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Democracy In America, Volume 1 by Alexis de Toqueville

Part 8 out of 11

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(if I may use the expression), and the most prosaic of all the
peoples of the earth.

America has no great capital *a city, whose influence is
directly or indirectly felt over the whole extent of the country,
which I hold to be one of the first causes of the maintenance of
republican institutions in the United States. In cities men
cannot be prevented from concerting together, and from awakening
a mutual excitement which prompts sudden and passionate
resolutions. Cities may be looked upon as large assemblies, of
which all the inhabitants are members; their populace exercises a
prodigious influence upon the magistrates, and frequently
executes its own wishes without their intervention.

[Footnote a: The United States have no metropolis, but they
already contain several very large cities. Philadelphia reckoned
161,000 inhabitants and New York 202,000 in the year 1830. The
lower orders which inhabit these cities constitute a rabble even
more formidable than the populace of European towns. They consist
of freed blacks in the first place, who are condemned by the laws
and by public opinion to a hereditary state of misery and
degradation. They also contain a multitude of Europeans who have
been driven to the shores of the New World by their misfortunes
or their misconduct; and these men inoculate the United States
with all our vices, without bringing with them any of those
interests which counteract their baneful influence. As
inhabitants of a country where they have no civil rights, they
are ready to turn all the passions which agitate the community to
their own advantage; thus, within the last few months serious
riots have broken out in Philadelphia and in New York.
Disturbances of this kind are unknown in the rest of the country,
which is nowise alarmed by them, because the population of the
cities has hitherto exercised neither power nor influence over
the rural districts. Nevertheless, I look upon the size of
certain American cities, and especially on the nature of their
population, as a real danger which threatens the future security
of the democratic republics of the New World; and I venture to
predict that they will perish from this circumstance unless the
government succeeds in creating an armed force, which, whilst it
remains under the control of the majority of the nation, will be
independent of the town population, and able to repress its

[The population of the city of New York had risen, in 1870,
to 942,292, and that of Philadelphia to 674,022. Brooklyn, which
may be said to form part of New York city, has a population of
396,099, in addition to that of New York. The frequent
disturbances in the great cities of America, and the excessive
corruption of their local governments - over which there is no
effectual control - are amongst the greatest evils and dangers of
the country.]]

To subject the provinces to the metropolis is therefore not
only to place the destiny of the empire in the hands of a portion
of the community, which may be reprobated as unjust, but to place
it in the hands of a populace acting under its own impulses,
which must be avoided as dangerous. The preponderance of capital
cities is therefore a serious blow upon the representative
system, and it exposes modern republics to the same defect as the
republics of antiquity, which all perished from not having been
acquainted with that form of government.

It would be easy for me to adduce a great number of
secondary causes which have contributed to establish, and which
concur to maintain, the democratic republic of the United States.
But I discern two principal circumstances amongst these favorable
elements, which I hasten to point out. I have already observed
that the origin of the American settlements may be looked upon as
the first and most efficacious cause to which the present
prosperity of the United States may be attributed. The Americans
had the chances of birth in their favor, and their forefathers
imported that equality of conditions into the country whence the
democratic republic has very naturally taken its rise. Nor was
this all they did; for besides this republican condition of
society, the early settler bequeathed to their descendants those
customs, manners, and opinions which contribute most to the
success of a republican form of government. When I reflect upon
the consequences of this primary circumstance, methinks I see the
destiny of America embodied in the first Puritan who landed on
those shores, just as the human race was represented by the first

The chief circumstance which has favored the establishment
and the maintenance of a democratic republic in the United States
is the nature of the territory which the American inhabit. Their
ancestors gave them the love of equality and of freedom, but God
himself gave them the means of remaining equal and free, by
placing them upon a boundless continent, which is open to their
exertions. General prosperity is favorable to the stability of
all governments, but more particularly of a democratic
constitution, which depends upon the dispositions of the
majority, and more particularly of that portion of the community
which is most exposed to feel the pressure of want. When the
people rules, it must be rendered happy, or it will overturn the
State, and misery is apt to stimulate it to those excesses to
which ambition rouses kings. The physical causes, independent of
the laws, which contribute to promote general prosperity, are
more numerous in America than they have ever been in any other
country in the world, at any other period of history. In the
United States not only is legislation democratic, but nature
herself favors the cause of the people.

In what part of human tradition can be found anything at all
similar to that which is occurring under our eyes in North
America? The celebrated communities of antiquity were all
founded in the midst of hostile nations, which they were obliged
to subjugate before they could flourish in their place. Even the
moderns have found, in some parts of South America, vast regions
inhabited by a people of inferior civilization, but which
occupied and cultivated the soil. To found their new states it
was necessary to extirpate or to subdue a numerous population,
until civilization has been made to blush for their success. But
North America was only inhabited by wandering tribes, who took no
thought of the natural riches of the soil, and that vast country
was still, properly speaking, an empty continent, a desert land
awaiting its

Everything is extraordinary in America, the social condition
of the inhabitants, as well as the laws; but the soil upon which
these institutions are founded is more extraordinary than all the
rest. When man was first placed upon the earth by the Creator,
the earth was inexhaustible in its youth, but man was weak and
ignorant; and when he had learned to explore the treasures which
it contained, hosts of his fellow creatures covered its surface,
and he was obliged to earn an asylum for repose and for freedom
by the sword. At that same period North America was discovered,
as if it had been kept in reserve by the Deity, and had just
risen from beneath the waters of the deluge.

That continent still presents, as it did in the primeval
time, rivers which rise from never-failing sources, green and
moist solitudes, and fields which the ploughshare of the
husbandman has never turned. In this state it is offered to man,
not in the barbarous and isolated condition of the early ages,
but to a being who is already in possession of the most potent
secrets of the natural world, who is united to his fellow-men,
and instructed by the experience of fifty centuries. At this
very time thirteen millions of civilized Europeans are peaceably
spreading over those fertile plains, with whose resources and
whose extent they are not yet themselves accurately acquainted.
Three or four thousand soldiers drive the wandering races of the
aborigines before them; these are followed by the pioneers, who
pierce the woods, scare off the beasts of prey, explore the
courses of the inland streams, and make ready the triumphal
procession of civilization across the waste.

The favorable influence of the temporal prosperity of
America upon the institutions of that country has been so often
described by others, and adverted to by myself, that I shall not
enlarge upon it beyond the addition of a few facts. An erroneous
notion is generally entertained that the deserts of America are
peopled by European emigrants, who annually disembark upon the
coasts of the New World, whilst the American population increases
and multiplies upon the soil which its forefathers tilled. The
European settler, however, usually arrives in the United States
without friends, and sometimes without resources; in order to
subsist he is obliged to work for hire, and he rarely proceeds
beyond that belt of industrious population which adjoins the
ocean. The desert cannot be explored without capital or credit;
and the body must be accustomed to the rigors of a new climate
before it can be exposed to the chances of forest life. It is
the Americans themselves who daily quit the spots which gave them
birth to acquire extensive domains in a remote country. Thus the
European leaves his cottage for the trans-Atlantic shores; and
the American, who is born on that very coast, plunges in his turn
into the wilds of Central America. This double emigration is
incessant; it begins in the remotest parts of Europe, it crosses
the Atlantic Ocean, and it advances over the solitudes of the New
World. Millions of men are marching at once towards the same
horizon; their language, their religion, their manners differ,
their object is the same. The gifts of fortune are promised in
the West, and to the West they bend their course. *b

[Footnote b: [The number of foreign immigrants into the United
States in the last fifty years (from 1820 to 1871) is stated to
be 7,556,007. Of these, 4,104,553 spoke English - that is, they
came from Great Britain, Ireland, or the British colonies;
2,643,069 came from Germany or northern Europe; and about half a
million from the south of Europe.]]

No event can be compared with this continuous removal of the
human race, except perhaps those irruptions which preceded the
fall of the Roman Empire. Then, as well as now, generations of
men were impelled forwards in the same direction to meet and
struggle on the same spot; but the designs of Providence were not
the same; then, every newcomer was the harbinger of destruction
and of death; now, every adventurer brings with him the elements
of prosperity and of life. The future still conceals from us the
ulterior consequences of this emigration of the Americans towards
the West; but we can readily apprehend its more immediate
results. As a portion of the inhabitants annually leave the
States in which they were born, the population of these States
increases very slowly, although they have long been established:
thus in Connecticut, which only contains fifty-nine inhabitants
to the square mile, the population has not increased by more than
one-quarter in forty years, whilst that of England has been
augmented by one-third in the lapse of the same period. The
European emigrant always lands, therefore, in a country which is
but half full, and where hands are in request: he becomes a
workman in easy circumstances; his son goes to seek his fortune
in unpeopled regions, and he becomes a rich landowner. The
former amasses the capital which the latter invests, and the
stranger as well as the native is unacquainted with want.

The laws of the United States are extremely favorable to the
division of property; but a cause which is more powerful than the
laws prevents property from being divided to excess. *c This is
very perceptible in the States which are beginning to be thickly
peopled; Massachusetts is the most populous part of the Union,
but it contains only eighty inhabitants to the square mile, which
is must less than in France, where 162 are reckoned to the same
extent of country. But in Massachusetts estates are very rarely
divided; the eldest son takes the land, and the others go to seek
their fortune in the desert. The law has abolished the rights of
primogeniture, but circumstances have concurred to re-establish
it under a form of which none can complain, and by which no just
rights are impaired.

[Footnote c: In New England the estates are exceedingly small,
but they are rarely subjected to further division.]

A single fact will suffice to show the prodigious number of
individuals who leave New England, in this manner, to settle
themselves in the wilds. We were assured in 1830 that thirty-six
of the members of Congress were born in the little State of
Connecticut. The population of Connecticut, which constitutes
only one forty-third part of that of the United States, thus
furnished one-eighth of the whole body of representatives. The
States of Connecticut, however, only sends five delegates to
Congress; and the thirty-one others sit for the new Western
States. If these thirty-one individuals had remained in
Connecticut, it is probable that instead of becoming rich
landowners they would have remained humble laborers, that they
would have lived in obscurity without being able to rise into
public life, and that, far from becoming useful members of the
legislature, they might have been unruly citizens.

