Alexis de Tocqueville

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Alexis de Tocqueville
Alexis de tocqueville cropped.jpg
Born Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville
(1805-07-29)29 July 1805
Paris, France
Died Script error: The function "death_date_and_age" does not exist.
Cannes, France
Era 19th-century philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Classical liberalism
Main interests
History, political philosophy
Notable ideas
Voluntary association, mutual liberty, soft despotism

Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville (French: [alɛksi ʃaʁl ɑ̃ʁi kleʁɛl də tɔkvil]; 29 July 1805 – 16 April 1859) was a French political thinker and historian best known for his works Democracy in America (appearing in two volumes: 1835 and 1840) and The Old Regime and the Revolution (1856). In both of these, he analyzed the improved living standards and social conditions of individuals, as well as their relationship to the market and state in Western societies. Democracy in America was published after Tocqueville's travels in the United States, and is today considered an early work of sociology and political science.

Tocqueville was active in French politics, first under the July Monarchy (1830–1848) and then during the Second Republic (1849–1851) which succeeded the February 1848 Revolution. He retired from political life after Louis Napoléon Bonaparte's 2 December 1851 coup, and thereafter began work on The Old Regime and the Revolution.[1]

He argued that the importance of the French Revolution was to continue the process of modernizing and centralizing the French state which had begun under King Louis XIV. The failure of the Revolution came from the inexperience of the deputies who were too wedded to abstract Enlightenment ideals. Tocqueville was a classical liberal who advocated parliamentary government, but was skeptical of the extremes of democracy.[1]


Alexis de Tocqueville came from an old Norman aristocratic family with ancestors who participated in the Battle of Hastings in 1066. His parents, Hervé Louis François Jean Bonaventure Clérel, Comte de Tocqueville, an officer of the Constitutional Guard of King Louis XVI, and Louise Madeleine Le Peletier de Rosanbo, barely escaped the guillotine due to the fall of Robespierre in 1794.

After an exile in England, they returned to France during the reign of Napoleon. Under the Bourbon Restoration, his father became a noble peer and prefect.[citation needed] Tocqueville attended the Lycée Fabert in Metz.[2]

The Fabert School in Metz, where Tocqueville was fellow student between 1817 and 1823

Tocqueville, who despised the July Monarchy (1830–1848), began his political career in 1839. From 1839 to 1851, he served as deputy of the Manche department (Valognes). In parliament, he defended abolitionist views and upheld free trade, while supporting the colonisation of Algeria carried on by Louis-Philippe's regime. Tocqueville was also elected general counsellor of the Manche in 1842, and became the president of the department's conseil général between 1849 and 1851. According to one account, Tocqueville's political position became untenable during this time in the sense that he was mistrusted by both the left and right, and was looking for an excuse to leave France.[3]


In 1831, he obtained from the July Monarchy a mission to examine prisons and penitentiaries in America, and proceeded there with his lifelong friend Gustave de Beaumont. While Tocqueville did visit some prisons, he traveled widely in America and took extensive notes about his observations and reflections.[3] He returned within 9 months, and published a report, but the real result of his tour was De la démocratie en Amerique, which appeared in 1835.[4] Beaumont also wrote an account of their travels in Jacksonian America: Marie or Slavery in the United States'' (1835).

Apart from America, Tocqueville also made an observational tour of England, producing Memoir on Pauperism. In 1841 and 1846, he traveled to Algeria. His first travel inspired his Travail sur l'Algérie, in which he criticized the French model of colonisation, which was based on an assimilationist view, preferring instead the British model of indirect rule, which avoided mixing different populations together. He went as far as openly advocating racial segregation between the European colonists and the Arabs through the implementation of two different legislative systems (a half century before implementation of the 1881 Indigenous code based on religion).

In 1835, Tocqueville made a journey through Ireland. His observations provide one of the best pictures of how Ireland stood before the Great Famine 1845–1849. The observations chronicle the growing Catholic middle-class and the appalling conditions in which most Catholic tenant farmers lived. Tocqueville made clear both his libertarian sympathies and his affinity for his Irish co-religionists.[5]

After the fall of the July Monarchy during the February 1848 Revolution, Tocqueville was elected a member of the Constituent Assembly of 1848, where he became a member of the Commission charged with the drafting of the new Constitution of the Second Republic (1848–1851). He defended bicameralism (the wisdom of two parliamentary chambers) and the election of the President of the Republic by universal suffrage. As the countryside was thought to be more conservative than the labouring population of Paris, universal suffrage was conceived as a means to counteract the revolutionary spirit of Paris.

