Talk:Alexis de Tocqueville

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This article seems somewhat suspect, ie. biased, in that it is very focussed on attempting to paint the man as a hypocrite, disproportionately favouring exposition regarding his personal life over the reason the page exists in the first place, namely his works, without any attempt to refer to his or scholars' interpretations of why he would have temporarily supported certain regimes, and opposed the illiberal nature of the "reformers," towards the ends of his life. (talk) 05:25, 14 March 2009 (UTC)


Roanoke Times (July 1, 2005): "Roanoke College political science professor Bill Hill looked up 19th century politician John Taylor of Caroline County, political philosopher Alexis De Tocqueville and the Federalist Papers. 'In each case, the program responded with information that was accurate and pertinent, if brief," he wrote. "I thought the coverage of De Tocqueville, however, was too superficial.'


A feature of the Wikipedia that Hill likes are the links to original sources. It's pretty handy when reading about De Tocqueville to be able to click a link and read the man's own words. But Hill also noted a link that led to a 'very brief and shallow essay' about states' rights."

Hi, I don't know a lot about Tocqueville but elsewhere I read quotations like "A 'debased' taste for equality, a love of snuffling in shit, and a hatred of those who seek to escape the gutter: these define the democrat". In case this is true, perhaps the article gives a somewhat too liberal view of him? (just wondering...) -Abaris

I've read a good chunk of Tocqueville, and while he had mixed feelings about democracy, I've never seen anything like that. Do you have an actual citation? -- Jmabel | Talk 19:23, Jan 17, 2005 (UTC)
De Tocqueville's Democracy in America was published in 1835 and 1840, I can learn at Wikipedia with a click. Does "snuffling in shit" sound like a metaphor that could be published in 1835 - 1840 by a responsible writer with a wide circulation? I ask myself. Having answered that to my satisfaction, I cut and paste the misquotation at , and return to the Internet to see the context of the misquotations. They are at I find. "Uncensored views for Whites" it says. I scan the topic headings and get the context. My next job is to assess the purpose such misquotations were serving. Discrediting democracy, it would seem. Thus, in the end, I even have a clear sense of the cultural background and education level of "Abaris", who inquired above. One enlightenment unfolds from another. --Wetman 20:00, 17 Jan 2005 (UTC)
Tocqueville does talk about a 'debased taste for equality', although the context of the quote casts the sentiment in a different light:
"There is indeed a manly and legitimate passion for equality which rouses in all men a desire to be strong and respected. This passion tends to elevate the little man to the rank of the great. But the human heart also nourishes a debased taste for equality, which leads the weak to want to drag the strong down to their level and which induces men to prefer equality in servitude to inequality in freedom." (p669, Lawrence translation, paperback)
I can attest from my own study that the rest of the quote Abaris made reference to is not contained in Democracy in America. Tocque35 05:35, 15 June 2006 (UTC)

Where do I start? For one thing, Tocqueville's work here sounds like a bland encomium to American democracy. "He championed freedom and liberty" is both simplistic and strongly biased. The article seeks to convert him posthumously to American-style conservatism, progressivism, and classical liberalism; why stop there, when communitarians and others call him one of their own?

well, he DID champion freedom and liberty, although to say so is redundant, since the word he originally used, 'liberte', means both. A better expression might be 'he championed both freedom and equality', though, again, his views were never quite that simple. I'm curious, though: where's the bias, exactly? Conservative buzzword it might be, but freedom is hardly a uniquely american value. I've changed the sentence in the article to something less controversial and more accurate. Tocque35 05:35, 15 June 2006 (UTC)

Among other omissions, this entry doesn't describe Tocqueville's writings on the French Revolution; generally speaking it is very America-centric. (Can't anyone read the French article?) Also, "The Dark Face of Tocqueville" definitely introduces a biased POV.--WadeMcR 01:14, 2 February 2006 (UTC)

This article is very America-centric and has hints of bias. Why doesn't the section on Democracy in America contain anything about the Tyranny of the Majority (although he doesn't coin the phrase it is sometimes attributed to him,) or his critic of democracy. Instead it reads as a very pro-American piece, with nothing on L’Ancien Régime et la Révolution. Saiyanora (talk) 21:50, 11 December 2007 (UTC)


Some of these quotations seem a little too much like current day politics. I'm suspicious if they're actually in his works. If they are legitimate, could someone at least source them to whatever publication they're located in? I would like to read their relevant texts. Kade 05:10, 24 Apr 2005 (UTC)

That last quote was by PJ O'Rourke but I had seen it misidentified as said by Tocqueville. --Nyr14 11:41, Apr 24, 2005 (UTC)

The article says that de Tocqueville "championed" both liberty and democracy. I find this a poor summary of his thesis; I see him critiquing it more than championing it. From the cover of my de Tocqueville book: "Tocqueville discusses the advantages and dangers of majority rule--which he thought could be as tyrannical as the rule of the aristocracy." Richard D. Heffner Italic textDemocracy in AmericaItalic text (New York: Penguin Group , 1984). The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk • contribs) 16 Nov 2005.

