wrote in a draft:
“Like all other authorities (empires), the moral sway (l’empire moral) of the majority is lost by abuse. Tyranny of the majority brings appeals by the minorities to physical force. From there, confusion, anarchy, and the despotism of an individual (d’un seul). The American republics, far from raising the fear of anarchy at the present time, raise only the fear of despotism of the majority; anarchy will come only as a consequence of this tyranny....
“In America the sway (empire) of the majority will not be overthrown because it lacks force, but wisdom. The government is centralized in such a way that the majority which governs is all-powerful. It will lack not physical force, but moral force.”26
His 1835 work prophesied: “I do not think a lack of strength or resources is part of the nature of democratic authority; on the contrary, I believe that it is almost always the abuse of that strength and the ill use of those resources which bring it down.... If ever freedom is lost in America, that will be due to the omnipotence of the majority driving the minorities to desperation and forcing them to appeal to physical force. We may then see anarchy, but it will come as the result of despotism.”27
Five years later, Tocqueville’s message was even clearer and more specific. “If ever America undergoes great revolutions, they will be brought about by the presence of the black race on the soil of the United States; that is to say, they will owe their origin, not to the equality, but to the inequality of condition.”28
Yet in his chapters on the power of the majority Tocqueville did not draw special attention to racial divisions in America. He did not even seem to recognize the Negro/white situation as a particularly pertinent example of the tyranny of the majority. Instead, he repeatedly insisted that the United States was uniquely fortunate in not having severe conflicts of interests, or bitter, unyielding divisions within the society.29 Why?
He may once again have shied away from an elaborate application of his ideas to the racial issue in America because of an unwillingness to tread upon Beaumont’s territory. Considering both the focus of Gustave’s work and Alexis’s obvious awareness of the plight of the Negro minority in America, that explanation is at least a possibility.
But, as some readers have suggested, a more likely reason was that Tocqueville’s thoughts during the making of most of the Democracy were primarily focused on white Americans and even more narrowly on what he frequently called the Anglo-Americans. Was he thinking mostly about white majorities and white minorities while he pondered the danger of majoritarian despotism? If so, the restricted scope of his reflections cost him one of the best possible illustrations of his concept. The racial situation in America might easily have been a model for the type of majority/minority relationship which Tocqueville envisioned when he discussed the omnipotence and possible tyranny of the majority.
In any case, Tocqueville had here put his finger on yet another of the dilemmas of democracy. Given a government that truly reflected the will of the people, how were individuals or minorities to be protected from measures or institutions that made popular errors and prejudices legitimate? When the people ruled what would prevent them from enacting their own worst impulses? Were not the new laws against free Negroes in Jacksonian America a superb example of this danger?
We should also recall that while Tocqueville mused about the “majority” and the possible consequences of its power in America, his attention was drawn increasingly to what he saw as the most disturbing feature of any despotism of the many: the deceptively mild, but highly effective repression of uncommon or original ideas. One of the consistent concerns of the Democracy was the freedom, in times of equality, for the individual or small group to hold and to express views which were new and/or not shared by the larger community.30
But most important, his definition of majority primarily emphasized the basic moral authority of the majority; he focused on the fundamental consensus necessary for any society. Tocqueville’s majority was, therefore, unitary and (relatively) permanent, and what he feared more than any specific legal, political, or administrative oppression (which one of Madison’s temporary coalitions might perpetrate) was the most subtle and profound tyranny over ideas, values, and opinions which the many might establish. Here perhaps was the most significant reason for both Tocqueville’s failure to present racial oppression in terms of majoritarian tyranny and his inability either to hear or to accept Madison’s argument that size—through diversity—lessened the chances for oppression by a majority.
Two general lessons of American history are that the majority does sometimes abuse its power, especially to oppress racial and ethnic minorities and to still dissenting opinions, and that majoritarian tyranny has occurred more often and more easily on the local, state, or regional levels than on the federal level. Especially in the twentieth century, it has, by and large, been the branches of the federal government which—in opposition to local, state, or regional inertia—have taken the initiative in enacting measures to help assure social justice, minority rights, and civil liberties.31 So the serious misuse of power by the many, especially in the localities and states, was not a figment of Tocqueville’s imagination. He was perceptive enough both to recognize the danger of the tyranny of the majority and to realize that this potential oppression was more threatening in the states.
What he failed either to see or to admit was the possibility that administrative decentralization, by freeing especially the localities from most restrictions by federal (or state) government, would not only stimulate practical political experience and a sense of civic responsibility, but would also deliver the towns and counties over to the local majorities. The more independent the locality, the more unrestrained the majority to impose its own values and opinions by means of the agencies of government, or public pressure, or the jury, or even violence.
So Tocqueville’s recommendations for local self-government involved one of those difficult choices, one of those ambiguous issues of delicate balance which he was usually so quick to notice about democratic society. His remedy would paradoxically hinder the rise of administrative despotism but at the same time open the door even wider to tyranny of the majority precisely where it was most absolute—in the locality. In this case he apparently did not see the dilemma which he had posed for himself.
Also Tocqueville felt a strange ambivalence toward the states. If they were essential elements in American federalism and administrative decentralization (and therefore involved in all of the benefits conjured up in Tocqueville’s mind by those structural traits), they were also the major villains in his reflections about the Union’s destiny. (Their relentless jealousy and aggression toward the central government was a major reason for Tocqueville’s inclination to predict the ultimate dissolution of the Union.) But, as we have now seen, his contradictory attitude went even further. Although he sometimes praised the states as valuable barriers to any possible national sweep by destructive political passions, he more frequently condemned them for the inadequacies of their constitutions and for the openings which they gave to democratic excesses of all sorts. The existence of the states helped to insulate the nation from many democratic despotisms, but it was precisely on the state level, the 1835 Democracy insisted paradoxically, that such tyrannies were most likely to flourish.
Finally, as various critics have observed, Tocqueville erred as he developed his notion of the despotism of the majority by largely overlooking the chance of oppression by some minority.32 Once again his intense temporary focus on a single concept made him lose sight of (or in this case entirely overlook) another equally significant idea. His belief that “in America tyranny can only come from the majority”33 failed to allow for the possibility of domination by some small group with political, social, intellectual, or economic privilege. In twentieth-century America, at least, the machinations of the few have often seemed more of a threat to democratic liberty than any abuses of power by the majority.
Would Démocratie Usher in a New Dark Ages?
Particularly after 1835, Tocqueville’s concern about the tyranny of the majority reflected a growing interest in intellectual liberty. He worried that one probable result of advancing equality would be massive pressure on individuals to conform in matters of thought and opinion to the views of the many. A related, but even more serious possible consequence, he feared, would be the suppression of innovative thinking altogether. Without new ideas or the freedom to express them, what would then become of cultural progress? For Tocqueville, even the possibility of such a disastrous development evoked some troubling questions for the future.
When describing the results of the New Despotism, of equality without liberty, Tocqueville usually wrote of men falling “below the level of humanity” (au-dessous du niveau de l’humanité) or of “barbarism” (la barbarie).1 But from a very early period in the making of the Democracy, he also worried about another sort of “barbarism.” In November 1831, after reflecting for several months on the many effects of America’s pervasive equality, he asked in one of his travel notebooks: “Why, as civilisation spreads, do outstanding men become fewer? Why, when attainments are the lot of all, do great intellectual talents become rarer? Why, when there are no longer lower classes, are there no more upper classes? ... America clearly poses these questions. But who can answer them?”2
Such doubts were not unusual. Tocqueville probably knew even before going to the New World that, in the opinion of many of his contemporaries, democracy was incompatible with civilization.3 The queries of November 1831 reveal that, even then, he too suspected that democracy might usher in an era of intellectual and cultural stagnation.
Between 1832 and 1835, Tocqueville’s fears about democracy’s threat to civilization resurfaced in several of his drafts. He titled one page, for example, “Influence of Démocratie on moeurs and ideas,” and wrote beneath: “Influence of the progress of equality on human intelligence. Disappearance of intellectual classes, of theoretical talents; possible return toward barbarism by this path.”4
His concern even led him to compare the irresistible march of democracy to the barbarian invasions of Rome. “What new order will come out of the debris of that which is falling? Who can say? The men of the fourth century, witnesses of the invasions of the Barbarians, gave themselves over, like us, to a thousand conjectures; but no one had the idea to foresee the universal erection of the feudal system which, in all of Europe, was the result of this invasion.”5 Pursuing his analogy, he explained: “I spoke above of the men who were present at the ruin of the Roman empire. Let us fear that a similar fate awaits6 us. But this time the Barbarians will not come out of the frozen lands of the North; they will rise up in the hearts of our fields and in the very midst of our cities.”7 Although the potential barbarians of the nineteenth century differed from their predecessors of the fourth, they too threatened to plunge the West into a Dark Age. In an unusually emotional peroration, Tocqueville begged his compatriots: “Let us save ourselves from a new invasion of Barbarians. The Barbarians are already at our gates and we amuse ourselves with discoursing. They are all around us ... There is that to fear.”8
In 1835, however, none of these fragments would appear, and the first half of the Democracy would consequently largely fail to disclose Tocqueville’s grave doubts about the survival of Western culture in the face of democracy’s advance. He would candidly concede that America possessed neither individuals dedicated to higher intellectual pursuits nor classes interested in supporting such endeavors.9 He would note that the enormous power exercised in America by majority opinion inhibited freedom of thought and particularly literary genius,10 and he would even admit that démocratie retarded the development of certain branches of knowledge. “So democracy ... harms the progress of the art of government ... Moreover, this does not apply only to the science of administration. Democratic government ... always assumes the existence of a very civilized and knowledgeable society.”11
But the work would contain no indication that these flaws had serious implications for the future of Western civilization as a whole. One ironic comment in the working manuscript would even argue that Europeans should be relieved to find no commanding intellects in America: “So in America we come upon none of those great intellectual centers which shoot forth heat and light at the same time. I do not know if perhaps we should not thank Heaven; America already carries an immense weight in the destinies of the world; and perhaps only great writers are lacking for her to overthrow violently all the old societies of Europe.”12
By stressing the singularity of the American nation, Tocqueville would also find a way in 1835 partially to excuse the cultural deficiencies of the United States. The first colonists had come not as ignorant savages, he would remind his readers, but as intelligent men firmly grounded in European learning, and, if necessary, the men of the New World could always borrow ideas and techniques from the Old. Furthermore, and most important, although the American republic lacked outstanding men of the arts and sciences, the citizenry as a whole exhibited an uncommonly high level of education, experience, and intelligence.13
So in 1835, by scrupulously maintaining his focus on the United States and its unique situation,14 Tocqueville would largely avoid the difficult task of generalizing about the effects of démocratie on cultural progress. Unable to soothe his own anxiety and unwilling once again to offer unnecessary support to the enemies of democracy, he apparently chose temporarily to conceal his doubts.
There was yet another possible reason for his silence. Beaumont had already decided to include a lengthy discussion of “Literature and Fine Arts” in his novel, Marie.15 Perhaps Tocqueville, though willing to offer some isolated observations about intellectual and cultural life in America, felt reluctant in 1835 to compete with Gustave’s work by presenting a fully developed analysis of his own. Once again Beaumont’s book may have inhibited Tocqueville as he established the dimensions of the 1835 Democracy.
Between 1835 and 1840, while drafting the second half of the Democracy, Tocqueville continued his musings about the probable effects of démocratie on civilization. One possible way out of his quandary would have been to unearth and present to his readers a flourishing American cultural life; the threat to civilization would have been considerably less cogent if even the world’s most democratic society stimulated artistic and literary activities.
In fact, such a demonstration would not have been especially difficult. Even before the late 1830s some European commentators had made a reasonable case for American cultural vigor, based largely on the works of Washington Irving and especially James Fenimore Cooper,16 writers whose names and achievements were familiar to both Tocqueville and Beaumont.17 Developments in New England as Tocqueville drafted the last two volumes of his work would have strengthened the argument considerably if he had been adequately aware of them.18
But evidently he, like Beaumont, felt that mention of Cooper, or Irving, or Channing, or any other literary figure would not really satisfy his doubts.19 Such men were too much the exceptions in American society. Instead, he chose once again to couple an admission of American poverty in arts and letters with a denial that the United States proved anything in general about the effects of democracy on culture. “Thus the Americans are in [a wholly] exceptional situation.”20
Having dismissed America as unique, he finally turned to a broader examination of the cultural influence of democracy. In an unenlightened society, he declared, the rise of démocratie would indeed be a condemnation to continued darkness. An unpublished essay drafted during the writing of the 1840 Democracy explained the reasons for his conclusion:
Equality does not suit barbaric peoples; it prevents them from enlightening and civilizing themselves. Idea to introduce perhaps in the chapters on literature or the sciences....21
... I have never thought that equality of conditions suited the infancy of societies. When men are uncivilized as well as equal, each among them feels himself too weak and too limited to seek knowledge (la lumière) separately; and it is almost impossible that, by a common accord, all will exert themselves at the same time to discover it.