During the Second Republic, Tocqueville sided with the parti de l'Ordre against the socialists. A few days after the February insurrection, he believed that a violent clash between the Parisian workers' population led by socialists agitating in favor of a "Democratic and Social Republic" and the conservatives, which included the aristocracy and the rural population, was inescapable. As Tocqueville had foreseen, these social tensions eventually exploded during the June Days Uprising of 1848.[6]

Led by General Cavaignac, the repression was supported by Tocqueville, who advocated the "regularization" of the state of siege declared by Cavaignac, and other measures promoting suspension of the constitutional order.[6] Between May and September, Tocqueville participated in the Constitutional Commission which wrote the new Constitution. His proposals underlined the importance of his American experience, as his amendment about the President and his reelection.[7]

Minister of foreign affairs (1849)

Caricature by Honoré Daumier, 1849.
Tocqueville at the 1851 "Commission de la révision de la Constitution à l'Assemblée nationale".

A supporter of Cavaignac and of the parti de l'Ordre, Tocqueville, however, accepted an invitation to enter Odilon Barrot's government as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 3 June to 31 October 1849. There, during the troubled days of June 1849, he pleaded with Jules Dufaure, Interior Minister, for the reestablishment of the state of siege in the capital and approved the arrest of demonstrators. Tocqueville, who since February 1848 had supported laws restricting political freedoms, approved the two laws voted immediately after the June 1849 days, which restricted the liberty of clubs and freedom of the press.[8]

This active support in favor of laws restricting political freedoms stands in contrast of his defense of freedoms in Democracy in America. According to Tocqueville, he favored order as "the sine qua non for the conduct of serious politics. He [hoped] to bring the kind of stability to French political life that would permit the steady growth of liberty unimpeded by the regular rumblings of the earthquakes of revolutionary change.″[8]

Tocqueville had supported Cavaignac against Louis Napoléon Bonaparte for the presidential election of 1848. Opposed to Louis Napoléon's 2 December 1851 coup which followed his election, Tocqueville was among the deputies who gathered at the 10th arrondissement of Paris in an attempt to resist the coup and have Napoleon III judged for "high treason", as he had violated the constitutional limit on terms of office. Detained at Vincennes and then released, Tocqueville, who supported the Restoration of the Bourbons against Napoleon III's Second Empire (1851–1871), quit political life and retreated to his castle (Château de Tocqueville).[9]

Against this image of Tocqueville, biographer Joseph Epstein has concluded: "Tocqueville could never bring himself to serve a man he considered a usurper and despot. He fought as best he could for the political liberty in which he so ardently believed – had given it, in all, thirteen years of his life [....] He would spend the days remaining to him fighting the same fight, but conducting it now from libraries, archives, and his own desk."[9] There, he began the draft of L'Ancien Régime et la Révolution, publishing the first tome in 1856, but leaving the second one unfinished.

Death (1859)

A longtime sufferer from bouts of tuberculosis, Tocqueville would eventually succumb to the disease on April 16, 1859. He was buried in the Tocqueville cemetery in Normandy.

Tocqueville's professed religion was Roman Catholicism.[10] He saw religion as being compatible with both equality and individualism, and felt that religion would be strongest when separated from politics.[3]

Democracy in America

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A page from original working manuscript of Democracy in America, ca. 1840.

In Democracy in America, published in 1835, Tocqueville wrote of the New World and its burgeoning democratic order. Observing from the perspective of a detached social scientist, Tocqueville wrote of his travels through America in the early 19th century when the market revolution, Western expansion, and Jacksonian democracy were radically transforming the fabric of American life.[3]

One purpose of writing Democracy in America, according to Joshua Kaplan, was to help the people of France get a better understanding of their position between a fading aristocratic order and an emerging democratic order, and to help them sort out the confusion.[3] Tocqueville saw democracy as an equation that balanced liberty and equality, concern for the individual as well as for the community.

Tocqueville was an ardent supporter of liberty. He wrote "I have a passionate love for liberty, law, and respect for rights”, he wrote. “I am neither of the revolutionary party nor of the conservative...Liberty is my foremost passion.” He wrote of "Political Consequences of the Social State of the Anglo-Americans" by saying "But one also finds in the human heart a depraved taste for equality, which impels the weak to want to bring the strong down to their level, and which reduces men to preferring equality in servitude to inequality in freedom".[11]

His view on government reflects his belief in liberty and the need for individuals to be able to act freely while respecting others' rights. Of centralized government, he wrote that it "excels in preventing, not doing."[12]

He continues to comment on equality by saying "Furthermore, when citizens are all almost equal, it becomes difficult for them to defend their independence against the aggressions of power. As none of them is strong enough to fight alone with advantage, the only guarantee of liberty is for everyone to combine forces. But such a combination is not always in evidence."[13]

The above is often misquoted as a slavery quote due to previous translations of the French text. The most recent translation from Arthur Goldhammer in 2004 translates the meaning to be as stated above. Examples of misquoted sources are numerous on the internet;[14] the text does not contain the words "Americans were so enamored by equality" anywhere.

