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Title: Democracy In America, Volume 2 (of 2)
Author: Alexis de Toqueville
Translator: Henry Reeve
Release Date: January 21, 2006 [EBook #816]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ASCII

Produced by David Reed and David Widger

By Alexis De Tocqueville

Translated by Henry Reeve

Book Two: Influence Of Democracy On Progress Of Opinion In

the United States.

De Tocqueville's Preface To The Second Part
The Americans live in a democratic state of society, which has naturally

suggested to them certain laws and a certain political character. This

same state of society has, moreover, engendered amongst them a

multitude of feelings and opinions which were unknown amongst the elder

aristocratic communities of Europe: it has destroyed or modified all the

relations which before existed, and established others of a novel kind.

The--aspect of civil society has been no less affected by these changes

than that of the political world. The former subject has been treated

of in the work on the Democracy of America, which I published five years

ago; to examine the latter is the object of the present book; but these

two parts complete each other, and form one and the same work.
I must at once warn the reader against an error which would be extremely

prejudicial to me. When he finds that I attribute so many different

consequences to the principle of equality, he may thence infer that I

consider that principle to be the sole cause of all that takes place in

the present age: but this would be to impute to me a very narrow view. A

multitude of opinions, feelings, and propensities are now in existence,

which owe their origin to circumstances unconnected with or even

contrary to the principle of equality. Thus if I were to select the

United States as an example, I could easily prove that the nature of the

country, the origin of its inhabitants, the religion of its founders,

their acquired knowledge, and their former habits, have exercised, and

still exercise, independently of democracy, a vast influence upon the

thoughts and feelings of that people. Different causes, but no less

distinct from the circumstance of the equality of conditions, might be

traced in Europe, and would explain a great portion of the occurrences

taking place amongst us.

I acknowledge the existence of all these different causes, and their

power, but my subject does not lead me to treat of them. I have not

undertaken to unfold the reason of all our inclinations and all our

notions: my only object is to show in what respects the principle of

equality has modified both the former and the latter.
Some readers may perhaps be astonished that--firmly persuaded as I

am that the democratic revolution which we are witnessing is an

irresistible fact against which it would be neither desirable nor wise

to struggle--I should often have had occasion in this book to address

language of such severity to those democratic communities which this

revolution has brought into being. My answer is simply, that it is

because I am not an adversary of democracy, that I have sought to speak

of democracy in all sincerity.

Men will not accept truth at the hands of their enemies, and truth is

seldom offered to them by their friends: for this reason I have spoken

it. I was persuaded that many would take upon themselves to announce the

new blessings which the principle of equality promises to mankind, but

that few would dare to point out from afar the dangers with which

it threatens them. To those perils therefore I have turned my chief

attention, and believing that I had discovered them clearly, I have not

had the cowardice to leave them untold.

I trust that my readers will find in this Second Part that impartiality

which seems to have been remarked in the former work. Placed as I am in

the midst of the conflicting opinions between which we are divided,

I have endeavored to suppress within me for a time the favorable

sympathies or the adverse emotions with which each of them inspires

me. If those who read this book can find a single sentence intended to

flatter any of the great parties which have agitated my country, or any

of those petty factions which now harass and weaken it, let such readers

raise their voices to accuse me.
The subject I have sought to embrace is immense, for it includes the

greater part of the feelings and opinions to which the new state of

society has given birth. Such a subject is doubtless above my strength,

and in treating it I have not succeeded in satisfying myself. But, if

I have not been able to reach the goal which I had in view, my readers

will at least do me the justice to acknowledge that I have conceived and

followed up my undertaking in a spirit not unworthy of success.
A. De T.
March, 1840

Chapter II: Of Individualism In Democratic Countries

I have shown how it is that in ages of equality every man seeks for his

opinions within himself: I am now about to show how it is that, in

the same ages, all his feelings are turned towards himself alone.

