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Democracy In America, Volume 1 by Alexis de Toqueville

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by elected bodies. The whole body of the citizens names the
legislature of each State, and the Federal Constitution converts
these legislatures into so many electoral bodies, which return
the members of the Senate. The senators are elected by an
indirect application of universal suffrage; for the legislatures
which name them are not aristocratic or privileged bodies which
exercise the electoral franchise in their own right; but they are
chosen by the totality of the citizens; they are generally
elected every year, and new members may constantly be chosen who
will employ their electoral rights in conformity with the wishes
of the public. But this transmission of the popular authority
through an assembly of chosen men operates an important change in
it, by refining its discretion and improving the forms which it
adopts. Men who are chosen in this manner accurately represent
the majority of the nation which governs them; but they represent
the elevated thoughts which are current in the community, the
propensities which prompt its nobler actions, rather than the
petty passions which disturb or the vices which disgrace it.

The time may be already anticipated at which the American
Republics will be obliged to introduce the plan of election by an
elected body more frequently into their system of representation,
or they will incur no small risk of perishing miserably amongst
the shoals of democracy.

And here I have no scruple in confessing that I look upon
this peculiar system of election as the only means of bringing
the exercise of political power to the level of all classes of
the people. Those thinkers who regard this institution as the
exclusive weapon of a party, and those who fear, on the other
hand, to make use of it, seem to me to fall into as great an
error in the one case as in the other.

Influence Which The American Democracy Has Exercised On The Laws
Relating To Elections

When elections are rare, they expose the State to a violent
crisis - When they are frequent, they keep up a degree of
feverish excitement - The Americans have preferred the second of
these two evils - Mutability of the laws -Opinions of Hamilton
and Jefferson on this subject.

When elections recur at long intervals the State is exposed
to violent agitation every time they take place. Parties exert
themselves to the utmost in order to gain a prize which is so
rarely within their reach; and as the evil is almost irremediable
for the candidates who fail, the consequences of their
disappointed ambition may prove most disastrous; if, on the other
hand, the legal struggle can be repeated within a short space of
time, the defeated parties take patience. When elections occur
frequently, their recurrence keeps society in a perpetual state
of feverish excitement, and imparts a continual instability to
public affairs.

Thus, on the one hand the State is exposed to the perils of
a revolution, on the other to perpetual mutability; the former
system threatens the very existence of the Government, the latter
is an obstacle to all steady and consistent policy. The
Americans have preferred the second of these evils to the first;
but they were led to this conclusion by their instinct much more
than by their reason; for a taste for variety is one of the
characteristic passions of democracy. An extraordinary
mutability has, by this means, been introduced into their
legislation. Many of the Americans consider the instability of
their laws as a necessary consequence of a system whose general
results are beneficial. But no one in the United States affects
to deny the fact of this instability, or to contend that it is
not a great evil.

Hamilton, after having demonstrated the utility of a power
which might prevent, or which might at least impede, the
promulgation of bad laws, adds: "It might perhaps be said that
the power of preventing bad laws includes that of preventing good
ones, and may be used to the one purpose as well as to the other.
But this objection will have little weight with those who can
properly estimate the mischiefs of that inconstancy and
mutability in the laws which form the greatest blemish in the
character and genius of our governments." (Federalist, No. 73.)
And again in No. 62 of the same work he observes: "The facility
and excess of law-making seem to be the diseases to which our
governments are most liable. . . . The mischievous effects of the
mutability in the public councils arising from a rapid succession
of new members would fill a volume: every new election in the
States is found to change one-half of the representatives. From
this change of men must proceed a change of opinions and of
measures, which forfeits the respect and confidence of other
nations, poisons the blessings of liberty itself, and diminishes
the attachment and reverence of the people toward a political
system which betrays so many marks of infirmity."

Jefferson himself, the greatest Democrat whom the democracy
of America has yet produced, pointed out the same evils. "The
instability of our laws," said he in a letter to Madison, "is
really a very serious inconvenience. I think that we ought to
have obviated it by deciding that a whole year should always be
allowed to elapse between the bringing in of a bill and the final
passing of it. It should afterward be discussed and put to the
vote without the possibility of making any alteration in it; and
if the circumstances of the case required a more speedy decision,
the question should not be decided by a simple majority, but by a
majority of at least two-thirds of both houses."

Public Officers Under The Control Of The Democracy In America
Simple exterior of the American public officers - No official
costume - All public officers are remunerated - Political
consequences of this system - No public career exists in America
- Result of this.

Public officers in the United States are commingled with the
crowd of citizens; they have neither palaces, nor guards, nor
ceremonial costumes. This simple exterior of the persons in
authority is connected not only with the peculiarities of the
American character, but with the fundamental principles of that
society. In the estimation of the democracy a government is not
a benefit, but a necessary evil. A certain degree of power must
be granted to public officers, for they would be of no use
without it. But the ostensible semblance of authority is by no
means indispensable to the conduct of affairs, and it is
needlessly offensive to the susceptibility of the public. The
public officers themselves are well aware that they only enjoy
the superiority over their fellow-citizens which they derive from
their authority upon condition of putting themselves on a level
with the whole community by their manners. A public officer in
the United States is uniformly civil, accessible to all the
world, attentive to all requests, and obliging in his replies. I
was pleased by these characteristics of a democratic government;
and I was struck by the manly independence of the citizens, who
respect the office more than the officer, and who are less
attached to the emblems of authority than to the man who bears

I am inclined to believe that the influence which costumes
really exercise, in an age like that in which we live, has been a
good deal exaggerated. I never perceived that a public officer
in America was the less respected whilst he was in the discharge
of his duties because his own merit was set off by no
adventitious signs. On the other hand, it is very doubtful
whether a peculiar dress contributes to the respect which public
characters ought to have for their own position, at least when
they are not otherwise inclined to respect it. When a magistrate
(and in France such instances are not rare) indulges his trivial
wit at the expense of the prisoner, or derides the predicament in
which a culprit is placed, it would be well to deprive him of his
robes of office, to see whether he would recall some portion of
the natural dignity of mankind when he is reduced to the apparel
of a private citizen.

A democracy may, however, allow a certain show of
magisterial pomp, and clothe its officers in silks and gold,
without seriously compromising its principles. Privileges of
this kind are transitory; they belong to the place, and are
distinct from the individual: but if public officers are not
uniformly remunerated by the State, the public charges must be
entrusted to men of opulence and independence, who constitute the
basis of an aristocracy; and if the people still retains its
right of election, that election can only be made from a certain
class of citizens. When a democratic republic renders offices
which had formerly been remunerated gratuitous, it may safely be
believed that the State is advancing to monarchical institutions;
and when a monarchy begins to remunerate such officers as had
hitherto been unpaid, it is a sure sign that it is approaching
toward a despotic or a republican form of government. The
substitution of paid for unpaid functionaries is of itself, in my
opinion, sufficient to constitute a serious revolution.

I look upon the entire absence of gratuitous functionaries
in America as one of the most prominent signs of the absolute
dominion which democracy exercises in that country. All public
services, of whatsoever nature they may be, are paid; so that
every one has not merely the right, but also the means of
performing them. Although, in democratic States, all the
citizens are qualified to occupy stations in the Government, all
are not tempted to try for them. The number and the capacities
of the candidates are more apt to restrict the choice of electors
than the coneitions of the candidateship.

In nations in which the principle of election extends to
every place in the State no political career can, properly
speaking, be said to exist. Men are promoted as if by chance to
the rank which they enjoy, and they are by no means sure of
retaining it. The consequence is that in tranquil times public
functions offer but few lures to ambition. In the United States
the persons who engage in the perplexities of political life are
individuals of very moderate pretensions. The pursuit of wealth
generally diverts men of great talents and of great passions from
the pursuit of power, and it very frequently happens that a man
does not undertake to direct the fortune of the State until he
has discovered his incompetence to conduct his own affairs. The
vast number of very ordinary men who occupy public stations is
quite as attributable to these causes as to the bad choice of the
democracy. In the United States, I am not sure that the people
would return the men of superior abilities who might solicit its
support, but it is certain that men of this description do not
come forward.

Arbitrary Power Of Magistrates Under The Rule Of The American

For what reason the arbitrary power of Magistrates is greater in
absolute monarchies and in democratic republics than it is in
limited monarchies -Arbitrary power of the Magistrates in New

In two different kinds of government the magistrates *a
exercise a considerable degree of arbitrary power; namely, under
the absolute government of a single individual, and under that of
a democracy. This identical result proceeds from causes which
are nearly analogous.

[Footnote a: I here use the word magistrates in the widest sense
in which it can be taken; I apply it to all the officers to whom
the execution of the laws is intrusted.]

In despotic States the fortune of no citizen is secure; and
public officers are not more safe than private individuals. The
sovereign, who has under his control the lives, the property, and
sometimes the honor of the men whom he employs, does not scruple
to allow them a great latitude of action, because he is convinced
that they will not use it to his prejudice. In despotic States
the sovereign is so attached to the exercise of his power, that
he dislikes the constraint even of his own regulations; and he is
well pleased that his agents should follow a somewhat fortuitous
line of conduct, provided he be certain that their actions will
never counteract his desires.

In democracies, as the majority has every year the right of
depriving the officers whom it has appointed of their power, it
has no reason to fear any abuse of their authority. As the
people is always able to signify its wishes to those who conduct
the Government, it prefers leaving them to make their own
exertions to prescribing an invariable rule of conduct which
would at once fetter their activity and the popular authority.

It may even be observed, on attentive consideration, that
under the rule of a democracy the arbitrary power of the
magistrate must be still greater than in despotic States. In the
latter the sovereign has the power of punishing all the faults
with which he becomes acquainted, but it would be vain for him to
hope to become acquainted with all those which are committed. In
the former the sovereign power is not only supreme, but it is
universally present. The American functionaries are, in point of
fact, much more independent in the sphere of action which the law
traces out for them than any public officer in Europe. Very
frequently the object which they are to accomplish is simply
pointed out to them, and the choice of the means is left to their
own discretion.