Tocqueville explicitly cites inequality as being incentive for poor to become rich, and notes that it is not often that two generations within a family maintain success, and that it is inheritance laws that split and eventually break apart someone's estate that cause a constant cycle of churn between the poor and rich, thereby over generations making the poor rich and rich poor. He cites protective laws in France at the time that protected an estate from being split apart amongst heirs, thereby preserving wealth and preventing a churn of wealth such as was perceived by him in 1835 within the United States of America.

On civil and political society and the individual

Tocqueville's main purpose was to analyze the functioning of political society and various forms of political associations, although he brought some reflections on civil society too (and relations between political and civil society). For Tocqueville as for Hegel and Marx, civil society was a sphere of private entrepreneurship and civilian affairs regulated by civil code.[15] As a critic of individualism, Tocqueville thought that through associating, the coming together of people for mutual purpose, both in public and private, Americans are able to overcome selfish desires, thus making both a self-conscious and active political society and a vibrant civil society functioning according to political and civil laws of the state.[3][15]

According to political scientist Joshua Kaplan, Tocqueville did not originate the concept of individualism, instead he changed its meaning, and saw it as a "calm and considered feeling which deposes each citizen to isolate himself from the mass of his fellows and to withdraw into the circle of family and friends ... with this little society formed to his taste, he gladly leaves the greater society to look for itself".[3] While Tocqueville saw egotism and selfishness as vices, he saw individualism as not a failure of feeling, but as a way of thinking about things which could have either positive consequences such as a willingness to work together, or negative consequences such as isolation, and that individualism could be remedied by improved understanding.[3]

When individualism was a positive force and prompted people to work together for common purposes, and seen as "self-interest properly understood", then it helped to counterbalance the danger of the tyranny of the majority, since people could "take control over their own lives" without government aid.[3] According to Kaplan, Americans have a difficult time accepting Tocqueville's criticism of the stifling intellectual effect of the "omnipotence of the majority", and that Americans tend to deny that there is a problem in this regard.[3]

On democracy and new forms of tyranny

Tocqueville warned that modern democracy may be adept at inventing new forms of tyranny, because radical equality could lead to the materialism of an expanding bourgeoisie and to the selfishness of individualism. In such conditions we lose interest in the future of our descendents...and meekly allow ourselves to be led in ignorance by a despotic force all the more powerful because it does not resemble one.[16] Tocqueville worried that if despotism were to take root in a modern democracy, it would be a much more dangerous version than the oppression under the Roman emperors or tyrants of the past who could only exert a pernicious influence on a small group of people at a time.[3]

In contrast, a despotism under a democracy could see "a multitude of men", uniformly alike, equal, "constantly circling for petty pleasures", unaware of fellow citizens, and subject to the will of a powerful state which exerted an "immense protective power".[3] Tocqueville compared a potentially despotic democratic government to a protective parent who wants to keep its citizens (children) as "perpetual children", and which doesn't break men's wills but rather guides it, and presides over people in the same way as a shepherd looking after a "flock of timid animals".[3]

On the American social contract

Tocqueville's penetrating analysis sought to understand the peculiar nature of American political life. In describing America, he agreed with thinkers such as Aristotle and Montesquieu that the balance of property determined the balance of political power, but his conclusions after that differed radically from those of his predecessors. Tocqueville tried to understand why America was so different from Europe in the last throes of aristocracy. America, in contrast to the aristocratic ethic, was a society where hard work and money-making was the dominant ethic, where the common man enjoyed a level of dignity which was unprecedented, where commoners never deferred to elites, and where what he described as crass individualism and market capitalism had taken root to an extraordinary degree.

Tocqueville writes "Among a democratic people, where there is no hereditary wealth, every man works to earn a living ... Labor is held in honor; the prejudice is not against but in its favor."[17]

Alexis de Tocqueville

Tocqueville asserted that the values that had triumphed in the North and were present in the South had begun to suffocate old-world ethics and social arrangements. Legislatures abolished primogeniture and entails, resulting in more widely distributed land holdings. This was a contrast to the general aristocratic pattern in which only the eldest child, usually a man, inherited the estate, which had the effect of keeping large estates intact from generation to generation.[3]

In America, in contrast, landed elites were less likely to pass on fortunes to a single child by the action of primogeniture, which meant that as time went by, large estates became broken up within a few generations which, in turn, made the children more equal overall.[3] It was not always a negative development, according to Joshua Kaplan's interpretation of Tocqueville, since bonds of affection and shared experience between children often replaced the more formal relation between the eldest child and the siblings, characteristic of the previous aristocratic pattern.[3] Overall, in the new democracies, hereditary fortunes became exceedingly difficult to secure and more people were forced to struggle for their own living.