Nothing is so difficult to take as the first step out of barbarism.22 I do not doubt that it requires more effort23 for a savage to discover the art of writing than for a civilized man to penetrate the general laws which regulate the world. But it is unbelievable that men can ever imagine the necessity of a similar effort without its being clearly shown to them, or that they will subject themselves to doing it without grasping the result in advance.
In a society of barbarians equal among themselves, the attention of each man is equally absorbed by the first needs and the grossest interests24 of life, so the idea of intellectual progress can only with difficulty occur to the mind of any of them; and if by chance it came to the point of appearing, it would soon be sort of suffocated in the midst of the nearly instinctive thoughts that the poorly satisfied needs of the body25 always bring forth. The savage lacks all at the same time: the idea of study and the possibility of giving himself over to it.
I do not believe that history presents a single example of a democratic people who raised themselves, by themselves and gradually, toward knowledge (la lumière); and that is easily understood. We have seen that among nations where equality26 and barbarism reign at the same time it was difficult for an individual to develop his intelligence27 in isolation. But if it happens by extraordinary circumstances that he does, the superiority of his knowledge28 suddenly gives him so great a preponderance over all who surround him29 that he is not slow to desire to benefit from his new advantages by ending equality to his profit.
If peoples30 remain democratic, civilization can not then be born in their midst; and if it happens by chance to penetrate there, they cease to be democratic. I am persuaded that humanity owes its enlightenment (lumières) to such chances and31 that it is under an aristocracy or under a prince that men still half-savage gathered the diverse notions which later must have permitted them to live enlightened, equal, and free.32
So among the semicivilized démocratie and culture were incompatible; a society composed of barbarians would be either democratic and perpetually ignorant or aristocratic and progressively civilized. But what about nations already enlightened? “It is very necessary,” Tocqueville cautioned, “to guard against confusing a democratic people, enlightened and free, with another which would be ignorant and enslaved.”33 “I take the European peoples such as they appear to my eyes with their ancient traditions, their acquired enlightenment, their liberties,” he wrote in the manuscript of the 1840 Democracy, “and I wonder if by becoming democratic they run the risk of falling back into a sort of barbarism.”34 He had returned to the fundamental question.
A tentative “Ordre des idées” appeared in an early outline of the chapter on the aptitude of democratic nations for arts and sciences.35 “Prove first that there will always be some men in our democracies who will love the sciences, letters, and the arts. This proven, it will be easy for me to establish that a democracy will furnish to those men all that they need. In order to know what to say here it is necessary to amalgamate the reproaches that people make to Démocratie when they accuse it of extinguishing enlightenment.”36
As a first step, Tocqueville theorized that some inherent human quality drove men everywhere toward the affairs of the mind. “There is in the very nature of man a natural and permanent disposition which pushes his soul despite habits, laws, usages ... toward the contemplation of elevated and intellectual things. This natural disposition is found in democracies as elsewhere.”37 He even argued in one draft that démocratie supplied more than the usual stimulation to those who pursued activities of the mind and spirit. In democracies the inborn tendency toward higher things was strengthened “by a sort of reaction to the material and the ordinary which abounds in these societies.”38
But would such intellectual impulses be given a chance to bear fruit? The key once again was free institutions. In the “Rubish,” discarded drafts of the 1840 volumes, he wrote:
The great object of the lawmaker in democracies thus must be to create common affairs which force men to enter into contact one with another.
The laws which have this result are useful to all peoples; to democratic peoples they are necessary. Here they augment the well-being of the society; there they allow society to survive. For what is society, for thinking beings, if not the communication and the intercourse of minds and hearts? ...
I have treated free institutions as diminishing égoïsme;39 what is involved here is showing them as necessary to civilization among democratic peoples....
... 40 [equality of conditions] leads men not to communicate with each other. Each one, being obliged to oversee his own affairs by himself, has not the leisure nor the taste to seek out, without necessity, the company of his fellows and to share his ideas and theirs....
If the men of democracies were abandoned to their instincts they would then end by becoming almost entirely strangers to one another, and the circulation of ideas and of sentiments would be stopped....
The circulation of ideas is to civilization what the circulation of blood is to the human body.
Here a striking portrait, if possible.41
So the hope for democratic nations rested with whichever free institutions (such as local liberties and associations) brought men together in the pursuit of public business.42 Only then would issues be discussed, ideas stimulated, and intellectual life preserved. Moreover, the energies excited among democratic peoples by such civic and political activities would inevitably spill over into intellectual ventures. “Give a democratic people enlightenment and liberty,” Tocqueville declared in his working manuscript, “and I do not doubt that you will see them carry over into the study of the sciences, letters, and the arts the same feverish activity that they show in all the rest.”43
Another draft revealed that this idea grew particularly out of Tocqueville’s knowledge of French history during the years following the French Revolution. Describing the effects of the revolution, he wrote: “Minds strongly stirred and put into motion by politics, afterwards throw themselves impetuously into all other channels. Free institutions, always in action, produce something analogous in a sustained way. They excite a certain chronic agitation in the human mind which sets it going for all things.”44
So in democratic times and among cultured peoples, there would be men endowed with the essential intellectual interests and capacities and activated by the necessary drives and energies. After some hesitation and a brief but interesting theoretical investigation, Tocqueville, with the enlightened nations of Europe specifically in mind, was thus finally able to conclude that, assuming free institutions, “Equality of conditions seems to me very appropriate for precipitating the march of the human mind.”45
But most of these more optimistic reflections occurred in various drafts or “Rubish” of the 1840 volumes. The published text would be considerably more ambivalent. Especially in the chapter entitled “Why Great Revolutions Will Become Rarer,” which once again considered the probable effects of equality on intellectual innovation, Tocqueville’s conclusions would be much gloomier. Equality of conditions and similar viewpoints, a busy preoccupation with mundane matters, a belief in intellectual equality, the isolation of individuals, the power of public opinion, and the authority of the mass, he would then argue, all joined to discourage new insights and ideas.46
The more closely I consider the effects of equality upon the mind, the more I am convinced that the intellectual anarchy which we see around us is not, as some suppose, the natural state for democracies. I think we should rather consider it as an accidental characteristic peculiar to their youth, and something that only happens during [the] transitional period (époque de passage)....
Because the inhabitants of democracies always seem excited, uncertain, hurried, and ready to change both their minds and their situation, it has been supposed that they want immediately to abolish their laws, adopt new beliefs, and conform to new manners. It has not been noted that while equality leads men to make changes it also prompts them to have interests which require stability for their satisfaction; it both drives men on and holds them back; it goads them on and keeps their feet on the ground; it kindles their desires and limits their powers....
... I cannot help fearing that men may reach a point where they look on every new theory as a danger, every innovation as a toilsome trouble, every social advance as a first step toward revolution, and that they may absolutely refuse to move at all for fear of being carried off their feet....
People suppose that the new societies are going to change shape daily, but my fear is that they will end up by being too unalterably fixed with the same institutions, prejudices, and mores, so that mankind will stop progressing and will dig itself in. I fear that the mind may keep folding itself up in a narrower compass forever without producing new ideas, that men will wear themselves out in trivial, lonely, futile activity, and that for all its constant agitation humanity will make no advance.47
This passage, in addition to a sense of foreboding and a conclusion much more pessimistic than previous ones, also offered an example of Tocqueville’s use of a mental tool which would occasionally appear in the pages of the 1840 Democracy: époque de transition (or de passage). By his repeated resorts to this concept, Tocqueville underscored his assumption that France (and Europe) in the 1830s was between more stable periods, that the early nineteenth century was primarily an intermediate stage, an époque de transition, and was therefore particularly prone to a wide variety of ills too often attributed by the unthinking to démocratie itself. At every possible opportunity in his last two volumes, Tocqueville reminded his countrymen that France, especially, was in the midst of this painful process of becoming democratic (was between two worlds) and that, to a great extent, this uncomfortable state of flux, rather than démocratie, accounted for the severity of his nation’s social, political, and moral problems. The idea of époque de transition thus allowed him not only partially to explain France’s lamentable condition, but also to disarm certain uncompromising critics of the trend toward equality and to maintain his hope for some better, more settled future of democratic maturity.
In 1840, Tocqueville thus remained uncertain about exactly how démocratie would influence intellectual development. In some passages he seemed to foresee the possibility, given free institutions in times of equality, of a unique cultural flowering. Elsewhere he remained pessimistic and predicted a pervasive mental stagnation. But at least he had finally faced the dilemma which he had posed years earlier. Although Tocqueville had not dismissed the possible deleterious effects of démocratie on cultural progress, his attitude by 1840 was different from the one expressed in earlier, more emotional drafts. Gone were his intense fears of barbarian ascendancy and of the immediate, catastrophic collapse of civilization. After an initial delay—possibly once again caused, in part, by an unwillingness to intrude upon areas marked out by Beaumont—further thought had persuaded Tocqueville that Europe, under the onslaught of advancing equality, would not necessarily go the way of Rome.
Démocratie and Egoïsme
Whether tracing the changes in Tocqueville’s attitudes toward physical causes, his concepts of despotism, or his understandings of the tyranny of the majority, we come repeatedly to what is probably the central figure of the Democracy: the independent and morally responsible individual. Tocqueville envisioned an eternal tension between the individual and the society as a whole and wondered especially how démocratie would affect that tension. Could the dignity, strength, and self-esteem of the individual be preserved in democratic times? Or would a psychology of insignificance, helplessness, and isolation triumph? To explore this vital issue, Tocqueville embarked on a private journey. His voyage of exploration predated his visit to the New World by at least a few years and was originally undertaken with eyes toward France; but in America he made some key discoveries.
In a thoughtful letter to Charles Stoffels written about a year before leaving for America, Tocqueville set forth several ideas which would become fundamental principles as the Democracy developed during the next decade. The letter posited an elaborate distinction between “un peuple demi-civilisé” and “un peuple complètement éclairé” and then explored some of the consequences of these two stages of civilization. After assuming the existence of a basic struggle between what he called la force individuelle and la force publique, Tocqueville proposed that a semicivilized social state supported la force individuelle; there “la force publique is poorly organized and the struggle between it and la force individuelle is often unequal.”1
Among a highly civilized people, however, “the social body has provided for everything; the individual undergoes the pain of birth; for the rest, the society takes him from his nurse, it oversees his education, opens before him the roads to fortune; it sustains him on his way, deflects dangers from his head; he advances in peace under the eyes of this second Providence; this guardian power which protected him during his life even oversees the repose of his ashes: that is the fate of civilized man.... The soul, asleep in this long rest, no longer knows how to awake when the opportunity occurs; individual energy (l’énergie individuelle) is nearly extinguished; people rely on one another when action is necessary; in all other circumstances, on the contrary, they withdraw into themselves; it is the reign of égoïsme.”2 But Tocqueville did mention more hopefully that in highly civilized societies the general good (l’intérêt général) was better understood (mieux entendu).3
Several of the ideas presented in this letter of 1830 would reappear in Tocqueville’s American journey notes and in the many drafts, working manuscript, and final text of the Democracy. Even some of the key terminology of this epistle would resurface in the 1835 and 1840 volumes. But most important, destined to become basic themes in his book were the underlying notion of tension between each individual and the society as a whole, Tocqueville’s profound concern that the dignity and vitality of each individual be maintained in the face of an increasingly strong force publique, and his idea that force individuelle, which he admired, was giving way to égoïsme, which he deplored.
Although Tocqueville was already thinking in 1830 about grand social developments, his thoughts were then focused on the rise of “civilization” and what that portended of mankind. His musings seemed primarily to reflect his recent attendance at and reading of François Guizot’s lectures on “The History of Civilization in France.” A fascination with a different force in the modern world, démocratie, would have to await Tocqueville’s discovery of America.
Within a few weeks of his arrival in the New World, Tocqueville attempted to reconcile observed traits of the American republic with some ideas that he had previously learned from Montesquieu. The eighteenth-century theorist had proclaimed that each form of government—monarchy, republic (aristocratic or democratic), and despotism—rested on some fundamental principle. For republics, that principle was virtue (la vertu), which Montesquieu defined as “a renouncement of self.” He had written: “This virtue can be defined: love of laws and love of country. This love, which demands the constant preference of the public interest to one’s own, produces all the private virtues; they are nothing more than this preference.... So everything depends on establishing this love in the republic.”4
But this principle of self-abnegation did not seem to fit the American republic, so Tocqueville soon found himself qualifying Montesquieu’s argument. “The principle of the republics of antiquity was to sacrifice private interests to the general good. In that sense one could say that they were virtuous. The principle of this one seems to be to make private interests harmonize with the general interests. A sort of refined and intelligent selfishness (égoïsme raffiné et intelligent) seems to be the pivot on which the whole machine turns. These people do not trouble themselves to find out whether public virtue is good, but they do claim to prove that it is useful. If the latter point is true, as I think it is in part, this society can pass as enlightened but not as virtuous. But up to what extent can the two principles of individual well-being and the general good in fact be merged?”5
These speculations soon resumed in a letter to his friend Chabrol. “What serves as a tie to these diverse elements? What makes of them a people? Interest. That’s the secret. Individual interest which sticks through at each instant, interest which, moreover, comes out in the open and calls itself a social theory. We are a long way from the ancient republics, it must be admitted, and yet this people is republican and I don’t doubt will long remain so. And the Republic is for it the best of governments.”6
So some peculiar understanding of private interest, “a sort of refined and intelligent selfishness (égoïsme raffiné et intelligent),” stood at the core of this society. Americans engaged in public affairs (practiced public virtue) not because of some abstract good, but because they believed such activity benefited their interests as individuals. On a presumed harmony between private and public interest, properly understood, they had boldly built a social theory and established a novel principle for their republic. Tocqueville was intrigued and almost persuaded.
