Che materia stai cercando?



struggle, and when the barriers of rank are at length thrown down. At

such times men pounce upon equality as their booty, and they cling to

it as to some precious treasure which they fear to lose. The passion

for equality penetrates on every side into men's hearts, expands there,

and fills them entirely. Tell them not that by this blind surrender of

themselves to an exclusive passion they risk their dearest interests:

they are deaf. Show them not freedom escaping from their grasp,

whilst they are looking another way: they are blind—or rather, they

can discern but one sole object to be desired in the universe.

What I have said is applicable to all democratic nations: what I am

about to say concerns the French alone. Amongst most modern

nations, and especially amongst all those of the Continent of Europe,

the taste and the idea of freedom only began to exist and to extend

themselves at the time when social conditions were tending to

equality, and as a consequence of that very equality. Absolute kings

were the most efficient levellers of ranks amongst their subjects.

Amongst these nations equality preceded freedom: equality was

therefore a fact of some standing when freedom was still a novelty:

the one had already created customs, opinions, and laws belonging to

it, when the other, alone and for the first time, came into actual

existence. Thus the latter was still only an affair of opinion and of

taste, whilst the former had already crept into the habits of the people,

possessed itself of their manners, and given a particular turn to the

smallest actions of their lives. Can it be wondered that the men of our

own time prefer the one to the other?

I think that democratic communities have a natural taste for

freedom: left to themselves, they will seek it, cherish it, and view any

privation of it with regret. But for equality, their passion is ardent,

insatiable, incessant, invincible: they call for equality in freedom; and

if they cannot obtain that, they still call for equality in slavery. They

will endure poverty, servitude, barbarism—but they will not endure

aristocracy. This is true at all times, and especially true in our own.

All men and all powers seeking to cope with this irresistible passion,

will be overthrown and destroyed by it. In our age, freedom cannot be

established without it, and despotism itself cannot reign without its


Chapter II: Of Individualism In

Democratic Countries

I have shown how it is that in ages of equality every man seeks for

his opinions within himself: I am now about to show how it is that, in

the same ages, all his feelings are turned towards himself alone.

Individualism *a is a novel expression, to which a novel idea has

given birth. Our fathers were only acquainted with egotism. Egotism

is a passionate and exaggerated love of self, which leads a man to

connect everything with his own person, and to prefer himself to

everything in the world. Individualism is a mature and calm feeling,

which disposes each member of the community to sever himself from

the mass of his fellow-creatures; and to draw apart with his family

and his friends; so that, after he has thus formed a little circle of his

own, he willingly leaves society at large to itself. Egotism originates

in blind instinct: individualism proceeds from erroneous judgment

more than from depraved feelings; it originates as much in the

deficiencies of the mind as in the perversity of the heart. Egotism

blights the germ of all virtue; individualism, at first, only saps the

virtues of public life; but, in the long run, it attacks and destroys all

others, and is at length absorbed in downright egotism. Egotism is a

vice as old as the world, which does not belong to one form of society

more than to another: individualism is of democratic origin, and it

threatens to spread in the same ratio as the equality of conditions.

a [ [I adopt the expression of the original, however

strange it may seem to the English ear, partly

because it illustrates the remark on the

introduction of general terms into democratic

language which was made in a preceding chapter,

and partly because I know of no English word

exactly equivalent to the expression. The chapter

itself defines the meaning attached to it by the

author.—Translator's Note.]]

Amongst aristocratic nations, as families remain for centuries in the

same condition, often on the same spot, all generations become as it

were contemporaneous. A man almost always knows his forefathers,

and respects them: he thinks he already sees his remote descendants,

and he loves them. He willingly imposes duties on himself towards

the former and the latter; and he will frequently sacrifice his personal

gratifications to those who went before and to those who will come

after him. Aristocratic institutions have, moreover, the effect of

closely binding every man to several of his fellow-citizens. As the

classes of an aristocratic people are strongly marked and permanent,

each of them is regarded by its own members as a sort of lesser

country, more tangible and more cherished than the country at large.

As in aristocratic communities all the citizens occupy fixed positions,

one above the other, the result is that each of them always sees a man

above himself whose patronage is necessary to him, and below

himself another man whose co-operation he may claim. Men living in

aristocratic ages are therefore almost always closely attached to

something placed out of their own sphere, and they are often disposed

to forget themselves. It is true that in those ages the notion of human

fellowship is faint, and that men seldom think of sacrificing

themselves for mankind; but they often sacrifice themselves for other

men. In democratic ages, on the contrary, when the duties of each

individual to the race are much more clear, devoted service to any one

man becomes more rare; the bond of human affection is extended, but

it is relaxed.

Amongst democratic nations new families are constantly springing

up, others are constantly falling away, and all that remain change

their condition; the woof of time is every instant broken, and the track

of generations effaced. Those who went before are soon forgotten; of

those who will come after no one has any idea: the interest of man is

confined to those in close propinquity to himself. As each class

approximates to other classes, and intermingles with them, its

members become indifferent and as strangers to one another.

Aristocracy had made a chain of all the members of the community,

from the peasant to the king: democracy breaks that chain, and severs

every link of it. As social conditions become more equal, the number

of persons increases who, although they are neither rich enough nor

powerful enough to exercise any great influence over their fellow-

creatures, have nevertheless acquired or retained sufficient education

and fortune to satisfy their own wants. They owe nothing to any man,

they expect nothing from any man; they acquire the habit of always

considering themselves as standing alone, and they are apt to imagine

that their whole destiny is in their own hands. Thus not only does

democracy make every man forget his ancestors, but it hides his

descendants, and separates his contemporaries from him; it throws

him back forever upon himself alone, and threatens in the end to

confine him entirely within the solitude of his own heart.

Chapter III: Individualism

Stronger At The Close Of A

Democratic Revolution Than At

Other Periods

The period when the construction of democratic society upon the

ruins of an aristocracy has just been completed, is especially that at

which this separation of men from one another, and the egotism

resulting from it, most forcibly strike the observation. Democratic

communities not only contain a large number of independent citizens,

but they are constantly filled with men who, having entered but

yesterday upon their independent condition, are intoxicated with their

new power. They entertain a presumptuous confidence in their

strength, and as they do not suppose that they can henceforward ever

have occasion to claim the assistance of their fellow-creatures, they

do not scruple to show that they care for nobody but themselves.

An aristocracy seldom yields without a protracted struggle, in the

course of which implacable animosities are kindled between the

different classes of society. These passions survive the victory, and

traces of them may be observed in the midst of the democratic

confusion which ensues. Those members of the community who were

at the top of the late gradations of rank cannot immediately forget

their former greatness; they will long regard themselves as aliens in

the midst of the newly composed society. They look upon all those

whom this state of society has made their equals as oppressors, whose

destiny can excite no sympathy; they have lost sight of their former

equals, and feel no longer bound by a common interest to their fate:

each of them, standing aloof, thinks that he is reduced to care for

himself alone. Those, on the contrary, who were formerly at the foot

of the social scale, and who have been brought up to the common

level by a sudden revolution, cannot enjoy their newly acquired

independence without secret uneasiness; and if they meet with some

of their former superiors on the same footing as themselves, they

stand aloof from them with an expression of triumph and of fear. It is,

then, commonly at the outset of democratic society that citizens are

most disposed to live apart. Democracy leads men not to draw near to

their fellow-creatures; but democratic revolutions lead them to shun

each other, and perpetuate in a state of equality the animosities which

the state of inequality engendered. The great advantage of the

Americans is that they have arrived at a state of democracy without

having to endure a democratic revolution; and that they are born

equal, instead of becoming so.

Chapter IV: That The Americans

Combat The Effects Of

Individualism By Free Institutions

Despotism, which is of a very timorous nature, is never more

secure of continuance than when it can keep men asunder; and all is

influence is commonly exerted for that purpose. No vice of the

human heart is so acceptable to it as egotism: a despot easily forgives

his subjects for not loving him, provided they do not love each other.

He does not ask them to assist him in governing the State; it is

enough that they do not aspire to govern it themselves. He stigmatizes

as turbulent and unruly spirits those who would combine their

exertions to promote the prosperity of the community, and, perverting

the natural meaning of words, he applauds as good citizens those who

have no sympathy for any but themselves. Thus the vices which

despotism engenders are precisely those which equality fosters. These

two things mutually and perniciously complete and assist each other.

Equality places men side by side, unconnected by any common tie;

despotism raises barriers to keep them asunder; the former

predisposes them not to consider their fellow-creatures, the latter

makes general indifference a sort of public virtue.

Despotism then, which is at all times dangerous, is more

particularly to be feared in democratic ages. It is easy to see that in

those same ages men stand most in need of freedom. When the

members of a community are forced to attend to public affairs, they

are necessarily drawn from the circle of their own interests, and

snatched at times from self-observation. As soon as a man begins to

treat of public affairs in public, he begins to perceive that he is not so

independent of his fellow-men as he had at first imagined, and that, in

order to obtain their support, he must often lend them his co-


When the public is supreme, there is no man who does not feel the

value of public goodwill, or who does not endeavor to court it by

drawing to himself the esteem and affection of those amongst whom

he is to live. Many of the passions which congeal and keep asunder

human hearts, are then obliged to retire and hide below the surface.

Pride must be dissembled; disdain dares not break out; egotism fears

its own self. Under a free government, as most public offices are

elective, the men whose elevated minds or aspiring hopes are too

closely circumscribed in private life, constantly feel that they cannot

do without the population which surrounds them. Men learn at such

times to think of their fellow-men from ambitious motives; and they

frequently find it, in a manner, their interest to forget themselves.

I may here be met by an objection derived from electioneering

intrigues, the meannesses of candidates, and the calumnies of their

opponents. These are opportunities for animosity which occur the

oftener the more frequent elections become. Such evils are doubtless

great, but they are transient; whereas the benefits which attend them

remain. The desire of being elected may lead some men for a time to

violent hostility; but this same desire leads all men in the long run

mutually to support each other; and if it happens that an election

accidentally severs two friends, the electoral system brings a

multitude of citizens permanently together, who would always have

remained unknown to each other. Freedom engenders private

animosities, but despotism gives birth to general indifference.

The Americans have combated by free institutions the tendency of

equality to keep men asunder, and they have subdued it. The

legislators of America did not suppose that a general representation of

the whole nation would suffice to ward off a disorder at once so

natural to the frame of democratic society, and so fatal: they also

thought that it would be well to infuse political life into each portion

of the territory, in order to multiply to an infinite extent opportunities

of acting in concert for all the members of the community, and to

make them constantly feel their mutual dependence on each other.

The plan was a wise one. The general affairs of a country only engage

the attention of leading politicians, who assemble from time to time

in the same places; and as they often lose sight of each other

afterwards, no lasting ties are established between them. But if the

object be to have the local affairs of a district conducted by the men

who reside there, the same persons are always in contact, and they

are, in a manner, forced to be acquainted, and to adapt themselves to

one another.

It is difficult to draw a man out of his own circle to interest him in

the destiny of the State, because he does not clearly understand what

influence the destiny of the State can have upon his own lot. But if it

be proposed to make a road cross the end of his estate, he will see at a

glance that there is a connection between this small public affair and

his greatest private affairs; and he will discover, without its being

shown to him, the close tie which unites private to general interest.

Thus, far more may be done by intrusting to the citizens the

administration of minor affairs than by surrendering to them the

control of important ones, towards interesting them in the public

welfare, and convincing them that they constantly stand in need one

of the other in order to provide for it. A brilliant achievement may

win for you the favor of a people at one stroke; but to earn the love

and respect of the population which surrounds you, a long succession

of little services rendered and of obscure good deeds—a constant

habit of kindness, and an established reputation for

disinterestedness—will be required. Local freedom, then, which leads

a great number of citizens to value the affection of their neighbors

and of their kindred, perpetually brings men together, and forces them

to help one another, in spite of the propensities which sever them.

In the United States the more opulent citizens take great care not to

stand aloof from the people; on the contrary, they constantly keep on

easy terms with the lower classes: they listen to them, they speak to

them every day. They know that the rich in democracies always stand

in need of the poor; and that in democratic ages you attach a poor

man to you more by your manner than by benefits conferred. The

magnitude of such benefits, which sets off the difference of

conditions, causes a secret irritation to those who reap advantage

from them; but the charm of simplicity of manners is almost

irresistible: their affability carries men away, and even their want of

polish is not always displeasing. This truth does not take root at once

in the minds of the rich. They generally resist it as long as the

democratic revolution lasts, and they do not acknowledge it

immediately after that revolution is accomplished. They are very

ready to do good to the people, but they still choose to keep them at

arm's length; they think that is sufficient, but they are mistaken. They

might spend fortunes thus without warming the hearts of the

population around them;—that population does not ask them for the

sacrifice of their money, but of their pride.

It would seem as if every imagination in the United States were

upon the stretch to invent means of increasing the wealth and

satisfying the wants of the public. The best-informed inhabitants of

each district constantly use their information to discover new truths

which may augment the general prosperity; and if they have made

any such discoveries, they eagerly surrender them to the mass of the


When the vices and weaknesses, frequently exhibited by those who

govern in America, are closely examined, the prosperity of the people

occasions—but improperly occasions—surprise. Elected magistrates

do not make the American democracy flourish; it flourishes because

the magistrates are elective.

It would be unjust to suppose that the patriotism and the zeal which

every American displays for the welfare of his fellow-citizens are

wholly insincere. Although private interest directs the greater part of

human actions in the United States as well as elsewhere, it does not

regulate them all. I must say that I have often seen Americans make

great and real sacrifices to the public welfare; and I have remarked a

hundred instances in which they hardly ever failed to lend faithful

support to each other. The free institutions which the inhabitants of

the United States possess, and the political rights of which they make

so much use, remind every citizen, and in a thousand ways, that he

lives in society. They every instant impress upon his mind the notion

that it is the duty, as well as the interest of men, to make themselves

useful to their fellow-creatures; and as he sees no particular ground of

animosity to them, since he is never either their master or their slave,

his heart readily leans to the side of kindness. Men attend to the

interests of the public, first by necessity, afterwards by choice: what

was intentional becomes an instinct; and by dint of working for the

good of one's fellow citizens, the habit and the taste for serving them

is at length acquired.

Many people in France consider equality of conditions as one evil,

and political freedom as a second. When they are obliged to yield to

the former, they strive at least to escape from the latter. But I contend

that in order to combat the evils which equality may produce, there is

only one effectual remedy—namely, political freedom.

Chapter V: Of The Use Which The

Americans Make Of Public

Associations In Civil Life

I do not propose to speak of those political associations—by the aid

of which men endeavor to defend themselves against the despotic

influence of a majority—or against the aggressions of regal power.

That subject I have already treated. If each citizen did not learn, in

proportion as he individually becomes more feeble, and consequently

more incapable of preserving his freedom single-handed, to combine

with his fellow-citizens for the purpose of defending it, it is clear that

tyranny would unavoidably increase together with equality.

Those associations only which are formed in civil life, without

reference to political objects, are here adverted to. The political

associations which exist in the United States are only a single feature

in the midst of the immense assemblage of associations in that

country. Americans of all ages, all conditions, and all dispositions,

constantly form associations. They have not only commercial and

manufacturing companies, in which all take part, but associations of a

thousand other kinds—religious, moral, serious, futile, extensive, or

restricted, enormous or diminutive. The Americans make associations

to give entertainments, to found establishments for education, to build

inns, to construct churches, to diffuse books, to send missionaries to

the antipodes; and in this manner they found hospitals, prisons, and

schools. If it be proposed to advance some truth, or to foster some

feeling by the encouragement of a great example, they form a society.

Wherever, at the head of some new undertaking, you see the

government in France, or a man of rank in England, in the United

States you will be sure to find an association. I met with several kinds

of associations in America, of which I confess I had no previous

notion; and I have often admired the extreme skill with which the

inhabitants of the United States succeed in proposing a common

object to the exertions of a great many men, and in getting them

voluntarily to pursue it. I have since travelled over England, whence

the Americans have taken some of their laws and many of their

customs; and it seemed to me that the principle of association was by

no means so constantly or so adroitly used in that country. The

English often perform great things singly; whereas the Americans

form associations for the smallest undertakings. It is evident that the

former people consider association as a powerful means of action, but

the latter seem to regard it as the only means they have of acting.

Thus the most democratic country on the face of the earth is that in

which men have in our time carried to the highest perfection the art of

pursuing in common the object of their common desires, and have

applied this new science to the greatest number of purposes. Is this

the result of accident? or is there in reality any necessary connection

between the principle of association and that of equality? Aristocratic

communities always contain, amongst a multitude of persons who by

themselves are powerless, a small number of powerful and wealthy

citizens, each of whom can achieve great undertakings single-handed.

In aristocratic societies men do not need to combine in order to act,

because they are strongly held together. Every wealthy and powerful

citizen constitutes the head of a permanent and compulsory

association, composed of all those who are dependent upon him, or

whom he makes subservient to the execution of his designs. Amongst

democratic nations, on the contrary, all the citizens are independent

and feeble; they can do hardly anything by themselves, and none of

them can oblige his fellow-men to lend him their assistance. They all,

therefore, fall into a state of incapacity, if they do not learn

voluntarily to help each other. If men living in democratic countries

had no right and no inclination to associate for political purposes,

their independence would be in great jeopardy; but they might long

preserve their wealth and their cultivation: whereas if they never

acquired the habit of forming associations in ordinary life, civilization

itself would be endangered. A people amongst which individuals

should lose the power of achieving great things single-handed,

without acquiring the means of producing them by united exertions,

would soon relapse into barbarism.

Unhappily, the same social condition which renders associations so

necessary to democratic nations, renders their formation more

difficult amongst those nations than amongst all others. When several

members of an aristocracy agree to combine, they easily succeed in

doing so; as each of them brings great strength to the partnership, the

number of its members may be very limited; and when the members

of an association are limited in number, they may easily become

mutually acquainted, understand each other, and establish fixed

regulations. The same opportunities do not occur amongst democratic

nations, where the associated members must always be very

numerous for their association to have any power.

I am aware that many of my countrymen are not in the least

embarrassed by this difficulty. They contend that the more enfeebled

and incompetent the citizens become, the more able and active the

government ought to be rendered, in order that society at large may

execute what individuals can no longer accomplish. They believe this

answers the whole difficulty, but I think they are mistaken. A

government might perform the part of some of the largest American

companies; and several States, members of the Union, have already

attempted it; but what political power could ever carry on the vast

multitude of lesser undertakings which the American citizens perform

every day, with the assistance of the principle of association? It is

easy to foresee that the time is drawing near when man will be less

and less able to produce, of himself alone, the commonest necessaries

of life. The task of the governing power will therefore perpetually

increase, and its very efforts will extend it every day. The more it

stands in the place of associations, the more will individuals, losing

the notion of combining together, require its assistance: these are

causes and effects which unceasingly engender each other. Will the

administration of the country ultimately assume the management of

all the manufacturers, which no single citizen is able to carry on? And

if a time at length arrives, when, in consequence of the extreme

subdivision of landed property, the soil is split into an infinite number

of parcels, so that it can only be cultivated by companies of

husbandmen, will it be necessary that the head of the government

should leave the helm of state to follow the plough? The morals and

the intelligence of a democratic people would be as much endangered

as its business and manufactures, if the government ever wholly

usurped the place of private companies.

Feelings and opinions are recruited, the heart is enlarged, and the

human mind is developed by no other means than by the reciprocal

influence of men upon each other. I have shown that these influences

are almost null in democratic countries; they must therefore be

artificially created, and this can only be accomplished by


When the members of an aristocratic community adopt a new

opinion, or conceive a new sentiment, they give it a station, as it

were, beside themselves, upon the lofty platform where they stand;

and opinions or sentiments so conspicuous to the eyes of the

multitude are easily introduced into the minds or hearts of all around.

In democratic countries the governing power alone is naturally in a

condition to act in this manner; but it is easy to see that its action is

always inadequate, and often dangerous. A government can no more

be competent to keep alive and to renew the circulation of opinions

and feelings amongst a great people, than to manage all the

speculations of productive industry. No sooner does a government

attempt to go beyond its political sphere and to enter upon this new

track, than it exercises, even unintentionally, an insupportable

tyranny; for a government can only dictate strict rules, the opinions

which it favors are rigidly enforced, and it is never easy to

discriminate between its advice and its commands. Worse still will be

the case if the government really believes itself interested in

preventing all circulation of ideas; it will then stand motionless, and

oppressed by the heaviness of voluntary torpor. Governments

therefore should not be the only active powers: associations ought, in

democratic nations, to stand in lieu of those powerful private

individuals whom the equality of conditions has swept away.

As soon as several of the inhabitants of the United States have

taken up an opinion or a feeling which they wish to promote in the

world, they look out for mutual assistance; and as soon as they have

found each other out, they combine. From that moment they are no

longer isolated men, but a power seen from afar, whose actions serve

for an example, and whose language is listened to. The first time I

heard in the United States that 100,000 men had bound themselves

publicly to abstain from spirituous liquors, it appeared to me more

like a joke than a serious engagement; and I did not at once perceive

why these temperate citizens could not content themselves with

drinking water by their own firesides. I at last understood that

300,000 Americans, alarmed by the progress of drunkenness around

them, had made up their minds to patronize temperance. They acted

just in the same way as a man of high rank who should dress very

plainly, in order to inspire the humbler orders with a contempt of

luxury. It is probable that if these 100,000 men had lived in France,

each of them would singly have memorialized the government to

watch the public-houses all over the kingdom.

Nothing, in my opinion, is more deserving of our attention than the

intellectual and moral associations of America. The political and

industrial associations of that country strike us forcibly; but the others

elude our observation, or if we discover them, we understand them

imperfectly, because we have hardly ever seen anything of the kind. It

must, however, be acknowledged that they are as necessary to the

American people as the former, and perhaps more so. In democratic

countries the science of association is the mother of science; the

progress of all the rest depends upon the progress it has made.

Amongst the laws which rule human societies there is one which

seems to be more precise and clear than all others. If men are to

remain civilized, or to become so, the art of associating together must

grow and improve in the same ratio in which the equality of

conditions is increased.

Chapter VI: Of The Relation

Between Public Associations And


When men are no longer united amongst themselves by firm and

lasting ties, it is impossible to obtain the cooperation of any great

number of them, unless you can persuade every man whose

concurrence you require that this private interest obliges him

voluntarily to unite his exertions to the exertions of all the rest. This

can only be habitually and conveniently effected by means of a

newspaper; nothing but a newspaper can drop the same thought into a

thousand minds at the same moment. A newspaper is an adviser who

does not require to be sought, but who comes of his own accord, and

talks to you briefly every day of the common weal, without

distracting you from your private affairs.

Newspapers therefore become more necessary in proportion as men

become more equal, and individualism more to be feared. To suppose

that they only serve to protect freedom would be to diminish their

importance: they maintain civilization. I shall not deny that in

democratic countries newspapers frequently lead the citizens to

launch together in very ill-digested schemes; but if there were no

newspapers there would be no common activity. The evil which they

produce is therefore much less than that which they cure.

The effect of a newspaper is not only to suggest the same purpose

to a great number of persons, but also to furnish means for executing

in common the designs which they may have singly conceived. The

principal citizens who inhabit an aristocratic country discern each

other from afar; and if they wish to unite their forces, they move

towards each other, drawing a multitude of men after them. It

frequently happens, on the contrary, in democratic countries, that a

great number of men who wish or who want to combine cannot

accomplish it, because as they are very insignificant and lost amidst

the crowd, they cannot see, and know not where to find, one another.

A newspaper then takes up the notion or the feeling which had

occurred simultaneously, but singly, to each of them. All are then

immediately guided towards this beacon; and these wandering minds,

which had long sought each other in darkness, at length meet and


The newspaper brought them together, and the newspaper is still

necessary to keep them united. In order that an association amongst a

democratic people should have any power, it must be a numerous

body. The persons of whom it is composed are therefore scattered

over a wide extent, and each of them is detained in the place of his

domicile by the narrowness of his income, or by the small

unremitting exertions by which he earns it. Means then must be found

to converse every day without seeing each other, and to take steps in

common without having met. Thus hardly any democratic association

can do without newspapers. There is consequently a necessary

connection between public associations and newspapers: newspapers

make associations, and associations make newspapers; and if it has

been correctly advanced that associations will increase in number as

the conditions of men become more equal, it is not less certain that

the number of newspapers increases in proportion to that of

associations. Thus it is in America that we find at the same time the

greatest number of associations and of newspapers.

This connection between the number of newspapers and that of

associations leads us to the discovery of a further connection between

the state of the periodical press and the form of the administration in a

country; and shows that the number of newspapers must diminish or

increase amongst a democratic people, in proportion as its

administration is more or less centralized. For amongst democratic

nations the exercise of local powers cannot be intrusted to the

principal members of the community as in aristocracies. Those

powers must either be abolished, or placed in the hands of very large

numbers of men, who then in fact constitute an association

permanently established by law for the purpose of administering the

affairs of a certain extent of territory; and they require a journal, to

bring to them every day, in the midst of their own minor concerns,

some intelligence of the state of their public weal. The more

numerous local powers are, the greater is the number of men in whom

they are vested by law; and as this want is hourly felt, the more

profusely do newspapers abound.

The extraordinary subdivision of administrative power has much

more to do with the enormous number of American newspapers than

the great political freedom of the country and the absolute liberty of

the press. If all the inhabitants of the Union had the suffrage—but a

suffrage which should only extend to the choice of their legislators in

Congress—they would require but few newspapers, because they

would only have to act together on a few very important but very rare

occasions. But within the pale of the great association of the nation,

lesser associations have been established by law in every country,

every city, and indeed in every village, for the purposes of local

administration. The laws of the country thus compel every American

to co-operate every day of his life with some of his fellow-citizens for

a common purpose, and each one of them requires a newspaper to

inform him what all the others are doing.

I am of opinion that a democratic people, *a without any national

representative assemblies, but with a great number of small local

powers, would have in the end more newspapers than another people

governed by a centralized administration and an elective legislation.

What best explains to me the enormous circulation of the daily press

in the United States, is that amongst the Americans I find the utmost

national freedom combined with local freedom of every kind. There

is a prevailing opinion in France and England that the circulation of

newspapers would be indefinitely increased by removing the taxes

which have been laid upon the press. This is a very exaggerated

estimate of the effects of such a reform. Newspapers increase in

numbers, not according to their cheapness, but according to the more

or less frequent want which a great number of men may feel for

intercommunication and combination.

a [ I say a democratic people: the administration of

an aristocratic people may be the reverse of

centralized, and yet the want of newspapers be

little felt, because local powers are then vested in

the hands of a very small number of men, who

either act apart, or who know each other and can

easily meet and come to an understanding.]

In like manner I should attribute the increasing influence of the

daily press to causes more general than those by which it is

commonly explained. A newspaper can only subsist on the condition

of publishing sentiments or principles common to a large number of

men. A newspaper therefore always represents an association which

is composed of its habitual readers. This association may be more or

less defined, more or less restricted, more or less numerous; but the

fact that the newspaper keeps alive, is a proof that at least the germ of

such an association exists in the minds of its readers.

This leads me to a last reflection, with which I shall conclude this

chapter. The more equal the conditions of men become, and the less

strong men individually are, the more easily do they give way to the

current of the multitude, and the more difficult is it for them to adhere

by themselves to an opinion which the multitude discard. A

newspaper represents an association; it may be said to address each of

its readers in the name of all the others, and to exert its influence over

them in proportion to their individual weakness. The power of the

newspaper press must therefore increase as the social conditions of

men become more equal.

Chapter VII: Connection Of Civil

And Political Associations

There is only one country on the face of the earth where the citizens

enjoy unlimited freedom of association for political purposes. This

same country is the only one in the world where the continual

exercise of the right of association has been introduced into civil life,

and where all the advantages which civilization can confer are

procured by means of it. In all the countries where political

associations are prohibited, civil associations are rare. It is hardly

probable that this is the result of accident; but the inference should

rather be, that there is a natural, and perhaps a necessary, connection

between these two kinds of associations. Certain men happen to have

a common interest in some concern—either a commercial

undertaking is to be managed, or some speculation in manufactures to

be tried; they meet, they combine, and thus by degrees they become

familiar with the principle of association. The greater is the

multiplicity of small affairs, the more do men, even without knowing

it, acquire facility in prosecuting great undertakings in common. Civil

associations, therefore, facilitate political association: but, on the

other hand, political association singularly strengthens and improves

associations for civil purposes. In civil life every man may, strictly

speaking, fancy that he can provide for his own wants; in politics, he

can fancy no such thing. When a people, then, have any knowledge of

public life, the notion of association, and the wish to coalesce, present

themselves every day to the minds of the whole community: whatever

natural repugnance may restrain men from acting in concert, they will

always be ready to combine for the sake of a party. Thus political life

makes the love and practice of association more general; it imparts a

desire of union, and teaches the means of combination to numbers of

men who would have always lived apart.

Politics not only give birth to numerous associations, but to

associations of great extent. In civil life it seldom happens that any

one interest draws a very large number of men to act in concert; much

skill is required to bring such an interest into existence: but in politics

opportunities present themselves every day. Now it is solely in great

associations that the general value of the principle of association is

displayed. Citizens who are individually powerless, do not very

clearly anticipate the strength which they may acquire by uniting

together; it must be shown to them in order to be understood. Hence it

is often easier to collect a multitude for a public purpose than a few

persons; a thousand citizens do not see what interest they have in

combining together—ten thousand will be perfectly aware of it. In

politics men combine for great undertakings; and the use they make

of the principle of association in important affairs practically teaches

them that it is their interest to help each other in those of less

moment. A political association draws a number of individuals at the

same time out of their own circle: however they may be naturally

kept asunder by age, mind, and fortune, it places them nearer together

and brings them into contact. Once met, they can always meet again.

Men can embark in few civil partnerships without risking a portion

of their possessions; this is the case with all manufacturing and

trading companies. When men are as yet but little versed in the art of

association, and are unacquainted with its principal rules, they are

afraid, when first they combine in this manner, of buying their

experience dear. They therefore prefer depriving themselves of a

powerful instrument of success to running the risks which attend the

use of it. They are, however, less reluctant to join political

associations, which appear to them to be without danger, because

they adventure no money in them. But they cannot belong to these

associations for any length of time without finding out how order is

maintained amongst a large number of men, and by what contrivance

they are made to advance, harmoniously and methodically, to the

same object. Thus they learn to surrender their own will to that of all

the rest, and to make their own exertions subordinate to the common

impulse—things which it is not less necessary to know in civil than in

political associations. Political associations may therefore be

considered as large free schools, where all the members of the

community go to learn the general theory of association.

But even if political association did not directly contribute to the

progress of civil association, to destroy the former would be to impair

the latter. When citizens can only meet in public for certain purposes,

they regard such meetings as a strange proceeding of rare occurrence,

and they rarely think at all about it. When they are allowed to meet

freely for all purposes, they ultimately look upon public association

as the universal, or in a manner the sole means, which men can

employ to accomplish the different purposes they may have in view.

Every new want instantly revives the notion. The art of association

then becomes, as I have said before, the mother of action, studied and

applied by all.

When some kinds of associations are prohibited and others

allowed, it is difficult to distinguish the former from the latter,

beforehand. In this state of doubt men abstain from them altogether,

and a sort of public opinion passes current which tends to cause any

association whatsoever to be regarded as a bold and almost an illicit

enterprise. *a

a [ This is more especially true when the executive

government has a discretionary power of allowing

or prohibiting associations. When certain

associations are simply prohibited by law, and the

courts of justice have to punish infringements of

that law, the evil is far less considerable. Then

every citizen knows beforehand pretty nearly what

he has to expect. He judges himself before he is

judged by the law, and, abstaining from prohibited

associations, he embarks in those which are

legally sanctioned. It is by these restrictions that

all free nations have always admitted that the right

of association might be limited. But if the

legislature should invest a man with a power of

ascertaining beforehand which associations are

dangerous and which are useful, and should

authorize him to destroy all associations in the bud

or allow them to be formed, as nobody would be

able to foresee in what cases associations might be

established and in what cases they would be put

down, the spirit of association would be entirely

paralyzed. The former of these laws would only

assail certain associations; the latter would apply

to society itself, and inflict an injury upon it. I can

conceive that a regular government may have

recourse to the former, but I do not concede that

any government has the right of enacting the


It is therefore chimerical to suppose that the spirit of association,

when it is repressed on some one point, will nevertheless display the

same vigor on all others; and that if men be allowed to prosecute

certain undertakings in common, that is quite enough for them

eagerly to set about them. When the members of a community are

allowed and accustomed to combine for all purposes, they will

combine as readily for the lesser as for the more important ones; but

if they are only allowed to combine for small affairs, they will be

neither inclined nor able to effect it. It is in vain that you will leave

them entirely free to prosecute their business on joint-stock account:

they will hardly care to avail themselves of the rights you have

granted to them; and, after having exhausted your strength in vain

efforts to put down prohibited associations, you will be surprised that

you cannot persuade men to form the associations you encourage.

I do not say that there can be no civil associations in a country

where political association is prohibited; for men can never live in

society without embarking in some common undertakings: but I

maintain that in such a country civil associations will always be few

in number, feebly planned, unskillfully managed, that they will never

form any vast designs, or that they will fail in the execution of them.

This naturally leads me to think that freedom of association in

political matters is not so dangerous to public tranquillity as is

supposed; and that possibly, after having agitated society for some

time, it may strengthen the State in the end. In democratic countries

political associations are, so to speak, the only powerful persons who

aspire to rule the State. Accordingly, the governments of our time

look upon associations of this kind just as sovereigns in the Middle

Ages regarded the great vassals of the Crown: they entertain a sort of

instinctive abhorrence of them, and they combat them on all

occasions. They bear, on the contrary, a natural goodwill to civil

associations, because they readily discover that, instead of directing

the minds of the community to public affairs, these institutions serve

to divert them from such reflections; and that, by engaging them more

and more in the pursuit of objects which cannot be attained without

public tranquillity, they deter them from revolutions. But these

governments do not attend to the fact that political associations tend

amazingly to multiply and facilitate those of a civil character, and that

in avoiding a dangerous evil they deprive themselves of an

efficacious remedy.

When you see the Americans freely and constantly forming

associations for the purpose of promoting some political principle, of

raising one man to the head of affairs, or of wresting power from

another, you have some difficulty in understanding that men so

independent do not constantly fall into the abuse of freedom. If, on

the other hand, you survey the infinite number of trading companies

which are in operation in the United States, and perceive that the

Americans are on every side unceasingly engaged in the execution of

important and difficult plans, which the slightest revolution would

throw into confusion, you will readily comprehend why people so

well employed are by no means tempted to perturb the State, nor to

destroy that public tranquillity by which they all profit.

Is it enough to observe these things separately, or should we not

discover the hidden tie which connects them? In their political

associations, the Americans of all conditions, minds, and ages, daily

acquire a general taste for association, and grow accustomed to the

use of it. There they meet together in large numbers, they converse,

they listen to each other, and they are mutually stimulated to all sorts

of undertakings. They afterwards transfer to civil life the notions they

have thus acquired, and make them subservient to a thousand

purposes. Thus it is by the enjoyment of a dangerous freedom that the

Americans learn the art of rendering the dangers of freedom less


If a certain moment in the existence of a nation be selected, it is

easy to prove that political associations perturb the State, and

paralyze productive industry; but take the whole life of a people, and

it may perhaps be easy to demonstrate that freedom of association in

political matters is favorable to the prosperity and even to the

tranquillity of the community.

I said in the former part of this work, "The unrestrained liberty of

political association cannot be entirely assimilated to the liberty of the

press. The one is at the same time less necessary and more dangerous

than the other. A nation may confine it within certain limits without

ceasing to be mistress of itself; and it may sometimes be obliged to do

so in order to maintain its own authority." And further on I added: "It

cannot be denied that the unrestrained liberty of association for

political purposes is the last degree of liberty which a people is fit for.

If it does not throw them into anarchy, it perpetually brings them, as it

were, to the verge of it." Thus I do not think that a nation is always at

liberty to invest its citizens with an absolute right of association for

political purposes; and I doubt whether, in any country or in any age,

it be wise to set no limits to freedom of association. A certain nation,

it is said, could not maintain tranquillity in the community, cause the

laws to be respected, or establish a lasting government, if the right of

association were not confined within narrow limits. These blessings

are doubtless invaluable, and I can imagine that, to acquire or to

preserve them, a nation may impose upon itself severe temporary

restrictions: but still it is well that the nation should know at what

price these blessings are purchased. I can understand that it may be

advisable to cut off a man's arm in order to save his life; but it would

be ridiculous to assert that he will be as dexterous as he was before he

lost it.