These reflections do not escape the observation of the
Americans any more than of ourselves. "It cannot be doubted,"
says Chancellor Kent in his "Treatise on American Law," "that the
division of landed estates must produce great evils when it is
carried to such excess as that each parcel of land is
insufficient to support a family; but these disadvantages have
never been felt in the United States, and many generations must
elapse before they can be felt. The extent of our inhabited
territory, the abundance of adjacent land, and the continual
stream of emigration flowing from the shores of the Atlantic
towards the interior of the country, suffice as yet, and will
long suffice, to prevent the parcelling out of estates."

It is difficult to describe the rapacity with which the
American rushes forward to secure the immense booty which fortune
proffers to him. In the pursuit he fearlessly braves the arrow
of the Indian and the distempers of the forest; he is unimpressed
by the silence of the woods; the approach of beasts of prey does
not disturb him; for he is goaded onwards by a passion more
intense than the love of life. Before him lies a boundless
continent, and he urges onwards as if time pressed, and he was
afraid of finding no room for his exertions. I have spoken of
the emigration from the older States, but how shall I describe
that which takes place from the more recent ones? Fifty years
have scarcely elapsed since that of Ohio was founded; the greater
part of its inhabitants were not born within its confines; its
capital has only been built thirty years, and its territory is
still covered by an immense extent of uncultivated fields;
nevertheless the population of Ohio is already proceeding
westward, and most of the settlers who descend to the fertile
savannahs of Illinois are citizens of Ohio. These men left their
first country to improve their condition; they quit their
resting-place to ameliorate it still more; fortune awaits them
everywhere, but happiness they cannot attain. The desire of
prosperity is become an ardent and restless passion in their
minds which grows by what it gains. They early broke the ties
which bound them to their natal earth, and they have
contracted no fresh ones on their way. Emigration was at first
necessary to them as a means of subsistence; and it soon becomes
a sort of game of chance, which they pursue for the emotions it
excites as much as for the gain it procures.

Sometimes the progress of man is so rapid that the desert
reappears behind him. The woods stoop to give him a passage, and
spring up again when he has passed. It is not uncommon in
crossing the new States of the West to meet with deserted
dwellings in the midst of the wilds; the traveller frequently
discovers the vestiges of a log house in the most solitary
retreats, which bear witness to the power, and no less to the
inconstancy of man. In these abandoned fields, and over these
ruins of a day, the primeval forest soon scatters a fresh
vegetation, the beasts resume the haunts which were once their
own, and Nature covers the traces of man's path with branches and
with flowers, which obliterate his evanescent track.

I remember that, in crossing one of the woodland districts
which still cover the State of New York, I reached the shores of
a lake embosomed in forests coeval with the world. A small
island, covered with woods whose thick foliage concealed its
banks, rose from the centre of the waters. Upon the shores of
the lake no object attested the presence of man except a column
of smoke which might be seen on the horizon rising from the tops
of the trees to the clouds, and seeming to hang from heaven
rather than to be mounting to the sky. An Indian shallop was
hauled up on the sand, which tempted me to visit the islet that
had first attracted my attention, and in a few minutes I set foot
upon its banks. The whole island formed one of those delicious
solitudes of the New World which almost lead civilized man to
regret the haunts of the savage. A luxuriant vegetation bore
witness to the incomparable fruitfulness of the soil. The deep
silence which is common to the wilds of North America was only
broken by the hoarse cooing of the wood-pigeon, and the tapping
of the woodpecker upon the bark of trees. I was far from
supposing that this spot had ever been inhabited, so completely
did Nature seem to be left to her own caprices; but when I
reached the centre of the isle I thought that I discovered some
traces of man. I then proceeded to examine the surrounding
objects with care, and I soon perceived that a European had
undoubtedly been led to seek a refuge in this retreat. Yet what
changes had taken place in the scene of his labors! The logs
which he had hastily hewn to build himself a shed had sprouted
afresh; the very props were intertwined with living verdure, and
his cabin was transformed into a bower. In the midst of these
shrubs a few stones were to be seen, blackened with fire and
sprinkled with thin ashes; here the hearth had no doubt been, and
the chimney in falling had covered it with rubbish. I stood for
some time in silent admiration of the exuberance of Nature and
the littleness of man: and when I was obliged to leave that
enchanting solitude, I exclaimed with melancholy, "Are ruins,
then, already here?"

In Europe we are wont to look upon a restless disposition,
an unbounded desire of riches, and an excessive love of
independence, as propensities very formidable to society. Yet
these are the very elements which ensure a long and peaceful
duration to the republics of America. Without these unquiet
passions the population would collect in certain spots, and would
soon be subject to wants like those of the Old World, which it is
difficult to satisfy; for such is the present good fortune of the
New World, that the vices of its inhabitants are scarcely less
favorable to society than their virtues. These circumstances
exercise a great influence on the estimation in which human
actions are held in the two hemispheres. The Americans
frequently term what we should call cupidity a laudable industry;
and they blame as faint-heartedness what we consider to be the
virtue of moderate desires.

In France, simple tastes, orderly manners, domestic
affections, and the attachments which men feel to the place of
their birth, are looked upon as great guarantees of the
tranquillity and happiness of the State. But in America nothing
seems to be more prejudicial to society than these virtues. The
French Canadians, who have faithfully preserved the traditions of
their pristine manners, are already embarrassed for room upon
their small territory; and this little community, which has so
recently begun to exist, will shortly be a prey to the calamities
incident to old nations. In Canada, the most enlightened,
patriotic, and humane inhabitants make extraordinary efforts to
render the people dissatisfied with those simple enjoyments which
still content it. There, the seductions of wealth are vaunted
with as much zeal as the charms of an honest but limited income
in the Old World, and more exertions are made to excite the
passions of the citizens there than to calm them elsewhere. If
we listen to their eulogies, we shall hear that nothing is more
praiseworthy than to exchange the pure and homely pleasures which
even the poor man tastes in his own country for the dull delights
of prosperity under a foreign sky; to leave the patrimonial
hearth and the turf beneath which his forefathers sleep; in
short, to abandon the living and the dead in quest of fortune.

At the present time America presents a field for human
effort far more extensive than any sum of labor which can be
applied to work it. In America too much knowledge cannot be
diffused; for all knowledge, whilst it may serve him who
possesses it, turns also to the advantage of those who are
without it. New wants are not to be feared, since they can be
satisfied without difficulty; the growth of human passions need
not be dreaded, since all passions may find an easy and a
legitimate object; nor can men be put in possession of too much
freedom, since they are scarcely ever tempted to misuse their

The American republics of the present day are like companies
of adventurers formed to explore in common the waste lands of the
New World, and busied in a flourishing trade. The passions which
agitate the Americans most deeply are not their political but
their commercial passions; or, to speak more correctly, they
introduce the habits they contract in business into their
political life. They love order, without which affairs do not
prosper; and they set an especial value upon a regular conduct,
which is the foundation of a solid business; they prefer the good
sense which amasses large fortunes to that enterprising spirit
which frequently dissipates them; general ideas alarm their
minds, which are accustomed to positive calculations, and they
hold practice in more honor than theory.

It is in America that one learns to understand the influence
which physical prosperity exercises over political actions, and
even over opinions which ought to acknowledge no sway but that of
reason; and it is more especially amongst strangers that this
truth is perceptible. Most of the European emigrants to the New
World carry with them that wild love of independence and of
change which our calamities are so apt to engender. I sometimes
met with Europeans in the United States who had been obliged to
leave their own country on account of their political opinions.
They all astonished me by the language they held, but one of them
surprised me more than all the rest. As I was crossing one of
the most remote districts of Pennsylvania I was benighted, and
obliged to beg for hospitality at the gate of a wealthy planter,
who was a Frenchman by birth. He bade me sit down beside his
fire, and we began to talk with that freedom which befits persons
who meet in the backwoods, two thousand leagues from their native
country. I was aware that my host had been a great leveller and
an ardent demagogue forty years ago, and that his name was not
unknown to fame. I was, therefore, not a little surprised to
hear him discuss the rights of property as an economist or a
landowner might have done: he spoke of the necessary gradations
which fortune establishes among men, of obedience to established
laws, of the influence of good morals in commonwealths, and of
the support which religious opinions give to order and to
freedom; he even went to far as to quote an evangelical authority
in corroboration of one of his political tenets.

I listened, and marvelled at the feebleness of human reason.
A proposition is true or false, but no art can prove it to be one
or the other, in the midst of the uncertainties of science and
the conflicting lessons of experience, until a new incident
disperses the clouds of doubt; I was poor, I become rich, and I
am not to expect that prosperity will act upon my conduct, and
leave my judgment free; my opinions change with my fortune, and
the happy circumstances which I turn to my advantage furnish me
with that decisive argument which was before wanting. The
influence of prosperity acts still more freely upon the American
than upon strangers. The American has always seen the connection
of public order and public prosperity, intimately united as they
are, go on before his eyes; he does not conceive that one can
subsist without the other; he has therefore nothing to forget;
nor has he, like so many Europeans, to unlearn the lessons of his
early education.

Chapter XVII: Principal Causes Maintaining The Democratic
Republic - Part II

Influence Of The Laws Upon The Maintenance Of The Democratic
Republic In The United States

Three principal causes of the maintenance of the democratic
republic - Federal Constitutions - Municipal institutions -
Judicial power.

The principal aim of this book has been to make known the
laws of the United States; if this purpose has been accomplished,
the reader is already enabled to judge for himself which are the
laws that really tend to maintain the democratic republic, and
which endanger its existence. If I have not succeeded in
explaining this in the whole course of my work, I cannot hope to
do so within the limits of a single chapter. It is not my
intention to retrace the path I have already pursued, and a very
few lines will suffice to recapitulate what I have previously

Three circumstances seem to me to contribute most powerfully
to the maintenance of the democratic republic in the United

The first is that Federal form of Government which the
Americans have adopted, and which enables the Union to combine
the power of a great empire with the security of a small State.

The second consists in those municipal institutions which
limit the despotism of the majority, and at the same time impart
a taste for freedom and a knowledge of the art of being free to
the people.

