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Democracy In America, Volume 1 by Alexis de Toqueville

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Democracy In America
Alexis De Tocqueville
Translator - Henry Reeve

Book One

Introduction

Special Introduction By Hon. John T. Morgan

In the eleven years that separated the Declaration of the
Independence of the United States from the completion of that act
in the ordination of our written Constitution, the great minds of
America were bent upon the study of the principles of government
that were essential to the preservation of the liberties which
had been won at great cost and with heroic labors and sacrifices.
Their studies were conducted in view of the imperfections that
experience had developed in the government of the Confederation,
and they were, therefore, practical and thorough.

When the Constitution was thus perfected and established, a
new form of government was created, but it was neither
speculative nor experimental as to the principles on which it was
based. If they were true principles, as they were, the
government founded upon them was destined to a life and an
influence that would continue while the liberties it was intended
to preserve should be valued by the human family. Those
liberties had been wrung from reluctant monarchs in many
contests, in many countries, and were grouped into creeds and
established in ordinances sealed with blood, in many great
struggles of the people. They were not new to the people. They
were consecrated theories, but no government had been previously
established for the great purpose of their preservation and
enforcement. That which was experimental in our plan of
government was the question whether democratic rule could be so
organized and conducted that it would not degenerate into license
and result in the tyranny of absolutism, without saving to the
people the power so often found necessary of repressing or
destroying their enemy, when he was found in the person of a
single despot.

When, in 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville came to study Democracy
in America, the trial of nearly a half-century of the working of
our system had been made, and it had been proved, by many crucial
tests, to be a government of "liberty regulated by law," with
such results in the development of strength, in population,
wealth, and military and commercial power, as no age had ever
witnessed.

[See Alexis De Tocqueville]

De Tocqueville had a special inquiry to prosecute, in his
visit to America, in which his generous and faithful soul and the
powers of his great intellect were engaged in the patriotic
effort to secure to the people of France the blessings that
Democracy in America had ordained and established throughout
nearly the entire Western Hemisphere. He had read the story of
the FrenchRevolution, much of which had been recently written in
the blood of men and women of great distinction who were his
progenitors; and had witnessed the agitations and terrors of the
Restoration and of the Second Republic, fruitful in crime and
sacrifice, and barren of any good to mankind.

He had just witnessed the spread of republican government
through all the vast continental possessions of Spain in America,
and the loss of her great colonies. He had seen that these
revolutions were accomplished almost without the shedding of
blood, and he was filled with anxiety to learn the causes that
had placed republican government, in France, in such contrast
with Democracy in America.

De Tocqueville was scarcely thirty years old when he began
his studies of Democracy in America. It was a bold effort for
one who had no special training in government, or in the study of
political economy, but he had the example of Lafayette in
establishing the military foundation of these liberties, and of
Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Hamilton, all of whom were
young men, in building upon the Independence of the United States
that wisest and best plan of general government that was ever
devised for a free people.

He found that the American people, through their chosen
representatives who were instructed by their wisdom and
experience and were supported by their virtues - cultivated,
purified and ennobled by self-reliance and the love of God - had
matured, in the excellent wisdom of their counsels, a new plan of
government, which embraced every security for their liberties and
equal rights and privileges to all in the pursuit of happiness.
He came as an honest and impartial student and his great
commentary, like those of Paul, was written for the benefit of
all nations and people and in vindication of truths that will
stand for their deliverance from monarchical rule, while time
shall last.

A French aristocrat of the purest strain of blood and of the
most honorable lineage, whose family influence was coveted by
crowned heads; who had no quarrel with the rulers of the nation,
and was secure against want by his inherited estates; was moved
by the agitations that compelled France to attempt to grasp
suddenly the liberties and happiness we had gained in our
revolution and, by his devout love of France, to search out and
subject to the test of reason the basic principles of free
government that had been embodied in our Constitution. This was
the mission of De Tocqueville, and no mission was ever more
honorably or justly conducted, or concluded with greater eclat,
or better results for the welfare of mankind.

His researches were logical and exhaustive. They included
every phase of every question that then seemed to be apposite to
the great inquiry he was making.

The judgment of all who have studied his commentaries seems
to have been unanimous, that his talents and learning were fully
equal to his task. He began with the physical geography of this
country, and examined the characteristics of the people, of all
races and conditions, their social and religious sentiments,
their education and tastes; their industries, their commerce,
their local governments, their passions and prejudices, and their
ethics and literature; leaving nothing unnoticed that might
afford an argument to prove that our plan and form of government
was or was not adapted especially to a peculiar people, or that
it would be impracticable in any different country, or among any
different people.

The pride and comfort that the American people enjoy in the
great commentaries of De Tocqueville are far removed from the
selfish adulation that comes from a great and singular success.
It is the consciousness of victory over a false theory of
government which has afflicted mankind for many ages, that gives
joy to the true American, as it did to De Tocqueville in his
great triumph.

When De Tocqueville wrote, we had lived less than fifty
years under our Constitution. In that time no great national
commotion had occurred that tested its strength, or its power of
resistance to internal strife, such as had converted his beloved
France into fields of slaughter torn by tempests of wrath.

He had a strong conviction that no government could be
ordained that could resist these internal forces, when, they are
directed to its destruction by bad men, or unreasoning mobs, and
many then believed, as some yet believe, that our government is
unequal to such pressure, when the assault is thoroughly
desperate.

Had De Tocqueville lived to examine the history of the
United States from 1860 to 1870, his misgivings as to this power
of self- preservation would, probably, have been cleared off. He
would have seen that, at the end of the most destructive civil
war that ever occurred, when animosities of the bitterest sort
had banished all good feeling from the hearts of our people, the
States of the American Union, still in complete organization and
equipped with all their official entourage, aligned themselves in
their places and took up the powers and duties of local
government in perfect order and without embarrassment. This
would have dispelled his apprehensions, if he had any, about the
power of the United States to withstand the severest shocks of
civil war. Could he have traced the further course of events
until they open the portals of the twentieth century, he would
have cast away his fears of our ability to restore peace, order,
and prosperity, in the face of any difficulties, and would have
rejoiced to find in the Constitution of the United States the
remedy that is provided for the healing of the nation.

De Tocqueville examined, with the care that is worthy the
importance of the subject, the nature and value of the system of
"local self-government," as we style this most important feature
of our plan, and (as has often happened) when this or any subject
has become a matter of anxious concern, his treatment of the
questions is found to have been masterly and his preconceptions
almost prophetic.

We are frequently indebted to him for able expositions and
true doctrines relating to subjects that have slumbered in the
minds of the people until they were suddenly forced on our
attention by unexpected events.

In his introductory chapter, M. De Tocqueville says:
"Amongst the novel objects that attracted my attention during my
stay in the United States, nothing struck me more forcibly than
the general equality of conditions." He referred, doubtless, to
social and political conditions among the people of the white
race, who are described as "We, the people," in the opening
sentence of the Constitution. The last three amendments of the
Constitution have so changed this, that those who were then negro
slaves are clothed with the rights of citizenship, including the
right of suffrage. This was a political party movement, intended
to be radical and revolutionary, but it will, ultimately, react
because it has not the sanction of public opinion.

If M. De Tocqueville could now search for a law that would
negative this provision in its effect upon social equality, he
would fail to find it. But he would find it in the unwritten law
of the natural aversion of the races. He would find it in public
opinion, which is the vital force in every law in a free
government. This is a subject that our Constitution failed to
regulate, because it was not contemplated by its authors. It is
a question that will settle itself, without serious difficulty.
The equality in the suffrage, thus guaranteed to the negro race,
alone - for it was not intended to include other colored races -
creates a new phase of political conditions that M. De
Tocqueville could not foresee. Yet, in his commendation of the
local town and county governments, he applauds and sustains that
elementary feature of our political organization which, in the
end, will render harmless this wide departure from the original
plan and purpose of American Democracy. "Local Self-Government,"
independent of general control, except for general purposes, is
the root and origin of all free republican government, and is the
antagonist of all great political combinations that threaten the
rights of minorities. It is the public opinion formed in the
independent expressions of towns and other small civil districts
that is the real conservatism of free government. It is equally
the enemy of that dangerous evil, the corruption of the
ballot-box, from which it is now apprehended that one of our
greatest troubles is to arise.

The voter is selected, under our laws, because he has
certain physical qualifications - age and sex. His
disqualifications, when any are imposed, relate to his education
or property, and to the fact that he has not been convicted of
crime. Of all men he should be most directly amenable to public
opinion.

The test of moral character and devotion to the duties of
good citizenship are ignored in the laws, because the courts can
seldom deal with such questions in a uniform and satisfactory
way, under rules that apply alike to all. Thus the voter,
selected by law to represent himself and four other non-voting
citizens, is often a person who is unfit for any public duty or
trust. In a town government, having a small area of
jurisdiction, where the voice of the majority of qualified voters
is conclusive, the fitness of the person who is to exercise that
high representative privilege can be determined by his neighbors
and acquaintances, and, in the great majority of cases, it will
be decided honestly and for the good of the country. In such
meetings, there is always a spirit of loyalty to the State,
because that is loyalty to the people, and a reverence for God
that gives weight to the duties and responsibilities of
citizenship.

M. De Tocqueville found in these minor local jurisdictions
the theoretical conservatism which, in the aggregate, is the
safest reliance of the State. So we have found them, in
practice, the true protectors of the purity of the ballot,
without which all free government will degenerate into
absolutism.

In the future of the Republic, we must encounter many
difficult and dangerous situations, but the principles
established in the Constitution and the check upon hasty or
inconsiderate legislation, and upon executive action, and the
supreme arbitrament of the courts, will be found sufficient for
the safety of personal rights, and for the safety of the
government, and the prophetic outlook of M. De Tocqueville will
be fully realized through the influence of Democracy in America.
Each succeeding generation of Americans will find in the pure and
impartial reflections of De Tocqueville a new source of pride in
our institutions of government, and sound reasons for patriotic
effort to preserve them and to inculcate their teachings. They
have mastered the power of monarchical rule in the American
Hemisphere, freeing religion from all shackles, and will spread,
by a quiet but resistless influence, through the islands of the
seas to other lands, where the appeals of De Tocqueville for
human rights and liberties have already inspired the souls of the
people.

Hon. John T. Morgan

Special Introduction By Hon. John J. Ingalls

Nearly two-thirds of a century has elapsed since the
appearance of "Democracy in America," by Alexis Charles Henri
Clerel de Tocqueville, a French nobleman, born at Paris, July 29,
1805.