Chapter VIII: The Americans

Combat Individualism By The

Principle Of Interest Rightly


When the world was managed by a few rich and powerful

individuals, these persons loved to entertain a lofty idea of the duties

of man. They were fond of professing that it is praiseworthy to forget

one's self, and that good should be done without hope of reward, as it

is by the Deity himself. Such were the standard opinions of that time

in morals. I doubt whether men were more virtuous in aristocratic

ages than in others; but they were incessantly talking of the beauties

of virtue, and its utility was only studied in secret. But since the

imagination takes less lofty flights and every man's thoughts are

centred in himself, moralists are alarmed by this idea of self-sacrifice,

and they no longer venture to present it to the human mind. They

therefore content themselves with inquiring whether the personal

advantage of each member of the community does not consist in

working for the good of all; and when they have hit upon some point

on which private interest and public interest meet and amalgamate,

they are eager to bring it into notice. Observations of this kind are

gradually multiplied: what was only a single remark becomes a

general principle; and it is held as a truth that man serves himself in

serving his fellow-creatures, and that his private interest is to do


I have already shown, in several parts of this work, by what means

the inhabitants of the United States almost always manage to combine

their own advantage with that of their fellow-citizens: my present

purpose is to point out the general rule which enables them to do so.

In the United States hardly anybody talks of the beauty of virtue; but

they maintain that virtue is useful, and prove it every day. The

American moralists do not profess that men ought to sacrifice

themselves for their fellow-creatures because it is noble to make such

sacrifices; but they boldly aver that such sacrifices are as necessary to

him who imposes them upon himself as to him for whose sake they

are made. They have found out that in their country and their age man

is brought home to himself by an irresistible force; and losing all

hope of stopping that force, they turn all their thoughts to the

direction of it. They therefore do not deny that every man may follow

his own interest; but they endeavor to prove that it is the interest of

every man to be virtuous. I shall not here enter into the reasons they

allege, which would divert me from my subject: suffice it to say that

they have convinced their fellow-countrymen.

Montaigne said long ago: "Were I not to follow the straight road for

its straightness, I should follow it for having found by experience that

in the end it is commonly the happiest and most useful track." The

doctrine of interest rightly understood is not, then, new, but amongst

the Americans of our time it finds universal acceptance: it has

become popular there; you may trace it at the bottom of all their

actions, you will remark it in all they say. It is as often to be met with

on the lips of the poor man as of the rich. In Europe the principle of

interest is much grosser than it is in America, but at the same time it

is less common, and especially it is less avowed; amongst us, men

still constantly feign great abnegation which they no longer feel. The

Americans, on the contrary, are fond of explaining almost all the

actions of their lives by the principle of interest rightly understood;

they show with complacency how an enlightened regard for

themselves constantly prompts them to assist each other, and inclines

them willingly to sacrifice a portion of their time and property to the

welfare of the State. In this respect I think they frequently fail to do

themselves justice; for in the United States, as well as elsewhere,

people are sometimes seen to give way to those disinterested and

spontaneous impulses which are natural to man; but the Americans

seldom allow that they yield to emotions of this kind; they are more

anxious to do honor to their philosophy than to themselves.

I might here pause, without attempting to pass a judgment on what

I have described. The extreme difficulty of the subject would be my

excuse, but I shall not avail myself of it; and I had rather that my

readers, clearly perceiving my object, should refuse to follow me than

that I should leave them in suspense. The principle of interest rightly

understood is not a lofty one, but it is clear and sure. It does not aim

at mighty objects, but it attains without excessive exertion all those at

which it aims. As it lies within the reach of all capacities, everyone

can without difficulty apprehend and retain it. By its admirable

conformity to human weaknesses, it easily obtains great dominion;

nor is that dominion precarious, since the principle checks one

personal interest by another, and uses, to direct the passions, the very

same instrument which excites them. The principle of interest rightly

understood produces no great acts of self-sacrifice, but it suggests

daily small acts of self-denial. By itself it cannot suffice to make a

man virtuous, but it disciplines a number of citizens in habits of

regularity, temperance, moderation, foresight, self-command; and, if

it does not lead men straight to virtue by the will, it gradually draws

them in that direction by their habits. If the principle of interest

rightly understood were to sway the whole moral world,

extraordinary virtues would doubtless be more rare; but I think that

gross depravity would then also be less common. The principle of

interest rightly understood perhaps prevents some men from rising far

above the level of mankind; but a great number of other men, who

were falling far below it, are caught and restrained by it. Observe

some few individuals, they are lowered by it; survey mankind, it is

raised. I am not afraid to say that the principle of interest, rightly

understood, appears to me the best suited of all philosophical theories

to the wants of the men of our time, and that I regard it as their chief

remaining security against themselves. Towards it, therefore, the

minds of the moralists of our age should turn; even should they judge

it to be incomplete, it must nevertheless be adopted as necessary.

I do not think upon the whole that there is more egotism amongst

us than in America; the only difference is, that there it is

enlightened—here it is not. Every American will sacrifice a portion of

his private interests to preserve the rest; we would fain preserve the

whole, and oftentimes the whole is lost. Everybody I see about me

seems bent on teaching his contemporaries, by precept and example,

that what is useful is never wrong. Will nobody undertake to make

them understand how what is right may be useful? No power upon

earth can prevent the increasing equality of conditions from inclining

the human mind to seek out what is useful, or from leading every

member of the community to be wrapped up in himself. It must

therefore be expected that personal interest will become more than

ever the principal, if not the sole, spring of men's actions; but it

remains to be seen how each man will understand his personal

interest. If the members of a community, as they become more equal,

become more ignorant and coarse, it is difficult to foresee to what

pitch of stupid excesses their egotism may lead them; and no one can

foretell into what disgrace and wretchedness they would plunge

themselves, lest they should have to sacrifice something of their own

well-being to the prosperity of their fellow-creatures. I do not think

that the system of interest, as it is professed in America, is, in all its

parts, self-evident; but it contains a great number of truths so evident

that men, if they are but educated, cannot fail to see them. Educate,

then, at any rate; for the age of implicit self-sacrifice and instinctive

virtues is already flitting far away from us, and the time is fast

approaching when freedom, public peace, and social order itself will

not be able to exist without education.

Chapter IX: That The Americans

Apply The Principle Of Interest

Rightly Understood To Religious


If the principle of interest rightly understood had nothing but the

present world in view, it would be very insufficient; for there are

many sacrifices which can only find their recompense in another; and

whatever ingenuity may be put forth to demonstrate the utility of

virtue, it will never be an easy task to make that man live aright who

has no thoughts of dying. It is therefore necessary to ascertain

whether the principle of interest rightly understood is easily

compatible with religious belief. The philosophers who inculcate this

system of morals tell men, that to be happy in this life they must

watch their own passions and steadily control their excess; that

lasting happiness can only be secured by renouncing a thousand

transient gratifications; and that a man must perpetually triumph over

himself, in order to secure his own advantage. The founders of almost

all religions have held the same language. The track they point out to

man is the same, only that the goal is more remote; instead of placing

in this world the reward of the sacrifices they impose, they transport it

to another. Nevertheless I cannot believe that all those who practise

virtue from religious motives are only actuated by the hope of a

recompense. I have known zealous Christians who constantly forgot

themselves, to work with greater ardor for the happiness of their

fellow-men; and I have heard them declare that all they did was only

to earn the blessings of a future state. I cannot but think that they

deceive themselves; I respect them too much to believe them.

Christianity indeed teaches that a man must prefer his neighbor to

himself, in order to gain eternal life; but Christianity also teaches that

men ought to benefit their fellow-creatures for the love of God. A

sublime expression! Man, searching by his intellect into the divine

conception, and seeing that order is the purpose of God, freely

combines to prosecute the great design; and whilst he sacrifices his

personal interests to this consummate order of all created things,

expects no other recompense than the pleasure of contemplating it. I

do not believe that interest is the sole motive of religious men: but I

believe that interest is the principal means which religions themselves

employ to govern men, and I do not question that this way they strike

into the multitude and become popular. It is not easy clearly to

perceive why the principle of interest rightly understood should keep

aloof from religious opinions; and it seems to me more easy to show

why it should draw men to them. Let it be supposed that, in order to

obtain happiness in this world, a man combats his instinct on all

occasions and deliberately calculates every action of his life; that,

instead of yielding blindly to the impetuosity of first desires, he has

learned the art of resisting them, and that he has accustomed himself

to sacrifice without an effort the pleasure of a moment to the lasting

interest of his whole life. If such a man believes in the religion which

he professes, it will cost him but little to submit to the restrictions it

may impose. Reason herself counsels him to obey, and habit has

prepared him to endure them. If he should have conceived any doubts

as to the object of his hopes, still he will not easily allow himself to

be stopped by them; and he will decide that it is wise to risk some of

the advantages of this world, in order to preserve his rights to the

great inheritance promised him in another. "To be mistaken in

believing that the Christian religion is true," says Pascal, "is no great

loss to anyone; but how dreadful to be mistaken in believing it to be


The Americans do not affect a brutal indifference to a future state;

they affect no puerile pride in despising perils which they hope to

escape from. They therefore profess their religion without shame and

without weakness; but there generally is, even in their zeal,

something so indescribably tranquil, methodical, and deliberate, that

it would seem as if the head, far more than the heart, brought them to

the foot of the altar. The Americans not only follow their religion

from interest, but they often place in this world the interest which

makes them follow it. In the Middle Ages the clergy spoke of nothing

but a future state; they hardly cared to prove that a sincere Christian

may be a happy man here below. But the American preachers are

constantly referring to the earth; and it is only with great difficulty

that they can divert their attention from it. To touch their

congregations, they always show them how favorable religious

opinions are to freedom and public tranquillity; and it is often

difficult to ascertain from their discourses whether the principal

object of religion is to procure eternal felicity in the other world, or

prosperity in this.

Chapter X: Of The Taste For

Physical Well-Being In America

In America the passion for physical well-being is not always

exclusive, but it is general; and if all do not feel it in the same

manner, yet it is felt by all. Carefully to satisfy all, even the least

wants of the body, and to provide the little conveniences of life, is

uppermost in every mind. Something of an analogous character is

more and more apparent in Europe. Amongst the causes which

produce these similar consequences in both hemispheres, several are

so connected with my subject as to deserve notice.

When riches are hereditarily fixed in families, there are a great

number of men who enjoy the comforts of life without feeling an

exclusive taste for those comforts. The heart of man is not so much

caught by the undisturbed possession of anything valuable as by the

desire, as yet imperfectly satisfied, of possessing it, and by the

incessant dread of losing it. In aristocratic communities, the wealthy,

never having experienced a condition different from their own,

entertain no fear of changing it; the existence of such conditions

hardly occurs to them. The comforts of life are not to them the end of

life, but simply a way of living; they regard them as existence itself—

enjoyed, but scarcely thought of. As the natural and instinctive taste

which all men feel for being well off is thus satisfied without trouble

and without apprehension, their faculties are turned elsewhere, and

cling to more arduous and more lofty undertakings, which excite and

engross their minds. Hence it is that, in the midst of physical

gratifications, the members of an aristocracy often display a haughty

contempt of these very enjoyments, and exhibit singular powers of

endurance under the privation of them. All the revolutions which

have ever shaken or destroyed aristocracies, have shown how easily

men accustomed to superfluous luxuries can do without the

necessaries of life; whereas men who have toiled to acquire a

competency can hardly live after they have lost it.

If I turn my observation from the upper to the lower classes, I find

analogous effects produced by opposite causes. Amongst a nation

where aristocracy predominates in society, and keeps it stationary, the

people in the end get as much accustomed to poverty as the rich to

their opulence. The latter bestow no anxiety on their physical

comforts, because they enjoy them without an effort; the former do

not think of things which they despair of obtaining, and which they

hardly know enough of to desire them. In communities of this kind,

the imagination of the poor is driven to seek another world; the

miseries of real life inclose it around, but it escapes from their

control, and flies to seek its pleasures far beyond. When, on the

contrary, the distinctions of ranks are confounded together and

privileges are destroyed—when hereditary property is subdivided,

and education and freedom widely diffused, the desire of acquiring

the comforts of the world haunts the imagination of the poor, and the

dread of losing them that of the rich. Many scanty fortunes spring up;

those who possess them have a sufficient share of physical

gratifications to conceive a taste for these pleasures—not enough to

satisfy it. They never procure them without exertion, and they never

indulge in them without apprehension. They are therefore always

straining to pursue or to retain gratifications so delightful, so

imperfect, so fugitive.

If I were to inquire what passion is most natural to men who are

stimulated and circumscribed by the obscurity of their birth or the

mediocrity of their fortune, I could discover none more peculiarly

appropriate to their condition than this love of physical prosperity.

The passion for physical comforts is essentially a passion of the

middle classes: with those classes it grows and spreads, with them it

preponderates. From them it mounts into the higher orders of society,

and descends into the mass of the people. I never met in America

with any citizen so poor as not to cast a glance of hope and envy on

the enjoyments of the rich, or whose imagination did not possess

itself by anticipation of those good things which fate still obstinately

withheld from him. On the other hand, I never perceived amongst the

wealthier inhabitants of the United States that proud contempt of

physical gratifications which is sometimes to be met with even in the

most opulent and dissolute aristocracies. Most of these wealthy

persons were once poor; they have felt the sting of want; they were

long a prey to adverse fortunes; and now that the victory is won, the

passions which accompanied the contest have survived it: their minds

are, as it were, intoxicated by the small enjoyments which they have

pursued for forty years. Not but that in the United States, as

elsewhere, there are a certain number of wealthy persons who, having

come into their property by inheritance, possess, without exertion, an

opulence they have not earned. But even these men are not less

devotedly attached to the pleasures of material life. The love of well-

being is now become the predominant taste of the nation; the great

current of man's passions runs in that channel, and sweeps everything

along in its course.

Chapter XI: Peculiar Effects Of

The Love Of Physical

Gratifications In Democratic Ages

It may be supposed, from what has just been said, that the love of

physical gratifications must constantly urge the Americans to

irregularities in morals, disturb the peace of families, and threaten the

security of society at large. Such is not the case: the passion for

physical gratifications produces in democracies effects very different

from those which it occasions in aristocratic nations. It sometimes

happens that, wearied with public affairs and sated with opulence,

amidst the ruin of religious belief and the decline of the State, the

heart of an aristocracy may by degrees be seduced to the pursuit of

sensual enjoyments only. At other times the power of the monarch or

the weakness of the people, without stripping the nobility of their

fortune, compels them to stand aloof from the administration of

affairs, and whilst the road to mighty enterprise is closed, abandons

them to the inquietude of their own desires; they then fall back

heavily upon themselves, and seek in the pleasures of the body

oblivion of their former greatness. When the members of an

aristocratic body are thus exclusively devoted to the pursuit of

physical gratifications, they commonly concentrate in that direction

all the energy which they derive from their long experience of power.

Such men are not satisfied with the pursuit of comfort; they require

sumptuous depravity and splendid corruption. The worship they pay

the senses is a gorgeous one; and they seem to vie with each other in

the art of degrading their own natures. The stronger, the more

famous, and the more free an aristocracy has been, the more depraved

will it then become; and however brilliant may have been the lustre of

its virtues, I dare predict that they will always be surpassed by the

splendor of its vices.

The taste for physical gratifications leads a democratic people into

no such excesses. The love of well-being is there displayed as a

tenacious, exclusive, universal passion; but its range is confined. To

build enormous palaces, to conquer or to mimic nature, to ransack the

world in order to gratify the passions of a man, is not thought of: but

to add a few roods of land to your field, to plant an orchard, to

enlarge a dwelling, to be always making life more comfortable and

convenient, to avoid trouble, and to satisfy the smallest wants without

effort and almost without cost. These are small objects, but the soul

clings to them; it dwells upon them closely and day by day, till they at

last shut out the rest of the world, and sometimes intervene between

itself and heaven.

This, it may be said, can only be applicable to those members of the

community who are in humble circumstances; wealthier individuals

will display tastes akin to those which belonged to them in

aristocratic ages. I contest the proposition: in point of physical

gratifications, the most opulent members of a democracy will not

display tastes very different from those of the people; whether it be

that, springing from the people, they really share those tastes, or that

they esteem it a duty to submit to them. In democratic society the

sensuality of the public has taken a moderate and tranquil course, to

which all are bound to conform: it is as difficult to depart from the

common rule by one's vices as by one's virtues. Rich men who live

amidst democratic nations are therefore more intent on providing for

their smallest wants than for their extraordinary enjoyments; they

gratify a number of petty desires, without indulging in any great

irregularities of passion: thus they are more apt to become enervated

than debauched. The especial taste which the men of democratic ages

entertain for physical enjoyments is not naturally opposed to the

principles of public order; nay, it often stands in need of order that it

may be gratified. Nor is it adverse to regularity of morals, for good

morals contribute to public tranquillity and are favorable to industry.

It may even be frequently combined with a species of religious

morality: men wish to be as well off as they can in this world, without

foregoing their chance of another. Some physical gratifications

cannot be indulged in without crime; from such they strictly abstain.

The enjoyment of others is sanctioned by religion and morality; to

these the heart, the imagination, and life itself are unreservedly given

up; till, in snatching at these lesser gifts, men lose sight of those more

precious possessions which constitute the glory and the greatness of

mankind. The reproach I address to the principle of equality, is not

that it leads men away in the pursuit of forbidden enjoyments, but that

it absorbs them wholly in quest of those which are allowed. By these

means, a kind of virtuous materialism may ultimately be established

in the world, which would not corrupt, but enervate the soul, and

noiselessly unbend its springs of action.

Chapter XII: Causes Of Fanatical

Enthusiasm In Some Americans

Although the desire of acquiring the good things of this world is the

prevailing passion of the American people, certain momentary

outbreaks occur, when their souls seem suddenly to burst the bonds of

matter by which they are restrained, and to soar impetuously towards

heaven. In all the States of the Union, but especially in the half-

peopled country of the Far West, wandering preachers may be met

with who hawk about the word of God from place to place. Whole

families—old men, women, and children—cross rough passes and

untrodden wilds, coming from a great distance, to join a camp-

meeting, where they totally forget for several days and nights, in

listening to these discourses, the cares of business and even the most

urgent wants of the body. Here and there, in the midst of American

society, you meet with men, full of a fanatical and almost wild

enthusiasm, which hardly exists in Europe. From time to time strange

sects arise, which endeavor to strike out extraordinary paths to eternal

happiness. Religious insanity is very common in the United States.

Nor ought these facts to surprise us. It was not man who implanted

in himself the taste for what is infinite and the love of what is

immortal: those lofty instincts are not the offspring of his capricious

will; their steadfast foundation is fixed in human nature, and they

exist in spite of his efforts. He may cross and distort them—destroy

them he cannot. The soul has wants which must be satisfied; and

whatever pains be taken to divert it from itself, it soon grows weary,

restless, and disquieted amidst the enjoyments of sense. If ever the

faculties of the great majority of mankind were exclusively bent upon

the pursuit of material objects, it might be anticipated that an amazing

reaction would take place in the souls of some men. They would drift

at large in the world of spirits, for fear of remaining shackled by the

close bondage of the body.

It is not then wonderful if, in the midst of a community whose

thoughts tend earthward, a small number of individuals are to be

found who turn their looks to heaven. I should be surprised if

mysticism did not soon make some advance amongst a people solely

engaged in promoting its own worldly welfare. It is said that the

deserts of the Thebaid were peopled by the persecutions of the

emperors and the massacres of the Circus; I should rather say that it

was by the luxuries of Rome and the Epicurean philosophy of Greece.

If their social condition, their present circumstances, and their laws

did not confine the minds of the Americans so closely to the pursuit

of worldly welfare, it is probable that they would display more

reserve and more experience whenever their attention is turned to

things immaterial, and that they would check themselves without

difficulty. But they feel imprisoned within bounds which they will

apparently never be allowed to pass. As soon as they have passed

these bounds, their minds know not where to fix themselves, and they

often rush unrestrained beyond the range of common-sense.

Chapter XIII: Causes Of The

Restless Spirit Of Americans In

The Midst Of Their Prosperity

In certain remote corners of the Old World you may still sometimes

stumble upon a small district which seems to have been forgotten

amidst the general tumult, and to have remained stationary whilst

everything around it was in motion. The inhabitants are for the most

part extremely ignorant and poor; they take no part in the business of

the country, and they are frequently oppressed by the government; yet

their countenances are generally placid, and their spirits light. In

America I saw the freest and most enlightened men, placed in the

happiest circumstances which the world affords: it seemed to me as if

a cloud habitually hung upon their brow, and I thought them serious

and almost sad even in their pleasures. The chief reason of this

contrast is that the former do not think of the ills they endure—the

latter are forever brooding over advantages they do not possess. It is

strange to see with what feverish ardor the Americans pursue their

own welfare; and to watch the vague dread that constantly torments

them lest they should not have chosen the shortest path which may

lead to it. A native of the United States clings to this world's goods as

if he were certain never to die; and he is so hasty in grasping at all

within his reach, that one would suppose he was constantly afraid of

not living long enough to enjoy them. He clutches everything, he

holds nothing fast, but soon loosens his grasp to pursue fresh


In the United States a man builds a house to spend his latter years

in it, and he sells it before the roof is on: he plants a garden, and lets it

just as the trees are coming into bearing: he brings a field into tillage,

and leaves other men to gather the crops: he embraces a profession,

and gives it up: he settles in a place, which he soon afterwards leaves,

to carry his changeable longings elsewhere. If his private affairs leave

him any leisure, he instantly plunges into the vortex of politics; and if

at the end of a year of unremitting labor he finds he has a few days'

vacation, his eager curiosity whirls him over the vast extent of the

United States, and he will travel fifteen hundred miles in a few days,

to shake off his happiness. Death at length overtakes him, but it is

before he is weary of his bootless chase of that complete felicity

which is forever on the wing.

At first sight there is something surprising in this strange unrest of

so many happy men, restless in the midst of abundance. The spectacle

itself is however as old as the world; the novelty is to see a whole

people furnish an exemplification of it. Their taste for physical

gratifications must be regarded as the original source of that secret

inquietude which the actions of the Americans betray, and of that

inconstancy of which they afford fresh examples every day. He who

has set his heart exclusively upon the pursuit of worldly welfare is

always in a hurry, for he has but a limited time at his disposal to reach

it, to grasp it, and to enjoy it. The recollection of the brevity of life is

a constant spur to him. Besides the good things which he possesses,

he every instant fancies a thousand others which death will prevent

him from trying if he does not try them soon. This thought fills him

with anxiety, fear, and regret, and keeps his mind in ceaseless

trepidation, which leads him perpetually to change his plans and his

abode. If in addition to the taste for physical well-being a social

condition be superadded, in which the laws and customs make no

condition permanent, here is a great additional stimulant to this

restlessness of temper. Men will then be seen continually to change

their track, for fear of missing the shortest cut to happiness. It may

readily be conceived that if men, passionately bent upon physical

gratifications, desire eagerly, they are also easily discouraged: as their

ultimate object is to enjoy, the means to reach that object must be

prompt and easy, or the trouble of acquiring the gratification would

be greater than the gratification itself. Their prevailing frame of mind

then is at once ardent and relaxed, violent and enervated. Death is

often less dreaded than perseverance in continuous efforts to one end.

The equality of conditions leads by a still straighter road to several

of the effects which I have here described. When all the privileges of

birth and fortune are abolished, when all professions are accessible to

all, and a man's own energies may place him at the top of any one of

them, an easy and unbounded career seems open to his ambition, and

he will readily persuade himself that he is born to no vulgar destinies.

But this is an erroneous notion, which is corrected by daily

experience. The same equality which allows every citizen to conceive

these lofty hopes, renders all the citizens less able to realize them: it

circumscribes their powers on every side, whilst it gives freer scope

to their desires. Not only are they themselves powerless, but they are

met at every step by immense obstacles, which they did not at first

perceive. They have swept away the privileges of some of their

fellow-creatures which stood in their way, but they have opened the

door to universal competition: the barrier has changed its shape rather

than its position. When men are nearly alike, and all follow the same

track, it is very difficult for any one individual to walk quick and

cleave a way through the dense throng which surrounds and presses

him. This constant strife between the propensities springing from the

equality of conditions and the means it supplies to satisfy them,

harasses and wearies the mind.

It is possible to conceive men arrived at a degree of freedom which

should completely content them; they would then enjoy their

independence without anxiety and without impatience. But men will

never establish any equality with which they can be contented.

Whatever efforts a people may make, they will never succeed in

reducing all the conditions of society to a perfect level; and even if

they unhappily attained that absolute and complete depression, the

inequality of minds would still remain, which, coming directly from

the hand of God, will forever escape the laws of man. However

democratic then the social state and the political constitution of a

people may be, it is certain that every member of the community will

always find out several points about him which command his own

position; and we may foresee that his looks will be doggedly fixed in

that direction. When inequality of conditions is the common law of

society, the most marked inequalities do not strike the eye: when

everything is nearly on the same level, the slightest are marked

enough to hurt it. Hence the desire of equality always becomes more

insatiable in proportion as equality is more complete.

Amongst democratic nations men easily attain a certain equality of

conditions: they can never attain the equality they desire. It

perpetually retires from before them, yet without hiding itself from

their sight, and in retiring draws them on. At every moment they

think they are about to grasp it; it escapes at every moment from their

hold. They are near enough to see its charms, but too far off to enjoy

them; and before they have fully tasted its delights they die. To these

causes must be attributed that strange melancholy which oftentimes

will haunt the inhabitants of democratic countries in the midst of their

abundance, and that disgust at life which sometimes seizes upon them

in the midst of calm and easy circumstances. Complaints are made in

France that the number of suicides increases; in America suicide is

rare, but insanity is said to be more common than anywhere else.

These are all different symptoms of the same disease. The Americans

do not put an end to their lives, however disquieted they may be,

because their religion forbids it; and amongst them materialism may

be said hardly to exist, notwithstanding the general passion for

physical gratification. The will resists—reason frequently gives way.

In democratic ages enjoyments are more intense than in the ages of

aristocracy, and especially the number of those who partake in them

is larger: but, on the other hand, it must be admitted that man's hopes

and his desires are oftener blasted, the soul is more stricken and

perturbed, and care itself more keen.

Chapter XIV: Taste For Physical

Gratifications United In America

To Love Of Freedom And

Attention To Public Affairs

When a democratic state turns to absolute monarchy, the activity

which was before directed to public and to private affairs is all at

once centred upon the latter: the immediate consequence is, for some

time, great physical prosperity; but this impulse soon slackens, and

the amount of productive industry is checked. I know not if a single

trading or manufacturing people can be cited, from the Tyrians down

to the Florentines and the English, who were not a free people also.

There is therefore a close bond and necessary relation between these

two elements—freedom and productive industry. This proposition is

generally true of all nations, but especially of democratic nations. I

have already shown that men who live in ages of equality continually

require to form associations in order to procure the things they covet;

and, on the other hand, I have shown how great political freedom

improves and diffuses the art of association. Freedom, in these ages,

is therefore especially favorable to the production of wealth; nor is it

difficult to perceive that despotism is especially adverse to the same

result. The nature of despotic power in democratic ages is not to be

fierce or cruel, but minute and meddling. Despotism of this kind,

though it does not trample on humanity, is directly opposed to the

genius of commerce and the pursuits of industry.

Thus the men of democratic ages require to be free in order more

readily to procure those physical enjoyments for which they are

always longing. It sometimes happens, however, that the excessive

taste they conceive for these same enjoyments abandons them to the

first master who appears. The passion for worldly welfare then

defeats itself, and, without perceiving it, throws the object of their

desires to a greater distance.

There is, indeed, a most dangerous passage in the history of a

democratic people. When the taste for physical gratifications amongst

such a people has grown more rapidly than their education and their

experience of free institutions, the time will come when men are

carried away, and lose all self-restraint, at the sight of the new

possessions they are about to lay hold upon. In their intense and

exclusive anxiety to make a fortune, they lose sight of the close

connection which exists between the private fortune of each of them

and the prosperity of all. It is not necessary to do violence to such a

people in order to strip them of the rights they enjoy; they themselves

willingly loosen their hold. The discharge of political duties appears

to them to be a troublesome annoyance, which diverts them from

their occupations and business. If they be required to elect

representatives, to support the Government by personal service, to

meet on public business, they have no time—they cannot waste their

precious time in useless engagements: such idle amusements are

unsuited to serious men who are engaged with the more important

interests of life. These people think they are following the principle of

self-interest, but the idea they entertain of that principle is a very rude

one; and the better to look after what they call their business, they

neglect their chief business, which is to remain their own masters.

As the citizens who work do not care to attend to public business,

and as the class which might devote its leisure to these duties has

ceased to exist, the place of the Government is, as it were, unfilled. If

at that critical moment some able and ambitious man grasps the

supreme power, he will find the road to every kind of usurpation open

before him. If he does but attend for some time to the material

prosperity of the country, no more will be demanded of him. Above

all he must insure public tranquillity: men who are possessed by the

passion of physical gratification generally find out that the turmoil of

freedom disturbs their welfare, before they discover how freedom

itself serves to promote it. If the slightest rumor of public commotion

intrudes into the petty pleasures of private life, they are aroused and

alarmed by it. The fear of anarchy perpetually haunts them, and they

are always ready to fling away their freedom at the first disturbance.

I readily admit that public tranquillity is a great good; but at the

same time I cannot forget that all nations have been enslaved by

being kept in good order. Certainly it is not to be inferred that nations

ought to despise public tranquillity; but that state ought not to content

them. A nation which asks nothing of its government but the

maintenance of order is already a slave at heart—the slave of its own

well-being, awaiting but the hand that will bind it. By such a nation

the despotism of faction is not less to be dreaded than the despotism

of an individual. When the bulk of the community is engrossed by

private concerns, the smallest parties need not despair of getting the

upper hand in public affairs. At such times it is not rare to see upon

the great stage of the world, as we see at our theatres, a multitude

represented by a few players, who alone speak in the name of an

absent or inattentive crowd: they alone are in action whilst all are

stationary; they regulate everything by their own caprice; they change

the laws, and tyrannize at will over the manners of the country; and

then men wonder to see into how small a number of weak and

worthless hands a great people may fall.

Hitherto the Americans have fortunately escaped all the perils

which I have just pointed out; and in this respect they are really

deserving of admiration. Perhaps there is no country in the world

where fewer idle men are to be met with than in America, or where

all who work are more eager to promote their own welfare. But if the

passion of the Americans for physical gratifications is vehement, at

least it is not indiscriminating; and reason, though unable to restrain

it, still directs its course. An American attends to his private concerns

as if he were alone in the world, and the next minute he gives himself

up to the common weal as if he had forgotten them. At one time he

seems animated by the most selfish cupidity, at another by the most

lively patriotism. The human heart cannot be thus divided. The

inhabitants of the United States alternately display so strong and so

similar a passion for their own welfare and for their freedom, that it

may be supposed that these passions are united and mingled in some

part of their character. And indeed the Americans believe their

freedom to be the best instrument and surest safeguard of their

welfare: they are attached to the one by the other. They by no means

think that they are not called upon to take a part in the public weal;

they believe, on the contrary, that their chief business is to secure for

themselves a government which will allow them to acquire the things

they covet, and which will not debar them from the peaceful

enjoyment of those possessions which they have acquired.

Chapter XV: That Religious Belief

Sometimes Turns The Thoughts Of

The Americans To Immaterial


In the United States, on the seventh day of every week, the trading

and working life of the nation seems suspended; all noises cease; a

deep tranquillity, say rather the solemn calm of meditation, succeeds

the turmoil of the week, and the soul resumes possession and

contemplation of itself. Upon this day the marts of traffic are

deserted; every member of the community, accompanied by his

children, goes to church, where he listens to strange language which

would seem unsuited to his ear. He is told of the countless evils

caused by pride and covetousness: he is reminded of the necessity of

checking his desires, of the finer pleasures which belong to virtue

alone, and of the true happiness which attends it. On his return home,

he does not turn to the ledgers of his calling, but he opens the book of

Holy Scripture; there he meets with sublime or affecting descriptions

of the greatness and goodness of the Creator, of the infinite

magnificence of the handiwork of God, of the lofty destinies of man,

of his duties, and of his immortal privileges. Thus it is that the

American at times steals an hour from himself; and laying aside for a

while the petty passions which agitate his life, and the ephemeral

interests which engross it, he strays at once into an ideal world, where

all is great, eternal, and pure.

I have endeavored to point out in another part of this work the

causes to which the maintenance of the political institutions of the

Americans is attributable; and religion appeared to be one of the most

prominent amongst them. I am now treating of the Americans in an

individual capacity, and I again observe that religion is not less useful

to each citizen than to the whole State. The Americans show, by their

practice, that they feel the high necessity of imparting morality to

democratic communities by means of religion. What they think of

themselves in this respect is a truth of which every democratic nation

ought to be thoroughly persuaded.

I do not doubt that the social and political constitution of a people

predisposes them to adopt a certain belief and certain tastes, which

afterwards flourish without difficulty amongst them; whilst the same

causes may divert a people from certain opinions and propensities,

without any voluntary effort, and, as it were, without any distinct

consciousness, on their part. The whole art of the legislator is

correctly to discern beforehand these natural inclinations of

communities of men, in order to know whether they should be

assisted, or whether it may not be necessary to check them. For the

duties incumbent on the legislator differ at different times; the goal

towards which the human race ought ever to be tending is alone

stationary; the means of reaching it are perpetually to be varied.

If I had been born in an aristocratic age, in the midst of a nation

where the hereditary wealth of some, and the irremediable penury of

others, should equally divert men from the idea of bettering their

condition, and hold the soul as it were in a state of torpor fixed on the

contemplation of another world, I should then wish that it were

possible for me to rouse that people to a sense of their wants; I should

seek to discover more rapid and more easy means for satisfying the

fresh desires which I might have awakened; and, directing the most

strenuous efforts of the human mind to physical pursuits, I should

endeavor to stimulate it to promote the well-being of man. If it

happened that some men were immoderately incited to the pursuit of

riches, and displayed an excessive liking for physical gratifications, I

should not be alarmed; these peculiar symptoms would soon be

absorbed in the general aspect of the people.

The attention of the legislators of democracies is called to other

cares. Give democratic nations education and freedom, and leave

them alone. They will soon learn to draw from this world all the

benefits which it can afford; they will improve each of the useful arts,

and will day by day render life more comfortable, more convenient,

and more easy. Their social condition naturally urges them in this

direction; I do not fear that they will slacken their course.

But whilst man takes delight in this honest and lawful pursuit of his

wellbeing, it is to be apprehended that he may in the end lose the use

of his sublimest faculties; and that whilst he is busied in improving all

around him, he may at length degrade himself. Here, and here only,

does the peril lie. It should therefore be the unceasing object of the

legislators of democracies, and of all the virtuous and enlightened

men who live there, to raise the souls of their fellow-citizens, and

keep them lifted up towards heaven. It is necessary that all who feel

an interest in the future destinies of democratic society should unite,

and that all should make joint and continual efforts to diffuse the love

of the infinite, a sense of greatness, and a love of pleasures not of

earth. If amongst the opinions of a democratic people any of those

pernicious theories exist which tend to inculcate that all perishes with

the body, let men by whom such theories are professed be marked as

the natural foes of such a people.

The materialists are offensive to me in many respects; their

doctrines I hold to be pernicious, and I am disgusted at their

arrogance. If their system could be of any utility to man, it would

seem to be by giving him a modest opinion of himself. But these

reasoners show that it is not so; and when they think they have said

enough to establish that they are brutes, they show themselves as

proud as if they had demonstrated that they are gods. Materialism is,

amongst all nations, a dangerous disease of the human mind; but it is

more especially to be dreaded amongst a democratic people, because

it readily amalgamates with that vice which is most familiar to the

heart under such circumstances. Democracy encourages a taste for

physical gratification: this taste, if it become excessive, soon disposes

men to believe that all is matter only; and materialism, in turn, hurries

them back with mad impatience to these same delights: such is the

fatal circle within which democratic nations are driven round. It were

well that they should see the danger and hold back.

Most religions are only general, simple, and practical means of

teaching men the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. That is the

greatest benefit which a democratic people derives, from its belief,

and hence belief is more necessary to such a people than to all others.

When therefore any religion has struck its roots deep into a

democracy, beware lest you disturb them; but rather watch it

carefully, as the most precious bequest of aristocratic ages. Seek not

to supersede the old religious opinions of men by new ones; lest in

the passage from one faith to another, the soul being left for a while

stripped of all belief, the love of physical gratifications should grow

upon it and fill it wholly.