Did Tocqueville not coin the phrase 'Tyranny of the majority' thereby proposing liberal or constitutional, rather than total, democracy? 23:06, 2 June 2006 (UTC)

I believe that was Mill, not d.T [- r]

Tocqueville effect[edit]

Any sources for the Tocqueville effect? Please help us at the german wikipedia

Moved from main page[edit]

add to quotes Americans of all ages, all stations of life, and all types of disposition are forever forming associations...In democratic countries knowledge of how to combine is the mother of all other forms of knowledge; on its progress depends that of all the others.

Could someone check if this quotation is legitimate and make it a part of the main article? -- dpol 4 July 2005 21:36 (UTC)


The quotes should be included on the page, just because they are also on wikiquote doesn't mean they should be removed. It's alright if they appear in more than one place. --Nyr14 July 7, 2005 03:27 (UTC)

  • This is far too many quotes. 2 or 3? Fine. A list like this? That is exactly what Wikiquote is for. -- Jmabel | Talk July 8, 2005 04:35 (UTC)

I vote for these 3 then:

  • "The American Republic will endure, until politicians realize they can bribe the people with their own money."
  • "Americans are so enamoured of equality they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom."
  • "Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude."

--Nyr14 July 8, 2005 12:23 (UTC)

Hi - the quotes on the main page are highly dubious. I fixed one that was definitely reversed from its actual meaning, but many of the rest of these look suspicious as well. Somebody should consider deleting all the quotations and re-posting only validated quotes with sources. (anon 20 Aug 2005)

I think all the quotes should be removed (Wikiquote exists for that). Quotes should be included within the article text, not just a list. Gflores Talk 22:03, 8 February 2006 (UTC)

De Tocqueville's Expressed Views on Blacks & American Indians???[edit]

A quote from the current Wikipedia entry on A. de Tocqueville related to his purported beliefs, ideas and actions vis-a-vis Blacks and American Indians: "He accurately predicted that democracy would increase and eventually extend its rights and privileges to women, Natives, and Africans. He is thus also a political progressive, concerned with improving the lives of all citizens."

Exactly where is this information found? I found de Tocqueville's expressed ideas on Blacks and American Indians to be both revelatory and appalling. He says slavery is bad but freeing Blacks is worse. In 1, 2 or 3 different chapters or sections of DEMOCRACY in AMERICA de Tocqueville states that American Indians could be counted on to disappear, and that Blacks were the biggest threat to America's white population. The title of one particularly pertinent chapter starts with "The Future of the Three Races" [then something like 'which populate the United States']. Later I will add more specifics. I welcome other interested scholars to add to this discussion. The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk • contribs) 28 Oct 2005.

On this topic, User:Bwyche added the following, all in the lead section:

Cited admiringly as well is chapter 18 of Democracy of America, "The Present and Probably Future Condition of the Three Races that Inhabit the Territory of the United States". In spite of the inattention to this chapter and to those who cite it, views cited from this chapter include the following: Tocqueville stated that among the "widely differing families of men, the first which attracts attention, the superior in intelligence, in power and in enjoyment, is the white or European, the man pre-eminent; and in subordinate grades, the negro and the Indian ...Both of them occupy an inferior rank in the country they inhabit...." at the beginning of this chapter. To him those of European descent or those in the "Anglo-American Union" or the "Democratic Republic" of the United States were democratic with slavery in their midst while native Americans and those of African descent were those who were "undemocratic. He stated further that Native Americans would become extinct because they were too proud to assimilate. Reasons were also given to explain why persons of African descent had marks of slavery,and Europeans who had been enslaved did not have the marks of slavery. Persons of African descent according to Tocqueville were those who were inferior when it came to their facial and physical features, intelligence, marriages, their families, or husband- wife and parent-child relations in particular. Persons of African descent would never become become social or intellectual equals of those of European descent. Nor will they be accepted as such, despite all their efforts to assimilate. Removal of this population from America was thereby the best solution to problems of race relations in America for both Americans of African and European descent.