The third is to be met with in the constitution of the
judicial power. I have shown in what manner the courts of justice
serve to repress the excesses of democracy, and how they check
and direct the impulses of the majority without stopping its

Influence Of Manners Upon The Maintenance Of The Democratic
Republic In The United States

I have previously remarked that the manners of the people
may be considered as one of the general causes to which the
maintenance of a democratic republic in the United States is
attributable. I here used the word manners with the meaning
which the ancients attached to the word mores, for I apply it not
only to manners in their proper sense of what constitutes the
character of social intercourse, but I extend it to the various
notions and opinions current among men, and to the mass of those
ideas which constitute their character of mind. I comprise,
therefore, under this term the whole moral and intellectual
condition of a people. My intention is not to draw a picture of
American manners, but simply to point out such features of them
as are favorable to the maintenance of political institutions.

Religion Considered As A Political Institution, Which Powerfully
Contributes To The Maintenance Of The Democratic Republic Amongst
The Americans

North America peopled by men who professed a democratic and
republican Christianity - Arrival of the Catholics - For what
reason the Catholics form the most democratic and the most
republican class at the present time.

Every religion is to be found in juxtaposition to a
political opinion which is connected with it by affinity. If the
human mind be left to follow its own bent, it will regulate the
temporal and spiritual institutions of society upon one uniform
principle; and man will endeavor, if I may use the expression, to
harmonize the state in which he lives upon earth with the state
which he believes to await him in heaven. The greatest part of
British America was peopled by men who, after having shaken off
the authority of the Pope, acknowledged no other religious
supremacy; they brought with them into the New World a form of
Christianity which I cannot better describe than by styling it a
democratic and republican religion. This sect contributed
powerfully to the establishment of a democracy and a republic,
and from the earliest settlement of the emigrants politics and
religion contracted an alliance which has never been dissolved.

About fifty years ago Ireland began to pour a Catholic
population into the United States; on the other hand, the
Catholics of America made proselytes, and at the present moment
more than a million of Christians professing the truths of the
Church of Rome are to be met with in the Union. *d The Catholics
are faithful to the observances of their religion; they are
fervent and zealous in the support and belief of their doctrines.
Nevertheless they constitute the most republican and the most
democratic class of citizens which exists in the United States;
and although this fact may surprise the observer at first, the
causes by which it is occasioned may easily be discovered upon

[Footnote d: [It is difficult to ascertain with accuracy the
amount of the Roman Catholic population of the United States, but
in 1868 an able writer in the "Edinburgh Review" (vol. cxxvii. p.
521) affirmed that the whole Catholic population of the United
States was then about 4,000,000, divided into 43 dioceses, with
3,795 churches, under the care of 45 bishops and 2,317 clergymen.
But this rapid increase is mainly supported by immigration from
the Catholic countries of Europe.]]

I think that the Catholic religion has erroneously been
looked upon as the natural enemy of democracy. Amongst the
various sects of Christians, Catholicism seems to me, on the
contrary, to be one of those which are most favorable to the
equality of conditions. In the Catholic Church, the religious
community is composed of only two elements, the priest and the
people. The priest alone rises above the rank of his flock, and
all below him are equal.

On doctrinal points the Catholic faith places all human
capacities upon the same level; it subjects the wise and
ignorant, the man of genius and the vulgar crowd, to the details
of the same creed; it imposes the same observances upon the rich
and needy, it inflicts the same austerities upon the strong and
the weak, it listens to no compromise with mortal man, but,
reducing all the human race to the same standard, it confounds
all the distinctions of society at the foot of the same altar,
even as they are confounded in the sight of God. If Catholicism
predisposes the faithful to obedience, it certainly does not
prepare them for inequality; but the contrary may be said of
Protestantism, which generally tends to make men independent,
more than to render them equal.

Catholicism is like an absolute monarchy; if the sovereign
be removed, all the other classes of society are more equal than
they are in republics. It has not unfrequently occurred that the
Catholic priest has left the service of the altar to mix with the
governing powers of society, and to take his place amongst the
civil gradations of men. This religious influence has sometimes
been used to secure the interests of that political state of
things to which he belonged. At other times Catholics have taken
the side of aristocracy from a spirit of religion.

But no sooner is the priesthood entirely separated from the
government, as is the case in the United States, than is found
that no class of men are more naturally disposed than the
Catholics to transfuse the doctrine of the equality of conditions
into the political world. If, then, the Catholic citizens of the
United States are not forcibly led by the nature of their tenets
to adopt democratic and republican principles, at least they are
not necessarily opposed to them; and their social position, as
well as their limited number, obliges them to adopt these
opinions. Most of the Catholics are poor, and they have no
chance of taking a part in the government unless it be open to
all the citizens. They constitute a minority, and all rights
must be respected in order to insure to them the free exercise of
their own privileges. These two causes induce them,
unconsciously, to adopt political doctrines, which they would
perhaps support with less zeal if they were rich and

The Catholic clergy of the United States has never attempted
to oppose this political tendency, but it seeks rather to justify
its results. The priests in America have divided the
intellectual world into two parts: in the one they place the
doctrines of revealed religion, which command their assent; in
the other they leave those truths which they believe to have been
freely left open to the researches of political inquiry. Thus
the Catholics of the United States are at the same time the most
faithful believers and the most zealous citizens.

It may be asserted that in the United States no religious
doctrine displays the slightest hostility to democratic and
republican institutions. The clergy of all the different sects
hold the same language, their opinions are consonant to the laws,
and the human intellect flows onwards in one sole current.

I happened to be staying in one of the largest towns in the
Union, when I was invited to attend a public meeting which had
been called for the purpose of assisting the Poles, and of
sending them supplies of arms and money. I found two or three
thousand persons collected in a vast hall which had been prepared
to receive them. In a short time a priest in his ecclesiastical
robes advanced to the front of the hustings: the spectators rose,
and stood
uncovered, whilst he spoke in the following terms: -

"Almighty God! the God of Armies! Thou who didst
strengthen the hearts and guide the arms of our fathers when they
were fighting for the sacred rights of national independence;
Thou who didst make them triumph over a hateful oppression, and
hast granted to our people the benefits of liberty and peace;
Turn, O Lord, a favorable eye upon the other hemisphere;
pitifully look down upon that heroic nation which is even now
struggling as we did in the former time, and for the same rights
which we defended with our blood. Thou, who didst create Man in
the likeness of the same image, let not tyranny mar Thy work, and
establish inequality upon the earth. Almighty God! do Thou
watch over the destiny of the Poles, and render them worthy to be
free. May Thy wisdom direct their councils, and may Thy strength
sustain their arms! Shed forth Thy terror over their enemies,
scatter the powers which take counsel against them; and vouchsafe
that the injustice which the world has witnessed for fifty years,
be not consummated in our time. O Lord, who holdest alike the
hearts of nations and of men in Thy powerful hand; raise up
allies to the sacred cause of right; arouse the French nation
from the apathy in which its rulers retain it, that it go forth
again to fight for the liberties of the world.

"Lord, turn not Thou Thy face from us, and grant that we may
always be the most religious as well as the freest people of the
earth. Almighty God, hear our supplications this day. Save the
Poles, we beseech Thee, in the name of Thy well-beloved Son, our
Lord Jesus Christ, who died upon the cross for the salvation of
men. Amen."

The whole meeting responded "Amen!" with devotion.

Indirect Influence Of Religious Opinions Upon Political Society
In The United States

Christian morality common to all sects - Influence of religion
upon the manners of the Americans - Respect for the marriage tie
- In what manner religion confines the imagination of the
Americans within certain limits, and checks the passion of
innovation - Opinion of the Americans on the political utility of
religion - Their exertions to extend and secure its predominance.

I have just shown what the direct influence of religion upon
politics is in the United States, but its indirect influence
appears to me to be still more considerable, and it never
instructs the Americans more fully in the art of being free than
when it says nothing of freedom.

The sects which exist in the United States are innumerable.
They all differ in respect to the worship which is due from man
to his Creator, but they all agree in respect to the duties which
are due from man to man. Each sect adores the Deity in its own
peculiar manner, but all the sects preach the same moral law in
the name of God. If it be of the highest importance to man, as
an individual, that his religion should be true, the case of
society is not the same. Society has no future life to hope for
or to fear; and provided the citizens profess a religion, the
peculiar tenets of that religion are of very little importance to
its interests. Moreover, almost all the sects of the United
States are comprised within the great unity of Christianity, and
Christian morality is everywhere the same.

It may be believed without unfairness that a certain number
of Americans pursue a peculiar form of worship, from habit more
than from conviction. In the United States the sovereign
authority is religious, and consequently hypocrisy must be
common; but there is no country in the whole world in which the
Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of
men than in America; and there can be no greater proof of its
utility, and of its conformity to human nature, than that its
influence is most powerfully felt over the most enlightened and
free nation of the earth.

I have remarked that the members of the American clergy in
general, without even excepting those who do not admit religious
liberty, are all in favor of civil freedom; but they do not
support any particular political system. They keep aloof from
parties and from public affairs. In the United States religion
exercises but little influence upon the laws and upon the details
of public opinion, but it directs the manners of the community,
and by regulating domestic life it regulates the State.

I do not question that the great austerity of manners which
is observable in the United States, arises, in the first
instance, from religious faith. Religion is often unable to
restrain man from the numberless temptations of fortune; nor can
it check that passion for gain which every incident of his life
contributes to arouse, but its influence over the mind of woman
is supreme, and women are the protectors of morals. There is
certainly no country in the world where the tie of marriage is so
much respected as in America, or where conjugal happiness is more
highly or worthily appreciated. In Europe almost all the
disturbances of society arise from the irregularities of domestic
life. To despise the natural bonds and legitimate pleasures of
home, is to contract a taste for excesses, a restlessness of
heart, and the evil of fluctuating desires. Agitated by the
tumultuous passions which frequently disturb his dwelling, the
European is galled by the obedience which the legislative powers
of the State exact. But when the American retires from the
turmoil of public life to the bosom of his family, he finds in it
the image of order and of peace. There his pleasures are simple
and natural, his joys are innocent and calm; and as he finds that
an orderly life is the surest path to happiness, he accustoms
himself without difficulty to moderate his opinions as well as
his tastes. Whilst the European endeavors to forget his domestic
troubles by agitating society, the American derives from his own
home that love of order which he afterwards carries with him into
public affairs.