Bred to the law, he exhibited an early predilection for
philosophy and political economy, and at twenty-two was appointed
judge-auditor at the tribunal of Versailles.

In 1831, commissioned ostensibly to investigate the
penitentiary system of the United States, he visited this
country, with his friend, Gustave de Beaumont, travelling
extensively through those parts of the Republic then subdued to
settlement, studying the methods of local, State, and national
administration, and observing the manners and habits, the daily
life, the business, the industries and occupations of the people.

"Democracy in America," the first of four volumes upon
"American Institutions and their Influence," was published in
1835. It was received at once by the scholars and thinkers of
Europe as a profound, impartial, and entertaining exposition of
the principles of popular, representative self-government.

Napoleon, "The mighty somnambulist of a vanished dream," had
abolished feudalism and absolutism, made monarchs and dynasties
obsolete, and substituted for the divine right of kings the
sovereignty of the people.

Although by birth and sympathies an aristocrat, M. de
Tocqueville saw that the reign of tradition and privilege at last
was ended. He perceived that civilization, after many bloody
centuries, had entered a new epoch. He beheld, and deplored, the
excesses that had attended the genesis of the democratic spirit
in France, and while he loved liberty, he detested the crimes
that had been committed in its name. Belonging neither to the
class which regarded the social revolution as an innovation to be
resisted, nor to that which considered political equality the
universal panacea for the evils of humanity, he resolved by
personal observation of the results of democracy in the New World
to ascertain its natural consequences, and to learn what the
nations of Europe had to hope or fear from its final supremacy.

That a youth of twenty-six should entertain a design so
broad and bold implies singular intellectual intrepidity. He had
neither model nor precedent. The vastness and novelty of the
undertaking increase admiration for the remarkable ability with
which the task was performed.

Were literary excellence the sole claim of "Democracy in
America" to distinction, the splendor of its composition alone
would entitle it to high place among the masterpieces of the
century. The first chapter, upon the exterior form of North
America, as the theatre upon which the great drama is to be
enacted, for graphic and picturesque description of the physical
characteristics of the continent is not surpassed in literature:
nor is there any subdivision of the work in which the severest
philosophy is not invested with the grace of poetry, and the
driest statistics with the charm of romance. Western emigration
seemed commonplace and prosaic till M. de Tocqueville said, "This
gradual and continuous progress of the European race toward the
Rocky Mountains has the solemnity of a providential event; it is
like a deluge of men rising unabatedly, and daily driven onward
by the hand of God!"

The mind of M. de Tocqueville had the candor of the
photographic camera. It recorded impressions with the
impartiality of nature. The image was sometimes distorted, and
the perspective was not always true, but he was neither a
panegyrist, nor an advocate, nor a critic. He observed American
phenomena as illustrations, not as proof nor arguments; and
although it is apparent that the tendency of his mind was not
wholly favorable to the democratic principle, yet those who
dissent from his conclusions must commend the ability and courage
with which they are expressed.

Though not originally written for Americans, "Democracy in
America" must always remain a work of engrossing and constantly
increasing interest to citizens of the United States as the first
philosophic and comprehensive view of our society, institutions,
and destiny. No one can rise even from the most cursory perusal
without clearer insight and more patriotic appreciation of the
blessings of liberty protected by law, nor without encouragement
for the stability and perpetuity of the Republic. The causes
which appeared to M. de Tocqueville to menace both, have gone.
The despotism of public opinion, the tyranny of majorities, the
absence of intellectual freedom which seemed to him to degrade
administration and bring statesmanship, learning, and literature
to the level of the lowest, are no longer considered. The
violence of party spirit has been mitigated, and the judgment of
the wise is not subordinated to the prejudices of the ignorant.

Other dangers have come. Equality of conditions no longer
exists. Prophets of evil predict the downfall of democracy, but
the student of M. de Tocqueville will find consolation and
encouragement in the reflection that the same spirit which has
vanquished the perils of the past, which he foresaw, will be
equally prepared for the responsibilities of the present and the
future.

The last of the four volumes of M. de Tocqueville's work
upon American institutions appeared in 1840.

In 1838 he was chosen member of the Academy of Moral and
Political Sciences. In 1839 he was elected to the Chamber of
Deputies. He became a member of the French Academy in 1841.
In 1848 he was in the Assembly, and from June 2nd to October
31st he was Minister of Foreign Affairs. The coup d'etat of
December 2, 1851 drove him from the public service. In 1856 he
published "The Old Regime and the Revolution." He died at Cannes,
April 15, 1859, at the age of fifty-four.

Hon. John J. Ingalls

Introductory Chapter

Amongst the novel objects that attracted my attention during
my stay in the United States, nothing struck me more forcibly
than the general equality of conditions. I readily discovered
the prodigious influence which this primary fact exercises on the
whole course of society, by giving a certain direction to public
opinion, and a certain tenor to the laws; by imparting new maxims
to the governing powers, and peculiar habits to the governed. I
speedily perceived that the influence of this fact extends far
beyond the political character and the laws of the country, and
that it has no less empire over civil society than over the
Government; it creates opinions, engenders sentiments, suggests
the ordinary practices of life, and modifies whatever it does not
produce. The more I advanced in the study of American society,
the more I perceived that the equality of conditions is the
fundamental fact from which all others seem to be derived, and
the central point at which all my observations constantly
terminated.

I then turned my thoughts to our own hemisphere, where I
imagined that I discerned something analogous to the spectacle
which the New World presented to me. I observed that the
equality of conditions is daily progressing towards those extreme
limits which it seems to have reached in the United States, and
that the democracy which governs the American communities appears
to be rapidly rising into power in Europe. I hence conceived the
idea of the book which is now before the reader.

It is evident to all alike that a great democratic
revolution is going on amongst us; but there are two opinions as
to its nature and consequences. To some it appears to be a novel
accident, which as such may still be checked; to others it seems
irresistible, because it is the most uniform, the most ancient,
and the most permanent tendency which is to be found in history.
Let us recollect the situation of France seven hundred years ago,
when the territory was divided amongst a small number of
families, who were the owners of the soil and the rulers of the
inhabitants; the right of governing descended with the family
inheritance from generation to generation; force was the only
means by which man could act on man, and landed property was the
sole source of power. Soon, however, the political power of the
clergy was founded, and began to exert itself: the clergy opened
its ranks to all classes, to the poor and the rich, the villein
and the lord; equality penetrated into the Government through the
Church, and the being who as a serf must have vegetated in
perpetual bondage took his place as a priest in the midst of
nobles, and not infrequently above the heads of kings.

The different relations of men became more complicated and
more numerous as society gradually became more stable and more
civilized. Thence the want of civil laws was felt; and the order
of legal functionaries soon rose from the obscurity of the
tribunals and their dusty chambers, to appear at the court of the
monarch, by the side of the feudal barons in their ermine and
their mail. Whilst the kings were ruining themselves by their
great enterprises, and the nobles exhausting their resources by
private wars, the lower orders were enriching themselves by
commerce. The influence of money began to be perceptible in
State affairs. The transactions of business opened a new road to
power, and the financier rose to a station of political influence
in which he was at once flattered and despised. Gradually the
spread of mental acquirements, and the increasing taste for
literature and art, opened chances of success to talent; science
became a means of government, intelligence led to social power,
and the man of letters took a part in the affairs of the State.
The value attached to the privileges of birth decreased in the
exact proportion in which new paths were struck out to
advancement. In the eleventh century nobility was beyond all
price; in the thirteenth it might be purchased; it was conferred
for the first time in 1270; and equality was thus introduced into
the Government by the aristocracy itself.

In the course of these seven hundred years it sometimes
happened that in order to resist the authority of the Crown, or
to diminish the power of their rivals, the nobles granted a
certain share of political rights to the people. Or, more
frequently, the king permitted the lower orders to enjoy a degree
of power, with the intention of repressing the aristocracy. In
France the kings have always been the most active and the most
constant of levellers. When they were strong and ambitious they
spared no pains to raise the people to the level of the nobles;
when they were temperate or weak they allowed the people to rise
above themselves. Some assisted the democracy by their talents,
others by their vices. Louis XI and Louis XIV reduced every rank
beneath the throne to the same subjection; Louis XV descended,
himself and all his Court, into the dust.

As soon as land was held on any other than a feudal tenure,
and personal property began in its turn to confer influence and
power, every improvement which was introduced in commerce or
manufacture was a fresh element of the equality of conditions.
Henceforward every new discovery, every new want which it
engendered, and every new desire which craved satisfaction, was a
step towards the universal level. The taste for luxury, the love
of war, the sway of fashion, and the most superficial as well as
the deepest passions of the human heart, co-operated to enrich
the poor and to impoverish the rich.

From the time when the exercise of the intellect became the
source of strength and of wealth, it is impossible not to
consider every addition to science, every fresh truth, and every
new idea as a germ of power placed within the reach of the
people. Poetry, eloquence, and memory, the grace of wit, the
glow of imagination, the depth of thought, and all the gifts
which are bestowed by Providence with an equal hand, turned to
the advantage of the democracy; and even when they were in the
possession of its adversaries they still served its cause by
throwing into relief the natural greatness of man; its conquests
spread, therefore, with those of civilization and knowledge, and
literature became an arsenal where the poorest and the weakest
could always find weapons to their hand.

In perusing the pages of our history, we shall scarcely meet
with a single great event, in the lapse of seven hundred years,
which has not turned to the advantage of equality. The Crusades
and the wars of the English decimated the nobles and divided
their possessions; the erection of communities introduced an
element of democratic liberty into the bosom of feudal monarchy;
the invention of fire-arms equalized the villein and the noble on
the field of battle; printing opened the same resources to the
minds of all classes; the post was organized so as to bring the
same information to the door of the poor man's cottage and to the
gate of the palace; and Protestantism proclaimed that all men are
alike able to find the road to heaven. The discovery of America
offered a thousand new paths to fortune, and placed riches and
power within the reach of the adventurous and the obscure. If we
examine what has happened in France at intervals of fifty years,
beginning with the eleventh century, we shall invariably perceive
that a twofold revolution has taken place in the state of
society. The noble has gone down on the social ladder, and the
roturier has gone up; the one descends as the other rises. Every
half century brings them nearer to each other, and they will very
shortly meet.