In Boston several persons obligingly described for him how this American égoïsme intelligent operated through local self-government and associations.7 He heard repeatedly about the widespread social and political activity and the high level of practical experience and wisdom which prevailed in the United States. As early as 20 September 1831, he summarized: “One of the happiest consequences of the absence of government ... is the ripening of individual strength (force individuelle) which never fails to follow therefrom. Each man learns to think and to act for himself without counting on the support of any outside power which, however watchful it be, can never answer all the needs of man in society. The man thus used to seeking his well-being by his own efforts alone, stands the higher in his own esteem as well as in that of others: he grows both stronger and greater of soul.... But one must say it again, there are but few peoples who can manage like that without government.... For the civilized man to be able to do [so,] he must have reached that state of society in which knowledge allows a man to see clearly what is useful for him and in which his passions do not prevent him carrying it out.”8
Here was another significant amendment to his 1830 theorizing. As a result of his experiences in America, he now realized that neither égoïsme (of a certain type) nor civilization was necessarily incompatible with la force individuelle. Civilized people could develop a sophisticated understanding of private and public interest which would actually enhance the strength of individuals. The American, for example, clearly demanded and enjoyed an unusually high degree of personal independence and responsibility.
The role played in the New World republic by informed self-interest finally led Tocqueville to another qualification of Montesquieu’s premise. “Another point which America demonstrates is that virtue is not, as has long been claimed, the only thing that maintains republics, but that enlightenment (lumières), more than any other thing, makes this social condition easy. The Americans are scarcely more virtuous than others; but they are infinitely more enlightened (I speak of the masses) than any other people I know; I do not only want to say that there are more people there who know how to read and write (a matter to which perhaps more importance is attached than is due), but the body of people who have understanding of public affairs, knowledge of the laws and of precedents, feeling for the well-understood interests (intérêts bien entendus) of the nation, and the faculty to understand them, is greater than in any other place in the world.”9
So practical intelligence allowed Americans to uphold their unique social theory. What Tocqueville had earlier called “a sort of refined and intelligent selfishness” was now on the way to becoming “well-understood” or enlightened self-interest (intérêt bien entendu).
In the American West certain features common to the whole society were often exaggerated. For example, Madame la Comtesse de Tocqueville, Alexis’s mother, learned in a letter from Louisville, Kentucky, that in the Mississippi Valley a doubly new society was taking shape. “It is surely here that one must come to judge the most unique situation that has, without doubt, ever existed under the sun. A people absolutely without precedents, traditions, habits, or even dominant ideas, blazing without hesitation a new trail in civil, political, and criminal legislation, never looking around to examine the wisdom of other peoples and the heritage of the past; but cutting their institutions like their roads in the midst of the forests where they have just settled and where certainly no limits or obstacles are to be met; a society which does not yet have either political ties, or ties of social or religious hierarchy; where each individual stands by himself (est soi) because it pleases him to do so without concerning himself with his neighbor; a democracy without limits or bounds.”10
More specifically, Tocqueville and Beaumont noticed that the pioneer of Michigan, even more than Americans elsewhere, seemed too exclusively dedicated to the pursuit of material success. “Concentrating on the single object of making his fortune, the emigrant has ended by making an altogether exceptional mode of existence. Even his feelings for his family have become merged in a vast égoïsme, and one cannot be sure whether he regards his wife and children as anything more than a detached part of himself.”11 The New World republic, especially in the West, was a society without any of the usual social bonds. Each individual engaged in the pursuit of fortune by himself and was forced to rely largely on his own resources. In some ways, each person stood terribly isolated and alone. Here was the potentially more somber side of the individual independence and energy which Tocqueville had earlier described.
So by the time he left the United States, Tocqueville had recognized that démocratie with its erosion of traditional ties had at least two possible but contrary results. On the one hand, people could fall into a narrow selfishness (égoïsme), purposely ignoring interests other than their own, and single-mindedly pursue their own individual destinies. This would be the opposite of Montesquieu’s virtue. Or, on the other hand, people who were sufficiently enlightened could envision their individual and common interests in a way which would allow the fostering of both. They would devote themselves as necessary to private or public affairs, knowing that an ultimate harmony existed between the two. The result would thus be an intelligent selfishness (égoïsme intelligent) that Tocqueville eventually called enlightened self-interest (intérêt bien entendu). Tocqueville believed that in America, despite western excesses, the second alternative prevailed.
Even before the actual writing of the Democracy began, additional ideas and feelings about individual responsibility and égoïsme appeared in an exchange of letters between Tocqueville and Eugène Stoffels. In January 1833, Tocqueville admonished his close friend (and by implication all of his countrymen who, for whatever reasons, felt themselves above or apart from the politics of France):
I began, my dear friend, to feel seriously annoyed with you when I received your letter....
You speak to me of what you call your political atheism and ask if I share it. Here it is necessary to understand one another. Are you disgusted only with the parties, or also with the ideas that they exploit? In the first case, you know that such has always been my viewpoint, more or less. But in the second, I am no longer in any way your man. At the present time there is an obvious tendency to treat with indifference all ideas that can agitate society, whether they are true or false, noble or ignoble. Each person seems agreed to consider the government of his country sicut inter alios acta. Each person concentrates more and more on individual interest. Only men wanting power for themselves, and not strength and glory for their country, can rejoice at the sight of such a symptom. To count on tranquillity purchased at such a price, it is necessary not to know how to see very far into the future. It is not a healthy or virile calm. It is a sort of apoplectic torpor which, if it should last a long time, would lead us inescapably to great misfortunes.... I struggle with all my power against this bastard wisdom, this fatal indifference which in our times is sapping the energy of so many beautiful souls. I try not to make two worlds: the one moral, where I still get excited about what is beautiful and good; the other political, where to smell more comfortably the dung on which we walk, I stretch out flat on my stomach.12
The political withdrawal of legitimists and of others who saw themselves acting out of high moral principles profoundly disturbed the young nobleman. He saw an unfortunate tendency in France for individuals—especially the best individuals—to retreat into their private lives and to leave the political arena to the selfishly ambitious. Rising indifference and loss of energy made him uneasy for the future. So he urged men like Eugène to resist these temptations to peaceful solitude. As Tocqueville wrote his 1835 volumes, these apprehensions would never be far from his thoughts.
When Tocqueville finally undertook the composition of his work on America, he briefly sketched the characteristics of three basic social states.
This analysis, tentatively made for his “Introduction,”15 contained the seeds of much of Tocqueville’s later argument about égoïsme. It not only described an alarming present weakness and isolation of individuals, but also disclosed his desire to move from égoïsme individuel sans la force and la doctrine de l’intérêt sans la science (or égoïsme imbécile) to joint efforts and l’intérêt bien entendu (or égoïsme intelligent).
But most curiously, this fragment portrayed the “Democratic and Republican System” as incorporating the more positive characteristics which Tocqueville had observed in the United States; in this piece the regime of égoïsme was not the système démocratique, but the état actuel. As the letter to Eugène indicated, what Tocqueville had in mind was the contemporary condition of France. And here again, implicitly, was the concept époque de transition.
Démocratie or the movement toward equality of conditions, Tocqueville would argue in his 1835 work, broke most traditional social bonds and thus undermined the existence of independent, secondary bodies in the society.16 While individuals grew increasingly similar, weak, and isolated, the power of the society as a whole waxed strong and irresistible.17La force individuelle was in increasing jeopardy.
But nowadays, with all classes jumbled together and the individual increasingly disappearing in the crowd, where he is readily lost in the common obscurity, and nowadays, when monarchic honor has almost lost its sway without being replaced by virtue, and there is nothing left which raises a man above himself, who can say where the exigencies of authority and the yielding of weakness will stop? ...
What strength can customs have among a people whose aspect has entirely changed and is still perpetually changing, where there is already some precedent for every act of tyranny, and every crime is following some example, where nothing ancient remains which men are afraid to destroy, and where they dare to do anything new that can be conceived?
What resistance can moeurs offer when they have so often been twisted before?
What can even public opinion do when not even a score of people18 are held together by any common bond, when there is no man, no family, no body, no class, and no free association which can represent public opinion and set it in motion?
When each citizen being equally impotent, poor, and isolated cannot oppose his individual weakness to the organized force of the government?19
In part because of this sense of helplessness, individuals withdrew more and more into themselves, grew indifferent to their fellows and their country, and became reluctant to engage in any public activities whatsoever. “The inhabitant in some countries shows a sort of repugnance in accepting the political rights granted to him by the law; it strikes him as a waste of time to spend it on communal interests, and he likes to shut himself up in a narrow égoïsme, of which four ditches with hedges on top define the precise limits.”20 A draft fragment warned of the possible consequences. “Everything is favorable in the laws [and] institutions as in the moeurs for preparing servitude. Egoïsme having replaced virtue.”21
Taking lessons from America, Tocqueville would prescribe two basic tasks for those concerned by this pernicious democratic trend toward égoïsme. Efforts had to be made, first, to combine the forces of individuals who were separately powerless. “When the citizens are all more or less equal, it becomes difficult to defend their freedom from the encroachments of power. No one among them being any longer strong enough to struggle alone with success, only the combination of the forces of all is able to guarantee liberty.”22 By uniting in joint undertakings those who felt helpless apart, Tocqueville hoped to reintroduce and to encourage a sense of individual strength and independence.
Secondly, selfishness might be countered by stimulating individual participation in the public affairs of the nation. Each person would then be drawn out of his private concerns and slowly enlightened by practical political experience.
“The most powerful way, and perhaps the only remaining way, in which to interest men in their country’s fate is to make them take a share in its government. In our day it seems to me that civic spirit is inseparable from the exercise of political rights, and I think that henceforward in Europe the numbers of the citizens will be found to increase or diminish in proportion to the extension of those rights.
“How is it that in the United States, where the inhabitants arrived but yesterday in the land they occupy, where, to say it in one word, the instinct of country can hardly exist—how does it come about that each man is as interested in the affairs of his township, of his canton, and of the whole state as he is in his own affairs? It is because each man in his sphere takes an active part in the government of society.”23
A draft disclosed some of the reasoning behind this call for participation. “It is because I hear the rights of governments discussed that I think we must hasten to give rights to the governed. It is because I see Democracy triumph that I want to regulate Democracy. People tell me that, since morality has relaxed, new rights will be new arms; that, since governments are already weak, new rights will be to give new arms to their enemies; that Democracy is already too strong in society without introducing it further into government. I will answer that it is because I see morality weak that I want to put it under the safeguard of interest; it is because I see governments powerless that I would like to accustom the governed to the habit of respecting them.”24 In the margin he added: “If morality were strong enough by itself, I would not consider it so important to rely on utility. If the idea of what was just were more powerful, I would not talk so much about the idea of utility.”25
For achieving these two general goals Tocqueville’s 1835 volumes would recommend several specific institutional remedies, particularly, once again, freedom of association and local liberties.26 Tocqueville would also endorse the concept of enlightened or well-understood self-interest as a remedy for égoïsme.27 Almost all Americans, he wrote in one fragment, readily accepted the notion that “enlightened self-interest was enough to lead men to do the right thing.”28
Returning to the problem of Montesquieu’s republican principle of virtue and its relation to the United States, Tocqueville composed a brief draft of remarks entitled “Concerning Virtue in Republics” that also emphasized the crucial function of enlightened self-interest.
“The Americans are not a virtuous people and yet they are free. This does not absolutely disprove that virtue, as Montesquieu thought, is essential to the existence of republics. It is not necessary to take Montesquieu’s idea in a narrow sense. What this great man meant is that republics can survive only by the action of the society on itself. What he understood by virtue is the moral power that each individual exercises over himself and that prevents him from violating the rights of others. When this triumph of man over temptation is the result of the weakness of the temptation or of a calculation of personal interest, it does not constitute virtue in the eyes of the moralist; but it is included in the idea of Montesquieu who spoke much more of the result than of its cause. In America it is not virtue which is great, it is temptation which is small, which amounts to the same thing. It is not disinterestedness which is great, it is interest which is well-understood (bien entendu), which again almost amounts to the same thing. So Montesquieu was right even though he spoke of classical virtue, and what he said about the Greeks and Romans still applies to the Americans.”29
The Americans displayed a special, calculated sort of virtue. Enlightened self-interest, though less strictly “moral,” nonetheless served effectively to counteract the destructive democratic tendency toward égoïsme.