In New England, for instance, the selectmen of each township
are bound to draw up the list of persons who are to serve on the
jury; the only rule which is laid down to guide them in their
choice is that they are to select citizens possessing the
elective franchise and enjoying a fair reputation. *b In France
the lives and liberties of the subjects would be thought to be in
danger if a public officer of any kind was entrusted with so
formidable a right. In New England the same magistrates are
empowered to post the names of habitual drunkards in
public-houses, and to prohibit the inhabitants of a town from
supplying them with liquor. *c A censorial power of this
excessive kind would be revolting to the population of the most
absolute monarchies; here, however, it is submitted to without

[Footnote b: See the Act of February 27, 1813. "General
Collection of the Laws of Massachusetts," vol. ii. p. 331. It
should be added that the jurors are afterwards drawn from these
lists by lot.]

[Footnote c: See Act of February 28, 1787. "General Collection
of the Laws of Massachusetts," vol. i. p. 302.]

Nowhere has so much been left by the law to the arbitrary
determination of the magistrate as in democratic republics,
because this arbitrary power is unattended by any alarming
consequences. It may even be asserted that the freedom of the
magistrate increases as the elective franchise is extended, and
as the duration of the time of office is shortened. Hence arises
the great difficulty which attends the conversion of a democratic
republic into a monarchy. The magistrate ceases to be elective,
but he retains the rights and the habits of an elected officer,
which lead directly to despotism.

It is only in limited monarchies that the law, which
prescribes the sphere in which public officers are to act,
superintends all their measures. The cause of this may be easily
detected. In limited monarchies the power is divided between the
King and the people, both of whom are interested in the stability
of the magistrate. The King does not venture to place the public
officers under the control of the people, lest they should be
tempted to betray his interests; on the other hand, the people
fears lest the magistrates should serve to oppress the liberties
of the country, if they were entirely dependent upon the Crown;
they cannot therefore be said to depend on either one or the
other. The same cause which induces the king and the people to
render public officers independent suggests the necessity of such
securities as may prevent their independence from encroaching
upon the authority of the former and the liberties of the latter.
They consequently agree as to the necessity of restricting the
functionary to a line of conduct laid down beforehand, and they
are interested in confining him by certain regulations which he
cannot evade.

Chapter XIII: Government Of The Democarcy In America - Part II
Instability Of The Administration In The United States

In America the public acts of a community frequently leave fewer
traces than the occurrences of a family - Newspapers the only
historical remains -Instability of the administration prejudicial
to the art of government.

The authority which public men possess in America is so
brief, and they are so soon commingled with the ever-changing
population of the country, that the acts of a community
frequently leave fewer traces than the occurrences of a private
family. The public administration is, so to speak, oral and
traditionary. But little is committed to writing, and that
little is wafted away forever, like the leaves of the Sibyl, by
the smallest breeze.

The only historical remains in the United States are the
newspapers; but if a number be wanting, the chain of time is
broken, and the present is severed from the past. I am convinced
that in fifty years it will be more difficult to collect
authentic documents concerning the social condition of the
Americans at the present day than it is to find remains of the
administration of France during the Middle Ages; and if the
United States were ever invaded by barbarians, it would be
necessary to have recourse to the history of other nations in
order to learn anything of the people which now inhabits them.

The instability of the administration has penetrated into
the habits of the people: it even appears to suit the general
taste, and no one cares for what occurred before his time. No
methodical system is pursued; no archives are formed; and no
documents are brought together when it would be very easy to do
so. Where they exist, little store is set upon them; and I have
amongst my papers several original public documents which were
given to me in answer to some of my inquiries. In America
society seems to live from hand to mouth, like an army in the
field. Nevertheless, the art of administration may undoubtedly
be ranked as a science, and no sciences can be improved if the
discoveries and observations of successive generations are not
connected together in the order in which they occur. One man, in
the short space of his life remarks a fact; another conceives an
idea; the former invents a means of execution, the latter reduces
a truth to a fixed proposition; and mankind gathers the fruits of
individual experience upon its way and gradually forms the
sciences. But the persons who conduct the administration in
America can seldom afford any instruction to each other; and when
they assume the direction of society, they simply possess those
attainments which are most widely disseminated in the community,
and no experience peculiar to themselves. Democracy, carried to
its furthest limits, is therefore prejudicial to the art of
government; and for this reason it is better adapted to a people
already versed in the conduct of an administration than to a
nation which is uninitiated in public affairs.

This remark, indeed, is not exclusively applicable to the
science of administration. Although a democratic government is
founded upon a very simple and natural principle, it always
presupposes the existence of a high degree of culture and
enlightenment in society. *d At the first glance it may be
imagined to belong to the earliest ages of the world; but maturer
observation will convince us that it could only come last in the
succession of human history.

[Footnote d: It is needless to observe that I speak here of the
democratic form of government as applied to a people, not merely
to a tribe.]

Charges Levied By The State Under The Rule Of The American

In all communities citizens divisible into three classes - Habits
of each of these classes in the direction of public finances -
Why public expenditure must tend to increase when the people
governs - What renders the extravagance of a democracy less to be
feared in America - Public expenditure under a democracy.

Before we can affirm whether a democratic form of government
is economical or not, we must establish a suitable standard of
comparison. The question would be one of easy solution if we
were to attempt to draw a parallel between a democratic republic
and an absolute monarchy. The public expenditure would be found
to be more considerable under the former than under the latter;
such is the case with all free States compared to those which are
not so. It is certain that despotism ruins individuals by
preventing them from producing wealth, much more than by
depriving them of the wealth they have produced; it dries up the
source of riches, whilst it usually respects acquired property.
Freedom, on the contrary, engenders far more benefits than it
destroys; and the nations which are favored by free institutions
invariably find that their resources increase even more rapidly
than their taxes.

My present object is to compare free nations to each other,
and to point out the influence of democracy upon the finances of
a State.

Communities, as well as organic bodies, are subject to
certain fixed rules in their formation which they cannot evade.
They are composed of certain elements which are common to them at
all times and under all circumstances. The people may always be
mentally divided into three distinct classes. The first of these
classes consists of the wealthy; the second, of those who are in
easy circumstances; and the third is composed of those who have
little or no property, and who subsist more especially by the
work which they perform for the two superior orders. The
proportion of the individuals who are included in these three
divisions may vary according to the condition of society, but the
divisions themselves can never be obliterated.

It is evident that each of these classes will exercise an
influence peculiar to its own propensities upon the
administration of the finances of the State. If the first of the
three exclusively possesses the legislative power, it is probable
that it will not be sparing of the public funds, because the
taxes which are levied on a large fortune only tend to diminish
the sum of superfluous enjoyment, and are, in point of fact, but
little felt. If the second class has the power of making the
laws, it will certainly not be lavish of taxes, because nothing
is so onerous as a large impost which is levied upon a small
income. The government of the middle classes appears to me to be
the most economical, though perhaps not the most enlightened, and
certainly not the most generous, of free governments.

But let us now suppose that the legislative authority is
vested in the lowest orders: there are two striking reasons which
show that the tendency of the expenditure will be to increase,
not to diminish. As the great majority of those who create the
laws are possessed of no property upon which taxes can be
imposed, all the money which is spent for the community appears
to be spent to their advantage, at no cost of their own; and
those who are possessed of some little property readily find
means of regulating the taxes so that they are burdensome to the
wealthy and profitable to the poor, although the rich are unable
to take the same advantage when they are in possession of the

In countries in which the poor *e should be exclusively
invested with the power of making the laws no great economy of
public expenditure ought to be expected: that expenditure will
always be considerable; either because the taxes do not weigh
upon those who levy them, or because they are levied in such a
manner as not to weigh upon those classes. In other words, the
government of the democracy is the only one under which the power
which lays on taxes escapes the payment of them.

[Footnote e: The word poor is used here, and throughout the
remainder of this chapter, in a relative, not in an absolute
sense. Poor men in America would often appear rich in comparison
with the poor of Europe; but they may with propriety by styled
poor in comparison with their more affluent countrymen.]

It may be objected (but the argument has no real weight)
that the true interest of the people is indissolubly connected
with that of the wealthier portion of the community, since it
cannot but suffer by the severe measures to which it resorts.
But is it not the true interest of kings to render their subjects
happy, and the true interest of nobles to admit recruits into
their order on suitable grounds? If remote advantages had power
to prevail over the passions and the exigencies of the moment, no
such thing as a tyrannical sovereign or an exclusive aristocracy
could ever exist.

Again, it may be objected that the poor are never invested
with the sole power of making the laws; but I reply, that
wherever universal suffrage has been established the majority of
the community unquestionably exercises the legislative authority;
and if it be proved that the poor always constitute the majority,
it may be added, with perfect truth, that in the countries in
which they possess the elective franchise they possess the sole
power of making laws. But it is certain that in all the nations
of the world the greater number has always consisted of those
persons who hold no property, or of those whose property is
insufficient to exempt them from the necessity of working in
order to procure an easy subsistence. Universal suffrage does
therefore, in point of fact, invest the poor with the government
of society.

The disastrous influence which popular authority may
sometimes exercise upon the finances of a State was very clearly
seen in some of the democratic republics of antiquity, in which
the public treasure was exhausted in order to relieve indigent
citizens, or to supply the games and theatrical amusements of the
populace. It is true that the representative system was then
very imperfectly known, and that, at the present time, the
influence of popular passion is less felt in the conduct of
public affairs; but it may be believed that the delegate will in
the end conform to the principles of his constituents, and favor
their propensities as much as their interests.

The extravagance of democracy is, however, less to be
dreaded in proportion as the people acquires a share of property,
because on the one hand the contributions of the rich are then
less needed, and, on the other, it is more difficult to lay on
taxes which do not affect the interests of the lower classes. On
this account universal suffrage would be less dangerous in France
than in England, because in the latter country the property on
which taxes may be levied is vested in fewer hands. America,
where the great majority of the citizens possess some fortune, is
in a still more favorable position than France.