The doctrine of metempsychosis is assuredly not more rational than

that of materialism; nevertheless if it were absolutely necessary that a

democracy should choose one of the two, I should not hesitate to

decide that the community would run less risk of being brutalized by

believing that the soul of man will pass into the carcass of a hog, than

by believing that the soul of man is nothing at all. The belief in a

supersensual and immortal principle, united for a time to matter, is so

indispensable to man's greatness, that its effects are striking even

when it is not united to the doctrine of future reward and punishment;

and when it holds no more than that after death the divine principle

contained in man is absorbed in the Deity, or transferred to animate

the frame of some other creature. Men holding so imperfect a belief

will still consider the body as the secondary and inferior portion of

their nature, and they will despise it even whilst they yield to its

influence; whereas they have a natural esteem and secret admiration

for the immaterial part of man, even though they sometimes refuse to

submit to its dominion. That is enough to give a lofty cast to their

opinions and their tastes, and to bid them tend with no interested

motive, and as it were by impulse, to pure feelings and elevated


It is not certain that Socrates and his followers had very fixed

opinions as to what would befall man hereafter; but the sole point of

belief on which they were determined—that the soul has nothing in

common with the body, and survives it—was enough to give the

Platonic philosophy that sublime aspiration by which it is

distinguished. It is clear from the works of Plato, that many

philosophical writers, his predecessors or contemporaries, professed

materialism. These writers have not reached us, or have reached us in

mere fragments. The same thing has happened in almost all ages; the

greater part of the most famous minds in literature adhere to the

doctrines of a supersensual philosophy. The instinct and the taste of

the human race maintain those doctrines; they save them oftentimes

in spite of men themselves, and raise the names of their defenders

above the tide of time. It must not then be supposed that at any period

or under any political condition, the passion for physical

gratifications, and the opinions which are superinduced by that

passion, can ever content a whole people. The heart of man is of a

larger mould: it can at once comprise a taste for the possessions of

earth and the love of those of heaven: at times it may seem to cling

devotedly to the one, but it will never be long without thinking of the


If it be easy to see that it is more particularly important in

democratic ages that spiritual opinions should prevail, it is not easy to

say by what means those who govern democratic nations may make

them predominate. I am no believer in the prosperity, any more than

in the durability, of official philosophies; and as to state religions, I

have always held, that if they be sometimes of momentary service to

the interests of political power, they always, sooner or later, become

fatal to the Church. Nor do I think with those who assert, that to raise

religion in the eyes of the people, and to make them do honor to her

spiritual doctrines, it is desirable indirectly to give her ministers a

political influence which the laws deny them. I am so much alive to

the almost inevitable dangers which beset religious belief whenever

the clergy take part in public affairs, and I am so convinced that

Christianity must be maintained at any cost in the bosom of modern

democracies, that I had rather shut up the priesthood within the

sanctuary than allow them to step beyond it.

What means then remain in the hands of constituted authorities to

bring men back to spiritual opinions, or to hold them fast to the

religion by which those opinions are suggested? My answer will do

me harm in the eyes of politicians. I believe that the sole effectual

means which governments can employ in order to have the doctrine

of the immortality of the soul duly respected, is ever to act as if they

believed in it themselves; and I think that it is only by scrupulous

conformity to religious morality in great affairs that they can hope to

teach the community at large to know, to love, and to observe it in the

lesser concerns of life.

Chapter XVI: That Excessive Care

Of Worldly Welfare May Impair

That Welfare

There is a closer tie than is commonly supposed between the

improvement of the soul and the amelioration of what belongs to the

body. Man may leave these two things apart, and consider each of

them alternately; but he cannot sever them entirely without at last

losing sight of one and of the other. The beasts have the same senses

as ourselves, and very nearly the same appetites. We have no sensual

passions which are not common to our race and theirs, and which are

not to be found, at least in the germ, in a dog as well as in a man.

Whence is it then that the animals can only provide for their first and

lowest wants, whereas we can infinitely vary and endlessly increase

our enjoyments?

We are superior to the beasts in this, that we use our souls to find

out those material benefits to which they are only led by instinct. In

man, the angel teaches the brute the art of contenting its desires. It is

because man is capable of rising above the things of the body, and of

contemning life itself, of which the beasts have not the least notion,

that he can multiply these same things of the body to a degree which

inferior races are equally unable to conceive. Whatever elevates,

enlarges, and expands the soul, renders it more capable of succeeding

in those very undertakings which concern it not. Whatever, on the

other hand, enervates or lowers it, weakens it for all purposes, the

chiefest, as well as the least, and threatens to render it almost equally

impotent for the one and for the other. Hence the soul must remain

great and strong, though it were only to devote its strength and

greatness from time to time to the service of the body. If men were

ever to content themselves with material objects, it is probable that

they would lose by degrees the art of producing them; and they would

enjoy them in the end, like the brutes, without discernment and

without improvement.

Chapter XVII: That In Times

Marked By Equality Of Conditions

And Sceptical Opinions, It Is

Important To Remove To A

Distance The Objects Of Human


In the ages of faith the final end of life is placed beyond life. The

men of those ages therefore naturally, and in a manner involuntarily,

accustom themselves to fix their gaze for a long course of years on

some immovable object, towards which they are constantly tending;

and they learn by insensible degrees to repress a multitude of petty

passing desires, in order to be the better able to content that great and

lasting desire which possesses them. When these same men engage in

the affairs of this world, the same habits may be traced in their

conduct. They are apt to set up some general and certain aim and end

to their actions here below, towards which all their efforts are

directed: they do not turn from day to day to chase some novel object

of desire, but they have settled designs which they are never weary of

pursuing. This explains why religious nations have so often achieved

such lasting results: for whilst they were thinking only of the other

world, they had found out the great secret of success in this. Religions

give men a general habit of conducting themselves with a view to

futurity: in this respect they are not less useful to happiness in this life

than to felicity hereafter; and this is one of their chief political


But in proportion as the light of faith grows dim, the range of man's

sight is circumscribed, as if the end and aim of human actions

appeared every day to be more within his reach. When men have once

allowed themselves to think no more of what is to befall them after

life, they readily lapse into that complete and brutal indifference to

futurity, which is but too conformable to some propensities of

mankind. As soon as they have lost the habit of placing their chief

hopes upon remote events, they naturally seek to gratify without

delay their smallest desires; and no sooner do they despair of living

forever, than they are disposed to act as if they were to exist but for a

single day. In sceptical ages it is always therefore to be feared that

men may perpetually give way to their daily casual desires; and that,

wholly renouncing whatever cannot be acquired without protracted

effort, they may establish nothing great, permanent, and calm.

If the social condition of a people, under these circumstances,

becomes democratic, the danger which I here point out is thereby

increased. When everyone is constantly striving to change his

position—when an immense field for competition is thrown open to

all—when wealth is amassed or dissipated in the shortest possible

space of time amidst the turmoil of democracy, visions of sudden and

easy fortunes—of great possessions easily won and lost—of chance,

under all its forms—haunt the mind. The instability of society itself

fosters the natural instability of man's desires. In the midst of these

perpetual fluctuations of his lot, the present grows upon his mind,

until it conceals futurity from his sight, and his looks go no further

than the morrow.

In those countries in which unhappily irreligion and democracy

coexist, the most important duty of philosophers and of those in

power is to be always striving to place the objects of human actions

far beyond man's immediate range. Circumscribed by the character of

his country and his age, the moralist must learn to vindicate his

principles in that position. He must constantly endeavor to show his

contemporaries, that, even in the midst of the perpetual commotion

around them, it is easier than they think to conceive and to execute

protracted undertakings. He must teach them that, although the aspect

of mankind may have changed, the methods by which men may

provide for their prosperity in this world are still the same; and that

amongst democratic nations, as well as elsewhere, it is only by

resisting a thousand petty selfish passions of the hour that the general

and unquenchable passion for happiness can be satisfied.

The task of those in power is not less clearly marked out. At all

times it is important that those who govern nations should act with a

view to the future: but this is even more necessary in democratic and

sceptical ages than in any others. By acting thus, the leading men of

democracies not only make public affairs prosperous, but they also

teach private individuals, by their example, the art of managing

private concerns. Above all they must strive as much as possible to

banish chance from the sphere of politics. The sudden and undeserved

promotion of a courtier produces only a transient impression in an

aristocratic country, because the aggregate institutions and opinions

of the nation habitually compel men to advance slowly in tracks

which they cannot get out of. But nothing is more pernicious than

similar instances of favor exhibited to the eyes of a democratic

people: they give the last impulse to the public mind in a direction

where everything hurries it onwards. At times of scepticism and

equality more especially, the favor of the people or of the prince,

which chance may confer or chance withhold, ought never to stand in

lieu of attainments or services. It is desirable that every advancement

should there appear to be the result of some effort; so that no

greatness should be of too easy acquirement, and that ambition should

be obliged to fix its gaze long upon an object before it is gratified.

Governments must apply themselves to restore to men that love of the

future with which religion and the state of society no longer inspire

them; and, without saying so, they must practically teach the

community day by day that wealth, fame, and power are the rewards

of labor—that great success stands at the utmost range of long

desires, and that nothing lasting is obtained but what is obtained by

toil. When men have accustomed themselves to foresee from afar

what is likely to befall in the world and to feed upon hopes, they can

hardly confine their minds within the precise circumference of life,

and they are ready to break the boundary and cast their looks beyond.

I do not doubt that, by training the members of a community to think

of their future condition in this world, they would be gradually and

unconsciously brought nearer to religious convictions. Thus the

means which allow men, up to a certain point, to go without religion,

are perhaps after all the only means we still possess for bringing

mankind back by a long and roundabout path to a state of faith.

Chapter XVIII: That Amongst The

Americans All Honest Callings Are


Amongst a democratic people, where there is no hereditary wealth,

every man works to earn a living, or has worked, or is born of parents

who have worked. The notion of labor is therefore presented to the

mind on every side as the necessary, natural, and honest condition of

human existence. Not only is labor not dishonorable amongst such a

people, but it is held in honor: the prejudice is not against it, but in its

favor. In the United States a wealthy man thinks that he owes it to

public opinion to devote his leisure to some kind of industrial or

commercial pursuit, or to public business. He would think himself in

bad repute if he employed his life solely in living. It is for the purpose

of escaping this obligation to work, that so many rich Americans

come to Europe, where they find some scattered remains of

aristocratic society, amongst which idleness is still held in honor.

Equality of conditions not only ennobles the notion of labor in

men's estimation, but it raises the notion of labor as a source of profit.

In aristocracies it is not exactly labor that is despised, but labor with a

view to profit. Labor is honorific in itself, when it is undertaken at the

sole bidding of ambition or of virtue. Yet in aristocratic society it

constantly happens that he who works for honor is not insensible to

the attractions of profit. But these two desires only intermingle in the

innermost depths of his soul: he carefully hides from every eye the

point at which they join; he would fain conceal it from himself. In

aristocratic countries there are few public officers who do not affect

to serve their country without interested motives. Their salary is an

incident of which they think but little, and of which they always

affect not to think at all. Thus the notion of profit is kept distinct from

that of labor; however they may be united in point of fact, they are

not thought of together.

In democratic communities these two notions are, on the contrary,

always palpably united. As the desire of well-being is universal—as

fortunes are slender or fluctuating—as everyone wants either to

increase his own resources, or to provide fresh ones for his progeny,

men clearly see that it is profit which, if not wholly, at least partially,

leads them to work. Even those who are principally actuated by the

love of fame are necessarily made familiar with the thought that they

are not exclusively actuated by that motive; and they discover that the

desire of getting a living is mingled in their minds with the desire of

making life illustrious.

As soon as, on the one hand, labor is held by the whole community

to be an honorable necessity of man's condition, and, on the other, as

soon as labor is always ostensibly performed, wholly or in part, for

the purpose of earning remuneration, the immense interval which

separated different callings in aristocratic societies disappears. If all

are not alike, all at least have one feature in common. No profession

exists in which men do not work for money; and the remuneration

which is common to them all gives them all an air of resemblance.

This serves to explain the opinions which the Americans entertain

with respect to different callings. In America no one is degraded

because he works, for everyone about him works also; nor is anyone

humiliated by the notion of receiving pay, for the President of the

United States also works for pay. He is paid for commanding, other

men for obeying orders. In the United States professions are more or

less laborious, more or less profitable; but they are never either high

or low: every honest calling is honorable.

Chapter XIX: That Almost All The

Americans Follow Industrial


Agriculture is, perhaps, of all the useful arts that which improves

most slowly amongst democratic nations. Frequently, indeed, it

would seem to be stationary, because other arts are making rapid

strides towards perfection. On the other hand, almost all the tastes and

habits which the equality of condition engenders naturally lead men

to commercial and industrial occupations.

Suppose an active, enlightened, and free man, enjoying a

competency, but full of desires: he is too poor to live in idleness; he is

rich enough to feel himself protected from the immediate fear of

want, and he thinks how he can better his condition. This man has

conceived a taste for physical gratifications, which thousands of his

fellow-men indulge in around him; he has himself begun to enjoy

these pleasures, and he is eager to increase his means of satisfying

these tastes more completely. But life is slipping away, time is

urgent—to what is he to turn? The cultivation of the ground promises

an almost certain result to his exertions, but a slow one; men are not

enriched by it without patience and toil. Agriculture is therefore only

suited to those who have already large, superfluous wealth, or to

those whose penury bids them only seek a bare subsistence. The

choice of such a man as we have supposed is soon made; he sells his

plot of ground, leaves his dwelling, and embarks in some hazardous

but lucrative calling. Democratic communities abound in men of this

kind; and in proportion as the equality of conditions becomes greater,

their multitude increases. Thus democracy not only swells the number

of workingmen, but it leads men to prefer one kind of labor to

another; and whilst it diverts them from agriculture, it encourages

their taste for commerce and manufactures. *a

a [ It has often been remarked that manufacturers

and mercantile men are inordinately addicted to

physical gratifications, and this has been attributed

to commerce and manufactures; but that is, I

apprehend, to take the effect for the cause. The

taste for physical gratifications is not imparted to

men by commerce or manufactures, but it is rather

this taste which leads men to embark in commerce

and manufactures, as a means by which they hope

to satisfy themselves more promptly and more

completely. If commerce and manufactures

increase the desire of well-being, it is because

every passion gathers strength in proportion as it

is cultivated, and is increased by all the efforts

made to satiate it. All the causes which make the

love of worldly welfare predominate in the heart

of man are favorable to the growth of commerce

and manufactures. Equality of conditions is one of

those causes; it encourages trade, not directly by

giving men a taste for business, but indirectly by

strengthening and expanding in their minds a taste

for prosperity.]

This spirit may be observed even amongst the richest members of

the community. In democratic countries, however opulent a man is

supposed to be, he is almost always discontented with his fortune,

because he finds that he is less rich than his father was, and he fears

that his sons will be less rich than himself. Most rich men in

democracies are therefore constantly haunted by the desire of

obtaining wealth, and they naturally turn their attention to trade and

manufactures, which appear to offer the readiest and most powerful

means of success. In this respect they share the instincts of the poor,

without feeling the same necessities; say rather, they feel the most

imperious of all necessities, that of not sinking in the world.

In aristocracies the rich are at the same time those who govern. The

attention which they unceasingly devote to important public affairs

diverts them from the lesser cares which trade and manufactures

demand. If the will of an individual happens, nevertheless, to turn his

attention to business, the will of the body to which he belongs will

immediately debar him from pursuing it; for however men may

declaim against the rule of numbers, they cannot wholly escape their

sway; and even amongst those aristocratic bodies which most

obstinately refuse to acknowledge the rights of the majority of the

nation, a private majority is formed which governs the rest. *b

b [ Some aristocracies, however, have devoted

themselves eagerly to commerce, and have

cultivated manufactures with success. The history

of the world might furnish several conspicuous

examples. But, generally speaking, it may be

affirmed that the aristocratic principle is not

favorable to the growth of trade and manufactures.

Moneyed aristocracies are the only exception to

the rule. Amongst such aristocracies there are

hardly any desires which do not require wealth to

satisfy them; the love of riches becomes, so to

speak, the high road of human passions, which is

crossed by or connected with all lesser tracks. The

love of money and the thirst for that distinction

which attaches to power, are then so closely

intermixed in the same souls, that it becomes

difficult to discover whether men grow covetous

from ambition, or whether they are ambitious

from covetousness. This is the case in England,

where men seek to get rich in order to arrive at

distinction, and seek distinctions as a

manifestation of their wealth. The mind is then

seized by both ends, and hurried into trade and

manufactures, which are the shortest roads that

lead to opulence.

This, however, strikes me as an exceptional and transitory

circumstance. When wealth is become the only symbol of aristocracy,

it is very difficult for the wealthy to maintain sole possession of

political power, to the exclusion of all other men. The aristocracy of

birth and pure democracy are at the two extremes of the social and

political state of nations: between them moneyed aristocracy finds its

place. The latter approximates to the aristocracy of birth by

conferring great privileges on a small number of persons; it so far

belongs to the democratic element, that these privileges may be

successively acquired by all. It frequently forms a natural transition

between these two conditions of society, and it is difficult to say

whether it closes the reign of aristocratic institutions, or whether it

already opens the new era of democracy.]

In democratic countries, where money does not lead those who

possess it to political power, but often removes them from it, the rich

do not know how to spend their leisure. They are driven into active

life by the inquietude and the greatness of their desires, by the extent

of their resources, and by the taste for what is extraordinary, which is

almost always felt by those who rise, by whatsoever means, above the

crowd. Trade is the only road open to them. In democracies nothing is

more great or more brilliant than commerce: it attracts the attention of

the public, and fills the imagination of the multitude; all energetic

passions are directed towards it. Neither their own prejudices, nor

those of anybody else, can prevent the rich from devoting themselves

to it. The wealthy members of democracies never form a body which

has manners and regulations of its own; the opinions peculiar to their

class do not restrain them, and the common opinions of their country

urge them on. Moreover, as all the large fortunes which are to be met

with in a democratic community are of commercial growth, many

generations must succeed each other before their possessors can have

entirely laid aside their habits of business.

Circumscribed within the narrow space which politics leave them,

rich men in democracies eagerly embark in commercial enterprise:

there they can extend and employ their natural advantages; and

indeed it is even by the boldness and the magnitude of their industrial

speculations that we may measure the slight esteem in which

productive industry would have been held by them, if they had been

born amidst an aristocracy.

A similar observation is likewise applicable to all men living in

democracies, whether they be poor or rich. Those who live in the

midst of democratic fluctuations have always before their eyes the

phantom of chance; and they end by liking all undertakings in which

chance plays a part. They are therefore all led to engage in commerce,

not only for the sake of the profit it holds out to them, but for the love

of the constant excitement occasioned by that pursuit.

The United States of America have only been emancipated for half

a century [in 1840] from the state of colonial dependence in which

they stood to Great Britain; the number of large fortunes there is

small, and capital is still scarce. Yet no people in the world has made

such rapid progress in trade and manufactures as the Americans: they

constitute at the present day the second maritime nation in the world;

and although their manufactures have to struggle with almost

insurmountable natural impediments, they are not prevented from

making great and daily advances. In the United States the greatest

undertakings and speculations are executed without difficulty,

because the whole population is engaged in productive industry, and

because the poorest as well as the most opulent members of the

commonwealth are ready to combine their efforts for these purposes.

The consequence is, that a stranger is constantly amazed by the

immense public works executed by a nation which contains, so to

speak, no rich men. The Americans arrived but as yesterday on the

territory which they inhabit, and they have already changed the whole

order of nature for their own advantage. They have joined the Hudson

to the Mississippi, and made the Atlantic Ocean communicate with

the Gulf of Mexico, across a continent of more than five hundred

leagues in extent which separates the two seas. The longest railroads

which have been constructed up to the present time are in America.

But what most astonishes me in the United States, is not so much the

marvellous grandeur of some undertakings, as the innumerable

multitude of small ones. Almost all the farmers of the United States

combine some trade with agriculture; most of them make agriculture

itself a trade. It seldom happens that an American farmer settles for

good upon the land which he occupies: especially in the districts of

the Far West he brings land into tillage in order to sell it again, and

not to farm it: he builds a farmhouse on the speculation that, as the

state of the country will soon be changed by the increase of

population, a good price will be gotten for it. Every year a swarm of

the inhabitants of the North arrive in the Southern States, and settle in

the parts where the cotton plant and the sugar-cane grow. These men

cultivate the soil in order to make it produce in a few years enough to

enrich them; and they already look forward to the time when they

may return home to enjoy the competency thus acquired. Thus the

Americans carry their business-like qualities into agriculture; and

their trading passions are displayed in that as in their other pursuits.

The Americans make immense progress in productive industry,

because they all devote themselves to it at once; and for this same

reason they are exposed to very unexpected and formidable

embarrassments. As they are all engaged in commerce, their

commercial affairs are affected by such various and complex causes

that it is impossible to foresee what difficulties may arise. As they are

all more or less engaged in productive industry, at the least shock

given to business all private fortunes are put in jeopardy at the same

time, and the State is shaken. I believe that the return of these

commercial panics is an endemic disease of the democratic nations of

our age. It may be rendered less dangerous, but it cannot be cured;

because it does not originate in accidental circumstances, but in the

temperament of these nations.

Chapter XX: That Aristocracy

May Be Engendered By


I have shown that democracy is favorable to the growth of

manufactures, and that it increases without limit the numbers of the

manufacturing classes: we shall now see by what side road

manufacturers may possibly in their turn bring men back to

aristocracy. It is acknowledged that when a workman is engaged

every day upon the same detail, the whole commodity is produced

with greater ease, promptitude, and economy. It is likewise

acknowledged that the cost of the production of manufactured goods

is diminished by the extent of the establishment in which they are

made, and by the amount of capital employed or of credit. These

truths had long been imperfectly discerned, but in our time they have

been demonstrated. They have been already applied to many very

important kinds of manufactures, and the humblest will gradually be

governed by them. I know of nothing in politics which deserves to fix

the attention of the legislator more closely than these two new axioms

of the science of manufactures.

When a workman is unceasingly and exclusively engaged in the

fabrication of one thing, he ultimately does his work with singular

dexterity; but at the same time he loses the general faculty of

applying his mind to the direction of the work. He every day becomes

more adroit and less industrious; so that it may be said of him, that in

proportion as the workman improves the man is degraded. What can

be expected of a man who has spent twenty years of his life in

making heads for pins? and to what can that mighty human

intelligence, which has so often stirred the world, be applied in him,

except it be to investigate the best method of making pins' heads?

When a workman has spent a considerable portion of his existence in

this manner, his thoughts are forever set upon the object of his daily

toil; his body has contracted certain fixed habits, which it can never

shake off: in a word, he no longer belongs to himself, but to the

calling which he has chosen. It is in vain that laws and manners have

been at the pains to level all barriers round such a man, and to open to

him on every side a thousand different paths to fortune; a theory of

manufactures more powerful than manners and laws binds him to a

craft, and frequently to a spot, which he cannot leave: it assigns to

him a certain place in society, beyond which he cannot go: in the

midst of universal movement it has rendered him stationary.

In proportion as the principle of the division of labor is more

extensively applied, the workman becomes more weak, more narrow-

minded, and more dependent. The art advances, the artisan recedes.

On the other hand, in proportion as it becomes more manifest that the

productions of manufactures are by so much the cheaper and better as

the manufacture is larger and the amount of capital employed more

considerable, wealthy and educated men come forward to embark in

manufactures which were heretofore abandoned to poor or ignorant

handicraftsmen. The magnitude of the efforts required, and the

importance of the results to be obtained, attract them. Thus at the very

time at which the science of manufactures lowers the class of

workmen, it raises the class of masters.

Whereas the workman concentrates his faculties more and more

upon the study of a single detail, the master surveys a more extensive

whole, and the mind of the latter is enlarged in proportion as that of

the former is narrowed. In a short time the one will require nothing

but physical strength without intelligence; the other stands in need of

science, and almost of genius, to insure success. This man resembles

more and more the administrator of a vast empire—that man, a brute.

The master and the workman have then here no similarity, and their

differences increase every day. They are only connected as the two

rings at the extremities of a long chain. Each of them fills the station

which is made for him, and out of which he does not get: the one is

continually, closely, and necessarily dependent upon the other, and

seems as much born to obey as that other is to command. What is this

but aristocracy?

As the conditions of men constituting the nation become more and

more equal, the demand for manufactured commodities becomes

more general and more extensive; and the cheapness which places

these objects within the reach of slender fortunes becomes a great

element of success. Hence there are every day more men of great

opulence and education who devote their wealth and knowledge to

manufactures; and who seek, by opening large establishments, and by

a strict division of labor, to meet the fresh demands which are made

on all sides. Thus, in proportion as the mass of the nation turns to

democracy, that particular class which is engaged in manufactures

becomes more aristocratic. Men grow more alike in the one—more

different in the other; and inequality increases in the less numerous

class in the same ratio in which it decreases in the community. Hence

it would appear, on searching to the bottom, that aristocracy should

naturally spring out of the bosom of democracy.

But this kind of aristocracy by no means resembles those kinds

which preceded it. It will be observed at once, that as it applies

exclusively to manufactures and to some manufacturing callings, it is

a monstrous exception in the general aspect of society. The small

aristocratic societies which are formed by some manufacturers in the

midst of the immense democracy of our age, contain, like the great

aristocratic societies of former ages, some men who are very opulent,

and a multitude who are wretchedly poor. The poor have few means

of escaping from their condition and becoming rich; but the rich are

constantly becoming poor, or they give up business when they have

realized a fortune. Thus the elements of which the class of the poor is

composed are fixed; but the elements of which the class of the rich is

composed are not so. To say the truth, though there are rich men, the

class of rich men does not exist; for these rich individuals have no

feelings or purposes in common, no mutual traditions or mutual

hopes; there are therefore members, but no body.

Not only are the rich not compactly united amongst themselves, but

there is no real bond between them and the poor. Their relative

position is not a permanent one; they are constantly drawn together or

separated by their interests. The workman is generally dependent on

the master, but not on any particular master; these two men meet in

the factory, but know not each other elsewhere; and whilst they come

into contact on one point, they stand very wide apart on all others.

The manufacturer asks nothing of the workman but his labor; the

workman expects nothing from him but his wages. The one contracts

no obligation to protect, nor the other to defend; and they are not

permanently connected either by habit or by duty. The aristocracy

created by business rarely settles in the midst of the manufacturing

population which it directs; the object is not to govern that

population, but to use it. An aristocracy thus constituted can have no

great hold upon those whom it employs; and even if it succeed in

retaining them at one moment, they escape the next; it knows not how

to will, and it cannot act. The territorial aristocracy of former ages

was either bound by law, or thought itself bound by usage, to come to

the relief of its serving-men, and to succor their distresses. But the

manufacturing aristocracy of our age first impoverishes and debases

the men who serve it, and then abandons them to be supported by the

charity of the public. This is a natural consequence of what has been

said before. Between the workmen and the master there are frequent

relations, but no real partnership.

I am of opinion, upon the whole, that the manufacturing aristocracy

which is growing up under our eyes is one of the harshest which ever

existed in the world; but at the same time it is one of the most

confined and least dangerous. Nevertheless the friends of democracy

should keep their eyes anxiously fixed in this direction; for if ever a

permanent inequality of conditions and aristocracy again penetrate

into the world, it may be predicted that this is the channel by which

they will enter.

Book Three: Influence Of

Democracy On Manners, Properly

So Called

Chapter I: That Manners Are

Softened As Social Conditions

Become More Equal

We perceive that for several ages social conditions have tended to

equality, and we discover that in the course of the same period the

manners of society have been softened. Are these two things merely

contemporaneous, or does any secret link exist between them, so that

the one cannot go on without making the other advance? Several

causes may concur to render the manners of a people less rude; but,

of all these causes, the most powerful appears to me to be the equality

of conditions. Equality of conditions and growing civility in manners

are, then, in my eyes, not only contemporaneous occurrences, but

correlative facts. When the fabulists seek to interest us in the actions

of beasts, they invest them with human notions and passions; the

poets who sing of spirits and angels do the same; there is no

wretchedness so deep, nor any happiness so pure, as to fill the human

mind and touch the heart, unless we are ourselves held up to our own

eyes under other features.

This is strictly applicable to the subject upon which we are at

present engaged. When all men are irrevocably marshalled in an

aristocratic community, according to their professions, their property,

and their birth, the members of each class, considering themselves as

children of the same family, cherish a constant and lively sympathy

towards each other, which can never be felt in an equal degree by the

citizens of a democracy. But the same feeling does not exist between

the several classes towards each other. Amongst an aristocratic

people each caste has its own opinions, feelings, rights, manners, and

modes of living. Thus the men of whom each caste is composed do

not resemble the mass of their fellow-citizens; they do not think or

feel in the same manner, and they scarcely believe that they belong to

the same human race. They cannot, therefore, thoroughly understand

what others feel, nor judge of others by themselves. Yet they are

sometimes eager to lend each other mutual aid; but this is not

contrary to my previous observation. These aristocratic institutions,

which made the beings of one and the same race so different,

nevertheless bound them to each other by close political ties.

Although the serf had no natural interest in the fate of nobles, he did

not the less think himself obliged to devote his person to the service

of that noble who happened to be his lord; and although the noble

held himself to be of a different nature from that of his serfs, he

nevertheless held that his duty and his honor constrained him to

defend, at the risk of his own life, those who dwelt upon his domains.

It is evident that these mutual obligations did not originate in the

law of nature, but in the law of society; and that the claim of social

duty was more stringent than that of mere humanity. These services

were not supposed to be due from man to man, but to the vassal or to

the lord. Feudal institutions awakened a lively sympathy for the

sufferings of certain men, but none at all for the miseries of mankind.

They infused generosity rather than mildness into the manners of the

time, and although they prompted men to great acts of self-devotion,

they engendered no real sympathies; for real sympathies can only

exist between those who are alike; and in aristocratic ages men

acknowledge none but the members of their own caste to be like


When the chroniclers of the Middle Ages, who all belonged to the

aristocracy by birth or education, relate the tragical end of a noble,

their grief flows apace; whereas they tell you at a breath, and without

wincing, of massacres and tortures inflicted on the common sort of

people. Not that these writers felt habitual hatred or systematic

disdain for the people; war between the several classes of the

community was not yet declared. They were impelled by an instinct

rather than by a passion; as they had formed no clear notion of a poor

man's sufferings, they cared but little for his fate. The same feelings

animated the lower orders whenever the feudal tie was broken. The

same ages which witnessed so many heroic acts of self-devotion on

the part of vassals for their lords, were stained with atrocious

barbarities, exercised from time to time by the lower classes on the

higher. It must not be supposed that this mutual insensibility arose

solely from the absence of public order and education; for traces of it

are to be found in the following centuries, which became tranquil and

enlightened whilst they remained aristocratic. In 1675 the lower

classes in Brittany revolted at the imposition of a new tax. These

disturbances were put down with unexampled atrocity. Observe the

language in which Madame de Sevigne, a witness of these horrors,

relates them to her daughter:—

"Aux Rochers, 30 Octobre, 1675.

"Mon Dieu, ma fille, que votre lettre d'Aix est plaisante! Au moins

relisez vos lettres avant que de les envoyer; laissez-vous surpendre a

leur agrement, et consolez-vous par ce plaisir de la peine que vous

avez d'en tant ecrire. Vous avez donc baise toute la Provence? il n'y

aurait pas satisfaction a baiser toute la Bretagne, a moins qu'on

n'aimat a sentir le vin. . . . Voulez-vous savoir des nouvelles de

Rennes? On a fait une taxe de cent mille ecus sur le bourgeois; et si

on ne trouve point cette somme dans vingt-quatre heures, elle sera

doublee et exigible par les soldats. On a chasse et banni toute une

grand rue, et defendu de les recueillir sous peine de la vie; de sorte

qu'on voyait tous ces miserables, veillards, femmes accouchees,

enfans, errer en pleurs au sortir de cette ville sans savoir ou aller. On

roua avant-hier un violon, qui avait commence la danse et la pillerie

du papier timbre; il a ete ecartele apres sa mort, et ses quatre quartiers

exposes aux quatre coins de la ville. On a pris soixante bourgeois, et

on commence demain les punitions. Cette province est un bel

exemple pour les autres, et surtout de respecter les gouverneurs et les

gouvernantes, et de ne point jeter de pierres dans leur jardin." *a

a [ To feel the point of this joke the reader should

recollect that Madame de Grignan was

Gouvernante de Provence.] "Madame de Tarente

etait hier dans ces bois par un temps enchante: il

n'est question ni de chambre ni de collation; elle

entre par la barriere et s'en retourne de meme. . . ."

In another letter she adds:—

"Vous me parlez bien plaisamment de nos miseres; nous ne

sommes plus si roues; un en huit jours, pour entretenir la justice. Il est

vrai que la penderie me parait maintenant un refraichissement. J'ai

une tout autre idee de la justice, depuis que je suis en ce pays. Vos

galeriens me paraissent une societe d'honnetes gens qui se sont retires

du monde pour mener une vie douce."

It would be a mistake to suppose that Madame de Sevigne, who

wrote these lines, was a selfish or cruel person; she was passionately

attached to her children, and very ready to sympathize in the sorrows

of her friends; nay, her letters show that she treated her vassals and

servants with kindness and indulgence. But Madame de Sevigne had

no clear notion of suffering in anyone who was not a person of


In our time the harshest man writing to the most insensible person

of his acquaintance would not venture wantonly to indulge in the

cruel jocularity which I have quoted; and even if his own manners

allowed him to do so, the manners of society at large would forbid it.

Whence does this arise? Have we more sensibility than our

forefathers? I know not that we have; but I am sure that our

insensibility is extended to a far greater range of objects. When all the

ranks of a community are nearly equal, as all men think and feel in

nearly the same manner, each of them may judge in a moment of the

sensations of all the others; he casts a rapid glance upon himself, and

that is enough. There is no wretchedness into which he cannot readily

enter, and a secret instinct reveals to him its extent. It signifies not

that strangers or foes be the sufferers; imagination puts him in their

place; something like a personal feeling is mingled with his pity, and

makes himself suffer whilst the body of his fellow-creature is in

torture. In democratic ages men rarely sacrifice themselves for one

another; but they display general compassion for the members of the

human race. They inflict no useless ills; and they are happy to relieve

the griefs of others, when they can do so without much hurting

themselves; they are not disinterested, but they are humane.

Although the Americans have, in a manner, reduced egotism to a

social and philosophical theory, they are nevertheless extremely open

to compassion. In no country is criminal justice administered with

more mildness than in the United States. Whilst the English seem

disposed carefully to retain the bloody traces of the dark ages in their

penal legislation, the Americans have almost expunged capital

punishment from their codes. North America is, I think, the only one

country upon earth in which the life of no one citizen has been taken

for a political offence in the course of the last fifty years. The

circumstance which conclusively shows that this singular mildness of

the Americans arises chiefly from their social condition, is the

manner in which they treat their slaves. Perhaps there is not, upon the

whole, a single European colony in the New World in which the

physical condition of the blacks is less severe than in the United

States; yet the slaves still endure horrid sufferings there, and are

constantly exposed to barbarous punishments. It is easy to perceive

that the lot of these unhappy beings inspires their masters with but

little compassion, and that they look upon slavery, not only as an

institution which is profitable to them, but as an evil which does not

affect them. Thus the same man who is full of humanity towards his

fellow-creatures when they are at the same time his equals, becomes

insensible to their afflictions as soon as that equality ceases. His

mildness should therefore be attributed to the equality of conditions,

rather than to civilization and education.

What I have here remarked of individuals is, to a certain extent,

applicable to nations. When each nation has its distinct opinions,

belief, laws, and customs, it looks upon itself as the whole of

mankind, and is moved by no sorrows but its own. Should war break

out between two nations animated by this feeling, it is sure to be

waged with great cruelty. At the time of their highest culture, the

Romans slaughtered the generals of their enemies, after having

dragged them in triumph behind a car; and they flung their prisoners

to the beasts of the Circus for the amusement of the people. Cicero,

who declaimed so vehemently at the notion of crucifying a Roman

citizen, had not a word to say against these horrible abuses of victory.

It is evident that in his eyes a barbarian did not belong to the same

human race as a Roman. On the contrary, in proportion as nations

become more like each other, they become reciprocally more

compassionate, and the law of nations is mitigated.

Chapter II: That Democracy

Renders The Habitual Intercourse

Of The Americans Simple And


Democracy does not attach men strongly to each other; but it places

their habitual intercourse upon an easier footing. If two Englishmen

chance to meet at the Antipodes, where they are surrounded by

strangers whose language and manners are almost unknown to them,

they will first stare at each other with much curiosity and a kind of

secret uneasiness; they will then turn away, or, if one accosts the

other, they will take care only to converse with a constrained and

absent air upon very unimportant subjects. Yet there is no enmity

between these men; they have never seen each other before, and each

believes the other to be a respectable person. Why then should they

stand so cautiously apart? We must go back to England to learn the


When it is birth alone, independent of wealth, which classes men in

society, everyone knows exactly what his own position is upon the

social scale; he does not seek to rise, he does not fear to sink. In a

community thus organized, men of different castes communicate very

little with each other; but if accident brings them together, they are

ready to converse without hoping or fearing to lose their own

position. Their intercourse is not upon a footing of equality, but it is

not constrained. When moneyed aristocracy succeeds to aristocracy

of birth, the case is altered. The privileges of some are still extremely

great, but the possibility of acquiring those privileges is open to all:

whence it follows that those who possess them are constantly haunted

by the apprehension of losing them, or of other men's sharing them;

those who do not yet enjoy them long to possess them at any cost, or,

if they fail to appear at least to possess them—which is not

impossible. As the social importance of men is no longer ostensibly

and permanently fixed by blood, and is infinitely varied by wealth,

ranks still exist, but it is not easy clearly to distinguish at a glance

those who respectively belong to them. Secret hostilities then arise in

the community; one set of men endeavor by innumerable artifices to

penetrate, or to appear to penetrate, amongst those who are above

them; another set are constantly in arms against these usurpers of

their rights; or rather the same individual does both at once, and

whilst he seeks to raise himself into a higher circle, he is always on

the defensive against the intrusion of those below him.