This rapidly democratizing society, as Tocqueville understood it, had a population devoted to "middling" values which wanted to amass, through hard work, vast fortunes. In Tocqueville's mind, this explained why America was so different from Europe. In Europe, he claimed, nobody cared about making money. The lower classes had no hope of gaining more than minimal wealth, while the upper classes found it crass, vulgar, and unbecoming of their sort to care about something as unseemly as money; many were virtually guaranteed wealth and took it for granted. At the same time in America, workers would see people fashioned in exquisite attire and merely proclaim that through hard work they too would soon possess the fortune necessary to enjoy such luxuries.

Despite maintaining with Aristotle, Montesquieu, and others that the balance of property determined the balance of power, Tocqueville argued that, as America showed, equitable property holdings did not ensure the rule of the best men. In fact, it did quite the opposite. The widespread, relatively equitable property ownership which distinguished America and determined its mores and values also explained why the American masses held elites in such contempt.

On majority rule and mediocrity

Beyond the eradication of old-world aristocracy, ordinary Americans also refused to defer to those possessing, as Tocqueville put it, superior talent and intelligence, and these natural elites could not enjoy much share in political power as a result. Ordinary Americans enjoyed too much power, claimed too great a voice in the public sphere, to defer to intellectual superiors. This culture promoted a relatively pronounced equality, Tocqueville argued, but the same mores and opinions that ensured such equality also promoted mediocrity. Those who possessed true virtue and talent were left with limited choices.[3]

Tocqueville said that those with the most education and intelligence were left with two choices. They could join limited intellectual circles to explore the weighty and complex problems facing society, or they could use their superior talents to amass vast fortunes in the private sector. Tocqueville wrote that he did not know of any country where there was "less independence of mind, and true freedom of discussion, than in America".[3]

He blamed the omnipotence of majority rule as a chief factor in stifling thinking: "The majority has enclosed thought within a formidable fence. A writer is free inside that area, but woe to the man who goes beyond it, not that he stands in fear of an inquisition, but he must face all kinds of unpleasantness in every day persecution. A career in politics is closed to him for he has offended the only power that holds the keys."[3] Tocqueville, in contrast to previous political thinkers, argued that a serious problem in political life was not that people were too strong, but that people were "too weak" and felt powerless; the danger is that people felt "swept up in something that they could not control", according to Kaplan's interpretation of Tocqueville.[3]

On US slavery, Blacks and Indians

Uniquely positioned at a crossroads in American history, Tocqueville's Democracy in America attempted to capture the essence of American culture and values. Though a supporter of colonialism, Tocqueville could clearly perceive the evils that blacks and Indians had been subjected to in America. Tocqueville devoted the last chapter of the first volume of Democracy in America to the question while his travel companion, Gustave de Beaumont, wholly focused on slavery and its fallouts for the American nation in Marie or Slavery in America. Tocqueville notes that among the races that exist in America:

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The first who attracts the eye, the first in enlightenment, in power and in happiness, is the white man, the European, man par excellence; below him appear the Negro and the Indian. These two unfortunate races have neither birth, nor face, nor language, nor mores in common; only their misfortunes look alike. Both occupy an equally inferior position in the country that they inhabit; both experience the effects of tyranny; and if their miseries are different, they can accuse the same author for them.[18]

Tocqueville contrasted the settlers of Virginia with the middle-class, religious Puritans who founded New England, and analyzed the debasing influence of slavery:<templatestyles src="Template:Blockquote/styles.css" />

The men sent to Virginia were seekers of gold, adventurers without resources and without character, whose turbulent and restless spirit endangered the infant colony ... Artisans and agriculturalists arrived afterwards...hardly in any respect above the level of the inferior classes in England. No lofty views, no spiritual conception presided over the foundation of these new settlements. The colony was scarcely established when slavery was introduced; this was the capital fact which was to exercise an immense influence on the character, the laws and the whole future of the South. Slavery...dishonors labor; it introduces idleness into society, and with idleness, ignorance and pride, luxury and distress. It enervates the powers of the mind and benumbs the activity of man. On this same English foundation there developed in the North very different characteristics.[19]

Tocqueville concluded that removal of the Negro population from America could not resolve the problem as he writes at the end of the first Democracy:

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If the colony of Liberia were able to receive thousands of new inhabitants every year, and if the Negroes were in a state to be sent thither with advantage; if the Union were to supply the society with annual subsidies, and to transport the Negroes to Africa in government vessels, it would still be unable to counterpoise the natural increase of population among the blacks; and as it could not remove as many men in a year as are born upon its territory within that time, it could not prevent the growth of the evil which is daily increasing in the states. The Negro race will never leave those shores of the American continent to which it was brought by the passions and the vices of Europeans; and it will not disappear from the New World as long as it continues to exist. The inhabitants of the United States may retard the calamities which they apprehend, but they cannot now destroy their efficient cause.