There are still further causes which may increase the sum of
public expenditure in democratic countries. When the aristocracy
governs, the individuals who conduct the affairs of State are
exempted by their own station in society from every kind of
privation; they are contented with their position; power and
renown are the objects for which they strive; and, as they are
placed far above the obscurer throng of citizens, they do not
always distinctly perceive how the well-being of the mass of the
people ought to redound to their own honor. They are not indeed
callous to the sufferings of the poor, but they cannot feel those
miseries as acutely as if they were themselves partakers of them.
Provided that the people appear to submit to its lot, the rulers
are satisfied, and they demand nothing further from the
Government. An aristocracy is more intent upon the means of
maintaining its influence than upon the means of improving its

When, on the contrary, the people is invested with the
supreme authority, the perpetual sense of their own miseries
impels the rulers of society to seek for perpetual ameliorations.
A thousand different objects are subjected to improvement; the
most trivial details are sought out as susceptible of amendment;
and those changes which are accompanied with considerable expense
are more especially advocated, since the object is to render the
condition of the poor more tolerable, who cannot pay for

Moreover, all democratic communities are agitated by an ill-
defined excitement and by a kind of feverish impatience, that
engender a multitude of innovations, almost all of which are
attended with expense.

In monarchies and aristocracies the natural taste which the
rulers have for power and for renown is stimulated by the
promptings of ambition, and they are frequently incited by these
temptations to very costly undertakings. In democracies, where
the rulers labor under privations, they can only be courted by
such means as improve their well-being, and these improvements
cannot take place without a sacrifice of money. When a people
begins to reflect upon its situation, it discovers a multitude of
wants to which it had not before been subject, and to satisfy
these exigencies recourse must be had to the coffers of the
State. Hence it arises that the public charges increase in
proportion as civilization spreads, and that imposts are
augmented as knowledge pervades the community.

The last cause which frequently renders a democratic
government dearer than any other is, that a democracy does not
always succeed in moderating its expenditure, because it does not
understand the art of being economical. As the designs which it
entertains are frequently changed, and the agents of those
designs are still more frequently removed, its undertakings are
often ill conducted or left unfinished: in the former case the
State spends sums out of all proportion to the end which it
proposes to accomplish; in the second, the expense itself is
unprofitable. *f

[Footnote f: The gross receipts of the Treasury of the United
States in 1832 were about $28,000,000; in 1870 they had risen to
$411,000,000. The gross expenditure in 1832 was $30,000,000; in
1870, $309,000,000.]

Tendencies Of The American Democracy As Regards The Salaries Of
Public Officers

In the democracies those who establish high salaries have no
chance of profiting by them - Tendency of the American democracy
to increase the salaries of subordinate officers and to lower
those of the more important functionaries - Reason of this -
Comparative statement of the salaries of public officers in the
United States and in France.

There is a powerful reason which usually induces democracies
to economize upon the salaries of public officers. As the number
of citizens who dispense the remuneration is extremely large in
democratic countries, so the number of persons who can hope to be
benefited by the receipt of it is comparatively small. In
aristocratic countries, on the contrary, the individuals who fix
high salaries have almost always a vague hope of profiting by
them. These appointments may be looked upon as a capital which
they create for their own use, or at least as a resource for
their children.

It must, however, be allowed that a democratic State is most
parsimonious towards its principal agents. In America the
secondary officers are much better paid, and the dignitaries of
the administration much worse, than they are elsewhere.

These opposite effects result from the same cause; the
people fixes the salaries of the public officers in both cases;
and the scale of remuneration is determined by the consideration
of its own wants. It is held to be fair that the servants of the
public should be placed in the same easy circumstances as the
public itself; *g but when the question turns upon the salaries
of the great officers of State, this rule fails, and chance alone
can guide the popular decision. The poor have no adequate
conception of the wants which the higher classes of society may
feel. The sum which is scanty to the rich appears enormous to
the poor man whose wants do not extend beyond the necessaries of
life; and in his estimation the Governor of a State, with his
twelve or fifteen hundred dollars a year, is a very fortunate and
enviable being. *h If you undertake to convince him that the
representative of a great people ought to be able to maintain
some show of splendor in the eyes of foreign nations, he will
perhaps assent to your meaning; but when he reflects on his own
humble dwelling, and on the hard- earned produce of his wearisome
toil, he remembers all that he could do with a salary which you
say is insufficient, and he is startled or almost frightened at
the sight of such uncommon wealth. Besides, the secondary public
officer is almost on a level with the people, whilst the others
are raised above it. The former may therefore excite his
interest, but the latter begins to arouse his envy.

[Footnote g: The easy circumstances in which secondary
functionaries are placed in the United States result also from
another cause, which is independent of the general tendencies of
democracy; every kind of private business is very lucrative, and
the State would not be served at all if it did not pay its
servants. The country is in the position of a commercial
undertaking, which is obliged to sustain an expensive
competition, notwithstanding its tastes for economy.]

[Footnote h: The State of Ohio, which contains a million of
inhabitants, gives its Governor a salary of only $1,200 a year.]

This is very clearly seen in the United States, where the
salaries seem to decrease as the authority of those who receive
them augments *i

[Footnote i: To render this assertion perfectly evident, it will
suffice to examine the scale of salaries of the agents of the
Federal Government. I have added the salaries attached to the
corresponding officers in France under the constitutional
monarchy to complete the comparison.

United States
Treasury Department
Messenger ............................ $700
Clerk with lowest salary ............. 1,000
Clerk with highest salary ............ 1,600
Chief Clerk .......................... 2,000
Secretary of State ................... 6,000
The President ........................ 25,000

Ministere des Finances
Hussier ........................... 1,500 fr.
Clerk with lowest salary, 1,000 to 1,800 fr.
Clerk with highest salary 3,200 to 8,600 fr.
Secretaire-general ................20,000 fr.
The Minister ......................80,000 fr.
The King ......................12,000,000 fr.

I have perhaps done wrong in selecting France as my standard
of comparison. In France the democratic tendencies of the nation
exercise an ever-increasing influence upon the Government, and
the Chambers show a disposition to raise the low salaries and to
lower the principal ones. Thus, the Minister of Finance, who
received 160,000 fr. under the Empire, receives 80,000 fr. in
1835: the Directeurs-generaux of Finance, who then received
50,000 fr. now receive only 20,000 fr. [This comparison is based
on the state of things existing in France and the United States
in 1831. It has since materially altered in both countries, but
not so much as to impugn the truth of the author's observation.]]

Under the rule of an aristocracy it frequently happens, on
the contrary, that whilst the high officers are receiving
munificent salaries, the inferior ones have not more than enough
to procure the necessaries of life. The reason of this fact is
easily discoverable from causes very analogous to those to which
I have just alluded. If a democracy is unable to conceive the
pleasures of the rich or to witness them without envy, an
aristocracy is slow to understand, or, to speak more correctly,
is unacquainted with, the privations of the poor. The poor man
is not (if we use the term aright) the fellow of the rich one;
but he is a being of another species. An aristocracy is
therefore apt to care but little for the fate of its subordinate
agents; and their salaries are only raised when they refuse to
perform their service for too scanty a remuneration.

It is the parsimonious conduct of democracy towards its
principal officers which has countenanced a supposition of far
more economical propensities than any which it really possesses.
It is true that it scarcely allows the means of honorable
subsistence to the individuals who conduct its affairs; but
enormous sums are lavished to meet the exigencies or to
facilitate the enjoyments of the people. *j The money raised by
taxation may be better employed, but it is not saved. In
general, democracy gives largely to the community, and very
sparingly to those who govern it. The reverse is the case in
aristocratic countries, where the money of the State is expended
to the profit of the persons who are at the head of affairs.

[Footnote j: See the American budgets for the cost of indigent
citizens and gratuitous instruction. In 1831 $250,000 were spent
in the State of New York for the maintenance of the poor, and at
least $1,000,000 were devoted to gratuitous instruction.
(William's "New York Annual Register," 1832, pp. 205 and 243.)
The State of New York contained only 1,900,000 inhabitants in the
year 1830, which is not more than double the amount of population
in the Department du Nord in France.]

Difficulty of Distinguishing The Causes Which Contribute To The
Economy Of The American Government

We are liable to frequent errors in the research of those
facts which exercise a serious influence upon the fate of
mankind, since nothing is more difficult than to appreciate their
real value. One people is naturally inconsistent and
enthusiastic; another is sober and calculating; and these
characteristics originate in their physical constitution or in
remote causes with which we are unacquainted.

These are nations which are fond of parade and the bustle of
festivity, and which do not regret the costly gaieties of an
hour. Others, on the contrary, are attached to more retiring
pleasures, and seem almost ashamed of appearing to be pleased.
In some countries the highest value is set upon the beauty of
public edifices; in others the productions of art are treated
with indifference, and everything which is unproductive is looked
down upon with contempt. In some renown, in others money, is the
ruling passion.

Independently of the laws, all these causes concur to
exercise a very powerful influence upon the conduct of the
finances of the State. If the Americans never spend the money of
the people in galas, it is not only because the imposition of
taxes is under the control of the people, but because the people
takes no delight in public rejoicings. If they repudiate all
ornament from their architecture, and set no store on any but the
more practical and homely advantages, it is not only because they
live under democratic institutions, but because they are a
commercial nation. The habits of private life are continued in
public; and we ought carefully to distinguish that economy which
depends upon their institutions from that which is the natural
result of their manners and customs.

Whether The Expenditure Of The United States Can Be Compared To
That Of France

Two points to be established in order to estimate the extent of
the public charges, viz., the national wealth and the rate of
taxation - The wealth and the charges of France not accurately
known - Why the wealth and charges of the Union cannot be
accurately known - Researches of the author with a view to
discover the amount of taxation of Pennsylvania - General
symptoms which may serve to indicate the amount of the public
charges in a given nation - Result of this investigation for the

Many attempts have recently been made in France to compare
the public expenditure of that country with the expenditure of
the United States; all these attempts have, however, been
unattended by success, and a few words will suffice to show that
they could not have had a satisfactory result.