I cut this. Someone is welcome to return something about this to the article, but "cited admiringly" is ridiculous and this does not belong (at least not at this length) in the lead. -- Jmabel | Talk 16:25, 13 March 2006 (UTC)

testimonials of Tocqueville's alledged racism take up waaaayyyyy too much of the entry as it exists now. I plan on making a few changes to that soon. To anyone who's curious 'was he or wasn't he?', I suggest a reading of the chapter in DA "on the three races" (I 2.10). Too much of the bile being spilled now smells to me like propaganda from people with personal axes to grind. Tocque35 05:51, 15 June 2006 (UTC)

I don't know how to sign my entry, but my name is Lee: —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:53, 8 May 2008 (UTC) I'm coming late to this discussion, and I'm not familiar enough with Tocqueville's work (that's why I'm here!) but the quotations given and the comments thereupon seem to contradict each other. The quotes suggest Tocqueville was progressive in his views (but maybe the quote that ends "and if their miseries are different, they can accuse the same author for them" should be expanded to say who the author was (If God sent them the miseries, then that sounds pretty racist).

Perhaps this section could be expanded on a bit (or the quotes better explained) to show how comments that today sound fairly progressive (especially the third quote) are, in fact, not so. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:51, 8 May 2008 (UTC)

Purely subjective observations removed[edit]

I removed the purely subjective observations on "the best translation ..." --Thorsen 13:13, 22 January 2006 (UTC)

European Revolution[edit]

"'We are sleeping on a volcano... A wind of revolution blows, the storm is on the horizon.'(Speaking in the Chamber of Deputies, 1848, just prior to the outbreak of revolution in Europe)", could someone please define the context of De Toqueville's quote a little more specifically? There has never been a Europe-wide revolution, and my history isn't good enough to know the exact context in which he was speaking. Oktober 14:57, 14 March 2006 (UTC)

1848 was pretty close to Europe-wide. See Revolutions of 1848. -- Jmabel | Talk 01:22, 20 March 2006 (UTC)

American bias; omissions[edit]

As I mentioned above, this article says hardly anything about Tocqueville's writings on the French Revolution, which he considered his most important work. Neither does it adequately cover his more theoretical views on the state and social change.

Also: the stuff about his championing "freedom and liberty" has got to go.--WadeMcR 03:42, 13 May 2006 (UTC)

Wade, I strongly disagree. Tocqueville was indeed a strong champion of liberty and freedom. In fact, it was core to his work to distinguish freedom from equality, and show show the differences and tensions between them. He invariably came down on the side of liberty versus equality. A few quotes.

"I proclaimed my high opinion of liberty when it was in fashion, and one can hardly think badly of me for maintaining it when it is no longer in style." - Preface to the Old Regime and the Revolution

"That which, in all times, has so strongly attached certain men's hearts to freedom, are its own attractions, its own peculiar charm, independent of its benefits; it is the pleasure of being able to speak, acts, and breathe without constraint, under the government of God and the laws alone. Whoever seeks anything from freedom but itself is made for slavery." - Old Regime and the Revolution III:3

"Democratic institutions awaken and flatter the passion for equality without ever being able to satisfy it entirely. Every day this complete equality eludes the hands of the people at the moment when they believe they have siezed it, and it flees, as Pascal said, in an eternal flight; the people become heated in the search for this good, all the more precious as it is near enough to be known, far enough not to be tasted. The chance of succeeding stirs them, the uncertainty of success irritates them; they are agitated, they are wearied, they are embittered. All that surpasses them, in whatever place, then appears to them as an obstacle to their desires, and there is no superiority so legitimate that the sight of it does not tire their eyes." - Democracy in America I 2.5

"One must recognize that equality, which introduces great goods into the world, nevertheless suggests to men very dangerous instincts" - Democracy in America, II 1.5

"The evils that freedom brings are sometime immediate; they are visible to all, and all more or less feel them. The evils that extreme equality can produce become manifest only little by little; they insinuate themselves gradually into the social body; one sees them only now and then, and at the moment when they have become most violent, habit has already made them no longer felt.

The goods that freedom brings show themselves only in the long term, and it is always easy to fail to recognize the cause that gives birth to them.