In 1855, he wrote the following text published by Maria Weston Chapman in the Liberty Bell: Testimony against Slavery

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I do not think it is for me, a foreigner, to indicate to the United States the time, the measures, or the men by whom Slavery shall be abolished.

Still, as the persevering enemy of despotism everywhere, and under all its forms, I am pained and astonished by the fact that the freest people in the world is, at the present time, almost the only one among civilized and Christian nations which yet maintains personal servitude; and this while serfdom itself is about disappearing, where it has not already disappeared, from the most degraded nations of Europe.

An old and sincere friend of America, I am uneasy at seeing Slavery retard her progress, tarnish her glory, furnish arms to her detractors, compromise the future career of the Union which is the guaranty of her safety and greatness, and point out beforehand to her, to all her enemies, the spot where they are to strike. As a man, too, I am moved at the spectacle of man's degradation by man, and I hope to see the day when the law will grant equal civil liberty to all the inhabitants of the same empire, as God accords the freedom of the will, without distinction, to the dwellers upon earth.[20]

On policies of assimilation

According to Tocqueville, assimilation of blacks would be almost impossible and this was already being demonstrated in the Northern states. As Tocqueville predicted, formal freedom and equality and segregation would become this population's reality after the Civil War and during Reconstruction – as would the bumpy road to true integration of blacks.

Assimilation, however, was the best solution for Native Americans and since they were too proud to assimilate, they would inevitably become extinct. Displacement was another part of America's Indian policy. Both populations were "undemocratic", or without the qualities, intellectual and otherwise, needed to live in a democracy. Tocqueville shared many views on assimilation and segregation of his and the coming epochs, but he opposed Arthur de Gobineau's theories as found in The Inequality of Human Races (1853–1855).[21]

On the US and Russia as future global powers

In his Democracy In America, Tocqueville also forecast the preeminence of the United States and Russia as the two main global powers. In his book, he stated:

"There are now two great nations in the world, which starting from different points, seem to be advancing toward the same goal: the Russians and the Anglo-Americans... Each seems called by some secret design of Providence one day to hold in its hands the destinies of half the world."[22]

The 1841 discourse on the Conquest of Algeria

French historian of colonialism Olivier LeCour Grandmaison has underlined how Tocqueville (as well as Michelet) used the term "extermination" to describe what was happening during the colonization of Western United States and the Indian removal period.[23] Tocqueville thus expressed himself, in 1841, concerning the conquest of Algeria:

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As far as I am concerned, I came back from Africa with the pathetic notion that at present in our way of waging war we are far more barbaric than the Arabs themselves. These days, they represent civilization, we do not. This way of waging war seems to me as stupid as it is cruel. It can only be found in the head of a coarse and brutal soldier. Indeed, it was pointless to replace the Turks only to reproduce what the world rightly found so hateful in them. This, even for the sake of interest is more noxious than useful; for, as another officer was telling me, if our sole aim is to equal the Turks, in fact we shall be in a far lower position than theirs: barbarians for barbarians, the Turks will always outdo us because they are Muslim barbarians. In France, I have often heard men I respect but do not approve of, deplore that crops should be burnt and granaries emptied and finally that unarmed men, women, and children should be seized. In my view these are unfortunate circumstances that any people wishing to wage war against the Arabs must accept. I think that all the means available to wreck tribes must be used, barring those that the human kind and the right of nations condemn. I personally believe that the laws of war enable us to ravage the country and that we must do so either by destroying the crops at harvest time or any time by making fast forays also known as raids the aim of which it to get hold of men or flocks.[24][25]

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Whatever the case, we may say in a general manner that all political freedoms must be suspended in Algeria.[26]

Tocqueville thought the conquest of Algeria was important for two reasons: first, his understanding of the international situation and France's position in the world, and, second, changes in French society.[27] Tocqueville believed that war and colonization would "restore national pride, threatened", he believed, by "the gradual softening of social mores" in the middle classes. Their taste for "material pleasures" was spreading to the whole of society, giving it "an example of weakness and egotism".[28]

Applauding the methods of General Bugeaud, Tocqueville went so far to claim that "war in Africa is a science. Everyone is familiar with its rules and everyone can apply those rules with almost complete certainty of success. One of the greatest services that Field Marshal Bugeaud has rendered his country is to have spread, perfected and made everyone aware of this new science."[28]

Tocqueville advocated racial segregation in Algeria with two distinct legislations, one for European colonists and one for the Arab population.[29] Such a two-tier arrangement would be fully realised with the 1870 Crémieux decree and the Indigenousness Code, which extended French citizenship to European settlers and Algerian Jews, whereas Muslim Algerians would be governed by Muslim law and restricted to a second-class citizenship.