In order to estimate the amount of the public charges of a
people two preliminaries are indispensable: it is necessary, in
the first place, to know the wealth of that people; and in the
second, to learn what portion of that wealth is devoted to the
expenditure of the State. To show the amount of taxation without
showing the resources which are destined to meet the demand, is
to undertake a futile labor; for it is not the expenditure, but
the relation of the expenditure to the revenue, which it is
desirable to know.

The same rate of taxation which may easily be supported by a
wealthy contributor will reduce a poor one to extreme misery.
The wealth of nations is composed of several distinct elements,
of which population is the first, real property the second, and
personal property the third. The first of these three elements
may be discovered without difficulty. Amongst civilized nations
it is easy to obtain an accurate census of the inhabitants; but
the two others cannot be determined with so much facility. It is
difficult to take an exact account of all the lands in a country
which are under cultivation, with their natural or their acquired
value; and it is still more impossible to estimate the entire
personal property which is at the disposal of a nation, and which
eludes the strictest analysis by the diversity and the number of
shapes under which it may occur. And, indeed, we find that the
most ancient civilized nations of Europe, including even those in
which the administration is most central, have not succeeded, as
yet, in determining the exact condition of their wealth.

In America the attempt has never been made; for how would
such an investigation be possible in a country where society has
not yet settled into habits of regularity and tranquillity; where
the national Government is not assisted by a multiple of agents
whose exertions it can command and direct to one sole end; and
where statistics are not studied, because no one is able to
collect the necessary documents, or to find time to peruse them?
Thus the primary elements of the calculations which have been
made in France cannot be obtained in the Union; the relative
wealth of the two countries is unknown; the property of the
former is not accurately determined, and no means exist of
computing that of the latter.

I consent, therefore, for the sake of the discussion, to
abandon this necessary term of the comparison, and I confine
myself to a computation of the actual amount of taxation, without
investigating the relation which subsists between the taxation
and the revenue. But the reader will perceive that my task has
not been facilitated by the limits which I here lay down for my

It cannot be doubted that the central administration of
France, assisted by all the public officers who are at its
disposal, might determine with exactitude the amount of the
direct and indirect taxes levied upon the citizens. But this
investigation, which no private individual can undertake, has not
hitherto been completed by the French Government, or, at least,
its results have not been made public. We are acquainted with
the sum total of the charges of the State; we know the amount of
the departmental expenditure; but the expenses of the communal
divisions have not been computed, and the amount of the public
expenses of France is consequently unknown.

If we now turn to America, we shall perceive that the
difficulties are multiplied and enhanced. The Union publishes an
exact return of the amount of its expenditure; the budgets of the
four and twenty States furnish similar returns of their revenues;
but the expenses incident to the affairs of the counties and the
townships are unknown. *k

[Footnote k: The Americans, as we have seen, have four separate
budgets, the Union, the States, the Counties, and the Townships
having each severally their own. During my stay in America I
made every endeavor to discover the amount of the public
expenditure in the townships and counties of the principal States
of the Union, and I readily obtained the budget of the larger
townships, but I found it quite impossible to procure that of the
smaller ones. I possess, however, some documents relating to
county expenses, which, although incomplete, are still curious.
I have to thank Mr. Richards, Mayor of Philadelphia, for the
budgets of thirteen of the counties of Pennsylvania, viz.,
Lebanon, Centre, Franklin, Fayette, Montgomery, Luzerne, Dauphin,
Butler, Alleghany, Columbia, Northampton, Northumberland, and
Philadelphia, for the year 1830. Their population at that time
consisted of 495,207 inhabitants. On looking at the map of
Pennsylvania, it will be seen that these thirteen counties are
scattered in every direction, and so generally affected by the
causes which usually influence the condition of a country, that
they may easily be supposed to furnish a correct average of the
financial state of the counties of Pennsylvania in general; and
thus, upon reckoning that the expenses of these counties amounted
in the year 1830 to about $361,650, or nearly 75 cents for each
inhabitant, and calculating that each of them contributed in the
same year about $2.55 towards the Union, and about 75 cents to
the State of Pennsylvania, it appears that they each contributed
as their share of all the public expenses (except those of the
townships) the sum of $4.05. This calculation is doubly
incomplete, as it applies only to a single year and to one part
of the public charges; but it has at least the merit of not being

The authority of the Federal government cannot oblige the
provincial governments to throw any light upon this point; and
even if these governments were inclined to afford their
simultaneous co- operation, it may be doubted whether they
possess the means of procuring a satisfactory answer.
Independently of the natural difficulties of the task, the
political organization of the country would act as a hindrance to
the success of their efforts. The county and town magistrates
are not appointed by the authorities of the State, and they are
not subjected to their control. It is therefore very allowable
to suppose that, if the State was desirous of obtaining the
returns which we require, its design would be counteracted by the
neglect of those subordinate officers whom it would be obliged to
employ. *l It is, in point of fact, useless to inquire what the
Americans might do to forward this inquiry, since it is certain
that they have hitherto done nothing at all. There does not exist
a single individual at the present day, in America or in Europe,
who can inform us what each citizen of the Union annually
contributes to the public charges of the nation. *m
[Footnote l: Those who have attempted to draw a comparison
between the expenses of France and America have at once perceived
that no such comparison could be drawn between the total
expenditure of the two countries; but they have endeavored to
contrast detached portions of this expenditure. It may readily
be shown that this second system is not at all less defective
than the first. If I attempt to compare the French budget with
the budget of the Union, it must be remembered that the latter
embraces much fewer objects than then central Government of the
former country, and that the expenditure must consequently be
much smaller. If I contrast the budgets of the Departments with
those of the States which constitute the Union, it must be
observed that, as the power and control exercised by the States
is much greater than that which is exercised by the Departments,
their expenditure is also more considerable. As for the budgets
of the counties, nothing of the kind occurs in the French system
of finances; and it is, again, doubtful whether the corresponding
expenses should be referred to the budget of the State or to
those of the municipal divisions. Municipal expenses exist in
both countries, but they are not always analogous. In America
the townships discharge a variety of offices which are reserved
in France to the Departments or to the State. It may, moreover,
be asked what is to be understood by the municipal expenses of
America. The organization of the municipal bodies or townships
differs in the several States. Are we to be guided by what
occurs in New England or in Georgia, in Pennsylvania or in the
State of Illinois? A kind of analogy may very readily be
perceived between certain budgets in the two countries; but as
the elements of which they are composed always differ more or
less, no fair comparison can be instituted between them. [The
same difficulty exists, perhaps to a greater degree at the
present time, when the taxation of America has largely increased.
- 1874.]]

[Footnote m: Even if we knew the exact pecuniary contributions of
every French and American citizen to the coffers of the State, we
should only come at a portion of the truth. Governments do not
only demand supplies of money, but they call for personal
services, which may be looked upon as equivalent to a given sum.
When a State raises an army, besides the pay of the troops, which
is furnished by the entire nation, each soldier must give up his
time, the value of which depends on the use he might make of it
if he were not in the service. The same remark applies to the
militia; the citizen who is in the militia devotes a certain
portion of valuable time to the maintenance of the public peace,
and he does in reality surrender to the State those earnings
which he is prevented from gaining. Many other instances might
be cited in addition to these. The governments of France and of
America both levy taxes of this kind, which weigh upon the
citizens; but who can estimate with accuracy their relative
amount in the two countries?

This, however, is not the last of the difficulties which
prevent us from comparing the expenditure of the Union with that
of France. The French Government contracts certain obligations
which do not exist in America, and vice versa. The French
Government pays the clergy; in America the voluntary principle
prevails. In America there is a legal provision for the poor; in
France they are abandoned to the charity of the public. The
French public officers are paid by a fixed salary; in America
they are allowed certain perquisites. In France contributions in
kind take place on very few roads; in America upon almost all the
thoroughfares: in the former country the roads are free to all
travellers; in the latter turnpikes abound. All these
differences in the manner in which contributions are levied in
the two countries enhance the difficulty of comparing their
expenditure; for there are certain expenses which the citizens
would not be subject to, or which would at any rate be much less
considerable, if the State did not take upon itself to act in the
name of the public.]

Hence we must conclude that it is no less difficult to
compare the social expenditure than it is to estimate the
relative wealth of France and America. I will even add that it
would be dangerous to attempt this comparison; for when
statistics are not based upon computations which are strictly
accurate, they mislead instead of guiding aright. The mind is
easily imposed upon by the false affectation of exactness, which
prevails even in the misstatements of science, and it adopts with
confidence errors which are dressed in the forms of mathematical

We abandon, therefore, our numerical investigation, with the
hope of meeting with data of another kind. In the absence of
positive documents, we may form an opinion as to the proportion
which the taxation of a people bears to its real prosperity, by
observing whether its external appearance is flourishing;
whether, after having discharged the calls of the State, the poor
man retains the means of subsistence, and the rich the means of
enjoyment; and whether both classes are contented with their
position, seeking, however, to ameliorate it by perpetual
exertions, so that industry is never in want of capital, nor
capital unemployed by industry. The observer who draws his
inferences from these signs will, undoubtedly, be led to the
conclusion that the American of the United States contributes a
much smaller portion of his income to the State than the citizen
of France. Nor, indeed, can the result be otherwise.

A portion of the French debt is the consequence of two
successive invasions; and the Union has no similar calamity to
fear. A nation placed upon the continent of Europe is obliged to
maintain a large standing army; the isolated position of the
Union enables it to have only 6,000 soldiers. The French have a
fleet of 300 sail; the Americans have 52 vessels. *n How, then,
can the inhabitants of the Union be called upon to contribute as
largely as the inhabitants of France? No parallel can be drawn
between the finances of two countries so differently situated.

[Footnote n: See the details in the Budget of the French Minister
of Marine; and for America, the National Calendar of 1833, p.
228. [But the public debt of the United States in 1870, caused
by the Civil War, amounted to $2,480,672,427; that of France was
more than doubled by the extravagance of the Second Empire and by
the war of 1870.]]