Nor is this phenomenon at all peculiar to France.
Whithersoever we turn our eyes we shall witness the same
continual revolution throughout the whole of Christendom. The
various occurrences of national existence have everywhere turned
to the advantage of democracy; all men have aided it by their
exertions: those who have intentionally labored in its cause, and
those who have served it unwittingly; those who have fought for
it and those who have declared themselves its opponents, have all
been driven along in the same track, have all labored to one end,
some ignorantly and some unwillingly; all have been blind
instruments in the hands of God.

The gradual development of the equality of conditions is
therefore a providential fact, and it possesses all the
characteristics of a divine decree: it is universal, it is
durable, it constantly eludes all human interference, and all
events as well as all men contribute to its progress. Would it,
then, be wise to imagine that a social impulse which dates from
so far back can be checked by the efforts of a generation? Is it
credible that the democracy which has annihilated the feudal
system and vanquished kings will respect the citizen and the
capitalist? Will it stop now that it has grown so strong and its
adversaries so weak? None can say which way we are going, for
all terms of comparison are wanting: the equality of conditions
is more complete in the Christian countries of the present day
than it has been at any time or in any part of the world; so that
the extent of what already exists prevents us from foreseeing
what may be yet to come.

The whole book which is here offered to the public has been
written under the impression of a kind of religious dread
produced in the author's mind by the contemplation of so
irresistible a revolution, which has advanced for centuries in
spite of such amazing obstacles, and which is still proceeding in
the midst of the ruins it has made. It is not necessary that God
himself should speak in order to disclose to us the
unquestionable signs of His will; we can discern them in the
habitual course of nature, and in the invariable tendency of
events: I know, without a special revelation, that the planets
move in the orbits traced by the Creator's finger. If the men of
our time were led by attentive observation and by sincere
reflection to acknowledge that the gradual and progressive
development of social equality is at once the past and future of
their history, this solitary truth would confer the sacred
character of a Divine decree upon the change. To attempt to
check democracy would be in that case to resist the will of God;
and the nations would then be constrained to make the best of the
social lot awarded to them by Providence.

The Christian nations of our age seem to me to present a
most alarming spectacle; the impulse which is bearing them along
is so strong that it cannot be stopped, but it is not yet so
rapid that it cannot be guided: their fate is in their hands; yet
a little while and it may be so no longer. The first duty which
is at this time imposed upon those who direct our affairs is to
educate the democracy; to warm its faith, if that be possible; to
purify its morals; to direct its energies; to substitute a
knowledge of business for its inexperience, and an acquaintance
with its true interests for its blind propensities; to adapt its
government to time and place, and to modify it in compliance with
the occurrences and the actors of the age. A new science of
politics is indispensable to a new world. This, however, is what
we think of least; launched in the middle of a rapid stream, we
obstinately fix our eyes on the ruins which may still be
described upon the shore we have left, whilst the current sweeps
us along, and drives us backwards towards the gulf.

In no country in Europe has the great social revolution
which I have been describing made such rapid progress as in
France; but it has always been borne on by chance. The heads of
the State have never had any forethought for its exigencies, and
its victories have been obtained without their consent or without
their knowledge. The most powerful, the most intelligent, and
the most moral classes of the nation have never attempted to
connect themselves with it in order to guide it. The people has
consequently been abandoned to its wild propensities, and it has
grown up like those outcasts who receive their education in the
public streets, and who are unacquainted with aught but the vices
and wretchedness of society. The existence of a democracy was
seemingly unknown, when on a sudden it took possession of the
supreme power. Everything was then submitted to its caprices; it
was worshipped as the idol of strength; until, when it was
enfeebled by its own excesses, the legislator conceived the rash
project of annihilating its power, instead of instructing it and
correcting its vices; no attempt was made to fit it to govern,
but all were bent on excluding it from the government.

The consequence of this has been that the democratic
revolution has been effected only in the material parts of
society, without that concomitant change in laws, ideas, customs,
and manners which was necessary to render such a revolution
beneficial. We have gotten a democracy, but without the
conditions which lessen its vices and render its natural
advantages more prominent; and although we already perceive the
evils it brings, we are ignorant of the benefits it may confer.

While the power of the Crown, supported by the aristocracy,
peaceably governed the nations of Europe, society possessed, in
the midst of its wretchedness, several different advantages which
can now scarcely be appreciated or conceived. The power of a
part of his subjects was an insurmountable barrier to the tyranny
of the prince; and the monarch, who felt the almost divine
character which he enjoyed in the eyes of the multitude, derived
a motive for the just use of his power from the respect which he
inspired. High as they were placed above the people, the nobles
could not but take that calm and benevolent interest in its fate
which the shepherd feels towards his flock; and without
acknowledging the poor as their equals, they watched over the
destiny of those whose welfare Providence had entrusted to their
care. The people never having conceived the idea of a social
condition different from its own, and entertaining no expectation
of ever ranking with its chiefs, received benefits from them
without discussing their rights. It grew attached to them when
they were clement and just, and it submitted without resistance
or servility to their exactions, as to the inevitable visitations
of the arm of God. Custom, and the manners of the time, had
moreover created a species of law in the midst of violence, and
established certain limits to oppression. As the noble never
suspected that anyone would attempt to deprive him of the
privileges which he believed to be legitimate, and as the serf
looked upon his own inferiority as a consequence of the immutable
order of nature, it is easy to imagine that a mutual exchange of
good-will took place between two classes so differently gifted by
fate. Inequality and wretchedness were then to be found in
society; but the souls of neither rank of men were degraded. Men
are not corrupted by the exercise of power or debased by the
habit of obedience, but by the exercise of a power which they
believe to be illegal and by obedience to a rule which they
consider to be usurped and oppressive. On one side was wealth,
strength, and leisure, accompanied by the refinements of luxury,
the elegance of taste, the pleasures of wit, and the religion of
art. On the other was labor and a rude ignorance; but in the
midst of this coarse and ignorant multitude it was not uncommon
to meet with energetic passions, generous sentiments, profound
religious convictions, and independent virtues. The body of a
State thus organized might boast of its stability, its power,
and, above all, of its glory.

But the scene is now changed, and gradually the two ranks
mingle; the divisions which once severed mankind are lowered,
property is divided, power is held in common, the light of
intelligence spreads, and the capacities of all classes are
equally cultivated; the State becomes democratic, and the empire
of democracy is slowly and peaceably introduced into the
institutions and the manners of the nation. I can conceive a
society in which all men would profess an equal attachment and
respect for the laws of which they are the common authors; in
which the authority of the State would be respected as necessary,
though not as divine; and the loyalty of the subject to its chief
magistrate would not be a passion, but a quiet and rational
persuasion. Every individual being in the possession of rights
which he is sure to retain, a kind of manly reliance and
reciprocal courtesy would arise between all classes, alike
removed from pride and meanness. The people, well acquainted
with its true interests, would allow that in order to profit by
the advantages of society it is necessary to satisfy its demands.
In this state of things the voluntary association of the citizens
might supply the individual exertions of the nobles, and the
community would be alike protected from anarchy and from
oppression.

I admit that, in a democratic State thus constituted,
society will not be stationary; but the impulses of the social
body may be regulated and directed forwards; if there be less
splendor than in the halls of an aristocracy, the contrast of
misery will be less frequent also; the pleasures of enjoyment may
be less excessive, but those of comfort will be more general; the
sciences may be less perfectly cultivated, but ignorance will be
less common; the impetuosity of the feelings will be repressed,
and the habits of the nation softened; there will be more vices
and fewer crimes. In the absence of enthusiasm and of an ardent
faith, great sacrifices may be obtained from the members of a
commonwealth by an appeal to their understandings and their
experience; each individual will feel the same necessity for
uniting with his fellow-citizens to protect his own weakness; and
as he knows that if they are to assist he must co-operate, he
will readily perceive that his personal interest is identified
with the interest of the community. The nation, taken as a
whole, will be less brilliant, less glorious, and perhaps less
strong; but the majority of the citizens will enjoy a greater
degree of prosperity, and the people will remain quiet, not
because it despairs of amelioration, but because it is conscious
of the advantages of its condition. If all the consequences of
this state of things were not good or useful, society would at
least have appropriated all such as were useful and good; and
having once and for ever renounced the social advantages of
aristocracy, mankind would enter into possession of all the
benefits which democracy can afford.

But here it may be asked what we have adopted in the place
of those institutions, those ideas, and those customs of our
forefathers which we have abandoned. The spell of royalty is
broken, but it has not been succeeded by the majesty of the laws;
the people has learned to despise all authority, but fear now
extorts a larger tribute of obedience than that which was
formerly paid by reverence and by love.

I perceive that we have destroyed those independent beings
which were able to cope with tyranny single-handed; but it is the
Government that has inherited the privileges of which families,
corporations, and individuals have been deprived; the weakness of
the whole community has therefore succeeded that influence of a
small body of citizens, which, if it was sometimes oppressive,
was often conservative. The division of property has lessened
the distance which separated the rich from the poor; but it would
seem that the nearer they draw to each other, the greater is
their mutual hatred, and the more vehement the envy and the dread
with which they resist each other's claims to power; the notion
of Right is alike insensible to both classes, and Force affords
to both the only argument for the present, and the only guarantee
for the future. The poor man retains the prejudices of his
forefathers without their faith, and their ignorance without
their virtues; he has adopted the doctrine of self-interest as
the rule of his actions, without understanding the science which
controls it, and his egotism is no less blind than his
devotedness was formerly. If society is tranquil, it is not
because it relies upon its strength and its well-being, but
because it knows its weakness and its infirmities; a single
effort may cost it its life; everybody feels the evil, but no one
has courage or energy enough to seek the cure; the desires, the
regret, the sorrows, and the joys of the time produce nothing
that is visible or permanent, like the passions of old men which
terminate in impotence.

We have, then, abandoned whatever advantages the old state
of things afforded, without receiving any compensation from our
present condition; we have destroyed an aristocracy, and we seem
inclined to survey its ruins with complacency, and to fix our
abode in the midst of them.

The phenomena which the intellectual world presents are not
less deplorable. The democracy of France, checked in its course
or abandoned to its lawless passions, has overthrown whatever
crossed its path, and has shaken all that it has not destroyed.
Its empire on society has not been gradually introduced or
peaceably established, but it has constantly advanced in the
midst of disorder and the agitation of a conflict. In the heat
of the struggle each partisan is hurried beyond the limits of his
opinions by the opinions and the excesses of his opponents, until
he loses sight of the end of his exertions, and holds a language
which disguises his real sentiments or secret instincts. Hence
arises the strange confusion which we are witnessing. I cannot
recall to my mind a passage in history more worthy of sorrow and
of pity than the scenes which are happening under our eyes; it is
as if the natural bond which unites the opinions of man to his
tastes and his actions to his principles was now broken; the
sympathy which has always been acknowledged between the feelings
and the ideas of mankind appears to be dissolved, and all the
laws of moral analogy to be dissolved, and all the laws of moral
analogy to be abolished.