The advantages of equality make themselves felt from now on, and each day one sees them flow from their source." - Democracy in America II 2.1

"I think that democratic peoples have a natural taste for freedom; left to themselves they seek it, they love it, and they will see themselves parted from it only with sorrow. But for equality they have an ardent, insatiable, eternal, invincible passion; they want equality in freedom, and, if they cannot get it, they still want it in slavery. They will tolerate poverty, enslavement, barbarism, but they will not tolerate aristocracy." - Democracy in America, II 2.1

"Liberty alone can effectively combat the natural vices of these kinds of societies and prevent them from sliding down the slippery slop where they find themselves. Only freedom can bring citizens out of the isolation in which the very independence of their circumstances has led them to live, can daily force them to mingle, to join together through the need to communicate with one another, persuade each other, and satisfy each other in the conduct of their common affairs. Only freedom can tear people from the worship of Mammon and the petty daily concerns of their personal affairs and teach them to always see and feel the nation above and beside them; only freedom can substitute higher and stronger passions for the love of material well-being, given rise to greater ambitions than the acquisition of a fortune, and create the atmsophere which allows one to see and judge human vices and virtues." - Preface to The Old Regime and the Revolution.

No matter how you slice it, Tocqueville was a huge fan and yes, champion of liberty. However, he was also someone who keenly sensed the loss that came from the destruction of the aristocracy in terms of a certain loftiness of the human spirit and disdain for purely material pleasures. It can certainly be argued that he would like to see some type of an aristocratic element be present in democratic societies, in order to guard against many of the weaknesses of that form of government. But he certainly didn't want to rewind the clock to the Middle Ages. Tocqueville was realistic about freedom and democracy. But that doesn't mean he was not a champion of liberty. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 1 July 2006.

Quotes again[edit]

They are back. The list is growing. It includes not one but two anti-Islamic quotes (apparently someone either thinks there is not enough Muslim-bashing on the web or that our readers are too dense to understand that Tocqueville was anti-Islamic on the basis of one unambiguous denunciation. Similarly, aphoristic "A weak government is threatened most when it begins to reform" is supplemented by a long quotation expressing the same sentiment. I'm inclined to get rid of all of them here, leaving it to WikiQuote; I'd have no problem with two or three, especially if they are either representative of his style and either epitomize the views for which he is most known or cover topics otherwise neglected in our article, but the current long list is a liability. - Jmabel | Talk 06:32, 17 July 2006 (UTC)

Some few could be kept, but most definitively should be moved to WikiQuote. Lapaz 14:37, 28 July 2006 (UTC)

I'm tired of reading about how Tocqueville championed liberty, he did not "champion" it he simply observed and approved of some things about it and dissapproved of other.

I'm not sure exactly what you're referring to, but France in general and de Tocqueville in particular supported America as a young republic and its experiment with democracy. In either case, please sign your post.
I'm with Lapaz's group who believes at least some quotes should be included. We include quotes from vacuous pop stars but not historians? I went in search of a de Tocqueville quote and couldn't find it at all.
--UnicornTapestry (talk) 10:25, 31 March 2008 (UTC)

Request for expansion[edit]

i've read de tocqueville's democracy in america several times over the years. i think this wikipedia article distorts what he has to say.

while it's true many of de tocqueville's opinions about minorities are appalling, and justly deserve condemnation, he is also still the most accurate observer of the general american character. his overall descriptions of the american people could have been written last week.

he is overall an admirer of america and its promise. he more often reminds american readers of what our best potential is, and when you read de tocqueville, as an american, you are moved to ask yourself: why don't we live up to all the things he perceived in us? how have we fallen into some of the snares he so astutely foresaw?

the wikipedia article captures none of this important information, which is what makes de tocqueville of enduring value to americans today, and one of the most important books on our democracy and history. - —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 22 July 2006.

True enough. The article is unbalanced and focuses on a controversy, but that only needs expansion. Lapaz 14:38, 28 July 2006 (UTC)

I've done a light general edit of the recent additions. It is a bit much of an opinionated essay for Wikipedia. I think it is a good and thoughtful essay, but it needs citation for the many opinions expressed. - Jmabel | Talk 04:33, 7 August 2006 (UTC)

All in all it helps balancing the article & I guess we can wait see what is really contested about it. Perhaps the author could trim as best as he could ('time is money', as Tocqueville already perceived!:), in particular the introduction on Plato & co (maybe by moving it to Democracy in America?). The only real issue I see is characterizing Thomas More as a supporter of communism (more or less the debate which is lifted; some would already argue with Plato). This has been strongly contested by various authors. Maybe Utopia was just some kind of British humor... Lapaz 04:59, 7 August 2006 (UTC)

Do you see a better way to put this on Thomas More? I really don't think we want to get into the controversy over how to understand Utopia in an article on Tocqueville, rather marginal to the topic. - Jmabel | Talk 04:37, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