The tensions between selfishness and responsibility and between the individual and society as a whole profoundly influenced the type and level of citizenship which characterized each nation. In a sketch of ideas for his chapter entitled “Public Spirit in the United States,”30 Tocqueville described the prevailing “sentiment which attaches men to their own country” during each of three separate stages of society. The first phase saw “Instinctive love of the homeland. Customs, moeurs, memories. Religion is not the principal passion, but gives strength to all passions. Patrie in the person of the King.” Then came the “Intermediate epoch. Égoïsme without enlightenment (lumières). Men have no more prejudices; they do not yet have beliefs.”31 During this period civic virtues disappeared; the individual, lacking esprit decité, was “a peaceful inhabitant, an honest farmer, a good head of the family.” Tocqueville declared himself “ready for anything, provided that one does not force me to give him the name ‘citizen.’ ”32
During that time, the people devoted themselves to “Moderation without virtue or courage; moderation which arises from faintness of heart and not from virtue, from exhaustion, from fear, from égoïsme. Tranquillity which comes not from being well, but from not having the courage and the necessary energy to seek something better.” They eventually became a “Mass suspended in the middle of things, inert, égoïste, without energy, without patriotism, sensual, sybaritic, which has only instincts, which lives from day to day, which becomes one by one the plaything of all the others.”33
This middle stage was finally superseded by the third epoch which was marked by an “active, enlightened love [of country],... perhaps more reserved, more lasting, more fertile. Égoïsme éclairé.”34 During this period, which already existed in America, men learned to “interest themselves as much in public prosperity as in that of their families; they brought to patriotism all the energy of égoïsme individuel.”35 Citizens would then rise up where only inhabitants had stood before. “In order for Democracy to govern,” Tocqueville insisted in another draft, “citizens are needed who take an interest in public affairs, who have the capacity to get involved and who want to do so. Capital point to which one must always return.”36
During the making of the Democracy, Tocqueville repeatedly searched for ways to avoid the democratic tendency that undermined la force individuelle and fostered a blind and destructive selfishness. Since the “virtue” of old seemed lost, he hoped to discover new ways to interest men in public affairs and to create self-confident and self-reliant individuals. From his American journey, he learned to pose the problem in terms of moving from égoïsme imbécile to égoïsme intelligent, or, more broadly, from égoïsme to intérêt bien entendu.
What Tocqueville finally called égoïsme in the first two volumes of the Democracy appeared to have two distinct facets: first, the growing powerlessness and isolation of individuals; and secondly, the withdrawal from public life and an accelerating concentration on private affairs. So égoïsme meant both weakness and selfishness; perhaps the phrase égoïsme individuel sans la force best expressed his understanding of democratic égoïsme in 1835. By 1840, however, Tocqueville would give yet another name to this phenomenon: individualisme.
From Egoïsme to Individualisme
The word individualisme first appeared in the early 1820s in the writings of Joseph de Maistre and other Frenchmen; after 1825, it could be found quite regularly in the works of the Saint-Simonians.1 René Rémond has even noted that by 1833 to 1835 certain journalists specifically applied individualisme to the American republic.2 So the term was not strictly speaking one of those new words to describe new things for which Tocqueville had issued so eloquent a call. But its use was still relatively rare enough, even in 1840, to cause Tocqueville to comment: “Individualisme is a word recently coined to express a new idea. Our fathers only knew about égoïsme.”3
Henry Reeve’s translation of the 1840 Democracy saw the term’s first appearance in English. Reeve felt obliged to add a personal note explaining his inability to offer any familiar English equivalent and apologizing for the neologism. Tocqueville’s book, along with those of Michel Chevalier and Friedrich List, also introduced the word to America.4
Curiously, in the United States (and to a lesser degree in England) the term would have a heavily positive connotation quite at odds with the typically pejorative use of individualisme by Tocqueville and most other Frenchmen. To Americans, especially as the nineteenth century progressed, the word would conjure up images of extensive political and economic freedoms. Tocqueville’s own diary remarks about the “fundamental social principles” in the United States of self-reliance and of individual independence and responsibility had captured something of what Americans would later mean by “individualism.”5 But Tocqueville’s own understanding of the term would consistently be quite different.
In 1840 Tocqueville would begin his explanation by attempting carefully to distinguish égoïsme and individualisme.
Egoïsme is a passionate and exaggerated love of self which leads a man to think of all things in terms of himself and to prefer himself to all.
Individualisme is a calm and considered feeling which disposes each citizen to isolate himself from the mass of his fellows and withdraw into the circle of family and friends; with this little society formed to his taste, he gladly leaves the greater society to look after itself.
Egoïsme springs from a blind instinct; individualisme is based on misguided judgment rather than depraved feeling. It is due more to inadequate understanding than to perversity of heart.
Egoïsme sterilizes the seeds of every virtue; individualisme at first only dams the spring of public virtue, but in the long run it attacks and destroys all the others too and finally merges in égoïsme.
Egoïsme is a vice as old as the world. It is not peculiar to one form of society more than another.
Individualisme is of democratic origin and threatens to grow as conditions get more equal.6
Key elements in this definition were the peaceful and reflective nature of individualism and Tocqueville’s insistence that, despite apparent prudence, individualism arose from short-sighted and erroneous judgments. He also stressed that individualism was new, the result of advancing démocratie, and that, unlike égoïsme which largely fixed attention on the solitary “I,” individualism stimulated the creation of a narrow, sacrosanct society of family and friends which then became the exclusive concern of each person.
Two letters between Tocqueville and Royer-Collard cast additional light upon certain features of this explanation. In the summer of 1838, Alexis and Marie arrived in Normandy where the husband hoped to find solitude and quiet for his writing and the wife hoped to supervise the undertaking of badly needed renovations of the old château. Alexis’s loud complaints about the noise of workmen and the incessant interruptions by visiting local dignitaries soon demonstrated the magnitude of his miscalculations. In the midst of his troubles, Tocqueville could not help reflecting on the nature of these provincial visitors. “I have again found much good will and no end of attention here. I am attached to this population, without, all the same, concealing its faults which are great. These people here are honest, intelligent, religious enough, passably moral, very steady: but they have scarcely any disinterestedness. It is true that égoïsme in this region does not resemble that of Paris, so violent and often so cruel. It is a mild, calm, and tenacious love of private interests, which bit by bit absorbs all other sentiments of the heart and dries up nearly all sources of enthusiasm there. They join to this égoïsme a certain number of private virtues and domestic qualities which, as a whole, form respectable men and poor citizens. I would pardon them all the same for not being disinterested, if they sometimes wanted to believe in disinterestedness. But they do not want to do so, and that, in the midst of all the signs of their good will, makes me feel oppressed. Unfortunately only time can help me escape an oppression of this type, and I am not patient.”7
In reply the old Doctrinaire reminded Tocqueville that what he saw was not in any way peculiar to Normandy. “You are peeved about the country where you live; but your Normans, they are France, they are the world; this prudent and intelligent égoïsme, it is the honnêtes gens of our time, trait for trait.”8
This “mild, calm, and tenacious love of private interests” which helps to form “respectable men and poor citizens,” this égoïsme of 1838, closely paralleled Tocqueville’s later description of individualisme. So aside from the implication that the good bourgeoisie of La Manche helped to shape Tocqueville’s image of individualisme, these two letters raise a more significant question. Did Tocqueville’s adoption by 1840 of the word individualisme signify that he had truly moved beyond this earlier notion of égoïsme? Or had he merely given a new name to a concept which he had already repeatedly defined?
Not only were many descriptions from 1835 and 1840 (and in between) similar, but also Tocqueville’s 1840 list of essential remedies for égoïsme or individualisme would largely reiterate the prescriptions of 1835.9 It is also significant that Tocqueville would liberally and apparently indiscriminately sprinkle both the terms égoïsme and individualisme throughout his final 1840 text.10
Yet despite great similarities and Tocqueville’s habitually inexact use of key words, the individualisme of the 1840 Democracy would differ in certain significant ways from the égoïsme of 1835, or even 1838. In the second half of his book, Tocqueville would describe at length two additional causes of individualisme, would examine some new intellectual facets of the concept and, most important, would painstakingly expose its eventual political consequences.
Tocqueville had long recognized that the growth of démocratie and the gradual development of democratic social conditions favored the spread of selfishness and of a sense of individual helplessness in a society. But by 1840 he would also indict the esprit révolutionnaire as one of the forces that most exacerbated individualisme.11 In a summary of essential ideas about égoïsme, he declared:
Egoïsme. How démocratie tends to develop the égoïsme natural to the human heart. When conditions are equal, when each person is more or less sufficient unto himself and has neither the duty to give nor to receive from anyone else, it is natural that he withdraws into himself and that for him society ends where his family ends.
Only widespread enlightenment can then teach him the indirect utility that he can gain from the prosperity of all. Here, as in many other things, only democratic institutions can partially correct the evils which the democratic social state brings forth.
What makes democratic nations selfish is not so much the large number of independent citizens which they contain as it is the large number of citizens who are constantly arriving at independence.
That is a principal idea.
Feeling of independence which, for the first time, grips a multitude of individuals and exalts them. This means that égoïsme must appear more open and less enlightened among people who are becoming democratic than among people who have been democratic for a long time.
Considering everything, I do not believe that there is more égoïsme in France than in America. The only difference is that in America it is enlightened and in France it is not. The Americans know how to sacrifice a portion of their personal interests in order to save the rest. We want to keep everything and often everything escapes us.
Danger if conditions equalize faster than enlightenment spreads. Here perhaps a transition to the doctrine of enlightened self-interest (intérêt bien entendu).12
This passage, probably dating from the early months of 1836, again underscored the link between démocratie and égoïsme and the importance of enlightened self-interest. It also repeated the definition of égoïsme as a feeling of individual detachment and exclusive concern for private interests and attempted to explain some significant differences between France and America. Tocqueville apparently believed that his own country suffered from a more virulent égoïsme because France had only recently undergone a democratic revolution (or was still in the midst of it); America, born in equality, had not required such an abrupt upheaval.13
As the composition of his work went forward, Tocqueville became increasingly aware that an important difference existed between the changes caused by advancing démocratie and the effects of certain revolutionary forces which he sensed were still at work in France. “Idea to express probably in the Preface. All existing democratic peoples are more or less in a state of revolution. But the state of revolution is a particular condition which produces certain effects that must not be confused and that are unique to it. The difficulty is to recognize among democratic peoples what is revolutionary and what is democratic.”14
Elsewhere he reflected: “Idea to put well in the foreground. Effects of démocratie, and particularly harmful effects, that are exaggerated in the period of revolution in the midst of which the democratic social condition, moeurs, and laws are established.... The great difficulty in the study of démocratie is to distinguish what is democratic from what is only revolutionary. This is very difficult because examples are lacking. There is no European people among which démocratie has completely settled in, and America is in an exceptional situation. The state of literature in France is not only democratic, but revolutionary. Public morality, the same. Religious and political opinions, the same.”15
In the “Rubish” of the final section on the political consequences of democracy,16 Tocqueville attempted yet another statement of the problem and a fuller definition.
Separate with care the esprit Démocratique and the esprit Révolutionnaire.... Definition of the esprit révolutionnaire:
Taste for rapid change; use of violence to bring them about.
Scorn for forms.
Scorn for established rights.
Indifference for means, considering the ends [desired].
Doctrine of the useful (utile).
Satisfaction given to brutal appetites.
The esprit révolutionnaire, which is everywhere the greatest enemy of liberty, is so among democratic peoples above all; because there is a natural and secret link between it and Démocratie. A revolution can sometimes be just and necessary; it can establish liberty; but the esprit révolutionnaire is always detestable and can never lead anywhere except to tyranny.17
So the revolutionary spirit, mentality, or attitude was responsible for some of the worst abuses during times of democratic advances.18 It was France’s revolutionary heritage—rather than démocratie by itself—which helped to explain the severe dislocations and looming problems which so clearly faced that nation by the late 1830s. Repeatedly in the 1840 Democracy, Tocqueville would resort to this explanation of what would otherwise have remained a baffling paradox. How did it happen that although America was the more thoroughly democratic nation, yet France more consistently witnessed the flaws and excesses of démocratie?
The second part of Tocqueville’s book would argue that France should attempt to avoid some of the ills of démocratie by becoming more democratic. French political life had to be harmonized with the nation’s increasingly democratic social condition; democracy had to be injected into politics. Individualisme, for instance, might be mitigated by local liberties and freedom of association. But his final volumes also often reminded readers of the recent and as yet incomplete nature of France’s democratic revolution. That, too, helped to explain the intensity of French problems, especially the apparent epidemic of individualisme.19
In 1835 Tocqueville had devoted only a few pages to the American desire for material well-being. But by 1840 he would place much more emphasis on the goût du bien-être and the love of material pleasures.20 A reason for this greater attention, in addition to his growing personal sensitivity to the materialism of the age, was probably a sharper awareness of the link between material desires and individualisme; each encouraged the other. The “democratic taste for material well-being,” he stated in a draft, “leads men to become absorbed in its pursuit or enjoyment.” Individualisme “causes each person to want to be occupied only with himself.”21
In the 1840 Democracy, Tocqueville exposed the preoccupation with material comfort which prevailed in democratic societies and then proceeded to explain his anxiety about such single-minded attachments. “The reproach I address to the principle of equality is not that it leads men away in the pursuit of forbidden enjoyments, but that it absorbs them wholly in quest of those which are allowed. By these means a kind of virtuous materialism may ultimately be established in the world, which would not corrupt, but enervate, the soul and noiselessly unbend its springs of action.”22
What he feared, in part, was the gradual fixation of men on their small, private material interests and their consequent failure to contribute time and energy to wider public concerns. So democratic materialism also hastened democratic individualisme; and the final result might well be the loss of liberty.23
Tocqueville’s formal definitions of individualisme (in manuscripts and text) usually stressed the withdrawal of individuals into petty private concerns and their indifference toward larger social issues. But his lengthy treatment in 1840 of democratic materialism added (though only implicitly) an additional feature to his definition: the relentless pursuit of physical ease for oneself and one’s family. This single-minded striving for well-being diverted the talents and energies of individuals from public life as effectively as any sense of isolation or weakness. So individualisme actually had two faces: one passive—helplessness and withdrawal; the other active—a passion for material comfort.