Zealous Christians may be found amongst us whose minds are
nurtured in the love and knowledge of a future life, and who
readily espouse the cause of human liberty as the source of all
moral greatness. Christianity, which has declared that all men
are equal in the sight of God, will not refuse to acknowledge
that all citizens are equal in the eye of the law. But, by a
singular concourse of events, religion is entangled in those
institutions which democracy assails, and it is not unfrequently
brought to reject the equality it loves, and to curse that cause
of liberty as a foe which it might hallow by its alliance.

By the side of these religious men I discern others whose
looks are turned to the earth more than to Heaven; they are the
partisans of liberty, not only as the source of the noblest
virtues, but more especially as the root of all solid advantages;
and they sincerely desire to extend its sway, and to impart its
blessings to mankind. It is natural that they should hasten to
invoke the assistance of religion, for they must know that
liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality
without faith; but they have seen religion in the ranks of their
adversaries, and they inquire no further; some of them attack it
openly, and the remainder are afraid to defend it.

In former ages slavery has been advocated by the venal and
slavish-minded, whilst the independent and the warm-hearted were
struggling without hope to save the liberties of mankind. But
men of high and generous characters are now to be met with, whose
opinions are at variance with their inclinations, and who praise
that servility which they have themselves never known. Others,
on the contrary, speak in the name of liberty, as if they were
able to feel its sanctity and its majesty, and loudly claim for
humanity those rights which they have always disowned. There are
virtuous and peaceful individuals whose pure morality, quiet
habits, affluence, and talents fit them to be the leaders of the
surrounding population; their love of their country is sincere,
and they are prepared to make the greatest sacrifices to its
welfare, but they confound the abuses of civilization with its
benefits, and the idea of evil is inseparable in their minds from
that of novelty.

Not far from this class is another party, whose object is to
materialize mankind, to hit upon what is expedient without
heeding what is just, to acquire knowledge without faith, and
prosperity apart from virtue; assuming the title of the champions
of modern civilization, and placing themselves in a station which
they usurp with insolence, and from which they are driven by
their own unworthiness. Where are we then? The religionists are
the enemies of liberty, and the friends of liberty attack
religion; the high- minded and the noble advocate subjection, and
the meanest and most servile minds preach independence; honest
and enlightened citizens are opposed to all progress, whilst men
without patriotism and without principles are the apostles of
civilization and of intelligence. Has such been the fate of the
centuries which have preceded our own? and has man always
inhabited a world like the present, where nothing is linked
together, where virtue is without genius, and genius without
honor; where the love of order is confounded with a taste for
oppression, and the holy rites of freedom with a contempt of law;
where the light thrown by conscience on human actions is dim, and
where nothing seems to be any longer forbidden or allowed,
honorable or shameful, false or true? I cannot, however, believe
that the Creator made man to leave him in an endless struggle
with the intellectual miseries which surround us: God destines a
calmer and a more certain future to the communities of Europe; I
am unacquainted with His designs, but I shall not cease to
believe in them because I cannot fathom them, and I had rather
mistrust my own capacity than His justice.

There is a country in the world where the great revolution
which I am speaking of seems nearly to have reached its natural
limits; it has been effected with ease and simplicity, say rather
that this country has attained the consequences of the democratic
revolution which we are undergoing without having experienced the
revolution itself. The emigrants who fixed themselves on the
shores of America in the beginning of the seventeenth century
severed the democratic principle from all the principles which
repressed it in the old communities of Europe, and transplanted
it unalloyed to the New World. It has there been allowed to
spread in perfect freedom, and to put forth its consequences in
the laws by influencing the manners of the country.

It appears to me beyond a doubt that sooner or later we
shall arrive, like the Americans, at an almost complete equality
of conditions. But I do not conclude from this that we shall
ever be necessarily led to draw the same political consequences
which the Americans have derived from a similar social
organization. I am far from supposing that they have chosen the
only form of government which a democracy may adopt; but the
identity of the efficient cause of laws and manners in the two
countries is sufficient to account for the immense interest we
have in becoming acquainted with its effects in each of them.

It is not, then, merely to satisfy a legitimate curiosity
that I have examined America; my wish has been to find
instruction by which we may ourselves profit. Whoever should
imagine that I have intended to write a panegyric will perceive
that such was not my design; nor has it been my object to
advocate any form of government in particular, for I am of
opinion that absolute excellence is rarely to be found in any
legislation; I have not even affected to discuss whether the
social revolution, which I believe to be irresistible, is
advantageous or prejudicial to mankind; I have acknowledged this
revolution as a fact already accomplished or on the eve of its
accomplishment; and I have selected the nation, from amongst
those which have undergone it, in which its development has been
the most peaceful and the most complete, in order to discern its
natural consequences, and, if it be possible, to distinguish the
means by which it may be rendered profitable. I confess that in
America I saw more than America; I sought the image of democracy
itself, with its inclinations, its character, its prejudices, and
its passions, in order to learn what we have to fear or to hope
from its progress.

In the first part of this work I have attempted to show the
tendency given to the laws by the democracy of America, which is
abandoned almost without restraint to its instinctive
propensities, and to exhibit the course it prescribes to the
Government and the influence it exercises on affairs. I have
sought to discover the evils and the advantages which it
produces. I have examined the precautions used by the Americans
to direct it, as well as those which they have not adopted, and I
have undertaken to point out the causes which enable it to govern
society. I do not know whether I have succeeded in making known
what I saw in America, but I am certain that such has been my
sincere desire, and that I have never, knowingly, moulded facts
to ideas, instead of ideas to facts.

Whenever a point could be established by the aid of written
documents, I have had recourse to the original text, and to the
most authentic and approved works. I have cited my authorities
in the notes, and anyone may refer to them. Whenever an opinion,
a political custom, or a remark on the manners of the country was
concerned, I endeavored to consult the most enlightened men I met
with. If the point in question was important or doubtful, I was
not satisfied with one testimony, but I formed my opinion on the
evidence of several witnesses. Here the reader must necessarily
believeme upon my word. I could frequently have quoted names
which are either known to him, or which deserve to be so, in
proof of what I advance; but I have carefully abstained from this
practice. A stranger frequently hears important truths at the
fire-side of his host, which the latter would perhaps conceal
from the ear of friendship; he consoles himself with his guest
for the silence to which he is restricted, and the shortness of
the traveller's stay takes away all fear of his indiscretion. I
carefully noted every conversation of this nature as soon as it
occurred, but these notes will never leave my writing-case; I had
rather injure the success of my statements than add my name to
the list of those strangers who repay the generous hospitality
they have received by subsequent chagrin and annoyance.

I am aware that, notwithstanding my care, nothing will be
easier than to criticise this book, if anyone ever chooses to
criticise it. Those readers who may examine it closely will
discover the fundamental idea which connects the several parts
together. But the diversity of the subjects I have had to treat
is exceedingly great, and it will not be difficult to oppose an
isolated fact to the body of facts which I quote, or an isolated
idea to the body of ideas I put forth. I hope to be read in the
spirit which has guided my labors, and that my book may be judged
by the general impression it leaves, as I have formed my own
judgment not on any single reason, but upon the mass of evidence.
It must not be forgotten that the author who wishes to be
understood is obliged to push all his ideas to their utmost
theoretical consequences, and often to the verge of what is false
or impracticable; for if it be necessary sometimes to quit the
rules of logic in active life, such is not the case in discourse,
and a man finds that almost as many difficulties spring from
inconsistency of language as usually arise from inconsistency of
conduct.

I conclude by pointing out myself what many readers will
consider the principal defect of the work. This book is written
to favor no particular views, and in composing it I have
entertained no designs of serving or attacking any party; I have
undertaken not to see differently, but to look further than
parties, and whilst they are busied for the morrow I have turned
my thoughts to the Future.

Chapter I: Exterior Form Of North America

Chapter Summary

North America divided into two vast regions, one inclining
towards the Pole, the other towards the Equator - Valley of the
Mississippi - Traces of the Revolutions of the Globe - Shore of
the Atlantic Ocean where the English Colonies were founded -
Difference in the appearance of North and of South America at the
time of their Discovery - Forests of North America - Prairies
-Wandering Tribes of Natives - Their outward appearance, manners,
and language - Traces of an unknown people.

Exterior Form Of North America

North America presents in its external form certain general
features which it is easy to discriminate at the first glance. A
sort of methodical order seems to have regulated the separation
of land and water, mountains and valleys. A simple, but grand,
arrangement is discoverable amidst the confusion of objects and
the prodigious variety of scenes. This continent is divided,
almost equally, into two vast regions, one of which is bounded on
the north by the Arctic Pole, and by the two great oceans on the
east and west. It stretches towards the south, forming a triangle
whose irregular sides meet at length below the great lakes of
Canada. The second region begins where the other terminates, and
includes all the remainder of the continent. The one slopes
gently towards the Pole, the other towards the Equator.

The territory comprehended in the first region descends
towards the north with so imperceptible a slope that it may
almost be said to form a level plain. Within the bounds of this
immense tract of country there are neither high mountains nor
deep valleys. Streams meander through it irregularly: great
rivers mix their currents, separate and meet again, disperse and
form vast marshes, losing all trace of their channels in the
labyrinth of waters they have themselves created; and thus, at
length, after innumerable windings, fall into the Polar Seas.
The great lakes which bound this first region are not walled in,
like most of those in the Old World, between hills and rocks.
Their banks are flat, and rise but a few feet above the level of
their waters; each of them thus forming a vast bowl filled to the
brim. The slightest change in the structure of the globe would
cause their waters to rush either towards the Pole or to the
tropical sea.

The second region is more varied on its surface, and better
suited for the habitation of man. Two long chains of mountains
divide it from one extreme to the other; the Alleghany ridge
takes the form of the shores of the Atlantic Ocean; the other is
parallel with the Pacific. The space which lies between these
two chains of mountains contains 1,341,649 square miles. *a Its
surface is therefore about six times as great as that of France.
This vast territory, however, forms a single valley, one side of
which descends gradually from the rounded summits of the
Alleghanies, while the other rises in an uninterrupted course
towards the tops of the Rocky Mountains. At the bottom of the
valley flows an immense river, into which the various streams
issuing from the mountains fall from all parts. In memory of
their native land, the French formerly called this river the St.
Louis. The Indians, in their pompous language, have named it the
Father of Waters, or the Mississippi.