The article is not intended to be opinionated and is not opinionated. It offers many pointed opinions, but they are all Tocqueville's opinions. If his central argument and observations, if the very essence of his storied text should not be offered, then nothing should really be written on the topic save some publishing information about the text. The way Tocqueville's observations are characterized is in complete agreement with countless leading scholars on the topic. And I suppose the information leading up to Tocqueville's argument could be shortened, but it speaks to the most crucial of contexts. Tocqueville, as his correspondence clearly proves, was joining a conversation which many thinkers had entered long before him. I understand the concern, but the place of More's Utopia is rather important to Tocqueville's work. The inherent argument in Utopia speaks directly to the consequences of communal property holding for political and social values. Scholarly consensus certainly concedes that. Now do not confuse that with any argument that More himself supported "communism." We first of all need to be very careful about using that word because using it would be anachronistic and would make limited sense. The article seems to merely suggest that Utopia advances an argument about property-holding and its relationship to virtue and political rule. We need only glance at the vast scholarship on the topic to see the consensus surrounding that. People can always claim that interpretations of texts are not neutral. But if the information offered in this article does not satisfy the need for neutrality, then the site should make no effort to condense or explain any aspect of any thinker's textual arguments anywhere. The amount of leading scholarship which would solidly support every claim made in this article is enormous. The arguments of all the thinkers as well as the analytical thread which necessarily ties them together is very easy to substantiate. We could offer countless references and have quotations proving rather convincingly every textual claim. Or we could refrain and embrace a rather succint (remember the text in question is both hundreds of pages long and centrally located in the modern Western political tradition) treatment of the subject in question. The purpose, as seems obvious, of a section on Democracy in America, would be to summarize Tocqueville's central argument. This article clearly seems to do that. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 15 August 2006.

"These unique American values, many have suggested, explain American exceptionalism…" (italics mine)
"These cultural differences, identified so remarkably by Tocqueville, have led many subsequent thinkers and scholars to explain…" (italics mine)
"Like perhaps no other work in history, Tocqueville's Democracy in America captured the essence…" (italics mine)
These passages reflect opinions. They are not Tocqueville's. They are not cited. I am sure there are others, I found these in two minutes. - Jmabel | Talk 05:54, 17 August 2006 (UTC)

Thank you for proving the point so precisely. I wonder if you even read the above post. Obviously there will be interpretation of Tocqueville's views and the impact of his work. If the above quotes you so "remarkably" found signify a problem then there is no chance of providing any information on the text beyond its publishing information. Virtually every scholar would completely agree with the mild, and essential, interpretation implicit in the passages you found. They pose no problem to the neutrality of the piece. I will say again, if you want the scholarly consensus cited, that is easy, but it would require space doubling that of the entry. A few authorities could be cited, but then the reader might incorrectly think that the interpretation is that of the author cited, rather than appreciate that most scholars would share the interpretation and this author is merely one of many, many who could have been cited. That is the issue. It seems that that is not what is intended for the site. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 23 August 2006.

Adding footnotes does enlarge the piece, but the enlargement is almost entirely in the notes section. I don't think that's a problem. If "Virtually every scholar would completely agree" there should be no difficulty finding a reasonably prominent one to cite, or possibly even someone reasonably prominent who overtly identifies this as a consensus view.
As I said, "it is a good and thoughtful essay". I'm certainly not going to remove it, but someone else is liable to do so, and they will be within their rights under the current consensus on what constitutes opinion/original research. I personally don't particularly like the way Wikipedia is headed in this respect—I think that what started as a reasonable policy has become a fetish, ignoring the existence of clearly informed opinion—but the consensus and effective policy has become clear, and it seems to me that we should either work to change the consensus or abide by it. What we shouldn't do (in my opinion, at least) is fail to note where we are going against it. - Jmabel | Talk 18:07, 24 August 2006 (UTC)

Alright. A sound response. As I mentioned, it is easy to cite countless scholars, I can think of many off the top of my head, I am just concerned about demanding notes for rather straight-forward interpretations. Also, citing too much is a problem but, as I said, citing only one authority might tell the reader that this otherwise clear point is more the argument of a single author. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 25 August 2006.

Benjamin Constant/french historians[edit]

The article looks a lot better now, I think--particularly with the bit about soft despotism and individualism. I've added a link to Benjamin Constant. It may be in the wrong place, though.

I was also thinking about adding a note about the Tocqueville revival among liberal French historians (e.g., François Furet, Marcel Gauchet), but I don't think I know enough about it. Does anyone else?--WadeMcR 21:16, 31 July 2006 (UTC)

I think Raymond Aron was the one to introduce him first as an important thinker, but I don't know if it's really relevant to the topic (it's probably more relevant to Raymond Aron's entry, same goes for Furet & others). Lapaz 04:40, 7 August 2006 (UTC)

About The Article In General[edit]

"Convoluted" would be a mild -- and essential -- interpretation. Virtually every leading scholar would completely agree with me on this. We could offer countless references to the repetition and poor grammar, but we simply will not be made to read through it all again. Merely one of many, many which could have been cited: "His first travel inspired his Travail sur l'Algérie, in which he criticized the French model of colonization, based on an assimilationist view, to which he preferred the British model of indirect rule, which didn't mix different populations together." —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 27 August 2006.


