Alexis de Tocqueville QuotesAlexis Charles Henri Clérel, comte de Tocqueville colloquially known as Tocqueville, was a French aristocrat, diplomat, political scientist and historian. He is best known for his works Democracy in America (appearing in two volumes, 1835 and 1840) and The Old Regime and the Revolution (1856).
A French observer is surprised to hear how often an English or an American lawyer quotes the opinions of others, and how little he alludes to his own; … This abnegation of his own opinion, and this implicit deference to the opinion of his forefathers, which are common to the English and American lawyer, this servitude of thought which he is obliged to profess, necessarily give him more timid habits and more conservative inclinations in England and America than in France.
Step back in time; look closely at the child in the very arms of his mother; see the external world reflected for the first time in the yet unclear mirror of his understanding; study the first examples which strike his eyes; listen to the first words which arouse within him the slumbering power of thought; watch the first struggles which he has to undergo; only then will you comprehend the source of his prejudices, the habits, and the passions which are to rule his life. The entire man, so to speak, comes fully formed in the wrappings of his cradle.
The Americans never use the word peasant, because they have no idea of the class which that term denotes; the ignorance of more remote ages, the simplicity of rural life, and the rusticity of the villager have not been preserved among them; and they are alike unacquainted with the virtues, the vices, the coarse habits, and the simple graces of an early stage of civilization.
The public, therefore, among a democratic people, has a singular power, which aristocratic nations cannot conceive; for it does not persuade others to its beliefs, but it imposes them and makes them permeate the thinking of everyone by a sort of enormous pressure of the mind of all upon the individual intelligence.
I am obliged to confess that I do not regard the abolition of slavery as a means of warding off the struggle of the two races in the Southern states. The Negroes may long remain slaves without complaining; but if they are once raised to the level of freemen, they will soon revolt at being deprived of almost all their civil rights; and as they cannot become the equals of the whites, they will speedily show themselves as enemies.