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Voyages


America

Journey down the Mississippi:
New Orleans
« As far as I can judge, the republic does not seem to me a social state as natural and appropriate to the South as it is to the North of the United States. . In the South, there is something feverish, chaotic, revolutionary, and passionate in the way things are going, something that does not leave you with the same impression of force and duration. »
(Travels in America)

Having completed their trip down the Mississippi, Tocqueville and Beaumont landed in New Orleans on January 1, 1832. According to Tocqueville's notes, they were surprised at the feverish activity of the port, and especially by the mixture of architectural styles, languages, and "persons of every shade of color". Tocqueville was particularly sensitive to traces of the former French presence, to the old French residents themselves, and to their relationship to the dominating English presence. And yet, he found no traces of feelings of frustration and defeat, as he had observed among the French Canadians: the old French residents of New Orleans seemed completely comfortable with their new situation. But what struck him the most about New Orleans was the difference in customs, which were, by all evidence, much more relaxed in the South than in the North. He attributed this to the difference in climate, but this difference in latitude seemed to have modified the entire appearance of society.  play sound extractlire l'extrait sonore
He thought that slavery, for example, radically altered a society's output, because not only did it overburden the slaves, but it also relieved their owners of all work and all desire to work.

Photographie de la ville de la Nouvelle-Orléans

Jackson Square and the Saint Louis Cathedral , S.T. Blessing
© New Orleans Public Library

Ohio was the dividing line between the North, where "all is activity and industry", and where "work is an honor" and "there are no slaves", from the Southern states like Kentucky or Tennessee; there, "the spirit of enterprise comes to a halt", and "work is not only a trial, it is a shame". The South was still home to a race of aristocratic men who "placed many things above work" but it would, Tocqueville thought, end up being dominated by the North.

see the map

Map of New Orleans

Map of New Orleans, Vinache © Historic New Orleans Collection

Various images about the growing and harvesting of cotton

Various images about the growing and harvesting of cotton © BNF

Travel notebookaccess to Travel Notebook with Flash

Down the Mississipi

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