Such is the condition of England at the present time; and I am of

opinion that the peculiarity before adverted to is principally to be

attributed to this cause. As aristocratic pride is still extremely great

amongst the English, and as the limits of aristocracy are ill-defined,

everybody lives in constant dread lest advantage should be taken of

his familiarity. Unable to judge at once of the social position of those

he meets, an Englishman prudently avoids all contact with them. Men

are afraid lest some slight service rendered should draw them into an

unsuitable acquaintance; they dread civilities, and they avoid the

obtrusive gratitude of a stranger quite as much as his hatred. Many

people attribute these singular anti-social propensities, and the

reserved and taciturn bearing of the English, to purely physical

causes. I may admit that there is something of it in their race, but

much more of it is attributable to their social condition, as is proved

by the contrast of the Americans.

In America, where the privileges of birth never existed, and where

riches confer no peculiar rights on their possessors, men unacquainted

with each other are very ready to frequent the same places, and find

neither peril nor advantage in the free interchange of their thoughts. If

they meet by accident, they neither seek nor avoid intercourse; their

manner is therefore natural, frank, and open: it is easy to see that they

hardly expect or apprehend anything from each other, and that they

do not care to display, any more than to conceal, their position in the

world. If their demeanor is often cold and serious, it is never haughty

or constrained; and if they do not converse, it is because they are not

in a humor to talk, not because they think it their interest to be silent.

In a foreign country two Americans are at once friends, simply

because they are Americans. They are repulsed by no prejudice; they

are attracted by their common country. For two Englishmen the same

blood is not enough; they must be brought together by the same rank.

The Americans remark this unsociable mood of the English as much

as the French do, and they are not less astonished by it. Yet the

Americans are connected with England by their origin, their religion,

their language, and partially by their manners; they only differ in their

social condition. It may therefore be inferred that the reserve of the

English proceeds from the constitution of their country much more

than from that of its inhabitants.

Chapter III: Why The Americans

Show So Little Sensitiveness In

Their Own Country, And Are So

Sensitive In Europe

The temper of the Americans is vindictive, like that of all serious

and reflecting nations. They hardly ever forget an offence, but it is

not easy to offend them; and their resentment is as slow to kindle as it

is to abate. In aristocratic communities where a small number of

persons manage everything, the outward intercourse of men is subject

to settled conventional rules. Everyone then thinks he knows exactly

what marks of respect or of condescension he ought to display, and

none are presumed to be ignorant of the science of etiquette. These

usages of the first class in society afterwards serve as a model to all

the others; besides which each of the latter lays down a code of its

own, to which all its members are bound to conform. Thus the rules

of politeness form a complex system of legislation, which it is

difficult to be perfectly master of, but from which it is dangerous for

anyone to deviate; so that men are constantly exposed involuntarily to

inflict or to receive bitter affronts. But as the distinctions of rank are

obliterated, as men differing in education and in birth meet and

mingle in the same places of resort, it is almost impossible to agree

upon the rules of good breeding. As its laws are uncertain, to disobey

them is not a crime, even in the eyes of those who know what they

are; men attach more importance to intentions than to forms, and they

grow less civil, but at the same time less quarrelsome. There are

many little attentions which an American does not care about; he

thinks they are not due to him, or he presumes that they are not

known to be due: he therefore either does not perceive a rudeness or

he forgives it; his manners become less courteous, and his character

more plain and masculine.

The mutual indulgence which the Americans display, and the

manly confidence with which they treat each other, also result from

another deeper and more general cause, which I have already

adverted to in the preceding chapter. In the United States the

distinctions of rank in civil society are slight, in political society they

are null; an American, therefore, does not think himself bound to pay

particular attentions to any of his fellow-citizens, nor does he require

such attentions from them towards himself. As he does not see that it

is his interest eagerly to seek the company of any of his countrymen,

he is slow to fancy that his own company is declined: despising no

one on account of his station, he does not imagine that anyone can

despise him for that cause; and until he has clearly perceived an

insult, he does not suppose that an affront was intended. The social

condition of the Americans naturally accustoms them not to take

offence in small matters; and, on the other hand, the democratic

freedom which they enjoy transfuses this same mildness of temper

into the character of the nation. The political institutions of the United

States constantly bring citizens of all ranks into contact, and compel

them to pursue great undertakings in concert. People thus engaged

have scarcely time to attend to the details of etiquette, and they are

besides too strongly interested in living harmoniously for them to

stick at such things. They therefore soon acquire a habit of

considering the feelings and opinions of those whom they meet more

than their manners, and they do not allow themselves to be annoyed

by trifles.

I have often remarked in the United States that it is not easy to

make a man understand that his presence may be dispensed with;

hints will not always suffice to shake him off. I contradict an

American at every word he says, to show him that his conversation

bores me; he instantly labors with fresh pertinacity to convince me; I

preserve a dogged silence, and he thinks I am meditating deeply on

the truths which he is uttering; at last I rush from his company, and he

supposes that some urgent business hurries me elsewhere. This man

will never understand that he wearies me to extinction unless I tell

him so: and the only way to get rid of him is to make him my enemy

for life.

It appears surprising at first sight that the same man transported to

Europe suddenly becomes so sensitive and captious, that I often find

it as difficult to avoid offending him here as it was to put him out of

countenance. These two opposite effects proceed from the same

cause. Democratic institutions generally give men a lofty notion of

their country and of themselves. An American leaves his country with

a heart swollen with pride; on arriving in Europe he at once finds out

that we are not so engrossed by the United States and the great people

which inhabits them as he had supposed, and this begins to annoy

him. He has been informed that the conditions of society are not equal

in our part of the globe, and he observes that among the nations of

Europe the traces of rank are not wholly obliterated; that wealth and

birth still retain some indeterminate privileges, which force

themselves upon his notice whilst they elude definition. He is

therefore profoundly ignorant of the place which he ought to occupy

in this half-ruined scale of classes, which are sufficiently distinct to

hate and despise each other, yet sufficiently alike for him to be

always confounding them. He is afraid of ranging himself too high—

still more is he afraid of being ranged too low; this twofold peril

keeps his mind constantly on the stretch, and embarrasses all he says

and does. He learns from tradition that in Europe ceremonial

observances were infinitely varied according to different ranks; this

recollection of former times completes his perplexity, and he is the

more afraid of not obtaining those marks of respect which are due to

him, as he does not exactly know in what they consist. He is like a

man surrounded by traps: society is not a recreation for him, but a

serious toil: he weighs your least actions, interrogates your looks, and

scrutinizes all you say, lest there should be some hidden allusion to

affront him. I doubt whether there was ever a provincial man of

quality so punctilious in breeding as he is: he endeavors to attend to

the slightest rules of etiquette, and does not allow one of them to be

waived towards himself: he is full of scruples and at the same time of

pretensions; he wishes to do enough, but fears to do too much; and as

he does not very well know the limits of the one or of the other, he

keeps up a haughty and embarrassed air of reserve.

But this is not all: here is yet another double of the human heart. An

American is forever talking of the admirable equality which prevails

in the United States; aloud he makes it the boast of his country, but in

secret he deplores it for himself; and he aspires to show that, for his

part, he is an exception to the general state of things which he vaunts.

There is hardly an American to be met with who does not claim some

remote kindred with the first founders of the colonies; and as for the

scions of the noble families of England, America seemed to me to be

covered with them. When an opulent American arrives in Europe, his

first care is to surround himself with all the luxuries of wealth: he is

so afraid of being taken for the plain citizen of a democracy, that he

adopts a hundred distorted ways of bringing some new instance of his

wealth before you every day. His house will be in the most

fashionable part of the town: he will always be surrounded by a host

of servants. I have heard an American complain, that in the best

houses of Paris the society was rather mixed; the taste which prevails

there was not pure enough for him; and he ventured to hint that, in his

opinion, there was a want of elegance of manner; he could not

accustom himself to see wit concealed under such unpretending


These contrasts ought not to surprise us. If the vestiges of former

aristocratic distinctions were not so completely effaced in the United

States, the Americans would be less simple and less tolerant in their

own country—they would require less, and be less fond of borrowed

manners in ours.

Chapter IV: Consequences Of The

Three Preceding Chapters

When men feel a natural compassion for their mutual sufferings—

when they are brought together by easy and frequent intercourse, and

no sensitive feelings keep them asunder—it may readily be supposed

that they will lend assistance to one another whenever it is needed.

When an American asks for the co-operation of his fellow-citizens it

is seldom refused, and I have often seen it afforded spontaneously

and with great goodwill. If an accident happens on the highway,

everybody hastens to help the sufferer; if some great and sudden

calamity befalls a family, the purses of a thousand strangers are at

once willingly opened, and small but numerous donations pour in to

relieve their distress. It often happens amongst the most civilized

nations of the globe, that a poor wretch is as friendless in the midst of

a crowd as the savage in his wilds: this is hardly ever the case in the

United States. The Americans, who are always cold and often coarse

in their manners, seldom show insensibility; and if they do not proffer

services eagerly, yet they do not refuse to render them.

All this is not in contradiction to what I have said before on the

subject of individualism. The two things are so far from combating

each other, that I can see how they agree. Equality of conditions,

whilst it makes men feel their independence, shows them their own

weakness: they are free, but exposed to a thousand accidents; and

experience soon teaches them that, although they do not habitually

require the assistance of others, a time almost always comes when

they cannot do without it. We constantly see in Europe that men of

the same profession are ever ready to assist each other; they are all

exposed to the same ills, and that is enough to teach them to seek

mutual preservatives, however hard-hearted and selfish they may

otherwise be. When one of them falls into danger, from which the

others may save him by a slight transient sacrifice or a sudden effort,

they do not fail to make the attempt. Not that they are deeply

interested in his fate; for if, by chance, their exertions are unavailing,

they immediately forget the object of them, and return to their own

business; but a sort of tacit and almost involuntary agreement has

been passed between them, by which each one owes to the others a

temporary support which he may claim for himself in turn. Extend to

a people the remark here applied to a class, and you will understand

my meaning. A similar covenant exists in fact between all the citizens

of a democracy: they all feel themselves subject to the same weakness

and the same dangers; and their interest, as well as their sympathy,

makes it a rule with them to lend each other mutual assistance when

required. The more equal social conditions become, the more do men

display this reciprocal disposition to oblige each other. In

democracies no great benefits are conferred, but good offices are

constantly rendered: a man seldom displays self-devotion, but all men

are ready to be of service to one another.

Chapter V: How Democracy

Affects the Relation Of Masters

And Servants

An American who had travelled for a long time in Europe once said

to me, "The English treat their servants with a stiffness and

imperiousness of manner which surprise us; but on the other hand the

French sometimes treat their attendants with a degree of familiarity or

of politeness which we cannot conceive. It looks as if they were

afraid to give orders: the posture of the superior and the inferior is ill-

maintained." The remark was a just one, and I have often made it

myself. I have always considered England as the country in the world

where, in our time, the bond of domestic service is drawn most

tightly, and France as the country where it is most relaxed. Nowhere

have I seen masters stand so high or so low as in these two countries.

Between these two extremes the Americans are to be placed. Such is

the fact as it appears upon the surface of things: to discover the causes

of that fact, it is necessary to search the matter thoroughly.

No communities have ever yet existed in which social conditions

have been so equal that there were neither rich nor poor, and

consequently neither masters nor servants. Democracy does not

prevent the existence of these two classes, but it changes their

dispositions and modifies their mutual relations. Amongst aristocratic

nations servants form a distinct class, not more variously composed

than that of masters. A settled order is soon established; in the former

as well as in the latter class a scale is formed, with numerous

distinctions or marked gradations of rank, and generations succeed

each other thus without any change of position. These two

communities are superposed one above the other, always distinct, but

regulated by analogous principles. This aristocratic constitution does

not exert a less powerful influence on the notions and manners of

servants than on those of masters; and, although the effects are

different, the same cause may easily be traced. Both classes constitute

small communities in the heart of the nation, and certain permanent

notions of right and wrong are ultimately engendered amongst them.

The different acts of human life are viewed by one particular and

unchanging light. In the society of servants, as in that of masters, men

exercise a great influence over each other: they acknowledge settled

rules, and in the absence of law they are guided by a sort of public

opinion: their habits are settled, and their conduct is placed under a

certain control.

These men, whose destiny is to obey, certainly do not understand

fame, virtue, honesty, and honor in the same manner as their masters;

but they have a pride, a virtue, and an honesty pertaining to their

condition; and they have a notion, if I may use the expression, of a

sort of servile honor. *a Because a class is mean, it must not be

supposed that all who belong to it are mean-hearted; to think so

would be a great mistake. However lowly it may be, he who is

foremost there, and who has no notion of quitting it, occupies an

aristocratic position which inspires him with lofty feelings, pride, and

self-respect, that fit him for the higher virtues and actions above the

common. Amongst aristocratic nations it was by no means rare to

find men of noble and vigorous minds in the service of the great, who

felt not the servitude they bore, and who submitted to the will of their

masters without any fear of their displeasure. But this was hardly ever

the case amongst the inferior ranks of domestic servants. It may be

imagined that he who occupies the lowest stage of the order of

menials stands very low indeed. The French created a word on

purpose to designate the servants of the aristocracy—they called them

lackeys. This word "lackey" served as the strongest expression, when

all others were exhausted, to designate human meanness. Under the

old French monarchy, to denote by a single expression a low-spirited

contemptible fellow, it was usual to say that he had the "soul of a

lackey"; the term was enough to convey all that was intended.

[Footnote a: If the principal opinions by which men are guided are

examined closely and in detail, the analogy appears still more

striking, and one is surprised to find amongst them, just as much as

amongst the haughtiest scions of a feudal race, pride of birth, respect

for their ancestry and their descendants, disdain of their inferiors, a

dread of contact, a taste for etiquette, precedents, and antiquity.]

The permanent inequality of conditions not only gives servants

certain peculiar virtues and vices, but it places them in a peculiar

relation with respect to their masters. Amongst aristocratic nations the

poor man is familiarized from his childhood with the notion of being

commanded: to whichever side he turns his eyes the graduated

structure of society and the aspect of obedience meet his view. Hence

in those countries the master readily obtains prompt, complete,

respectful, and easy obedience from his servants, because they revere

in him not only their master but the class of masters. He weighs down

their will by the whole weight of the aristocracy. He orders their

actions—to a certain extent he even directs their thoughts. In

aristocracies the master often exercises, even without being aware of

it, an amazing sway over the opinions, the habits, and the manners of

those who obey him, and his influence extends even further than his


In aristocratic communities there are not only hereditary families of

servants as well as of masters, but the same families of servants

adhere for several generations to the same families of masters (like

two parallel lines which neither meet nor separate); and this

considerably modifies the mutual relations of these two classes of

persons. Thus, although in aristocratic society the master and servant

have no natural resemblance—although, on the contrary, they are

placed at an immense distance on the scale of human beings by their

fortune, education, and opinions—yet time ultimately binds them

together. They are connected by a long series of common

reminiscences, and however different they may be, they grow alike;

whilst in democracies, where they are naturally almost alike, they

always remain strangers to each other. Amongst an aristocratic people

the master gets to look upon his servants as an inferior and secondary

part of himself, and he often takes an interest in their lot by a last

stretch of egotism.

Servants, on their part, are not averse to regard themselves in the

same light; and they sometimes identify themselves with the person

of the master, so that they become an appendage to him in their own

eyes as well as in his. In aristocracies a servant fills a subordinate

position which he cannot get out of; above him is another man,

holding a superior rank which he cannot lose. On one side are

obscurity, poverty, obedience for life; on the other, and also for life,

fame, wealth, and command. The two conditions are always distinct

and always in propinquity; the tie that connects them is as lasting as

they are themselves. In this predicament the servant ultimately

detaches his notion of interest from his own person; he deserts

himself, as it were, or rather he transports himself into the character

of his master, and thus assumes an imaginary personality. He

complacently invests himself with the wealth of those who command

him; he shares their fame, exalts himself by their rank, and feeds his

mind with borrowed greatness, to which he attaches more importance

than those who fully and really possess it. There is something

touching, and at the same time ridiculous, in this strange confusion of

two different states of being. These passions of masters, when they

pass into the souls of menials, assume the natural dimensions of the

place they occupy—they are contracted and lowered. What was pride

in the former becomes puerile vanity and paltry ostentation in the

latter. The servants of a great man are commonly most punctilious as

to the marks of respect due to him, and they attach more importance

to his slightest privileges than he does himself. In France a few of

these old servants of the aristocracy are still to be met with here and

there; they have survived their race, which will soon disappear with

them altogether. In the United States I never saw anyone at all like

them. The Americans are not only unacquainted with the kind of man,

but it is hardly possible to make them understand that such ever

existed. It is scarcely less difficult for them to conceive it, than for us

to form a correct notion of what a slave was amongst the Romans, or

a serf in the Middle Ages. All these men were in fact, though in

different degrees, results of the same cause: they are all retiring from

our sight, and disappearing in the obscurity of the past, together with

the social condition to which they owed their origin.

Equality of conditions turns servants and masters into new beings,

and places them in new relative positions. When social conditions are

nearly equal, men are constantly changing their situations in life:

there is still a class of menials and a class of masters, but these classes

are not always composed of the same individuals, still less of the

same families; and those who command are not more secure of

perpetuity than those who obey. As servants do not form a separate

people, they have no habits, prejudices, or manners peculiar to

themselves; they are not remarkable for any particular turn of mind or

moods of feeling. They know no vices or virtues of their condition,

but they partake of the education, the opinions, the feelings, the

virtues, and the vices of their contemporaries; and they are honest

men or scoundrels in the same way as their masters are. The

conditions of servants are not less equal than those of masters. As no

marked ranks or fixed subordination are to be found amongst them,

they will not display either the meanness or the greatness which

characterizes the aristocracy of menials as well as all other

aristocracies. I never saw a man in the United States who reminded

me of that class of confidential servants of which we still retain a

reminiscence in Europe, neither did I ever meet with such a thing as a

lackey: all traces of the one and of the other have disappeared.

In democracies servants are not only equal amongst themselves, but

it may be said that they are in some sort the equals of their masters.

This requires explanation in order to be rightly understood. At any

moment a servant may become a master, and he aspires to rise to that

condition: the servant is therefore not a different man from the

master. Why then has the former a right to command, and what

compels the latter to obey?—the free and temporary consent of both

their wills. Neither of them is by nature inferior to the other; they

only become so for a time by covenant. Within the terms of this

covenant, the one is a servant, the other a master; beyond it they are

two citizens of the commonwealth—two men. I beg the reader

particularly to observe that this is not only the notion which servants

themselves entertain of their own condition; domestic service is

looked upon by masters in the same light; and the precise limits of

authority and obedience are as clearly settled in the mind of the one

as in that of the other.

When the greater part of the community have long attained a

condition nearly alike, and when equality is an old and acknowledged

fact, the public mind, which is never affected by exceptions, assigns

certain general limits to the value of man, above or below which no

man can long remain placed. It is in vain that wealth and poverty,

authority and obedience, accidentally interpose great distances

between two men; public opinion, founded upon the usual order of

things, draws them to a common level, and creates a species of

imaginary equality between them, in spite of the real inequality of

their conditions. This all-powerful opinion penetrates at length even

into the hearts of those whose interest might arm them to resist it; it

affects their judgment whilst it subdues their will. In their inmost

convictions the master and the servant no longer perceive any deep-

seated difference between them, and they neither hope nor fear to

meet with any such at any time. They are therefore neither subject to

disdain nor to anger, and they discern in each other neither humility

nor pride. The master holds the contract of service to be the only

source of his power, and the servant regards it as the only cause of his

obedience. They do not quarrel about their reciprocal situations, but

each knows his own and keeps it.

In the French army the common soldier is taken from nearly the

same classes as the officer, and may hold the same commissions; out

of the ranks he considers himself entirely equal to his military

superiors, and in point of fact he is so; but when under arms he does

not hesitate to obey, and his obedience is not the less prompt, precise,

and ready, for being voluntary and defined. This example may give a

notion of what takes place between masters and servants in

democratic communities.

It would be preposterous to suppose that those warm and deep-

seated affections, which are sometimes kindled in the domestic

service of aristocracy, will ever spring up between these two men, or

that they will exhibit strong instances of self-sacrifice. In aristocracies

masters and servants live apart, and frequently their only intercourse

is through a third person; yet they commonly stand firmly by one

another. In democratic countries the master and the servant are close

together; they are in daily personal contact, but their minds do not

intermingle; they have common occupations, hardly ever common

interests. Amongst such a people the servant always considers

himself as a sojourner in the dwelling of his masters. He knew

nothing of their forefathers—he will see nothing of their

descendants—he has nothing lasting to expect from their hand. Why

then should he confound his life with theirs, and whence should so

strange a surrender of himself proceed? The reciprocal position of the

two men is changed—their mutual relations must be so too.

I would fain illustrate all these reflections by the example of the

Americans; but for this purpose the distinctions of persons and places

must be accurately traced. In the South of the Union, slavery exists;

all that I have just said is consequently inapplicable there. In the

North, the majority of servants are either freedmen or the children of

freedmen; these persons occupy a contested position in the public

estimation; by the laws they are brought up to the level of their

masters—by the manners of the country they are obstinately detruded

from it. They do not themselves clearly know their proper place, and

they are almost always either insolent or craven. But in the Northern

States, especially in New England, there are a certain number of

whites, who agree, for wages, to yield a temporary obedience to the

will of their fellow-citizens. I have heard that these servants

commonly perform the duties of their situation with punctuality and

intelligence; and that without thinking themselves naturally inferior to

the person who orders them, they submit without reluctance to obey

him. They appear to me to carry into service some of those manly

habits which independence and equality engender. Having once

selected a hard way of life, they do not seek to escape from it by

indirect means; and they have sufficient respect for themselves, not to

refuse to their master that obedience which they have freely

promised. On their part, masters require nothing of their servants but

the faithful and rigorous performance of the covenant: they do not ask

for marks of respect, they do not claim their love or devoted

attachment; it is enough that, as servants, they are exact and honest. It

would not then be true to assert that, in democratic society, the

relation of servants and masters is disorganized: it is organized on

another footing; the rule is different, but there is a rule.

It is not my purpose to inquire whether the new state of things

which I have just described is inferior to that which preceded it, or

simply different. Enough for me that it is fixed and determined: for

what is most important to meet with among men is not any given

ordering, but order. But what shall I say of those sad and troubled

times at which equality is established in the midst of the tumult of

revolution—when democracy, after having been introduced into the

state of society, still struggles with difficulty against the prejudices

and manners of the country? The laws, and partially public opinion,

already declare that no natural or permanent inferiority exists between

the servant and the master. But this new belief has not yet reached the

innermost convictions of the latter, or rather his heart rejects it; in the

secret persuasion of his mind the master thinks that he belongs to a

peculiar and superior race; he dares not say so, but he shudders whilst

he allows himself to be dragged to the same level. His authority over

his servants becomes timid and at the same time harsh: he has already

ceased to entertain for them the feelings of patronizing kindness

which long uncontested power always engenders, and he is surprised

that, being changed himself, his servant changes also. He wants his

attendants to form regular and permanent habits, in a condition of

domestic service which is only temporary: he requires that they

should appear contented with and proud of a servile condition, which

they will one day shake off—that they should sacrifice themselves to

a man who can neither protect nor ruin them—and in short that they

should contract an indissoluble engagement to a being like

themselves, and one who will last no longer than they will.

Amongst aristocratic nations it often happens that the condition of

domestic service does not degrade the character of those who enter

upon it, because they neither know nor imagine any other; and the

amazing inequality which is manifest between them and their master

appears to be the necessary and unavoidable consequence of some

hidden law of Providence. In democracies the condition of domestic

service does not degrade the character of those who enter upon it,

because it is freely chosen, and adopted for a time only; because it is

not stigmatized by public opinion, and creates no permanent

inequality between the servant and the master. But whilst the

transition from one social condition to another is going on, there is

almost always a time when men's minds fluctuate between the

aristocratic notion of subjection and the democratic notion of

obedience. Obedience then loses its moral importance in the eyes of

him who obeys; he no longer considers it as a species of divine

obligation, and he does not yet view it under its purely human aspect;

it has to him no character of sanctity or of justice, and he submits to it

as to a degrading but profitable condition. At that moment a confused

and imperfect phantom of equality haunts the minds of servants; they

do not at once perceive whether the equality to which they are

entitled is to be found within or without the pale of domestic service;

and they rebel in their hearts against a subordination to which they

have subjected themselves, and from which they derive actual profit.

They consent to serve, and they blush to obey; they like the

advantages of service, but not the master; or rather, they are not sure

that they ought not themselves to be masters, and they are inclined to

consider him who orders them as an unjust usurper of their own

rights. Then it is that the dwelling of every citizen offers a spectacle

somewhat analogous to the gloomy aspect of political society. A

secret and intestine warfare is going on there between powers, ever

rivals and suspicious of one another: the master is ill-natured and

weak, the servant ill-natured and intractable; the one constantly

attempts to evade by unfair restrictions his obligation to protect and to

remunerate—the other his obligation to obey. The reins of domestic

government dangle between them, to be snatched at by one or the

other. The lines which divide authority from oppression, liberty from

license, and right from might, are to their eyes so jumbled together

and confused, that no one knows exactly what he is, or what he may

be, or what he ought to be. Such a condition is not democracy, but


Chapter VI: That Democratic

Institutions And Manners Tend To

Raise Rents And Shorten The

Terms Of Leases

What has been said of servants and masters is applicable, to a

certain extent, to landowners and farming tenants; but this subject

deserves to be considered by itself. In America there are, properly

speaking, no tenant farmers; every man owns the ground he tills. It

must be admitted that democratic laws tend greatly to increase the

number of landowners, and to diminish that of farming tenants. Yet

what takes place in the United States is much less attributable to the

institutions of the country than to the country itself. In America land

is cheap, and anyone may easily become a landowner; its returns are

small, and its produce cannot well be divided between a landowner

and a farmer. America therefore stands alone in this as well as in

many other respects, and it would be a mistake to take it as an


I believe that in democratic as well as in aristocratic countries there

will be landowners and tenants, but the connection existing between

them will be of a different kind. In aristocracies the hire of a farm is

paid to the landlord, not only in rent, but in respect, regard, and duty;

in democracies the whole is paid in cash. When estates are divided

and passed from hand to hand, and the permanent connection which

existed between families and the soil is dissolved, the landowner and

the tenant are only casually brought into contact. They meet for a

moment to settle the conditions of the agreement, and then lose sight

of each other; they are two strangers brought together by a common

interest, and who keenly talk over a matter of business, the sole object

of which is to make money.

In proportion as property is subdivided and wealth distributed over

the country, the community is filled with people whose former

opulence is declining, and with others whose fortunes are of recent

growth and whose wants increase more rapidly than their resources.

For all such persons the smallest pecuniary profit is a matter of

importance, and none of them feel disposed to waive any of their

claims, or to lose any portion of their income. As ranks are

intermingled, and as very large as well as very scanty fortunes

become more rare, every day brings the social condition of the

landowner nearer to that of the farmer; the one has not naturally any

uncontested superiority over the other; between two men who are

equal, and not at ease in their circumstances, the contract of hire is

exclusively an affair of money. A man whose estate extends over a

whole district, and who owns a hundred farms, is well aware of the

importance of gaining at the same time the affections of some

thousands of men; this object appears to call for his exertions, and to

attain it he will readily make considerable sacrifices. But he who

owns a hundred acres is insensible to similar considerations, and he

cares but little to win the private regard of his tenant.

An aristocracy does not expire like a man in a single day; the

aristocratic principle is slowly undermined in men's opinion, before it

is attacked in their laws. Long before open war is declared against it,

the tie which had hitherto united the higher classes to the lower may

be seen to be gradually relaxed. Indifference and contempt are

betrayed by one class, jealousy and hatred by the others; the

intercourse between rich and poor becomes less frequent and less

kind, and rents are raised. This is not the consequence of a democratic

revolution, but its certain harbinger; for an aristocracy which has lost

the affections of the people, once and forever, is like a tree dead at the

root, which is the more easily torn up by the winds the higher its

branches have spread.

In the course of the last fifty years the rents of farms have

amazingly increased, not only in France but throughout the greater

part of Europe. The remarkable improvements which have taken

place in agriculture and manufactures within the same period do not

suffice in my opinion to explain this fact; recourse must be had to

another cause more powerful and more concealed. I believe that cause

is to be found in the democratic institutions which several European

nations have adopted, and in the democratic passions which more or

less agitate all the rest. I have frequently heard great English

landowners congratulate themselves that, at the present day, they

derive a much larger income from their estates than their fathers did.

They have perhaps good reasons to be glad; but most assuredly they

know not what they are glad of. They think they are making a clear

gain, when it is in reality only an exchange; their influence is what

they are parting with for cash; and what they gain in money will ere

long be lost in power.

There is yet another sign by which it is easy to know that a great

democratic revolution is going on or approaching. In the Middle Ages

almost all lands were leased for lives, or for very long terms; the

domestic economy of that period shows that leases for ninety-nine

years were more frequent then than leases for twelve years are now.

Men then believed that families were immortal; men's conditions

seemed settled forever, and the whole of society appeared to be so

fixed, that it was not supposed that anything would ever be stirred or

shaken in its structure. In ages of equality, the human mind takes a

different bent; the prevailing notion is that nothing abides, and man is

haunted by the thought of mutability. Under this impression the

landowner and the tenant himself are instinctively averse to

protracted terms of obligation; they are afraid of being tied up to-

morrow by the contract which benefits them today. They have vague

anticipations of some sudden and unforeseen change in their

conditions; they mistrust themselves; they fear lest their taste should

change, and lest they should lament that they cannot rid themselves of

what they coveted; nor are such fears unfounded, for in democratic

ages that which is most fluctuating amidst the fluctuation of all

around is the heart of man.

Chapter VII: Influence Of

Democracy On Wages

Most of the remarks which I have already made in speaking of

servants and masters, may be applied to masters and workmen. As the

gradations of the social scale come to be less observed, whilst the

great sink the humble rise, and as poverty as well as opulence ceases

to be hereditary, the distance both in reality and in opinion, which

heretofore separated the workman from the master, is lessened every

day. The workman conceives a more lofty opinion of his rights, of his

future, of himself; he is filled with new ambition and with new

desires, he is harassed by new wants. Every instant he views with

longing eyes the profits of his employer; and in order to share them,

he strives to dispose of his labor at a higher rate, and he generally

succeeds at length in the attempt. In democratic countries, as well as

elsewhere, most of the branches of productive industry are carried on

at a small cost, by men little removed by their wealth or education

above the level of those whom they employ. These manufacturing

speculators are extremely numerous; their interests differ; they cannot

therefore easily concert or combine their exertions. On the other hand

the workmen have almost always some sure resources, which enable

them to refuse to work when they cannot get what they conceive to be

the fair price of their labor. In the constant struggle for wages which

is going on between these two classes, their strength is divided, and

success alternates from one to the other. It is even probable that in the

end the interest of the working class must prevail; for the high wages

which they have already obtained make them every day less

dependent on their masters; and as they grow more independent, they

have greater facilities for obtaining a further increase of wages.

I shall take for example that branch of productive industry which is

still at the present day the most generally followed in France, and in

almost all the countries of the world—I mean the cultivation of the

soil. In France most of those who labor for hire in agriculture, are

themselves owners of certain plots of ground, which just enable them

to subsist without working for anyone else. When these laborers come

to offer their services to a neighboring landowner or farmer, if he

refuses them a certain rate of wages, they retire to their own small

property and await another opportunity.

I think that, upon the whole, it may be asserted that a slow and

gradual rise of wages is one of the general laws of democratic

communities. In proportion as social conditions become more equal,

wages rise; and as wages are higher, social conditions become more

equal. But a great and gloomy exception occurs in our own time. I

have shown in a preceding chapter that aristocracy, expelled from

political society, has taken refuge in certain departments of

productive industry, and has established its sway there under another

form; this powerfully affects the rate of wages. As a large capital is

required to embark in the great manufacturing speculations to which I

allude, the number of persons who enter upon them is exceedingly

limited: as their number is small, they can easily concert together, and

fix the rate of wages as they please. Their workmen on the contrary

are exceedingly numerous, and the number of them is always

increasing; for, from time to time, an extraordinary run of business

takes place, during which wages are inordinately high, and they

attract the surrounding population to the factories. But, when once

men have embraced that line of life, we have already seen that they

cannot quit it again, because they soon contract habits of body and

mind which unfit them for any other sort of toil. These men have

generally but little education and industry, with but few resources;

they stand therefore almost at the mercy of the master. When

competition, or other fortuitous circumstances, lessen his profits, he

can reduce the wages of his workmen almost at pleasure, and make

from them what he loses by the chances of business. Should the

workmen strike, the master, who is a rich man, can very well wait

without being ruined until necessity brings them back to him; but they

must work day by day or they die, for their only property is in their

hands. They have long been impoverished by oppression, and the

poorer they become the more easily may they be oppressed: they can

never escape from this fatal circle of cause and consequence. It is not

then surprising that wages, after having sometimes suddenly risen, are

permanently lowered in this branch of industry; whereas in other

callings the price of labor, which generally increases but little, is

nevertheless constantly augmented.

This state of dependence and wretchedness, in which a part of the

manufacturing population of our time lives, forms an exception to the

general rule, contrary to the state of all the rest of the community; but,

for this very reason, no circumstance is more important or more

deserving of the especial consideration of the legislator; for when the

whole of society is in motion, it is difficult to keep any one class

stationary; and when the greater number of men are opening new

paths to fortune, it is no less difficult to make the few support in

peace their wants and their desires.

Chapter VIII: Influence Of

Democracy On Kindred

I have just examined the changes which the equality of conditions

produces in the mutual relations of the several members of the

community amongst democratic nations, and amongst the Americans

in particular. I would now go deeper, and inquire into the closer ties

of kindred: my object here is not to seek for new truths, but to show

in what manner facts already known are connected with my subject.

It has been universally remarked, that in our time the several

members of a family stand upon an entirely new footing towards each

other; that the distance which formerly separated a father from his

sons has been lessened; and that paternal authority, if not destroyed,

is at least impaired. Something analogous to this, but even more

striking, may be observed in the United States. In America the family,

in the Roman and aristocratic signification of the word, does not

exist. All that remains of it are a few vestiges in the first years of

childhood, when the father exercises, without opposition, that

absolute domestic authority, which the feebleness of his children

renders necessary, and which their interest, as well as his own

incontestable superiority, warrants. But as soon as the young

American approaches manhood, the ties of filial obedience are

relaxed day by day: master of his thoughts, he is soon master of his

conduct. In America there is, strictly speaking, no adolescence: at the

close of boyhood the man appears, and begins to trace out his own

path. It would be an error to suppose that this is preceded by a

domestic struggle, in which the son has obtained by a sort of moral

violence the liberty that his father refused him. The same habits, the

same principles which impel the one to assert his independence,

predispose the other to consider the use of that independence as an

incontestable right. The former does not exhibit any of those

rancorous or irregular passions which disturb men long after they

have shaken off an established authority; the latter feels none of that

bitter and angry regret which is apt to survive a bygone power. The

father foresees the limits of his authority long beforehand, and when

the time arrives he surrenders it without a struggle: the son looks

forward to the exact period at which he will be his own master; and

he enters upon his freedom without precipitation and without effort,

as a possession which is his own and which no one seeks to wrest

from him. *a

a [ The Americans, however, have not yet thought

fit to strip the parent, as has been done in France,

of one of the chief elements of parental authority,

by depriving him of the power of disposing of his

property at his death. In the United States there are

no restrictions on the powers of a testator. In this

respect, as in almost all others, it is easy to

perceive, that if the political legislation of the

Americans is much more democratic than that of

the French, the civil legislation of the latter is

infinitely more democratic than that of the former.

This may easily be accounted for. The civil

legislation of France was the work of a man who

saw that it was his interest to satisfy the

democratic passions of his contemporaries in all

that was not directly and immediately hostile to

his own power. He was willing to allow some

popular principles to regulate the distribution of

property and the government of families, provided

they were not to be introduced into the

administration of public affairs. Whilst the torrent

of democracy overwhelmed the civil laws of the

country, he hoped to find an easy shelter behind

its political institutions. This policy was at once

both adroit and selfish; but a compromise of this

kind could not last; for in the end political

institutions never fail to become the image and

expression of civil society; and in this sense it may

be said that nothing is more political in a nation

than its civil legislation.]