[Footnote a: Darby's "View of the United States."]

The Mississippi takes its source above the limit of the two
great regions of which I have spoken, not far from the highest
point of the table-land where they unite. Near the same spot
rises another river, *b which empties itself into the Polar seas.
The course of the Mississippi is at first dubious: it winds
several times towards the north, from whence it rose; and at
length, after having been delayed in lakes and marshes, it flows
slowly onwards to the south. Sometimes quietly gliding along the
argillaceous bed which nature has assigned to it, sometimes
swollen by storms, the Mississippi waters 2,500 miles in its
course. *c At the distance of 1,364 miles from its mouth this
river attains an average depth of fifteen feet; and it is
navigated by vessels of 300 tons burden for a course of nearly
500 miles. Fifty-seven large navigable rivers contribute to
swell the waters of the Mississippi; amongst others, the
Missouri, which traverses a space of 2,500 miles; the Arkansas of
1,300 miles, the Red River 1,000 miles, four whose course is from
800 to 1,000 miles in length, viz., the Illinois, the St.
Peter's, the St. Francis, and the Moingona; besides a countless
multitude of rivulets which unite from all parts their tributary
streams.

[Footnote b: The Red River.]

[Footnote c: Warden's "Description of the United States."]
The valley which is watered by the Mississippi seems formed
to be the bed of this mighty river, which, like a god of
antiquity, dispenses both good and evil in its course. On the
shores of the stream nature displays an inexhaustible fertility;
in proportion as you recede from its banks, the powers of
vegetation languish, the soil becomes poor, and the plants that
survive have a sickly growth. Nowhere have the great convulsions
of the globe left more evident traces than in the valley of the
Mississippi; the whole aspect of the country shows the powerful
effects of water, both by its fertility and by its barrenness.
The waters of the primeval ocean accumulated enormous beds of
vegetable mould in the valley, which they levelled as they
retired. Upon the right shore of the river are seen immense
plains, as smooth as if the husbandman had passed over them with
his roller. As you approach the mountains the soil becomes more
and more unequal and sterile; the ground is, as it were, pierced
in a thousand places by primitive rocks, which appear like the
bones of a skeleton whose flesh is partly consumed. The surface
of the earth is covered with a granite sand and huge irregular
masses of stone, among which a few plants force their growth, and
give the appearance of a green field covered with the ruins of a
vast edifice. These stones and this sand discover, on
examination, a perfect analogy with those which compose the arid
and broken summits of the Rocky Mountains. The flood of waters
which washed the soil to the bottom of the valley afterwards
carried away portions of the rocks themselves; and these, dashed
and bruised against the neighboring cliffs, were left scattered
like wrecks at their feet. *d The valley of the Mississippi is,
upon the whole, the most magnificent dwelling-place prepared by
God for man's abode; and yet it may be said that at present it is
but a mighty desert.

[Footnote d: See Appendix, A.]

On the eastern side of the Alleghanies, between the base of
these mountains and the Atlantic Ocean, there lies a long ridge
of rocks and sand, which the sea appears to have left behind as
it retired. The mean breadth of this territory does not exceed
one hundred miles; but it is about nine hundred miles in length.
This part of the American continent has a soil which offers every
obstacle to the husbandman, and its vegetation is scanty and
unvaried.

Upon this inhospitable coast the first united efforts of
human industry were made. The tongue of arid land was the cradle
of those English colonies which were destined one day to become
the United States of America. The centre of power still remains
here; whilst in the backwoods the true elements of the great
people to whom the future control of the continent belongs are
gathering almost in secrecy together.

When the Europeans first landed on the shores of the West
Indies, and afterwards on the coast of South America, they
thought themselves transported into those fabulous regions of
which poets had sung. The sea sparkled with phosphoric light,
and the extraordinary transparency of its waters discovered to
the view of the navigator all that had hitherto been hidden in
the deep abyss. *e Here and there appeared little islands
perfumed with odoriferous plants, and resembling baskets of
flowers floating on the tranquil surface of the ocean. Every
object which met the sight, in this enchanting region, seemed
prepared to satisfy the wants or contribute to the pleasures of
man. Almost all the trees were loaded with nourishing fruits, and
those which were useless as food delighted the eye by the
brilliancy and variety of their colors. In groves of fragrant
lemon-trees, wild figs, flowering myrtles, acacias, and
oleanders, which were hung with festoons of various climbing
plants, covered with flowers, a multitude of birds unknown in
Europe displayed their bright plumage, glittering with purple and
azure, and mingled their warbling with the harmony of a world
teeming with life and motion. *f Underneath this brilliant
exterior death was concealed. But the air of these climates had
so enervating an influence that man, absorbed by present
enjoyment, was rendered regardless of the future.

[Footnote e: Malte Brun tells us (vol. v. p. 726) that the water
of the Caribbean Sea is so transparent that corals and fish are
discernible at a depth of sixty fathoms. The ship seemed to
float in air, the navigator became giddy as his eye penetrated
through the crystal flood, and beheld submarine gardens, or beds
of shells, or gilded fishes gliding among tufts and thickets of
seaweed.]

[Footnote f: See Appendix, B.]

North America appeared under a very different aspect; there
everything was grave, serious, and solemn: it seemed created to
be the domain of intelligence, as the South was that of sensual
delight. A turbulent and foggy ocean washed its shores. It was
girt round by a belt of granite rocks, or by wide tracts of sand.
The foliage of its woods was dark and gloomy, for they were
composed of firs, larches, evergreen oaks, wild olive-trees, and
laurels. Beyond this outer belt lay the thick shades of the
central forest, where the largest trees which are produced in the
two hemispheres grow side by side. The plane, the catalpa, the
sugar- maple, and the Virginian poplar mingled their branches
with those of the oak, the beech, and the lime. In these, as in
the forests of the Old World, destruction was perpetually going
on. The ruins of vegetation were heaped upon each other; but
there was no laboring hand to remove them, and their decay was
not rapid enough to make room for the continual work of
reproduction. Climbing plants, grasses, and other herbs forced
their way through the mass of dying trees; they crept along their
bending trunks, found nourishment in their dusty cavities, and a
passage beneath the lifeless bark. Thus decay gave its
assistance to life, and their respective productions were mingled
together. The depths of these forests were gloomy and obscure,
undirected in their course by human industry, preserved in them a
constant moisture. It was rare to meet with flowers, wild
fruits, or birds beneath their shades. The fall of a tree
overthrown by age, the rushing torrent of a cataract, the lowing
of the buffalo, and the howling of the wind were the only sounds
which broke the silence of nature.

To the east of the great river, the woods almost
disappeared; in their stead were seen prairies of immense extent.
Whether Nature in her infinite variety had denied the germs of
trees to these fertile plains, or whether they had once been
covered with forests, subsequently destroyed by the hand of man,
is a question which neither tradition nor scientific research has
been able to resolve.

These immense deserts were not, however, devoid of human
inhabitants. Some wandering tribes had been for ages scattered
among the forest shades or the green pastures of the prairie.
From the mouth of the St. Lawrence to the delta of the
Mississippi, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, these
savages possessed certain points of resemblance which bore
witness of their common origin; but at the same time they
differed from all other known races of men: *g they were neither
white like the Europeans, nor yellow like most of the Asiatics,
nor black like the negroes. Their skin was reddish brown, their
hair long and shining, their lips thin, and their cheekbones very
prominent. The languages spoken by the North American tribes are
various as far as regarded their words, but they were subject to
the same grammatical rules. These rules differed in several
points from such as had been observed to govern the origin of
language. The idiom of the Americans seemed to be the product of
new combinations, and bespoke an effort of the understanding of
which the Indians of our days would be incapable. *h

[Footnote g: With the progress of discovery some resemblance has
been found to exist between the physical conformation, the
language, and the habits of the Indians of North America, and
those of the Tongous, Mantchous, Mongols, Tartars, and other
wandering tribes of Asia. The land occupied by these tribes is
not very distant from Behring's Strait, which allows of the
supposition, that at a remote period they gave inhabitants to the
desert continent of America. But this is a point which has not
yet been clearly elucidated by science. See Malte Brun, vol. v.;
the works of Humboldt; Fischer, "Conjecture sur l'Origine des
Americains"; Adair, "History of the American Indians."]

[Footnote h: See Appendix, C.]

The social state of these tribes differed also in many
respects from all that was seen in the Old World. They seemed to
have multiplied freely in the midst of their deserts without
coming in contact with other races more civilized than their own.
Accordingly, they exhibited none of those indistinct, incoherent
notions of right and wrong, none of that deep corruption of
manners, which is usually joined with ignorance and rudeness
among nations which, after advancing to civilization, have
relapsed into a state of barbarism. The Indian was indebted to
no one but himself; his virtues, his vices, and his prejudices
were his own work; he had grown up in the wild independence of
his nature.

If, in polished countries, the lowest of the people are rude
and uncivil, it is not merely because they are poor and ignorant,
but that, being so, they are in daily contact with rich and
enlightened men. The sight of their own hard lot and of their
weakness, which is daily contrasted with the happiness and power
of some of their fellow-creatures, excites in their hearts at the
same time the sentiments of anger and of fear: the consciousness
of their inferiority and of their dependence irritates while it
humiliates them. This state of mind displays itself in their
manners and language; they are at once insolent and servile. The
truth of this is easily proved by observation; the people are
more rude in aristocratic countries than elsewhere, in opulent
cities than in rural districts. In those places where the rich
and powerful are assembled together the weak and the indigent
feel themselves oppressed by their inferior condition. Unable to
perceive a single chance of regaining their equality, they give
up to despair, and allow themselves to fall below the dignity of
human nature.