In the United States the influence of religion is not
confined to the manners, but it extends to the intelligence of
the people. Amongst the Anglo-Americans, there are some who
profess the doctrines of Christianity from a sincere belief in
them, and others who do the same because they are afraid to be
suspected of unbelief. Christianity, therefore, reigns without
any obstacle, by universal consent; the consequence is, as I have
before observed, that every principle of the moral world is fixed
and determinate, although the political world is abandoned to the
debates and the experiments of men. Thus the human mind is never
left to wander across a boundless field; and, whatever may be its
pretensions, it is checked from time to time by barriers which it
cannot surmount. Before it can perpetrate innovation, certain
primal and immutable principles are laid down, and the boldest
conceptions of human device are subjected to certain forms which
retard and stop their completion.

The imagination of the Americans, even in its greatest
flights, is circumspect and undecided; its impulses are checked,
and its works unfinished. These habits of restraint recur in
political society, and are singularly favorable both to the
tranquillity of the people and to the durability of the
institutions it has established. Nature and circumstances
concurred to make the inhabitants of the United States bold men,
as is sufficiently attested by the enterprising spirit with which
they seek for fortune. If the mind of the Americans were free
from all trammels, they would very shortly become the most daring
innovators and the most implacable disputants in the world. But
the revolutionists of America are obliged to profess an
ostensible respect for Christian morality and equity, which does
not easily permit them to violate the laws that oppose their
designs; nor would they find it easy to surmount the scruples of
their partisans, even if they were able to get over their own.
Hitherto no one in the United States has dared to advance the
maxim, that everything is permissible with a view to the
interests of society; an impious adage which seems to have been
invented in an age of freedom to shelter all the tyrants of
future ages. Thus whilst the law permits the Americans to do what
they please, religion prevents them from conceiving, and forbids
them to commit, what is rash or unjust.

Religion in America takes no direct part in the government
of society, but it must nevertheless be regarded as the foremost
of the political institutions of that country; for if it does not
impart a taste for freedom, it facilitates the use of free
institutions. Indeed, it is in this same point of view that the
inhabitants of the United States themselves look upon religious
belief. I do not know whether all the Americans have a sincere
faith in their religion, for who can search the human heart? but
I am certain that they hold it to be indispensable to the
maintenance of republican institutions. This opinion is not
peculiar to a class of citizens or to a party, but it belongs to
the whole nation, and to every rank of society.

In the United States, if a political character attacks a
sect, this may not prevent even the partisans of that very sect
from supporting him; but if he attacks all the sects together,
everyone abandons him, and he remains alone.

Whilst I was in America, a witness, who happened to be
called at the assizes of the county of Chester (State of New
York), declared that he did not believe in the existence of God,
or in the immortality of the soul. The judge refused to admit
his evidence, on the ground that the witness had destroyed
beforehand all the confidence of the Court in what he was about
to say. *e The newspapers related the fact without any further

[Footnote e: The New York "Spectator" of August 23, 1831, relates
the fact in the following terms: - "The Court of Common Pleas of
Chester county (New York) a few days since rejected a witness who
declared his disbelief in the existence of God. The presiding
judge remarked that he had not before been aware that there was a
man living who did not believe in the existence of God; that this
belief constituted the sanction of all testimony in a court of
justice, and that he knew of no cause in a Christian country
where a witness had been permitted to testify without such

The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of
liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to
make them conceive the one without the other; and with them this
conviction does not spring from that barren traditionary faith
which seems to vegetate in the soul rather than to live.

I have known of societies formed by the Americans to send
out ministers of the Gospel into the new Western States to found
schools and churches there, lest religion should be suffered to
die away in those remote settlements, and the rising States be
less fitted to enjoy free institutions than the people from which
they emanated. I met with wealthy New Englanders who abandoned
the country in which they were born in order to lay the
foundations of Christianity and of freedom on the banks of the
Missouri, or in the prairies of Illinois. Thus religious zeal is
perpetually stimulated in the United States by the duties of
patriotism. These men do not act from an exclusive consideration
of the promises of a future life; eternity is only one motive of
their devotion to the cause; and if you converse with these
missionaries of Christian civilization, you will be surprised to
find how much value they set upon the goods of this world, and
that you meet with a politician where you expected to find a
priest. They will tell you that "all the American republics are
collectively involved with each other; if the republics of the
West were to fall into anarchy, or to be mastered by a despot,
the republican institutions which now flourish upon the shores of
the Atlantic Ocean would be in great peril. It is, therefore,
our interest that the new States should be religious, in order to
maintain our liberties."

Such are the opinions of the Americans, and if any hold that
the religious spirit which I admire is the very thing most amiss
in America, and that the only element wanting to the freedom and
happiness of the human race is to believe in some blind
cosmogony, or to assert with Cabanis the secretion of thought by
the brain, I can only reply that those who hold this language
have never been in America, and that they have never seen a
religious or a free nation. When they return from their
expedition, we shall hear what they have to say.

There are persons in France who look upon republican
institutions as a temporary means of power, of wealth, and
distinction; men who are the condottieri of liberty, and who
fight for their own advantage, whatever be the colors they wear:
it is not to these that I address myself. But there are others
who look forward to the republican form of government as a
tranquil and lasting state, towards which modern society is daily
impelled by the ideas and manners of the time, and who sincerely
desire to prepare men to be free. When these men attack
religious opinions, they obey the dictates of their passions to
the prejudice of their interests. Despotism may govern without
faith, but liberty cannot. Religion is much more necessary in
the republic which they set forth in glowing colors than in the
monarchy which they attack; and it is more needed in democratic
republics than in any others. How is it possible that society
should escape destruction if the moral tie be not strengthened in
proportion as the political tie is relaxed? and what can be done
with a people which is its own master, if it be not submissive to
the Divinity?

Chapter XVII: Principal Causes Maintaining The Democratic
Republic - Part III

Principal Causes Which Render Religion Powerful In America
Care taken by the Americans to separate the Church from the State
- The laws, public opinion, and even the exertions of the clergy
concur to promote this end - Influence of religion upon the mind
in the United States attributable to this cause - Reason of this
- What is the natural state of men with regard to religion at the
present time - What are the peculiar and incidental causes which
prevent men, in certain countries, from arriving at this state.

The philosophers of the eighteenth century explained the
gradual decay of religious faith in a very simple manner.
Religious zeal, said they, must necessarily fail, the more
generally liberty is established and knowledge diffused.
Unfortunately, facts are by no means in accordance with their
theory. There are certain populations in Europe whose unbelief
is only equalled by their ignorance and their debasement, whilst
in America one of the freest and most enlightened nations in the
world fulfils all the outward duties of religious fervor.

Upon my arrival in the United States, the religious aspect
of the country was the first thing that struck my attention; and
the longer I stayed there the more did I perceive the great
political consequences resulting from this state of things, to
which I was unaccustomed. In France I had almost always seen the
spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom pursuing courses
diametrically opposed to each other; but in America I found that
they were intimately united, and that they reigned in common over
the same country. My desire to discover the causes of this
phenomenon increased from day to day. In order to satisfy it I
questioned the members of all the different sects; and I more
especially sought the society of the clergy, who are the
depositaries of the different persuasions, and who are more
especially interested in their duration. As a member of the
Roman Catholic Church I was more particularly brought into
contact with several of its priests, with whom I became
intimately acquainted. To each of these men I expressed my
astonishment and I explained my doubts; I found that they
differed upon matters of detail alone; and that they mainly
attributed the peaceful dominion of religion in their country to
the separation of Church and State. I do not hesitate to affirm
that during my stay in America I did not meet with a single
individual, of the clergy or of the laity, who was not of the
same opinion upon this point.

This led me to examine more attentively than I had hitherto
done, the station which the American clergy occupy in political
society. I learned with surprise that they filled no public
appointments; *f not one of them is to be met with in the
administration, and they are not even represented in the
legislative assemblies. In several States *g the law excludes
them from political life, public opinion in all. And when I came
to inquire into the prevailing spirit of the clergy I found that
most of its members seemed to retire of their own accord from the
exercise of power, and that they made it the pride of their
profession to abstain from politics.

[Footnote f: Unless this term be applied to the functions which
many of them fill in the schools. Almost all education is
entrusted to the clergy.]

[Footnote g: See the Constitution of New York, art. 7, Section 4:
"And whereas the ministers of the gospel are, by their
profession, dedicated to the service of God and the care of
souls, and ought not to be diverted from the great duties of
their functions: therefore no minister of the gospel, or priest
of any denomination whatsoever, shall at any time hereafter,
under any pretence or description whatever, be eligible to, or
capable of holding, any civil or military office or place within
this State."

See also the constitutions of North Carolina, art. 31;
Virginia; South Carolina, art. I, Section 23; Kentucky, art. 2,
Section 26; Tennessee, art. 8, Section I; Louisiana, art. 2,
Section 22.]

I heard them inveigh against ambition and deceit, under
whatever political opinions these vices might chance to lurk; but
I learned from their discourses that men are not guilty in the
eye of God for any opinions concerning political government which
they may profess with sincerity, any more than they are for their
mistakes in building a house or in driving a furrow. I perceived
that these ministers of the gospel eschewed all parties with the
anxiety attendant upon personal interest. These facts convinced
me that what I had been told was true; and it then became my
object to investigate their causes, and to inquire how it
happened that the real authority of religion was increased by a
state of things which diminished its apparent force: these causes
did not long escape my researches.

The short space of threescore years can never content the
imagination of man; nor can the imperfect joys of this world
satisfy his heart. Man alone, of all created beings, displays a
natural contempt of existence, and yet a boundless desire to
exist; he scorns life, but he dreads annihilation. These
different feelings incessantly urge his soul to the contemplation
of a future state, and religion directs his musings thither.
Religion, then, is simply another form of hope; and it is no less
natural to the human heart than hope itself. Men cannot abandon
their religious faith without a kind of aberration of intellect,
and a sort of violent distortion of their true natures; but they
are invincibly brought back to more pious sentiments; for
unbelief is an accident, and faith is the only permanent state of
mankind. If we only consider religious institutions in a purely
human point of view, they may be said to derive an inexhaustible
element of strength from man himself, since they belong to one of
the constituent principles of human nature.