Tocqueville's opposition to the invasion of Kabylie

In opposition to Olivier Le Cour Grandmaison, Jean-Louis Benoît claimed that given the extent of racial prejudices during the colonization of Algeria, Tocqueville was one of its "most moderate supporters". Benoît claimed that it was wrong to assume Tocqueville was a supporter of Bugeaud, despite his 1841 apologetic discourse. It seems that Tocqueville modified his views after his second visit to Algeria in 1846; he criticized Bugeaud's desire to invade Kabylie in an 1847 speech to the Assembly.

Although Tocqueville had favoured retention of distinct traditional law, administrators, schools, etc., for Arabs who had come under French control, he judged the Berber tribes of Kabylie (in his second of Two Letters on Algeria, 1837) as "savages" not suited for this arrangement; they would best be managed, he argued, not by force of arms, but by the pacifying influences of commerce and cultural interaction.

Tocqueville's views on the matter were complex. Even though in his 1841 report on Algeria he applauded Bugeaud for making war in a way that defeated Abd-el-Kader's resistance, he had advocated in the Two Letters that the French military advance leave Kabylie undisturbed, and in subsequent speeches and writings he continued to oppose intrusion into Kabylie.

In the debate about the 1846 extraordinary funds, Tocqueville denounced Bugeaud's conduct of military operations, and succeeded in convincing the Assembly not to vote funds in support of Bugeaud's military columns.[30] Tocqueville considered Bugeaud's plan to invade Kabylie, despite the opposition of the Assembly, as a seditious act in the face of which the government was opting for cowardice.[31][32]

Report on Algeria (1847)

In his 1847 Report on Algeria, Tocqueville declared that Europe should avoid making the same mistake they made with the European colonization of the Americas in order to avoid the bloody consequences.[33] More particularly he reminds his countrymen of a solemn caution whereby he warns them that if the methods used towards the Algerian people remain unchanged, colonization will end in a blood bath.

Tocqueville includes in his report on Algeria that the fate of their soldiers and finances depended on how the French government treats the various native populations of Algeria, including the various Arab tribes, independent Kabyles living in the Atlas Mountains, and the powerful political leader Abd-el-Kader. In his various letters and essays on Algeria, Tocqueville discusses contrasting strategies by which a European country can approach imperialism. In particular, the author differentiates between what he terms 'dominance' and a particular version of 'colonization'.[34]

The latter stresses the obtainment and protection of land and passageways that promise commercial wealth. In the case of Algeria, the Port of Algiers, and the control over the Strait of Gibraltar, were considered by Tocqueville to be particularly valuable. Direct control of the political operations of the entirety of Algeria, however, was not. Thus the author stresses domination over only certain points of political influence as a means to colonization of commercially valuable areas.[34]

Tocqueville argued that domination via violent means, though unpleasant, is necessary for colonization and justified by the laws of war. Such laws are not discussed in detail; however, given that the goal of the French mission in Algeria was to obtain commercial and military interest as opposed to self-defense, it can be deduced that Tocqueville would not concur with Just war theory's jus ad bellum criteria of just cause. Further, given that Tocqueville approved of the use of force to eliminate civilian housing in enemy territory, his approach does not accord with Just War Theory's jus in bello criteria of proportionality and discrimination.[35]

References in popular literature

Tocqueville was quoted in several chapters of the Toby Young's memoirs, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People to explain his observation of widespread homogeneity of thought even amongst intellectual elites at Harvard University, during his time spent there. He is frequently quoted and studied in American history classes. Tocqueville is the inspiration for Australian novelist Peter Carey in his 2009 novel, Parrot and Olivier in America.[36] There will never be another de Tocqueville, but some[who?] regard Raymond Aron as a worthy successor. He is known for his 1973 book, The Imperial Republic: The United States and the World 1945-1973, which influenced Zbigniew Brzezinski and Henry Kissinger, among others. He also wrote The Opium of the Intellectuals, where he criticizes French intellectuals for being so critical of capitalism and so uncritical of communist atrocities.