The alleged quote "Democracy and socialism..." does not occur in "Democracy in America" The word socialism does not occur.

- Pepper 11:37, 3 November 2006 (UTC)

Not a single one of the quotations given here is cited for. And this is not WikiQuote, anyway. Can't we get rid of this section, and just link to WikiQuote, or pare it down to three characteristic, well-cited quotations? - Jmabel | Talk 20:04, 5 November 2006 (UTC)

Summary of his ideas?[edit]

I had never heard of Alexis de Tocqueville before hearing of the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution, and when I eventually had a look at this page, it still wasn't clear to me (at all) who Alexis de Tocqueville was. The intro mumbles something about him writing two books in which he "explored the myriad and profound effects of the rising equality of social conditions on both the individual and the state in western societies", but it does not immediately explain which ideas he defended, or why these books are considered notorious. It would be of great help to a person not immediately familiar with the subject if such a summary were added to the article. Yoe 14:38, 13 November 2006 (UTC)

Article is a liability[edit]

All things considered, I think Wikipedia would be doing its readers a service by simply removing this article after the first short paragraph. Everything else in it is highly tendentious. It also sins greatly by omission, by not devoting a word of discussion to The Old Regime. The article is worse than useless - it actively misleads its readers as to what T was about.

This is Wikipedia at its worst.—The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 20 November 2006.


Ok, I can see there's a lot of discussion covering this article, much of it contentious. I don't want to enter into the arguments, but I've tried to clean the article up according to Wikipedia's standards. First, the biography had what appeared to be translations from French that were ore grammatically difficult than necessary. The big problem, however, is in the Democracy in America section, where it appears someone has pasted their own essay about Tocqueville above the original paragrap on the book. Much of it was accurate and relevant, but I had to remove a great deal that wasn't (discussing Plato, More, etc), and trim down to specific cases and examples. I haven't provided citations yet, but I think most of the information is well-supported and fairly apparent based on a reading of the book.

As to those above who say the article is American-centric ("sins greatly by omission, by not devoting a word of discussion to The Old Regime"): this is the English Wikipedia, and Democracy in America is a major work in Political Science, especially in the US. If you have information about his other works in France, go ahead and add it! Don't just complain, this is what Wikipedia is about. I hope that my edits don't inflame anyone here, I'm just trying to remove the cruft and generally clean the article. Jackson 09:01, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Some passages I find problematic (I think they are yours):
  • "French historian of colonialism Olivier LeCour Grandmaison has underlined how, at his point of view, Tocqueville openly talked of 'extermination' in the colonization of Western United States and the Indian Removal period." "…at his point of view" makes no sense at all. And if Tocqueville talked of it "openly", then point of view should not enter the matter at all.
  • "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 African-Americans." I don't believe Tocqueville ever predicted "true integration", bumpily achieved or otherwise.
  • "still he violently stood against his methods and aims": how was this violence instantiated? I'm not aware of Tocqueville ever engaging in violence. If the word is only metaphorical, I suggest using a less weighted word in a matter where others were using violence.
Jmabel | Talk 04:11, 25 December 2006 (UTC)
Also, the punctuation in the following is confusing
They blame also the writer for the following
“[The number] of unacceptable excesses from a historian.” The latter, up in arms “against chronological and disciplinary imprisonment”…”retains from his readings only what confirms his theories and feeds his stereotypes. […] They write that, when reading him, one cannot help asking the question : can a collection of absurdities serve as a work of historical thought and synthesis ?” In addition, they blame him for “[his] denunciation through the media [which] does not succeed in anchoring to the science of convictions and to make of OLCG a plausible historian”.
  • Why the italics?
  • I notice that, against prevailing Wikipedia style (although within the range of what is permitted) you are using "curly" quotation marks, but you are using them oddly: I simply cannot tell in the above where the quotations open and close. At onw point you have a right doublequote, and ellipsis, and another right doublequote. That makes no sense at all. And you have a phrase "They write that" which appears to be inside quotation marks. Could you look at this again and work out what you actually mean to do? I don't dare touch it. - Jmabel | Talk 04:19, 25 December 2006 (UTC)
Also, what is going on with the bolded "When only the second paragraph is retained while the first is neither quoted nor mentioned, this entails a complete and deliberate distortion of Tocqueville’s views and issues as expressed in his writings." Whose opinion is this? If it is a citable author's, then attribute it. If not, then lose it. - Jmabel | Talk 04:44, 25 December 2006 (UTC)