Individualism *a is a novel expression, to which a novel idea has given

birth. Our fathers were only acquainted with egotism. Egotism is a

passionate and exaggerated love of self, which leads a man to connect

everything with his own person, and to prefer himself to everything in

the world. Individualism is a mature and calm feeling, which disposes

each member of the community to sever himself from the mass of his

fellow-creatures; and to draw apart with his family and his friends; so

that, after he has thus formed a little circle of his own, he willingly

leaves society at large to itself. Egotism originates in blind instinct:

individualism proceeds from erroneous judgment more than from depraved

feelings; it originates as much in the deficiencies of the mind as in

the perversity of the heart. Egotism blights the germ of all virtue;

individualism, at first, only saps the virtues of public life; but,

in the long run, it attacks and destroys all others, and is at length

absorbed in downright egotism. Egotism is a vice as old as the world,

which does not belong to one form of society more than to another:

individualism is of democratic origin, and it threatens to spread in the

same ratio as the equality of conditions.
[Footnote a: [I adopt the expression of the original, however strange it

may seem to the English ear, partly because it illustrates the remark

on the introduction of general terms into democratic language which was

made in a preceding chapter, and partly because I know of no English

word exactly equivalent to the expression. The chapter itself defines

the meaning attached to it by the author.--Translator's Note.]]

Amongst aristocratic nations, as families remain for centuries in the

same condition, often on the same spot, all generations become as it

were contemporaneous. A man almost always knows his forefathers, and

respects them: he thinks he already sees his remote descendants, and he

loves them. He willingly imposes duties on himself towards the

former and the latter; and he will frequently sacrifice his personal

gratifications to those who went before and to those who will come after

him. Aristocratic institutions have, moreover, the effect of closely

binding every man to several of his fellow-citizens. As the classes of

an aristocratic people are strongly marked and permanent, each of

them is regarded by its own members as a sort of lesser country,

more tangible and more cherished than the country at large. As in

aristocratic communities all the citizens occupy fixed positions, one

above the other, the result is that each of them always sees a man above

himself whose patronage is necessary to him, and below himself another

man whose co-operation he may claim. Men living in aristocratic ages

are therefore almost always closely attached to something placed out of

their own sphere, and they are often disposed to forget themselves. It

is true that in those ages the notion of human fellowship is faint, and

that men seldom think of sacrificing themselves for mankind; but they

often sacrifice themselves for other men. In democratic ages, on the

contrary, when the duties of each individual to the race are much more

clear, devoted service to any one man becomes more rare; the bond of

human affection is extended, but it is relaxed.

Amongst democratic nations new families are constantly springing up,

others are constantly falling away, and all that remain change their

condition; the woof of time is every instant broken, and the track of

generations effaced. Those who went before are soon forgotten; of those

who will come after no one has any idea: the interest of man is confined

to those in close propinquity to himself. As each class approximates

to other classes, and intermingles with them, its members become

indifferent and as strangers to one another. Aristocracy had made a

chain of all the members of the community, from the peasant to the king:

democracy breaks that chain, and severs every link of it. As social

conditions become more equal, the number of persons increases who,

although they are neither rich enough nor powerful enough to exercise

any great influence over their fellow-creatures, have nevertheless

acquired or retained sufficient education and fortune to satisfy their

own wants. They owe nothing to any man, they expect nothing from any

man; they acquire the habit of always considering themselves as standing

alone, and they are apt to imagine that their whole destiny is in

their own hands. Thus not only does democracy make every man forget

his ancestors, but it hides his descendants, and separates his

contemporaries from him; it throws him back forever upon himself alone,

and threatens in the end to confine him entirely within the solitude of

his own heart.

Chapter III: Individualism Stronger At The Close Of A Democratic

Revolution Than At Other Periods

The period when the construction of democratic society upon the ruins of

an aristocracy has just been completed, is especially that at which this

separation of men from one another, and the egotism resulting from it,

most forcibly strike the observation. Democratic communities not only

contain a large number of independent citizens, but they are constantly

filled with men who, having entered but yesterday upon their independent

condition, are intoxicated with their new power. They entertain a

presumptuous confidence in their strength, and as they do not suppose

that they can henceforward ever have occasion to claim the assistance of

their fellow-creatures, they do not scruple to show that they care for

nobody but themselves.
An aristocracy seldom yields without a protracted struggle, in the

course of which implacable animosities are kindled between the different

classes of society. These passions survive the victory, and traces of

them may be observed in the midst of the democratic confusion which

ensues. Those members of the community who were at the top of the late

gradations of rank cannot immediately forget their former greatness;