  • Alexis de Tocqueville and Gustave de Beaumont in America: Their Friendship and Their Travels edited by Oliver Zunz, translated by Arthur Goldhammer (University of Virginia Press; 2011) 698 pages; Includes previously unpublished letters, essays, and other writings
  • Du système pénitentaire aux États-Unis et de son application en France (1833) – On the Penitentiary System in the United States and Its Application to France, with Gustave de Beaumont.
  • De la démocratie en Amérique (1835/1840) – Democracy in America. It was published in two volumes, the first in 1835, the second in 1840. English language versions: Tocqueville, Democracy in America, trans. and eds., Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop, University of Chicago Press, 2000; Tocqueville, Democracy in America (Arthur Goldhammer, trans.; Olivier Zunz, ed.) (The Library of America, 2004) ISBN 978-1-931082-54-9.
  • L'Ancien Régime et la Révolution (1856) – The Old Regime and the Revolution. It is Tocqueville's second most famous work.
  • Recollections (1893) – This work was a private journal of the Revolution of 1848. He never intended to publish this during his lifetime; it was published by his wife and his friend Gustave de Beaumont after his death.
  • Journey to America (1831–1832) – Alexis de Tocqueville's travel diary of his visit to America; translated into English by George Lawrence, edited by J-P Mayer, Yale University Press, 1960; based on vol. V, 1 of the Œuvres Complètes of Tocqueville.
  • L'Etat social et politique de la France avant et depuis 1789 – Alexis de Tocqueville
  • Memoir On Pauperism: Does public charity produce an idle and dependant class of society? (1835) originally published by Ivan R. Dee. Inspired by a trip to England. One of Tocqueville's more obscure works.
  • Journeys to England and Ireland 1835

See also



  1. 1.0 1.1 Paul R Hansen, Contesting the French Revolution (2009) p 3
  2. "Le lycée Fabert : 1000 ans d'histoire (French)." Lycée Fabert. Retrieved 18 September 2010.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 3.17 3.18 3.19 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  4.  Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  5. de Tocqueville, "Journey in Ireland, July–August, 1835" Catholic University of America Press, Washington, D.C, 1990
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Regularization" is a term used by Tocqueville himself, see Souvenirs, Third part, pp. 289–290 French ed (Paris, Gallimard, 1999).
  7. Coutant Arnaud, Tocqueville et la constitution democratique, Paris, Mare et Martin, 2008, 680 p. see also or
  8. 8.0 8.1 p. 148, "Alexis De Tocqueville: Democracy's Guide," Joseph Epstein, HarperCollins Publishing, 2006.
  9. 9.0 9.1 p. 160, "Alexis De Tocqueville: Democracy's Guide," Joseph Epstein, HarperCollins Publishing, 2006.
  10. pp. 282–283. Tocqueville, Alexis de. Democracy in America. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2000.
  11. see Volumes One, Part I, Chapter 3
  12. see Volume One, Part I, Chapter 5, George Lawrence translation
  13. Wikiquote:Alexis de Tocqueville
  14. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  16. James, "Tocqueville In America," The New Yorker, May 17, 2010
  17. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  18. Beginning of chapter 18 of Democracy in America, "The Present and Probably Future Condition of the Three Races that Inhabit the Territory of the United States".
  19. Democracy in America, Vintage Books, 1945, pp. 31–32
  20. in Oeuvres completes, Gallimard, T. VII, pp. 1663–1664.
  21. See Correspondence avec Arthur de Gobineau, quoted by Jean-Louis Benoît
  22. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, pp. 412–13
  23. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  24. 1841 – Extract of Travail sur l'Algérie, in Œuvres complètes, Gallimard, Pléïade, 1991, pp. 704–705.
  25. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. (quoting Alexis de Tocqueville, Travail sur l'Algérie in Œuvres complètes, Paris, Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 1991, pp. 704–705).
  26. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  27. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  28. 28.0 28.1 Alexis de Tocqueville, "Rapports sur l'Algérie", in Œuvres complètes, Paris, Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 1991, p. 806 (quoted in Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  29. Travail sur l'Algérie, op.cit. p. 752 (quoted in Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.)
  30. Tocqueville, Oeuvres completes, III, 1, Gallimard, 1962, pp. 299–300).
  31. Tocqueville, Oeuvres completes, III, 1, Gallimard, 1962, pp. 303.
  32. Tocqueville, Œuvres complètes, III, 1, Gallimard, 1962, pp. 299–306.
  33. Arguments in favor of Tocqueville, Jean-Louis Benoît (French)
  34. 34.0 34.1 Alexis De Tocqueville. Writings on Empire and Slavery, Ed. Jennifer Pitts, Johns Hopkins (Baltimore) 2001, pp. 57–64.
  35. Alexis De Tocqueville. Writings on Empire and Slavery, Ed. Jennifer Pitts, Johns Hopkins (Baltimore) 2001, pp. 57–64, 70–78.
  36. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.