In Tocqueville’s broadening analysis of individualisme, the 1840 Democracy would not only disclose two major additional causes, the revolutionary spirit and materialism, but would also explore the possible intellectual results of individualisme. On an undated page from the 1840 “Rubish,” Tocqueville remarked that “There are in individualisme two kinds of effects that should be well distinguished so that they can be dealt with separately. 1. the moral effects, hearts isolate themselves; 2. the intellectual effects, minds isolate themselves.”24 And in a sheet enclosed with the original working manuscript of the chapter entitled “Concerning the Philosophical Approach of the Americans,” he surveyed the development of what he would call “indépendance individuelle de la pensée.”25
In the Middle Ages we saw that all opinions had to flow from authority; in those times philosophy itself, this natural antagonist to authority, took the form of authority; it clothed itself in the characteristics of a religion. After having created certain opinions by the free and individual force of certain minds, it imposed these opinions without discussion and compelled the [very] force that had given birth to it.
In the eighteenth century we arrived at the opposite extreme, that is, we pretended to appeal all things only to individual reason and to drive dogmatic beliefs away entirely. And just as in the Middle Ages we gave philosophy the form and the style of a religion, so in the eighteenth century we gave religion the form and the style of philosophy.
In our times, the movement still continues among minds of the second rank, but the others [know?] and admit that received and discovered beliefs, authority and liberty, individualisme and social force are all needed at the same time. The whole question is to sort out the limits of these pairs.
It is to that [question] that I must put all my mind.26
In the margin, Tocqueville carefully (and luckily) penned the date: “24 April 1837.”
Here is the earliest dated use by Tocqueville of the term individualisme that has yet been uncovered in the voluminous drafts and manuscripts of the Democracy.27 But what is most intriguing about this first dated instance is Tocqueville’s relatively favorable or at least neutral usage. Here he apparently grouped individualisme with liberty and intellectual discovery as opponents of authority and imposed belief.
Tocqueville would argue in the 1840 Democracy that the tendency toward individualisme caused men in democratic ages to abandon traditional intellectual authorities and to rely on their own powers of reason. His basic sympathy for a certain independence of mind would be evident, but he would worry, first, that intellectual self-reliance might be pushed too far, and, second, that men would too quickly find a dangerous substitute for the authorities of old: the judgment of the public. The intellectual independence of individuals might thus succumb to the dictates of the mass.28
Perhaps Tocqueville’s relatively approving use of individualisme in the fragment above once again reflected the depth of his anxiety about a possible loss of freedom of ideas. Of all the ways in which the mass might stifle the individual, the suppression of personal thought and opinion struck him as the most terrible. So in democratic times, a fierce intellectual self-reliance, a stubborn defense of one’s own mental independence apparently did not seem as potentially dangerous to Tocqueville as did other facets of individualisme. Only a profoundly rooted raison individuelle indépendante could possibly resist the enormous pressure of society as a whole.29
The 1835 Democracy had predicted despotism as a result of the unequal struggle between “each citizen ... equally impotent, poor, and isolated” and “the organized force of the government.”30 But the 1840 volumes would now go beyond this to offer a detailed examination of the relationships among individualisme, centralization, and despotism.31
The decline in individual energy and concern created a social and political vacuum into which the bureaucracy rushed. The “Rubish” of the large chapter entitled “How the Ideas and Feelings Suggested by Equality Influence the Political Constitution”32 offered a succinct but revealing description of the trend. “Individualisme—the habit of living isolated from one’s fellows, of not concerning oneself with anything that is common business, of abandoning this care to the sole, clearly visible representative of common interests, which is the government. Chacun chez soi; chacun pour soi. That is the natural instinct which can be corrected.”33
Tocqueville also realized that, at the same time, the suffocating effects of a centralized and omnipresent government in turn further discouraged any private efforts. If unchecked, this relentless cycle of reinforcement would ultimately end in total “individual servitude,”34 the hallmark of the New Despotism. So the final portion of his book would serve primarily to express his concern for the survival of indépendance individuelle in democratic times.35 “To lay down extensive but distinct and settled limits to the action of the government; to confer certain rights on private persons, and to secure to them the undisputed enjoyment of those rights; to enable individual man to maintain whatever independence, strength, and original power he still possesses; to raise him by the side of society at large, and uphold him in that position; these appear to me the main objects of legislators in the ages upon which we are now entering.”36
Often overlooked in Tocqueville’s excellent analysis of the political effects of démocratie is his discussion of what he would call its liberal tendencies. His apprehensions about individualisme, centralization, and despotism would largely focus the last chapter of his book on the negative influences of advancing equality. His grim warnings divert attention from his praises for the encouragements which démocratie gave to liberty.
On an extra sheet in the working manuscript, he explicitly recognized certain redeeming democratic features:
In the published chapter, these ideas would first be explained and then be subsumed by the phrase “love of independence.”38 Various drafts elaborated further on this democratic encouragement of independence and revealed Tocqueville’s strong approval of this influence. In one version he declared: “Begin by establishing the first tendency of equality toward individual independence and liberty. Show that this tendency can go as far as anarchy. In general it is the democratic tendency that people fear the most; and it is the one that I consider the greatest element of salvation that equality leaves us. Finish by indicating that this is not, however, the strongest and most continuous tendency that equality suggests. How through phases of anarchy (because of individualisme) democratic peoples tend however in a continuous manner toward the centralization of power.”39
Another draft stated: “Two contrary tendencies, not equally sustained, not equally strong, but two tendencies. The one toward individual independence; the other toward the concentration of power. ... As for me, I consider the taste for natural independence as the most precious gift which equality has given to men.”40
In 1840, the text would expand upon these ideas.41 And in his penultimate chapter Tocqueville would add: “The men who live in the democratic ages upon which we are entering have naturally a taste for independence; they are naturally impatient of regulation, and they are wearied by the permanence even of the condition they themselves prefer. They are fond of power, but they are prone to despise and hate those who wield it, and they easily elude its grasp by their own mobility and insignificance.
“These propensities will always manifest themselves, because they originate in the groundwork of society, which will undergo no change; for a long time they will prevent the establishment of any despotism, and they will furnish fresh weapons to each succeeding generation that struggles in favor of the liberty of mankind. Let us, then, look forward to the future with the salutary fear which makes men keep watch and ward for freedom, not with that faint and idle terror which depresses and enervates the heart.”42
So strong was Tocqueville’s attachment to what was, in less noble terms, the cantankerous, free individual that he once again found himself at the brink of serious contradiction. In a draft he wrote: “I have shown ... how, as equality became greater, each man, finding himself less dependent and more separated from his fellows, felt more inclined to consider himself apart and to live in isolation.” In a note immediately following, he observed: “This implies a contradiction with what precedes on the idea of centralization.”43
In a passage in his working manuscript he declared that “during the centuries of equality, each man, living independent of all of his fellows, gets used to directing without constraint his private affairs. When these same men meet in common, they naturally have the taste and the idea of administering themselves by themselves. So equality carries men toward administrative decentralization; but at the same time it creates powerful instincts which lead them away from it.”44
Here was an idea directly contrary to the relationship between démocratie and centralization which Tocqueville had posited years earlier. In the margin of this fragment he suggested: “Perhaps keep this for the place where I will speak about the liberal instincts created by equality.”45 Instead, however, he would simply strike these sentences from the final text. In 1840, the implied contradiction between the love of independence and the tendency toward centralization would remain for perceptive readers to ponder. Any explicit mention had been carefully deleted.
At the heart of Tocqueville’s analysis of égoïsme or individualisme remained an abiding paradox that could be traced back at least as far as his references in 1830 to the struggle between la force individuelle and la force sociale. While condemning individualisme, Tocqueville consistently upheld the goal of indépendance individuelle. “In our times, those who fear an excess of individualisme are right, and those who fear the extreme dependence of the individual are also right. Idea to express somewhere necessarily.”46
He believed that individuals should not occupy themselves solely with their own affairs and ignore the needs of the wider society. Yet he was also persuaded that perhaps the highest purpose of a society was the fullest possible development of the dignity and freedom of the individual. He decried the tendency in democratic times for the individual to limit his efforts to a narrowly defined circle of concern. Yet he also deeply desired a secure and independent sphere of action for each person free from any unnecessary intrusions of public power. Democratic society must not be allowed to swallow up the individual, and yet each person must be led to a higher sense of his public responsibilities and to a healthy willingness to engage in common affairs. What America had taught him was some means of reconciling these private and public interests.
A statement of the essence of this paradox appeared in yet another of Tocqueville’s drafts. “To sustain the individual in the face of whatever social power, to conserve something for his independence, his force, his originality; such must be the constant effort of all the friends of humanity in democratic times. Just as in democratic times it is necessary to elevate society and lower the individual.”47
In February 1840, a letter to Henry Reeve summarized Tocqueville’s beliefs.
The great peril of democratic ages, you may be sure, is the destruction or the excessive weakening of the parts of the social body in the face of the whole. Everything that in our times raises up the idea of the individual is healthy. Everything that gives a separate existence to the species and enlarges the notion of the type is dangerous. The esprit of our contemporaries turns by itself in this direction. The doctrine of the realists, introduced to the political world, urges forward all the abuses of Démocratie; it is what facilitates despotism, centralization, contempt for individual rights, the doctrine of necessity, all the institutions and all the doctrines which permit the social body to trample men underfoot and which make the nation everything and the citizens nothing.
That is one of my fundamental opinions to which many of my ideas lead. On this point I have reached an absolute conviction; and the principal object of my book has been to give this conviction to the reader.48
This statement to Reeve underscored an additional peculiarity of Tocqueville’s attachment to indépendance individuelle. To combat individualisme, to preserve the strength and the dignity of the individual, he assigned a predominant role to “the parts of the social body,” to the corps secondaires, principally self-governing localities and associations of all sorts. In democratic times, la force individuelle required new means of sustenance.49 What Tocqueville proposed, in short, was to save the individual by encouraging the small group or the artificially created community. The individual would be buoyed up not by his own efforts or powers, but by the support of his fellows. Again we come face to face with paradox.
Concern for the integrity of the individual is one of the bedrocks of Tocqueville’s book and outlook. At least as early as 1830, he had been alert to the tension between the individual and the society at large; and an acute awareness of that ancient struggle had informed the writing of his entire book. Whether Tocqueville labeled it force individuelle or indépendance individuelle, his desire for preserving the dignity of each human being remained at the core of the Democracy.
The fundamental solution to this ageless problem, Tocqueville argued, was to seek a deeper understanding of private and public interests and so to attempt the establishment of a new harmony between individual and social needs. This basic concept, which Tocqueville variously called égoïsme intelligent or intérêt bien entendu, had been among the many lessons of America. But it should also be noted that Tocqueville’s anxiety about accelerating individualisme, like his interest in centralization, perhaps reflected more his concerns about the social and political conditions of France and French attitudes in the 1830s than his knowledge of American society. In fact, it might be said that on these matters, he kept forgetting America.
The 1840 volumes of the Democracy introduced a significant new reason for individualisme, the esprit révolutionnaire, and that cause served as yet another important analytic device throughout the last part of Tocqueville’s book. It helped to explain not only the spread of individualisme, but also the increasing trend toward centralization, for example.
By the late 1830s, Tocqueville was increasingly persuaded that France’s revolution had not ended in 1830, but was still proceeding and was perhaps even permanent.50 So a second fundamental historical force, esprit révolutionnaire, came to join démocratie in the second part of Tocqueville’s work. Indeed, his attention during the 1840s and 1850s would be drawn more and more away from démocratie and toward revolution. (The latter along with the persistent theme of centralization would clearly come to the fore in Tocqueville’s L’Ancien Régime et la Révolution.) Even by the late 1830s, the trend toward démocratie was apparently facing increasing competition for Tocqueville’s attention from the concept of esprit révolutionnaire.
In 1840 Tocqueville also specifically acknowledged and briefly discussed the significance of a third basic development, industrialization. So by the time the last section of his masterpiece was drafted, Tocqueville was writing about the conjunction of three great forces: démocratie, revolution, and industrialization. The focus of his work was still on démocratie and its influences and possibilities, but, as Tocqueville then recognized, the future of France and, more generally, of Western civilization ultimately hinged on the interplay of these three developments. Presumably one reason for the not uncommon opinion that the last is also the best and most profound portion of the Democracy is Tocqueville’s masterful treatment of the complex interrelation of these forces.51 His work and thought had significantly broadened. Although that tendency presented certain well-recognized dangers of abstraction and lack of precision, it also allowed once again for great depth and insight.
