Alexis de Tocqueville
CLOSE

"We were to go as a group to vote in the town of Saint-Pierre, one league from our village. On the morning of the election, all the voters, which is to say, the entire male population above the age of twenty, gathered in front of the church. Everyone lined up in alphabetical order, two by two. I took my place in line according to my name, because I knew that in democratic countries and democratic times, one has to be placed at the head of the people and not place oneself there. At the end of the long line, mounted on pack horses or stretched out in wagons, came the sick and disabled, who insisted on accompanying us. Only the children and women were left behind. In all there were 170 of us. Upon reaching the top of the hill overlooking Tocqueville, we stopped for a moment. I realized that the others wanted me to speak, so I climbed atop a mound while they formed a circle around me and said a few words inspired by the occasion. I reminded these sturdy folk of the gravity and importance of what they were about to do; I advised them not to allow themselves to be badgered or led astray by anyone who might approach and try to deceive them when we reached town. Instead, I said, we should march in as a group and stay together, each man in his place, until we had voted. "None of us should go inside in search of food or a dry place [it was raining that day] until we have done our duty."
All proclaimed that they would do as I urged, and so they did. All the votes were handed in at the same time, and I have reason to believe that nearly all were cast for the same candidate.
Immediately after casting my own ballot, I bade them farewell, climbed into a carriage, and left for Paris."
"Only on reaching Paris did I learn that I had received 110,704 votes out of approximately 120,000."

"Do you believe that moral order can be restored by giving the world the most striking example in all history of cunning, violence, and falsehood triumphant, and, adding immorality to immorality, triumphing to the applause of a portion of the respectable upper classes-applause provoked by fear? Do you think that a shaken moral order can be restored by setting an example in which every law is violated, in which the country's elite is carted off to prison, in which the greatest generals of the day are treated as convicts or banished as public enemies for the sole crime of honoring their mission and respecting the laws of their country? Do you even think that moral order can be restored by lashing out at random at those whom one regards as its enemies, by arresting suspects without warrants, judging them without courts, and deporting thousands without hesitation? Can you believe that for a single instant?
(Letter to his brother Edouard, February 14, 1852)

""I have an intellectual taste for democratic institutions, but I am aristocratic by instinct, which is to say, I am contemptuous of the mob, and fear it.

I love freedom, legality, and respect for rights passionately, but not democracy. Such is my deepest conviction.

I hate demagogy, the chaotic action of the masses, their violent, ill-informed intervention in public affairs, the envious passions of the lower classes, and irreligious predilections. Such is my deepest conviction.

I belong to neither the revolutionary party nor the conservative party. Yet when all is said and done, I belong more to the latter than to the former. My differences with the latter are differences of means rather than ends, while my differences with the former are differences of both means and ends.

Liberty is the first of my passions. That is the truth."

"My instinct, my opinions" (OC, vol. III, 2, p. 87)

"Emancipation, gentlemen, even when it takes place in islands held by the English, is the product of a French idea. It is, I submit, we French who are the true authors of the abolition of slavery, because it was we French who demolished everywhere the principle of castes and classes, and who revive, as someone else has said, the lost claims of the human race. And it was we French who spread throughout the world the idea that all men are equal before the law, just as Christianity spread the idea of the equality of all human beings before God. Hence, I repeat, it is we French who truly led the way toward the abolition of slavery.

This great idea, which I am aware of defending so inadequately from this podium, and of which I am for the moment only the feeble champion-this great idea, which I daresay will always be greater than any of its defenders, whoever they may be-this great idea is not only your property, it is not only one of the fundamental ideas of your Revolution, but it lives or dies in your hearts according as the noble instincts that your Revolution fostered live or are reborn there, those noble instincts that have enabled you to accomplish whatever great things you have been able to do in this world, and without which, I do not fear to say, you will do nothing and be nothing."
(Intervention in the debate on the law governing slaves in the colonies, May 30, 1845)