they will long regard themselves as aliens in the midst of the newly

composed society. They look upon all those whom this state of society

has made their equals as oppressors, whose destiny can excite no

sympathy; they have lost sight of their former equals, and feel no

longer bound by a common interest to their fate: each of them, standing

aloof, thinks that he is reduced to care for himself alone. Those, on

the contrary, who were formerly at the foot of the social scale, and who

have been brought up to the common level by a sudden revolution, cannot

enjoy their newly acquired independence without secret uneasiness; and

if they meet with some of their former superiors on the same footing as

themselves, they stand aloof from them with an expression of triumph and

of fear. It is, then, commonly at the outset of democratic society that

citizens are most disposed to live apart. Democracy leads men not to

draw near to their fellow-creatures; but democratic revolutions lead

them to shun each other, and perpetuate in a state of equality the

animosities which the state of inequality engendered. The great

advantage of the Americans is that they have arrived at a state of

democracy without having to endure a democratic revolution; and that

they are born equal, instead of becoming so.

Chapter IV: That The Americans Combat The Effects Of Individualism By

Free Institutions
Despotism, which is of a very timorous nature, is never more secure of

continuance than when it can keep men asunder; and all is influence

is commonly exerted for that purpose. No vice of the human heart is so

acceptable to it as egotism: a despot easily forgives his subjects for

not loving him, provided they do not love each other. He does not ask

them to assist him in governing the State; it is enough that they do not

aspire to govern it themselves. He stigmatizes as turbulent and

unruly spirits those who would combine their exertions to promote the

prosperity of the community, and, perverting the natural meaning of

words, he applauds as good citizens those who have no sympathy for any

but themselves. Thus the vices which despotism engenders are precisely

those which equality fosters. These two things mutually and perniciously

complete and assist each other. Equality places men side by side,

unconnected by any common tie; despotism raises barriers to keep

them asunder; the former predisposes them not to consider their

fellow-creatures, the latter makes general indifference a sort of public

Despotism then, which is at all times dangerous, is more particularly to

be feared in democratic ages. It is easy to see that in those same ages

men stand most in need of freedom. When the members of a community are

forced to attend to public affairs, they are necessarily drawn from

the circle of their own interests, and snatched at times from

self-observation. As soon as a man begins to treat of public affairs

in public, he begins to perceive that he is not so independent of his

fellow-men as he had at first imagined, and that, in order to obtain

their support, he must often lend them his co-operation.
When the public is supreme, there is no man who does not feel the value

of public goodwill, or who does not endeavor to court it by drawing to

himself the esteem and affection of those amongst whom he is to live.

Many of the passions which congeal and keep asunder human hearts,

are then obliged to retire and hide below the surface. Pride must be

dissembled; disdain dares not break out; egotism fears its own self.

Under a free government, as most public offices are elective, the men

whose elevated minds or aspiring hopes are too closely circumscribed in

private life, constantly feel that they cannot do without the population

which surrounds them. Men learn at such times to think of their

fellow-men from ambitious motives; and they frequently find it, in a

manner, their interest to forget themselves.

I may here be met by an objection derived from electioneering intrigues,

the meannesses of candidates, and the calumnies of their opponents.

These are opportunities for animosity which occur the oftener the more

frequent elections become. Such evils are doubtless great, but they are

transient; whereas the benefits which attend them remain. The desire

of being elected may lead some men for a time to violent hostility; but

this same desire leads all men in the long run mutually to support

each other; and if it happens that an election accidentally severs two

friends, the electoral system brings a multitude of citizens permanently

together, who would always have remained unknown to each other. Freedom

engenders private animosities, but despotism gives birth to general


The Americans have combated by free institutions the tendency of

equality to keep men asunder, and they have subdued it. The legislators

of America did not suppose that a general representation of the whole

nation would suffice to ward off a disorder at once so natural to the

frame of democratic society, and so fatal: they also thought that

it would be well to infuse political life into each portion of the

territory, in order to multiply to an infinite extent opportunities of

acting in concert for all the members of the community, and to make them

constantly feel their mutual dependence on each other. The plan was a

wise one. The general affairs of a country only engage the attention of

leading politicians, who assemble from time to time in the same places;

and as they often lose sight of each other afterwards, no lasting ties

are established between them. But if the object be to have the local

affairs of a district conducted by the men who reside there, the same

persons are always in contact, and they are, in a manner, forced to be

acquainted, and to adapt themselves to one another.

