Talk:Alexis de Tocqueville

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The alleged quote "Democracy and socialism..." does not occur in "Democracy in America" The word socialism does not occur.

Pepper 11:34, 3 November 2006 (UTC)Reply

erroneous Tocqueville quote


"It's not an endlessly expanding list of rights -- the 'right' to education, the 'right' to health care, the 'right' to food and housing. That's not freedom, that's dependency. Those aren't rights, those are the rations of slavery -- hay and a barn for human cattle." From P. J. O'Rourke, at a May 6, 1993 gala dinner celebrating the opening of the Cato Institute's new headquarters in Washington. See

"America is great because she is good"


Although I'm pretty certain that this is not from De Tocqueville, we can trace it further back than 1941 via Google Book Search. For example, this one from 1930. There's also a 1928 speech by Senator Henry F. Ashurst where the New York Times quotes him as saying "When America ceases to be good America will cease to be great," but it's not clear if he is citing de Tocqueville.

There's an earlier version of the quote that goes back to at least 1886. In Madison Clinton Peters' book Empty Pews & Selections from Other Sermons on Timely Topics, there's this:

Some years ago, De Tochneville, the distinguished

French statesman, was commissioned by his country for the purpose of studying the genius of our institutions. In reporting to the French Senate, he said: “I went at your bidding, and passed along their thoroughfares of trade. I ascended their mountains and went down their valleys. I visited their manufactories, their commercial markets, and emporiums of trade. I entered their judicial courts and legislative halls. But I sought everywhere in vain for the secret of their success, until I entered the church. It was there, as I listened to the soul-equalizing and soul- elevating principles of the Gospel of Christ, as they fell from Sabbath to Sabbath upon the masses of the people, that I learned why America was great and free, and why France was a slave.”

He misspelled de Tocqueville, but it's spelled correctly in this 1888 item from Manual of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

KHirsch 05:52, 24 December 2008 (UTC)Reply

Now I can find version 2 of the quote all the way back to September, 1922. KHirsch 04:52, 28 January 2009 (UTC)Reply

One thing I noted is that The Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers attributes this quote “Antedating our history, possessing and illumining the hearts of the founders of liberty in our free land, and constantly exerting the soul-equalizing and soul-elevating principles of the gospel of Christ as they fall from Sabbath to Sabbath on the masses of the people, the Christian church stands before all men as the pillar and ground of civil liberty in the world.” to W. H. Perrine, who died in 1881.



Wikiquote no longer allows unsourced quotations, and they are in process of being removed from our pages (see Wikiquote:Limits on quotations); but if you can provide a reliable and precise source for any quote on this list please move it to Alexis de Tocqueville. --Antiquary 20:47, 1 March 2009 (UTC)Reply

  • The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens.
  • There are many men of principle in both parties in America, but there is no party of principle.
  • What is the 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.
  • Grant me thirty years of equal division of inheritances and a free press, and I will provide you with a republic.
  • Those that despise people will never get the best out of others and themselves.
  • We succeed in enterprises which demand the positive qualities we possess, but we excel in those which can also make use of our defects.
  • It is easier for the world to accept a simple lie than a complex truth.
  • Life is to be entered upon with courage.
  • 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.
  • C'est une chose étrange de voir avec quelle sorte d'ardeur fébrile les Américains pour­suivent le bien-être, et comme ils se montrent tourmentés sans cesse par une crain­te vague de n'avoir pas choisi la route la plus courte qui peut y conduire, L'habitant des États-Unis s'attache aux biens de ce monde, comme s'il était assuré de ne point mourir, et il met tant de précipitation à saisir ceux qui passent a sa portée, qu'on dirait qu'il craint à chaque instant de cesser de vivre avant d'en avoir joui. [...]La mort survient enfin et elle l'arrête avant qu'il se soit lassé de cette poursuite inutile d'une félicité complète qui fuit toujours.

=> engl. please

... And similarly (*formerly just below first Democracy in America heading):

  • God does not need to speak for himself in order for us to discover definitive signs of his will; it is enough to examine the normal course of nature and the consistent tendency of events. I know without needing to hear the voice of the Creator that the stars trace out in space the orbits which his hand has drawn.
    • Original text: Il n’est pas nécessaire que Dieu parle lui-même pour que nous découvrions des signes certains de sa volonté; il suffit d’examiner quelle est la marche habituelle de la nature et la tendance continue des événements; je sais, sans que le Créateur élève la voix, que les astres suivent dans l’espace les courbes que son doigt a tracées.
    • Introduction
  • If a [democratic] society displays less brilliance than an aristocracy, there will also be less wretchedness; pleasures will be less outrageous and wellbeing will be shared by all; the sciences will be on a smaller scale but ignorance will be less common; opinions will be less vigorous and habits gentler; you will notice more vices and fewer crimes.
    • Original text: [...] si l'on y rencontre moins d'éclat qu'au sein d'une aristocratie, on y trouvera moins de misères; les jouissances y seront moins extrêmes, et le bien-être plus général; les sciences moins grandes, et l'ignorance plus rare; les sentiments moins énergiques, et les habitudes plus douces; on y remarquera plus de vices et moins de crimes.
    • Introduction.
  • By the side of these religious men I discern others whose looks are turned to the earth more than to Heaven; they are the partisans of liberty, not only as the source of the noblest virtues, but more especially as the root of all solid advantages; and they sincerely desire to extend its sway, and to impart its blessings to mankind. It is natural that they should hasten to invoke the assistance of religion, for they must know that liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith; but they have seen religion in the ranks of their adversaries, and they inquire no further; some of them attack it openly, and the remainder are afraid to defend it.
    • Original text: À côté de ces hommes religieux, j'en découvre d'autres dont les regards sont tournés vers la terre plutôt que vers le ciel; partisans de la liberté, non seulement parce qu'ils voient en elle l'origine des plus nobles vertus, mais surtout parce qu'ils la considèrent comme la source des plus grands biens, ils désirent sincèrement assurer son empire et faire goûter aux hommes ses bienfaits : je comprends que ceux-là vont se hâter d'appeler la religion à leur aide, car ils doivent savoir qu'on ne peut établir le règne de la liberté sans celui des mœurs, ni fonder les mœurs sans les croyances; mais ils ont aperçu la religion dans les rangs de leurs adversaires, c'en est assez pour eux : les uns l'attaquent, et les autres n'osent la défendre.
    • Introduction.