It may perhaps not be without utility to show how these changes

which take place in family relations, are closely connected with the

social and political revolution which is approaching its consummation

under our own observation. There are certain great social principles,

which a people either introduces everywhere, or tolerates nowhere. In

countries which are aristocratically constituted with all the gradations

of rank, the government never makes a direct appeal to the mass of

the governed: as men are united together, it is enough to lead the

foremost, the rest will follow. This is equally applicable to the family,

as to all aristocracies which have a head. Amongst aristocratic

nations, social institutions recognize, in truth, no one in the family but

the father; children are received by society at his hands; society

governs him, he governs them. Thus the parent has not only a natural

right, but he acquires a political right, to command them: he is the

author and the support of his family; but he is also its constituted

ruler. In democracies, where the government picks out every

individual singly from the mass, to make him subservient to the

general laws of the community, no such intermediate person is

required: a father is there, in the eye of the law, only a member of the

community, older and richer than his sons.

When most of the conditions of life are extremely unequal, and the

inequality of these conditions is permanent, the notion of a superior

grows upon the imaginations of men: if the law invested him with no

privileges, custom and public opinion would concede them. When, on

the contrary, men differ but little from each other, and do not always

remain in dissimilar conditions of life, the general notion of a

superior becomes weaker and less distinct: it is vain for legislation to

strive to place him who obeys very much beneath him who

commands; the manners of the time bring the two men nearer to one

another, and draw them daily towards the same level. Although the

legislation of an aristocratic people should grant no peculiar

privileges to the heads of families; I shall not be the less convinced

that their power is more respected and more extensive than in a

democracy; for I know that, whatsoever the laws may be, superiors

always appear higher and inferiors lower in aristocracies than

amongst democratic nations.

When men live more for the remembrance of what has been than

for the care of what is, and when they are more given to attend to

what their ancestors thought than to think themselves, the father is the

natural and necessary tie between the past and the present—the link

by which the ends of these two chains are connected. In aristocracies,

then, the father is not only the civil head of the family, but the oracle

of its traditions, the expounder of its customs, the arbiter of its

manners. He is listened to with deference, he is addressed with

respect, and the love which is felt for him is always tempered with

fear. When the condition of society becomes democratic, and men

adopt as their general principle that it is good and lawful to judge of

all things for one's self, using former points of belief not as a rule of

faith but simply as a means of information, the power which the

opinions of a father exercise over those of his sons diminishes as well

as his legal power.

Perhaps the subdivision of estates which democracy brings with it

contributes more than anything else to change the relations existing

between a father and his children. When the property of the father of

a family is scanty, his son and himself constantly live in the same

place, and share the same occupations: habit and necessity bring them

together, and force them to hold constant communication: the

inevitable consequence is a sort of familiar intimacy, which renders

authority less absolute, and which can ill be reconciled with the

external forms of respect. Now in democratic countries the class of

those who are possessed of small fortunes is precisely that which

gives strength to the notions, and a particular direction to the

manners, of the community. That class makes its opinions

preponderate as universally as its will, and even those who are most

inclined to resist its commands are carried away in the end by its

example. I have known eager opponents of democracy who allowed

their children to address them with perfect colloquial equality.

Thus, at the same time that the power of aristocracy is declining,

the austere, the conventional, and the legal part of parental authority

vanishes, and a species of equality prevails around the domestic

hearth. I know not, upon the whole, whether society loses by the

change, but I am inclined to believe that man individually is a gainer

by it. I think that, in proportion as manners and laws become more

democratic, the relation of father and son becomes more intimate and

more affectionate; rules and authority are less talked of; confidence

and tenderness are oftentimes increased, and it would seem that the

natural bond is drawn closer in proportion as the social bond is

loosened. In a democratic family the father exercises no other power

than that with which men love to invest the affection and the

experience of age; his orders would perhaps be disobeyed, but his

advice is for the most part authoritative. Though he be not hedged in

with ceremonial respect, his sons at least accost him with confidence;

no settled form of speech is appropriated to the mode of addressing

him, but they speak to him constantly, and are ready to consult him

day by day; the master and the constituted ruler have vanished—the

father remains. Nothing more is needed, in order to judge of the

difference between the two states of society in this respect, than to

peruse the family correspondence of aristocratic ages. The style is

always correct, ceremonious, stiff, and so cold that the natural

warmth of the heart can hardly be felt in the language. The language,

on the contrary, addressed by a son to his father in democratic

countries is always marked by mingled freedom, familiarity and

affection, which at once show that new relations have sprung up in

the bosom of the family.

A similar revolution takes place in the mutual relations of children.

In aristocratic families, as well as in aristocratic society, every place

is marked out beforehand. Not only does the father occupy a separate

rank, in which he enjoys extensive privileges, but even the children

are not equal amongst themselves. The age and sex of each

irrevocably determine his rank, and secure to him certain privileges:

most of these distinctions are abolished or diminished by democracy.

In aristocratic families the eldest son, inheriting the greater part of the

property, and almost all the rights of the family, becomes the chief,

and, to a certain extent, the master, of his brothers. Greatness and

power are for him—for them, mediocrity and dependence.

Nevertheless it would be wrong to suppose that, amongst aristocratic

nations, the privileges of the eldest son are advantageous to himself

alone, or that they excite nothing but envy and hatred in those around

him. The eldest son commonly endeavors to procure wealth and

power for his brothers, because the general splendor of the house is

reflected back on him who represents it; the younger sons seek to

back the elder brother in all his undertakings, because the greatness

and power of the head of the family better enable him to provide for

all its branches. The different members of an aristocratic family are

therefore very closely bound together; their interests are connected,

their minds agree, but their hearts are seldom in harmony.

Democracy also binds brothers to each other, but by very different

means. Under democratic laws all the children are perfectly equal,

and consequently independent; nothing brings them forcibly together,

but nothing keeps them apart; and as they have the same origin, as

they are trained under the same roof, as they are treated with the same

care, and as no peculiar privilege distinguishes or divides them, the

affectionate and youthful intimacy of early years easily springs up

between them. Scarcely any opportunities occur to break the tie thus

formed at the outset of life; for their brotherhood brings them daily

together, without embarrassing them. It is not, then, by interest, but

by common associations and by the free sympathy of opinion and of

taste, that democracy unites brothers to each other. It divides their

inheritance, but it allows their hearts and minds to mingle together.

Such is the charm of these democratic manners, that even the

partisans of aristocracy are caught by it; and after having experienced

it for some time, they are by no means tempted to revert to the

respectful and frigid observance of aristocratic families. They would

be glad to retain the domestic habits of democracy, if they might

throw off its social conditions and its laws; but these elements are

indissolubly united, and it is impossible to enjoy the former without

enduring the latter. The remarks I have made on filial love and

fraternal affection are applicable to all the passions which emanate

spontaneously from human nature itself. If a certain mode of thought

or feeling is the result of some peculiar condition of life, when that

condition is altered nothing whatever remains of the thought or

feeling. Thus a law may bind two members of the community very

closely to one another; but that law being abolished, they stand

asunder. Nothing was more strict than the tie which united the vassal

to the lord under the feudal system; at the present day the two men

know not each other; the fear, the gratitude, and the affection which

formerly connected them have vanished, and not a vestige of the tie

remains. Such, however, is not the case with those feelings which are

natural to mankind. Whenever a law attempts to tutor these feelings

in any particular manner, it seldom fails to weaken them; by

attempting to add to their intensity, it robs them of some of their

elements, for they are never stronger than when left to themselves.

Democracy, which destroys or obscures almost all the old

conventional rules of society, and which prevents men from readily

assenting to new ones, entirely effaces most of the feelings to which

these conventional rules have given rise; but it only modifies some

others, and frequently imparts to them a degree of energy and

sweetness unknown before. Perhaps it is not impossible to condense

into a single proposition the whole meaning of this chapter, and of

several others that preceded it. Democracy loosens social ties, but it

draws the ties of nature more tight; it brings kindred more closely

together, whilst it places the various members of the community more

widely apart.

Chapter IX: Education Of Young

Women In The United States

No free communities ever existed without morals; and, as I

observed in the former part of this work, morals are the work of

woman. Consequently, whatever affects the condition of women,

their habits and their opinions, has great political importance in my

eyes. Amongst almost all Protestant nations young women are far

more the mistresses of their own actions than they are in Catholic

countries. This independence is still greater in Protestant countries,

like England, which have retained or acquired the right of self-

government; the spirit of freedom is then infused into the domestic

circle by political habits and by religious opinions. In the United

States the doctrines of Protestantism are combined with great political

freedom and a most democratic state of society; and nowhere are

young women surrendered so early or so completely to their own

guidance. Long before an American girl arrives at the age of

marriage, her emancipation from maternal control begins; she has

scarcely ceased to be a child when she already thinks for herself,

speaks with freedom, and acts on her own impulse. The great scene of

the world is constantly open to her view; far from seeking

concealment, it is every day disclosed to her more completely, and

she is taught to survey it with a firm and calm gaze. Thus the vices

and dangers of society are early revealed to her; as she sees them

clearly, she views them without illusions, and braves them without

fear; for she is full of reliance on her own strength, and her reliance

seems to be shared by all who are about her. An American girl

scarcely ever displays that virginal bloom in the midst of young

desires, or that innocent and ingenuous grace which usually attends

the European woman in the transition from girlhood to youth. It is

rarely that an American woman at any age displays childish timidity

or ignorance. Like the young women of Europe, she seeks to please,

but she knows precisely the cost of pleasing. If she does not abandon

herself to evil, at least she knows that it exists; and she is remarkable

rather for purity of manners than for chastity of mind. I have been

frequently surprised, and almost frightened, at the singular address

and happy boldness with which young women in America contrive to

manage their thoughts and their language amidst all the difficulties of

stimulating conversation; a philosopher would have stumbled at every

step along the narrow path which they trod without accidents and

without effort. It is easy indeed to perceive that, even amidst the

independence of early youth, an American woman is always mistress

of herself; she indulges in all permitted pleasures, without yielding

herself up to any of them; and her reason never allows the reins of

self-guidance to drop, though it often seems to hold them loosely.

In France, where remnants of every age are still so strangely

mingled in the opinions and tastes of the people, women commonly

receive a reserved, retired, and almost cloistral education, as they did

in aristocratic times; and then they are suddenly abandoned, without a

guide and without assistance, in the midst of all the irregularities

inseparable from democratic society. The Americans are more

consistent. They have found out that in a democracy the

independence of individuals cannot fail to be very great, youth

premature, tastes ill-restrained, customs fleeting, public opinion often

unsettled and powerless, paternal authority weak, and marital

authority contested. Under these circumstances, believing that they

had little chance of repressing in woman the most vehement passions

of the human heart, they held that the surer way was to teach her the

art of combating those passions for herself. As they could not prevent

her virtue from being exposed to frequent danger, they determined

that she should know how best to defend it; and more reliance was

placed on the free vigor of her will than on safeguards which have

been shaken or overthrown. Instead, then, of inculcating mistrust of

herself, they constantly seek to enhance their confidence in her own

strength of character. As it is neither possible nor desirable to keep a

young woman in perpetual or complete ignorance, they hasten to give

her a precocious knowledge on all subjects. Far from hiding the

corruptions of the world from her, they prefer that she should see

them at once and train herself to shun them; and they hold it of more

importance to protect her conduct than to be over-scrupulous of her


Although the Americans are a very religious people, they do not

rely on religion alone to defend the virtue of woman; they seek to arm

her reason also. In this they have followed the same method as in

several other respects; they first make the most vigorous efforts to

bring individual independence to exercise a proper control over itself,

and they do not call in the aid of religion until they have reached the

utmost limits of human strength. I am aware that an education of this

kind is not without danger; I am sensible that it tends to invigorate the

judgment at the expense of the imagination, and to make cold and

virtuous women instead of affectionate wives and agreeable

companions to man. Society may be more tranquil and better

regulated, but domestic life has often fewer charms. These, however,

are secondary evils, which may be braved for the sake of higher

interests. At the stage at which we are now arrived the time for

choosing is no longer within our control; a democratic education is

indispensable to protect women from the dangers with which

democratic institutions and manners surround them.

Chapter X: The Young Woman In

The Character Of A Wife

In America the independence of woman is irrevocably lost in the

bonds of matrimony: if an unmarried woman is less constrained there

than elsewhere, a wife is subjected to stricter obligations. The former

makes her father's house an abode of freedom and of pleasure; the

latter lives in the home of her husband as if it were a cloister. Yet

these two different conditions of life are perhaps not so contrary as

may be supposed, and it is natural that the American women should

pass through the one to arrive at the other.

Religious peoples and trading nations entertain peculiarly serious

notions of marriage: the former consider the regularity of woman's

life as the best pledge and most certain sign of the purity of her

morals; the latter regard it as the highest security for the order and

prosperity of the household. The Americans are at the same time a

puritanical people and a commercial nation: their religious opinions,

as well as their trading habits, consequently lead them to require

much abnegation on the part of woman, and a constant sacrifice of

her pleasures to her duties which is seldom demanded of her in

Europe. Thus in the United States the inexorable opinion of the public

carefully circumscribes woman within the narrow circle of domestic

interest and duties, and forbids her to step beyond it.

Upon her entrance into the world a young American woman finds

these notions firmly established; she sees the rules which are derived

from them; she is not slow to perceive that she cannot depart for an

instant from the established usages of her contemporaries, without

putting in jeopardy her peace of mind, her honor, nay even her social

existence; and she finds the energy required for such an act of

submission in the firmness of her understanding and in the virile

habits which her education has given her. It may be said that she has

learned by the use of her independence to surrender it without a

struggle and without a murmur when the time comes for making the

sacrifice. But no American woman falls into the toils of matrimony as

into a snare held out to her simplicity and ignorance. She has been

taught beforehand what is expected of her, and voluntarily and freely

does she enter upon this engagement. She supports her new condition

with courage, because she chose it. As in America paternal discipline

is very relaxed and the conjugal tie very strict, a young woman does

not contract the latter without considerable circumspection and

apprehension. Precocious marriages are rare. Thus American women

do not marry until their understandings are exercised and ripened;

whereas in other countries most women generally only begin to

exercise and to ripen their understandings after marriage.

I by no means suppose, however, that the great change which takes

place in all the habits of women in the United States, as soon as they

are married, ought solely to be attributed to the constraint of public

opinion: it is frequently imposed upon themselves by the sole effort

of their own will. When the time for choosing a husband is arrived,

that cold and stern reasoning power which has been educated and

invigorated by the free observation of the world, teaches an American

woman that a spirit of levity and independence in the bonds of

marriage is a constant subject of annoyance, not of pleasure; it tells

her that the amusements of the girl cannot become the recreations of

the wife, and that the sources of a married woman's happiness are in

the home of her husband. As she clearly discerns beforehand the only

road which can lead to domestic happiness, she enters upon it at once,

and follows it to the end without seeking to turn back.

The same strength of purpose which the young wives of America

display, in bending themselves at once and without repining to the

austere duties of their new condition, is no less manifest in all the

great trials of their lives. In no country in the world are private

fortunes more precarious than in the United States. It is not

uncommon for the same man, in the course of his life, to rise and sink

again through all the grades which lead from opulence to poverty.

American women support these vicissitudes with calm and

unquenchable energy: it would seem that their desires contract, as

easily as they expand, with their fortunes. *a

a [ See Appendix S.]

The greater part of the adventurers who migrate every year to

people the western wilds, belong, as I observed in the former part of

this work, to the old Anglo-American race of the Northern States.

Many of these men, who rush so boldly onwards in pursuit of wealth,

were already in the enjoyment of a competency in their own part of

the country. They take their wives along with them, and make them

share the countless perils and privations which always attend the

commencement of these expeditions. I have often met, even on the

verge of the wilderness, with young women, who after having been

brought up amidst all the comforts of the large towns of New

England, had passed, almost without any intermediate stage, from the

wealthy abode of their parents to a comfortless hovel in a forest.

Fever, solitude, and a tedious life had not broken the springs of their

courage. Their features were impaired and faded, but their looks were

firm: they appeared to be at once sad and resolute. I do not doubt that

these young American women had amassed, in the education of their

early years, that inward strength which they displayed under these

circumstances. The early culture of the girl may still therefore be

traced, in the United States, under the aspect of marriage: her part is

changed, her habits are different, but her character is the same.

Chapter XI: That The Equality Of

Conditions Contributes To The

Maintenance Of Good Morals In


Some philosophers and historians have said, or have hinted, that the

strictness of female morality was increased or diminished simply by

the distance of a country from the equator. This solution of the

difficulty was an easy one; and nothing was required but a globe and

a pair of compasses to settle in an instant one of the most difficult

problems in the condition of mankind. But I am not aware that this

principle of the materialists is supported by facts. The same nations

have been chaste or dissolute at different periods of their history; the

strictness or the laxity of their morals depended therefore on some

variable cause, not only on the natural qualities of their country,

which were invariable. I do not deny that in certain climates the

passions which are occasioned by the mutual attraction of the sexes

are peculiarly intense; but I am of opinion that this natural intensity

may always be excited or restrained by the condition of society and

by political institutions.

Although the travellers who have visited North America differ on a

great number of points, they all agree in remarking that morals are far

more strict there than elsewhere. It is evident that on this point the

Americans are very superior to their progenitors the English. A

superficial glance at the two nations will establish the fact. In

England, as in all other countries of Europe, public malice is

constantly attacking the frailties of women. Philosophers and

statesmen are heard to deplore that morals are not sufficiently strict,

and the literary productions of the country constantly lead one to

suppose so. In America all books, novels not excepted, suppose

women to be chaste, and no one thinks of relating affairs of gallantry.

No doubt this great regularity of American morals originates partly in

the country, in the race of the people, and in their religion: but all

these causes, which operate elsewhere, do not suffice to account for

it; recourse must be had to some special reason. This reason appears

to me to be the principle of equality and the institutions derived from

it. Equality of conditions does not of itself engender regularity of

morals, but it unquestionably facilitates and increases it. *a [Footnote

a: See Appendix T.]

Amongst aristocratic nations birth and fortune frequently make two

such different beings of man and woman, that they can never be

united to each other. Their passions draw them together, but the

condition of society, and the notions suggested by it, prevent them

from contracting a permanent and ostensible tie. The necessary

consequence is a great number of transient and clandestine

connections. Nature secretly avenges herself for the constraint

imposed upon her by the laws of man. This is not so much the case

when the equality of conditions has swept away all the imaginary, or

the real, barriers which separated man from woman. No girl then

believes that she cannot become the wife of the man who loves her;

and this renders all breaches of morality before marriage very

uncommon: for, whatever be the credulity of the passions, a woman

will hardly be able to persuade herself that she is beloved, when her

lover is perfectly free to marry her and does not.

The same cause operates, though more indirectly, on married life.

Nothing better serves to justify an illicit passion, either to the minds

of those who have conceived it or to the world which looks on, than

compulsory or accidental marriages. *b In a country in which a

woman is always free to exercise her power of choosing, and in

which education has prepared her to choose rightly, public opinion is

inexorable to her faults. The rigor of the Americans arises in part

from this cause. They consider marriages as a covenant which is often

onerous, but every condition of which the parties are strictly bound to

fulfil, because they knew all those conditions beforehand, and were

perfectly free not to have contracted them.

b [ The literature of Europe sufficiently corroborates

this remark. When a European author wishes to

depict in a work of imagination any of these great

catastrophes in matrimony which so frequently

occur amongst us, he takes care to bespeak the

compassion of the reader by bringing before him

ill-assorted or compulsory marriages. Although

habitual tolerance has long since relaxed our

morals, an author could hardly succeed in

interesting us in the misfortunes of his characters,

if he did not first palliate their faults. This artifice

seldom fails: the daily scenes we witness prepare

us long beforehand to be indulgent. But American

writers could never render these palliations

probable to their readers; their customs and laws

are opposed to it; and as they despair of rendering

levity of conduct pleasing, they cease to depict it.

This is one of the causes to which must be

attributed the small number of novels published in

the United States.]

The very circumstances which render matrimonial fidelity more

obligatory also render it more easy. In aristocratic countries the object

of marriage is rather to unite property than persons; hence the

husband is sometimes at school and the wife at nurse when they are

betrothed. It cannot be wondered at if the conjugal tie which holds the

fortunes of the pair united allows their hearts to rove; this is the

natural result of the nature of the contract. When, on the contrary, a

man always chooses a wife for himself, without any external coercion

or even guidance, it is generally a conformity of tastes and opinions

which brings a man and a woman together, and this same conformity

keeps and fixes them in close habits of intimacy.

Our forefathers had conceived a very strange notion on the subject

of marriage: as they had remarked that the small number of love-

matches which occurred in their time almost always turned out ill,

they resolutely inferred that it was exceedingly dangerous to listen to

the dictates of the heart on the subject. Accident appeared to them to

be a better guide than choice. Yet it was not very difficult to perceive

that the examples which they witnessed did in fact prove nothing at

all. For in the first place, if democratic nations leave a woman at

liberty to choose her husband, they take care to give her mind

sufficient knowledge, and her will sufficient strength, to make so

important a choice: whereas the young women who, amongst

aristocratic nations, furtively elope from the authority of their parents

to throw themselves of their own accord into the arms of men whom

they have had neither time to know, nor ability to judge of, are totally

without those securities. It is not surprising that they make a bad use

of their freedom of action the first time they avail themselves of it;

nor that they fall into such cruel mistakes, when, not having received

a democratic education, they choose to marry in conformity to

democratic customs. But this is not all. When a man and woman are

bent upon marriage in spite of the differences of an aristocratic state

of society, the difficulties to be overcome are enormous. Having

broken or relaxed the bonds of filial obedience, they have then to

emancipate themselves by a final effort from the sway of custom and

the tyranny of opinion; and when at length they have succeeded in

this arduous task, they stand estranged from their natural friends and

kinsmen: the prejudice they have crossed separates them from all, and

places them in a situation which soon breaks their courage and sours

their hearts. If, then, a couple married in this manner are first unhappy

and afterwards criminal, it ought not to be attributed to the freedom of

their choice, but rather to their living in a community in which this

freedom of choice is not admitted.

Moreover it should not be forgotten that the same effort which

makes a man violently shake off a prevailing error, commonly impels

him beyond the bounds of reason; that, to dare to declare war, in

however just a cause, against the opinion of one's age and country, a

violent and adventurous spirit is required, and that men of this

character seldom arrive at happiness or virtue, whatever be the path

they follow. And this, it may be observed by the way, is the reason

why in the most necessary and righteous revolutions, it is so rare to

meet with virtuous or moderate revolutionary characters. There is

then no just ground for surprise if a man, who in an age of aristocracy

chooses to consult nothing but his own opinion and his own taste in

the choice of a wife, soon finds that infractions of morality and

domestic wretchedness invade his household: but when this same line

of action is in the natural and ordinary course of things, when it is

sanctioned by parental authority and backed by public opinion, it

cannot be doubted that the internal peace of families will be increased

by it, and conjugal fidelity more rigidly observed.

Almost all men in democracies are engaged in public or

professional life; and on the other hand the limited extent of common

incomes obliges a wife to confine herself to the house, in order to

watch in person and very closely over the details of domestic

economy. All these distinct and compulsory occupations are so many

natural barriers, which, by keeping the two sexes asunder, render the

solicitations of the one less frequent and less ardent—the resistance

of the other more easy.

Not indeed that the equality of conditions can ever succeed in

making men chaste, but it may impart a less dangerous character to

their breaches of morality. As no one has then either sufficient time or

opportunity to assail a virtue armed in self-defence, there will be at

the same time a great number of courtesans and a great number of

virtuous women. This state of things causes lamentable cases of

individual hardship, but it does not prevent the body of society from

being strong and alert: it does not destroy family ties, or enervate the

morals of the nation. Society is endangered not by the great

profligacy of a few, but by laxity of morals amongst all. In the eyes of

a legislator, prostitution is less to be dreaded than intrigue.

The tumultuous and constantly harassed life which equality makes

men lead, not only distracts them from the passion of love, by

denying them time to indulge in it, but it diverts them from it by

another more secret but more certain road. All men who live in

democratic ages more or less contract the ways of thinking of the

manufacturing and trading classes; their minds take a serious,

deliberate, and positive turn; they are apt to relinquish the ideal, in

order to pursue some visible and proximate object, which appears to

be the natural and necessary aim of their desires. Thus the principle of

equality does not destroy the imagination, but lowers its flight to the

level of the earth. No men are less addicted to reverie than the

citizens of a democracy; and few of them are ever known to give way

to those idle and solitary meditations which commonly precede and

produce the great emotions of the heart. It is true they attach great

importance to procuring for themselves that sort of deep, regular, and

quiet affection which constitutes the charm and safeguard of life, but

they are not apt to run after those violent and capricious sources of

excitement which disturb and abridge it.

I am aware that all this is only applicable in its full extent to

America, and cannot at present be extended to Europe. In the course

of the last half-century, whilst laws and customs have impelled

several European nations with unexampled force towards democracy,

we have not had occasion to observe that the relations of man and

woman have become more orderly or more chaste. In some places the

very reverse may be detected: some classes are more strict—the

general morality of the people appears to be more lax. I do not

hesitate to make the remark, for I am as little disposed to flatter my

contemporaries as to malign them. This fact must distress, but it

ought not to surprise us. The propitious influence which a democratic

state of society may exercise upon orderly habits, is one of those

tendencies which can only be discovered after a time. If the equality

of conditions is favorable to purity of morals, the social commotion

by which conditions are rendered equal is adverse to it. In the last

fifty years, during which France has been undergoing this

transformation, that country has rarely had freedom, always

disturbance. Amidst this universal confusion of notions and this

general stir of opinions—amidst this incoherent mixture of the just

and unjust, of truth and falsehood, of right and might—public virtue

has become doubtful, and private morality wavering. But all

revolutions, whatever may have been their object or their agents, have

at first produced similar consequences; even those which have in the

end drawn the bonds of morality more tightly began by loosening

them. The violations of morality which the French frequently witness

do not appear to me to have a permanent character; and this is already

betokened by some curious signs of the times.

Nothing is more wretchedly corrupt than an aristocracy which

retains its wealth when it has lost its power, and which still enjoys a

vast deal of leisure after it is reduced to mere vulgar pastimes. The

energetic passions and great conceptions which animated it

heretofore, leave it then; and nothing remains to it but a host of petty

consuming vices, which cling about it like worms upon a carcass. No

one denies that the French aristocracy of the last century was

extremely dissolute; whereas established habits and ancient belief still

preserved some respect for morality amongst the other classes of

society. Nor will it be contested that at the present day the remnants

of that same aristocracy exhibit a certain severity of morals; whilst

laxity of morals appears to have spread amongst the middle and lower

ranks. So that the same families which were most profligate fifty

years ago are nowadays the most exemplary, and democracy seems

only to have strengthened the morality of the aristocratic classes. The

French Revolution, by dividing the fortunes of the nobility, by

forcing them to attend assiduously to their affairs and to their

families, by making them live under the same roof with their children,

and in short by giving a more rational and serious turn to their minds,

has imparted to them, almost without their being aware of it, a

reverence for religious belief, a love of order, of tranquil pleasures, of

domestic endearments, and of comfort; whereas the rest of the nation,

which had naturally these same tastes, was carried away into excesses

by the effort which was required to overthrow the laws and political

habits of the country. The old French aristocracy has undergone the

consequences of the Revolution, but it neither felt the revolutionary

passions nor shared in the anarchical excitement which produced that

crisis; it may easily be conceived that this aristocracy feels the

salutary influence of the Revolution in its manners, before those who

achieve it. It may therefore be said, though at first it seems

paradoxical, that, at the present day, the most anti-democratic classes

of the nation principally exhibit the kind of morality which may

reasonably be anticipated from democracy. I cannot but think that

when we shall have obtained all the effects of this democratic

Revolution, after having got rid of the tumult it has caused, the

observations which are now only applicable to the few will gradually

become true of the whole community.

Chapter XII: How The Americans

Understand The Equality Of The


I Have shown how democracy destroys or modifies the different

inequalities which originate in society; but is this all? or does it not

ultimately affect that great inequality of man and woman which has

seemed, up to the present day, to be eternally based in human nature?

I believe that the social changes which bring nearer to the same level

the father and son, the master and servant, and superiors and inferiors

generally speaking, will raise woman and make her more and more

the equal of man. But here, more than ever, I feel the necessity of

making myself clearly understood; for there is no subject on which

the coarse and lawless fancies of our age have taken a freer range.

There are people in Europe who, confounding together the different

characteristics of the sexes, would make of man and woman beings

not only equal but alike. They would give to both the same functions,

impose on both the same duties, and grant to both the same rights;

they would mix them in all things—their occupations, their pleasures,

their business. It may readily be conceived, that by thus attempting to

make one sex equal to the other, both are degraded; and from so

preposterous a medley of the works of nature nothing could ever

result but weak men and disorderly women. It is not thus that the

Americans understand that species of democratic equality which may

be established between the sexes. They admit, that as nature has

appointed such wide differences between the physical and moral

constitution of man and woman, her manifest design was to give a

distinct employment to their various faculties; and they hold that

improvement does not consist in making beings so dissimilar do

pretty nearly the same things, but in getting each of them to fulfil

their respective tasks in the best possible manner. The Americans

have applied to the sexes the great principle of political economy

which governs the manufactures of our age, by carefully dividing the

duties of man from those of woman, in order that the great work of

society may be the better carried on.

In no country has such constant care been taken as in America to

trace two clearly distinct lines of action for the two sexes, and to

make them keep pace one with the other, but in two pathways which

are always different. American women never manage the outward

concerns of the family, or conduct a business, or take a part in

political life; nor are they, on the other hand, ever compelled to

perform the rough labor of the fields, or to make any of those

laborious exertions which demand the exertion of physical strength.

No families are so poor as to form an exception to this rule. If on the

one hand an American woman cannot escape from the quiet circle of

domestic employments, on the other hand she is never forced to go

beyond it. Hence it is that the women of America, who often exhibit a

masculine strength of understanding and a manly energy, generally

preserve great delicacy of personal appearance and always retain the

manners of women, although they sometimes show that they have the

hearts and minds of men.

Nor have the Americans ever supposed that one consequence of

democratic principles is the subversion of marital power, of the

confusion of the natural authorities in families. They hold that every

association must have a head in order to accomplish its object, and

that the natural head of the conjugal association is man. They do not

therefore deny him the right of directing his partner; and they

maintain, that in the smaller association of husband and wife, as well

as in the great social community, the object of democracy is to

regulate and legalize the powers which are necessary, not to subvert

all power. This opinion is not peculiar to one sex, and contested by

the other: I never observed that the women of America consider

conjugal authority as a fortunate usurpation of their rights, nor that

they thought themselves degraded by submitting to it. It appeared to

me, on the contrary, that they attach a sort of pride to the voluntary

surrender of their own will, and make it their boast to bend

themselves to the yoke, not to shake it off. Such at least is the feeling

expressed by the most virtuous of their sex; the others are silent; and

in the United States it is not the practice for a guilty wife to clamor

for the rights of women, whilst she is trampling on her holiest duties.

It has often been remarked that in Europe a certain degree of

contempt lurks even in the flattery which men lavish upon women:

although a European frequently affects to be the slave of woman, it

may be seen that he never sincerely thinks her his equal. In the United

States men seldom compliment women, but they daily show how

much they esteem them. They constantly display an entire confidence

in the understanding of a wife, and a profound respect for her

freedom; they have decided that her mind is just as fitted as that of a

man to discover the plain truth, and her heart as firm to embrace it;

and they have never sought to place her virtue, any more than his,

under the shelter of prejudice, ignorance, and fear. It would seem that

in Europe, where man so easily submits to the despotic sway of

women, they are nevertheless curtailed of some of the greatest

qualities of the human species, and considered as seductive but

imperfect beings; and (what may well provoke astonishment) women

ultimately look upon themselves in the same light, and almost

consider it as a privilege that they are entitled to show themselves

futile, feeble, and timid. The women of America claim no such


Again, it may be said that in our morals we have reserved strange

immunities to man; so that there is, as it were, one virtue for his use,

and another for the guidance of his partner; and that, according to the

opinion of the public, the very same act may be punished alternately

as a crime or only as a fault. The Americans know not this iniquitous

division of duties and rights; amongst them the seducer is as much

dishonored as his victim. It is true that the Americans rarely lavish

upon women those eager attentions which are commonly paid them in

Europe; but their conduct to women always implies that they suppose

them to be virtuous and refined; and such is the respect entertained

for the moral freedom of the sex, that in the presence of a woman the

most guarded language is used, lest her ear should be offended by an

expression. In America a young unmarried woman may, alone and

without fear, undertake a long journey.

The legislators of the United States, who have mitigated almost all

the penalties of criminal law, still make rape a capital offence, and no

crime is visited with more inexorable severity by public opinion. This

may be accounted for; as the Americans can conceive nothing more

precious than a woman's honor, and nothing which ought so much to

be respected as her independence, they hold that no punishment is too

severe for the man who deprives her of them against her will. In

France, where the same offence is visited with far milder penalties, it

is frequently difficult to get a verdict from a jury against the prisoner.

Is this a consequence of contempt of decency or contempt of women?

I cannot but believe that it is a contempt of one and of the other.

Thus the Americans do not think that man and woman have either

the duty or the right to perform the same offices, but they show an

equal regard for both their respective parts; and though their lot is

different, they consider both of them as beings of equal value. They

do not give to the courage of woman the same form or the same

direction as to that of man; but they never doubt her courage: and if

they hold that man and his partner ought not always to exercise their

intellect and understanding in the same manner, they at least believe

the understanding of the one to be as sound as that of the other, and

her intellect to be as clear. Thus, then, whilst they have allowed the

social inferiority of woman to subsist, they have done all they could

to raise her morally and intellectually to the level of man; and in this

respect they appear to me to have excellently understood the true

principle of democratic improvement. As for myself, I do not hesitate

to avow that, although the women of the United States are confined

within the narrow circle of domestic life, and their situation is in

some respects one of extreme dependence, I have nowhere seen

woman occupying a loftier position; and if I were asked, now that I

am drawing to the close of this work, in which I have spoken of so

many important things done by the Americans, to what the singular

prosperity and growing strength of that people ought mainly to be

attributed, I should reply—to the superiority of their women.

Chapter XIII: That The Principle

Of Equality Naturally Divides The

Americans Into A Number Of

Small Private Circles

It may probably be supposed that the final consequence and

necessary effect of democratic institutions is to confound together all

the members of the community in private as well as in public life, and

to compel them all to live in common; but this would be to ascribe a

very coarse and oppressive form to the equality which originates in

democracy. No state of society or laws can render men so much alike,

but that education, fortune, and tastes will interpose some differences

between them; and, though different men may sometimes find it their

interest to combine for the same purposes, they will never make it

their pleasure. They will therefore always tend to evade the

provisions of legislation, whatever they may be; and departing in

some one respect from the circle within which they were to be

bounded, they will set up, close by the great political community,

small private circles, united together by the similitude of their

conditions, habits, and manners.

In the United States the citizens have no sort of pre-eminence over

each other; they owe each other no mutual obedience or respect; they

all meet for the administration of justice, for the government of the

State, and in general to treat of the affairs which concern their

common welfare; but I never heard that attempts have been made to

bring them all to follow the same diversions, or to amuse themselves

promiscuously in the same places of recreation. The Americans, who

mingle so readily in their political assemblies and courts of justice,

are wont on the contrary carefully to separate into small distinct

circles, in order to indulge by themselves in the enjoyments of private

life. Each of them is willing to acknowledge all his fellow-citizens as

his equals, but he will only receive a very limited number of them

amongst his friends or his guests. This appears to me to be very

natural. In proportion as the circle of public society is extended, it

may be anticipated that the sphere of private intercourse will be

contracted; far from supposing that the members of modern society

will ultimately live in common, I am afraid that they may end by

forming nothing but small coteries.

Amongst aristocratic nations the different classes are like vast

chambers, out of which it is impossible to get, into which it is

impossible to enter. These classes have no communication with each

other, but within their pale men necessarily live in daily contact; even

though they would not naturally suit, the general conformity of a

similar condition brings them nearer together. But when neither law

nor custom professes to establish frequent and habitual relations

between certain men, their intercourse originates in the accidental

analogy of opinions and tastes; hence private society is infinitely

varied. In democracies, where the members of the community never

differ much from each other, and naturally stand in such propinquity

that they may all at any time be confounded in one general mass,

numerous artificial and arbitrary distinctions spring up, by means of

which every man hopes to keep himself aloof, lest he should be

carried away in the crowd against his will. This can never fail to be

the case; for human institutions may be changed, but not man:

whatever may be the general endeavor of a community to render its

members equal and alike, the personal pride of individuals will

always seek to rise above the line, and to form somewhere an

inequality to their own advantage.

In aristocracies men are separated from each other by lofty

stationary barriers; in democracies they are divided by a number of

small and almost invisible threads, which are constantly broken or

moved from place to place. Thus, whatever may be the progress of

equality, in democratic nations a great number of small private

communities will always be formed within the general pale of

political society; but none of them will bear any resemblance in its

manners to the highest class in aristocracies.