So the 1840 volumes, more than the first two, presented a persistent problem of balance both for Tocqueville and his readers. Not only did he resort more frequently to double and triple comparisons of America, England, and France, but he also attempted, sometimes unsuccessfully, to distinguish clearly between what was American and what was democratic, or between what was democratic and what was revolutionary.52 When his growing recognition of industrialization is remembered, it becomes clear that, especially by the late 1830s, Tocqueville had become a sort of ambitious and sometimes highly skilled intellectual juggler, bravely attempting to keep a large number of key concepts simultaneously in motion.
We may go beyond this observation to suggest that Tocqueville liked to think in contraries. His penchants for learning by comparison and for making distinctions sometimes led him to (or even over) the brink of contradiction. But more often his mental inclinations simply caused him to see concepts as pairs in tension. Our examination of the making of the Democracy has suggested several significant examples of this intellectual trait. Démocratie, he wrote at various times, exhibited opposite tendencies: toward thinking for oneself and toward not thinking at all; toward suspicion of authority and toward the concentration of power; toward individual independence and toward conformity and submission to the crowd; toward a social and political activity so intense that it spilled over into intellectual and cultural pursuits and toward a pandering of mind and soul to reigning ideas and values. The major task for responsible and thoughtful persons in democratic times was, in one sense, to “sort out the limits of these pairs.” The resulting inescapable tensions (and paradoxes) were a hallmark not only of periods of advancing equality, but also of Tocqueville’s masterpiece itself.
Most of the major themes treated by Tocqueville in his book are so intricately linked that to grab hold of one is inevitably to pull many others along as well. This tightly knit character is especially apparent when the triple notions of centralization, despotism, and individualisme are involved. Particularly in the final section of the 1840 Democracy, the three ideas become virtually inextricable. To the extent that Tocqueville has an identifiable “doctrine,” centralization, despotism, and individualisme (or their opposites: pluralism, liberty, and indépendance individuelle) are its Trinity; and démocratie, its One.
[1. ]Conversation with Mr. Gallatin, New York, 10 June 1831, Non-Alphabetic Notebook 1, Mayer, Journey, p. 21.
[2. ]Conversation with Mr. Spencer, Canandaigua, 17–18 July 1831, ibid., pp. 28–29.
[3. ]My emphasis. Conversation with Mr. Sparks, 29 September 1831, Non-Alph. Notebooks 2 and 3, ibid., p. 59. Sparks also mentioned two preventive devices: the governor’s veto and the power of judges to declare laws unconstitutional.
[4. ]My emphasis, except for even in America; 30 September 1831, Pocket Notebook 3, ibid., p. 149.
[5. ]25 October 1831, ibid., p. 156. See the 1835 work where the first of these conversations is recounted: Democracy (Mayer), p. 225. Also compare a conversation with Mr. Roberts Vaux in which the majority’s occasional desire for “disorder and injustice” was discussed: 27 October 1831, Non-Alph. Notebooks 2 and 3, Mayer, Journey, pp. 68–69. It should be noted further that Tocqueville’s brief comments about the “dogma of the republic” are yet another echo of Royer-Collard. Also compare the ideas of Benjamin Constant.
[6. ]From the section entitled “American Democracy’s Power of Self-Control,” Democracy (Mayer), p. 224. The other examples cited would be American bankruptcy laws and the not-uncommon resort, in certain areas, to murder and dueling as ways to settle disputes. For a discussion with a somewhat different emphasis, consult the section entitled “Respect for Law in the United States,” ibid., pp. 240–41.
[7. ]My emphasis; conversation with Mr. Stewart, Baltimore, 1 November 1831, Non-Alph. Notebooks 2 and 3, Mayer, Journey, p. 80. Cf. in the 1835 volumes the section “The Power Exercised by the Majority in America over Thought,” Democracy (Mayer), pp. 254–56, especially p. 256.
[8. ]Conversation with Mr. Cruse, Baltimore, 4 November 1831, Pocket Notebook 3, Mayer, Journey, pp. 159–60.
[9. ]11 October 1831, ibid., p. 153. Also compare some later remarks where Tocqueville would note that under certain circumstances, such as when a powerful aristocracy makes itself master of the juries, “the jury is the most terrible weapon of which tyranny could make use” (12 January 1832, Pocket Notebooks 4 and 5, ibid., pp. 174–75).
[10. ]Second conversation with Mr. Walker: important, 3 December 1831, Non-Alph. Notebooks 2 and 3, ibid., p. 95.
[11. ]Consult especially the conversations with Storer, Chase, and Walker, 2 and 3 December 1831, ibid., pp. 89–95.
[12. ]Conversation with Mr. Chase, Cincinnati, 2 December 1831, ibid., pp. 92–93.
[13. ]Notes on Kent, ibid., pp. 228–29.
[14. ]On the Mississippi, 27 December 1831, Notebook E, Mayer, Journey, p. 255; also see other remarks on mandates, 12 January 1832, Pocket Notebooks 4 and 5, ibid., p. 173. The broader analysis of this issue which Tocqueville would later present in the 1835 Democracy would have a strong impact on the thinking of John Stuart Mill, who would subsequently heavily emphasize the distinction between direct and representative democracy; consult especially Mill’s reviews of the 1835 and 1840 Democracy; also Iris W. Mueller, John Stuart Mill and French Thought.
[15. ]Conversation with a lawyer from Montgomery, Alabama, 6 January 1832, Non-Alph. Notebooks 2 and 3, Mayer, Journey, p. 108.
[16. ]On 8 September 1834, the Journal des débats carried lengthy news about the riots which had occurred in Philadelphia, New York, and Charlestown during the preceding summer. If Tocqueville read or heard of these ugly events, his fear of the use of violence against minorities would certainly have been heightened; cf. Rémond, Etats-Unis, 2:699–700 and notes.
[17. ]Tocqueville’s emphasis; “Sources manuscrites,” Yale, CIIc.
[18. ]In the draft, “the absence of ranks” is crossed out.
[19. ]Drafts, Yale, CVh, Paquet 3, cahier 4, pp. 15–17. In the 1835 volumes Tocqueville would discuss various institutional barriers, including bicameralism, indirect elections, parties and other associations, the press, and especially the jury system, the legal and judicial establishments, and decentralization and federalism. See the pertinent chapters, but particularly “What Tempers the Tyranny of the Majority in the United States,” Democracy (Mayer), pp. 262–76.
[20. ]Drafts, Yale, CVh, Paquet 3, cahier 5, p. 21.
[21. ]Drafts, Yale, CVb, Paquet 13, p. 15. Cf. in the 1835 volumes, Democracy (Mayer), “The Executive Power of the State,” p. 86; also pp. 154, 246–47.
[22. ]The phrase “establishment of the judges” means various things to Tocqueville, but it stood especially for the generally “conservative” influence of lawyers and judges in the society, the power of judges to declare laws unconstitutional, and the institution of the jury. See especially the sections “The Temper of the American Legal Profession and How It Serves to Counterbalance Democracy” and “The Jury in the United States Considered as a Political Institution,” Democracy (Mayer), pp. 263–76.
[23. ]Drafts, Yale, CVh, Paquet 3, cahier 4, pp. 15–17. Cf. ibid., cahier 5, p. 40: “Judicial power—The most original part, and the most difficult to understand, of all the American Constitution. Elsewhere there have been confederations, a representative system, a democracy; but no where a judicial power organized like that of the Union.”
[24. ]Ibid., cahier 1, pp. 14–15.
[25. ]Ibid., CVe, Paquet 17, p. 64.
[26. ]Federalist (Mentor), pp. 464–72; the quote is from pp. 465–66.
[27. ]Drafts, Yale, CVh, Paquet 3, cahier 3, pp. 9–10. Cf. in the 1835 work, Democracy (Mayer), p. 269.
[28. ]Drafts, Yale, CVh, Paquet 3, cahier 5, p. 17. Compare especially Democracy (Mayer), pp. 269–70.
[29. ]Kent and Story particularly stressed the tendencies in the states toward mandates and the popular election of judges.
[30. ]Drafts, Yale, CVh, Paquet 3, cahier 5, p. 14. Compare Democracy (Mayer), p. 246 and footnote 1; also pp. 154–55.
[31. ]My emphasis; Drafts, Yale, CVh, Paquet 3, cahier 3, pp. 53–54. See in the 1835 volumes, Democracy (Mayer), pp. 262–63, 271, note 7.
[32. ]Democracy (Mayer), p. 262.
[33. ]Ibid., p. 260, note 7.
[34. ]Consult particularly the section “The Superiority of the Federal Constitution over That of the States,” ibid., pp. 151–55. Tocqueville also recognized the possibility that, through the Senate, a minority might effectively frustrate the will of the majority; ibid., p. 119.
[35. ]Ibid., p. 248.
[36. ]Ibid., pp. 254–55; also see the entire section entitled “The Power Exercised by the Majority in America over Thought,” pp. 254–56. A remark similar to this last sentence is found in the drafts: “All things considered, the Americans still make up the people of the world where there is the greatest number of men of the same opinion”; Drafts, Yale, CVh, Paquet 3, cahier 4, pp. 35–36.
[37. ]Democracy (Mayer), pp. 255–56.
[38. ]Drafts, Yale, CVh, Paquet 3, cahier 3, p. 59.
[39. ]Original Working Ms., Yale, CVIa, tome 2, additional paragraphs at the conclusion of the chapter on liberty of the press. Compare “Freedom of the Press in the United States,” Democracy (Mayer), pp. 180–88.
[40. ]My own translation. Cf. Démocratie, O.C. (Mayer), 1:1, p. 267.
[41. ]See James Bryce, The American Commonwealth, 2:335–53, the chapters entitled “The Tyranny of the Majority” and “The Fatalism of the Multitude.”
[42. ]Drafts, Yale, CVh, Paquet 3, cahier 2, pp. 68–69; compare Democracy (Mayer), pp. 395–96. Cf. Royer-Collard’s idea of la souveraineté de la raison.
[43. ]Democracy (Mayer), pp. 250–51.
[44. ]Original Working Ms., Yale, CVIa, tome 2; the sketch may be found next to the opening page of the second volume of the 1835 Democracy.
[45. ]Consult the chapters entitled “What Tempers the Tyranny of the Majority in the United States” and “The Main Causes Tending to Maintain a Democratic Republic in the United States,” Democracy (Mayer), pp. 262–76 and pp. 277–315, respectively.
[46. ]Democracy (Bradley), 1:264. For Tocqueville’s full discussion, see his chapters “The Omnipotence of the Majority in the United States and Its Effects” and “What Tempers the Tyranny of the Majority in the United States,” Democracy (Mayer), pp. 246–61 and pp. 262–76, respectively.
[47. ]Democracy (Mayer), p. 247.
[48. ]Ibid., p. 247; also see pp. 250–53.
[49. ]Ibid., p. 252.
[51. ]Ibid., p. 253.
[52. ]For some examples, see the 1840 volumes, Democracy (Mayer), pp. 516, 669, 704; or Démocratie, O.C. (Mayer), 1:2, pp. 115–16, 298, 337.
[53. ]Democracy (Mayer), p. 520.
[54. ]Ibid., pp. 433–36; the quote is from p. 433.
[55. ]Ibid., p. 435; cf. pp. 643–44.
[56. ]Cf. ibid., pp. 436, 643–44.
[57. ]Ibid., p. 436; cf. pp. 515–17.
[58. ]See the 1840 chapter “Concerning the Principal Source of Beliefs among Democratic Peoples,” ibid., pp. 433–36.
[59. ]Copyist indicated an illegible word.
[60. ]Copyist indicated another illegible word.
[61. ]This paragraph is written in the margin.
[62. ]This paragraph is written in the margin.
[63. ]Compare Democracy (Mayer), p. 436.
[64. ]In 1848, as a member of the committee charged with drafting a new constitution, Tocqueville would indeed have his opportunity as lawmaker. For discussion of his views and contributions at that time, consult Gargan, Critical Years, pp. 97–113, and Ponteil, Institutions, pp. 269–76.
[65. ]Drafts, Yale, CVj, Paquet 2, cahier 1, pp. 33–42. I have quoted excerpts.
[66. ]Consult chapter 16 below: “Would Démocratie Usher in a New Dark Ages?”
[1. ]“The Jury in the United States Considered as a Political Institution,” Democracy (Mayer), pp. 270–76, especially pp. 274–75.
[2. ]For elaboration on the American sources of these ideas, especially the influence of Charles Curtis and Henry Gilpin, see Pierson, Toc. and Bt., pp. 384–89, 529–30.
[3. ]11 October 1831, Pocket Notebook 3, Mayer, Journey, p. 153.
[4. ]Conversation with Mr. Cruse, Baltimore, 4 November 1831, Pocket Notebook 3, Mayer, Journey, pp. 159–60.
[5. ]Conversation with a lawyer from Montgomery, Alabama, 6 January 1832, Non-Alph. Notebooks 2 and 3, Mayer, Journey, pp. 107–10.