It is by examining what actually takes place in the Union,
and not by comparing the Union with France, that we may discover
whether the American Government is really economical. On casting
my eyes over the different republics which form the
confederation, I perceive that their Governments lack
perseverance in their undertakings, and that they exercise no
steady control over the men whom they employ. Whence I naturally
infer that they must often spend the money of the people to no
purpose, or consume more of it than is really necessary to their
undertakings. Great efforts are made, in accordance with the
democratic origin of society, to satisfy the exigencies of the
lower orders, to open the career of power to their endeavors, and
to diffuse knowledge and comfort amongst them. The poor are
maintained, immense sums are annually devoted to public
instruction, all services whatsoever are remunerated, and the
most subordinate agents are liberally paid. If this kind of
government appears to me to be useful and rational, I am
nevertheless constrained to admit that it is expensive.

Wherever the poor direct public affairs and dispose of the
national resources, it appears certain that, as they profit by
the expenditure of the State, they are apt to augment that

I conclude, therefore, without having recourse to inaccurate
computations, and without hazarding a comparison which might
prove incorrect, that the democratic government of the Americans
is not a cheap government, as is sometimes asserted; and I have
no hesitation in predicting that, if the people of the United
States is ever involved in serious difficulties, its taxation
will speedily be increased to the rate of that which prevails in
the greater part of the aristocracies and the monarchies of
Europe. *o

[Footnote o: [That is precisely what has since occurred.]]

Chapter XIII: Government Of The Democracy In America - Part III
Corruption And Vices Of The Rulers In A Democracy, And Consequent
Effects Upon Public Morality

In aristocracies rulers sometimes endeavor to corrupt the people
- In democracies rulers frequently show themselves to be corrupt
- In the former their vices are directly prejudicial to the
morality of the people - In the latter their indirect influence
is still more pernicious.

A distinction must be made, when the aristocratic and the
democratic principles mutually inveigh against each other, as
tending to facilitate corruption. In aristocratic governments
the individuals who are placed at the head of affairs are rich
men, who are solely desirous of power. In democracies statesmen
are poor, and they have their fortunes to make. The consequence
is that in aristocratic States the rulers are rarely accessible
to corruption, and have very little craving for money; whilst the
reverse is the case in democratic nations.

But in aristocracies, as those who are desirous of arriving
at the head of affairs are possessed of considerable wealth, and
as the number of persons by whose assistance they may rise is
comparatively small, the government is, if I may use the
expression, put up to a sort of auction. In democracies, on the
contrary, those who are covetous of power are very seldom
wealthy, and the number of citizens who confer that power is
extremely great. Perhaps in democracies the number of men who
might be bought is by no means smaller, but buyers are rarely to
be met with; and, besides, it would be necessary to buy so many
persons at once that the attempt is rendered nugatory.

Many of the men who have been in the administration in
France during the last forty years have been accused of making
their fortunes at the expense of the State or of its allies; a
reproach which was rarely addressed to the public characters of
the ancient monarchy. But in France the practice of bribing
electors is almost unknown, whilst it is notoriously and publicly
carried on in England. In the United States I never heard a man
accused of spending his wealth in corrupting the populace; but I
have often heard the probity of public officers questioned; still
more frequently have I heard their success attributed to low
intrigues and immoral practices.

If, then, the men who conduct the government of an
aristocracy sometimes endeavor to corrupt the people, the heads
of a democracy are themselves corrupt. In the former case the
morality of the people is directly assailed; in the latter an
indirect influence is exercised upon the people which is still
more to be dreaded.

As the rulers of democratic nations are almost always
exposed to the suspicion of dishonorable conduct, they in some
measure lend the authority of the Government to the base
practices of which they are accused. They thus afford an example
which must prove discouraging to the struggles of virtuous
independence, and must foster the secret calculations of a
vicious ambition. If it be asserted that evil passions are
displayed in all ranks of society, that they ascend the throne by
hereditary right, and that despicable characters are to be met
with at the head of aristocratic nations as well as in the sphere
of a democracy, this objection has but little weight in my
estimation. The corruption of men who have casually risen to
power has a coarse and vulgar infection in it which renders it
contagious to the multitude. On the contrary, there is a kind of
aristocratic refinement and an air of grandeur in the depravity
of the great, which frequently prevent it from spreading abroad.

The people can never penetrate into the perplexing labyrinth
of court intrigue, and it will always have difficulty in
detecting the turpitude which lurks under elegant manners,
refined tastes, and graceful language. But to pillage the public
purse, and to vend the favors of the State, are arts which the
meanest villain may comprehend, and hope to practice in his turn.

In reality it is far less prejudicial to witness the
immorality of the great than to witness that immorality which
leads to greatness. In a democracy private citizens see a man of
their own rank in life, who rises from that obscure position, and
who becomes possessed of riches and of power in a few years; the
spectacle excites their surprise and their envy, and they are led
to inquire how the person who was yesterday their equal is to-day
their ruler. To attribute his rise to his talents or his virtues
is unpleasant; for it is tacitly to acknowledge that they are
themselves less virtuous and less talented than he was. They are
therefore led (and not unfrequently their conjecture is a correct
one) to impute his success mainly to some one of his defects; and
an odious mixture is thus formed of the ideas of turpitude and
power, unworthiness and success, utility and dishonor.

Efforts Of Which A Democracy Is Capable

The Union has only had one struggle hitherto for its existence -
Enthusiasm at the commencement of the war - Indifference towards
its close - Difficulty of establishing military conscription or
impressment of seamen in America - Why a democratic people is
less capable of sustained effort than another.

I here warn the reader that I speak of a government which
implicitly follows the real desires of a people, and not of a
government which simply commands in its name. Nothing is so
irresistible as a tyrannical power commanding in the name of the
people, because, whilst it exercises that moral influence which
belongs to the decision of the majority, it acts at the same time
with the promptitude and the tenacity of a single man.

It is difficult to say what degree of exertion a democratic
government may be capable of making a crisis in the history of
the nation. But no great democratic republic has hitherto
existed in the world. To style the oligarchy which ruled over
France in 1793 by that name would be to offer an insult to the
republican form of government. The United States afford the
first example of the kind.

The American Union has now subsisted for half a century, in
the course of which time its existence has only once been
attacked, namely, during the War of Independence. At the
commencement of that long war, various occurrences took place
which betokened an extraordinary zeal for the service of the
country. *p But as the contest was prolonged, symptoms of private
egotism began to show themselves. No money was poured into the
public treasury; few recruits could be raised to join the army;
the people wished to acquire independence, but was very
ill-disposed to undergo the privations by which alone it could be
obtained. "Tax laws," says Hamilton in the "Federalist" (No.
12), "have in vain been multiplied; new methods to enforce the
collection have in vain been tried; the public expectation has
been uniformly disappointed and the treasuries of the States have
remained empty. The popular system of administration inherent in
the nature of popular government, coinciding with the real
scarcity of money incident to a languid and mutilated state of
trade, has hitherto defeated every experiment for extensive
collections, and has at length taught the different legislatures
the folly of attempting them."

[Footnote p: One of the most singular of these occurrences was
the resolution which the Americans took of temporarily abandoning
the use of tea. Those who know that men usually cling more to
their habits than to their life will doubtless admire this great
though obscure sacrifice which was made by a whole people.]

The United States have not had any serious war to carry on
ever since that period. In order, therefore, to appreciate the
sacrifices which democratic nations may impose upon themselves,
we must wait until the American people is obliged to put half its
entire income at the disposal of the Government, as was done by
the English; or until it sends forth a twentieth part of its
population to the field of battle, as was done by France. *q

[Footnote q: [The Civil War showed that when the necessity arose
the American people, both in the North and in the South, are
capable of making the most enormous sacrifices, both in money and
in men.]]

In America the use of conscription is unknown, and men are
induced to enlist by bounties. The notions and habits of the
people of the United States are so opposed to compulsory
enlistment that I do not imagine it can ever be sanctioned by the
laws. What is termed the conscription in France is assuredly the
heaviest tax upon the population of that country; yet how could a
great continental war be carried on without it? The Americans
have not adopted the British impressment of seamen, and they have
nothing which corresponds to the French system of maritime
conscription; the navy, as well as the merchant service, is
supplied by voluntary service. But it is not easy to conceive
how a people can sustain a great maritime war without having
recourse to one or the other of these two systems. Indeed, the
Union, which has fought with some honor upon the seas, has never
possessed a very numerous fleet, and the equipment of the small
number of American vessels has always been excessively expensive.

I have heard American statesmen confess that the Union will
have great difficulty in maintaining its rank on the seas without
adopting the system of impressment or of maritime conscription;
but the difficulty is to induce the people, which exercises the
supreme authority, to submit to impressment or any compulsory

It is incontestable that in times of danger a free people
displays far more energy than one which is not so. But I incline
to believe that this is more especially the case in those free
nations in which the democratic element preponderates. Democracy
appears to me to be much better adapted for the peaceful conduct
of society, or for an occasional effort of remarkable vigor, than
for the hardy and prolonged endurance of the storms which beset
the political existence of nations. The reason is very evident;
it is enthusiasm which prompts men to expose themselves to
dangers and privations, but they will not support them long
without reflection. There is more calculation, even in the
impulses of bravery, than is generally attributed to them; and
although the first efforts are suggested by passion, perseverance
is maintained by a distinct regard of the purpose in view. A
portion of what we value is exposed, in order to save the

But it is this distinct perception of the future, founded
upon a sound judgment and an enlightened experience, which is
most frequently wanting in democracies. The populace is more apt
to feel than to reason; and if its present sufferings are great,
it is to be feared that the still greater sufferings attendant
upon defeat will be forgotten.

Another cause tends to render the efforts of a democratic
government less persevering than those of an aristocracy. Not
only are the lower classes less awakened than the higher orders
to the good or evil chances of the future, but they are liable to
suffer far more acutely from present privations. The noble
exposes his life, indeed, but the chance of glory is equal to the
chance of harm. If he sacrifices a large portion of his income
to the State, he deprives himself for a time of the pleasures of
affluence; but to the poor man death is embellished by no pomp or
renown, and the imposts which are irksome to the rich are fatal
to him.