Chapter XIV: Some Reflections On

American Manners

Nothing seems at first sight less important than the outward form of

human actions, yet there is nothing upon which men set more store:

they grow used to everything except to living in a society which has

not their own manners. The influence of the social and political state

of a country upon manners is therefore deserving of serious

examination. Manners are, generally, the product of the very basis of

the character of a people, but they are also sometimes the result of an

arbitrary convention between certain men; thus they are at once

natural and acquired. When certain men perceive that they are the

foremost persons in society, without contestation and without effort—

when they are constantly engaged on large objects, leaving the more

minute details to others—and when they live in the enjoyment of

wealth which they did not amass and which they do not fear to lose, it

may be supposed that they feel a kind of haughty disdain of the petty

interests and practical cares of life, and that their thoughts assume a

natural greatness, which their language and their manners denote. In

democratic countries manners are generally devoid of dignity,

because private life is there extremely petty in its character; and they

are frequently low, because the mind has few opportunities of rising

above the engrossing cares of domestic interests. True dignity in

manners consists in always taking one's proper station, neither too

high nor too low; and this is as much within the reach of a peasant as

of a prince. In democracies all stations appear doubtful; hence it is

that the manners of democracies, though often full of arrogance, are

commonly wanting in dignity, and, moreover, they are never either

well disciplined or accomplished.

The men who live in democracies are too fluctuating for a certain

number of them ever to succeed in laying down a code of good

breeding, and in forcing people to follow it. Every man therefore

behaves after his own fashion, and there is always a certain

incoherence in the manners of such times, because they are moulded

upon the feelings and notions of each individual, rather than upon an

ideal model proposed for general imitation. This, however, is much

more perceptible at the time when an aristocracy has just been

overthrown than after it has long been destroyed. New political

institutions and new social elements then bring to the same places of

resort, and frequently compel to live in common, men whose

education and habits are still amazingly dissimilar, and this renders

the motley composition of society peculiarly visible. The existence of

a former strict code of good breeding is still remembered, but what it

contained or where it is to be found is already forgotten. Men have

lost the common law of manners, and they have not yet made up their

minds to do without it; but everyone endeavors to make to himself

some sort of arbitrary and variable rule, from the remnant of former

usages; so that manners have neither the regularity and the dignity

which they often display amongst aristocratic nations, nor the

simplicity and freedom which they sometimes assume in

democracies; they are at once constrained and without constraint.

This, however, is not the normal state of things. When the equality

of conditions is long established and complete, as all men entertain

nearly the same notions and do nearly the same things, they do not

require to agree or to copy from one another in order to speak or act

in the same manner: their manners are constantly characterized by a

number of lesser diversities, but not by any great differences. They

are never perfectly alike, because they do not copy from the same

pattern; they are never very unlike, because their social condition is

the same. At first sight a traveller would observe that the manners of

all the Americans are exactly similar; it is only upon close

examination that the peculiarities in which they differ may be


The English make game of the manners of the Americans; but it is

singular that most of the writers who have drawn these ludicrous

delineations belonged themselves to the middle classes in England, to

whom the same delineations are exceedingly applicable: so that these

pitiless censors for the most part furnish an example of the very thing

they blame in the United States; they do not perceive that they are

deriding themselves, to the great amusement of the aristocracy of

their own country.

Nothing is more prejudicial to democracy than its outward forms of

behavior: many men would willingly endure its vices, who cannot

support its manners. I cannot, however, admit that there is nothing

commendable in the manners of a democratic people. Amongst

aristocratic nations, all who live within reach of the first class in

society commonly strain to be like it, which gives rise to ridiculous

and insipid imitations. As a democratic people does not possess any

models of high breeding, at least it escapes the daily necessity of

seeing wretched copies of them. In democracies manners are never so

refined as amongst aristocratic nations, but on the other hand they are

never so coarse. Neither the coarse oaths of the populace, nor the

elegant and choice expressions of the nobility are to be heard there:

the manners of such a people are often vulgar, but they are neither

brutal nor mean. I have already observed that in democracies no such

thing as a regular code of good breeding can be laid down; this has

some inconveniences and some advantages. In aristocracies the rules

of propriety impose the same demeanor on everyone; they make all

the members of the same class appear alike, in spite of their private

inclinations; they adorn and they conceal the natural man. Amongst a

democratic people manners are neither so tutored nor so uniform, but

they are frequently more sincere. They form, as it were, a light and

loosely woven veil, through which the real feelings and private

opinions of each individual are easily discernible. The form and the

substance of human actions often, therefore, stand in closer relation;

and if the great picture of human life be less embellished, it is more

true. Thus it may be said, in one sense, that the effect of democracy is

not exactly to give men any particular manners, but to prevent them

from having manners at all.

The feelings, the passions, the virtues, and the vices of an

aristocracy may sometimes reappear in a democracy, but not its

manners; they are lost, and vanish forever, as soon as the democratic

revolution is completed. It would seem that nothing is more lasting

than the manners of an aristocratic class, for they are preserved by

that class for some time after it has lost its wealth and its power—nor

so fleeting, for no sooner have they disappeared than not a trace of

them is to be found; and it is scarcely possible to say what they have

been as soon as they have ceased to be. A change in the state of

society works this miracle, and a few generations suffice to

consummate it. The principal characteristics of aristocracy are handed

down by history after an aristocracy is destroyed, but the light and

exquisite touches of manners are effaced from men's memories

almost immediately after its fall. Men can no longer conceive what

these manners were when they have ceased to witness them; they are

gone, and their departure was unseen, unfelt; for in order to feel that

refined enjoyment which is derived from choice and distinguished

manners, habit and education must have prepared the heart, and the

taste for them is lost almost as easily as the practice of them. Thus not

only a democratic people cannot have aristocratic manners, but they

neither comprehend nor desire them; and as they never have thought

of them, it is to their minds as if such things had never been. Too

much importance should not be attached to this loss, but it may well

be regretted.

I am aware that it has not unfrequently happened that the same men

have had very high-bred manners and very low-born feelings: the

interior of courts has sufficiently shown what imposing externals may

conceal the meanest hearts. But though the manners of aristocracy did

not constitute virtue, they sometimes embellish virtue itself. It was no

ordinary sight to see a numerous and powerful class of men, whose

every outward action seemed constantly to be dictated by a natural

elevation of thought and feeling, by delicacy and regularity of taste,

and by urbanity of manners. Those manners threw a pleasing illusory

charm over human nature; and though the picture was often a false

one, it could not be viewed without a noble satisfaction.

Chapter XV: Of The Gravity Of

The Americans, And Why It Does

Not Prevent Them From Often

Committing Inconsiderate Actions

Men who live in democratic countries do not value the simple,

turbulent, or coarse diversions in which the people indulge in

aristocratic communities: such diversions are thought by them to be

puerile or insipid. Nor have they a greater inclination for the

intellectual and refined amusements of the aristocratic classes. They

want something productive and substantial in their pleasures; they

want to mix actual fruition with their joy. In aristocratic communities

the people readily give themselves up to bursts of tumultuous and

boisterous gayety, which shake off at once the recollection of their

privations: the natives of democracies are not fond of being thus

violently broken in upon, and they never lose sight of their own

selves without regret. They prefer to these frivolous delights those

more serious and silent amusements which are like business, and

which do not drive business wholly from their minds. An American,

instead of going in a leisure hour to dance merrily at some place of

public resort, as the fellows of his calling continue to do throughout

the greater part of Europe, shuts himself up at home to drink. He thus

enjoys two pleasures; he can go on thinking of his business, and he

can get drunk decently by his own fireside.

I thought that the English constituted the most serious nation on the

face of the earth, but I have since seen the Americans and have

changed my opinion. I do not mean to say that temperament has not a

great deal to do with the character of the inhabitants of the United

States, but I think that their political institutions are a still more

influential cause. I believe the seriousness of the Americans arises

partly from their pride. In democratic countries even poor men

entertain a lofty notion of their personal importance: they look upon

themselves with complacency, and are apt to suppose that others are

looking at them, too. With this disposition they watch their language

and their actions with care, and do not lay themselves open so as to

betray their deficiencies; to preserve their dignity they think it

necessary to retain their gravity.

But I detect another more deep-seated and powerful cause which

instinctively produces amongst the Americans this astonishing

gravity. Under a despotism communities give way at times to bursts

of vehement joy; but they are generally gloomy and moody, because

they are afraid. Under absolute monarchies tempered by the customs

and manners of the country, their spirits are often cheerful and even,

because as they have some freedom and a good deal of security, they

are exempted from the most important cares of life; but all free

peoples are serious, because their minds are habitually absorbed by

the contemplation of some dangerous or difficult purpose. This is

more especially the case amongst those free nations which form

democratic communities. Then there are in all classes a very large

number of men constantly occupied with the serious affairs of the

government; and those whose thoughts are not engaged in the

direction of the commonwealth are wholly engrossed by the

acquisition of a private fortune. Amongst such a people a serious

demeanor ceases to be peculiar to certain men, and becomes a habit

of the nation.

We are told of small democracies in the days of antiquity, in which

the citizens met upon the public places with garlands of roses, and

spent almost all their time in dancing and theatrical amusements. I do

not believe in such republics any more than in that of Plato; or, if the

things we read of really happened, I do not hesitate to affirm that

these supposed democracies were composed of very different

elements from ours, and that they had nothing in common with the

latter except their name. But it must not be supposed that, in the midst

of all their toils, the people who live in democracies think themselves

to be pitied; the contrary is remarked to be the case. No men are

fonder of their own condition. Life would have no relish for them if

they were delivered from the anxieties which harass them, and they

show more attachment to their cares than aristocratic nations to their


I am next led to inquire how it is that these same democratic

nations, which are so serious, sometimes act in so inconsiderate a

manner. The Americans, who almost always preserve a staid

demeanor and a frigid air, nevertheless frequently allow themselves

to be borne away, far beyond the bound of reason, by a sudden

passion or a hasty opinion, and they sometimes gravely commit

strange absurdities. This contrast ought not to surprise us. There is

one sort of ignorance which originates in extreme publicity. In

despotic States men know not how to act, because they are told

nothing; in democratic nations they often act at random, because

nothing is to be left untold. The former do not know—the latter

forget; and the chief features of each picture are lost to them in a

bewilderment of details.

It is astonishing what imprudent language a public man may

sometimes use in free countries, and especially in democratic States,

without being compromised; whereas in absolute monarchies a few

words dropped by accident are enough to unmask him forever, and

ruin him without hope of redemption. This is explained by what goes

before. When a man speaks in the midst of a great crowd, many of his

words are not heard, or are forthwith obliterated from the memories

of those who hear them; but amidst the silence of a mute and

motionless throng the slightest whisper strikes the ear.

In democracies men are never stationary; a thousand chances waft

them to and fro, and their life is always the sport of unforeseen or (so

to speak) extemporaneous circumstances. Thus they are often obliged

to do things which they have imperfectly learned, to say things they

imperfectly understand, and to devote themselves to work for which

they are unprepared by long apprenticeship. In aristocracies every

man has one sole object which he unceasingly pursues, but amongst

democratic nations the existence of man is more complex; the same

mind will almost always embrace several objects at the same time,

and these objects are frequently wholly foreign to each other: as it

cannot know them all well, the mind is readily satisfied with

imperfect notions of each.

When the inhabitant of democracies is not urged by his wants, he is

so at least by his desires; for of all the possessions which he sees

around him, none are wholly beyond his reach. He therefore does

everything in a hurry, he is always satisfied with "pretty well," and

never pauses more than an instant to consider what he has been doing.

His curiosity is at once insatiable and cheaply satisfied; for he cares

more to know a great deal quickly than to know anything well: he has

no time and but little taste to search things to the bottom. Thus then

democratic peoples are grave, because their social and political

condition constantly leads them to engage in serious occupations; and

they act inconsiderately, because they give but little time and

attention to each of these occupations. The habit of inattention must

be considered as the greatest bane of the democratic character.

Chapter XVI: Why The National

Vanity Of The Americans Is More

Restless And Captious Than That

Of The English

All free nations are vainglorious, but national pride is not displayed

by all in the same manner. The Americans in their intercourse with

strangers appear impatient of the smallest censure and insatiable of

praise. The most slender eulogium is acceptable to them; the most

exalted seldom contents them; they unceasingly harass you to extort

praise, and if you resist their entreaties they fall to praising

themselves. It would seem as if, doubting their own merit, they

wished to have it constantly exhibited before their eyes. Their vanity

is not only greedy, but restless and jealous; it will grant nothing,

whilst it demands everything, but is ready to beg and to quarrel at the

same time. If I say to an American that the country he lives in is a

fine one, "Ay," he replies, "there is not its fellow in the world." If I

applaud the freedom which its inhabitants enjoy, he answers,

"Freedom is a fine thing, but few nations are worthy to enjoy it." If I

remark the purity of morals which distinguishes the United States, "I

can imagine," says he, "that a stranger, who has been struck by the

corruption of all other nations, is astonished at the difference." At

length I leave him to the contemplation of himself; but he returns to

the charge, and does not desist till he has got me to repeat all I had

just been saying. It is impossible to conceive a more troublesome or

more garrulous patriotism; it wearies even those who are disposed to

respect it. *a

a [ See Appendix U.]

Such is not the case with the English. An Englishman calmly

enjoys the real or imaginary advantages which in his opinion his

country possesses. If he grants nothing to other nations, neither does

he solicit anything for his own. The censure of foreigners does not

affect him, and their praise hardly flatters him; his position with

regard to the rest of the world is one of disdainful and ignorant

reserve: his pride requires no sustenance, it nourishes itself. It is

remarkable that two nations, so recently sprung from the same stock,

should be so opposite to one another in their manner of feeling and


In aristocratic countries the great possess immense privileges, upon

which their pride rests, without seeking to rely upon the lesser

advantages which accrue to them. As these privileges came to them

by inheritance, they regard them in some sort as a portion of

themselves, or at least as a natural right inherent in their own persons.

They therefore entertain a calm sense of their superiority; they do not

dream of vaunting privileges which everyone perceives and no one

contests, and these things are not sufficiently new to them to be made

topics of conversation. They stand unmoved in their solitary

greatness, well assured that they are seen of all the world without any

effort to show themselves off, and that no one will attempt to drive

them from that position. When an aristocracy carries on the public

affairs, its national pride naturally assumes this reserved, indifferent,

and haughty form, which is imitated by all the other classes of the


When, on the contrary, social conditions differ but little, the

slightest privileges are of some importance; as every man sees around

himself a million of people enjoying precisely similar or analogous

advantages, his pride becomes craving and jealous, he clings to mere

trifles, and doggedly defends them. In democracies, as the conditions

of life are very fluctuating, men have almost always recently acquired

the advantages which they possess; the consequence is that they feel

extreme pleasure in exhibiting them, to show others and convince

themselves that they really enjoy them. As at any instant these same

advantages may be lost, their possessors are constantly on the alert,

and make a point of showing that they still retain them. Men living in

democracies love their country just as they love themselves, and they

transfer the habits of their private vanity to their vanity as a nation.

The restless and insatiable vanity of a democratic people originates so

entirely in the equality and precariousness of social conditions, that

the members of the haughtiest nobility display the very same passion

in those lesser portions of their existence in which there is anything

fluctuating or contested. An aristocratic class always differs greatly

from the other classes of the nation, by the extent and perpetuity of its

privileges; but it often happens that the only differences between the

members who belong to it consist in small transient advantages,

which may any day be lost or acquired. The members of a powerful

aristocracy, collected in a capital or a court, have been known to

contest with virulence those frivolous privileges which depend on the

caprice of fashion or the will of their master. These persons then

displayed towards each other precisely the same puerile jealousies

which animate the men of democracies, the same eagerness to snatch

the smallest advantages which their equals contested, and the same

desire to parade ostentatiously those of which they were in

possession. If national pride ever entered into the minds of courtiers, I

do not question that they would display it in the same manner as the

members of a democratic community.

Chapter XVII: That The Aspect Of

Society In The United States Is At

Once Excited And Monotonous

It would seem that nothing can be more adapted to stimulate and to

feed curiosity than the aspect of the United States. Fortunes, opinions,

and laws are there in ceaseless variation: it is as if immutable nature

herself were mutable, such are the changes worked upon her by the

hand of man. Yet in the end the sight of this excited community

becomes monotonous, and after having watched the moving pageant

for a time the spectator is tired of it. Amongst aristocratic nations

every man is pretty nearly stationary in his own sphere; but men are

astonishingly unlike each other—their passions, their notions, their

habits, and their tastes are essentially different: nothing changey, but

everything differs. In democracies, on the contrary, all men are alike

and do things pretty nearly alike. It is true that they are subject to

great and frequent vicissitudes; but as the same events of good or

adverse fortune are continually recurring, the name of the actors only

is changed, the piece is always the same. The aspect of American

society is animated, because men and things are always changing; but

it is monotonous, because all these changes are alike.

Men living in democratic ages have many passions, but most of

their passions either end in the love of riches or proceed from it. The

cause of this is, not that their souls are narrower, but that the

importance of money is really greater at such times. When all the

members of a community are independent of or indifferent to each

other, the co-operation of each of them can only be obtained by

paying for it: this infinitely multiplies the purposes to which wealth

may be applied, and increases its value. When the reverence which

belonged to what is old has vanished, birth, condition, and profession

no longer distinguish men, or scarcely distinguish them at all: hardly

anything but money remains to create strongly marked differences

between them, and to raise some of them above the common level.

The distinction originating in wealth is increased by the

disappearance and diminution of all other distinctions. Amongst

aristocratic nations money only reaches to a few points on the vast

circle of man's desires—in democracies it seems to lead to all. The

love of wealth is therefore to be traced, either as a principal or an

accessory motive, at the bottom of all that the Americans do: this

gives to all their passions a sort of family likeness, and soon renders

the survey of them exceedingly wearisome. This perpetual recurrence

of the same passion is monotonous; the peculiar methods by which

this passion seeks its own gratification are no less so.

In an orderly and constituted democracy like the United States,

where men cannot enrich themselves by war, by public office, or by

political confiscation, the love of wealth mainly drives them into

business and manufactures. Although these pursuits often bring about

great commotions and disasters, they cannot prosper without strictly

regular habits and a long routine of petty uniform acts. The stronger

the passion is, the more regular are these habits, and the more

uniform are these acts. It may be said that it is the vehemence of their

desires which makes the Americans so methodical; it perturbs their

minds, but it disciplines their lives.

The remark I here apply to America may indeed be addressed to

almost all our contemporaries. Variety is disappearing from the

human race; the same ways of acting, thinking, and feeling are to be

met with all over the world. This is not only because nations work

more upon each other, and are more faithful in their mutual imitation;

but as the men of each country relinquish more and more the peculiar

opinions and feelings of a caste, a profession, or a family, they

simultaneously arrive at something nearer to the constitution of man,

which is everywhere the same. Thus they become more alike, even

without having imitated each other. Like travellers scattered about

some large wood, which is intersected by paths converging to one

point, if all of them keep, their eyes fixed upon that point and advance

towards it, they insensibly draw nearer together—though they seek

not, though they see not, though they know not each other; and they

will be surprised at length to find themselves all collected on the

same spot. All the nations which take, not any particular man, but

man himself, as the object of their researches and their imitations, are

tending in the end to a similar state of society, like these travellers

converging to the central plot of the forest.

Chapter XVIII: Of Honor In The

United States And In Democratic


It would seem that men employ two very distinct methods in the

public estimation *a of the actions of their fellowmen; at one time

they judge them by those simple notions of right and wrong which are

diffused all over the world; at another they refer their decision to a

few very special notions which belong exclusively to some particular

age and country. It often happens that these two rules differ; they

sometimes conflict: but they are never either entirely identified or

entirely annulled by one another. Honor, at the periods of its greatest

power, sways the will more than the belief of men; and even whilst

they yield without hesitation and without a murmur to its dictates,

they feel notwithstanding, by a dim but mighty instinct, the existence

of a more general, more ancient, and more holy law, which they

sometimes disobey although they cease not to acknowledge it. Some

actions have been held to be at the same time virtuous and

dishonorable—a refusal to fight a duel is a case in point.

a [ The word "honor" is not always used in the same

sense either in French or English. I. It first

signifies the dignity, glory, or reverence which a

man receives from his kind; and in this sense a

man is said to acquire honor. 2. Honor signifies

the aggregate of those rules by the assistance of

which this dignity, glory, or reverence is obtained.

Thus we say that a man has always strictly obeyed

the laws of honor; or a man has violated his honor.

In this chapter the word is always used in the latter


I think these peculiarities may be otherwise explained than by the

mere caprices of certain individuals and nations, as has hitherto been

the customary mode of reasoning on the subject. Mankind is subject

to general and lasting wants that have engendered moral laws, to the

neglect of which men have ever and in all places attached the notion

of censure and shame: to infringe them was "to do ill"—"to do well"

was to conform to them. Within the bosom of this vast association of

the human race, lesser associations have been formed which are

called nations; and amidst these nations further subdivisions have

assumed the names of classes or castes. Each of these associations

forms, as it were, a separate species of the human race; and though it

has no essential difference from the mass of mankind, to a certain

extent it stands apart and has certain wants peculiar to itself. To these

special wants must be attributed the modifications which affect in

various degrees and in different countries the mode of considering

human actions, and the estimate which ought to be formed of them. It

is the general and permanent interest of mankind that men should not

kill each other: but it may happen to be the peculiar and temporary

interest of a people or a class to justify, or even to honor, homicide.

Honor is simply that peculiar rule, founded upon a peculiar state of

society, by the application of which a people or a class allot praise or

blame. Nothing is more unproductive to the mind than an abstract

idea; I therefore hasten to call in the aid of facts and examples to

illustrate my meaning.

I select the most extraordinary kind of honor which was ever

known in the world, and that which we are best acquainted with, viz.,

aristocratic honor springing out of feudal society. I shall explain it by

means of the principle already laid down, and I shall explain the

principle by means of the illustration. I am not here led to inquire

when and how the aristocracy of the Middle Ages came into

existence, why it was so deeply severed from the remainder of the

nation, or what founded and consolidated its power. I take its

existence as an established fact, and I am endeavoring to account for

the peculiar view which it took of the greater part of human actions.

The first thing that strikes me is, that in the feudal world actions were

not always praised or blamed with reference to their intrinsic worth,

but that they were sometimes appreciated exclusively with reference

to the person who was the actor or the object of them, which is

repugnant to the general conscience of mankind. Thus some of the

actions which were indifferent on the part of a man in humble life,

dishonored a noble; others changed their whole character according

as the person aggrieved by them belonged or did not belong to the

aristocracy. When these different notions first arose, the nobility

formed a distinct body amidst the people, which it commanded from

the inaccessible heights where it was ensconced. To maintain this

peculiar position, which constituted its strength, it not only required

political privileges, but it required a standard of right and wrong for

its own especial use. That some particular virtue or vice belonged to

the nobility rather than to the humble classes—that certain actions

were guiltless when they affected the villain, which were criminal

when they touched the noble—these were often arbitrary matters; but

that honor or shame should be attached to a man's actions according

to his condition, was a result of the internal constitution of an

aristocratic community. This has been actually the case in all the

countries which have had an aristocracy; as long as a trace of the

principle remains, these peculiarities will still exist; to debauch a

woman of color scarcely injures the reputation of an American—to

marry her dishonors him.

In some cases feudal honor enjoined revenge, and stigmatized the

forgiveness of insults; in others it imperiously commanded men to

conquer their own passions, and imposed forgetfulness of self. It did

not make humanity or kindness its law, but it extolled generosity; it

set more store on liberality than on benevolence; it allowed men to

enrich themselves by gambling or by war, but not by labor; it

preferred great crimes to small earnings; cupidity was less distasteful

to it than avarice; violence it often sanctioned, but cunning and

treachery it invariably reprobated as contemptible. These fantastical

notions did not proceed exclusively from the caprices of those who

entertained them. A class which has succeeded in placing itself at the

head of and above all others, and which makes perpetual exertions to

maintain this lofty position, must especially honor those virtues

which are conspicuous for their dignity and splendor, and which may

be easily combined with pride and the love of power. Such men

would not hesitate to invert the natural order of the conscience in

order to give those virtues precedence before all others. It may even

be conceived that some of the more bold and brilliant vices would

readily be set above the quiet, unpretending virtues. The very

existence of such a class in society renders these things unavoidable.

The nobles of the Middle Ages placed military courage foremost

amongst virtues, and in lieu of many of them. This was again a

peculiar opinion which arose necessarily from the peculiarity of the

state of society. Feudal aristocracy existed by war and for war; its

power had been founded by arms, and by arms that power was

maintained; it therefore required nothing more than military courage,

and that quality was naturally exalted above all others; whatever

denoted it, even at the expense of reason and humanity, was therefore

approved and frequently enjoined by the manners of the time. Such

was the main principle; the caprice of man was only to be traced in

minuter details. That a man should regard a tap on the cheek as an

unbearable insult, and should be obliged to kill in single combat the

person who struck him thus lightly, is an arbitrary rule; but that a

noble could not tranquilly receive an insult, and was dishonored if he

allowed himself to take a blow without fighting, were direct

consequences of the fundamental principles and the wants of military


Thus it was true to a certain extent to assert that the laws of honor

were capricious; but these caprices of honor were always confined

within certain necessary limits. The peculiar rule, which was called

honor by our forefathers, is so far from being an arbitrary law in my

eyes, that I would readily engage to ascribe its most incoherent and

fantastical injunctions to a small number of fixed and invariable

wants inherent in feudal society.

If I were to trace the notion of feudal honor into the domain of

politics, I should not find it more difficult to explain its dictates. The

state of society and the political institutions of the Middle Ages were

such, that the supreme power of the nation never governed the

community directly. That power did not exist in the eyes of the

people: every man looked up to a certain individual whom he was

bound to obey; by that intermediate personage he was connected with

all the others. Thus in feudal society the whole system of the

commonwealth rested upon the sentiment of fidelity to the person of

the lord: to destroy that sentiment was to open the sluices of anarchy.

Fidelity to a political superior was, moreover, a sentiment of which

all the members of the aristocracy had constant opportunities of

estimating the importance; for every one of them was a vassal as well

as a lord, and had to command as well as to obey. To remain faithful

to the lord, to sacrifice one's self for him if called upon, to share his

good or evil fortunes, to stand by him in his undertakings whatever

they might be—such were the first injunctions of feudal honor in

relation to the political institutions of those times. The treachery of a

vassal was branded with extraordinary severity by public opinion, and

a name of peculiar infamy was invented for the offence which was

called "felony."

On the contrary, few traces are to be found in the Middle Ages of

the passion which constituted the life of the nations of antiquity—I

mean patriotism; the word itself is not of very ancient date in the

language. *b Feudal institutions concealed the country at large from

men's sight, and rendered the love of it less necessary. The nation was

forgotten in the passions which attached men to persons. Hence it was

no part of the strict law of feudal honor to remain faithful to one's

country. Not indeed that the love of their country did not exist in the

hearts of our forefathers; but it constituted a dim and feeble instinct,

which has grown more clear and strong in proportion as aristocratic

classes have been abolished, and the supreme power of the nation

centralized. This may be clearly seen from the contrary judgments

which European nations have passed upon the various events of their

histories, according to the generations by which such judgments have

been formed. The circumstance which most dishonored the Constable

de Bourbon in the eyes of his contemporaries was that he bore arms

against his king: that which most dishonors him in our eyes, is that he

made war against his country; we brand him as deeply as our

forefathers did, but for different reasons.

b [ Even the word "patrie" was not used by the

French writers until the sixteenth century.]

I have chosen the honor of feudal times by way of illustration of

my meaning, because its characteristics are more distinctly marked

and more familiar to us than those of any other period; but I might

have taken an example elsewhere, and I should have reached the

same conclusion by a different road. Although we are less perfectly

acquainted with the Romans than with our own ancestors, yet we

know that certain peculiar notions of glory and disgrace obtained

amongst them, which were not solely derived from the general

principles of right and wrong. Many human actions were judged

differently, according as they affected a Roman citizen or a stranger,

a freeman or a slave; certain vices were blazoned abroad, certain

virtues were extolled above all others. "In that age," says Plutarch in

the life of Coriolanus, "martial prowess was more honored and prized

in Rome than all the other virtues, insomuch that it was called virtus,

the name of virtue itself, by applying the name of the kind to this

particular species; so that virtue in Latin was as much as to say

valor." Can anyone fail to recognize the peculiar want of that singular

community which was formed for the conquest of the world?

Any nation would furnish us with similar grounds of observation;

for, as I have already remarked, whenever men collect together as a

distinct community, the notion of honor instantly grows up amongst

them; that is to say, a system of opinions peculiar to themselves as to

what is blamable or commendable; and these peculiar rules always

originate in the special habits and special interests of the community.

This is applicable to a certain extent to democratic communities as

well as to others, as we shall now proceed to prove by the example of

the Americans. *c Some loose notions of the old aristocratic honor of

Europe are still to be found scattered amongst the opinions of the

Americans; but these traditional opinions are few in number, they

have but little root in the country, and but little power. They are like a

religion which has still some temples left standing, though men have

ceased to believe in it. But amidst these half-obliterated notions of

exotic honor, some new opinions have sprung up, which constitute

what may be termed in our days American honor. I have shown how

the Americans are constantly driven to engage in commerce and

industry. Their origin, their social condition, their political

institutions, and even the spot they inhabit, urge them irresistibly in

this direction. Their present condition is then that of an almost

exclusively manufacturing and commercial association, placed in the

midst of a new and boundless country, which their principal object is

to explore for purposes of profit. This is the characteristic which most

peculiarly distinguishes the American people from all others at the

present time. All those quiet virtues which tend to give a regular

movement to the community, and to encourage business, will

therefore be held in peculiar honor by that people, and to neglect

those virtues will be to incur public contempt. All the more turbulent

virtues, which often dazzle, but more frequently disturb society, will

on the contrary occupy a subordinate rank in the estimation of this

same people: they may be neglected without forfeiting the esteem of

the community—to acquire them would perhaps be to run a risk of

losing it.

c [ I speak here of the Americans inhabiting those

States where slavery does not exist; they alone can

be said to present a complete picture of

democratic society.]

The Americans make a no less arbitrary classification of men's

vices. There are certain propensities which appear censurable to the

general reason and the universal conscience of mankind, but which

happen to agree with the peculiar and temporary wants of the

American community: these propensities are lightly reproved,

sometimes even encouraged; for instance, the love of wealth and the

secondary propensities connected with it may be more particularly

cited. To clear, to till, and to transform the vast uninhabited continent

which is his domain, the American requires the daily support of an

energetic passion; that passion can only be the love of wealth; the

passion for wealth is therefore not reprobated in America, and

provided it does not go beyond the bounds assigned to it for public

security, it is held in honor. The American lauds as a noble and

praiseworthy ambition what our own forefathers in the Middle Ages

stigmatized as servile cupidity, just as he treats as a blind and

barbarous frenzy that ardor of conquest and martial temper which

bore them to battle. In the United States fortunes are lost and regained

without difficulty; the country is boundless, and its resources

inexhaustible. The people have all the wants and cravings of a

growing creature; and whatever be their efforts, they are always

surrounded by more than they can appropriate. It is not the ruin of a

few individuals which may be soon repaired, but the inactivity and

sloth of the community at large which would be fatal to such a

people. Boldness of enterprise is the foremost cause of its rapid

progress, its strength, and its greatness. Commercial business is there

like a vast lottery, by which a small number of men continually lose,

but the State is always a gainer; such a people ought therefore to

encourage and do honor to boldness in commercial speculations. But

any bold speculation risks the fortune of the speculator and of all

those who put their trust in him. The Americans, who make a virtue

of commercial temerity, have no right in any case to brand with

disgrace those who practise it. Hence arises the strange indulgence

which is shown to bankrupts in the United States; their honor does

not suffer by such an accident. In this respect the Americans differ,

not only from the nations of Europe, but from all the commercial

nations of our time, and accordingly they resemble none of them in

their position or their wants.

In America all those vices which tend to impair the purity of

morals, and to destroy the conjugal tie, are treated with a degree of

severity which is unknown in the rest of the world. At first sight this

seems strangely at variance with the tolerance shown there on other

subjects, and one is surprised to meet with a morality so relaxed and

so austere amongst the selfsame people. But these things are less

incoherent than they seem to be. Public opinion in the United States

very gently represses that love of wealth which promotes the

commercial greatness and the prosperity of the nation, and it

especially condemns that laxity of morals which diverts the human

mind from the pursuit of well-being, and disturbs the internal order of

domestic life which is so necessary to success in business. To earn the

esteem of their countrymen, the Americans are therefore constrained

to adapt themselves to orderly habits—and it may be said in this

sense that they make it a matter of honor to live chastely.

On one point American honor accords with the notions of honor

acknowledged in Europe; it places courage as the highest virtue, and

treats it as the greatest of the moral necessities of man; but the notion

of courage itself assumes a different aspect. In the United States

martial valor is but little prized; the courage which is best known and

most esteemed is that which emboldens men to brave the dangers of

the ocean, in order to arrive earlier in port—to support the privations

of the wilderness without complaint, and solitude more cruel than

privations—the courage which renders them almost insensible to the

loss of a fortune laboriously acquired, and instantly prompts to fresh

exertions to make another. Courage of this kind is peculiarly

necessary to the maintenance and prosperity of the American

communities, and it is held by them in peculiar honor and estimation;

to betray a want of it is to incur certain disgrace.

I have yet another characteristic point which may serve to place the

idea of this chapter in stronger relief. In a democratic society like that

of the United States, where fortunes are scanty and insecure,

everybody works, and work opens a way to everything: this has

changed the point of honor quite round, and has turned it against

idleness. I have sometimes met in America with young men of

wealth, personally disinclined to all laborious exertion, but who had

been compelled to embrace a profession. Their disposition and their

fortune allowed them to remain without employment; public opinion

forbade it, too imperiously to be disobeyed. In the European

countries, on the contrary, where aristocracy is still struggling with

the flood which overwhelms it, I have often seen men, constantly

spurred on by their wants and desires, remain in idleness, in order not

to lose the esteem of their equals; and I have known them submit to

ennui and privations rather than to work. No one can fail to perceive

that these opposite obligations are two different rules of conduct, both

nevertheless originating in the notion of honor.

What our forefathers designated as honor absolutely was in reality

only one of its forms; they gave a generic name to what was only a

species. Honor therefore is to be found in democratic as well as in

aristocratic ages, but it will not be difficult to show that it assumes a

different aspect in the former. Not only are its injunctions different,

but we shall shortly see that they are less numerous, less precise, and

that its dictates are less rigorously obeyed. The position of a caste is

always much more peculiar than that of a people. Nothing is so much

out of the way of the world as a small community invariably

composed of the same families (as was for instance the aristocracy of

the Middle Ages), whose object is to concentrate and to retain,

exclusively and hereditarily, education, wealth, and power amongst

its own members. But the more out of the way the position of a

community happens to be, the more numerous are its special wants,

and the more extensive are its notions of honor corresponding to

those wants. The rules of honor will therefore always be less

numerous amongst a people not divided into castes than amongst any

other. If ever any nations are constituted in which it may even be

difficult to find any peculiar classes of society, the notion of honor

will be confined to a small number of precepts, which will be more

and more in accordance with the moral laws adopted by the mass of

mankind. Thus the laws of honor will be less peculiar and less

multifarious amongst a democratic people than in an aristocracy.

They will also be more obscure; and this is a necessary consequence

of what goes before; for as the distinguishing marks of honor are less

numerous and less peculiar, it must often be difficult to distinguish

them. To this, other reasons may be added. Amongst the aristocratic

nations of the Middle Ages, generation succeeded generation in vain;

each family was like a never-dying, ever-stationary man, and the state

of opinions was hardly more changeable than that of conditions.

Everyone then had always the same objects before his eyes, which he

contemplated from the same point; his eyes gradually detected the

smallest details, and his discernment could not fail to become in the

end clear and accurate. Thus not only had the men of feudal times

very extraordinary opinions in matters of honor, but each of those

opinions was present to their minds under a clear and precise form.

This can never be the case in America, where all men are in

constant motion; and where society, transformed daily by its own

operations, changes its opinions together with its wants. In such a

country men have glimpses of the rules of honor, but they have

seldom time to fix attention upon them.

But even if society were motionless, it would still be difficult to

determine the meaning which ought to be attached to the word

"honor." In the Middle Ages, as each class had its own honor, the

same opinion was never received at the same time by a large number

of men; and this rendered it possible to give it a determined and

accurate form, which was the more easy, as all those by whom it was

received, having a perfectly identical and most peculiar position, were

naturally disposed to agree upon the points of a law which was made

for themselves alone. Thus the code of honor became a complete and

detailed system, in which everything was anticipated and provided for

beforehand, and a fixed and always palpable standard was applied to

human actions. Amongst a democratic nation, like the Americans, in

which ranks are identified, and the whole of society forms one single

mass, composed of elements which are all analogous though not

entirely similar, it is impossible ever to agree beforehand on what

shall or shall not be allowed by the laws of honor. Amongst that

people, indeed, some national wants do exist which give rise to

opinions common to the whole nation on points of honor; but these

opinions never occur at the same time, in the same manner, or with

the same intensity to the minds of the whole community; the law of

honor exists, but it has no organs to promulgate it.

