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Alexis de Tocqueville
1805 - 1859

Political scientist, historian, politician, author of Democracy in America (1835-1840) and other works

Books by Alexis de Tocqueville
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Democracy in America
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Old Regime & the French Revolution (1955)
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Click here for essays by Alexis de Tocqueville
Equality is a slogan based on envy. It signifies in the heart of every republican: "Nobody is going to occupy a place higher than I."

1835 - from Democracy in America
The man who asks of freedom anything other than itself is born to be a slave.

1835 - from Democracy in America
There exists... in the human heart a depraved taste for equality, which compels the weak to attempt to lower the powerful to their own level, and reduces men to prefer equality in slavery to equality with freedom.

Born often under another sky, placed in the middle of an always moving scene, himself driven by the irresistible torrent which draws all about him, the American has no time to tie himself to anything, he grows accustomed only to change, and ends by regarding it as the natural state of man. He feels the need of it, more he loves it; for the instability; instead of meaning disaster to him, seems to give birth only to miracles all about him.

The nations of our time cannot prevent the conditions of men from becoming equal; but it depends upon themselves whether the principle of equality is to lead them to servitude or freedom, to knowledge or to barbarism, to prosperity or to wretchedness.

Countries, therefore, when lawmaking falls exclusively to the lot of the poor cannot hope for much economy in public expenditure.

1835 - from Democracy in America
A democratic government is the only one in which those who vote for a tax can escape the obligation to pay it.

1835 - from Democracy in America
However energetically society in general may strive to make all the citizens equal and alike, the personal pride of each individual will always make him try to escape from the common level, and he will form some inequality somewhere to his own profit.

Democracy extends the sphere of individual freedom, socialism restricts it. Democracy attaches all possible value to each man; socialism makes each man a mere agent, a mere number. 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.

One of the happiest consequences of an absence of government (when a people is fortunate enough to be able to do without it, which is rare) is the development of individual strength that inevitably follows from it. Each man learns to think, to act for himself, without counting on the support of an outside force which, however vigilant one supposes it to be, can never answer all social needs. Man, thus accustomed to seek his well-being only through his own efforts, raises himself in his own opinion as he does in the opinion of others; his soul becomes larger and stronger at the same time.

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

... the instruction of the people powerfully contributes to the support of the democratic republic.

1835 - from Democracy in America Vol. 2
The Revolution of the United States was the result of a mature and reflecting preference for freedom, not of a vague or ill-defined craving for independence. It did not contract an alliance with the turbulent passions of anarchy, but its course was marked, on the contrary, by a love of order and law.

1835 - from Democracy in America
Every central government worships uniformity: uniformity relieves it from inquiry into an infinity of details, which must be attended to if rules have to be adapted to different men, instead of indiscriminately subjecting all men to the same rule.

1835 - from Democracy in America
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.

1835 - from Democracy in America