This unfortunate effect of the disparity of conditions is
not observable in savage life: the Indians, although they are
ignorant and poor, are equal and free. At the period when
Europeans first came among them the natives of North America were
ignorant of the value of riches, and indifferent to the
enjoyments which civilized man procures to himself by their
means. Nevertheless there was nothing coarse in their demeanor;
they practised an habitual reserve and a kind of aristocratic
politeness. Mild and hospitable when at peace, though merciless
in war beyond any known degree of human ferocity, the Indian
would expose himself to die of hunger in order to succor the
stranger who asked admittance by night at the door of his hut;
yet he could tear in pieces with his hands the still quivering
limbs of his prisoner. The famous republics of antiquity never
gave examples of more unshaken courage, more haughty spirits, or
more intractable love of independence than were hidden in former
times among the wild forests of the New World. *i The Europeans
produced no great impression when they landed upon the shores of
North America; their presence engendered neither envy nor fear.
What influence could they possess over such men as we have
described? The Indian could live without wants, suffer without
complaint, and pour out his death-song at the stake. *j Like all
the other members of the great human family, these savages
believed in the existence of a better world, and adored under
different names, God, the creator of the universe. Their notions
on the great intellectual truths were in general simple and
philosophical. *k

[Footnote i: We learn from President Jefferson's "Notes upon
Virginia," p. 148, that among the Iroquois, when attacked by a
superior force, aged men refused to fly or to survive the
destruction of their country; and they braved death like the
ancient Romans when their capital was sacked by the Gauls.
Further on, p. 150, he tells us that there is no example of an
Indian who, having fallen into the hands of his enemies, begged
for his life; on the contrary, the captive sought to obtain death
at the hands of his conquerors by the use of insult and
provocation.]

[Footnote j: See "Histoire de la Louisiane," by Lepage Dupratz;
Charlevoix, "Histoire de la Nouvelle France"; "Lettres du Rev. G.
Hecwelder;" "Transactions of the American Philosophical Society,"
v. I; Jefferson's "Notes on Virginia," pp. 135-190. What is said
by Jefferson is of especial weight, on account of the personal
merit of the writer, of his peculiar position, and of the matter-
of-fact age in which he lived.]

[Footnote k: See Appendix, D.]

Although we have here traced the character of a primitive
people, yet it cannot be doubted that another people, more
civilized and more advanced in all respects, had preceded it in
the same regions.

An obscure tradition which prevailed among the Indians to
the north of the Atlantic informs us that these very tribes
formerly dwelt on the west side of the Mississippi. Along the
banks of the Ohio, and throughout the central valley, there are
frequently found, at this day, tumuli raised by the hands of men.
On exploring these heaps of earth to their centre, it is usual to
meet with human bones, strange instruments, arms and utensils of
all kinds, made of metal, or destined for purposes unknown to the
present race. The Indians of our time are unable to give any
information relative to the history of this unknown people.
Neither did those who lived three hundred years ago, when America
was first discovered, leave any accounts from which even an
hypothesis could be formed. Tradition - that perishable, yet
ever renewed monument of the pristine world - throws no light
upon the subject. It is an undoubted fact, however, that in this
part of the globe thousands of our fellow-beings had lived. When
they came hither, what was their origin, their destiny, their
history, and how they perished, no one can tell. How strange does
it appear that nations have existed, and afterwards so completely
disappeared from the earth that the remembrance of their very
names is effaced; their languages are lost; their glory is
vanished like a sound without an echo; though perhaps there is
not one which has not left behind it some tomb in memory of its
passage! The most durable monument of human labor is that which
recalls the wretchedness and nothingness of man.

Although the vast country which we have been describing was
inhabited by many indigenous tribes, it may justly be said at the
time of its discovery by Europeans to have formed one great
desert. The Indians occupied without possessing it. It is by
agricultural labor that man appropriates the soil, and the early
inhabitants of North America lived by the produce of the chase.
Their implacable prejudices, their uncontrolled passions, their
vices, and still more perhaps their savage virtues, consigned
them to inevitable destruction. The ruin of these nations began
from the day when Europeans landed on their shores; it has
proceeded ever since, and we are now witnessing the completion of
it. They seem to have been placed by Providence amidst the
riches of the New World to enjoy them for a season, and then
surrender them. Those coasts, so admirably adapted for commerce
and industry; those wide and deep rivers; that inexhaustible
valley of the Mississippi; the whole continent, in short, seemed
prepared to be the abode of a great nation, yet unborn.

In that land the great experiment was to be made, by
civilized man, of the attempt to construct society upon a new
basis; and it was there, for the first time, that theories
hitherto unknown, or deemed impracticable, were to exhibit a
spectacle for which the world had not been prepared by the
history of the past.

Chapter I: Exterior Form Of North America

Chapter Summary

North America divided into two vast regions, one inclining
towards the Pole, the other towards the Equator - Valley of the
Mississippi - Traces of the Revolutions of the Globe - Shore of
the Atlantic Ocean where the English Colonies were founded -
Difference in the appearance of North and of South America at the
time of their Discovery - Forests of North America - Prairies
-Wandering Tribes of Natives - Their outward appearance, manners,
and language - Traces of an unknown people.

Exterior Form Of North America

North America presents in its external form certain general
features which it is easy to discriminate at the first glance. A
sort of methodical order seems to have regulated the separation
of land and water, mountains and valleys. A simple, but grand,
arrangement is discoverable amidst the confusion of objects and
the prodigious variety of scenes. This continent is divided,
almost equally, into two vast regions, one of which is bounded on
the north by the Arctic Pole, and by the two great oceans on the
east and west. It stretches towards the south, forming a triangle
whose irregular sides meet at length below the great lakes of
Canada. The second region begins where the other terminates, and
includes all the remainder of the continent. The one slopes
gently towards the Pole, the other towards the Equator.

The territory comprehended in the first region descends
towards the north with so imperceptible a slope that it may
almost be said to form a level plain. Within the bounds of this
immense tract of country there are neither high mountains nor
deep valleys. Streams meander through it irregularly: great
rivers mix their currents, separate and meet again, disperse and
form vast marshes, losing all trace of their channels in the
labyrinth of waters they have themselves created; and thus, at
length, after innumerable windings, fall into the Polar Seas.
The great lakes which bound this first region are not walled in,
like most of those in the Old World, between hills and rocks.
Their banks are flat, and rise but a few feet above the level of
their waters; each of them thus forming a vast bowl filled to the
brim. The slightest change in the structure of the globe would
cause their waters to rush either towards the Pole or to the
tropical sea.

The second region is more varied on its surface, and better
suited for the habitation of man. Two long chains of mountains
divide it from one extreme to the other; the Alleghany ridge
takes the form of the shores of the Atlantic Ocean; the other is
parallel with the Pacific. The space which lies between these
two chains of mountains contains 1,341,649 square miles. *a Its
surface is therefore about six times as great as that of France.
This vast territory, however, forms a single valley, one side of
which descends gradually from the rounded summits of the
Alleghanies, while the other rises in an uninterrupted course
towards the tops of the Rocky Mountains. At the bottom of the
valley flows an immense river, into which the various streams
issuing from the mountains fall from all parts. In memory of
their native land, the French formerly called this river the St.
Louis. The Indians, in their pompous language, have named it the
Father of Waters, or the Mississippi.

[Footnote a: Darby's "View of the United States."]

The Mississippi takes its source above the limit of the two
great regions of which I have spoken, not far from the highest
point of the table-land where they unite. Near the same spot
rises another river, *b which empties itself into the Polar seas.
The course of the Mississippi is at first dubious: it winds
several times towards the north, from whence it rose; and at
length, after having been delayed in lakes and marshes, it flows
slowly onwards to the south. Sometimes quietly gliding along the
argillaceous bed which nature has assigned to it, sometimes
swollen by storms, the Mississippi waters 2,500 miles in its
course. *c At the distance of 1,364 miles from its mouth this
river attains an average depth of fifteen feet; and it is
navigated by vessels of 300 tons burden for a course of nearly
500 miles. Fifty-seven large navigable rivers contribute to
swell the waters of the Mississippi; amongst others, the
Missouri, which traverses a space of 2,500 miles; the Arkansas of
1,300 miles, the Red River 1,000 miles, four whose course is from
800 to 1,000 miles in length, viz., the Illinois, the St.
Peter's, the St. Francis, and the Moingona; besides a countless
multitude of rivulets which unite from all parts their tributary
streams.

[Footnote b: The Red River.]

[Footnote c: Warden's "Description of the United States."]

The valley which is watered by the Mississippi seems formed
to be the bed of this mighty river, which, like a god of
antiquity, dispenses both good and evil in its course. On the
shores of the stream nature displays an inexhaustible fertility;
in proportion as you recede from its banks, the powers of
vegetation languish, the soil becomes poor, and the plants that
survive have a sickly growth. Nowhere have the great convulsions
of the globe left more evident traces than in the valley of the
Mississippi; the whole aspect of the country shows the powerful
effects of water, both by its fertility and by its barrenness.
The waters of the primeval ocean accumulated enormous beds of
vegetable mould in the valley, which they levelled as they
retired. Upon the right shore of the river are seen immense
plains, as smooth as if the husbandman had passed over them with
his roller. As you approach the mountains the soil becomes more
and more unequal and sterile; the ground is, as it were, pierced
in a thousand places by primitive rocks, which appear like the
bones of a skeleton whose flesh is partly consumed. The surface
of the earth is covered with a granite sand and huge irregular
masses of stone, among which a few plants force their growth, and
give the appearance of a green field covered with the ruins of a
vast edifice. These stones and this sand discover, on
examination, a perfect analogy with those which compose the arid
and broken summits of the Rocky Mountains. The flood of waters
which washed the soil to the bottom of the valley afterwards
carried away portions of the rocks themselves; and these, dashed
and bruised against the neighboring cliffs, were left scattered
like wrecks at their feet. *d The valley of the Mississippi is,
upon the whole, the most magnificent dwelling-place prepared by
God for man's abode; and yet it may be said that at present it is
but a mighty desert.

[Footnote d: See Appendix, A.]

On the eastern side of the Alleghanies, between the base of
these mountains and the Atlantic Ocean, there lies a long ridge
of rocks and sand, which the sea appears to have left behind as
it retired. The mean breadth of this territory does not exceed
one hundred miles; but it is about nine hundred miles in length.
This part of the American continent has a soil which offers every
obstacle to the husbandman, and its vegetation is scanty and
unvaried.

Upon this inhospitable coast the first united efforts of
human industry were made. The tongue of arid land was the cradle
of those English colonies which were destined one day to become
the United States of America. The centre of power still remains
here; whilst in the backwoods the true elements of the great
people to whom the future control of the continent belongs are
gathering almost in secrecy together.