This relative impotence of democratic republics is, perhaps,
the greatest obstacle to the foundation of a republic of this
kind in Europe. In order that such a State should subsist in one
country of the Old World, it would be necessary that similar
institutions should be introduced into all the other nations.

I am of opinion that a democratic government tends in the
end to increase the real strength of society; but it can never
combine, upon a single point and at a given time, so much power
as an aristocracy or a monarchy. If a democratic country
remained during a whole century subject to a republican
government, it would probably at the end of that period be more
populous and more prosperous than the neighboring despotic
States. But it would have incurred the risk of being conquered
much oftener than they would in that lapse of years.

Self-Control Of The American Democracy

The American people acquiesces slowly, or frequently does not
acquiesce, in what is beneficial to its interests - The faults of
the American democracy are for the most part reparable.

The difficulty which a democracy has in conquering the
passions and in subduing the exigencies of the moment, with a
view to the future, is conspicuous in the most trivial
occurrences of the United States. The people, which is
surrounded by flatterers, has great difficulty in surmounting its
inclinations, and whenever it is solicited to undergo a privation
or any kind of inconvenience, even to attain an end which is
sanctioned by its own rational conviction, it almost always
refuses to comply at first. The deference of the Americans to
the laws has been very justly applauded; but it must be added
that in America the legislation is made by the people and for the
people. Consequently, in the United States the law favors those
classes which are most interested in evading it elsewhere. It
may therefore be supposed that an offensive law, which should not
be acknowledged to be one of immediate utility, would either not
be enacted or would not be obeyed.

In America there is no law against fraudulent bankruptcies;
not because they are few, but because there are a great number of
bankruptcies. The dread of being prosecuted as a bankrupt acts
with more intensity upon the mind of the majority of the people
than the fear of being involved in losses or ruin by the failure
of other parties, and a sort of guilty tolerance is extended by
the public conscience to an offence which everyone condemns in
his individual capacity. In the new States of the Southwest the
citizens generally take justice into their own hands, and murders
are of very frequent occurrence. This arises from the rude
manners and the ignorance of the inhabitants of those deserts,
who do not perceive the utility of investing the law with
adequate force, and who prefer duels to prosecutions.

Someone observed to me one day, in Philadelphia, that almost
all crimes in America are caused by the abuse of intoxicating
liquors, which the lower classes can procure in great abundance,
from their excessive cheapness. "How comes it," said I, "that
you do not put a duty upon brandy?" "Our legislators," rejoined
my informant, "have frequently thought of this expedient; but the
task of putting it in operation is a difficult one; a revolt
might be apprehended, and the members who should vote for a law
of this kind would be sure of losing their seats." "Whence I am
to infer," replied I, "that the drinking population constitutes
the majority in your country, and that temperance is somewhat

When these things are pointed out to the American statesmen,
they content themselves with assuring you that time will operate
the necessary change, and that the experience of evil will teach
the people its true interests. This is frequently true, although
a democracy is more liable to error than a monarch or a body of
nobles; the chances of its regaining the right path when once it
has acknowledged its mistake, are greater also; because it is
rarely embarrassed by internal interests, which conflict with
those of the majority, and resist the authority ofreason. But a
democracy can only obtain truth as the result of experience, and
many nations may forfeit their existence whilst they are awaiting
the consequences of their errors.

The great privilege of the Americans does not simply consist
in their being more enlightened than other nations, but in their
being able to repair the faults they may commit. To which it
must be added, that a democracy cannot derive substantial benefit
from past experience, unless it be arrived at a certain pitch of
knowledge and civilization. There are tribes and peoples whose
education has been so vicious, and whose character presents so
strange a mixture of passion, of ignorance, and of erroneous
notions upon all subjects, that they are unable to discern the
causes of their own wretchedness, and they fall a sacrifice to
ills with which they are unacquainted.

I have crossed vast tracts of country that were formerly
inhabited by powerful Indian nations which are now extinct; I
have myself passed some time in the midst of mutilated tribes,
which witness the daily decline of their numerical strength and
of the glory of their independence; and I have heard these
Indians themselves anticipate the impending doom of their race.
Every European can perceive means which would rescue these
unfortunate beings from inevitable destruction. They alone are
insensible to the expedient; they feel the woe which year after
year heaps upon their heads, but they will perish to a man
without accepting the remedy. It would be necessary to employ
force to induce them to submit to the protection and the
constraint of civilization.

The incessant revolutions which have convulsed the South
American provinces for the last quarter of a century have
frequently been adverted to with astonishment, and expectations
have been expressed that those nations would speedily return to
their natural state. But can it be affirmed that the turmoil of
revolution is not actually the most natural state of the South
American Spaniards at the present time? In that country society
is plunged into difficulties from which all its efforts are
insufficient to rescue it. The inhabitants of that fair portion
of the Western Hemisphere seem obstinately bent on pursuing the
work of inward havoc. If they fall into a momentary repose from
the effects of exhaustion, that repose prepares them for a fresh
state of frenzy. When I consider their condition, which
alternates between misery and crime, I should be inclined to
believe that despotism itself would be a benefit to them, if it
were possible that the words despotism and benefit could ever be
united in my mind.

Conduct Of Foreign Affairs By The American Democracy

Direction given to the foreign policy of the United States by
Washington and Jefferson - Almost all the defects inherent in
democratic institutions are brought to light in the conduct of
foreign affairs - Their advantages are less perceptible.

We have seen that the Federal Constitution entrusts the
permanent direction of the external interests of the nation to
the President and the Senate, *r which tends in some degree to
detach the general foreign policy of the Union from the control
of the people. It cannot therefore be asserted with truth that
the external affairs of State are conducted by the democracy.

[Footnote r: "The President," says the Constitution, Art. II,
sect. 2, Section 2, "shall have power, by and with the advice and
consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two-thirds of
the senators present concur." The reader is reminded that the
senators are returned for a term of six years, and that they are
chosen by the legislature of each State.]

The policy of America owes its rise to Washington, and after
him to Jefferson, who established those principles which it
observes at the present day. Washington said in the admirable
letter which he addressed to his fellow-citizens, and which may
be looked upon as his political bequest to the country: "The
great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is, in
extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little
political connection as possible. So far as we have already
formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good
faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests
which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence, she must
be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are
essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must
be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in
the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary
combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities. Our
detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a
different course. If we remain one people, under an efficient
government, the period is not far off when we may defy material
injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude
as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to
be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the
impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly
hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or
war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel. Why
forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our
own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our
destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and
prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship,
interest, humor, or caprice? It is our true policy to steer
clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign
world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let
me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to
existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to
public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best
policy. I repeat it; therefore, let those engagements be
observed in their genuine sense; but in my opinion it is
unnecessary, and would be unwise, to extend them. Taking care
always to keep ourselves, by suitable establishments, in a
respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary
alliances for extraordinary emergencies." In a previous part of
the same letter Washington makes the following admirable and just
remark: "The nation which indulges towards another an habitual
hatred or an habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is
a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is
sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest."

The political conduct of Washington was always guided by
these maxims. He succeeded in maintaining his country in a state
of peace whilst all the other nations of the globe were at war;
and he laid it down as a fundamental doctrine, that the true
interest of the Americans consisted in a perfect neutrality with
regard to the internal dissensions of the European Powers.

Jefferson went still further, and he introduced a maxim into
the policy of the Union, which affirms that "the Americans ought
never to solicit any privileges from foreign nations, in order
not to be obliged to grant similar privileges themselves."

These two principles, which were so plain and so just as to
be adapted to the capacity of the populace, have greatly
simplified the foreign policy of the United States. As the Union
takes no part in the affairs of Europe, it has, properly
speaking, no foreign interests to discuss, since it has at
present no powerful neighbors on the American continent. The
country is as much removed from the passions of the Old World by
its position as by the line of policy which it has chosen, and it
is neither called upon to repudiate nor to espouse the
conflicting interests of Europe; whilst the dissensions of the
New World are still concealed within the bosom of the future.

The Union is free from all pre-existing obligations, and it
is consequently enabled to profit by the experience of the old
nations of Europe, without being obliged, as they are, to make
the best of the past, and to adapt it to their present
circumstances; or to accept that immense inheritance which they
derive from their forefathers - an inheritance of glory mingled
with calamities, and of alliances conflicting with national
antipathies. The foreign policy of the United States is reduced
by its very nature to await the chances of the future history of
the nation, and for the present it consists more in abstaining
from interference than in exerting its activity.

It is therefore very difficult to ascertain, at present,
what degree of sagacity the American democracy will display in
the conduct of the foreign policy of the country; and upon this
point its adversaries, as well as its advocates, must suspend
their judgment. As for myself I have no hesitation in avowing my
conviction, that it is most especially in the conduct of foreign
relations that democratic governments appear to me to be
decidedly inferior to governments carried on upon different
principles. Experience, instruction, and habit may almost always
succeed in creating a species of practical discretion in
democracies, and that science of the daily occurrences of life
which is called good sense. Good sense may suffice to direct the
ordinary course of society; and amongst a people whose education
has been provided for, the advantages of democratic liberty in
the internal affairs of the country may more than compensate for
the evils inherent in a democratic government. But such is not
always the case in the mutual relations of foreign nations.

Foreign politics demand scarcely any of those qualities
which a democracy possesses; and they require, on the contrary,
the perfect use of almost all those faculties in which it is
deficient. Democracy is favorable to the increase of the
internal resources of the State; it tends to diffuse a moderate
independence; it promotes the growth of public spirit, and
fortifies the respect which is entertained for law in all classes
of society; and these are advantages which only exercise an
indirect influence over the relations which one people bears to
another. But a democracy is unable to regulate the details of an
important undertaking, to persevere in a design, and to work out
its execution in the presence of serious obstacles. It cannot
combine its measures with secrecy, and it will not await their
consequences with patience. These are qualities which more
especially belong to an individual or to an aristocracy; and they
are precisely the means by which an individual people attains to
a predominant position.