The confusion is far greater still in a democratic country like

France, where the different classes of which the former fabric of

society was composed, being brought together but not yet mingled,

import day by day into each other's circles various and sometimes

conflicting notions of honor—where every man, at his own will and

pleasure, forsakes one portion of his forefathers' creed, and retains

another; so that, amidst so many arbitrary measures, no common rule

can ever be established, and it is almost impossible to predict which

actions will be held in honor and which will be thought disgraceful.

Such times are wretched, but they are of short duration.

As honor, amongst democratic nations, is imperfectly defined, its

influence is of course less powerful; for it is difficult to apply with

certainty and firmness a law which is not distinctly known. Public

opinion, the natural and supreme interpreter of the laws of honor, not

clearly discerning to which side censure or approval ought to lean,

can only pronounce a hesitating judgment. Sometimes the opinion of

the public may contradict itself; more frequently it does not act, and

lets things pass.

The weakness of the sense of honor in democracies also arises from

several other causes. In aristocratic countries, the same notions of

honor are always entertained by only a few persons, always limited in

number, often separated from the rest of their fellow-citizens. Honor

is easily mingled and identified in their minds with the idea of all that

distinguishes their own position; it appears to them as the chief

characteristic of their own rank; they apply its different rules with all

the warmth of personal interest, and they feel (if I may use the

expression) a passion for complying with its dictates. This truth is

extremely obvious in the old black-letter lawbooks on the subject of

"trial by battel." The nobles, in their disputes, were bound to use the

lance and sword; whereas the villains used only sticks amongst

themselves, "inasmuch as," to use the words of the old books,

"villains have no honor." This did not mean, as it may be imagined at

the present day, that these people were contemptible; but simply that

their actions were not to be judged by the same rules which were

applied to the actions of the aristocracy.

It is surprising, at first sight, that when the sense of honor is most

predominant, its injunctions are usually most strange; so that the

further it is removed from common reason the better it is obeyed;

whence it has sometimes been inferred that the laws of honor were

strengthened by their own extravagance. The two things indeed

originate from the same source, but the one is not derived from the

other. Honor becomes fantastical in proportion to the peculiarity of

the wants which it denotes, and the paucity of the men by whom

those wants are felt; and it is because it denotes wants of this kind

that its influence is great. Thus the notion of honor is not the stronger

for being fantastical, but it is fantastical and strong from the selfsame


Further, amongst aristocratic nations each rank is different, but all

ranks are fixed; every man occupies a place in his own sphere which

he cannot relinquish, and he lives there amidst other men who are

bound by the same ties. Amongst these nations no man can either

hope or fear to escape being seen; no man is placed so low but that he

has a stage of his own, and none can avoid censure or applause by his

obscurity. In democratic States on the contrary, where all the

members of the community are mingled in the same crowd and in

constant agitation, public opinion has no hold on men; they disappear

at every instant, and elude its power. Consequently the dictates of

honor will be there less imperious and less stringent; for honor acts

solely for the public eye—differing in this respect from mere virtue,

which lives upon itself contented with its own approval.

If the reader has distinctly apprehended all that goes before, he will

understand that there is a close and necessary relation between the

inequality of social conditions and what has here been styled honor—

a relation which, if I am not mistaken, had not before been clearly

pointed out. I shall therefore make one more attempt to illustrate it

satisfactorily. Suppose a nation stands apart from the rest of mankind:

independently of certain general wants inherent in the human race, it

will also have wants and interests peculiar to itself: certain opinions

of censure or approbation forthwith arise in the community, which are

peculiar to itself, and which are styled honor by the members of that

community. Now suppose that in this same nation a caste arises,

which, in its turn, stands apart from all the other classes, and contracts

certain peculiar wants, which give rise in their turn to special

opinions. The honor of this caste, composed of a medley of the

peculiar notions of the nation, and the still more peculiar notions of

the caste, will be as remote as it is possible to conceive from the

simple and general opinions of men.

Having reached this extreme point of the argument, I now return.

When ranks are commingled and privileges abolished, the men of

whom a nation is composed being once more equal and alike, their

interests and wants become identical, and all the peculiar notions

which each caste styled honor successively disappear: the notion of

honor no longer proceeds from any other source than the wants

peculiar to the nation at large, and it denotes the individual character

of that nation to the world. Lastly, if it be allowable to suppose that

all the races of mankind should be commingled, and that all the

peoples of earth should ultimately come to have the same interests,

the same wants, undistinguished from each other by any characteristic

peculiarities, no conventional value whatever would then be attached

to men's actions; they would all be regarded by all in the same light;

the general necessities of mankind, revealed by conscience to every

man, would become the common standard. The simple and general

notions of right and wrong only would then be recognized in the

world, to which, by a natural and necessary tie, the idea of censure or

approbation would be attached. Thus, to comprise all my meaning in

a single proposition, the dissimilarities and inequalities of men gave

rise to the notion of honor; that notion is weakened in proportion as

these differences are obliterated, and with them it would disappear.

Chapter XIX: Why So Many

Ambitious Men And So Little Lofty

Ambition Are To Be Found In The

United States

The first thing which strikes a traveller in the United States is the

innumerable multitude of those who seek to throw off their original

condition; and the second is the rarity of lofty ambition to be

observed in the midst of the universally ambitious stir of society. No

Americans are devoid of a yearning desire to rise; but hardly any

appear to entertain hopes of great magnitude, or to drive at very lofty

aims. All are constantly seeking to acquire property, power, and

reputation—few contemplate these things upon a great scale; and this

is the more surprising, as nothing is to be discerned in the manners or

laws of America to limit desire, or to prevent it from spreading its

impulses in every direction. It seems difficult to attribute this singular

state of things to the equality of social conditions; for at the instant

when that same equality was established in France, the flight of

ambition became unbounded. Nevertheless, I think that the principal

cause which may be assigned to this fact is to be found in the social

condition and democratic manners of the Americans.

All revolutions enlarge the ambition of men: this proposition is

more peculiarly true of those revolutions which overthrow an

aristocracy. When the former barriers which kept back the multitude

from fame and power are suddenly thrown down, a violent and

universal rise takes place towards that eminence so long coveted and

at length to be enjoyed. In this first burst of triumph nothing seems

impossible to anyone: not only are desires boundless, but the power

of satisfying them seems almost boundless, too. Amidst the general

and sudden renewal of laws and customs, in this vast confusion of all

men and all ordinances, the various members of the community rise

and sink again with excessive rapidity; and power passes so quickly

from hand to hand that none need despair of catching it in turn. It

must be recollected, moreover, that the people who destroy an

aristocracy have lived under its laws; they have witnessed its

splendor, and they have unconsciously imbibed the feelings and

notions which it entertained. Thus at the moment when an aristocracy

is dissolved, its spirit still pervades the mass of the community, and

its tendencies are retained long after it has been defeated. Ambition is

therefore always extremely great as long as a democratic revolution

lasts, and it will remain so for some time after the revolution is

consummated. The reminiscence of the extraordinary events which

men have witnessed is not obliterated from their memory in a day.

The passions which a revolution has roused do not disappear at its

close. A sense of instability remains in the midst of re-established

order: a notion of easy success survives the strange vicissitudes which

gave it birth; desires still remain extremely enlarged, when the means

of satisfying them are diminished day by day. The taste for large

fortunes subsists, though large fortunes are rare: and on every side we

trace the ravages of inordinate and hapless ambition kindled in hearts

which they consume in secret and in vain.

At length, however, the last vestiges of the struggle are effaced; the

remains of aristocracy completely disappear; the great events by

which its fall was attended are forgotten; peace succeeds to war, and

the sway of order is restored in the new realm; desires are again

adapted to the means by which they may be fulfilled; the wants, the

opinions, and the feelings of men cohere once more; the level of the

community is permanently determined, and democratic society

established. A democratic nation, arrived at this permanent and

regular state of things, will present a very different spectacle from

that which we have just described; and we may readily conclude that,

if ambition becomes great whilst the conditions of society are

growing equal, it loses that quality when they have grown so. As

wealth is subdivided and knowledge diffused, no one is entirely

destitute of education or of property; the privileges and

disqualifications of caste being abolished, and men having shattered

the bonds which held them fixed, the notion of advancement suggests

itself to every mind, the desire to rise swells in every heart, and all

men want to mount above their station: ambition is the universal


But if the equality of conditions gives some resources to all the

members of the community, it also prevents any of them from having

resources of great extent, which necessarily circumscribes their

desires within somewhat narrow limits. Thus amongst democratic

nations ambition is ardent and continual, but its aim is not habitually

lofty; and life is generally spent in eagerly coveting small objects

which are within reach. What chiefly diverts the men of democracies

from lofty ambition is not the scantiness of their fortunes, but the

vehemence of the exertions they daily make to improve them. They

strain their faculties to the utmost to achieve paltry results, and this

cannot fail speedily to limit their discernment and to circumscribe

their powers. They might be much poorer and still be greater. The

small number of opulent citizens who are to be found amidst a

democracy do not constitute an exception to this rule. A man who

raises himself by degrees to wealth and power, contracts, in the

course of this protracted labor, habits of prudence and restraint which

he cannot afterwards shake off. A man cannot enlarge his mind as he

would his house. The same observation is applicable to the sons of

such a man; they are born, it is true, in a lofty position, but their

parents were humble; they have grown up amidst feelings and notions

which they cannot afterwards easily get rid of; and it may be

presumed that they will inherit the propensities of their father as well

as his wealth. It may happen, on the contrary, that the poorest scion of

a powerful aristocracy may display vast ambition, because the

traditional opinions of his race and the general spirit of his order still

buoy him up for some time above his fortune. Another thing which

prevents the men of democratic periods from easily indulging in the

pursuit of lofty objects, is the lapse of time which they foresee must

take place before they can be ready to approach them. "It is a great

advantage," says Pascal, "to be a man of quality, since it brings one

man as forward at eighteen or twenty as another man would be at

fifty, which is a clear gain of thirty years." Those thirty years are

commonly wanting to the ambitious characters of democracies. The

principle of equality, which allows every man to arrive at everything,

prevents all men from rapid advancement.

In a democratic society, as well as elsewhere, there are only a

certain number of great fortunes to be made; and as the paths which

lead to them are indiscriminately open to all, the progress of all must

necessarily be slackened. As the candidates appear to be nearly alike,

and as it is difficult to make a selection without infringing the

principle of equality, which is the supreme law of democratic

societies, the first idea which suggests itself is to make them all

advance at the same rate and submit to the same probation. Thus in

proportion as men become more alike, and the principle of equality is

more peaceably and deeply infused into the institutions and manners

of the country, the rules of advancement become more inflexible,

advancement itself slower, the difficulty of arriving quickly at a

certain height far greater. From hatred of privilege and from the

embarrassment of choosing, all men are at last constrained, whatever

may be their standard, to pass the same ordeal; all are

indiscriminately subjected to a multitude of petty preliminary

exercises, in which their youth is wasted and their imagination

quenched, so that they despair of ever fully attaining what is held out

to them; and when at length they are in a condition to perform any

extraordinary acts, the taste for such things has forsaken them.

In China, where the equality of conditions is exceedingly great and

very ancient, no man passes from one public office to another without

undergoing a probationary trial. This probation occurs afresh at every

stage of his career; and the notion is now so rooted in the manners of

the people that I remember to have read a Chinese novel, in which the

hero, after numberless crosses, succeeds at length in touching the

heart of his mistress by taking honors. A lofty ambition breathes with

difficulty in such an atmosphere.

The remark I apply to politics extends to everything; equality

everywhere produces the same effects; where the laws of a country do

not regulate and retard the advancement of men by positive

enactment, competition attains the same end. In a well-established

democratic community great and rapid elevation is therefore rare; it

forms an exception to the common rule; and it is the singularity of

such occurrences that makes men forget how rarely they happen. Men

living in democracies ultimately discover these things; they find out

at last that the laws of their country open a boundless field of action

before them, but that no one can hope to hasten across it. Between

them and the final object of their desires, they perceive a multitude of

small intermediate impediments, which must be slowly surmounted:

this prospect wearies and discourages their ambition at once. They

therefore give up hopes so doubtful and remote, to search nearer to

themselves for less lofty and more easy enjoyments. Their horizon is

not bounded by the laws but narrowed by themselves.

I have remarked that lofty ambitions are more rare in the ages of

democracy than in times of aristocracy: I may add that when, in spite

of these natural obstacles, they do spring into existence, their

character is different. In aristocracies the career of ambition is often

wide, but its boundaries are determined. In democracies ambition

commonly ranges in a narrower field, but if once it gets beyond that,

hardly any limits can be assigned to it. As men are individually

weak—as they live asunder, and in constant motion—as precedents

are of little authority and laws but of short duration, resistance to

novelty is languid, and the fabric of society never appears perfectly

erect or firmly consolidated. So that, when once an ambitious man

has the power in his grasp, there is nothing he may noted are; and

when it is gone from him, he meditates the overthrow of the State to

regain it. This gives to great political ambition a character of

revolutionary violence, which it seldom exhibits to an equal degree in

aristocratic communities. The common aspect of democratic nations

will present a great number of small and very rational objects of

ambition, from amongst which a few ill-controlled desires of a larger

growth will at intervals break out: but no such a thing as ambition

conceived and contrived on a vast scale is to be met with there.

I have shown elsewhere by what secret influence the principle of

equality makes the passion for physical gratifications and the

exclusive love of the present predominate in the human heart: these

different propensities mingle with the sentiment of ambition, and

tinge it, as it were, with their hues. I believe that ambitious men in

democracies are less engrossed than any others with the interests and

the judgment of posterity; the present moment alone engages and

absorbs them. They are more apt to complete a number of

undertakings with rapidity than to raise lasting monuments of their

achievements; and they care much more for success than for fame.

What they most ask of men is obedience—what they most covet is

empire. Their manners have in almost all cases remained below the

height of their station; the consequence is that they frequently carry

very low tastes into their extraordinary fortunes, and that they seem to

have acquired the supreme power only to minister to their coarse or

paltry pleasures.

I think that in our time it is very necessary to cleanse, to regulate,

and to adapt the feeling of ambition, but that it would be extremely

dangerous to seek to impoverish and to repress it over-much. We

should attempt to lay down certain extreme limits, which it should

never be allowed to outstep; but its range within those established

limits should not be too much checked. I confess that I apprehend

much less for democratic society from the boldness than from the

mediocrity of desires. What appears to me most to be dreaded is that,

in the midst of the small incessant occupations of private life,

ambition should lose its vigor and its greatness—that the passions of

man should abate, but at the same time be lowered, so that the march

of society should every day become more tranquil and less aspiring. I

think then that the leaders of modern society would be wrong to seek

to lull the community by a state of too uniform and too peaceful

happiness; and that it is well to expose it from time to time to matters

of difficulty and danger, in order to raise ambition and to give it a

field of action. Moralists are constantly complaining that the ruling

vice of the present time is pride. This is true in one sense, for indeed

no one thinks that he is not better than his neighbor, or consents to

obey his superior: but it is extremely false in another; for the same

man who cannot endure subordination or equality, has so

contemptible an opinion of himself that he thinks he is only born to

indulge in vulgar pleasures. He willingly takes up with low desires,

without daring to embark in lofty enterprises, of which he scarcely

dreams. Thus, far from thinking that humility ought to be preached to

our contemporaries, I would have endeavors made to give them a

more enlarged idea of themselves and of their kind. Humility is

unwholesome to them; what they most want is, in my opinion, pride. I

would willingly exchange several of our small virtues for this one


Chapter XX: The Trade Of Place-

Hunting In Certain Democratic


In the United States as soon as a man has acquired some education

and pecuniary resources, he either endeavors to get rich by commerce

or industry, or he buys land in the bush and turns pioneer. All that he

asks of the State is not to be disturbed in his toil, and to be secure of

his earnings. Amongst the greater part of European nations, when a

man begins to feel his strength and to extend his desires, the first

thing that occurs to him is to get some public employment. These

opposite effects, originating in the same cause, deserve our passing


When public employments are few in number, ill-paid and

precarious, whilst the different lines of business are numerous and

lucrative, it is to business, and not to official duties, that the new and

eager desires engendered by the principle of equality turn from every

side. But if, whilst the ranks of society are becoming more equal, the

education of the people remains incomplete, or their spirit the reverse

of bold—if commerce and industry, checked in their growth, afford

only slow and arduous means of making a fortune—the various

members of the community, despairing of ameliorating their own

condition, rush to the head of the State and demand its assistance. To

relieve their own necessities at the cost of the public treasury, appears

to them to be the easiest and most open, if not the only, way they

have to rise above a condition which no longer contents them; place-

hunting becomes the most generally followed of all trades. This must

especially be the case, in those great centralized monarchies in which

the number of paid offices is immense, and the tenure of them

tolerably secure, so that no one despairs of obtaining a place, and of

enjoying it as undisturbedly as a hereditary fortune.

I shall not remark that the universal and inordinate desire for place

is a great social evil; that it destroys the spirit of independence in the

citizen, and diffuses a venal and servile humor throughout the frame

of society; that it stifles the manlier virtues: nor shall I be at the pains

to demonstrate that this kind of traffic only creates an unproductive

activity, which agitates the country without adding to its resources: all

these things are obvious. But I would observe, that a government

which encourages this tendency risks its own tranquillity, and places

its very existence in great jeopardy. I am aware that at a time like our

own, when the love and respect which formerly clung to authority are

seen gradually to decline, it may appear necessary to those in power

to lay a closer hold on every man by his own interest, and it may

seem convenient to use his own passions to keep him in order and in

silence; but this cannot be so long, and what may appear to be a

source of strength for a certain time will assuredly become in the end

a great cause of embarrassment and weakness.

Amongst democratic nations, as well as elsewhere, the number of

official appointments has in the end some limits; but amongst those

nations, the number of aspirants is unlimited; it perpetually increases,

with a gradual and irresistible rise in proportion as social conditions

become more equal, and is only checked by the limits of the

population. Thus, when public employments afford the only outlet for

ambition, the government necessarily meets with a permanent

opposition at last; for it is tasked to satisfy with limited means

unlimited desires. It is very certain that of all people in the world the

most difficult to restrain and to manage are a people of solicitants.

Whatever endeavors are made by rulers, such a people can never be

contented; and it is always to be apprehended that they will ultimately

overturn the constitution of the country, and change the aspect of the

State, for the sole purpose of making a clearance of places. The

sovereigns of the present age, who strive to fix upon themselves alone

all those novel desires which are aroused by equality, and to satisfy

them, will repent in the end, if I am not mistaken, that they ever

embarked in this policy: they will one day discover that they have

hazarded their own power, by making it so necessary; and that the

more safe and honest course would have been to teach their subjects

the art of providing for themselves. *a

a [ As a matter of fact, more recent experience has

shown that place-hunting is quite as intense in the

United States as in any country in Europe. It is

regarded by the Americans themselves as one of

the great evils of their social condition, and it

powerfully affects their political institutions. But

the American who seeks a place seeks not so

much a means of subsistence as the distinction

which office and public employment confer. In the

absence of any true aristocracy, the public service

creates a spurious one, which is as much an object

of ambition as the distinctions of rank in

aristocratic countries.—Translator's Note.]

Chapter XXI: Why Great

Revolutions Will Become More


A people which has existed for centuries under a system of castes

and classes can only arrive at a democratic state of society by passing

through a long series of more or less critical transformations,

accomplished by violent efforts, and after numerous vicissitudes; in

the course of which, property, opinions, and power are rapidly

transferred from one hand to another. Even after this great revolution

is consummated, the revolutionary habits engendered by it may long

be traced, and it will be followed by deep commotion. As all this

takes place at the very time at which social conditions are becoming

more equal, it is inferred that some concealed relation and secret tie

exist between the principle of equality itself and revolution, insomuch

that the one cannot exist without giving rise to the other.

On this point reasoning may seem to lead to the same result as

experience. Amongst a people whose ranks are nearly equal, no

ostensible bond connects men together, or keeps them settled in their

station. None of them have either a permanent right or power to

command—none are forced by their condition to obey; but every

man, finding himself possessed of some education and some

resources, may choose his won path and proceed apart from all his

fellow-men. The same causes which make the members of the

community independent of each other, continually impel them to new

and restless desires, and constantly spur them onwards. It therefore

seems natural that, in a democratic community, men, things, and

opinions should be forever changing their form and place, and that

democratic ages should be times of rapid and incessant


But is this really the case? does the equality of social conditions

habitually and permanently lead men to revolution? does that state of

society contain some perturbing principle which prevents the

community from ever subsiding into calm, and disposes the citizens

to alter incessantly their laws, their principles, and their manners? I

do not believe it; and as the subject is important, I beg for the reader's

close attention. Almost all the revolutions which have changed the

aspect of nations have been made to consolidate or to destroy social

inequality. Remove the secondary causes which have produced the

great convulsions of the world, and you will almost always find the

principle of inequality at the bottom. Either the poor have attempted

to plunder the rich, or the rich to enslave the poor. If then a state of

society can ever be founded in which every man shall have something

to keep, and little to take from others, much will have been done for

the peace of the world. I am aware that amongst a great democratic

people there will always be some members of the community in great

poverty, and others in great opulence; but the poor, instead of forming

the immense majority of the nation, as is always the case in

aristocratic communities, are comparatively few in number, and the

laws do not bind them together by the ties of irremediable and

hereditary penury. The wealthy, on their side, are scarce and

powerless; they have no privileges which attract public observation;

even their wealth, as it is no longer incorporated and bound up with

the soil, is impalpable, and as it were invisible. As there is no longer a

race of poor men, so there is no longer a race of rich men; the latter

spring up daily from the multitude, and relapse into it again. Hence

they do not form a distinct class, which may be easily marked out and

plundered; and, moreover, as they are connected with the mass of

their fellow-citizens by a thousand secret ties, the people cannot assail

them without inflicting an injury upon itself. Between these two

extremes of democratic communities stand an innumerable multitude

of men almost alike, who, without being exactly either rich or poor,

are possessed of sufficient property to desire the maintenance of

order, yet not enough to excite envy. Such men are the natural

enemies of violent commotions: their stillness keeps all beneath them

and above them still, and secures the balance of the fabric of society.

Not indeed that even these men are contented with what they have

gotten, or that they feel a natural abhorrence for a revolution in which

they might share the spoil without sharing the calamity; on the

contrary, they desire, with unexampled ardor, to get rich, but the

difficulty is to know from whom riches can be taken. The same state

of society which constantly prompts desires, restrains these desires

within necessary limits: it gives men more liberty of changing and

less interest in change.

Not only are the men of democracies not naturally desirous of

revolutions, but they are afraid of them. All revolutions more or less

threaten the tenure of property: but most of those who live in

democratic countries are possessed of property—not only are they

possessed of property, but they live in the condition of men who set

the greatest store upon their property. If we attentively consider each

of the classes of which society is composed, it is easy to see that the

passions engendered by property are keenest and most tenacious

amongst the middle classes. The poor often care but little for what

they possess, because they suffer much more from the want of what

they have not, than they enjoy the little they have. The rich have

many other passions besides that of riches to satisfy; and, besides, the

long and arduous enjoyment of a great fortune sometimes makes

them in the end insensible to its charms. But the men who have a

competency, alike removed from opulence and from penury, attach an

enormous value to their possessions. As they are still almost within

the reach of poverty, they see its privations near at hand, and dread

them; between poverty and themselves there is nothing but a scanty

fortune, upon which they immediately fix their apprehensions and

their hopes. Every day increases the interest they take in it, by the

constant cares which it occasions; and they are the more attached to it

by their continual exertions to increase the amount. The notion of

surrendering the smallest part of it is insupportable to them, and they

consider its total loss as the worst of misfortunes. Now these eager

and apprehensive men of small property constitute the class which is

constantly increased by the equality of conditions. Hence, in

democratic communities, the majority of the people do not clearly see

what they have to gain by a revolution, but they continually and in a

thousand ways feel that they might lose by one.

I have shown in another part of this work that the equality of

conditions naturally urges men to embark in commercial and

industrial pursuits, and that it tends to increase and to distribute real

property: I have also pointed out the means by which it inspires every

man with an eager and constant desire to increase his welfare.

Nothing is more opposed to revolutionary passions than these things.

It may happen that the final result of a revolution is favorable to

commerce and manufactures; but its first consequence will almost

always be the ruin of manufactures and mercantile men, because it

must always change at once the general principles of consumption,

and temporarily upset the existing proportion between supply and

demand. I know of nothing more opposite to revolutionary manners

than commercial manners. Commerce is naturally adverse to all the

violent passions; it loves to temporize, takes delight in compromise,

and studiously avoids irritation. It is patient, insinuating, flexible, and

never has recourse to extreme measures until obliged by the most

absolute necessity. Commerce renders men independent of each

other, gives them a lofty notion of their personal importance, leads

them to seek to conduct their own affairs, and teaches how to conduct

them well; it therefore prepares men for freedom, but preserves them

from revolutions. In a revolution the owners of personal property

have more to fear than all others; for on the one hand their property is

often easy to seize, and on the other it may totally disappear at any

moment—a subject of alarm to which the owners of real property are

less exposed, since, although they may lose the income of their

estates, they may hope to preserve the land itself through the greatest

vicissitudes. Hence the former are much more alarmed at the

symptoms of revolutionary commotion than the latter. Thus nations

are less disposed to make revolutions in proportion as personal

property is augmented and distributed amongst them, and as the

number of those possessing it increases. Moreover, whatever

profession men may embrace, and whatever species of property they

may possess, one characteristic is common to them all. No one is

fully contented with his present fortune—all are perpetually striving

in a thousand ways to improve it. Consider any one of them at any

period of his life, and he will be found engaged with some new

project for the purpose of increasing what he has; talk not to him of

the interests and the rights of mankind: this small domestic concern

absorbs for the time all his thoughts, and inclines him to defer

political excitement to some other season. This not only prevents men

from making revolutions, but deters men from desiring them. Violent

political passions have but little hold on those who have devoted all

their faculties to the pursuit of their well-being. The ardor which they

display in small matters calms their zeal for momentous undertakings.

From time to time indeed, enterprising and ambitious men will

arise in democratic communities, whose unbounded aspirations

cannot be contented by following the beaten track. Such men like

revolutions and hail their approach; but they have great difficulty in

bringing them about, unless unwonted events come to their

assistance. No man can struggle with advantage against the spirit of

his age and country; and, however powerful he may be supposed to

be, he will find it difficult to make his contemporaries share in

feelings and opinions which are repugnant to t all their feelings and


It is a mistake to believe that, when once the equality of conditions

has become the old and uncontested state of society, and has imparted

its characteristics to the manners of a nation, men will easily allow

themselves to be thrust into perilous risks by an imprudent leader or a

bold innovator. Not indeed that they will resist him openly, by well-

contrived schemes, or even by a premeditated plan of resistance.

They will not struggle energetically against him, sometimes they will

even applaud him—but they do not follow him. To his vehemence

they secretly oppose their inertia; to his revolutionary tendencies their

conservative interests; their homely tastes to his adventurous

passions; their good sense to the flights of his genius; to his poetry

their prose. With immense exertion he raises them for an instant, but

they speedily escape from him, and fall back, as it were, by their own

weight. He strains himself to rouse the indifferent and distracted

multitude, and finds at last that he is reduced to impotence, not

because he is conquered, but because he is alone.

I do not assert that men living in democratic communities are

naturally stationary; I think, on the contrary, that a perpetual stir

prevails in the bosom of those societies, and that rest is unknown

there; but I think that men bestir themselves within certain limits

beyond which they hardly ever go. They are forever varying, altering,

and restoring secondary matters; but they carefully abstain from

touching what is fundamental. They love change, but they dread

revolutions. Although the Americans are constantly modifying or

abrogating some of their laws, they by no means display

revolutionary passions. It may be easily seen, from the promptitude

with which they check and calm themselves when public excitement

begins to grow alarming, and at the very moment when passions seem

most roused, that they dread a revolution as the worst of misfortunes,

and that every one of them is inwardly resolved to make great

sacrifices to avoid such a catastrophe. In no country in the world is

the love of property more active and more anxious than in the United

States; nowhere does the majority display less inclination for those

principles which threaten to alter, in whatever manner, the laws of

property. I have often remarked that theories which are of a

revolutionary nature, since they cannot be put in practice without a

complete and sometimes a sudden change in the state of property and

persons, are much less favorably viewed in the United States than in

the great monarchical countries of Europe: if some men profess them,

the bulk of the people reject them with instinctive abhorrence. I do

not hesitate to say that most of the maxims commonly called

democratic in France would be proscribed by the democracy of the

United States. This may easily be understood: in America men have

the opinions and passions of democracy, in Europe we have still the

passions and opinions of revolution. If ever America undergoes great

revolutions, they will be brought about by the presence of the black

race on the soil of the United States—that is to say, they will owe

their origin, not to the equality, but to the inequality, of conditions.

When social conditions are equal, every man is apt to live apart,

centred in himself and forgetful of the public. If the rulers of

democratic nations were either to neglect to correct this fatal

tendency, or to encourage it from a notion that it weans men from

political passions and thus wards off revolutions, they might

eventually produce the evil they seek to avoid, and a time might come

when the inordinate passions of a few men, aided by the unintelligent

selfishness or the pusillanimity of the greater number, would

ultimately compel society to pass through strange vicissitudes. In

democratic communities revolutions are seldom desired except by a

minority; but a minority may sometimes effect them. I do not assert

that democratic nations are secure from revolutions; I merely say that

the state of society in those nations does not lead to revolutions, but

rather wards them off. A democratic people left to itself will not

easily embark in great hazards; it is only led to revolutions unawares;

it may sometimes undergo them, but it does not make them; and I will

add that, when such a people has been allowed to acquire sufficient

knowledge and experience, it will not suffer them to be made. I am

well aware that it this respect public institutions may themselves do

much; they may encourage or repress the tendencies which originate

in the state of society. I therefore do not maintain, I repeat, that a

people is secure from revolutions simply because conditions are equal

in the community; but I think that, whatever the institutions of such a

people may be, great revolutions will always be far less violent and

less frequent than is supposed; and I can easily discern a state of

polity, which, when combined with the principle of equality, would

render society more stationary than it has ever been in our western

apart of the world.

The observations I have here made on events may also be applied

in part to opinions. Two things are surprising in the United States—

the mutability of the greater part of human actions, and the singular

stability of certain principles. Men are in constant motion; the mind

of man appears almost unmoved. When once an opinion has spread

over the country and struck root there, it would seem that no power

on earth is strong enough to eradicate it. In the United States, general

principles in religion, philosophy, morality, and even politics, do not

vary, or at least are only modified by a hidden and often an

imperceptible process: even the grossest prejudices are obliterated

with incredible slowness, amidst the continual friction of men and

things. I hear it said that it is in the nature and the habits of

democracies to be constantly changing their opinions and feelings.

This may be true of small democratic nations, like those of the

ancient world, in which the whole community could be assembled in

a public place and then excited at will by an orator. But I saw nothing

of the kind amongst the great democratic people which dwells upon

the opposite shores of the Atlantic Ocean. What struck me in the

United States was the difficulty in shaking the majority in an opinion

once conceived, or of drawing it off from a leader once adopted.

Neither speaking nor writing can accomplish it; nothing but

experience will avail, and even experience must be repeated. This is

surprising at first sight, but a more attentive investigation explains the

fact. I do not think that it is as easy as is supposed to uproot the

prejudices of a democratic people—to change its belief—to supersede

principles once established, by new principles in religion, politics,

and morals—in a word, to make great and frequent changes in men's

minds. Not that the human mind is there at rest—it is in constant

agitation; but it is engaged in infinitely varying the consequences of

known principles, and in seeking for new consequences, rather than

in seeking for new principles. Its motion is one of rapid

circumvolution, rather than of straightforward impulse by rapid and

direct effort; it extends its orbit by small continual and hasty

movements, but it does not suddenly alter its position.

Men who are equal in rights, in education, in fortune, or, to

comprise all in one word, in their social condition, have necessarily

wants, habits, and tastes which are hardly dissimilar. As they look at

objects under the same aspect, their minds naturally tend to analogous

conclusions; and, though each of them may deviate from his

contemporaries and from opinions of his own, they will involuntarily

and unconsciously concur in a certain number of received opinions.

The more attentively I consider the effects of equality upon the mind,

the more am I persuaded that the intellectual anarchy which we

witness about us is not, as many men suppose, the natural state of

democratic nations. I think it is rather to be regarded as an accident

peculiar to their youth, and that it only breaks out at that period of

transition when men have already snapped the former ties which

bound them together, but are still amazingly different in origin,

education, and manners; so that, having retained opinions,

propensities and tastes of great diversity, nothing any longer prevents

men from avowing them openly. The leading opinions of men

become similar in proportion as their conditions assimilate; such

appears to me to be the general and permanent law—the rest is casual

and transient.

I believe that it will rarely happen to any man amongst a

democratic community, suddenly to frame a system of notions very

remote from that which his contemporaries have adopted; and if some

such innovator appeared, I apprehend that he would have great

difficulty in finding listeners, still more in finding believers. When

the conditions of men are almost equal, they do not easily allow

themselves to be persuaded by each other. As they all live in close

intercourse, as they have learned the same things together, and as they

lead the same life, they are not naturally disposed to take one of

themselves for a guide, and to follow him implicitly. Men seldom

take the opinion of their equal, or of a man like themselves, upon

trust. Not only is confidence in the superior attainments of certain

individuals weakened amongst democratic nations, as I have

elsewhere remarked, but the general notion of the intellectual

superiority which any man whatsoever may acquire in relation to the

rest of the community is soon overshadowed. As men grow more like

each other, the doctrine of the equality of the intellect gradually

infuses itself into their opinions; and it becomes more difficult for any

innovator to acquire or to exert much influence over the minds of a

people. In such communities sudden intellectual revolutions will

therefore be rare; for, if we read aright the history of the world, we

shall find that great and rapid changes in human opinions have been

produced far less by the force of reasoning than by the authority of a

name. Observe, too, that as the men who live in democratic societies

are not connected with each other by any tie, each of them must be

convinced individually; whilst in aristocratic society it is enough to

convince a few—the rest follow. If Luther had lived in an age of

equality, and had not had princes and potentates for his audience, he

would perhaps have found it more difficult to change the aspect of

Europe. Not indeed that the men of democracies are naturally

strongly persuaded of the certainty of their opinions, or are

unwavering in belief; they frequently entertain doubts which no one,

in their eyes, can remove. It sometimes happens at such times that the

human mind would willingly change its position; but as nothing urges

or guides it forwards, it oscillates to and fro without progressive

motion. *a

a [ If I inquire what state of society is most

favorable to the great revolutions of the mind, I

find that it occurs somewhere between the

complete equality of the whole community and the

absolute separation of ranks. Under a system of

castes generations succeed each other without

altering men's positions; some have nothing more,

others nothing better, to hope for. The imagination

slumbers amidst this universal silence and

stillness, and the very idea of change fades from

the human mind. When ranks have been abolished

and social conditions are almost equalized, all

men are in ceaseless excitement, but each of them

stands alone, independent and weak. This latter

state of things is excessively different from the

former one; yet it has one point of analogy—great

revolutions of the human mind seldom occur in it.

But between these two extremes of the history of

nations is an intermediate period—a period as

glorious as it is agitated—when the conditions of

men are not sufficiently settled for the mind to be

lulled in torpor, when they are sufficiently unequal

for men to exercise a vast power on the minds of

one another, and when some few may modify the

convictions of all. It is at such times that great

reformers start up, and new opinions suddenly

change the face of the world.]

Even when the reliance of a democratic people has been won, it is

still no easy matter to gain their attention. It is extremely difficult to

obtain a hearing from men living in democracies, unless it be to speak

to them of themselves. They do not attend to the things said to them,

because they are always fully engrossed with the things they are

doing. For indeed few men are idle in democratic nations; life is

passed in the midst of noise and excitement, and men are so engaged

in acting that little remains to them for thinking. I would especially

remark that they are not only employed, but that they are passionately

devoted to their employments. They are always in action, and each of

their actions absorbs their faculties: the zeal which they display in

business puts out the enthusiasm they might otherwise entertain for

idea. I think that it is extremely difficult to excite the enthusiasm of a

democratic people for any theory which has not a palpable, direct,

and immediate connection with the daily occupations of life:

therefore they will not easily forsake their old opinions; for it is

enthusiasm which flings the minds of men out of the beaten track, and

effects the great revolutions of the intellect as well as the great

revolutions of the political world. Thus democratic nations have

neither time nor taste to go in search of novel opinions. Even when

those they possess become doubtful, they still retain them, because it

would take too much time and inquiry to change them—they retain

them, not as certain, but as established.