What? - Please clarify & cleanup broken English[edit]

What does "colons" mean in the following sentence from the "Colonization" section: Years before the Crémieux decrees and the 1881 Indigenous Code that would separate European Jews colons, given French citizenship, and Muslims, Tocqueville advocated racial segregation in Algeria … .? This horribly run-on sentence is completely mangled. 02:17, 3 February 2007 (UTC)Prplxed

There's an equally confusing statement in the opposition to war section:

"Tocqueville, who did advocate racial segregation between Europeans and Arabs, judged otherwise the Berbers. In an August 22, 1837 proposal, cited by Jean-Louis Benoît, Tocqueville thus distinguished the Berbers from the Arabs. He considered that these last ones should have a self-government (a bit on the model of British indirect rule, thus going against the French assimiliationist stance)."

The section from which that excerpt originated should be completely rewritten. Reads like a half-finished translation of some foreign text, and contains many ambiguities and several instances of odd/incorrect use of words like "travel". MrZaiustalk 18:31, 11 March 2007 (UTC)

Democracy in America section fails to mention role of religion in America[edit]

How could the editors of this section go on and on about the various differences Tocqueville noted between America and Europe, without mentioning religion, one of Tocqueville's primary explanations for the cause of these differences? Currently the article rambles about how Tocqueville strove to find out why the common man in America enjoyed high levels of dignity, possesses much "natural" power, and never deferred to so-called "elites"; why America never embraced socialism; and why America "was set apart by its peculiar democratic mores". The article, as it currently stands, implies that Tocqueville believed that these differences were ONLY due to economic factors (property ownership, vast available land, and industriousness). While Tocqueville may have attributed the differences between America and Europe to some economic factors, he often stated that the differences were also heavily due to the religious and spiritual practices prevalent among Americans. I can quickly cite a couple examples of this, stated by Tocqueville himself:

  • "Religion in American takes no direct part in the government of society, but it must be regarded as the first of their political institutions; for if it does not impart a taste for freedom, it facilitates the use of it. Indeed, it is in this same point of view that the inhabitants of the United States themselves look upon religious belief. I do not know whether all Americans have a sincere faith in their religion for who can search the human heart?— but I am certain that they hold it to be indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions. This opinion is not peculiar to a class of citizens or to a party, but it belongs to the whole nation and to every rank of society." --Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (New York: Vintage Books, 1945), Vol. 1, p. 316
  • "Despotism may govern without faith, but liberty cannot. Religion is much more necessary in the republic . . . than in the monarchy . . . it is more needed in democratic republics than in any others. How is it possible that society should escape destruction if the moral tie is not strengthened in proportion as the political tie is relaxed? And what can be done with a people who are their own masters if they are not submissive to the Deity?" --Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (New York: Vintage Books, 1945), Vol. 1, p. 318

Alas, the bias in Wikipedia may never end! Gaytan 00:17, 15 February 2007 (UTC)

Please, work on getting this into the article. I doubt there is any active bias here, just omission. This is not a particularly good article; it needs a lot of work; this is just one example of the work to be done. - Jmabel | Talk 18:04, 5 April 2007 (UTC)
  • I, too, am sorely disappointed to see that nothing was said about religion in America. If I rememeber from my research correctly, he believed religious freedom (and the simple existence and uplifted standpoint of the church) was the primary reason America was successful as a democracy. Colonel Marksman 08:09, 31 May 2007 (UTC)


  • How do you pronunciate his surname? --Harac 12:13, 23 May 2007 (UTC)

Coverage of travels in America[edit]

I think it would be useful if the article covered Tocqueville's travels throughout the U.S. and Canada. I don't have the time to research and write this, but I think that would be a helpful expansion. Stevie is the man! TalkWork 17:17, 22 June 2007 (UTC)

Which liberal[edit]

The article states he was part of the liberal tradition. Which liberal tradition? Classic liberalism, like Adam Smith, or social liberalism, like Emile Durkheim? Signaturebrendel 06:47, 25 November 2007 (UTC)

  • Most definitely NOT social liberalism. In fact, I think he said (without explicitly using the term) that something like social liberalism would develop in a democracy because the people would demand "equality" and that it would eventually lead to despotism. See Volume 2, Book 4 of Democracy in America.