It is difficult to draw a man out of his own circle to interest him in

the destiny of the State, because he does not clearly understand what

influence the destiny of the State can have upon his own lot. But if it

be proposed to make a road cross the end of his estate, he will see at

a glance that there is a connection between this small public affair and

his greatest private affairs; and he will discover, without its being

shown to him, the close tie which unites private to general interest.

Thus, far more may be done by intrusting to the citizens the

administration of minor affairs than by surrendering to them the control

of important ones, towards interesting them in the public welfare, and

convincing them that they constantly stand in need one of the other in

order to provide for it. A brilliant achievement may win for you the

favor of a people at one stroke; but to earn the love and respect of

the population which surrounds you, a long succession of little services

rendered and of obscure good deeds--a constant habit of kindness, and

an established reputation for disinterestedness--will be required.

Local freedom, then, which leads a great number of citizens to value the

affection of their neighbors and of their kindred, perpetually brings

men together, and forces them to help one another, in spite of the

propensities which sever them.

In the United States the more opulent citizens take great care not to

stand aloof from the people; on the contrary, they constantly keep on

easy terms with the lower classes: they listen to them, they speak to

them every day. They know that the rich in democracies always stand in

need of the poor; and that in democratic ages you attach a poor man to

you more by your manner than by benefits conferred. The magnitude of

such benefits, which sets off the difference of conditions, causes a

secret irritation to those who reap advantage from them; but the charm

of simplicity of manners is almost irresistible: their affability

carries men away, and even their want of polish is not always

displeasing. This truth does not take root at once in the minds of the

rich. They generally resist it as long as the democratic revolution

lasts, and they do not acknowledge it immediately after that revolution

is accomplished. They are very ready to do good to the people, but

they still choose to keep them at arm's length; they think that is

sufficient, but they are mistaken. They might spend fortunes thus

without warming the hearts of the population around them;--that

population does not ask them for the sacrifice of their money, but of

their pride.
It would seem as if every imagination in the United States were upon

the stretch to invent means of increasing the wealth and satisfying

the wants of the public. The best-informed inhabitants of each district

constantly use their information to discover new truths which may

augment the general prosperity; and if they have made any such

discoveries, they eagerly surrender them to the mass of the people.

When the vices and weaknesses, frequently exhibited by those who

govern in America, are closely examined, the prosperity of the people

occasions--but improperly occasions--surprise. Elected magistrates do

not make the American democracy flourish; it flourishes because the

magistrates are elective.
It would be unjust to suppose that the patriotism and the zeal which

every American displays for the welfare of his fellow-citizens are

wholly insincere. Although private interest directs the greater part

of human actions in the United States as well as elsewhere, it does

not regulate them all. I must say that I have often seen Americans make

great and real sacrifices to the public welfare; and I have remarked

a hundred instances in which they hardly ever failed to lend faithful

support to each other. The free institutions which the inhabitants of

the United States possess, and the political rights of which they make

so much use, remind every citizen, and in a thousand ways, that he lives

in society. They every instant impress upon his mind the notion that it

is the duty, as well as the interest of men, to make themselves useful

to their fellow-creatures; and as he sees no particular ground of

animosity to them, since he is never either their master or their slave,

his heart readily leans to the side of kindness. Men attend to the

interests of the public, first by necessity, afterwards by choice: what

was intentional becomes an instinct; and by dint of working for the good

of one's fellow citizens, the habit and the taste for serving them is at

length acquired.
Many people in France consider equality of conditions as one evil, and

political freedom as a second. When they are obliged to yield to the

former, they strive at least to escape from the latter. But I contend

that in order to combat the evils which equality may produce, there is

only one effectual remedy--namely, political freedom.

Chapter V: Of The Use Which The Americans Make Of Public Associations In

Civil Life
I do not propose to speak of those political associations--by the aid of

which men endeavor to defend themselves against the despotic influence

of a majority--or against the aggressions of regal power. That subject I

have already treated. If each citizen did not learn, in proportion as

he individually becomes more feeble, and consequently more incapable

of preserving his freedom single-handed, to combine with his

fellow-citizens for the purpose of defending it, it is clear that

tyranny would unavoidably increase together with equality.

Those associations only which are formed in civil life, without

reference to political objects, are here adverted to. The political

associations which exist in the United States are only a single feature

in the midst of the immense assemblage of associations in that country.

