The Growth of White Man’s Democracy: I. Growth of Democracy—Universal White Manhood Suffrage

Year: 1831-1832 Official purpose

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Year: 1831-1832

Official purpose: Study the U.S. prison system and report back to France

Unofficial purpose: Observe America

Tocqueville's age: 25

Beaumont's age: 28

Number of days spent in the U.S.: 271

Number of states in the Union: 24

Number of states visited: 17

Number of presidents met: 2

Andrew Jackson, (current)

John Quincy Adams, (former)

The first volume of Democracy in America was published in 1835 and received great acclaim. The second volume followed in 1840. Here are some excerpts from Democracy in America.

My Interpretation


"...I know of no other country where love of money has such a grip on men's hearts or where stronger scorn is expressed for the theory of permanent equality of property."


"In America, more than anywhere else in the world, care has been taken constantly to trace clearly distinct spheres of action for the two sexes, and both are required to keep in step, but along paths that are never the same."

"If there ever are great revolutions there, they will be caused by the presence of the blacks upon American soil. That is to say, it will not be the equality of social conditions but rather their inequality which may give rise thereto."


"In towns it is impossible to prevent men from assembling, getting excited together and forming sudden passionate resolves. Towns are like great meeting houses with all the inhabitants as members. In them the people wield immense influence over their magistrates and often carry their desires into execution without intermediaries."


"The electors see their representative not only as a legislator for the state but also as the natural protector of local interests in the legislature; indeed, they almost seem to think that he has a power of attorney to represent each constituent, and they trust him to be as eager in their private interests as in those of the country."


"There is hardly a congressman prepared to go home until he has at least one speech printed and sent to his constituents, and he won't let anybody interrupt his harangue until he has made all his useful suggestions about the 24 states of the Union, and especially the district he represents."


"I am far from denying that newspapers in democratic countries lead citizens to do very ill-considered things in common; but without newspapers there would be hardly any common action at all. So they mend many more ills than they cause."


"They certainly are not great writers, but they speak their country's language and they make themselves heard."

What does Toqueville’s commentary reveal about American society and American government in the 1830s?

American Society American Government

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