If, on the contrary, we observe the natural defects of
aristocracy, we shall find that their influence is comparatively
innoxious in the direction of the external affairs of a State.
The capital fault of which aristocratic bodies may be accused is
that they are more apt to contrive their own advantage than that
of the mass of the people. In foreign politics it is rare for
the interest of the aristocracy to be in any way distinct from
that of the people.

The propensity which democracies have to obey the impulse of
passion rather than the suggestions of prudence, and to abandon a
mature design for the gratification of a momentary caprice, was
very clearly seen in America on the breaking out of the French
Revolution. It was then as evident to the simplest capacity as
it is at the present time that the interest of the Americans
forbade them to take any part in the contest which was about to
deluge Europe with blood, but which could by no means injure the
welfare of their own country. Nevertheless the sympathies of the
people declared themselves with so much violence in behalf of
France that nothing but the inflexible character of Washington,
and the immense popularity which he enjoyed, could have prevented
the Americans from declaring war against England. And even then,
the exertions which the austere reason of that great man made to
repress the generous but imprudent passions of his
fellow-citizens, very nearly deprived him of the sole recompense
which he had ever claimed - that of his country's love. The
majority then reprobated the line of policy which he adopted, and
which has since been unanimously approved by the nation. *s If
the Constitution and the favor of the public had not entrusted
the direction of the foreign affairs of the country to
Washington, it is certain that the American nation would at that
time have taken the very measures which it now condemns.

[Footnote s: See the fifth volume of Marshall's "Life of
Washington." In a government constituted like that of the United
States," he says, "it is impossible for the chief magistrate,
however firm he may be, to oppose for any length of time the
torrent of popular opinion; and the prevalent opinion of that day
seemed to incline to war. In fact, in the session of Congress
held at the time, it was frequently seen that Washington had lost
the majority in the House of Representatives." The violence of
the language used against him in public was extreme, and in a
political meeting they did not scruple to compare him indirectly
to the treacherous Arnold. "By the opposition," says Marshall,
"the friends of the administration were declared to be an
aristocratic and corrupt faction, who, from a desire to introduce
monarchy, were hostile to France and under the influence of
Britain; that they were a paper nobility, whose extreme
sensibility at every measure which threatened the funds, induced
a tame submission to injuries and insults, which the interests
and honor of the nation required them to resist."]

Almost all the nations which have ever exercised a powerful
influence upon the destinies of the world by conceiving,
following up, and executing vast designs - from the Romans to the
English - have been governed by aristocratic institutions. Nor
will this be a subject of wonder when we recollect that nothing
in the world has so absolute a fixity of purpose as an
aristocracy. The mass of the people may be led astray by
ignorance or passion; the mind of a king may be biased, and his
perseverance in his designs may be shaken - besides which a king
is not immortal - but an aristocratic body is too numerous to be
led astray by the blandishments of intrigue, and yet not numerous
enough to yield readily to the intoxicating influence of
unreflecting passion: it has the energy of a firm and enlightened
individual, added to the power which it derives from perpetuity.

Chapter XIV: Advantages American Society Derive From Democracy -
Part I

What The Real Advantages Are Which American Society Derives From
The Government Of The Democracy

Before I enter upon the subject of the present chapter I am
induced to remind the reader of what I have more than once
adverted to in the course of this book. The political
institutions of the United States appear to me to be one of the
forms of government which a democracy may adopt; but I do not
regard the American Constitution as the best, or as the only one,
which a democratic people may establish. In showing the
advantages which the Americans derive from the government of
democracy, I am therefore very far from meaning, or from
believing, that similar advantages can only be obtained from the
same laws.

General Tendency Of The Laws Under The Rule Of The American
Democracy, And Habits Of Those Who Apply Them

Defects of a democratic government easy to be discovered - Its
advantages only to be discerned by long observation - Democracy
in America often inexpert, but the general tendency of the laws
advantageous - In the American democracy public officers have no
permanent interests distinct from those of the majority - Result
of this state of things.

The defects and the weaknesses of a democratic government
may very readily be discovered; they are demonstrated by the most
flagrant instances, whilst its beneficial influence is less
perceptibly exercised. A single glance suffices to detect its
evil consequences, but its good qualities can only be discerned
by long observation. The laws of the American democracy are
frequently defective or incomplete; they sometimes attack vested
rights, or give a sanction to others which are dangerous to the
community; but even if they were good, the frequent changes which
they undergo would be an evil. How comes it, then, that the
American republics prosper and maintain their position?

In the consideration of laws a distinction must be carefully
observed between the end at which they aim and the means by which
they are directed to that end, between their absolute and their
relative excellence. If it be the intention of the legislator to
favor the interests of the minority at the expense of the
majority, and if the measures he takes are so combined as to
accomplish the object he has in view with the least possible
expense of time and exertion, the law may be well drawn up,
although its purpose be bad; and the more efficacious it is, the
greater is the mischief which it causes.

Democratic laws generally tend to promote the welfare of the
greatest possible number; for they emanate from the majority of
the citizens, who are subject to error, but who cannot have an
interest opposed to their own advantage. The laws of an
aristocracy tend, on the contrary, to concentrate wealth and
power in the hands of the minority, because an aristocracy, by
its very nature,
constitutes a minority. It may therefore be asserted, as a
general proposition, that the purpose of a democracy in the
conduct of its legislation is useful to a greater number of
citizens than that of an aristocracy. This is, however, the sum
total of its advantages.

Aristocracies are infinitely more expert in the science of
legislation than democracies ever can be. They are possessed of
a self-control which protects them from the errors of temporary
excitement, and they form lasting designs which they mature with
the assistance of favorable opportunities. Aristocratic
government proceeds with the dexterity of art; it understands how
to make the collective force of all its laws converge at the same
time to a given point. Such is not the case with democracies,
whose laws are almost always ineffective or inopportune. The
means of democracy are therefore more imperfect than those of
aristocracy, and the measures which it unwittingly adopts are
frequently opposed to its own cause; but the object it has in
view is more useful.

Let us now imagine a community so organized by nature, or by
its constitution, that it can support the transitory action of
bad laws, and that it can await, without destruction, the general
tendency of the legislation: we shall then be able to conceive
that a democratic government, notwithstanding its defects, will
be most fitted to conduce to the prosperity of this community.
This is precisely what has occurred in the United States; and I
repeat, what I have before remarked, that the great advantage of
the Americans consists in their being able to commit faults which
they may afterward repair.

An analogous observation may be made respecting public
officers. It is easy to perceive that the American democracy
frequently errs in the choice of the individuals to whom it
entrusts the power of the administration; but it is more
difficult to say why the State prospers under their rule. In the
first place it is to be remarked, that if in a democratic State
the governors have less honesty and less capacity than elsewhere,
the governed, on the other hand, are more enlightened and more
attentive to their interests. As the people in democracies is
more incessantly vigilant in its affairs and more jealous of its
rights, it prevents its representatives from abandoning that
general line of conduct which its own interest prescribes. In
the second place, it must be remembered that if the democratic
magistrate is more apt to misuse his power, he possesses it for a
shorter period of time. But there is yet another reason which is
still more general and conclusive. It is no doubt of importance
to the welfare of nations that they should be governed by men of
talents and virtue; but it is perhaps still more important that
the interests of those men should not differ from the interests
of the community at large; for, if such were the case, virtues of
a high order might become useless, and talents might be turned to
a bad account. I say that it is important that the interests of
the persons in authority should not conflict with or oppose the
interests of the community at large; but I do not insist upon
their having the same interests as the whole population, because
I am not aware that such a state of things ever existed in any

No political form has hitherto been discovered which is
equally favorable to the prosperity and the development of all
the classes into which society is divided. These classes
continue to form, as it were, a certain number of distinct
nations in the same nation; and experience has shown that it is
no less dangerous to place the fate of these classes exclusively
in the hands of any one of them than it is to make one people the
arbiter of the destiny of another. When the rich alone govern,
the interest of the poor is always endangered; and when the poor
make the laws, that of the rich incurs very serious risks. The
advantage of democracy does not consist, therefore, as has
sometimes been asserted, in favoring the prosperity of all, but
simply in contributing to the well-being of the greatest possible

The men who are entrusted with the direction of public
affairs in the United States are frequently inferior, both in
point of capacity and of morality, to those whom aristocratic
institutions would raise to power. But their interest is
identified and confounded with that of the majority of their
fellow-citizens. They may frequently be faithless and frequently
mistaken, but they will never systematically adopt a line of
conduct opposed to the will of the majority; and it is impossible
that they should give a dangerous or an exclusive tendency to the

The mal-administration of a democratic magistrate is a mere
isolated fact, which only occurs during the short period for
which he is elected. Corruption and incapacity do not act as
common interests, which may connect men permanently with one
another. A corrupt or an incapable magistrate will not concert
his measures with another magistrate, simply because that
individual is as corrupt and as incapable as himself; and these
two men will never unite their endeavors to promote the
corruption and inaptitude of their remote posterity. The
ambition and the manoeuvres of the one will serve, on the
contrary, to unmask the other. The vices of a magistrate, in
democratic states, are usually peculiar to his own person.

But under aristocratic governments public men are swayed by
the interest of their order, which, if it is sometimes confounded
with the interests of the majority, is very frequently distinct
from them. This interest is the common and lasting bond which
unites them together; it induces them to coalesce, and to combine
their efforts in order to attain an end which does not always
ensure the greatest happiness of the greatest number; and it
serves not only to connect the persons in authority, but to unite
them to a considerable portion of the community, since a numerous
body of citizens belongs to the aristocracy, without being
invested with official functions. The aristocratic magistrate is
therefore constantly supported by a portion of the community, as
well as by the Government of which he is a member.