I am aware that at certain times religion may strengthen
this influence, which originates in itself, by the artificial
power of the laws, and by the support of those temporal
institutions which direct society. Religions, intimately united
to the governments of the earth, have been known to exercise a
sovereign authority derived from the twofold source of terror and
of faith; but when a religion contracts an alliance of this
nature, I do not hesitate to affirm that it commits the same
error as a man who should sacrifice his future to his present
welfare; and in obtaining a power to which it has no claim, it
risks that authority which is rightfully its own. When a religion
founds its empire upon the desire of immortality which lives in
every human heart, it may aspire to universal dominion; but when
it connects itself with a government, it must necessarily adopt
maxims which are only applicable to certain nations. Thus, in
forming an alliance with a political power, religion augments its
authority over a few, and forfeits the hope of reigning over all.

As long as a religion rests upon those sentiments which are
the consolation of all affliction, it may attract the affections
of mankind. But if it be mixed up with the bitter passions of
the world, it may be constrained to defend allies whom its
interests, and not the principle of love, have given to it; or to
repel as antagonists men who are still attached to its own
spirit, however opposed they may be to the powers to which it is
allied. The Church cannot share the temporal power of the State
without being the object of a portion of that animosity which the
latter excites.

The political powers which seem to be most firmly
established have frequently no better guarantee for their
duration than the opinions of a generation, the interests of the
time, or the life of an individual. A law may modify the social
condition which seems to be most fixed and determinate; and with
the social condition everything else must change. The powers of
society are more or less fugitive, like the years which we spend
upon the earth; they succeed each other with rapidity, like the
fleeting cares of life; and no government has ever yet been
founded upon an invariable disposition of the human heart, or
upon an imperishable interest.

As long as a religion is sustained by those feelings,
propensities, and passions which are found to occur under the
same forms, at all the different periods of history, it may defy
the efforts of time; or at least it can only be destroyed by
another religion. But when religion clings to the interests of
the world, it becomes almost as fragile a thing as the powers of
earth. It is the only one of them all which can hope for
immortality; but if it be connected with their ephemeral
authority, it shares their fortunes, and may fall with those
transient passions which supported them for a day. The alliance
which religion contracts with political powers must needs be
onerous to itself; since it does not require their assistance to
live, and by giving them its assistance to live, and by giving
them its assistance it may be exposed to decay.

The danger which I have just pointed out always exists, but
it is not always equally visible. In some ages governments seem
to be imperishable; in others, the existence of society appears
to be more precarious than the life of man. Some constitutions
plunge the citizens into a lethargic somnolence, and others rouse
them to feverish excitement. When governments appear to be so
strong, and laws so stable, men do not perceive the dangers which
may accrue from a union of Church and State. When governments
display so much weakness, and laws so much inconstancy, the
danger is self-evident, but it is no longer possible to avoid it;
to be effectual, measures must be taken to discover its approach.

In proportion as a nation assumes a democratic condition of
society, and as communities display democratic propensities, it
becomes more and more dangerous to connect religion with
political institutions; for the time is coming when authority
will be bandied from hand to hand, when political theories will
succeed each other, and when men, laws, and constitutions will
disappear, or be modified from day to day, and this, not for a
season only, but unceasingly. Agitation and mutability are
inherent in the nature of democratic republics, just as
stagnation and inertness are the law of absolute monarchies.

If the Americans, who change the head of the Government once
in four years, who elect new legislators every two years, and
renew the provincial officers every twelvemonth; if the
Americans, who have abandoned the political world to the attempts
of innovators, had not placed religion beyond their reach, where
could it abide in the ebb and flow of human opinions? where would
that respect which belongs to it be paid, amidst the struggles of
faction? and what would become of its immortality, in the midst
of perpetual decay? The American clergy were the first to
perceive this truth, and to act in conformity with it. They saw
that they must renounce their religious influence, if they were
to strive for political power; and they chose to give up the
support of the State, rather than to share its vicissitudes.

In America, religion is perhaps less powerful than it has
been at certain periods in the history of certain peoples; but
its influence is more lasting. It restricts itself to its own
resources, but of those none can deprive it: its circle is
limited to certain principles, but those principles are entirely
its own, and under its undisputed control.

On every side in Europe we hear voices complaining of the
absence of religious faith, and inquiring the means of restoring
to religion some remnant of its pristine authority. It seems to
me that we must first attentively consider what ought to be the
natural state of men with regard to religion at the present time;
and when we know what we have to hope and to fear, we may discern
the end to which our efforts ought to be directed.

The two great dangers which threaten the existence of
religions are schism and indifference. In ages of fervent
devotion, men sometimes abandon their religion, but they only
shake it off in order to adopt another. Their faith changes the
objects to which it is directed, but it suffers no decline. The
old religion then excites enthusiastic attachment or bitter
enmity in either party; some leave it with anger, others cling to
it with increased devotedness, and although persuasions differ,
irreligion is unknown. Such, however, is not the case when a
religious belief is secretly undermined by doctrines which may be
termed negative, since they deny the truth of one religion
without affirming that of any other. Progidious revolutions then
take place in the human mind, without the apparent co-operation
of the passions of man, and almost without his knowledge. Men
lose the objects of their fondest hopes, as if through
forgetfulness. They are carried away by an imperceptible current
which they have not the courage to stem, but which they follow
with regret, since it bears them from a faith they love, to a
scepticism that plunges them into despair.

In ages which answer to this description, men desert their
religious opinions from lukewarmness rather than from dislike;
they do not reject them, but the sentiments by which they were
once fostered disappear. But if the unbeliever does not admit
religion to be true, he still considers it useful. Regarding
religious institutions in a human point of view, he acknowledges
their influence upon manners and legislation. He admits that
they may serve to make men live in peace with one another, and to
prepare them gently for the hour of death. He regrets the faith
which he has lost; and as he is deprived of a treasure which he
has learned to estimate at its full value, he scruples to take it
from those who still possess it.

On the other hand, those who continue to believe are not
afraid openly to avow their faith. They look upon those who do
not share their persuasion as more worthy of pity than of
opposition; and they are aware that to acquire the esteem of the
unbelieving, they are not obliged to follow their example. They
are hostile to no one in the world; and as they do not consider
the society in which they live as an arena in which religion is
bound to face its thousand deadly foes, they love their
contemporaries, whilst they condemn their weaknesses and lament
their errors.

As those who do not believe, conceal their incredulity; and
as those who believe, display their faith, public opinion
pronounces itself in favor of religion: love, support, and honor
are bestowed upon it, and it is only by searching the human soul
that we can detect the wounds which it has received. The mass of
mankind, who are never without the feeling of religion, do not
perceive anything at variance with the established faith. The
instinctive desire of a future life brings the crowd about the
altar, and opens the hearts of men to the precepts and
consolations of religion.

But this picture is not applicable to us: for there are men
amongst us who have ceased to believe in Christianity, without
adopting any other religion; others who are in the perplexities
of doubt, and who already affect not to believe; and others,
again, who are afraid to avow that Christian faith which they
still cherish in secret.

Amidst these lukewarm partisans and ardent antagonists a
small number of believers exist, who are ready to brave all
obstacles and to scorn all dangers in defence of their faith.
They have done violence to human weakness, in order to rise
superior to public opinion. Excited by the effort they have
made, they scarcely knew where to stop; and as they know that the
first use which the French made of independence was to attack
religion, they look upon their contemporaries with dread, and
they recoil in alarm from the liberty which their fellow-citizens
are seeking to obtain. As unbelief appears to them to be a
novelty, they comprise all that is new in one indiscriminate
animosity. They are at war with their age and country, and they
look upon every opinion which is put forth there as the necessary
enemy of the faith.

Such is not the natural state of men with regard to religion
at the present day; and some extraordinary or incidental cause
must be at work in France to prevent the human mind from
following its original propensities and to drive it beyond the
limits at which it ought naturally to stop. I am intimately
convinced that this extraordinary and incidental cause is the
close connection of politics and religion. The unbelievers of
Europe attack the Christians as their political opponents, rather
than as their religious adversaries; they hate the Christian
religion as the opinion of a party, much more than as an error of
belief; and they reject the clergy less because they are the
representatives of the Divinity than because they are the allies
of authority.

In Europe, Christianity has been intimately united to the
powers of the earth. Those powers are now in decay, and it is,
as it were, buried under their ruins. The living body of
religion has been bound down to the dead corpse of superannuated
polity: cut but the bonds which restrain it, and that which is
alive will rise once more. I know not what could restore the
Christian Church of Europe to the energy of its earlier days;
that power belongs to God alone; but it may be the effect of
human policy to leave the faith in the full exercise of the
strength which it still retains.

How The Instruction, The Habits, And The Practical Experience Of
The Americans Promote The Success Of Their Democratic

What is to be understood by the instruction of the American
people - The human mind more superficially instructed in the
United States than in Europe - No one completely uninstructed -
Reason of this - Rapidity with which opinions are diffused even
in the uncultivated States of the West - Practical experience
more serviceable to the Americans than book-learning.

I have but little to add to what I have already said
concerning the influence which the instruction and the habits of
the Americans exercise upon the maintenance of their political

America has hitherto produced very few writers of
distinction; it possesses no great historians, and not a single
eminent poet. The inhabitants of that country look upon what are
properly styled literary pursuits with a kind of disapprobation;
and there are towns of very second-rate importance in Europe in
which more literary works are annually published than in the
twenty-four States of the Union put together. The spirit of the
Americans is averse to general ideas; and it does not seek
theoretical discoveries. Neither politics nor manufactures direct
them to these occupations; and although new laws are perpetually
enacted in the United States, no great writers have hitherto
inquired into the general principles of their legislation. The
Americans have lawyers and commentators, but no jurists; *h and
they furnish examples rather than lessons to the world. The same
observation applies to the mechanical arts. In America, the
inventions of Europe are adopted with sagacity; they are
perfected, and adapted with admirable skill to the wants of the
country. Manufactures exist, but the science of manufacture is
not cultivated; and they have good workmen, but very few
inventors. Fulton was obliged to proffer his services to foreign
nations for a long time before he was able to devote them to his
own country.

[Footnote h: [This cannot be said with truth of the country of
Kent, Story, and Wheaton.]]