[6. ]Tocqueville and Beaumont attended trials in five different cities; see Pierson, Toc. and Bt., pp. 723–24.
[7. ]Bt., Marie (Chapman), pp. 74–75.
[8. ]Democracy (Mayer), p. 252.
[9. ]Drafts, Yale, CVh, Paquet 3, cahier 5, p. 23.
[10. ]Democracy (Mayer), pp. 31–49, especially pp. 42–43.
[11. ]Ibid., pp. 158–59.
[12. ]Consult ibid., pp. 253–54 and pp. 728–29, Appendix 1, R.
[13. ]Letters from Tocqueville to Sparks, Cincinnati, 2 December 1831, and from Sparks to Tocqueville, Boston, 2 February 1832, quoted in Herbert Baxter Adams, “Jared Sparks and Alexis de Tocqueville,” pp. 571–75 and pp. 577–83, respectively.
[14. ]On this entire issue consult especially Robert A. Dahl and Edward R. Tufte, Size and Democracy.
[15. ]See Jardin, “Décentralisation,” pp. 106–8; also Charles Pouthas, “Alexis de Tocqueville: Représentant de la Manche (1837–1851),” Tocqueville: centenaire, pp. 17–32.
[16. ]See, in the 1835 volumes, the pertinent chapters on the omnipotence and tyranny of the majority; and in the 1840 volumes, a discussion of the need for common beliefs in any society, Democracy (Mayer), pp. 433–34.
[17. ]Consult chapter 9 above on the size of a republic.
[18. ]Sparks to Major Poussin, 1 February 1841; and Sparks to Prof. William Smyth, 13 October 1841. Quoted from Herbert Baxter Adams, “Jared Sparks and Alexis de Tocqueville,” pp. 605–6.
[19. ]Consult the following additional, critical discussions: David Spitz, “On Tocqueville and the ‘Tyranny’ of Public Sentiment”; Irving Zeitlin, Liberty, Equality and Revolution in Alexis de Tocqueville; and concerning the unreality of Tocqueville’s theory, Hugh Brogan, Tocqueville, especially pp. 39, 40–45, 47, 59–60. In addition, see a good comparison of Tocqueville’s and Madison’s views of the “majority” and an astute analysis of Tocqueville’s concept of the tyranny of the majority, Morton Horwitz, “Tocqueville and the Tyranny of the Majority.” Also compare works by James Fenimore Cooper, The American Democrat, or Hints on the Social and Civic Relations of the United States of America (1838), which discusses at length possible tyranny of the “publick” and “publick opinion”; and James Bryce, The American Commonwealth, which presents Bryce’s theory of the “fatalism of the multitude.”
[20. ]Consult Mayer, Journey, pp. 77, 98, 156, 224–26. Also, from the 1835 chapter on the “Three Races,” see Democracy (Mayer), pp. 342–43.
[21. ]“Negroes,” 27 September 1831, Alph. Notebook 2, Mayer, Journey, p. 224.
[22. ]Conversation with Mr. Latrobe, Baltimore, 30 October 1831, Non-Alph. Notebooks 2 and 3, ibid., p. 77; and “Negroes,” 4 November 1831, Alph. Notebook 2, ibid., pp. 225–26.
[23. ]Second Conversation with Mr. Walker: important, 3 December 1831, Non-Alph. Notebooks 2 and 3, ibid., p. 98.
[24. ]Democracy (Mayer), p. 343. Cf., in the 1840 work, another interesting discussion, ibid., pp. 561–65. A case could be made that Tocqueville saw the racial situation in America as a holdover of aristocratic relationships. Negroes and whites (and other racial groups) were rigidly defined groups in a society otherwise marked by the lack of fixed classes.
[25. ]Bt. Marie (Chapman), p. 74.
[26. ]Drafts, Yale, CVj, Paquet 2, cahier 2, pp. 2–3.
[27. ]Democracy (Mayer), pp. 259–60.
[28. ]From the 1840 work, Democracy (Bradley), 2:270.
[29. ]See Democracy (Mayer), p. 248; also pp. 174, 177–78.
[30. ]This concern was repeatedly demonstrated by Tocqueville’s interest in the right of association and liberty of the press and the uses which Americans made of these instruments of opinion.
[31. ]See especially two thought-provoking works: Henry Steele Commager, Majority Rule and Minority Rights, particularly pp. 65–67, 81; and Michael Wallace, “The Uses of Violence in American History,” particularly pp. 96–102. Also consult the excellent anthology edited by Norman A. Graebner, Freedom in America: A 200-Year Perspective, especially the essays by Henry Abraham, Paul Conkin, Hans Morgenthau, and Gordon Wood.
[32. ]Pierson, for example, pointed out this oversight; see Pierson, Toc. and Bt., pp. 766–67 and note. It should be remembered, however, that Tocqueville did worry about a new aristocracy of captains of industry (which would constitute a type of tyranny of the minority). Often overlooked in addition is a passage from the 1840 volumes in which Tocqueville warned about the consequences of individualisme and too great an attachment to physical pleasures. “The despotism of a faction is as much to be feared as that of a man. When the great mass of citizens does not want to bother about anything but private business, even the smallest party need not give up hope of becoming master of public affairs”; Democracy (Mayer), pp. 540–41.
[33. ]Mayer, Journeys to England, Appendices, “On Bribery at Elections,” from testimony given by Tocqueville before a select committee of the House of Commons on 22 June 1835, pp. 210–32; the quote is from p. 231.
[1. ]For examples of the former, see Democracy (Mayer), p. 314  and p. 694 ; for an example of the latter, ibid., p. 705 .
[2. ]6 November 1831, Pocket Notebook 3, Mayer, Journey, p. 160. Also consult Tocqueville’s reflections after speaking with Charles Carroll, 5 November 1831, Non-Alph. Notebooks 2 and 3, ibid., pp. 86–87. Compare with Tocqueville’s musings of 1831 the following questions from Beaumont’s Marie (1835): “Is the world of the spirit subject to the same laws as physical nature? That great minds appear, is it necessary that the masses be ignorant to serve as their shadow? Do not great personalities shine above the vulgar as high mountains, their crests glittering with snow and light, tower over dark precipices?” (Bt. Marie [Chapman], p. 105).
[3. ]Rémond, Etats-Unis, 1:266, 283–305, especially pp. 301–5. Note that proponents of this view often cited the American republic as proof of their contention.
[4. ]Drafts, Yale, CVb, Paquet 13, p. 32. In the 1835 Democracy, Tocqueville would not include any chapter on this idea; only when he drafted the second part of his project (1840) would he develop it.
[5. ]Alternative written above “this invasion”: “the fall of Rome.” Neither phrase is crossed out (Drafts, Yale, CVh, Paquet 3, cahier 3, p. 28).
[6. ]The copyist noted that one word was illegible; possibly “awaits.”
[7. ]Drafts, Yale, CVh, Paquet 3, cahier 3, p. 28.
[8. ]Drafts, Yale, CVb, Paquet 13, pp. 28–29.
[9. ]Democracy (Mayer), pp. 55–56, 301–5.
[10. ]Ibid., pp. 254–56.
[11. ]Ibid., p. 208. A related statement, one which says a great deal about Tocqueville’s personal attitudes toward démocratie, appeared in the working manuscript: “Democratic government [is] the chef-d’oeuvre of civilization and knowledge”; “Administrative Instability in the United States,” Original Working Ms., Yale, CVIa, tome 2.
[12. ]“Administrative Instability in the United States,” Original Working Ms., Yale, CVIa, tome 2.
[13. ]Democracy (Mayer), pp. 301–5.
[14. ]Tocqueville purposely devoted his first two volumes primarily to America rather than to démocratie in general.
[15. ]Bt., Marie (Chapman), pp. 105–16; also see p. 95.
[16. ]Rémond, Etats-Unis, 1:286–87, 300–301.
[17. ]See Beaumont’s treatment of these and other figures in Marie (Chapman), pp. 95, 111–12 note, 115–16. Also consult Pierson’s discussion of efforts by the companions to see a lesser-known American writer, Catherine Maria Sedgwick, Pierson, Toc. and Bt., pp. 349–50 and notes.
[18. ]Particularly significant would have been the rise of the Transcendentalists from 1836 forward. In 1841 a still-valuable work written in defense of American cultural and literary vitality did indeed appear in France: Eugène Vail, De la littérature et des hommes de lettres des Etats-Unis d’Amérique.
[19. ]Cf. Bt., Marie (Chapman), pp. 111–12 note.
[20. ]Democracy (Mayer), p. 455; also see pp. 454–58.
[21. ]Copyist’s note: “on leaf forming [the] jacket.” The chapters alluded to may be found in the first book of the 1840 volumes, “Influence of Democracy on the Intellectual Movements in the United States,” chapters 9–11 and 13–15; see especially chapter 9, “Why the Example of the Americans Does Not Prove That a Democratic People Can Have No Aptitude or Taste for Science, Literature, or the Arts,” Democracy (Mayer), pp. 454–58.
[22. ]Alternative crossed out: “It is necessary for men to make a prodigious effort by themselves in order to take the first step.”
[23. ]Alternative crossed out: “I think that it is more difficult for a savage.”
[24. ]Alternatives for “interests”: “needs,” “works,” and “cares.” All crossed out.
[25. ]Alternative deleted: “of physical nature.”
[26. ]Alternative deleted: “equality of conditions.”
[27. ]Alternative crossed out: “mind.”
[28. ]Alternative not crossed out: “enlightenment” (lumières).
[29. ]Alternative not crossed out: “over his peers.”
[30. ]Alternative deleted: “societies.”
[31. ]Alternative for the remainder of this sentence, deleted: “and I think that it is by losing their liberty that men have acquired the means to reconquer it.”
[32. ]Drafts, Yale, CVk, Paquet 7, cahier 1, pp. 18–20. Cf. Democracy (Mayer), pp. 456–57.
[33. ]“Why the Example of the Americans Does Not Prove that a Democratic People Can Have No Aptitude or Taste for Science, Literature or the Arts,” Original Working Ms., Yale, CVIa, tome 3. This sentence is written in the margin and is not crossed out.
[34. ]Ibid.; this sentence is written on an extra sheet of paper enclosed within the manuscript.
[35. ]Cf. Democracy (Mayer), pp. 433–36 and especially pp. 454–58.
[36. ]Drafts, Yale, CVa, Paquet 8, cahier unique, p. 8.
[37. ]Tocqueville’s own omission; Drafts, Yale, CVk, Paquet 7, cahier 1, p. 5.
[39. ]For elaboration of this idea, see the following two chapters.
[40. ]Page partially destroyed by water and mildew.
[41. ]“On the Use Which the Americans Make of Associations in Civil Life,” Drafts, Yale, CVg, “Rubish,” tome 3. Cf. Democracy (Mayer), pp. 513–17.
[42. ]See the chapter entitled “On the Use Which the Americans Make of Associations in Civil Life,” Democracy (Mayer), pp. 513–17; especially pp. 514, 517.
[43. ]“... Aptitude or Taste for Science, Literature, or the Arts,” Original Working Ms., Yale, CVIa, tome 3. Cf. Democracy (Mayer), p. 458. Note however that in 1840 Tocqueville would also insist that the intellectual and cultural fruits of a democracy, though abundant, would be different from those of an aristocracy. And if equality reigned without liberty, Tocqueville foresaw probable intellectual and cultural disaster; see for example, ibid., p. 436.
[44. ]Drafts, Yale, CVa, Paquet 8, cahier unique, pp. 47–48, dated June 1838. In the margin of this remark, Tocqueville wrote “good to develop,” and in 1840 he would expand upon the idea but neglect to indicate how it had been inspired.
[45. ]Drafts, Yale, CVk, Paquet 7, cahier 1, p. 20. Note in these remarks Tocqueville’s interchangeable use of the terms “democracy,” “free institutions,” and “equality of conditions.”
[46. ]Consult Democracy (Mayer), pp. 640–45.
[1. ]These ideas seem to reflect the influence of François Guizot’s lectures on “The General History of Civilization in Europe” (1828) and especially his lectures on “The History of Civilization in France,” given between April 1829 and May 1830; Tocqueville attended many of these sessions. For a convenient, modern edition in English, see François Guizot, Historical Essays and Lectures.
[2. ]Compare Tocqueville’s later concept and descriptions of the New Despotism; see chapters 11 and 13 above.
[3. ]Tocqueville to Charles Stoffels, Versailles, 21 April 1830, Tocqueville and Beaumont Correspondence, 1830–April 1831, Yale, A VII.
[4. ]My translation; De l’esprit des lois, 1:39.
[5. ]“General Questions,” Sing Sing, 29 May 1831, Alph. Notebook 1, Mayer, Journey, pp. 210–11; cf. Pierson’s translation, Toc. and Bt., p. 113. Tocqueville’s viewpoint was quite unusual for the time. According to René Rémond, there was—up to the early 1830s—a widespread belief among French admirers of the United States that America did stand for virtue in the classic sense; see Rémond, Etats-Unis, 2:556–57.
