Alexis de Tocqueville

Alexis de Tocqueville

Alexis Charles Henri Clérel, Viscount de Tocqueville (29 July 1805 – 16 April 1859) was a French diplomat, political scientist, and historian. He was best known for his works Democracy in America (appearing in two volumes: 1835 and 1840) and The Old Regime and the Revolution (1856).

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I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America.

History is a gallery of pictures in which there are few originals and many copies.

I cannot help fearing that men may reach a point where they look on every new theory as a danger, every innovation as a toilsome trouble, every social advance as a first step toward revolution, and that they may absolutely refuse to move at all.

When the past no longer illuminates the future, the spirit walks in darkness.

No protracted war can fail to endanger the freedom of a democratic country.

A democratic government is the only one in which those who vote for a tax can escape the obligation to pay it.

Americans are so enamored of equality that they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom.

What is most important for democracy is not that great fortunes should not exist but that great fortunes should not remain in the same hands. In that way there are rich men but they do not form a class.

The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens.

All those who seek to destroy the liberties of a democratic nation ought to know that war is the surest and shortest means to accomplish it.

In a revolution as in a novel the most difficult part to invent is the end.

There are many men of principle in both parties in America but there is no party of principle.

There is hardly a pioneer's hut which does not contain a few odd volumes of Shakespeare. I remember reading the feudal drama of Henry V for the first time in a log cabin.

In no other country in the world is the love of property keener or more alert than in the United States and nowhere else does the majority display less inclination toward doctrines which in any way threaten the way property is owned.

He was as great as a man can be without morality.

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 debates of that great assembly are frequently vague and perplexed seeming to be dragged rather than to march to the intended goal. Something of this sort must I think always happen in public democratic assemblies.

Life is to be entered upon with courage.

The whole life of an American is passed like a game of chance a revolutionary crisis or a battle.

It is the dissimilarities and inequalities among men which give rise to the notion of honor, as such differences become less it grows feeble, and when they disappear it will vanish too.

As one digs deeper into the national character of the Americans one sees that they have sought the value of everything in this world only in the answer to this single question: how much money will it bring in?

In other words a democratic government is the only one in which those who vote for a tax can escape the obligation to pay it.

In America the majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion, within these barriers an author may write what he pleases but woe to him if he goes beyond them.

The main business of religions is to purify control and restrain that excessive and exclusive taste for well-being which men acquire in times of equality.

Consider any individual at any period of his life and you will always find him preoccupied with fresh plans to increase his comfort.

In the United States the majority undertakes to supply a multitude of ready-made opinions for the use of individuals who are thus relieved from the necessity of forming opinions of their own.

The genius of democracies is seen not only in the great number of new words introduced but even more in the new ideas they express.

An American cannot converse, but he can discuss, and his talk falls into a dissertation. He speaks to you as if he was addressing a meeting, and if he should chance to become warm in the discussion he will say "Gentlemen" to the person with whom he is conversing.

The Americans combine the notions of religion and liberty so intimately in their minds that it is impossible to make them conceive of one without the other.

Those that despise people will never get the best out of others and themselves.

The Indian knew how to live without wants to suffer without complaint and to die singing.

Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.

The French want no-one to be their superior. The English want inferiors. The Frenchman constantly raises his eyes above him with anxiety. The Englishman lowers his beneath him with satisfaction.

There are two things which a democratic people will always find very difficult - to begin a war and to end it.

Liberty cannot be established without morality nor morality without faith.

The surface of American society is covered with a layer of democratic paint but from time to time one can see the old aristocratic colours breaking through.

There is hardly a political question in the United States which does not sooner or later turn into a judicial one.

The power of the periodical press is second only to that of the people.

Grant me thirty years of equal division of inheritances and a free press and I will provide you with a republic.

The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money.

We succeed in enterprises which demand the positive qualities we possess but we excel in those which can also make use of our defects.

In politics shared hatreds are almost always the basis of friendships.

The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation but rather in her ability to repair her faults.