Americans of all ages, all conditions, and all dispositions, constantly

form associations. They have not only commercial and manufacturing

companies, in which all take part, but associations of a thousand other

kinds--religious, moral, serious, futile, extensive, or restricted,

enormous or diminutive. The Americans make associations to give

entertainments, to found establishments for education, to build inns,

to construct churches, to diffuse books, to send missionaries to

the antipodes; and in this manner they found hospitals, prisons, and

schools. If it be proposed to advance some truth, or to foster some

feeling by the encouragement of a great example, they form a society.

Wherever, at the head of some new undertaking, you see the government

in France, or a man of rank in England, in the United States you will be

sure to find an association. I met with several kinds of associations in

America, of which I confess I had no previous notion; and I have often

admired the extreme skill with which the inhabitants of the United

States succeed in proposing a common object to the exertions of a great

many men, and in getting them voluntarily to pursue it. I have since

travelled over England, whence the Americans have taken some of their

laws and many of their customs; and it seemed to me that the principle

of association was by no means so constantly or so adroitly used in

that country. The English often perform great things singly; whereas the

Americans form associations for the smallest undertakings. It is evident

that the former people consider association as a powerful means of

action, but the latter seem to regard it as the only means they have of

Thus the most democratic country on the face of the earth is that in

which men have in our time carried to the highest perfection the art of

pursuing in common the object of their common desires, and have applied

this new science to the greatest number of purposes. Is this the result

of accident? or is there in reality any necessary connection between the

principle of association and that of equality? Aristocratic communities

always contain, amongst a multitude of persons who by themselves are

powerless, a small number of powerful and wealthy citizens, each of whom

can achieve great undertakings single-handed. In aristocratic societies

men do not need to combine in order to act, because they are strongly

held together. Every wealthy and powerful citizen constitutes the head

of a permanent and compulsory association, composed of all those who are

dependent upon him, or whom he makes subservient to the execution of his

designs. Amongst democratic nations, on the contrary, all the citizens

are independent and feeble; they can do hardly anything by themselves,

and none of them can oblige his fellow-men to lend him their assistance.

They all, therefore, fall into a state of incapacity, if they do not

learn voluntarily to help each other. If men living in democratic

countries had no right and no inclination to associate for political

purposes, their independence would be in great jeopardy; but they might

long preserve their wealth and their cultivation: whereas if they

never acquired the habit of forming associations in ordinary life,

civilization itself would be endangered. A people amongst which

individuals should lose the power of achieving great things

single-handed, without acquiring the means of producing them by united

exertions, would soon relapse into barbarism.

Unhappily, the same social condition which renders associations so

necessary to democratic nations, renders their formation more difficult

amongst those nations than amongst all others. When several members of

an aristocracy agree to combine, they easily succeed in doing so; as

each of them brings great strength to the partnership, the number of its

members may be very limited; and when the members of an association

are limited in number, they may easily become mutually acquainted,

understand each other, and establish fixed regulations. The same

opportunities do not occur amongst democratic nations, where the

associated members must always be very numerous for their association to

have any power.
I am aware that many of my countrymen are not in the least embarrassed

by this difficulty. They contend that the more enfeebled and incompetent

the citizens become, the more able and active the government ought to

be rendered, in order that society at large may execute what individuals

can no longer accomplish. They believe this answers the whole

difficulty, but I think they are mistaken. A government might perform

the part of some of the largest American companies; and several States,

members of the Union, have already attempted it; but what political

power could ever carry on the vast multitude of lesser undertakings

which the American citizens perform every day, with the assistance of

the principle of association? It is easy to foresee that the time is

drawing near when man will be less and less able to produce, of himself

alone, the commonest necessaries of life. The task of the governing

power will therefore perpetually increase, and its very efforts will

extend it every day. The more it stands in the place of associations,

the more will individuals, losing the notion of combining together,

require its assistance: these are causes and effects which unceasingly

engender each other. Will the administration of the country ultimately

assume the management of all the manufacturers, which no single

citizen is able to carry on? And if a time at length arrives, when, in

consequence of the extreme subdivision of landed property, the soil

is split into an infinite number of parcels, so that it can only be

cultivated by companies of husbandmen, will it be necessary that the

head of the government should leave the helm of state to follow the

plough? The morals and the intelligence of a democratic people would be

as much endangered as its business and manufactures, if the government

ever wholly usurped the place of private companies.
Feelings and opinions are recruited, the heart is enlarged, and the