The observer who is desirous of forming an opinion on the
state of instruction amongst the Anglo-Americans must consider
the same object from two different points of view. If he only
singles out the learned, he will be astonished to find how rare
they are; but if he counts the ignorant, the American people will
appear to be the most enlightened community in the world. The
whole population, as I observed in another place, is situated
between these two extremes. In New England, every citizen
receives the elementary notions of human knowledge; he is
moreover taught the doctrines and the evidences of his religion,
the history of his country, and the leading features of its
Constitution. In the States of Connecticut and Massachusetts, it
is extremely rare to find a man imperfectly acquainted with all
these things, and a person wholly ignorant of them is a sort of

When I compare the Greek and Roman republics with these
American States; the manuscript libraries of the former, and
their rude population, with the innumerable journals and the
enlightened people of the latter; when I remember all the
attempts which are made to judge the modern republics by the
assistance of those of antiquity, and to infer what will happen
in our time from what took place two thousand years ago, I am
tempted to burn my books, in order to apply none but novel ideas
to so novel a condition of society.

What I have said of New England must not, however, be
applied indistinctly to the whole Union; as we advance towards
the West or the South, the instruction of the people diminishes.
In the States which are adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico, a certain
number of individuals may be found, as in our own countries, who
are devoid of the rudiments of instruction. But there is not a
single district in the United States sunk in complete ignorance;
and for a very simple reason: the peoples of Europe started from
the darkness of a barbarous condition, to advance toward the
light of civilization; their progress has been unequal; some of
them have improved apace, whilst others have loitered in their
course, and some have stopped, and are still sleeping upon the
way. *i

[Footnote i: [In the Northern States the number of persons
destitute of instruction is inconsiderable, the largest number
being 241,152 in the State of New York (according to Spaulding's
"Handbook of American Statistics" for 1874); but in the South no
less than 1,516,339 whites and 2,671,396 colored persons are
returned as "illiterate."]]

Such has not been the case in the United States. The Anglo-
Americans settled in a state of civilization, upon that territory
which their descendants occupy; they had not to begin to learn,
and it was sufficient for them not to forget. Now the children
of these same Americans are the persons who, year by year,
transport their dwellings into the wilds; and with their
dwellings their acquired information and their esteem for
knowledge. Education has taught them the utility of instruction,
and has enabled them to transmit that instruction to their
posterity. In the United States society has no infancy, but it
is born in man's estate.

The Americans never use the word "peasant," because they
have no idea of the peculiar class which that term denotes; the
ignorance of more remote ages, the simplicity of rural life, and
the rusticity of the villager have not been preserved amongst
them; and they are alike unacquainted with the virtues, the
vices, the coarse habits, and the simple graces of an early stage
of civilization. At the extreme borders of the Confederate
States, upon the confines of society and of the wilderness, a
population of bold adventurers have taken up their abode, who
pierce the solitudes of the American woods, and seek a country
there, in order to escape that poverty which awaited them in
their native provinces. As soon as the pioneer arrives upon the
spot which is to serve him for a retreat, he fells a few trees
and builds a loghouse. Nothing can offer a more miserable aspect
than these isolated dwellings. The traveller who approaches one
of them towards nightfall, sees the flicker of the hearth-flame
through the chinks in the walls; and at night, if the wind rises,
he hears the roof of boughs shake to and fro in the midst of the
great forest trees. Who would not suppose that this poor hut is
the asylum of rudeness and ignorance? Yet no sort of comparison
can be drawn between the pioneer and the dwelling which shelters
him. Everything about him is primitive and unformed, but he is
himself the result of the labor and the experience of eighteen
centuries. He wears the dress, and he speaks the language of
cities; he is acquainted with the past, curious of the future,
and ready for argument upon the present; he is, in short, a
highly civilized being, who consents, for a time, to inhabit the
backwoods, and who penetrates into the wilds of the New World
with the Bible, an axe, and a file of newspapers.

It is difficult to imagine the incredible rapidity with
which public opinion circulates in the midst of these deserts. *j
I do not think that so much intellectual intercourse takes place
in the most enlightened and populous districts of France. *k It
cannot be doubted that, in the United States, the instruction of
the people powerfully contributes to the support of a democratic
republic; and such must always be the case, I believe, where
instruction which awakens the understanding is not separated from
moral education which amends the heart. But I by no means
exaggerate this benefit, and I am still further from thinking, as
so many people do think in Europe, that men can be
instantaneously made citizens by teaching them to read and write.
True information is mainly derived from experience; and if the
Americans had not been gradually accustomed to govern themselves,
their book-learning would not assist them much at the present

[Footnote j: I travelled along a portion of the frontier of the
United States in a sort of cart which was termed the mail. We
passed, day and night, with great rapidity along the roads which
were scarcely marked out, through immense forests; when the gloom
of the woods became impenetrable the coachman lighted branches of
fir, and we journeyed along by the light they cast. From time to
time we came to a hut in the midst of the forest, which was a
post- office. The mail dropped an enormous bundle of letters at
the door of this isolated dwelling, and we pursued our way at
full gallop, leaving the inhabitants of the neighboring log
houses to send for their share of the treasure.

[When the author visited America the locomotive and the
railroad were scarcely invented, and not yet introduced in the
United States. It is superfluous to point out the immense effect
of those inventions in extending civilization and developing the
resources of that vast continent. In 1831 there were 51 miles of
railway in the United States; in 1872 there were 60,000 miles of

[Footnote k: In 1832 each inhabitant of Michigan paid a sum
equivalent to 1 fr. 22 cent. (French money) to the post-office
revenue, and each inhabitant of the Floridas paid 1 fr. 5 cent.
(See "National Calendar," 1833, p. 244.) In the same year each
inhabitant of the Departement du Nord paid 1 fr. 4 cent. to the
revenue of the French post-office. (See the "Compte rendu de
l'administration des Finances," 1833, p. 623.) Now the State of
Michigan only contained at that time 7 inhabitants per square
league and Florida only 5: the public instruction and the
commercial activity of these districts is inferior to that of
most of the States in the Union, whilst the Departement du Nord,
which contains 3,400 inhabitants per square league, is one of the
most enlightened and manufacturing parts of France.]

I have lived a great deal with the people in the United
States, and I cannot express how much I admire their experience
and their good sense. An American should never be allowed to
speak of Europe; for he will then probably display a vast deal of
presumption and very foolish pride. He will take up with those
crude and vague notions which are so useful to the ignorant all
over the world. But if you question him respecting his own
country, the cloud which dimmed his intelligence will immediately
disperse; his language will become as clear and as precise as his
thoughts. He will inform you what his rights are, and by what
means he exercises them; he will be able to point out the customs
which obtain in the political world. You will find that he is
well acquainted with the rules of the administration, and that he
is familiar with the mechanism of the laws. The citizen of the
United States does not acquire his practical science and his
positive notions from books; the instruction he has acquired may
have prepared him for receiving those ideas, but it did not
furnish them. The American learns to know the laws by
participating in the act of legislation; and he takes a lesson in
the forms of government from governing. The great work of
society is ever going on beneath his eyes, and, as it were, under
his hands.

In the United States politics are the end and aim of
education; in Europe its principal object is to fit men for
private life. The interference of the citizens in public affairs
is too rare an occurrence for it to be anticipated beforehand.
Upon casting a glance over society in the two hemispheres, these
differences are indicated even by its external aspect.

In Europe we frequently introduce the ideas and the habits
of private life into public affairs; and as we pass at once from
the domestic circle to the government of the State, we may
frequently be heard to discuss the great interests of society in
the same manner in which we converse with our friends. The
Americans, on the other hand, transfuse the habits of public life
into their manners in private; and in their country the jury is
introduced into the games of schoolboys, and parliamentary forms
are observed in the order of a feast.

Chapter XVII: Principal Causes Maintaining The Democratic
Republic - Part IV

The Laws Contribute More To The Maintenance Of The Democratic
Republic In The United States Than The Physical Circumstances Of
The Country, And The Manners More Than The Laws

All the nations of America have a democratic state of society -
Yet democratic institutions only subsist amongst the
Anglo-Americans - The Spaniards of South America, equally favored
by physical causes as the Anglo-Americans, unable to maintain a
democratic republic - Mexico, which has adopted the Constitution
of the United States, in the same predicament - The
Anglo-Americans of the West less able to maintain it than those
of the East - Reason of these different results.

I have remarked that the maintenance of democratic
institutions in the United States is attributable to the
circumstances, the laws, and the manners of that country. *l Most
Europeans are only acquainted with the first of these three
causes, and they are apt to give it a preponderating importance
which it does not really possess.

[Footnote l: I remind the reader of the general signification
which I give to the word "manners," namely, the moral and
intellectual characteristics of social man taken collectively.]

It is true that the Anglo-Saxons settled in the New World in
a state of social equality; the low-born and the noble were not
to be found amongst them; and professional prejudices were always
as entirely unknown as the prejudices of birth. Thus, as the
condition of society was democratic, the empire of democracy was
established without difficulty. But this circumstance is by no
means peculiar to the United States; almost all the
trans-Atlantic colonies were founded by men equal amongst
themselves, or who became so by inhabiting them. In no one part
of the New World have Europeans been able to create an
aristocracy. Nevertheless, democratic institutions prosper
nowhere but in the United States.

The American Union has no enemies to contend with; it stands
in the wilds like an island in the ocean. But the Spaniards of
South America were no less isolated by nature; yet their position
has not relieved them from the charge of standing armies. They
make war upon each other when they have no foreign enemies to
oppose; and the Anglo-American democracy is the only one which
has hitherto been able to maintain itself in peace. *m

[Footnote m: [A remark which, since the great Civil War of
1861-65, ceases to be applicable.]]

The territory of the Union presents a boundless field to
human activity, and inexhaustible materials for industry and
labor. The passion of wealth takes the place of ambition, and
the warmth of faction is mitigated by a sense of prosperity. But
in what portion of the globe shall we meet with more fertile
plains, with mightier rivers, or with more unexplored and
inexhaustible riches than in South America?

Nevertheless, South America has been unable to maintain
democratic institutions. If the welfare of nations depended on
their being placed in a remote position, with an unbounded space
of habitable territory before them, the Spaniards of South
America would have no reason to complain of their fate. And
although they might enjoy less prosperity than the inhabitants of
the United States, their lot might still be such as to excite the
envy of some nations in Europe. There are, however, no nations
upon the face of the earth more miserable than those of South

Thus, not only are physical causes inadequate to produce
results analogous to those which occur in North America, but they
are unable to raise the population of South America above the
level of European States, where they act in a contrary direction.
Physical causes do not, therefore, affect the destiny of nations
so much as has been supposed.

