Democracy in America
Alexis de Tocqueville
Originally Published: February 1832
Based on Tocqueville’s visit to the United States from France in 1831
The exceptionalism of the United States was a debated topic in Europe.
While many in Europe argued the concept of self-governance and the “consent of the governed” was a recipe for disaster for any system, since everyone knew that the only way order may be maintained was under the rule of a powerful, wealthy, and wise elite (for the common good), America had taken a step towards an even greater disaster; democracy. Tocqueville and his contemporaries knew that democracy’s history was that of violence, collapse, and societal suicide. In America, with the rise of Andrew Jackson to the presidency, the republic that America had been founded upon was being whittled away at towards a goal of establishing democracy. While visiting America to study the country’s world renowned penal system, Tocqueville observed that democracy’s dangerous characteristics had not toppled the American System. While some parts of the republic remained, the United States was still flourishing despite the injection of democracy into parts of its system. Tocqueville, in his book, observes that the American Experiment was continuing to thrive, despite political tampering with its system, because of the culture. America is great because it is good. Its strength is in its churches. As long as America remains a virtuous society, even democracy won’t be able to topple its exceptionalism.
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