human mind is developed by no other means than by the reciprocal

influence of men upon each other. I have shown that these influences are

almost null in democratic countries; they must therefore be artificially

created, and this can only be accomplished by associations.
When the members of an aristocratic community adopt a new opinion, or

conceive a new sentiment, they give it a station, as it were, beside

themselves, upon the lofty platform where they stand; and opinions

or sentiments so conspicuous to the eyes of the multitude are easily

introduced into the minds or hearts of all around. In democratic

countries the governing power alone is naturally in a condition to

act in this manner; but it is easy to see that its action is always

inadequate, and often dangerous. A government can no more be competent

to keep alive and to renew the circulation of opinions and feelings

amongst a great people, than to manage all the speculations of

productive industry. No sooner does a government attempt to go

beyond its political sphere and to enter upon this new track, than

it exercises, even unintentionally, an insupportable tyranny; for a

government can only dictate strict rules, the opinions which it favors

are rigidly enforced, and it is never easy to discriminate between its

advice and its commands. Worse still will be the case if the government

really believes itself interested in preventing all circulation of

ideas; it will then stand motionless, and oppressed by the heaviness of

voluntary torpor. Governments therefore should not be the only active

powers: associations ought, in democratic nations, to stand in lieu of

those powerful private individuals whom the equality of conditions has

swept away.

As soon as several of the inhabitants of the United States have taken

up an opinion or a feeling which they wish to promote in the world,

they look out for mutual assistance; and as soon as they have found each

other out, they combine. From that moment they are no longer isolated

men, but a power seen from afar, whose actions serve for an example,

and whose language is listened to. The first time I heard in the United

States that 100,000 men had bound themselves publicly to abstain from

spirituous liquors, it appeared to me more like a joke than a serious

engagement; and I did not at once perceive why these temperate citizens

could not content themselves with drinking water by their own firesides.

I at last understood that 300,000 Americans, alarmed by the progress

of drunkenness around them, had made up their minds to patronize

temperance. They acted just in the same way as a man of high rank who

should dress very plainly, in order to inspire the humbler orders with

a contempt of luxury. It is probable that if these 100,000 men had lived

in France, each of them would singly have memorialized the government to

watch the public-houses all over the kingdom.
Nothing, in my opinion, is more deserving of our attention than the

intellectual and moral associations of America. The political and

industrial associations of that country strike us forcibly; but the

others elude our observation, or if we discover them, we understand them

imperfectly, because we have hardly ever seen anything of the kind.

It must, however, be acknowledged that they are as necessary to the

American people as the former, and perhaps more so. In democratic

countries the science of association is the mother of science; the

progress of all the rest depends upon the progress it has made. Amongst

the laws which rule human societies there is one which seems to be more

precise and clear than all others. If men are to remain civilized, or to

become so, the art of associating together must grow and improve in the

same ratio in which the equality of conditions is increased.

Chapter VI: Of The Relation Between Public Associations And Newspapers

When men are no longer united amongst themselves by firm and lasting

ties, it is impossible to obtain the cooperation of any great number of

them, unless you can persuade every man whose concurrence you require

that this private interest obliges him voluntarily to unite his

exertions to the exertions of all the rest. This can only be habitually

and conveniently effected by means of a newspaper; nothing but a

newspaper can drop the same thought into a thousand minds at the same

moment. A newspaper is an adviser who does not require to be sought, but

who comes of his own accord, and talks to you briefly every day of the

common weal, without distracting you from your private affairs.

Newspapers therefore become more necessary in proportion as men become

more equal, and individualism more to be feared. To suppose that they

only serve to protect freedom would be to diminish their importance:

they maintain civilization. I shall not deny that in democratic

countries newspapers frequently lead the citizens to launch together in

very ill-digested schemes; but if there were no newspapers there would

be no common activity. The evil which they produce is therefore much

less than that which they cure.

The effect of a newspaper is not only to suggest the same purpose to

a great number of persons, but also to furnish means for executing in

common the designs which they may have singly conceived. The principal

citizens who inhabit an aristocratic country discern each other from

afar; and if they wish to unite their forces, they move towards each

other, drawing a multitude of men after them. It frequently happens, on

the contrary, in democratic countries, that a great number of men who

wish or who want to combine cannot accomplish it, because as they are

very insignificant and lost amidst the crowd, they cannot see, and know

not where to find, one another. A newspaper then takes up the notion or

the feeling which had occurred simultaneously, but singly, to each of

them. All are then immediately guided towards this beacon; and these

wandering minds, which had long sought each other in darkness, at length

meet and unite.

