Alexis de Tocqueville
CLOSE

"Among the new things that attracted my attention during my stay in the United States, none struck me more forcefully than the equality of conditions. I readily discovered what a prodigious influence this basic fact exerts on the workings of society. . I quickly recognized that the influence of this same fact extends well beyond political mores and laws and that it holds no less sway over civil society than over government. . A great democratic revolution is taking place among us. Everyone sees it, but not everyone judges it in the same way. There are those who regard it as something new and, believing it to be an accident, still hope to arrest it, while others deem it irresistible because in their view it is the oldest, most continuous, most permanent fact known to history. . This entire book was written in the grip of a kind of religious terror occasioned in the soul of the author by the sight of this irresistible revolution, which for centuries now has surmounted every obstacle and continues to advance amid the ruins it has created.
(Democracy in America, I)

"I see an innumerable host of men, all alike and equal, endlessly hastening after petty and vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls. Each of them, withdrawn into himself, is virtually a stranger to the fate of all the others. For him, his children and personal friends comprise the entire human race. As for the remainder of his fellow citizens, he lives alongside them but does not see them. He touches them but does not feel them. He exists only in himself and for himself, and if he still has a family, he no longer has a country. . Over these men stands an immense tutelary power, which assumes sole responsibility for securing their pleasure and watching over their fate. It is absolute, meticulous, regular, provident, and mild. It would resemble paternal authority if only its purpose were the same, namely, to prepare men for manhood. But on the contrary, it seeks only to keep them in childhood irrevocably. It likes citizens to rejoice, provided they think only of rejoicing. It works willingly for their happiness but wants to be the sole agent and only arbiter of that happiness. It provides for their security, foresees and takes care of their needs, facilitates their pleasures, manages their most important affairs, directs their industry, regulates their successions, and divides their inheritances. Why not relieve them entirely of the trouble of thinking and the difficulty of living?"
(Democracy in America, II)

"I bequeath all my papers to my wife, and, knowing her excellent judgment and good taste, I authorize her, in accord with such of my friends or relatives as she may choose, to decide if there is anything to be published in such manuscripts as I may leave after me. She knows that my intention is that the manuscript entitled Souvenirs is not to be published until such time as its publication will not aggrieve anyone with whom I had good relations. This work is in any case only a first draft, that may require cuts before it worthy to appear before the public. In it I offer many judgments of other people. I authorize my wife alone to eliminate any she may deem unduly severe."
(Will of Alexis de Tocqueville)

"What the Revolution was less than anything else was fortuitous. True, it took the world by surprise, and yet it was merely the complement of the lengthiest of labors, the sudden and violent end of an effort to which ten generations of human beings contributed. Had it not taken place, the old social edifice would have fallen anyway, here sooner, there later, only it would have fallen piece by piece instead of collapsing all at once. With a convulsive, painful effort, without warning or precaution or consideration, it suddenly finished off something that would eventually have finished itself off little by little. That was its accomplishment."
(The Old Regime and the Revolution, I)

"Imagine, if you will, the French peasant of the eighteenth century. . See him as he is portrayed in the documents I have cited, so passionately enamored of the land that he spends all his savings to acquire it, no matter what the cost. . The little patch of earth that is the only thing in the whole wide world he can call his own fills him with pride and independence. Yet the same neighbors come to drag him away from his fields and force him to work elsewhere for no pay. If he tries to defend his seed against their game, they prevent him from doing so. The same people again wait at the river crossing to collect a toll from him. . No matter what he does, these troublesome neighbors stand in his way, disrupting his pleasure, impeding his labor, eating his produce, and when he has finished with them, others clad in black arrive to claim the better part of his harvest. Imagine the condition, the needs, the character, and the passions of this man, and calculate if you can the wealth of hatred and long that he has amassed in his heart."
(The Old Regime and the Revolution)