Further reading

  • Allen, Barbara. Tocqueville, Covenant, and the Democratic Revolution: Harmonizing Earth with Heaven. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2005.
  • Benoît, Jean-Louis. Comprendre Tocqueville. Paris: Armand Colin/Cursus, 2004.
  • Benoît, Jean-Louis, et Keslassy, Eric. Alexis de Tocqueville: Textes économiques Anthologie critique. Paris: Pocket/Agora, 2005.[1]
  • Benoît, Jean-Louis. Tocqueville, Notes sur le Coran et autres textes sur les religions. Paris : Bayard, 2005. [2] [3]
  • Boesche, Roger. The Strange Liberalism of Alexis de Tocqueville. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1987.
  • Boesche, Roger. Tocqueville's Road Map: Methodology, Liberalism, Revolution, And Despotism. Lnahma, MD: Lexington Books, 2006.
  • Brogan, Hugh. Alexis De Tocqueville. London: Profile Books, and New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006.
  • Cossu-Beaumont, Laurence. Marie ou l'esclavage aux Etats-Unis de Gustave de Beaumont (1835). Paris: Forges de Vulcain, 2014. ISBN 978-2-919176-52-6
  • Coutant, Arnaud. Tocqueville et la Constitution democratique. Mare et Martin, 2008.
  • Coutant, Arnaud. Une Critique republicaine de la democratie liberale, de la democratie en Amerique de Tocqueville. Mare et Martin, 2007.
  • Craiutu, Aurelian, and Jeremy Jennings, eds. Tocqueville on America after 1840: Letters and Other Writings. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009) 560 pp. ISBN 978-0-521-85955-4
  • Damrosch, Leo. Tocqueville's Discovery of America. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2010.
  • Drescher Seymour. Tocqueville and England. Cambridge, MA: Harward University Press, 1964.
  • Drescher, Seymour. Dilemmas of Democracy: Tocqueville and Modernization. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1968.
  • Epstein, Joseph. Alexis De Tocqueville: Democracy's Guide. New York: Atlas Books, 2006.
  • Feldman, Jean-Philippe. "Alexis de Tocqueville et le fédéralisme américain". Revue du droit public et de la science politique en France et à l'Étranger, n° 4 (20 juin 2006): 879–901.
  • Gannett, Robert T. Tocqueville Unveiled: The Historian and His Sources for the Old Regime and the Revolution. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2003.
  • Geenens, Raf and Annelien De Dijn (eds), Reading Tocqueville: From Oracle to Actor. London: Palgrave Macmillan. 2007.
  • Hein, David. "Christianity and Honor." The Living Church, August 18, 2013, pp. 8–10.
  • Herr, Richard. Tocqueville and the Old Regime. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1962.
  • Jardin, Andre. Tocqueville. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1989.
  • Jaume, Lucien, Tocqueville. Bayard, 2008.
  • Kahan, Alan S. Aristocratic Liberalism : The Social and Political Thought of Jacob Burckhardt, Johns Stuart Mill and Alexis de Tocqueville. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1992; Transaction, 2001.
  • Kahan, Alan S. Alexis de Tocqueville. New York: Continuum, 2010.
  • Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  • Lively, Jack. The Social and Political Thought of Alexis De Tocqueville. Oxford: Clarendon Press of Oxford University Press, 1962.
  • Mansfield, Harvey C. Tocqueville: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.
  • Mélonio, Françoise. Tocqueville and the French. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1998.
  • Mitchell, Harvey. Individual Choice and the Structures of History – Alexis de Tocqueville as an historian reappraised. Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
  • Mitchell, Joshua. The Fragility of Freedom: Tocqueville on Religion, Democracy, and the American Future. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1995.
  • Pierson, George. Tocqueville and Beaumont in America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1938. Reissued as Tocqueville in America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.
  • Pitts, Jennifer. A Turn to Empire. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005.
  • Sanders, Luk. "The Strange Belief of Alexis de Tocqueville: Christianity as Philosophy". International Journal of Philosophy and Theology, 74:1 (2013): 33–53.
  • Schuettinger, Robert. "Tocqueville and the Bland Leviathan". New Individualist Review, Volume 1, Number 2 (Summer 1961): 12–17.
  • Schleifer, James T. The Chicago Companion to Tocqueville's Democracy in America. Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2012. ISBN 978-0-226-73703-4
  • Schleifer, James T. The Making of Tocqueville's Democracy in America. Chapell Hill : University of North Carolina Press, 1980; second ed., Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund, 1999.
  • Shiner, L. E. The Secret Mirror: Literary Form and History in Tocqueville's Recollections Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1988.
  • Swedberg, Richard Tocqueville's Political Economy Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009.
  • Welch, Cheryl. De Tocqueville. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.
  • Welch, Cheryl. The Cambridge Companion to Tocqueville. Cambridge, Eng., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
  • Williams, Roger L., "Tocqueville on Religion," Journal of the Historical Society, 8:4 (2008): 585–600.
  • Wolin, Sheldon. Tocqueville Between Two Worlds. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by Minister of Foreign Affairs
2 June 1849–31 October 1849
Succeeded by
Alphonse de Rayneval