When the Europeans first landed on the shores of the West
Indies, and afterwards on the coast of South America, they
thought themselves transported into those fabulous regions of
which poets had sung. The sea sparkled with phosphoric light,
and the extraordinary transparency of its waters discovered to
the view of the navigator all that had hitherto been hidden in
the deep abyss. *e Here and there appeared little islands
perfumed with odoriferous plants, and resembling baskets of
flowers floating on the tranquil surface of the ocean. Every
object which met the sight, in this enchanting region, seemed
prepared to satisfy the wants or contribute to the pleasures of
man. Almost all the trees were loaded with nourishing fruits, and
those which were useless as food delighted the eye by the
brilliancy and variety of their colors. In groves of fragrant
lemon-trees, wild figs, flowering myrtles, acacias, and
oleanders, which were hung with festoons of various climbing
plants, covered with flowers, a multitude of birds unknown in
Europe displayed their bright plumage, glittering with purple and
azure, and mingled their warbling with the harmony of a world
teeming with life and motion. *f Underneath this brilliant
exterior death was concealed. But the air of these climates had
so enervating an influence that man, absorbed by present
enjoyment, was rendered regardless of the future.

[Footnote e: Malte Brun tells us (vol. v. p. 726) that the water
of the Caribbean Sea is so transparent that corals and fish are
discernible at a depth of sixty fathoms. The ship seemed to
float in air, the navigator became giddy as his eye penetrated
through the crystal flood, and beheld submarine gardens, or beds
of shells, or gilded fishes gliding among tufts and thickets of
seaweed.]

[Footnote f: See Appendix, B.]

North America appeared under a very different aspect; there
everything was grave, serious, and solemn: it seemed created to
be the domain of intelligence, as the South was that of sensual
delight. A turbulent and foggy ocean washed its shores. It was
girt round by a belt of granite rocks, or by wide tracts of sand.
The foliage of its woods was dark and gloomy, for they were
composed of firs, larches, evergreen oaks, wild olive-trees, and
laurels. Beyond this outer belt lay the thick shades of the
central forest, where the largest trees which are produced in the
two hemispheres grow side by side. The plane, the catalpa, the
sugar- maple, and the Virginian poplar mingled their branches
with those of the oak, the beech, and the lime. In these, as in
the forests of the Old World, destruction was perpetually going
on. The ruins of vegetation were heaped upon each other; but
there was no laboring hand to remove them, and their decay was
not rapid enough to make room for the continual work of
reproduction. Climbing plants, grasses, and other herbs forced
their way through the mass of dying trees; they crept along their
bending trunks, found nourishment in their dusty cavities, and a
passage beneath the lifeless bark. Thus decay gave its
assistance to life, and their respective productions were mingled
together. The depths of these forests were gloomy and obscure,
and a thousand rivulets, undirected in their course by human
industry, preserved in them a constant moisture. It was rare to
meet with flowers, wild fruits, or birds beneath their shades.
The fall of a tree overthrown by age, the rushing torrent of a
cataract, the lowing of the buffalo, and the howling of the wind
were the only sounds which broke the silence of nature.

To the east of the great river, the woods almost
disappeared; in their stead were seen prairies of immense extent.
Whether Nature in her infinite variety had denied the germs of
trees to these fertile plains, or whether they had once been
covered with forests, subsequently destroyed by the hand of man,
is a question which neither tradition nor scientific research has
been able to resolve.

These immense deserts were not, however, devoid of human
inhabitants. Some wandering tribes had been for ages scattered
among the forest shades or the green pastures of the prairie.
From the mouth of the St. Lawrence to the delta of the
Mississippi, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, these
savages possessed certain points of resemblance which bore
witness of their common origin; but at the same time they
differed from all other known races of men: *g they were neither
white like the Europeans, nor yellow like most of the Asiatics,
nor black like the negroes. Their skin was reddish brown, their
hair long and shining, their lips thin, and their cheekbones very
prominent. The languages spoken by the North American tribes are
various as far as regarded their words, but they were subject to
the same grammatical rules. These rules differed in several
points from such as had been observed to govern the origin of
language. The idiom of the Americans seemed to be the product of
new combinations, and bespoke an effort of the understanding of
which the Indians of our days would be incapable. *h

[Footnote g: With the progress of discovery some resemblance has
been found to exist between the physical conformation, the
language, and the habits of the Indians of North America, and
those of the Tongous, Mantchous, Mongols, Tartars, and other
wandering tribes of Asia. The land occupied by these tribes is
not very distant from Behring's Strait, which allows of the
supposition, that at a remote period they gave inhabitants to the
desert continent of America. But this is a point which has not
yet been clearly elucidated by science. See Malte Brun, vol. v.;
the works of Humboldt; Fischer, "Conjecture sur l'Origine des
Americains"; Adair, "History of the American Indians."]

[Footnote h: See Appendix, C.]

The social state of these tribes differed also in many
respects from all that was seen in the Old World. They seemed to
have multiplied freely in the midst of their deserts without
coming in contact with other races more civilized than their own.
Accordingly, they exhibited none of those indistinct, incoherent
notions of right and wrong, none of that deep corruption of
manners, which is usually joined with ignorance and rudeness
among nations which, after advancing to civilization, have
relapsed into a state of barbarism. The Indian was indebted to
no one but himself; his virtues, his vices, and his prejudices
were his own work; he had grown up in the wild independence of
his nature.

If, in polished countries, the lowest of the people are rude
and uncivil, it is not merely because they are poor and ignorant,
but that, being so, they are in daily contact with rich and
enlightened men. The sight of their own hard lot and of their
weakness, which is daily contrasted with the happiness and power
of some of their fellow-creatures, excites in their hearts at the
same time the sentiments of anger and of fear: the consciousness
of their inferiority and of their dependence irritates while it
humiliates them. This state of mind displays itself in their
manners and language; they are at once insolent and servile. The
truth of this is easily proved by observation; the people are
more rude in aristocratic countries than elsewhere, in opulent
cities than in rural districts. In those places where the rich
and powerful are assembled together the weak and the indigent
feel themselves oppressed by their inferior condition. Unable to
perceive a single chance of regaining their equality, they give
up to despair, and allow themselves to fall below the dignity of
human nature.

This unfortunate effect of the disparity of conditions is
not observable in savage life: the Indians, although they are
ignorant and poor, are equal and free. At the period when
Europeans first came among them the natives of North America were
ignorant of the value of riches, and indifferent to the
enjoyments which civilized man procures to himself by their
means. Nevertheless there was nothing coarse in their demeanor;
they practised an habitual reserve and a kind of aristocratic
politeness. Mild and hospitable when at peace, though merciless
in war beyond any known degree of human ferocity, the Indian
would expose himself to die of hunger in order to succor the
stranger who asked admittance by night at the door of his hut;
yet he could tear in pieces with his hands the still quivering
limbs of his prisoner. The famous republics of antiquity never
gave examples of more unshaken courage, more haughty spirits, or
more intractable love of independence than were hidden in former
times among the wild forests of the New World. *i The Europeans
produced no great impression when they landed upon the shores of
North America; their presence engendered neither envy nor fear.
What influence could they possess over such men as we have
described? The Indian could live without wants, suffer without
complaint, and pour out his death-song at the stake. *j Like all
the other members of the great human family, these savages
believed in the existence of a better world, and adored under
different names, God, the creator of the universe. Their notions
on the great intellectual truths were in general simple and
philosophical. *k

[Footnote i: We learn from President Jefferson's "Notes upon
Virginia," p. 148, that among the Iroquois, when attacked by a
superior force, aged men refused to fly or to survive the
destruction of their country; and they braved death like the
ancient Romans when their capital was sacked by the Gauls.
Further on, p. 150, he tells us that there is no example of an
Indian who, having fallen into the hands of his enemies, begged
for his life; on the contrary, the captive sought to obtain death
at the hands of his conquerors by the use of insult and
provocation.]

[Footnote j: See "Histoire de la Louisiane," by Lepage Dupratz;
Charlevoix, "Histoire de la Nouvelle France"; "Lettres du Rev. G.
Hecwelder;" "Transactions of the American Philosophical Society,"
v. I; Jefferson's "Notes on Virginia," pp. 135-190. What is said
by Jefferson is of especial weight, on account of the personal
merit of the writer, of his peculiar position, and of the matter-
of-fact age in which he lived.]

[Footnote k: See Appendix, D.]

Although we have here traced the character of a primitive
people, yet it cannot be doubted that another people, more
civilized and more advanced in all respects, had preceded it in
the same regions.

An obscure tradition which prevailed among the Indians to
the north of the Atlantic informs us that these very tribes
formerly dwelt on the west side of the Mississippi. Along the
banks of the Ohio, and throughout the central valley, there are
frequently found, at this day, tumuli raised by the hands of men.
On exploring these heaps of earth to their centre, it is usual to
meet with human bones, strange instruments, arms and utensils of
all kinds, made of metal, or destined for purposes unknown to the
present race. The Indians of our time are unable to give any
information relative to the history of this unknown people.
Neither did those who lived three hundred years ago, when America
was first discovered, leave any accounts from which even an
hypothesis could be formed. Tradition - that perishable, yet
ever renewed monument of the pristine world - throws no light
upon the subject. It is an undoubted fact, however, that in this
part of the globe thousands of our fellow-beings had lived. When
they came hither, what was their origin, their destiny, their
history, and how they perished, no one can tell. How strange does
it appear that nations have existed, and afterwards so completely
disappeared from the earth that the remembrance of their very
names is effaced; their languages are lost; their glory is
vanished like a sound without an echo; though perhaps there is
not one which has not left behind it some tomb in memory of its
passage! The most durable monument of human labor is that which
recalls the wretchedness and nothingness of man.

Although the vast country which we have been describing was
inhabited by many indigenous tribes, it may justly be said at the
time of its discovery by Europeans to have formed one great
desert. The Indians occupied without possessing it. It is by
agricultural labor that man appropriates the soil, and the early
inhabitants of North America lived by the produce of the chase.
Their implacable prejudices, their uncontrolled passions, their
vices, and still more perhaps their savage virtues, consigned
them to inevitable destruction. The ruin of these nations began
from the day when Europeans landed on their shores; it has
proceeded ever since, and we are now witnessing the completion of
it. They seem to have been placed by Providence amidst the
riches of the New World to enjoy them for a season, and then
surrender them. Those coasts, so admirably adapted for commerce
and industry; those wide and deep rivers; that inexhaustible
valley of the Mississippi; the whole continent, in short, seemed
prepared to be the abode of a great nation, yet unborn.

In that land the great experiment was to be made, by
civilized man, of the attempt to construct society upon a new
basis; and it was there, for the first time, that theories
hitherto unknown, or deemed impracticable, were to exhibit a
spectacle for which the world had not been prepared by the
history of the past.