The common purpose which connects the interest of the
magistrates in aristocracies with that of a portion of their
contemporaries identifies it with that of future generations;
their influence belongs to the future as much as to the present.
The aristocratic magistrate is urged at the same time toward the
same point by the passions of the community, by his own, and I
may almost add by those of his posterity. Is it, then, wonderful
that he does not resist such repeated impulses? And indeed
aristocracies are often carried away by the spirit of their order
without being corrupted by it; and they unconsciously fashion
society to their own ends, and prepare it for their own

The English aristocracy is perhaps the most liberal which
ever existed, and no body of men has ever, uninterruptedly,
furnished so many honorable and enlightened individuals to the
government of a country. It cannot, however, escape observation
that in the legislation of England the good of the poor has been
sacrificed to the advantage of the rich, and the rights of the
majority to the privileges of the few. The consequence is, that
England, at the present day, combines the extremes of fortune in
the bosom of her society, and her perils and calamities are
almost equal to her power and her renown. *a

[Footnote a: [The legislation of England for the forty years is
certainly not fairly open to this criticism, which was written
before the Reform Bill of 1832, and accordingly Great Britain has
thus far escaped and surmounted the perils and calamities to
which she seemed to be exposed.]]

In the United States, where the public officers have no
interests to promote connected with their caste, the general and
constant influence of the Government is beneficial, although the
individuals who conduct it are frequently unskilful and sometimes
contemptible. There is indeed a secret tendency in democratic
institutions to render the exertions of the citizens subservient
to the prosperity of the community, notwithstanding their private
vices and mistakes; whilst in aristocratic institutions there is
a secret propensity which, notwithstanding the talents and the
virtues of those who conduct the government, leads them to
contribute to the evils which oppress their fellow-creatures. In
aristocratic governments public men may frequently do injuries
which they do not intend, and in democratic states they produce
advantages which they never thought of.

Public Spirit In The United States

Patriotism of instinct - Patriotism of reflection - Their
different characteristics - Nations ought to strive to acquire
the second when the first has disappeared - Efforts of the
Americans to it - Interest of the individual intimately connected
with that of the country.

There is one sort of patriotic attachment which principally
arises from that instinctive, disinterested, and undefinable
feeling which connects the affections of man with his birthplace.
This natural fondness is united to a taste for ancient customs,
and to a reverence for ancestral traditions of the past; those
who cherish it love their country as they love the mansions of
their fathers. They enjoy the tranquillity which it affords
them; they cling to the peaceful habits which they have
contracted within its bosom; they are attached to the
reminiscences which it awakens, and they are even pleased by the
state of obedience in which they are placed. This patriotism is
sometimes stimulated by religious enthusiasm, and then it is
capable of making the most prodigious efforts. It is in itself a
kind of religion; it does not reason, but it acts from the
impulse of faith and of sentiment. By some nations the monarch
has been regarded as a personification of the country; and the
fervor of patriotism being converted into the fervor of loyalty,
they took a sympathetic pride in his conquests, and gloried in
his power. At one time, under the ancient monarchy, the French
felt a sort of satisfaction in the sense of their dependence upon
the arbitrary pleasure of their king, and they were wont to say
with pride, "We are the subjects of the most powerful king in the

But, like all instinctive passions, this kind of patriotism
is more apt to prompt transient exertion than to supply the
motives of continuous endeavor. It may save the State in
critical circumstances, but it will not unfrequently allow the
nation to decline in the midst of peace. Whilst the manners of a
people are simple and its faith unshaken, whilst society is
steadily based upon traditional institutions whose legitimacy has
never been contested, this instinctive patriotism is wont to

But there is another species of attachment to a country
which is more rational than the one we have been describing. It
is perhaps less generous and less ardent, but it is more fruitful
and more lasting; it is coeval with the spread of knowledge, it
is nurtured by the laws, it grows by the exercise of civil
rights, and, in the end, it is confounded with the personal
interest of the citizen. A man comprehends the influence which
the prosperity of his country has upon his own welfare; he is
aware that the laws authorize him to contribute his assistance to
that prosperity, and he labors to promote it as a portion of his
interest in the first place, and as a portion of his right in the

But epochs sometimes occur, in the course of the existence
of a nation, at which the ancient customs of a people are
changed, public morality destroyed, religious belief disturbed,
and the spell of tradition broken, whilst the diffusion of
knowledge is yet imperfect, and the civil rights of the community
are ill secured, or confined within very narrow limits. The
country then assumes a dim and dubious shape in the eyes of the
citizens; they no longer behold it in the soil which they
inhabit, for that soil is to them a dull inanimate clod; nor in
the usages of their forefathers, which they have been taught to
look upon as a debasing yoke; nor in religion, for of that they
doubt; nor in the laws, which do not originate in their own
authority; nor in the legislator, whom they fear and despise.
The country is lost to their senses, they can neither discover it
under its own nor under borrowed features, and they entrench
themselves within the dull precincts of a narrow egotism. They
are emancipated from prejudice without having acknowledged the
empire of reason; they are neither animated by the instinctive
patriotism of monarchical subjects nor by the thinking patriotism
of republican citizens; but they have stopped halfway between the
two, in the midst of confusion and of distress.

In this predicament, to retreat is impossible; for a people
cannot restore the vivacity of its earlier times, any more than a
man can return to the innocence and the bloom of childhood; such
things may be regretted, but they cannot be renewed. The only
thing, then, which remains to be done is to proceed, and to
accelerate the union of private with public interests, since the
period of disinterested patriotism is gone by forever.

I am certainly very far from averring that, in order to
obtain this result, the exercise of political rights should be
immediately granted to all the members of the community. But I
maintain that the most powerful, and perhaps the only, means of
interesting men in the welfare of their country which we still
possess is to make them partakers in the Government. At the
present time civic zeal seems to me to be inseparable from the
exercise of political rights; and I hold that the number of
citizens will be found to augment or to decrease in Europe in
proportion as those rights are extended.

In the United States the inhabitants were thrown but as
yesterday upon the soil which they now occupy, and they brought
neither customs nor traditions with them there; they meet each
other for the first time with no previous acquaintance; in short,
the instinctive love of their country can scarcely exist in their
minds; but everyone takes as zealous an interest in the affairs
of his township, his county, and of the whole State, as if they
were his own, because everyone, in his sphere, takes an active
part in the government of society.

The lower orders in the United States are alive to the
perception of the influence exercised by the general prosperity
upon their own welfare; and simple as this observation is, it is
one which is but too rarely made by the people. But in America
the people regards this prosperity as the result of its own
exertions; the citizen looks upon the fortune of the public as
his private interest, and he co-operates in its success, not so
much from a sense of pride or of duty, as from what I shall
venture to term cupidity.

It is unnecessary to study the institutions and the history
of the Americans in order to discover the truth of this remark,
for their manners render it sufficiently evident. As the
American participates in all that is done in his country, he
thinks himself obliged to defend whatever may be censured; for it
is not only his country which is attacked upon these occasions,
but it is himself. The consequence is, that his national pride
resorts to a thousand artifices, and to all the petty tricks of
individual vanity.

Nothing is more embarrassing in the ordinary intercourse of
life than this irritable patriotism of the Americans. A stranger
may be very well inclined to praise many of the institutions of
their country, but he begs permission to blame some of the
peculiarities which he observes - a permission which is, however,
inexorably refused. America is therefore a free country, in
which, lest anybody should be hurt by your remarks, you are not
allowed to speak freely of private individuals, or of the State,
of the citizens or of the authorities, of public or of private
undertakings, or, in short, of anything at all, except it be of
the climate and the soil; and even then Americans will be found
ready to defend either the one or the other, as if they had been
contrived by the inhabitants of the country.

In our times option must be made between the patriotism of
all and the government of a few; for the force and activity which
the first confers are irreconcilable with the guarantees of
tranquillity which the second furnishes.

Notion Of Rights In The United States

No great people without a notion of rights - How the notion of
rights can be given to people - Respect of rights in the United
States - Whence it arises.

After the idea of virtue, I know no higher principle than
that of right; or, to speak more accurately, these two ideas are
commingled in one. The idea of right is simply that of virtue
introduced into the political world. It is the idea of right
which enabled men to define anarchy and tyranny; and which taught
them to remain independent without arrogance, as well as to obey
without servility. The man who submits to violence is debased by
his compliance; but when he obeys the mandate of one who
possesses that right of authority which he acknowledges in a
fellow-creature, he rises in some measure above the person who
delivers the command. There are no great men without virtue, and
there are no great nations - it may almost be added that there
would be no society - without the notion of rights; for what is
the condition of a mass of rational and intelligent beings who
are only united together by the bond of force?

I am persuaded that the only means which we possess at the
present time of inculcating the notion of rights, and of
rendering it, as it were, palpable to the senses, is to invest
all the members of the community with the peaceful exercise of
certain rights: this is very clearly seen in children, who are
men without the strength and the experience of manhood. When a
child begins to move in the midst of the objects which surround
him, he is instinctively led to turn everything which he can lay
his hands upon to his own purposes; he has no notion of the
property of others; but as he gradually learns the value of
things, and begins to perceive that he may in his turn be
deprived of his possessions, he becomes more circumspect, and he
observes those rights in others which he wishes to have respected
in himself. The principle which the child derives from the
possession of his toys is taught to the man by the objects which
he may call his own. In America those complaints against
property in general which are so frequent in Europe are never
heard, because in America there are no paupers; and as everyone
has property of his own to defend, everyone recognizes the
principle upon which he holds it.

The same thing occurs in the political world. In America
the lowest classes have conceived a very high notion of political
rights, because they exercise those rights; and they refrain from
attacking those of other people, in order to ensure their own
from attack. Whilst in Europe the same classes sometimes
recalcitrate even against the supreme power, the American submits
without a murmur to the authority of the pettiest magistrate.

This truth is exemplified by the most trivial details of
national peculiarities. In France very few pleasures are
exclusively reserved for the higher classes; the poor are
admitted wherever the rich are received, and they consequently
behave with propriety, and respect whatever contributes to the
enjoyments in which they themselves participate. In England,
where wealth has a monopoly of amusement as well as of power,
complaints are made that whenever the poor happen to steal into
the enclosures which are reserved for the pleasures of the rich,
they commit acts of wanton mischief: can this be wondered at,
since care has been taken that they should have nothing to lose?

[Footnote b: [This, too, has been amended by much larger
provisions for the amusements of the people in public parks,

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