New research[edit]

I propose to add a few pieces of information on Tocqueville, which results from new research in 2003-2007 on Chopin and Jenny Lind's newly discovered romance in 1848-1849:

1. Tocqueville's friendship and correspondence with Nassau W. Senior;

2. Tocqueville's possible role on Jenny Lind getting permission to organize Chopin's lavish funeral at Eglise de la Madeleine (a period source suggests that Tocqueville may also have attended the funeral).

3. Tocqueville died of tuberculosis (like Chopin and many others).

Under what subheadings could item 2 best be put? Jean de Beaumont (talk) 09:04, 20 March 2008 (UTC)

Items 1 and 3 now uploaded. Jean de Beaumont (talk) 10:12, 21 March 2008 (UTC)

Would this link be worthy of inclusion in the external links?

I'll just put this link ("Unprophetic Tocqueville") in for now. If people disagree that it should be included, feel free to remove it and/or comment. Hellenic9 (talk) 17:26, 30 June 2008 (UTC)

Democracy in America[edit]

This section is way too long, considering that this the de Tocqueville article not the Democracy in America page. There should be a section on the book, but not a summary of the book itself.

Broken editing[edit]

The second paragraph is nonsensical: "He retired from political life after Louis Napoléon Bonaparte's December 2, 1851 coup, and thereafter began work on The Old Regime and the Revolution, Volume I o a law degree, Alexis de Tocqueville was named auditor-magistrate at the court of Versailles."

Two unrelated chunks of text have been stuck together, each broken off in mid-sentence. It also leaps back in time nearly 30 years with this transition. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:22, 16 June 2008 (UTC)


tocqueville did not use a word "civique" in his work. i replaced it with "political". his work is also about political society not a civil society, hewever he uses the second term also. i have added "political society" in the first place.

political society[edit]

helping hands needed! AfD was put on political society article. The idea seems to be invented by Tocqueville. He pay great importance to it in Democracy in America, as well as to 'political association' concept (there is different chapter on it). --discourseur 10:16, 2 August 2008 (UTC)

Bernard Henri Levy - American Vertigo[edit]

I wonder if there is some way of including this comparatively recent work on the de Tocqueville page. From POV, it brings further clarity to the many of the themes and issues that de Tocqueville addresses in DiA, and is immeasurably pertinent to anyone wishing to study this fine scholar. If we forget any such statements, it is surely deserving of inclusion as the author makes expicit reference to how he is emulating de Tocqueville. The conclusions that can be drawn from American Vertigo may be markedly different to those in DiA, and may also be POV, however it would be an error to not include some synposis and details about this work. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Cvmuk (talkcontribs) 11:10, 6 March 2009 (UTC)

Bribing the Public quote[edit]

I took out the quote about "bribing the public with the public's money"; I searched in several online editions of "Democracy in America" and didn't find the quote. I also failed to find it in several other works of Tocqueville; I'm not certain it is an authentic quote, although it is online in numerous places attributed to him. Brianyoumans (talk) 13:54, 10 May 2009 (UTC)

References in culture[edit]

I'm not sure whether it's appropriate to present this kind of reference here or not, but Tocqueville was also quoted in "Deus Ex: Invisible War" videogame. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:44, 15 September 2012 (UTC)

Very biased towards government intervention and socialism[edit]

This article takes a windy path in order to avoid Tocqueville's love for liberty. It is absolutely ridiculous that this article portrays the man as some sort of apologist to those that support liberty. The summary of Democracy in America totally misses the point. You have to be nuts if that is what you took away from it.


Why do people always point to how much he loved "liberty" and religion (Christianity only), but they totally ignore what a totally racist bastard he was?

Do you want to rephrase that question in a way that can be useful to improving the article? There are quite a few quotes about his views of the race situation and slavery in the US. If you feel they are misrepresenting or whitewashing his views, you need to explain how and back it up. Mezigue (talk) 10:20, 3 July 2013 (UTC)

Democracy in American section; request for major edit[edit]

The section on Democracy in America is full of opinions, lacks citations, and is often off topic. I started adding "citation needed" to the sources. I stopped, as often times, it was not even a matter of lack of citation but flat out opinions. I do not feel like my involvement in the wiki community warrants me removing large chunks of someone else's work. If someone with more experience with the process should look at this section -- tout suite. 19:08, 18 July 2013 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Ardalan.parsa (talkcontribs)

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"Tocqueville's professed religion was Roman Catholicism.[11] He saw religion as being compatible with both equality and individualism, and felt that religion would be strongest when separated from politics."

Um, why is this in the section called "Death"? Is the contention that Tocqueville's Catholicism killed him? Look, this is an interesting observation, but it certainly does not belong in this section! GeneCallahan (talk) 06:13, 10 August 2016 (UTC)

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