Independence Day with Alexis de Tocqueville
Several years ago I decided to read some of the longer classic books. One was Democracy in America, written by a French politician who toured the US and later summarized his observations of the American experiment for his readers in continental Europe. Alexis de Tocqueville had keen insights into the American psyche. Some of the things he wrote are instructive for pondering our history and the future of our culture. Many observations about us are as true today as they were in 1835. On this Independence Day – enjoy. All page numbers refer to the 1969 version published by Anchor Books.
- In order to enjoy the benefits of society, one must shoulder its obligations. p. 14
- Patriotism and religion are the only things in the world which will make the whole body of citizens go persistently forward toward the same goal. p. 94.
- How can tyranny be resisted in country where each individual is weak and where no common interest unites individuals? p. 96
- It has subsequently been found that by making justice both more sure and milder, it has also been made more effective. p. 105
- The great cause of the superiority of the federal Constitution lies in the actual character of the lawgivers. p. 152
- I admit that I do not feel toward freedom of the press that complete an instantaneous love which one accords to things by their nature supremely good. I love it more from considering the evil it prevents than on account of the good it does. p. 180
- Consequently, when I refuse to obey an unjust law, I by no means deny the majority’s right to give orders; I only appeal from the sovereignty of the people to the sovereignty of the human race. p.255
- If freedom is ever lost in America, that will be due to the omnipotence of the majority driving the minorities to desperation and forcing them to appeal to physical force. p. 260
- The majority in the United States takes over the business of supplying the individual with the quantity of ready-made opinions and so relieves him of the necessity of forming his own. p 435.