There are yet other and more cogent reasons which prevent any

great change from being easily effected in the principles of a

democratic people. I have already adverted to them at the

commencement of this part of my work. If the influence of

individuals is weak and hardly perceptible amongst such a people, the

power exercised by the mass upon the mind of each individual is

extremely great—I have already shown for what reasons. I would

now observe that it is wrong to suppose that this depends solely upon

the form of government, and that the majority would lose its

intellectual supremacy if it were to lose its political power. In

aristocracies men have often much greatness and strength of their

own: when they find themselves at variance with the greater number

of their fellow-countrymen, they withdraw to their own circle, where

they support and console themselves. Such is not the case in a

democratic country; there public favor seems as necessary as the air

we breathe, and to live at variance with the multitude is, as it were,

not to live. The multitude requires no laws to coerce those who think

not like itself: public disapprobation is enough; a sense of their

loneliness and impotence overtakes them and drives them to despair.

Whenever social conditions are equal, public opinion presses with

enormous weight upon the mind of each individual; it surrounds,

directs, and oppresses him; and this arises from the very constitution

of society, much more than from its political laws. As men grow

more alike, each man feels himself weaker in regard to all the rest; as

he discerns nothing by which he is considerably raised above them, or

distinguished from them, he mistrusts himself as soon as they assail

him. Not only does he mistrust his strength, but he even doubts of his

right; and he is very near acknowledging that he is in the wrong,

when the greater number of his countrymen assert that he is so. The

majority do not need to constrain him—they convince him. In

whatever way then the powers of a democratic community may be

organized and balanced, it will always be extremely difficult to

believe what the bulk of the people reject, or to profess what they


This circumstance is extraordinarily favorable to the stability of

opinions. When an opinion has taken root amongst a democratic

people, and established itself in the minds of the bulk of the

community, it afterwards subsists by itself and is maintained without

effort, because no one attacks it. Those who at first rejected it as

false, ultimately receive it as the general impression; and those who

still dispute it in their hearts, conceal their dissent; they are careful

not to engage in a dangerous and useless conflict. It is true, that when

the majority of a democratic people change their opinions, they may

suddenly and arbitrarily effect strange revolutions in men's minds; but

their opinions do not change without much difficulty, and it is almost

as difficult to show that they are changed.

Time, events, or the unaided individual action of the mind, will

sometimes undermine or destroy an opinion, without any outward

sign of the change. It has not been openly assailed, no conspiracy has

been formed to make war on it, but its followers one by one

noiselessly secede—day by day a few of them abandon it, until last it

is only professed by a minority. In this state it will still continue to

prevail. As its enemies remain mute, or only interchange their

thoughts by stealth, they are themselves unaware for a long period

that a great revolution has actually been effected; and in this state of

uncertainly they take no steps—they observe each other and are

silent. The majority have ceased to believe what they believed before;

but they still affect to believe, and this empty phantom of public

opinion in strong enough to chill innovators, and to keep them silent

and at respectful distance. We live at a time which has witnessed the

most rapid changes of opinion in the minds of men; nevertheless it

may be that the leading opinions of society will ere long be more

settled than they have been for several centuries in our history: that

time is not yet come, but it may perhaps be approaching. As I

examine more closely the natural wants and tendencies of democratic

nations, I grow persuaded that if ever social equality is generally and

permanently established in the world, great intellectual and political

revolutions will become more difficult and less frequent than is

supposed. Because the men of democracies appear always excited,

uncertain, eager, changeable in their wills and in their positions, it is

imagined that they are suddenly to abrogate their laws, to adopt new

opinions, and to assume new manners. But if the principle of equality

predisposes men to change, it also suggests to them certain interests

and tastes which cannot be satisfied without a settled order of things;

equality urges them on, but at the same time it holds them back; it

spurs them, but fastens them to earth;—it kindles their desires, but

limits their powers. This, however, is not perceived at first; the

passions which tend to sever the citizens of a democracy are obvious

enough; but the hidden force which restrains and unites them is not

discernible at a glance.

Amidst the ruins which surround me, shall I dare to say that

revolutions are not what I most fear coming generations? If men

continue to shut themselves more closely within the narrow circle of

domestic interests and to live upon that kind of excitement, it is to be

apprehended that they may ultimately become inaccessible to those

great and powerful public emotions which perturb nations—but

which enlarge them and recruit them. When property becomes so

fluctuating, and the love of property so restless and so ardent, I

cannot but fear that men may arrive at such a state as to regard every

new theory as a peril, every innovation as an irksome toil, every

social improvement as a stepping-stone to revolution, and so refuse to

move altogether for fear of being moved too far. I dread, and I

confess it, lest they should at last so entirely give way to a cowardly

love of present enjoyment, as to lose sight of the interests of their

future selves and of those of their descendants; and to prefer to glide

along the easy current of life, rather than to make, when it is

necessary, a strong and sudden effort to a higher purpose. It is

believed by some that modern society will be ever changing its

aspect; for myself, I fear that it will ultimately be too invariably fixed

in the same institutions, the same prejudices, the same manners, so

that mankind will be stopped and circumscribed; that the mind will

swing backwards and forwards forever, without begetting fresh ideas;

that man will waste his strength in bootless and solitary trifling; and,

though in continual motion, that humanity will cease to advance.

Chapter XXII: Why Democratic

Nations Are Naturally Desirous Of

Peace, And Democratic Armies Of


The same interests, the same fears, the same passions which deter

democratic nations from revolutions, deter them also from war; the

spirit of military glory and the spirit of revolution are weakened at the

same time and by the same causes. The ever-increasing numbers of

men of property—lovers of peace, the growth of personal wealth

which war so rapidly consumes, the mildness of manners, the

gentleness of heart, those tendencies to pity which are engendered by

the equality of conditions, that coolness of understanding which

renders men comparatively insensible to the violent and poetical

excitement of arms—all these causes concur to quench the military

spirit. I think it may be admitted as a general and constant rule, that,

amongst civilized nations, the warlike passions will become more

rare and less intense in proportion as social conditions shall be more

equal. War is nevertheless an occurrence to which all nations are

subject, democratic nations as well as others. Whatever taste they

may have for peace, they must hold themselves in readiness to repel

aggression, or in other words they must have an army.

Fortune, which has conferred so many peculiar benefits upon the

inhabitants of the United States, has placed them in the midst of a

wilderness, where they have, so to speak, no neighbors: a few

thousand soldiers are sufficient for their wants; but this is peculiar to

America, not to democracy. The equality of conditions, and the

manners as well as the institutions resulting from it, do not exempt a

democratic people from the necessity of standing armies, and their

armies always exercise a powerful influence over their fate. It is

therefore of singular importance to inquire what are the natural

propensities of the men of whom these armies are composed.

Amongst aristocratic nations, especially amongst those in which

birth is the only source of rank, the same inequality exists in the army

as in the nation; the officer is noble, the soldier is a serf; the one is

naturally called upon to command, the other to obey. In aristocratic

armies, the private soldier's ambition is therefore circumscribed

within very narrow limits. Nor has the ambition of the officer an

unlimited range. An aristocratic body not only forms a part of the

scale of ranks in the nation, but it contains a scale of ranks within

itself: the members of whom it is composed are placed one above

another, in a particular and unvarying manner. Thus one man is born

to the command of a regiment, another to that of a company; when

once they have reached the utmost object of their hopes, they stop of

their own accord, and remain contented with their lot. There is,

besides, a strong cause, which, in aristocracies, weakens the officer's

desire of promotion. Amongst aristocratic nations, an officer,

independently of his rank in the army, also occupies an elevated rank

in society; the former is almost always in his eyes only an appendage

to the latter. A nobleman who embraces the profession of arms

follows it less from motives of ambition than from a sense of the

duties imposed on him by his birth. He enters the army in order to

find an honorable employment for the idle years of his youth, and to

be able to bring back to his home and his peers some honorable

recollections of military life; but his principal object is not to obtain

by that profession either property, distinction, or power, for he

possesses these advantages in his own right, and enjoys them without

leaving his home.

In democratic armies all the soldiers may become officers, which

makes the desire of promotion general, and immeasurably extends the

bounds of military ambition. The officer, on his part, sees nothing

which naturally and necessarily stops him at one grade more than at

another; and each grade has immense importance in his eyes, because

his rank in society almost always depends on his rank in the army.

Amongst democratic nations it often happens that an officer has no

property but his pay, and no distinction but that of military honors:

consequently as often as his duties change, his fortune changes, and

he becomes, as it were, a new man. What was only an appendage to

his position in aristocratic armies, has thus become the main point,

the basis of his whole condition. Under the old French monarchy

officers were always called by their titles of nobility; they are now

always called by the title of their military rank. This little change in

the forms of language suffices to show that a great revolution has

taken place in the constitution of society and in that of the army. In

democratic armies the desire of advancement is almost universal: it is

ardent, tenacious, perpetual; it is strengthened by all other desires,

and only extinguished with life itself. But it is easy to see, that of all

armies in the world, those in which advancement must be slowest in

time of peace are the armies of democratic countries. As the number

of commissions is naturally limited, whilst the number of competitors

is almost unlimited, and as the strict law of equality is over all alike,

none can make rapid progress—many can make no progress at all.

Thus the desire of advancement is greater, and the opportunities of

advancement fewer, there than elsewhere. All the ambitious spirits of

a democratic army are consequently ardently desirous of war, because

war makes vacancies, and warrants the violation of that law of

seniority which is the sole privilege natural to democracy.

We thus arrive at this singular consequence, that of all armies those

most ardently desirous of war are democratic armies, and of all

nations those most fond of peace are democratic nations: and, what

makes these facts still more extraordinary, is that these contrary

effects are produced at the same time by the principle of equality.

All the members of the community, being alike, constantly harbor

the wish, and discover the possibility, of changing their condition and

improving their welfare: this makes them fond of peace, which is

favorable to industry, and allows every man to pursue his own little

undertakings to their completion. On the other hand, this same

equality makes soldiers dream of fields of battle, by increasing the

value of military honors in the eyes of those who follow the

profession of arms, and by rendering those honors accessible to all. In

either case the inquietude of the heart is the same, the taste for

enjoyment as insatiable, the ambition of success as great—the means

of gratifying it are alone different.

These opposite tendencies of the nation and the army expose

democratic communities to great dangers. When a military spirit

forsakes a people, the profession of arms immediately ceases to be

held in honor, and military men fall to the lowest rank of the public

servants: they are little esteemed, and no longer understood. The

reverse of what takes place in aristocratic ages then occurs; the men

who enter the army are no longer those of the highest, but of the

lowest rank. Military ambition is only indulged in when no other is

possible. Hence arises a circle of cause and consequence from which

it is difficult to escape: the best part of the nation shuns the military

profession because that profession is not honored, and the profession

is not honored because the best part of the nation has ceased to follow

it. It is then no matter of surprise that democratic armies are often

restless, ill-tempered, and dissatisfied with their lot, although their

physical condition is commonly far better, and their discipline less

strict than in other countries. The soldier feels that he occupies an

inferior position, and his wounded pride either stimulates his taste for

hostilities which would render his services necessary, or gives him a

turn for revolutions, during which he may hope to win by force of

arms the political influence and personal importance now denied him.

The composition of democratic armies makes this last-mentioned

danger much to be feared. In democratic communities almost every

man has some property to preserve; but democratic armies are

generally led by men without property, most of whom have little to

lose in civil broils. The bulk of the nation is naturally much more

afraid of revolutions than in the ages of aristocracy, but the leaders of

the army much less so.

Moreover, as amongst democratic nations (to repeat what I have

just remarked) the wealthiest, the best educated, and the most able

men seldom adopt the military profession, the army, taken

collectively, eventually forms a small nation by itself, where the mind

is less enlarged, and habits are more rude than in the nation at large.

Now, this small uncivilized nation has arms in its possession, and

alone knows how to use them: for, indeed, the pacific temper of the

community increases the danger to which a democratic people is

exposed from the military and turbulent spirit of the army. Nothing is

so dangerous as an army amidst an unwarlike nation; the excessive

love of the whole community for quiet continually puts its

constitution at the mercy of the soldiery. It may therefore be asserted,

generally speaking, that if democratic nations are naturally prone to

peace from their interests and their propensities, they are constantly

drawn to war and revolutions by their armies. Military revolutions,

which are scarcely ever to be apprehended in aristocracies, are always

to be dreaded amongst democratic nations. These perils must be

reckoned amongst the most formidable which beset their future fate,

and the attention of statesmen should be sedulously applied to find a

remedy for the evil.

When a nation perceives that it is inwardly affected by the restless

ambition of its army, the first thought which occurs is to give this

inconvenient ambition an object by going to war. I speak no ill of

war: war almost always enlarges the mind of a people, and raises their

character. In some cases it is the only check to the excessive growth

of certain propensities which naturally spring out of the equality of

conditions, and it must be considered as a necessary corrective to

certain inveterate diseases to which democratic communities are

liable. War has great advantages, but we must not flatter ourselves

that it can diminish the danger I have just pointed out. That peril is

only suspended by it, to return more fiercely when the war is over; for

armies are much more impatient of peace after having tasted military

exploits. War could only be a remedy for a people which should

always be athirst for military glory. I foresee that all the military

rulers who may rise up in great democratic nations, will find it easier

to conquer with their armies, than to make their armies live at peace

after conquest. There are two things which a democratic people will

always find very difficult—to begin a war, and to end it.

Again, if war has some peculiar advantages for democratic nations,

on the other hand it exposes them to certain dangers which

aristocracies have no cause to dread to an equal extent. I shall only

point out two of these. Although war gratifies the army, it

embarrasses and often exasperates that countless multitude of men

whose minor passions every day require peace in order to be satisfied.

Thus there is some risk of its causing, under another form, the

disturbance it is intended to prevent. No protracted war can fail to

endanger the freedom of a democratic country. Not indeed that after

every victory it is to be apprehended that the victorious generals will

possess themselves by force of the supreme power, after the manner

of Sylla and Caesar: the danger is of another kind. War does not

always give over democratic communities to military government,

but it must invariably and immeasurably increase the powers of civil

government; it must almost compulsorily concentrate the direction of

all men and the management of all things in the hands of the

administration. If it lead not to despotism by sudden violence, it

prepares men for it more gently by their habits. All those who seek to

destroy the liberties of a democratic nation ought to know that war is

the surest and the shortest means to accomplish it. This is the first

axiom of the science.

One remedy, which appears to be obvious when the ambition of

soldiers and officers becomes the subject of alarm, is to augment the

number of commissions to be distributed by increasing the army. This

affords temporary relief, but it plunges the country into deeper

difficulties at some future period. To increase the army may produce

a lasting effect in an aristocratic community, because military

ambition is there confined to one class of men, and the ambition of

each individual stops, as it were, at a certain limit; so that it may be

possible to satisfy all who feel its influence. But nothing is gained by

increasing the army amongst a democratic people, because the

number of aspirants always rises in exactly the same ratio as the army

itself. Those whose claims have been satisfied by the creation of new

commissions are instantly succeeded by a fresh multitude beyond all

power of satisfaction; and even those who were but now satisfied

soon begin to crave more advancement; for the same excitement

prevails in the ranks of the army as in the civil classes of democratic

society, and what men want is not to reach a certain grade, but to

have constant promotion. Though these wants may not be very vast,

they are perpetually recurring. Thus a democratic nation, by

augmenting its army, only allays for a time the ambition of the

military profession, which soon becomes even more formidable,

because the number of those who feel it is increased. I am of opinion

that a restless and turbulent spirit is an evil inherent in the very

constitution of democratic armies, and beyond hope of cure. The

legislators of democracies must not expect to devise any military

organization capable by its influence of calming and restraining the

military profession: their efforts would exhaust their powers, before

the object is attained.

The remedy for the vices of the army is not to be found in the army

itself, but in the country. Democratic nations are naturally afraid of

disturbance and of despotism; the object is to turn these natural

instincts into well-digested, deliberate, and lasting tastes. When men

have at last learned to make a peaceful and profitable use of freedom,

and have felt its blessings—when they have conceived a manly love

of order, and have freely submitted themselves to discipline—these

same men, if they follow the profession of arms, bring into it,

unconsciously and almost against their will, these same habits and

manners. The general spirit of the nation being infused into the spirit

peculiar to the army, tempers the opinions and desires engendered by

military life, or represses them by the mighty force of public opinion.

Teach but the citizens to be educated, orderly, firm, and free, the

soldiers will be disciplined and obedient. Any law which, in

repressing the turbulent spirit of the army, should tend to diminish the

spirit of freedom in the nation, and to overshadow the notion of law

and right, would defeat its object: it would do much more to favor,

than to defeat, the establishment of military tyranny.

After all, and in spite of all precautions, a large army amidst a

democratic people will always be a source of great danger; the most

effectual means of diminishing that danger would be to reduce the

army, but this is a remedy which all nations have it not in their power

to use.

Chapter XXIII: Which Is The Most

Warlike And Most Revolutionary

Class In Democratic Armies?

It is a part of the essence of a democratic army to be very numerous

in proportion to the people to which it belongs, as I shall hereafter

show. On the other hand, men living in democratic times seldom

choose a military life. Democratic nations are therefore soon led to

give up the system of voluntary recruiting for that of compulsory

enlistment. The necessity of their social condition compels them to

resort to the latter means, and it may easily be foreseen that they will

all eventually adopt it. When military service is compulsory, the

burden is indiscriminately and equally borne by the whole

community. This is another necessary consequence of the social

condition of these nations, and of their notions. The government may

do almost whatever it pleases, provided it appeals to the whole

community at once: it is the unequal distribution of the weight, not

the weight itself, which commonly occasions resistance. But as

military service is common to all the citizens, the evident

consequence is that each of them remains but for a few years on

active duty. Thus it is in the nature of things that the soldier in

democracies only passes through the army, whilst among most

aristocratic nations the military profession is one which the soldier

adopts, or which is imposed upon him, for life.

This has important consequences. Amongst the soldiers of a

democratic army, some acquire a taste for military life, but the

majority, being enlisted against their will, and ever ready to go back

to their homes, do not consider themselves as seriously engaged in

the military profession, and are always thinking of quitting it. Such

men do not contract the wants, and only half partake in the passions,

which that mode of life engenders. They adapt themselves to their

military duties, but their minds are still attached to the interests and

the duties which engaged them in civil life. They do not therefore

imbibe the spirit of the army—or rather, they infuse the spirit of the

community at large into the army, and retain it there. Amongst

democratic nations the private soldiers remain most like civilians:

upon them the habits of the nation have the firmest hold, and public

opinion most influence. It is by the instrumentality of the private

soldiers especially that it may be possible to infuse into a democratic

army the love of freedom and the respect of rights, if these principles

have once been successfully inculcated on the people at large. The

reverse happens amongst aristocratic nations, where the soldiery have

eventually nothing in common with their fellow-citizens, and where

they live amongst them as strangers, and often as enemies. In

aristocratic armies the officers are the conservative element, because

the officers alone have retained a strict connection with civil society,

and never forego their purpose of resuming their place in it sooner or

later: in democratic armies the private soldiers stand in this position,

and from the same cause.

It often happens, on the contrary, that in these same democratic

armies the officers contract tastes and wants wholly distinct from

those of the nation—a fact which may be thus accounted for.

Amongst democratic nations, the man who becomes an officer severs

all the ties which bound him to civil life; he leaves it forever; he has

no interest to resume it. His true country is the army, since he owes

all he has to the rank he has attained in it; he therefore follows the

fortunes of the army, rises or sinks with it, and henceforward directs

all his hopes to that quarter only. As the wants of an officer are

distinct from those of the country, he may perhaps ardently desire

war, or labor to bring about a revolution at the very moment when the

nation is most desirous of stability and peace. There are, nevertheless,

some causes which allay this restless and warlike spirit. Though

ambition is universal and continual amongst democratic nations, we

have seen that it is seldom great. A man who, being born in the lower

classes of the community, has risen from the ranks to be an officer,

has already taken a prodigious step. He has gained a footing in a

sphere above that which he filled in civil life, and he has acquired

rights which most democratic nations will ever consider as

inalienable. *a He is willing to pause after so great an effort, and to

enjoy what he has won. The fear of risking what he has already

obtained damps the desire of acquiring what he has not got. Having

conquered the first and greatest impediment which opposed his

advancement, he resigns himself with less impatience to the slowness

of his progress. His ambition will be more and more cooled in

proportion as the increasing distinction of his rank teaches him that he

has more to put in jeopardy. If I am not mistaken, the least warlike,

and also the least revolutionary part, of a democratic army, will

always be its chief commanders. [Footnote a: The position of officers

is indeed much more secure amongst democratic nations than

elsewhere; the lower the personal standing of the man, the greater is

the comparative importance of his military grade, and the more just

and necessary is it that the enjoyment of that rank should be secured

by the laws.]

But the remarks I have just made on officers and soldiers are not

applicable to a numerous class which in all armies fills the

intermediate space between them—I mean the class of non-

commissioned officers. This class of non-commissioned officers

which have never acted a part in history until the present century, is

henceforward destined, I think, to play one of some importance. Like

the officers, non-commissioned officers have broken, in their minds,

all the ties which bound them to civil life; like the former, they devote

themselves permanently to the service, and perhaps make it even

more exclusively the object of all their desires: but non-

commissioned officers are men who have not yet reached a firm and

lofty post at which they may pause and breathe more freely, ere they

can attain further promotion. By the very nature of his duties, which

is invariable, a non-commissioned officer is doomed to lead an

obscure, confined, comfortless, and precarious existence; as yet he

sees nothing of military life but its dangers; he knows nothing but its

privations and its discipline—more difficult to support than dangers:

he suffers the more from his present miseries, from knowing that the

constitution of society and of the army allow him to rise above them;

he may, indeed, at any time obtain his commission, and enter at once

upon command, honors, independence, rights, and enjoyments. Not

only does this object of his hopes appear to him of immense

importance, but he is never sure of reaching it till it is actually his

own; the grade he fills is by no means irrevocable; he is always

entirely abandoned to the arbitrary pleasure of his commanding

officer, for this is imperiously required by the necessity of discipline:

a slight fault, a whim, may always deprive him in an instant of the

fruits of many years of toil and endeavor; until he has reached the

grade to which he aspires he has accomplished nothing; not till he

reaches that grade does his career seem to begin. A desperate

ambition cannot fail to be kindled in a man thus incessantly goaded

on by his youth, his wants, his passions, the spirit of his age, his

hopes, and his age, his hopes, and his fears. Non-commissioned

officers are therefore bent on war—on war always, and at any cost;

but if war be denied them, then they desire revolutions to suspend the

authority of established regulations, and to enable them, aided by the

general confusion and the political passions of the time, to get rid of

their superior officers and to take their places. Nor is it impossible for

them to bring about such a crisis, because their common origin and

habits give them much influence over the soldiers, however different

may be their passions and their desires.

It would be an error to suppose that these various characteristics of

officers, non-commissioned officers, and men, belong to any

particular time or country; they will always occur at all times, and

amongst all democratic nations. In every democratic army the non-

commissioned officers will be the worst representatives of the pacific

and orderly spirit of the country, and the private soldiers will be the

best. The latter will carry with them into military life the strength or

weakness of the manners of the nation; they will display a faithful

reflection of the community: if that community is ignorant and weak,

they will allow themselves to be drawn by their leaders into

disturbances, either unconsciously or against their will; if it is

enlightened and energetic, the community will itself keep them within

the bounds of order.

Chapter XXIV: Causes Which

Render Democratic Armies

Weaker Than Other Armies At

The Outset Of A Campaign, And

More Formidable In Protracted


Any army is in danger of being conquered at the outset of a

campaign, after a long peace; any army which has long been engaged

in warfare has strong chances of victory: this truth is peculiarly

applicable to democratic armies. In aristocracies the military

profession, being a privileged career, is held in honor even in time of

peace. Men of great talents, great attainments, and great ambition

embrace it; the army is in all respects on a level with the nation, and

frequently above it. We have seen, on the contrary, that amongst a

democratic people the choicer minds of the nation are gradually

drawn away from the military profession, to seek by other paths,

distinction, power, and especially wealth. After a long peace—and in

democratic ages the periods of peace are long—the army is always

inferior to the country itself. In this state it is called into active

service; and until war has altered it, there is danger for the country as

well as for the army.

I have shown that in democratic armies, and in time of peace, the

rule of seniority is the supreme and inflexible law of advancement.

This is not only a consequence, as I have before observed, of the

constitution of these armies, but of the constitution of the people, and

it will always occur. Again, as amongst these nations the officer

derives his position in the country solely from his position in the

army, and as he draws all the distinction and the competency he

enjoys from the same source, he does not retire from his profession,

or is not super-annuated, till towards the extreme close of life. The

consequence of these two causes is, that when a democratic people

goes to war after a long interval of peace all the leading officers of

the army are old men. I speak not only of the generals, but of the non-

commissioned officers, who have most of them been stationary, or

have only advanced step by step. It may be remarked with surprise,

that in a democratic army after a long peace all the soldiers are mere

boys, and all the superior officers in declining years; so that the

former are wanting in experience, the latter in vigor. This is a strong

element of defeat, for the first condition of successful generalship is

youth: I should not have ventured to say so if the greatest captain of

modern times had not made the observation. These two causes do not

act in the same manner upon aristocratic armies: as men are promoted

in them by right of birth much more than by right of seniority, there

are in all ranks a certain number of young men, who bring to their

profession all the early vigor of body and mind. Again, as the men

who seek for military honors amongst an aristocratic people, enjoy a

settled position in civil society, they seldom continue in the army

until old age overtakes them. After having devoted the most vigorous

years of youth to the career of arms, they voluntarily retire, and spend

at home the remainder of their maturer years.

A long peace not only fills democratic armies with elderly officers,

but it also gives to all the officers habits both of body and mind which

render them unfit for actual service. The man who has long lived

amidst the calm and lukewarm atmosphere of democratic manners

can at first ill adapt himself to the harder toils and sterner duties of

warfare; and if he has not absolutely lost the taste for arms, at least he

has assumed a mode of life which unfits him for conquest.

Amongst aristocratic nations, the ease of civil life exercises less

influence on the manners of the army, because amongst those nations

the aristocracy commands the army: and an aristocracy, however

plunged in luxurious pleasures, has always many other passions

besides that of its own well-being, and to satisfy those passions more

thoroughly its well-being will be readily sacrificed. *a

a [ See Appendix V.]

I have shown that in democratic armies, in time of peace,

promotion is extremely slow. The officers at first support this state of

things with impatience, they grow excited, restless, exasperated, but

in the end most of them make up their minds to it. Those who have

the largest share of ambition and of resources quit the army; others,

adapting their tastes and their desires to their scanty fortunes,

ultimately look upon the military profession in a civil point of view.

The quality they value most in it is the competency and security

which attend it: their whole notion of the future rests upon the

certainty of this little provision, and all they require is peaceably to

enjoy it. Thus not only does a long peace fill an army with old men,

but it is frequently imparts the views of old men to those who are still

in the prime of life.

I have also shown that amongst democratic nations in time of peace

the military profession is held in little honor and indifferently

followed. This want of public favor is a heavy discouragement to the

army; it weighs down the minds of the troops, and when war breaks

out at last, they cannot immediately resume their spring and vigor. No

similar cause of moral weakness occurs in aristocratic armies: there

the officers are never lowered either in their own eyes or in those of

their countrymen, because, independently of their military greatness,

they are personally great. But even if the influence of peace operated

on the two kinds of armies in the same manner, the results would still

be different. When the officers of an aristocratic army have lost their

warlike spirit and the desire of raising themselves by service, they

still retain a certain respect for the honor of their class, and an old

habit of being foremost to set an example. But when the officers of a

democratic army have no longer the love of war and the ambition of

arms, nothing whatever remains to them.

I am therefore of opinion that, when a democratic people engages

in a war after a long peace, it incurs much more risk of defeat than

any other nation; but it ought not easily to be cast down by its

reverses, for the chances of success for such an army are increased by

the duration of the war. When a war has at length, by its long

continuance, roused the whole community from their peaceful

occupations and ruined their minor undertakings, the same passions

which made them attach so much importance to the maintenance of

peace will be turned to arms. War, after it has destroyed all modes of

speculation, becomes itself the great and sole speculation, to which

all the ardent and ambitious desires which equality engenders are

exclusively directed. Hence it is that the selfsame democratic nations

which are so reluctant to engage in hostilities, sometimes perform

prodigious achievements when once they have taken the field. As the

war attracts more and more of public attention, and is seen to create

high reputations and great fortunes in a short space of time, the

choicest spirits of the nation enter the military profession: all the

enterprising, proud, and martial minds, no longer of the aristocracy

solely, but of the whole country, are drawn in this direction. As the

number of competitors for military honors is immense, and war drives

every man to his proper level, great generals are always sure to spring

up. A long war produces upon a democratic army the same effects

that a revolution produces upon a people; it breaks through

regulations, and allows extraordinary men to rise above the common

level. Those officers whose bodies and minds have grown old in

peace, are removed, or superannuated, or they die. In their stead a

host of young men are pressing on, whose frames are already

hardened, whose desires are extended and inflamed by active service.

They are bent on advancement at all hazards, and perpetual

advancement; they are followed by others with the same passions and

desires, and after these are others yet unlimited by aught but the size

of the army. The principle of equality opens the door of ambition to

all, and death provides chances for ambition. Death is constantly

thinning the ranks, making vacancies, closing and opening the career

of arms.

There is moreover a secret connection between the military

character and the character of democracies, which war brings to light.

The men of democracies are naturally passionately eager to acquire

what they covet, and to enjoy it on easy conditions. They for the most

part worship chance, and are much less afraid of death than of

difficulty. This is the spirit which they bring to commerce and

manufactures; and this same spirit, carried with them to the field of

battle, induces them willingly to expose their lives in order to secure

in a moment the rewards of victory. No kind of greatness is more

pleasing to the imagination of a democratic people than military

greatness—a greatness of vivid and sudden lustre, obtained without

toil, by nothing but the risk of life. Thus, whilst the interests and the

tastes of the members of a democratic community divert them from

war, their habits of mind fit them for carrying on war well; they soon

make good soldiers, when they are roused from their business and

their enjoyments. If peace is peculiarly hurtful to democratic armies,

war secures to them advantages which no other armies ever possess;

and these advantages, however little felt at first, cannot fail in the end

to give them the victory. An aristocratic nation, which in a contest

with a democratic people does not succeed in ruining the latter at the

outset of the war, always runs a great risk of being conquered by it.

Chapter XXV: Of Discipline In

Democratic Armies

It is a very general opinion, especially in aristocratic countries, that

the great social equality which prevails in democracies ultimately

renders the private soldier independent of the officer, and thus

destroys the bond of discipline. This is a mistake, for there are two

kinds of discipline, which it is important not to confound. When the

officer is noble and the soldier a serf—one rich, the other poor—the

former educated and strong, the latter ignorant and weak—the

strictest bond of obedience may easily be established between the two

men. The soldier is broken in to military discipline, as it were, before

he enters the army; or rather, military discipline is nothing but an

enhancement of social servitude. In aristocratic armies the soldier will

soon become insensible to everything but the orders of his superior

officers; he acts without reflection, triumphs without enthusiasm, and

dies without complaint: in this state he is no longer a man, but he is

still a most formidable animal trained for war.

A democratic people must despair of ever obtaining from soldiers

that blind, minute, submissive, and invariable obedience which an

aristocratic people may impose on them without difficulty. The state

of society does not prepare them for it, and the nation might be in

danger of losing its natural advantages if it sought artificially to

acquire advantages of this particular kind. Amongst democratic

communities, military discipline ought not to attempt to annihilate the

free spring of the faculties; all that can be done by discipline is to

direct it; the obedience thus inculcated is less exact, but it is more

eager and more intelligent. It has its root in the will of him who

obeys: it rests not only on his instinct, but on his reason; and

consequently it will often spontaneously become more strict as

danger requires it. The discipline of an aristocratic army is apt to be

relaxed in war, because that discipline is founded upon habits, and

war disturbs those habits. The discipline of a democratic army on the

contrary is strengthened in sight of the enemy, because every soldier

then clearly perceives that he must be silent and obedient in order to


The nations which have performed the greatest warlike

achievements knew no other discipline than that which I speak of.

Amongst the ancients none were admitted into the armies but freemen

and citizens, who differed but little from one another, and were

accustomed to treat each other as equals. In this respect it may be said

that the armies of antiquity were democratic, although they came out

of the bosom of aristocracy; the consequence was that in those armies

a sort of fraternal familiarity prevailed between the officers and the

men. Plutarch's lives of great commanders furnish convincing

instances of the fact: the soldiers were in the constant habit of freely

addressing their general, and the general listened to and answered

whatever the soldiers had to say: they were kept in order by language

and by example, far more than by constraint or punishment; the

general was as much their companion as their chief. I know not

whether the soldiers of Greece and Rome ever carried the minutiae of

military discipline to the same degree of perfection as the Russians

have done; but this did not prevent Alexander from conquering

Asia—and Rome, the world.

Chapter XXVI: Some

Considerations On War In

Democratic Communities

When the principle of equality is in growth, not only amongst a

single nation, but amongst several neighboring nations at the same

time, as is now the case in Europe, the inhabitants of these different

countries, notwithstanding the dissimilarity of language, of customs,

and of laws, nevertheless resemble each other in their equal dread of

war and their common love of peace. *a It is in vain that ambition or

anger puts arms in the hands of princes; they are appeased in spite of

themselves by a species of general apathy and goodwill, which makes

the sword drop from their grasp, and wars become more rare. As the

spread of equality, taking place in several countries at once,

simultaneously impels their various inhabitants to follow

manufactures and commerce, not only do their tastes grow alike, but

their interests are so mixed and entangled with one another that no

nation can inflict evils on other nations without those evils falling

back upon itself; and all nations ultimately regard war as a calamity,

almost as severe to the conqueror as to the conquered. Thus, on the

one hand, it is extremely difficult in democratic ages to draw nations

into hostilities; but on the other hand, it is almost impossible that any

two of them should go to war without embroiling the rest. The

interests of all are so interlaced, their opinions and their wants so

much alike, that none can remain quiet when the others stir. Wars

therefore become more rare, but when they break out they spread

over a larger field. Neighboring democratic nations not only become

alike in some respects, but they eventually grow to resemble each

other in almost all. *b This similitude of nations has consequences of

great importance in relation to war.

a [ It is scarcely necessary for me to observe that the

dread of war displayed by the nations of Europe is

not solely attributable to the progress made by the

principle of equality amongst them; independently

of this permanent cause several other accidental

causes of great weight might be pointed out, and I

may mention before all the rest the extreme

lassitude which the wars of the Revolution and the

Empire have left behind them.]

b [ This is not only because these nations have the

same social condition, but it arises from the very

nature of that social condition which leads men to

imitate and identify themselves with each other.

When the members of a community are divided

into castes and classes, they not only differ from

one another, but they have no taste and no desire

to be alike; on the contrary, everyone endeavors,

more and more, to keep his own opinions

undisturbed, to retain his own peculiar habits, and

to remain himself. The characteristics of

individuals are very strongly marked. When the

state of society amongst a people is democratic—

that is to say, when there are no longer any castes

or classes in the community, and all its members

are nearly equal in education and in property—the

human mind follows the opposite direction. Men

are much alike, and they are annoyed, as it were,

by any deviation from that likeness: far from

seeking to preserve their own distinguishing

singularities, they endeavor to shake them off, in

order to identify themselves with the general mass

of the people, which is the sole representative of

right and of might to their eyes. The

characteristics of individuals are nearly

obliterated. In the ages of aristocracy even those

who are naturally alike strive to create imaginary

differences between themselves: in the ages of

democracy even those who are not alike seek only

to become so, and to copy each other—so strongly

is the mind of every man always carried away by

the general impulse of mankind. Something of the

same kind may be observed between nations: two

nations having the same aristocratic social

condition, might remain thoroughly distinct and

extremely different, because the spirit of

aristocracy is to retain strong individual

characteristics; but if two neighboring nations

have the same democratic social condition, they

cannot fail to adopt similar opinions and manners,




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Celebre volume di Alexis de Tocqueville "Democrazia in America", vol.2, nella versione inglese, parte del programma del corso di Storia del Pensiero Politico moderno e contemporaneo della Prof.ssa Bruna Consarelli. Al suo interno l'autore descrive ed esprime il suo giudizio sulla democrazia statunitense.

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Corso di laurea: Corso di laurea magistrale in relazioni internazionali
A.A.: 2011-2012

I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher vipviper di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Storia del Pensiero Politico moderno e contemporaneo e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Roma Tre - Uniroma3 o del prof Consarelli Bruna.

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Altri appunti di Storia del pensiero politico moderno e contemporaneo

Democrazia in America, vol. 1 - Tocqueville
autori e pensatori
Apprendere e insegnare la comunicazione interculturale - Balboni
I have a dream - M. L. King