I have met with men in New England who were on the point of
leaving a country, where they might have remained in easy
circumstances, to go to seek their fortune in the wilds. Not far
from that district I found a French population in Canada, which
was closely crowded on a narrow territory, although the same
wilds were at hand; and whilst the emigrant from the United
States purchased an extensive estate with the earnings of a short
term of labor, the Canadian paid as much for land as he would
have done in France. Nature offers the solitudes of the New World
to Europeans; but they are not always acquainted with the means
of turning her gifts to account. Other peoples of America have
the same physical conditions of prosperity as the
Anglo-Americans, but without their laws and their manners; and
these peoples are wretched. The laws and manners of the
Anglo-Americans are therefore that efficient cause of their
greatness which is the object of my inquiry.

I am far from supposing that the American laws are
preeminently good in themselves; I do not hold them to be
applicable to all democratic peoples; and several of them seem to
be dangerous, even in the United States. Nevertheless, it cannot
be denied that the American legislation, taken collectively, is
extremely well adapted to the genius of the people and the nature
of the country which it is intended to govern. The American laws
are therefore good, and to them must be attributed a large
portion of the success which attends the government of democracy
in America: but I do not believe them to be the principal cause
of that success; and if they seem to me to have more influence
upon the social happiness of the Americans than the nature of the
country, on the other hand there is reason to believe that their
effect is still inferior to that produced by the manners of the

The Federal laws undoubtedly constitute the most important
part of the legislation of the United States. Mexico, which is
not less fortunately situated than the Anglo-American Union, has
adopted the same laws, but is unable to accustom itself to the
government of democracy. Some other cause is therefore at work,
independently of those physical circumstances and peculiar laws
which enable the democracy to rule in the United States.

Another still more striking proof may be adduced. Almost
all the inhabitants of the territory of the Union are the
descendants of a common stock; they speak the same language, they
worship God in the same manner, they are affected by the same
physical causes, and they obey the same laws. Whence, then, do
their characteristic differences arise? Why, in the Eastern
States of the Union, does the republican government display vigor
and regularity, and proceed with mature deliberation? Whence
does it derive the wisdom and the durability which mark its acts,
whilst in the Western States, on the contrary, society seems to
be ruled by the powers of chance? There, public business is
conducted with an irregularity and a passionate and feverish
excitement, which does not announce a long or sure duration.

I am no longer comparing the Anglo-American States to
foreign nations; but I am contrasting them with each other, and
endeavoring to discover why they are so unlike. The arguments
which are derived from the nature of the country and the
difference of legislation are here all set aside. Recourse must
be had to some other cause; and what other cause can there be
except the manners of the people?

It is in the Eastern States that the Anglo-Americans have
been longest accustomed to the government of democracy, and that
they have adopted the habits and conceived the notions most
favorable to its maintenance. Democracy has gradually penetrated
into their customs, their opinions, and the forms of social
intercourse; it is to be found in all the details of daily life
equally as in the laws. In the Eastern States the instruction
and practical education of the people have been most perfected,
and religion has been most thoroughly amalgamated with liberty.
Now these habits, opinions, customs, and convictions are
precisely the constituent elements of that which I have
denominated manners.

In the Western States, on the contrary, a portion of the
same advantages is still wanting. Many of the Americans of the
West were born in the woods, and they mix the ideas and the
customs of savage life with the civilization of their parents.
Their passions are more intense; their religious morality less
authoritative; and their convictions less secure. The
inhabitants exercise no sort of control over their
fellow-citizens, for they are scarcely acquainted with each
other. The nations of the West display, to a certain extent, the
inexperience and the rude habits of a people in its infancy; for
although they are composed of old elements, their assemblage is
of recent date.

The manners of the Americans of the United States are, then,
the real cause which renders that people the only one of the
American nations that is able to support a democratic government;
and it is the influence of manners which produces the different
degrees of order and of prosperity that may be distinguished in
the several Anglo-American democracies. Thus the effect which
the geographical position of a country may have upon the duration
of democratic institutions is exaggerated in Europe. Too much
importance is attributed to legislation, too little to manners.
These three great causes serve, no doubt, to regulate and direct
the American democracy; but if they were to be classed in their
proper order, I should say that the physical circumstances are
less efficient than the laws, and the laws very subordinate to
the manners of the people. I am convinced that the most
advantageous situation and the best possible laws cannot maintain
a constitution in spite of the manners of a country; whilst the
latter may turn the most unfavorable positions and the worst laws
to some advantage. The importance of manners is a common truth
to which study and experience incessantly direct our attention.
It may be regarded as a central point in the range of human
observation, and the common termination of all inquiry. So
seriously do I insist upon this head, that if I have hitherto
failed in making the reader feel the important influence which I
attribute to the practical experience, the habits, the opinions,
in short, to the manners of the Americans, upon the maintenance
of their institutions, I have failed in the principal object of
my work.

Whether Laws And Manners Are Sufficient To Maintain Democratic
Institutions In Other Countries Besides America

The Anglo-Americans, if transported into Europe, would be obliged
to modify their laws - Distinction to be made between democratic
institutions and American institutions - Democratic laws may be
conceived better than, or at least different from, those which
the American democracy has adopted - The example of America only
proves that it is possible to regulate democracy by the
assistance of manners and legislation.

I have asserted that the success of democratic institutions
in the United States is more intimately connected with the laws
themselves, and the manners of the people, than with the nature
of the country. But does it follow that the same causes would of
themselves produce the same results, if they were put into
operation elsewhere; and if the country is no adequate substitute
for laws and manners, can laws and manners in their turn prove a
substitute for the country? It will readily be understood that
the necessary elements of a reply to this question are wanting:
other peoples are to be found in the New World besides the Anglo-
Americans, and as these people are affected by the same physical
circumstances as the latter, they may fairly be compared
together. But there are no nations out of America which have
adopted the same laws and manners, being destitute of the
physical advantages peculiar to the Anglo-Americans. No standard
of comparison therefore exists, and we can only hazard an opinion
upon this subject.

It appears to me, in the first place, that a careful
distinction must be made between the institutions of the United
States and democratic institutions in general. When I reflect
upon the state of Europe, its mighty nations, its populous
cities, its formidable armies, and the complex nature of its
politics, I cannot suppose that even the Anglo-Americans, if they
were transported to our hemisphere, with their ideas, their
religion, and their manners, could exist without considerably
altering their laws. But a democratic nation may be imagined,
organized differently from the American people. It is not
impossible to conceive a government really established upon the
will of the majority; but in which the majority, repressing its
natural propensity to equality, should consent, with a view to
the order and the stability of the State, to invest a family or
an individual with all the prerogatives of the executive. A
democratic society might exist, in which the forces of the nation
would be more centralized than they are in the United States; the
people would exercise a less direct and less irresistible
influence upon public affairs, and yet every citizen invested
with certain rights would participate, within his sphere, in the
conduct of the government. The observations I made amongst the
Anglo-Americans induce me to believe that democratic
institutions of this kind, prudently introduced into society, so
as gradually to mix with the habits and to be interfused with the
opinions of the people, might subsist in other countries besides
America. If the laws of the United States were the only
imaginable democratic laws, or the most perfect which it is
possible to conceive, I should admit that the success of those
institutions affords no proof of the success of democratic
institutions in general, in a country less favored by natural
circumstances. But as the laws of America appear to me to be
defective in several respects, and as I can readily imagine
others of the same general nature, the peculiar advantages of
that country do not prove that democratic institutions cannot
succeed in a nation less favored by circumstances, if ruled by
better laws.

If human nature were different in America from what it is
elsewhere; or if the social condition of the Americans engendered
habits and opinions amongst them different from those which
originate in the same social condition in the Old World, the
American democracies would afford no means of predicting what may
occur in other democracies. If the Americans displayed the same
propensities as all other democratic nations, and if their
legislators had relied upon the nature of the country and the
favor of circumstances to restrain those propensities within due
limits, the prosperity of the United States would be exclusively
attributable to physical causes, and it would afford no
encouragement to a people inclined to imitate their example,
without sharing their natural advantages. But neither of these
suppositions is borne out by facts.

In America the same passions are to be met with as in
Europe; some originating in human nature, others in the
democratic condition of society. Thus in the United States I
found that restlessness of heart which is natural to men, when
all ranks are nearly equal and the chances of elevation are the
same to all. I found the democratic feeling of envy expressed
under a thousand different forms. I remarked that the people
frequently displayed, in the conduct of affairs, a consummate
mixture of ignorance and presumption; and I inferred that in
America, men are liable to the same failings and the same
absurdities as amongst ourselves. But upon examining the state
of society more attentively, I speedily discovered that the
Americans had made great and successful efforts to counteract
these imperfections of human nature, and to correct the natural
defects of democracy. Their divers municipal laws appeared to me
to be a means of restraining the ambition of the citizens within
a narrow sphere, and of turning those same passions which might
have worked havoc in the State, to the good of the township or
the parish. The American legislators have succeeded to a certain
extent in opposing the notion of rights to the feelings of envy;
the permanence of the religious world to the continual shifting
of politics; the experience of the people to its theoretical
ignorance; and its practical knowledge of business to
the impatience of its desires.

The Americans, then, have not relied upon the nature of
their country to counterpoise those dangers which originate in
their Constitution and in their political laws. To evils which
are common to all democratic peoples they have applied remedies
which none but themselves had ever thought of before; and
although they were the first to make the experiment, they have
succeeded in it.

The manners and laws of the Americans are not the only ones
which may suit a democratic people; but the Americans have shown
that it would be wrong to despair of regulating democracy by the
aid of manners and of laws. If other nations should borrow this
general and pregnant idea from the Americans, without however
intending to imitate them in the peculiar application which they
have made of it; if they should attempt to fit themselves for
that social condition, which it seems to be the will of
Providence to impose upon the generations of this age, and so to
escape from the despotism or the anarchy which threatens them;
what reason is there to suppose that their efforts would not be
crowned with success? The organization and the establishment of
democracy in Christendom is the great political problem of the
time. The Americans, unquestionably, have not resolved this
problem, but they furnish useful data to those who undertake the

Importance Of What Precedes With Respect To The State Of Europe

It may readily be discovered with what intention I undertook
the foregoing inquiries. The question here discussed is
interesting not only to the United States, but to the whole
world; it concerns, not a nation, but all mankind. If those
nations whose social condition is democratic could only remain
free as long as they are inhabitants of the wilds, we could not
but despair of the future destiny of the human race; for
democracy is rapidly acquiring a more extended sway, and the
wilds are gradually peopled with men. If it were true that laws
and manners are insufficient to maintain democratic institutions,
what refuge would remain open to the nations, except the
despotism of a single individual? I am aware that there are many
worthy persons at the present time who are not alarmed at this
latter alternative, and who are so tired of liberty as to be glad
of repose, far from those storms by which it is attended. But
these individuals are ill acquainted with the haven towards which
they are bound. They are so deluded by their recollections, as
to judge the tendency of absolute power by what it was formerly,
and not by what it might become at the present time.