Chapter II: Origin Of The Anglo-Americans - Part I

Chapter Summary

Utility of knowing the origin of nations in order to
understand their social condition and their laws - America the
only country in which the starting-point of a great people has
been clearly observable - In what respects all who emigrated to
British America were similar - In what they differed - Remark
applicable to all Europeans who established themselves on the
shores of the New World - Colonization of Virginia - Colonization
of New England - Original character of the first inhabitants of
New England - Their arrival - Their first laws - Their social
contract - Penal code borrowed from the Hebrew legislation -
Religious fervor -Republican spirit - Intimate union of the
spirit of religion with the spirit of liberty.

Origin Of The Anglo-Americans, And Its Importance In Relation To
Their Future Condition

After the birth of a human being his early years are
obscurely spent in the toils or pleasures of childhood. As he
grows up the world receives him, when his manhood begins, and he
enters into contact with his fellows. He is then studied for the
first time, and it is imagined that the germ of the vices and the
virtues of his maturer years is then formed. This, if I am not
mistaken, is a great error. We must begin higher up; we must
watch the infant in its mother's arms; we must see the first
images which the external world casts upon the dark mirror of his
mind; the first occurrences which he witnesses; we must hear the
first words which awaken the sleeping powers of thought, and
stand by his earliest efforts, if we would understand the
prejudices, the habits, and the passions which will rule his
life. The entire man is, so to speak, to be seen in the cradle
of the child.

The growth of nations presents something analogous to this:
they all bear some marks of their origin; and the circumstances
which accompanied their birth and contributed to their rise
affect the whole term of their being. If we were able to go back
to the elements of states, and to examine the oldest monuments of
their history, I doubt not that we should discover the primal
cause of the prejudices, the habits, the ruling passions, and, in
short, of all that constitutes what is called the national
character; we should then find the explanation of certain customs
which now seem at variance with the prevailing manners; of such
laws as conflict with established principles; and of such
incoherent opinions as are here and there to be met with in
society, like those fragments of broken chains which we sometimes
see hanging from the vault of an edifice, and supporting nothing.
This might explain the destinies of certain nations, which seem
borne on by an unknown force to ends of which they themselves are
ignorant. But hitherto facts have been wanting to researches of
this kind: the spirit of inquiry has only come upon communities
in their latter days; and when they at length contemplated their
origin, time had already obscured it, or ignorance and pride
adorned it with truth-concealing fables.

America is the only country in which it has been possible to
witness the natural and tranquil growth of society, and where the
influences exercised on the future condition of states by their
origin is clearly distinguishable. At the period when the peoples
of Europe landed in the New World their national characteristics
were already completely formed; each of them had a physiognomy of
its own; and as they had already attained that stage of
civilization at which men are led to study themselves, they have
transmitted to us a faithful picture of their opinions, their
manners, and their laws. The men of the sixteenth century are
almost as well known to us as our contemporaries. America,
consequently, exhibits in the broad light of day the phenomena
which the ignorance or rudeness of earlier ages conceals from our
researches. Near enough to the time when the states of America
were founded, to be accurately acquainted with their elements,
and sufficiently removed from that period to judge of some of
their results, the men of our own day seem destined to see
further than their predecessors into the series of human events.
Providence has given us a torch which our forefathers did not
possess, and has allowed us to discern fundamental causes in the
history of the world which the obscurity of the past concealed
from them. If we carefully examine the social and political
state of America, after having studied its history, we shall
remain perfectly convinced that not an opinion, not a custom, not
a law, I may even say not an event, is upon record which the
origin of that people will not explain. The readers of this book
will find the germ of all that is to follow in the present
chapter, and the key to almost the whole work.

The emigrants who came, at different periods to occupy the
territory now covered by the American Union differed from each
other in many respects; their aim was not the same, and they
governed themselves on different principles. These men had,
however, certain features in common, and they were all placed in
an analogous situation. The tie of language is perhaps the
strongest and the most durable that can unite mankind. All the
emigrants spoke the same tongue; they were all offsets from the
same people. Born in a country which had been agitated for
centuries by the struggles of faction, and in which all parties
had been obliged in their turn to place themselves under the
protection of the laws, their political education had been
perfected in this rude school, and they were more conversant with
the notions of right and the principles of true freedom than the
greater part of their European contemporaries. At the period of
their first emigrations the parish system, that fruitful germ of
free institutions, was deeply rooted in the habits of the
English; and with it the doctrine of the sovereignty of the
people had been introduced into the bosom of the monarchy of the
House of Tudor.

The religious quarrels which have agitated the Christian
world were then rife. England had plunged into the new order of
things with headlong vehemence. The character of its
inhabitants, which had always been sedate and reflective, became
argumentative and austere. General information had been
increased by intellectual debate, and the mind had received a
deeper cultivation. Whilst religion was the topic of discussion,
the morals of the people were reformed. All these national
features are more or less discoverable in the physiognomy of
those adventurers who came to seek a new home on the opposite
shores of the Atlantic.

Another remark, to which we shall hereafter have occasion to
recur, is applicable not only to the English, but to the French,
the Spaniards, and all the Europeans who successively established
themselves in the New World. All these European colonies
contained the elements, if not the development, of a complete
democracy. Two causes led to this result. It may safely be
advanced, that on leaving the mother-country the emigrants had in
general no notion of superiority over one another. The happy and
the powerful do not go into exile, and there are no surer
guarantees of equality among men than poverty and misfortune. It
happened, however, on several occasions, that persons of rank
were driven to America by political and religious quarrels. Laws
were made to establish a gradation of ranks; but it was soon
found that the soil of America was opposed to a territorial
aristocracy. To bring that refractory land into cultivation, the
constant and interested exertions of the owner himself were
necessary; and when the ground was prepared, its produce was
found to be insufficient to enrich a master and a farmer at the
same time. The land was then naturally broken up into small
portions, which the proprietor cultivated for himself. Land is
the basis of an aristocracy, which clings to the soil that
supports it; for it is not by privileges alone, nor by birth, but
by landed property handed down from generation to generation,
that an aristocracy is constituted. A nation may present immense
fortunes and extreme wretchedness, but unless those fortunes are
territorial there is no aristocracy, but simply the class of the
rich and that of the poor.

All the British colonies had then a great degree of
similarity at the epoch of their settlement. All of them, from
their first beginning, seemed destined to witness the growth, not
of the aristocratic liberty of their mother-country, but of that
freedom of the middle and lower orders of which the history of
the world had as yet furnished no complete example.

In this general uniformity several striking differences were
however discernible, which it is necessary to point out. Two
branches may be distinguished in the Anglo-American family, which
have hitherto grown up without entirely commingling; the one in
the South, the other in the North.

Virginia received the first English colony; the emigrants
took possession of it in 1607. The idea that mines of gold and
silver are the sources of national wealth was at that time
singularly prevalent in Europe; a fatal delusion, which has done
more to impoverish the nations which adopted it, and has cost
more lives in America, than the united influence of war and bad
laws. The men sent to Virginia *a were seekers of gold,
adventurers, without resources and without character, whose
turbulent and restless spirit endangered the infant colony, *b
and rendered its progress uncertain. The artisans and
agriculturists arrived afterwards; and, although they were a more
moral and orderly race of men, they were in nowise above the
level of the inferior classes in England. *c No lofty
conceptions, no intellectual system, directed the foundation of
these new settlements. The colony was scarcely established when
slavery was introduced, *d and this was the main circumstance
which has exercised so prodigious an influence on the character,
the laws, and all the future prospects of the South. Slavery, as
we shall afterwards show, dishonors labor; it introduces idleness
into society, and with idleness, ignorance and pride, luxury and
distress. It enervates the powers of the mind, and benumbs the
activity of man. The influence of slavery, united to the English
character, explains the manners and the social condition of the
Southern States.

[Footnote a: The charter granted by the Crown of England in 1609
stipulated, amongst other conditions, that the adventurers should
pay to the Crown a fifth of the produce of all gold and silver
mines. See Marshall's "Life of Washington," vol. i. pp. 18-66.]
[Footnote b: A large portion of the adventurers, says Stith
("History of Virginia"), were unprincipled young men of family,
whom their parents were glad to ship off, discharged servants,
fraudulent bankrupts, or debauchees; and others of the same
class, people more apt to pillage and destroy than to assist the
settlement, were the seditious chiefs, who easily led this band
into every kind of extravagance and excess. See for the history
of Virginia the following works: -

"History of Virginia, from the First Settlements in the year
1624," by Smith.

"History of Virginia," by William Stith.

"History of Virginia, from the Earliest Period," by
Beverley.]

[Footnote c: It was not till some time later that a certain
number of rich English capitalists came to fix themselves in the
colony.]

[Footnote d: Slavery was introduced about the year 1620 by a
Dutch vessel which landed twenty negroes on the banks of the
river James. See Chalmer.]

In the North, the same English foundation was modified by
the most opposite shades of character; and here I may be allowed
to enter into some details. The two or three main ideas which
constitute the basis of the social theory of the United States
were first combined in the Northern English colonies, more
generally denominated the States of New England. *e The
principles of New England spread at first to the neighboring
states; they then passed successively to the more distant ones;
and at length they imbued the whole Confederation. They now
extend their influence beyond its limits over the whole American
world. The civilization of New England has been like a beacon
lit upon a hill, which, after it has diffused its warmth around,
tinges the distant horizon with its glow.

[Footnote e: The States of New England are those situated to the
east of the Hudson; they are now six in number: 1, Connecticut;
2, Rhode Island; 3, Massachusetts; 4, Vermont; 5, New Hampshire;
6, Maine.]

The foundation of New England was a novel spectacle, and all
the circumstances attending it were singular and original. The
large majority of colonies have been first inhabited either by
men without education and without resources, driven by their
poverty and their misconduct from the land which gave them birth,
or by speculators and adventurers greedy of gain. Some
settlements cannot even boast so honorable an origin; St. Domingo
was founded by buccaneers; and the criminal courts of England
originally supplied the population of Australia.

The settlers who established themselves on the shores of New
England all belonged to the more independent classes of their
native country. Their union on the soil of America at once
presented the singular phenomenon of a society containing neither
lords nor common people, neither rich nor poor. These men
possessed, in proportion to their number, a greater mass of
intelligence than is to be found in any European nation of our
own time. All, without a single exception, had received a good
education, and many of them were known in Europe for their
talents and their acquirements. The other colonies had been
founded by adventurers without family; the emigrants of New
England brought with them the best elements of order and morality
-they landed in the desert accompanied by their wives and
children. But what most especially distinguished them was the
aim of their undertaking. They had not been obliged by necessity
to leave their country; the social position they abandoned was
one to be regretted, and their means of subsistence were certain.

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