The newspaper brought them together, and the newspaper is still

necessary to keep them united. In order that an association amongst a

democratic people should have any power, it must be a numerous body.

The persons of whom it is composed are therefore scattered over a wide

extent, and each of them is detained in the place of his domicile by the

narrowness of his income, or by the small unremitting exertions by which

he earns it. Means then must be found to converse every day without

seeing each other, and to take steps in common without having met. Thus

hardly any democratic association can do without newspapers. There is

consequently a necessary connection between public associations

and newspapers: newspapers make associations, and associations make

newspapers; and if it has been correctly advanced that associations will

increase in number as the conditions of men become more equal, it is not

less certain that the number of newspapers increases in proportion to

that of associations. Thus it is in America that we find at the same

time the greatest number of associations and of newspapers.

This connection between the number of newspapers and that of

associations leads us to the discovery of a further connection between

the state of the periodical press and the form of the administration

in a country; and shows that the number of newspapers must diminish

or increase amongst a democratic people, in proportion as its

administration is more or less centralized. For amongst democratic

nations the exercise of local powers cannot be intrusted to the

principal members of the community as in aristocracies. Those powers

must either be abolished, or placed in the hands of very large

numbers of men, who then in fact constitute an association permanently

established by law for the purpose of administering the affairs of a

certain extent of territory; and they require a journal, to bring

to them every day, in the midst of their own minor concerns, some

intelligence of the state of their public weal. The more numerous local

powers are, the greater is the number of men in whom they are vested by

law; and as this want is hourly felt, the more profusely do newspapers

The extraordinary subdivision of administrative power has much more

to do with the enormous number of American newspapers than the great

political freedom of the country and the absolute liberty of the press.

If all the inhabitants of the Union had the suffrage--but a suffrage

which should only extend to the choice of their legislators in

Congress--they would require but few newspapers, because they would only

have to act together on a few very important but very rare occasions.

But within the pale of the great association of the nation, lesser

associations have been established by law in every country, every city,

and indeed in every village, for the purposes of local administration.

The laws of the country thus compel every American to co-operate every

day of his life with some of his fellow-citizens for a common purpose,

and each one of them requires a newspaper to inform him what all the

others are doing.

I am of opinion that a democratic people, *a without any national

representative assemblies, but with a great number of small local

powers, would have in the end more newspapers than another people

governed by a centralized administration and an elective legislation.

What best explains to me the enormous circulation of the daily press

in the United States, is that amongst the Americans I find the utmost

national freedom combined with local freedom of every kind. There is

a prevailing opinion in France and England that the circulation of

newspapers would be indefinitely increased by removing the taxes which

have been laid upon the press. This is a very exaggerated estimate

of the effects of such a reform. Newspapers increase in numbers, not

according to their cheapness, but according to the more or less frequent

want which a great number of men may feel for intercommunication and


[Footnote a: I say a democratic people: the administration of an

aristocratic people may be the reverse of centralized, and yet the want

of newspapers be little felt, because local powers are then vested in

the hands of a very small number of men, who either act apart, or who

know each other and can easily meet and come to an understanding.]
In like manner I should attribute the increasing influence of the

daily press to causes more general than those by which it is commonly

explained. A newspaper can only subsist on the condition of publishing

sentiments or principles common to a large number of men. A newspaper

therefore always represents an association which is composed of its

habitual readers. This association may be more or less defined, more or

less restricted, more or less numerous; but the fact that the newspaper

keeps alive, is a proof that at least the germ of such an association

exists in the minds of its readers.
This leads me to a last reflection, with which I shall conclude this

chapter. The more equal the conditions of men become, and the less

strong men individually are, the more easily do they give way to the

current of the multitude, and the more difficult is it for them to

adhere by themselves to an opinion which the multitude discard. A

newspaper represents an association; it may be said to address each of

its readers in the name of all the others, and to exert its influence

over them in proportion to their individual weakness. The power of the

newspaper press must therefore increase as the social conditions of men

become more equal.
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