[6. ]Quoted from Pierson, Toc. and Bt., pp. 129–30; see Tocqueville to Chabrol, New York, 9 June 1831, Toc. letters, Yale, BIa2.
[7. ]See especially the conversations with Quincy and Lieber, 20 and 22 September 1831, respectively, Non-Alph. Notebooks 2 and 3, Mayer, Journey, pp. 50–52, 54–56.
[8. ]Tocqueville’s own “Note” to the conversation with Quincy, 20 September 1831, Non-Alph. Notebooks 2 and 3, Mayer, Journey, pp. 51–52.
[9. ]30 November 1831, Notebook E, ibid., p. 258; this passage contains the first use of the phrase “intérêts bien entendus” which I have found in Tocqueville’s American papers. Cf., in the 1835 work, “Public Spirit in the United States,” Democracy (Mayer), pp. 235–37.
[10. ]Toc. to Madame la Comtesse de Tocqueville, Louisville, 6 December 1831, Toc. Letters Home, Yale, BIa1. Compare Democracy (Mayer), pp. 55–56, 283.
[11. ]“Fortnight in the Wilds,” Written on the Steamboat Superior, Begun on 1 August 1831, Mayer, Journey, p. 339.
[12. ]Toc. to Eugène Stoffels, Paris, 12 January 1833, O.C. (Bt.), 1:424–26. This letter not only demonstrates Tocqueville’s disapproval of the behavior of those, like his other friend, Louis, who met the final fall of the Bourbons by withdrawal into an internal exile, but also his deep aversion to the July régime, especially its political life. The letter makes clear as well, however, that—despite his disgust—Tocqueville was unable to keep out of politics.
[13. ]“The power of association” is an alternative, deleted, for the preceding phrase, “the collective power.”
[14. ]Drafts, Yale, CVh, Paquet 3, cahier 3, pp. 110–11.
[15. ]See Democracy (Mayer), pp. 9–20, especially pp. 12–16.
[16. ]Cf. ibid., pp. 53–54, 96–97, 313–14.
[17. ]Cf. ibid., p. 57; also pp. 87–88.
[18. ]Tocqueville’s mention of a score in this passage is not accidental. In April 1834 the July regime, in an effort to end organized political opposition by the republicans or other groups, instituted a new law severely restricting associational activities. The law applied to any association of over twenty persons, even if divided into sections of fewer than twenty; see Paul Bastid, Les Institutions politiques de la monarchie parlementaire française, 1814–1848, pp. 385–88. This measure effectively turned all political groups into secret societies; yet despite such official efforts at discouragement, the period from 1830 to 1848 was a time of intense activity by associations.
[19. ]Democracy (Mayer), pp. 313–14.
[20. ]Ibid., p. 243.
[21. ]Drafts, Yale, CVh, Paquet 3, cahier 1, p. 14.
[22. ]Democracy (Mayer), p. 57.
[23. ]Ibid., pp. 236–37.
[24. ]Drafts, Yale, CVh, Paquet 3, cahier 4, p. 30.
[25. ]Ibid. Concerning the idea of utility and any possible early links between Tocqueville and utilitarian theory, consult the brief but thoughtful discussion by Doris Goldstein, “Alexis de Tocqueville’s Concept of Citizenship,” pp. 39–53, especially p. 42.
[26. ]For elaboration, see the chapters above on centralization. Also consult especially the chapter on “Political Association in the United States,” Democracy (Mayer), pp. 189–95. For Tocqueville, liberty of the press was closely related to the right of association; see “Freedom of the Press in the United States,” ibid., pp. 180–88 and particularly p. 191. In the 1835 work, Tocqueville also urged the use of the jury system to combat égoïsme individuelle which he called the “rust” of societies; ibid., p. 274.
[27. ]In the 1835 volumes, the specific term intérêt bien-entendu seldom appeared. (It did however appear in the American diaries and the drafts of the 1835 Democracy.) In the work itself Tocqueville usually wrote more generally about how, in the United States, enlightenment (lumières) countered égoïsme and about the American idea of harmony between private and public interests. By 1840 the phrase intérêt bien-entendu would be more frequently used.
[28. ]Drafts, Yale, CVh, Paquet 3, cahier 2, pp. 78–79.
[29. ]In the margin of this passage, Tocqueville wrote: “concerning l’intérêt bien entendu”; Drafts, Yale, CVe, Paquet 17, pp. 66–67.
[30. ]Democracy (Mayer), pp. 235–37; also compare p. 95.
[31. ]Drafts, Yale, CVh, Paquet 3, cahier 3, p. 3. Cf., again, the idea of époque de transition.
[32. ]Ibid., cahier 1, pp. 2–4; cf. cahier 3, p. 17. On Tocqueville’s ideas about what made a citizen, see Doris Goldstein, “Alexis de Tocqueville’s Concept of Citizenship.”
[33. ]Drafts, Yale, CVh, Paquet 3, cahier 3, pp. 36–37; cf. in the 1835 work, Democracy (Mayer), pp. 87–98, especially pp. 89–94. These descriptions seem once again to reflect Tocqueville’s observations of France during the 1830s and his dislike of what he saw: a society marked by shortsightedness, materialism, boredom, and the ideal of “middlingness” or the juste milieu. On the last, consult Vincent E. Starzinger, Middlingness, “Juste Milieu” Political Theory in France and England, 1815–1848.
[34. ]Drafts, Yale, CVh, Paquet 3, cahier 3, p. 3. Cf. Democracy (Mayer), pp. 235–37.
[35. ]Drafts, Yale, CVh, Paquet 3, cahier 3, p. 6.
[36. ]Tocqueville’s emphasis: Drafts, Yale, CVe, Paquet 17, p. 65. Compare a passage from the 1835 “Introduction”: Democracy (Mayer), pp. 14–15.
[1. ]On the history and meanings of the words individualisme and individualism, consult the following articles: Steven Lukes, “The Meanings of ‘Individualism’ ” and “Types of Individualism”; Léo Moulin, “On the Evolution of the Meaning of the Word ‘Individualism’ ”; Koenraad W. Swart, “Individualism in the Mid-Nineteenth Century (1826–1860).” See also two books: Albert Shatz, L’Individualisme économique et social: ses origins—son évolution—ses formes contemporaines; and the more recent fine study of Tocqueville’s ideas on individualisme, Jean-Claude Lamberti, La Notion d’individualisme chez Tocqueville.
[2. ]Rémond, Etats-Unis, 2:670.
[3. ]Democracy (Mayer), p. 506.
[4. ]See Steven Lukes, “The Meanings of ‘Individualism,’ ” pp. 58–63.
[5. ]See Tocqueville’s remarks dated 30 September 1831, Pocket Notebook 3, Mayer, Journey, p. 149.
[6. ]“Of Individualism in Democracies,” Democracy (Mayer), pp. 506–7. In the “Rubish” of this chapter Tocqueville wrote: “Individualisme, isn’t it simply the disposition which men have to set themselves apart?” Drafts, Yale, “Rubish,” CVg, tome 3.
[7. ]Tocqueville to Royer-Collard, Tocqueville par Saint-Pierre-Eglise, 23 June 1838, O.C. (Mayer), Jardin, 11:64; my translation.
[8. ]Royer-Collard to Tocqueville, Châteauvieux, 21 July 1838, ibid., p. 66; my translation.
[9. ]See Democracy (Mayer), pp. 509–13.
[10. ]For examples, see Democracy (Mayer), pp. 508–9, 509–10.
[11. ]Consult, for example, “How Individualism Is More Pronounced at the End of a Democratic Revolution Than at Any Other Time,” ibid., pp. 508–9.
[12. ]Drafts, Yale, CVa, Paquet 8, cahier unique, pp. 7–8.
[13. ]Cf. Louis Hartz’s famous thesis built on Tocqueville’s observation: Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in America.
[14. ]Drafts, Yale, CVk, Paquet 7, cahier 2, p. 42.
[15. ]Ibid., cahier 1, pp. 51–53.
[16. ]The fourth part of the 1840 volumes, “On the Influence of Democratic Ideas and Feelings on Political Society,” Democracy (Mayer), pp. 665–705.
[17. ]Drafts, Yale, “Rubish,” CVg, tome 4, for the chapter entitled “Continuation of the Preceding Chapters,” Democracy (Mayer), pp. 695–705.
[18. ]The esprit révolutionnaire fostered not only individualisme but also centralization; it therefore greatly increased the chances for despotism. For elaboration of possible results of the revolutionary spirit, see in the 1835 volumes, Democracy (Mayer), pp. 59, 97; in the 1840 volumes, ibid., pp. 432–33, 460–61, 505–6, 508–9, 548, 578–79, 632–33, 634–45, 669–70, 674–79, 688–89, 699–700. Also related to Tocqueville’s efforts to explain this paradox would be his concept of époque de transition; see the chapter on the possible new Dark Ages above.
[19. ]See Democracy (Mayer), pp. 508–9.
[20. ]See, in the 1835 work, ibid., pp. 283–86, 375–76; for 1840, consult especially the second part of the 1840 volumes, “The Influence of Democracy on the Sentiments of the Americans,” chapters 10–16, ibid., pp. 530–47.
[21. ]Drafts, Yale, CVd, Paquet 5, p. 2.
[22. ]Democracy (Bradley), 2:141. Cf. the entire chapter, “Particular Effects of the Love of Physical Pleasures in Democratic Times,” Democracy (Mayer), pp. 532–34, especially p. 533.
[23. ]For elaboration, see a remarkable passage, Democracy (Mayer), pp. 540–41.
[24. ]“On the Use Which the Americans Make of Associations in Civil Life,” Drafts, Yale, “Rubish,” CVg, tome 3. Cf. Democracy (Mayer), pp. 509–13, 515–16.
[25. ]For the chapter which opens the 1840 work, see Democracy (Mayer), pp. 429–33.
[26. ]Original Working Ms., Yale, CVIa, tome 3.
[27. ]Most other dated pages with the word individualisme were written in 1838; see, for example, Drafts, Yale, CVd, Paquet 5, p. 1, 28 July 1838. An undated instance of Tocqueville’s shift in usage from égoïsme to individualisme may be found in one of his drafts; Drafts, Yale, CVa, Paquet 8, pp. 28–32, especially p. 29.
[28. ]Consult “Concerning the Philosophical Approach of the Americans,” Democracy (Mayer), pp. 429–33; also see “Concerning the Principal Source of Beliefs among Democratic Peoples,” pp. 433–36.
[29. ]Cf. chapters 14 and 16 above.
[30. ]Democracy (Mayer), p. 314; already quoted above.
[31. ]For elaboration, consult especially the final portion of the 1840 work, “On the Influence of Democratic Ideas and Feelings on Political Society,” ibid., pp. 665–705.
[32. ]This is an earlier title for the fourth book or final portion of the 1840 Democracy. Tocqueville at first planned a single, long chapter.
[33. ]Drafts, Yale, “Rubish,” CVg, tome 4. Cf. Drafts, Yale, CVg, Paquet 9, cahier 2, p. 35.
[34. ]Democracy (Mayer), pp. 676, 679.
[35. ]Tocqueville frequently used indépendance individuelle and similar terms; see especially ibid., pp. 679, 681, 688, 691–92, 695–96, 699–700, 701–2, 703–4.
[36. ]Democracy (Bradley), 2:347.
[37. ]“Equality Naturally Gives Men the Taste for Free Institutions,” Original Working Ms., Yale, CVIa, tome 4.
[38. ]See the chapter entitled “Equality Naturally Gives Men the Taste for Free Institutions,” Democracy (Mayer), pp. 667–68.
[39. ]Drafts, Yale, CVk, Paquet 7, cahier 2, p. 44. Cf. Democracy (Mayer), pp. 667–68, 687–89, 701–2.
[40. ]Drafts, Yale, CVk, Paquet 7, cahier 2, pp. 45–46.
[41. ]See, for example, Democracy (Mayer), p. 667; also Democracy (Bradley), 2:305.
[42. ]Democracy (Bradley), 2:348.
[43. ]Drafts, Yale, CVd, Paquet 5, pp. 9–10.
[44. ]“Continuation of the Preceding Chapters,” Original Working Ms., Yale, CVIa, tome 4. Cf. Democracy (Mayer), pp. 701–2.
[45. ]“Continuation of the Preceding Chapters,” Original Working Ms., Yale, CVIa, tome 4. Cf. Democracy (Mayer), pp. 701–2.
[46. ]Drafts, Yale, CVg, Paquet 9, cahier 2, p. 151.
[47. ]Drafts, Yale, CVk, Paquet 7, cahier 2, p. 41.
[48. ]Tocqueville to Henry Reeve, Paris, 3 February 1840, Correspondance anglaise, O.C. (Mayer), 6:1, pp. 52–53.
[49. ]See Democracy (Mayer), p. 696.
[50. ]After his experiences of 1848 and 1849, Tocqueville would be persuaded that the revolution was, unfortunately, a permanent state for France; see Gargan, Critical Years, pp. 181, 188.
[51. ]This final section is entitled “On the Influence of Democratic Ideas and Feelings on Political Society.”
[52. ]In addition, Tocqueville repeatedly contrasted models of “aristocratic” and “democratic” societies.