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Democracy in America

The "First Democracy" (1835) :
« The people reign over American politics the way God reigns over the universe. It is the cause and end of all things. Everything emanates from the people, and everything comes back to it. »
(Democracy in America, I)

After analyzing the architecture of American democracy, Tocqueville goes on in part two to study how these institutions "derived from the people" in turn exerted an influence on the citizens of the United States by teaching them about freedom and responsibility, and how those citizens eventually learned to manage their own affairs and infuse their democratic institutions with life.
This leads him to consider the role played by political parties and associations, freedom of the press, and universal suffrage. He also tries to describe the danger to the American republic of tyranny of the majority and how that risk can be limited, and he considers various factors from religion to law that may help the democratic republic to endure.
Finally, the tenth chapter of part two peers into the future of the United States and takes up the social and economic issues most likely to affect it. Tocqueville is particularly interested in the sensitive question of the "three races that inhabit the territory of the United States" and especially in the problem of slavery, which he believes will weigh heavily on the future of the Union.

Alexis de Tocqueville's pince-nez

Alexis de Tocqueville's pince-nez, private collection
© AD Manche/A. Poirier

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