If absolute power were re-established amongst the democratic
nations of Europe, I am persuaded that it would assume a new
form, and appear under features unknown to our forefathers.
There was a time in Europe when the laws and the consent of the
people had invested princes with almost unlimited authority; but
they scarcely ever availed themselves of it. I do not speak of
the prerogatives of the nobility, of the authority of supreme
courts of justice, of corporations and their chartered rights, or
of provincial privileges, which served to break the blows of the
sovereign authority, and to maintain a spirit of resistance in
the nation. Independently of these political institutions -
which, however opposed they might be to personal liberty, served
to keep alive the love of freedom in the mind of the public, and
which may be esteemed to have been useful in this respect - the
manners and opinions of the nation confined the royal authority
within barriers which were not less powerful, although they were
less conspicuous. Religion, the affections of the people, the
benevolence of the prince, the sense of honor, family pride,
provincial prejudices, custom, and public opinion limited the
power of kings, and restrained their authority within an
invisible circle. The constitution of nations was despotic at
that time, but their manners were free. Princes had the right,
but they had neither the means nor the desire, of doing whatever
they pleased.

But what now remains of those barriers which formerly
arrested the aggressions of tyranny? Since religion has lost its
empire over the souls of men, the most prominent boundary which
divided good from evil is overthrown; the very elements of the
moral world are indeterminate; the princes and the peoples of the
earth are guided by chance, and none can define the natural
limits of despotism and the bounds of license. Long revolutions
have forever destroyed the respect which surrounded the rulers of
the State; and since they have been relieved from the burden of
public esteem, princes may henceforward surrender themselves
without fear to the seductions of arbitrary power.

When kings find that the hearts of their subjects are turned
towards them, they are clement, because they are conscious of
their strength, and they are chary of the affection of their
people, because the affection of their people is the bulwark of
the throne. A mutual interchange of good-will then takes place
between the prince and the people, which resembles the gracious
intercourse of domestic society. The subjects may murmur at the
sovereign's decree, but they are grieved to displease him; and
the sovereign chastises his subjects with the light hand of
parental affection.

But when once the spell of royalty is broken in the tumult
of revolution; when successive monarchs have crossed the throne,
so as alternately to display to the people the weakness of their
right and the harshness of their power, the sovereign is no
longer regarded by any as the Father of the State, and he is
feared by all as its master. If he be weak, he is despised; if
he be strong, he is detested. He himself is full of animosity
and alarm; he finds that he is as a stranger in his own country,
and he treats his subjects like conquered enemies.

When the provinces and the towns formed so many different
nations in the midst of their common country, each of them had a
will of its own, which was opposed to the general spirit of
subjection; but now that all the parts of the same empire, after
having lost their immunities, their customs, their prejudices,
their traditions, and their names, are subjected and accustomed
to the same laws, it is not more difficult to oppress them
collectively than it was formerly to oppress them singly.

Whilst the nobles enjoyed their power, and indeed long after
that power was lost, the honor of aristocracy conferred an
extraordinary degree of force upon their personal opposition.
They afford instances of men who, notwithstanding their weakness,
still entertained a high opinion of their personal value, and
dared to cope single-handed with the efforts of the public
authority. But at the present day, when all ranks are more and
more confounded, when the individual disappears in the throng,
and is easily lost in the midst of a common obscurity, when the
honor of monarchy has almost lost its empire without being
succeeded by public virtue, and when nothing can enable man to
rise above himself, who shall say at what point the exigencies of
power and the servility of weakness will stop?

As long as family feeling was kept alive, the antagonist of
oppression was never alone; he looked about him, and found his
clients, his hereditary friends, and his kinsfolk. If this
support was wanting, he was sustained by his ancestors and
animated by his posterity. But when patrimonial estates are
divided, and when a few years suffice to confound the
distinctions of a race, where can family feeling be found? What
force can there be in the customs of a country which has changed
and is still perpetually changing, its aspect; in which every act
of tyranny has a precedent, and every crime an example; in which
there is nothing so old that its antiquity can save it from
destruction, and nothing so unparalleled that its novelty can
prevent it from being done? What resistance can be offered by
manners of so pliant a make that they have already often yielded?
What strength can even public opinion have retained, when no
twenty persons are connected by a common tie; when not a man, nor
a family, nor chartered corporation, nor class, nor free
institution, has the power of representing or exerting that
opinion; and when every citizen - being equally weak, equally
poor, and equally dependent - has only his personal impotence to
oppose to the organized force of the government?

The annals of France furnish nothing analogous to the
condition in which that country might then be thrown. But it may
more aptly be assimilated to the times of old, and to those
hideous eras of Roman oppression, when the manners of the people
were corrupted, their traditions obliterated, their habits
destroyed, their opinions shaken, and freedom, expelled from the
laws, could find no refuge in the land; when nothing protected
the citizens, and the citizens no longer protected themselves;
when human nature was the sport of man, and princes wearied out
the clemency of Heaven before they exhausted the patience of
their subjects. Those who hope to revive the monarchy of Henry
IV or of Louis XIV, appear to me to be afflicted with mental
blindness; and when I consider the present condition of several
European nations - a condition to which all the others tend - I
am led to believe that they will soon be left with no other
alternative than democratic liberty, or the tyranny of the
Caesars. *n

[Footnote n: [This prediction of the return of France to imperial
despotism, and of the true character of that despotic power, was
written in 1832, and realized to the letter in 1852.]]

And indeed it is deserving of consideration, whether men are
to be entirely emancipated or entirely enslaved; whether their
rights are to be made equal, or wholly taken away from them. If
the rulers of society were reduced either gradually to raise the
crowd to their own level, or to sink the citizens below that of
humanity, would not the doubts of many be resolved, the
consciences of many be healed, and the community prepared to make
great sacrifices with little difficulty? In that case, the
gradual growth of democratic manners and institutions should be
regarded, not as the best, but as the only means of preserving
freedom; and without liking the government of democracy, it might
be adopted as the most applicable and the fairest remedy for the
present ills of society.

It is difficult to associate a people in the work of
government; but it is still more difficult to supply it with
experience, and to inspire it with the feelings which it requires
in order to govern well. I grant that the caprices of democracy
are perpetual; its instruments are rude; its laws imperfect. But
if it were true that soon no just medium would exist between the
empire of democracy and the dominion of a single arm, should we
not rather incline towards the former than submit voluntarily to
the latter? And if complete equality be our fate, is it not
better to be levelled by free institutions than by despotic

Those who, after having read this book, should imagine that
my intention in writing it has been to propose the laws and
manners of the Anglo-Americans for the imitation of all
democratic peoples, would commit a very great mistake; they must
have paid more attention to the form than to the substance of my
ideas. My aim has been to show, by the example of America, that
laws, and especially manners, may exist which will allow a
democratic people to remain free. But I am very far from
thinking that we ought to follow the example of the American
democracy, and copy the means which it has employed to attain its
ends; for I am well aware of the influence which the nature of a
country and its political precedents exercise upon a
constitution; and I should regard it as a great misfortune for
mankind if liberty were to exist all over the world under the
same forms.

But I am of opinion that if we do not succeed in gradually
introducing democratic institutions into France, and if we
despair of imparting to the citizens those ideas and sentiments
which first prepare them for freedom, and afterwards allow them
to enjoy it, there will be no independence at all, either for the
middling classes or the nobility, for the poor or for the rich,
but an equal tyranny over all; and I foresee that if the
peaceable empire of the majority be not founded amongst us in
time, we shall sooner or later arrive at the unlimited authority
of a single despot.

Chapter XVIII: Future Condition Of Three Races In The United
States - Part I

The Present And Probable Future Condition Of The Three Races
Which Inhabit The Territory Of The United States

The principal part of the task which I had imposed upon
myself is now performed. I have shown, as far as I was able, the
laws and the manners of the American democracy. Here I might
stop; but the reader would perhaps feel that I had not satisfied
his expectations.

The absolute supremacy of democracy is not all that we meet
with in America; the inhabitants of the New World may be
considered from more than one point of view. In the course of
this work my subject has often led me to speak of the Indians and
the Negroes; but I have never been able to stop in order to show
what place these two races occupy in the midst of the democratic
people whom I was engaged in describing. I have mentioned in
what spirit, and according to what laws, the Anglo-American Union
was formed; but I could only glance at the dangers which menace
that confederation, whilst it was equally impossible for me to
give a detailed account of its chances of duration, independently
of its laws and manners. When speaking of the united republican
States, I hazarded no conjectures upon the permanence of
republican forms in the New World, and when making frequent
allusion to the commercial activity which reigns in the Union, I
was unable to inquire into the future condition of the Americans
as a commercial people.

These topics are collaterally connected with my subject
without forming a part of it; they are American without being
democratic; and to portray democracy has been my principal aim.
It was therefore necessary to postpone these questions, which I
now take up as the proper termination of my work.

The territory now occupied or claimed by the American Union
spreads from the shores of the Atlantic to those of the Pacific
Ocean. On the east and west its limits are those of the
continent itself. On the south it advances nearly to the tropic,
and it extends upwards to the icy regions of the North. The human
beings who are scattered over this space do not form, as in
Europe, so many branches of the same stock. Three races,
naturally distinct, and, I might almost say, hostile to each
other, are discoverable amongst them at the first glance. Almost
insurmountable barriers had been raised between them by education
and by law, as well as by their origin and outward
characteristics; but fortune has brought them together on the
same soil, where, although they are mixed, they do not
amalgamate, and each race fulfils its destiny apart.

Amongst these widely differing families of men, the first
which attracts attention, the superior in intelligence, in power
and in enjoyment, is the white or European, the man pre-eminent;

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